June 17, 2017
About a year after Misty died I had dinner with a dear friend – Dr. Glenn Wilkerson – minister, and community leader, Founder and Director of ARC, and bereaved father. We shared from the heart for hours. He’s a magnificent man and listened to my heartache and told me of his. I told him I had written a short parable called “Bearing Grief” and he asked me to send it to him. Shortly after he received it he called to ask if I’d allow him to include it in a book on mortality that he and another friend were working on. I agreed. A few weeks later he and his co-author called and asked me to write a bit more for context to be included as a chapter in the book. There were to be around 20 contributors, all giving there view on dying, death, and man’s mortality.
Contributors to the book offer an assortment of perspectives and cultural views. It’s a beautiful book that reminds us all to live life fully, that life is fragile, that dying and death are a sacred experience for all involved. I’m so honored to be a part of this project and recommend it as a source of comfort, insight, and general cross cultural information on death and dying.
I invite you to check out the book coauthored by Dr. Wilkerson and Dr. Robert Brooks. I’d love to hear what you think of it.
Mother’s Day 2017
Mother’s Day is a tough one for me. YES, I have a living son whom I love to the moon and back to infinity…AND I miss my daughter’s physical presence. It’s also her birthday month, which as many bereaved mothers and fathers also know, is an emotionally intense time of remembrance.
The following Manifesto by Dr. Cacciatore is so beautifully poignant, so bittersweet and resonates very deeply within me. I’d like to gift it to you here knowing there is comfort to be felt from her words, and that we are not alone in our feelings. They aren’t ‘wrong’, ‘strange’, ‘weird’, or in any way to be dismissed. We LOVE them always, REMEMBER them always, and will GRIEVE them always…it is as it is. Share it’s insights with your family and friends.
Blessings and much love to all the Mother’s missing their children and to Mother’s everywhere on this day and everyday.
Mother’s Day Manifesto
by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore
I am a mother. I am a bereaved mother. My child died, and this is my reluctant path. It is not a path of my choice, but it is a path I must walk mindfully and with intention. It is a journey through the darkest night of my soul and it will take time to wind through the places that scare me.
Every cell in my body aches and longs to be with my beloved child. On days when grief is loud, I may be impatient, distracted, frustrated, and unfocused. I may get angry more easily, or I may seem hopeless. I will shed many, many, many tears. I won’t smile as often as my old self. Smiling hurts now. Most everything hurts some days, even breathing.
But please, just sit beside me.
Do not offer a cure.
Or a pill, or a word, or a potion.
Witness my suffering and don’t turn away from me.
Please be gentle with me.
And I will try to be gentle with me too.
I will not ever “get over” my child’s death so please don’t urge me down that path.
Even on days when grief is quiescent, when it isn’t standing loudly in the foreground, even on days when I am able to smile again, the pain is just beneath the surface.
There are day when I still feel paralyzed. My chest feels the sinking weight of my child’s absence and, sometimes, I feel as if I will explode from the grief.
Losing my child affects me in so many ways: as a woman, a mother, a human being. It affects every aspect of me: spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are days when I barely recognize myself in the mirror anymore.
Grief is as personal to me as my fingerprint. Don’t tell me how I should or shouldn’t be grieving or that I should or shouldn’t “feel better by now.” Don’t tell me what’s right or wrong. I’m doing it my way, in my time. If I am to survive this, I must do what is best for me.
My understanding of life will change and a different meaning of life will slowly evolve. What I knew to be true or absolute or real or fair about the world has been challenged so I’m finding my way, moment-to-moment in this new place. Things that once seemed important to me are barely thoughts any longer. I notice life’s suffering more- hungry children, the homeless and the destitute, a mother’s harsh voice toward her young child- or an elderly person struggling with the door. There are so many things about the world which I now struggle to understand: Why do children die? There are some questions, I’ve learned, which are simply unanswerable.
So please don’t tell me that “ God has a plan ” for me. This, my friend, is between me and my God. Those platitudes slip far too easily from the mouths of those who tuck their own child into a safe, warm bed at night: Can you begin to imagine your own child, flesh of your flesh, lying lifeless in a casket, when “goodbye” means you’ll never see them on this Earth again? Grieving mothers- and fathers- and grandparents- and siblings won’t wake up one day with everything ’okay’ and life back to normal.
As time passes, I may gain gifts and insights but anything gained was at far too high a cost when compared to what was lost. Perhaps, one day, when I am very, very old, I will say that time has truly helped to heal my broken heart. But always remember that not a second of any minute of any hour of any day passes when I am not aware of the presence of my child’s absence, no matter how many years lurk over my shoulder.
