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Posts Tagged ‘grief’


United we stand Boston

I am a Bostonian. And my heart is breaking. There are no words to adequately express how I feel about yesterday’s tragedy in my home city of Boston. Though I have lived outside of Boston for a decade now, I spent the first 28 years of my life in the Boston area, and several years after college right in the heart of Boston, walking regularly through the area where this tragedy occurred. Boston was the city that raised me into the adult that I am today. No matter where else I go, Boston is always the home in my heart.

When I learned of the horrific news yesterday, I immediately turned on the TV to see what was happening. I am an avid news junkie, so normally I can watch these sort of events very objectively without having to internalize the emotions. But I could not have anticipated the visceral and personal response that I had yesterday. I immediately called my brother, who also instantly welled up with anger and sadness at the news. He too has lived outside of Boston for years, but like me, he too is a true Bostonian through and through. His first response to me, “They picked the wrong city to mess with. You do not mess with Bostonians.” I concurred, comforting myself for a moment with the knowledge that Bostonians are as tough and resilient as they come.

As more of the horror unfolded, I found myself spending the day in tears, shaking. And when I stopped crying, I would just start again. These were cathartic tears, tears of grief that needed to flow. This was my home, these were my people. This beautiful city and her amazing people had shaped the person that I am today, and although I have lived in many other places, I always identify first as a Bostonian. And I do so proudly. Bostonians are such good, kind, real, honest, straight-forward, down-to-earth people. They will give you the shirts of their backs if need be, and many Bostonians did just that yesterday, as they desperately tried to make turnicates to stop the bleeding of their fellow Bostonian brothers and sisters.

And though the news was graphic and devastating to watch, I knew I had to watch it. I had to watch it to honor those who were experiencing such unthinkable horror. But I felt so helpless. I wished I could be in Boston at that moment, helping out my fellow Bostonians. And if I could not be there in person, then I had to watch and be a part of their pain. I had to share in it and stand in solidarity with my people.

As more and more news of the casualties and war-like injuries were reported, my heart shattered further for the poor families of the victims and for the indescribable and inconsolable grief that I knew they were all feeling. And I prayed for the survivors, knowing how tragically their lives had been changed in an instant, knowing the grief and post-traumatic stress which they will carry for years, if not the rest of their lives.

Boston Marathon image

In the midst of all of this it suddenly occurred to me that a dear family friend of ours had planned to go to the Marathon that day, to watch one of his friends running. I immediately ran to my computer to check his Facebook wall and my heart immediately sank when I saw friend after friend posting, asking William if  he was ok. No response. Hours passed, more people posted and at this point some of us were frantically calling hospitals and posting his info on the Google People finder. Still no response from William. I feared the worst and the tears resumed.

We are so fortunate that eventually someone was able to get a hold of my friend and we learned that he was safe and sound. A sigh of relief. But I was so sad for all of the other families who would also be frantically searching and who would not be so lucky to receive the good news that I had. I shed more tears for their pain and anguish.

As I listened to the ER doctors talking about the horror that came through their doors and of how many limbs they had to amputate, I tried to imagine the unthinkable reality of having one of your limbs blown off, something we tragically expect in war, but something that nobody could ever expect on the sidelines of the Boston Marathon, one of the most celebrated days in Boston. I began thinking of how much we take our limbs for granted, something that our brave war veterans know all too well. We walk about on a daily basis, never really thinking about what life would be life without a leg, or God forbid, without two legs.

In honor of those who were facing this devastating reality, I forced myself to stop and think about that. I am an avid yogi. Yoga changed my life. Yoga gave me back my life after a very dark depression. I depend on having two arms and two legs to be able to do this practice which has been so critically important for health and well-being in my life. How on earth would I survive if I were to tragically lose a limb, as was now happening to these people? I honestly don’t know how or if I could survive such a devastating blow. Life as you know it changes in an instant, in one horrific blink of an eye.

So as I was walking over to the cafe today to write this, and I heard the tragic news about the little 6-year old girl named Jane, who is an Irish Step Dancer and has tragically lost her leg, my heart sank into my stomach. As I thought about my own legs and my yoga practice, my heart bled for this little girl. Only 6-years old with a whole life ahead of her, and now she has to face a life with this disability, and likely without her beloved Irish Step Dancing.