So this year, on Mother’s Day, don’t forget that I have another one, another child, whose absence, like the sky, is spread over everything as C.S. Lewis said.
Don’t forget to say, “How are you really feeling this Mother’s Day?” Don’t forget that even if I have living children, my heart still aches for the one who is not here —for I am never quite complete without my child.
My child may have died; but my love – and my motherhood – never will.
As is also on my resource page, please reach out to Dr. Cacciatore’s MISS Foundation for more information, for traumatic grief and child bereavement support, and to learn all about The Kindness Project and other excited developments that are underway.
To learn more about the amazing Dr. Cacciatore is doing in the world and to preview and preorder her soon to be released book “Bearing the Unbearable” please visit here:
February 4, 2017
“How can I help them?”
This is a question I hear often when someone has died tragically and without warning. Family, friends, neighbors – even strangers – want to reach out and offer some sort of comfort for the loved ones left behind. We feel such urgency to relieve them of their suffering. We know their hearts are broken because our hearts are broken too. Even if we didn’t know them well, we quickly connect and feel the universal pain of losing a beloved.
There is no simple answer. Traumatic and unexpected death of a loved one is complicated, and almost without exception, leaves even the wisest among us searching for just the ‘right’ words of comfort and helpful resources.
Compassionate expressions like “I love you” and “I’m so sorry” are certainly the most common. However, whether in a note or in person, if you can use the name of the one lost, it will be most meaningful. It matters that you say their name. Consider your unique version of these examples…“Misty’s infectious laugh will be so missed.” or “We will truly miss John.”
This morning I had the privilege of sitting with a man and listen as he let years of memories, pain, and love – spill out and break through decades of invisible emotional armor.
40 years ago today his 17 year old younger brother completed suicide. To witness him meticulously recall in detail the events of that day and the days and years that have followed was nothing short of sacred. I could feel the love – and horror – moving through his body as he spoke – his voice cracking, words halting at times.
It seems a miracle to share a few hours with another and know some degree of transformation has taken place – for all involved. This is the best answer I have in response to how can one help the bereaved. Grief has no boundary of time – whether it’s been days or decades – we remember them always.
Witnessing is a beautiful form of offering your heart – that’s how we connect and support each other. Listening quietly encourages stories to be shared, and stories need to be shared.
January 11, 2017
The 2016 holiday season was a tough one for me. In addition to the usual heart aching moments as I remembered the 35 years of memories having my daughter with me on the holidays – I found myself disappointed to be 4 years and 5 months past Misty’s death, and feeling a full on wave of grief. On New Years eve morning, my sadness turned into anger.
Angry because I’d spent the year honoring her memory, allowing all the feelings, processing those feelings, taking my own journey of self-development to a whole new level and really worked wholeheartedly in it. I put all the resources I had – body mind and soul, time, money, and physical energy – into fully embracing and moving along with the flow of my grief in every way possible.
I completed my studies, tested, and became certified as a Life Coach by the Martha Beck Institute. I took the CBC (Compassionate Bereavement Care) facilitator training for the 2nd time. I continued volunteer mentoring and built a structured business for supporting other families in bereavement. And to my relief, I’d begun to reestablished my connection with Spirit.
And yet…here I am again at that incredibly uncomfortable place of deep sadness and discontent in my soul that knows that this life will never again be as pleasant or fulfilling for me. I’m missing a piece of my being and always will. A wound that will never fully heal.
The truth is because my beautiful child decided to intentionally end her own life, there may well be no long lasting peace. I embrace and accept that for a time, and then I revert into what I call ‘you can make it better, try harder!’ mode. I return to reading books, blogs, and newsletters. I search out and sign up for programs promising I can end old patterns of negative thinking, that I can manifest a better existence, that I can release my fears and find freedom. That I can find calm, peace. and a true inner peace through deeper meditation practices.
And all those things often DO deliver what they promise, for as long as I am actively focused and engaged. The energy to do those things ongoing is enormous when the heaviness of grief is upon me. It’s exhausting because at some point the ‘fix’ is no longer enough – and the reality is nothing will ever be enough. I simply want my child back.
So today – I am angry and discouraged…and that will ebb and flow like the sadness that comes and goes. It’s always moving – thankfully. As the emotions are moving, it’s a good thing. And as they move I will sit with them and sometimes write about them. I will also move my physical body as that always helps, and maybe along the way I will find something new, a softer spot to land – some comfort and meaning…beyond acceptance, because that’s just NOT the end of the story.
Wishing you all peace and a gentle 2017.
November 10, 2016
The grief journey is a solitary one internally, but we are not meant to be solitary beings. Please reach out to a trusted friend and connect today. If you know someone grieving, let them know you’re thinking of them, whether their loss was last month or 2 years ago. We are not alone.