I searched for her name, wanting to pay her proper tribute here and as I did so, my heart sank even further upon discovering that she was the sister of the little 8-year old boy, Martin Richard, who was the first to lose his life in the incident. As I read further I discovered that their mother too had undergone emergency surgery to save her life and she was still recovering from her injuries. And I felt so sad for this poor little girl, who not only lost her leg, but now had to face life without her big brother. Unthinkable. Unspeakable.

Martin Richard family

The Richard family.

And then my thoughts turned to that poor father. Too much loss, too much incomprehensible tragedy for one family to endure. This poor man, with one son lost, a daughter with a devastating amputation and a wife reportedly with brain injury. What parent would not be thinking to themselves, “It should have been me.” There is nothing worse than losing a child. On top of that, having to cope with the tragic injuries of his wife and daughter. One can only imagine the endless scripts that will be running through his head, “What if we hadn’t gone that day? Why didn’t we stand on the other side of the street?” etc, etc. No human should ever have to bear those wounds and live with such torment.

There is too much tragedy, too much loss, too much debilitating grief, too many broken hearts, too many forever-changed lives in this story. And it is a story that shouldn’t be told. It did not need to happen. This was such a senseless act of violence, aimed at entirely innocent victims, who were happily celebrating a wonderful day. And though we do not yet know who is responsible, it really doesn’t matter. Whether domestic or international terrorists, whoever it is should and will be brought to justice. That will have to happen to provide if only a moment of peace. But there is nothing that can be said or done to take away the pain and anguish that these people are enduring and will continue to endure for a lifetime.

So where do we go from here? How do we make sense of this heinous and cowardly act? How do we view the world? Well, we do bring the guilty parties to justice, yes. But should we retaliate and seek revenge in anger? No. As much as that is the reaction of people in pain, it does not bring peace. It only creates more anger and hatred in a world that already has too much of both. I believe that Gandhi was right when he said,

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

And I also wholeheartedly believe in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Poignant words from Martin Richard, may he rest in peace.

Poignant words from Martin Richard, may he rest in peace.

Love is the only answer. It is love and human connection that caused so many first responders and bystanders to run towards the bomb blast yesterday, instead of away from it. It is love that caused several runners to cross the finish line and run straight to Mass General Hospital to give blood. It is love that allowed complete strangers to be tearing off their clothes in order to stop the bleeding of a complete stranger. It is love that allowed volunteer workers and random passers-by to stay by the side of someone they don’t know, holding their hand until they got into the ambulance and on their way to a hospital. It is love that has caused the outpouring of grief and support of a community, a nation, and a world. It is love that causes my own tears to flow, in empathy and solidarity for my fellow Bostonians.

I am so encouraged by all of the beautiful, moving stories of heroism and humanity that are coming out of this tragedy; people coming together with their neighbors, people helping and crying with strangers, people putting their own lives at risk to help save the lives of others. However horrific the event, there is always beauty and grace that comes out of these horrible events. There are always powerful personal missions and new life paths forged out of such personal tragedies. There is always so much more good that prevails and selfless service to mankind that comes out of these stories. There is always light that comes out of the darkness.

And I also take comfort in this: Bostonians do come from very tough stock. They, we, are people who will not be knocked down, who will not live in fear. We are a strong, proud people who will stand boldly and fearlessly in the face of terror and fear. We will not be overcome. We will stand united, in love and brotherhood.

This post is dedicated to all of those who have so tragically had their lives cut short, to those survivors whose lives are forever changed in an instant and to the families and loved ones of all the victims. This post is dedicated to a brave and beautiful city that I am proud to call “home.”

 

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Today I am honored and humbled to be featured on “Transformation Talk,” a new blog series where each Thursday Alana Sheeren will interview people who have deepened their passion or found their calling after experiencing a loss, trauma or diagnosis. I am truly honored to be a part of this project.

To all of you out there who are suffering from grief and loss, I hope that you will tune in each Thursday to Alana’s blog. She has many incredible and inspiring stories to share, the least of which is her own. ♥

*****

Can you share a little about your grief journey and a specific experience that had a profound effect on your path?

In 2007 I lost the best friend I had ever had in my life, a man who had been my rock and with whom I shared every aspect of my heart and soul, for almost four years. He did not die or anything that dramatic, but after he met a new woman, he chose to cut me completely from his life. As he truly was my best friend, and I was certain that this was a soul-connected being, for me this felt worse than death. I gave up a great job and a well-established life and moved 3,000 miles across the country to fight for him. But sadly I was met with only more anger and hatred from him.  He tossed me to the curb like a piece of garbage. That was 5 years ago, he has since married that woman, and I’ve never heard from him since.

Though I had lost other best friends and had lived through devastating broken hearts in the past, nothing in my life could ever have prepared me for the grief that I felt when this man walked right out of my life and acted as if I’d never mattered at all to him. The person I had most trusted on this Earth, betrayed that trust, broke all of his promises to me, and abandoned me. Everything I had ever known and believed came crashing down around me. I had entered my “dark night of the soul.”

To continue reading the interview, click here.

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Photo attributed to Flickr User flydown.

For years I could not visit Boston. The pain was too great, the ghosts too many. Haunted by the memories of failed relationships, of devastating broken hearts, and of shattered dreams, the thought of returning to the scene of the crime simply filled me with too much dread. I had moved forward to new cities, new adventures with new lives and new friends, where I was living new memories and trying to forget the tragedy of fore. I was attempting, determinedly and desperately, to birth a new Jeannie.

But over time, the pull of family obligations and unexpected job opportunities would find me back in Boston, walking reluctantly through my old closets, trying to dodge the skeletons. Try as I might to avoid my old haunts, the pull of unresolved emotion would sometimes be too great to resist. I would find myself walking in a fog of mental haze through old neighborhoods, past old apartments, and stepping right through time portals that would carry me straight back to the scene of so many memories, so many palpable emotions. I tasted them, more bitter than sweet. I smelled them, more sour than succulent. Though they were done and dead, I relived them, painfully and tragically, over and over.

I couldn’t go to that restaurant, for that was where I met “him.” That patch of grass was where we lay looking for shooting stars. That video store was where I mustered up the guts to talk to “him.” That park was where we broke up. That subway was what we would ride, holding hands. That store was where we walked by the sweet kitty in the window. That bar was where we shared our first kiss. And that stoop was where I said good-bye, wiping the tears from “his” eyes. It seemed everywhere I looked there were reminders of love lost, of best friends tragically ripped from my life.

Photo attributed to Flickr User Helmut Kaczmarek.

But the years went by and as it always does, time began to heal all wounds, little by little. One city, then another city, and then a third city, and I had created three new versions of Jeannie, each a little different than the first. I was slowly becoming a different person. I was meeting new people, having new experiences, creating new memories, making new friends, living entirely different lives. Eventually, I was no longer that same Jeannie who had lain on that patch of grass or stood on that stoop. Though that person would always be a part of me, she had transformed and blossomed into a new creature, a stronger and more resilient being, shaped by the landscape of life.

This year, family would find me returning to Boston, now a hard-to-imagine 9 years since I’d left. And I unexpectedly found myself excited to return. I was excited to visit with family, to smell the salty sea air, to walk around the quaint cobblestone streets with their charming colonial houses. I looked forward to creating new memories.

Boston Public Garden

Once there, my family and I set right out to experience all that the beautiful city of Boston has to offer: walks through the Boston Public Garden, under my favorite weeping willow trees; strolling past the old row-houses of Back Bay; romping through the historic streets of Beacon Hill with their adorable gas lanterns; walking along the waterfront taking in the sweet smell of salty air as we watched the boats come and go. I felt no need to re-visit my old haunts, I somehow knew that those graves did not need to be walked on.

But as we strolled about, all over the city, we inevitably happened upon several of the spots of my past trials. Not sure how I would feel, I was somewhat surprised and delighted to find myself smiling. Those memories that had once been painful, were no longer. What had once filled my heart with deep, debilitating pain, now instead filled my heart with peace and love. I thought about the memories, and the people behind them, and to my shock I found myself filled with nothing but fondness for them. I realized in that instant that the old Jeannie had integrated with the new Jeannie.

I remember the feeling that I had that first day that I landed in Boston. As the old Jeannie collided with the new Jeannie, I felt a sense of strangeness; how surreal it was to have to consider and attempt to reconcile these two completely different people. They were so different: one was young, innocent, and vulnerable; while the other was mature, graceful and wise. They knew such different experiences, such distinct lives.

But now as I sit on the airplane heading back to San Francisco, the city of my current life, I realize that I am happily and peacefully integrated. The new Jeannie met the old Jeannie, thanked her for all of the powerful lessons learned, recognizing that she could not exist without her former self. And the old Jeannie smiled proudly at the new Jeannie, patted her on the back for a job well done and sent her off on her way, into the new adventures and lessons that would await…and transform her once again.

Photo attributed to Flickr User h.koppdelaney.

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Over recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with several different friends from out of town, all friends who came from different cities and from previous lives of mine. Not only was it wonderful to catch up with these old friends and reminisce about times gone by, but it was a compelling opportunity to look back on my journey, to see all of the dots that have connected, and to reflect on all of the wonderful souls who have touched and shaped my path along this winding road of life.

Boston, MA

The first of these friends, Simone, was visiting from my home city of Boston. We began working together when I was a mere 23 years old, fairly fresh out of college and wet behind the ears. Looking back on that young age, now 14 years later, it is hard to even recognize the person that I once was. I was just barely beginning my journey into adulthood and I had so much to learn, and so many tough lessons that were still ahead of me. In my wildest imagination (or nightmares!), I could not have conceived of what was yet to come. I was, however, fortunate enough to land the job of a lifetime. For several years we organized student tours abroad and got to reap the benefit of traveling to exciting, foreign lands. This was a professional life filled with wonderful friends, laughter, hilarious travel stories and adventures and simply joyful and rewarding times. These were the days of our lives.

Fast forward five years and I would find myself a new resident of the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, and a newly enrolled graduate student. Having left behind a broken heart and dark clouds in Boston, I was starting over in a new life, preparing to embark on a career of international diplomacy and peace-keeping. However, a semester of confusion, dissatisfaction and feeling like a fish out of water, would eventually lead to my leaving graduate school and landing serendipitously in a job working for an International Human Rights organization. This is where I would meet Lauren, the second visitor to San Francisco in recent weeks.

Washington, DC

Lauren and I would become part of what I coined the “The Sex and the City” foursome of ladies who would get together regularly for dinner and girl talk. These friends were the rocks that kept me grounded during my four years in Washington. Lauren would witness me evolve into my first management role in the .com world, she would see me grapple with the stresses of a high-pressure, long-hour career, and she would see me struggle through a confusing yet painfully beautiful long-distance “relationship,” a relationship which would eventually leave me completely shattered, turned inside out and gasping for air. About to embark on what would turn out to be my “dark night of the soul,” Lauren would be part of the good group of friends that would send me off on my forever-destined journey to the west coast, leaving behind my east coast life and friends, leaving behind a part of myself.

The journey west would take me to Los Angeles, a city that would unwittingly become home to the deepest depression, the most gripping pain and the most intense struggle of my life. But simultaneously, and somewhat ironically, it would become the most bewitching and magical place I have ever lived, deeply connecting with the fibers of my spirit. Filling me up with her bittersweet nectar, Los Angeles would eventually become the gateway to a profound spiritual awakening, a complete transformation and a brand new Jeannie, alchemized by the fire of life.

Magical Los Angeles

Enter Garrett. A childhood friend of the family, Garrett had known me since I was a young girl and he had seen me grow into a woman. He had known me through various lives and several different versions of myself. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, he was one of the only people I knew and was often the only shoulder to cry on during a very dark time. Garrett was witness to the darkest years of my life, the most profound turmoil through which I have walked, and for this I am grateful.

I am grateful because today when I met Garrett and his girlfriend for coffee in downtown San Francisco, while they were visiting from Los Angeles, I was able to shine brightly and tell Garrett how happy I am, how much joy, wonder and magic I experience on a daily basis. Had Garrett not been there to witness my lowest point, I’m not sure anyone would truly know how extraordinary and powerful my transformation has been, and how grateful I am for all of the trials and tribulations that have led me to this place.

As I look back on these friends, and the many others who have laughed with me, cried with me, fought with me and walked alongside me, I am deeply touched by the indelible marks that each one has left on my soul. It is often said that we should not look back to the past, but I profoundly disagree. There is so much grace and beauty in putting the pieces together and making sense of how the journey unfolded. Some of the most important lessons, and even revelations, of our lives come from time reflecting back on our previous journeys. It is all a beautiful, and necessary, part of our evolution.

It is true that however we might plan and plot, in large part we have no idea where are journeys will take us next, or where each path will lead; but what I am sure of is that there will be beautiful souls along the way, souls who will come into our lives to help us along our journey. There will be souls who help us, souls who hurt us, and there will be souls who crack us wide open, but each one of these souls has a purpose and a powerful lesson to teach us. And as we walk along our path, however much it twists and turns, and however dark, scary and painful it may become at times… we should embrace the journey.

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The year was 1995. I was 20 years old and I found myself alone at a friend’s apartment in London. It was a cold winter day and because London was dark by 3pm, I was stuck in the apartment very early in the day. Dinner consisted of a pathetic bowl of ice-cream as I watched a dreadfully boring tv show (on a screen full of static snow) about cheese-making in Britain. This was my first Christmas spent alone. It is a day I will never forget. I had never felt so alone in my life.

The second Christmas I would spend alone was in 2007. I was now 32 years old and living in Los Angeles. I spent the day curled up in an agonizing ball of tears, grieving over the man I loved, who would be spending his first Christmas with the woman who had replaced me. There was no eating on that day. The pain was too great to allow for food. It was too much to even answer the phone. I talked to no friends or family that day. The only place I could bear to be was alone with my grief. That was the low point of my life.

The third Christmas I would spend alone is this one: 2011. I am now 36, almost 37 years old and I am living in San Francisco. It is so fascinating and thought-provoking for me to reflect on all of the Christmases between this one and that first lonely Christmas spent in London. To be honest with you, I don’t even remember where I spent all of the Christmases in between. There may have been other lonely holidays spent alone, but the ones I remember are the ones I’ve mentioned. Those are the ones that stand out as the painful and defining moments in my life.

I ponder the 16 years that have passed since I served myself that Christmas ice-cream “feast,” and it is hard to even fathom the person I was and the person I have become. A lifetime of changes, heartaches, joys, triumphs, laughter, tears and adventures have taken place over those 16 years. From Spain to Boston, to Washington, DC, Los Angeles to San Francisco, I have lived across a span of 6,000 miles. I have gone from being a student living in Spain, to planning international travel, to being a graduate school drop out, to working at the United Nations in Geneva, through my first acquisition as a manager at a start-up, to working at a minimum wage job struggling to pay my rent, back to management in a start-up, to being fired and now to being an inspirational writer. It has been a path I could never have imagined and a level of growth and transformation that is immeasurable by time or space.

As I write this post, it is Christmas Eve and I am curled up in my pajamas with my two kitties, the only two constant companions in my life over the past decade. They are the wall between me and the full grip of loneliness. I will not be with close friends or family this Christmas, not because I don’t have those, but simply because we are all in different places this year and circumstances prevent us from being together. Is it easy to be alone? I would certainly be lying if I said “yes,” but I am here to tell you that there is an indomitable strength and fortitude that has come from having to face the depths of such solitude. Walking through such loneliness over a span of so many years has forced me to walk through the fire and it has allowed me to emerge a Spiritual Warrior. And with that has come the knowledge and the wisdom that I am my own strongest ally, that with my inner strength and fire I can overcome and endure any plight or challenge that comes my way.

I am here today to reach out to all of the other lonely souls out there who feel that they are all alone and who feel that they are the only ones. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. I am here to tell you that you are one of millions, that as I write these words there are countless other people in the exact same situation, wishing that they had loved ones with whom to share the holidays. And I am here to tell you that there is strength in that. You are not alone. None of us are alone. We are all connected by heart and spirit. We are all Spiritual Warriors and if we can tap into that collective energy we can feel the love and brotherhood among us.

I am also here to tell you that there is opportunity in solitude. I could spend Christmas Day alone and depressed about how everyone else I know is with loved ones. It would be far too easy to go to that place. But I refuse to allow myself that poisonous indulgence. Instead I will begin my day with a deep meditation, allowing myself to access that profound well of inner calm and the connection to my higher self and Universal love; that place where peace washes over you. Then I have organized a Christmas dinner, a dinner of complete strangers, an opportunity for other solitary souls to come together to share a dinner in the comfort of community; an opportunity to get to know new people, to share stories, to laugh and to allow ourselves to feel the joy of simple human connection.

If you are alone this Christmas, be comforted in knowing that in fact you are not alone. Reach out and connect with strangers. Go out to the pub and strike up a conversation with your neighbor. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen and connect with others by giving of your heart. Go to a yoga class and flow with a community of like-minded souls. Remember that we are all brothers and sisters on this journey of souls and none of us are ever alone. We are all connected.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, from my heart to yours…..

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grief (n.)= keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.

Grief is a funny thing. Our society teaches us to avoid it at all costs, and yet it is part of the natural cycle of life. We will all experience it in our lives, that is if we have a pulse. And we will all experience it in different ways, different times and in varying degrees. Some of us will suffer the horrific grief from the loss of a child, others will suffer the heart-breaking grief from the loss of a love or spouse, and still others will suffer profound grief from the loss of a pet. That is just to name a few losses which we may face over a lifetime.  It doesn’t matter what the source, but life pretty much guarantees it: the grief will come, and for a time it will be debilitating. And what is for certain is that there is no way to measure the level of one’s grief. Nobody can say “my grief is more intense than yours” or vice versa. There is no scale of 1-5 that allows for an objective measurement and comparison. For each person, grief is different, and it is their own. One can try to empathize with someone who is grieving, from having been through their own grief, but at the end of the day nobody else can truly put themselves in your shoes. Your grief is yours and yours alone.

Everyone has different ways of coping with their grief: some will turn to therapy and others will turn to prayer, and some to both. I fall somewhere in the middle: I turn inward to meditation. What is clear is that not all methods of coping with grief will work for all people, and it is important for each of us to find the path that works best for us. While I’ve always been hopeful about its effects, and despite various attempts, therapy has never made any meaningful impact on me. But meditation has. By going deep within, calming the inner turmoil and mind chatter, and through lots of practice, I have found ways that I can literally raise my consciousness above the turmoil, where I can look down at it from above, objectively. Of course meditation is not a magic bullet. It takes consistent practice and considerable commitment. And it too is not for everyone. But what I do know for sure is that nobody can say to you, “This is how you should be handling your grief.” Nobody has had the exact same experiences that you have had, and therefore nobody, no matter how empathetic or well-intentioned they may be, can truly know what is best for you. Nor do they have the right to tell you so. When it comes to deciding how best to handle your own grief, you are the only person who can make that decision.

There is no formula for how long it will or should take someone to get over grief. I’ve heard it said that to get over a love relationship, it should take you 1/2 of the time that you were together. According to whom?? Based on what??? That would falsely assume that all people are the same, and that everyone feels the same level of emotions, and that every relationship is the exact same level of love and intensity, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are dealing with human beings, not algebra! We are all unique. For some it could take weeks to grieve, for others years, and still for some it will become a lifelong struggle. I know that anyone who has lost a child will tell you that it is a loss you never get over; instead one has to learn how to live WITH it and incorporate it into a new reality, no matter how gut-wrenching. But I also know that you don’t have to have lost a child in order to feel that level of grief. There are other types of losses that can be just as intense for people. We’ve all heard of the phrase, “She died of a broken heart.” That phrase didn’t appear out of nowhere and it doesn’t just happen in the movies. Sadly, it can and does happen.

The most important element in the process of overcoming grief is simply time. But there is no way to predict the amount of time, and it is also the nature of grief that it can and will come in waves. One can be feeling fine for months or even years, and then suddenly out of the blue a reminder comes pounding in like a wave, and drags them into the undertow: it could be an Anniversary date, a song, a photograph, there are a million little things that could trigger a wave of grief to wash over you. And when that happens the best thing that the grieving person can do is try to “ride the wave”, knowing that it is a temporary storm in the sea of life and that this wave too will pass. The only way out is through.

How many of you have been told, “You need to get over it. It’s been too long.”? Every time I hear someone say that I want to spit, and I am reminded of how impatient and lacking empathy human beings can truly be. Of course people mean well when they say that, but by doing so they are belittling the loss that you have lived through and they are not respecting the grief process that YOU are living. The grief process is yours and yours alone. If anyone tries to tell you that, and it hurts or angers you, don’t fret. Step back and know that you are standing in your own process and be true to yourself: do what you need to do for yourself and do not be concerned with what anybody else thinks of you. At the end of the day you are your own best friend, and you know better than anyone what your own spirit needs.

I am often shocked by how few people want to deal with one’s grief, how afraid of it people tend to be. From writing in this community, I have met several other writers who are dealing with their own deep grief, and I’ve seen a reoccurring theme: they’ve all had friends and family who have pulled away from them, and in some cases permanently, because the friends or family were too uncomfortable and unequipped emotionally to deal with the other person’s grief. This is a sad statement; because of course when one is grieving that is when one needs their friends and family the most. But I have learned this same lesson in my own life, multiple times. Some people simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth, sensitivity, patience or level of empathy necessary to handle someone else’s grief. If everyone had that ability, then everyone would be a Priest, a Nun …or at the very least a grief counselor!

But most importantly it is a stark misconception to think that grief is bad and that we should in any way try to rush through it, push it aside or numb ourselves to it. Sadly so many people do this: they try to avoid the pain of a lost love by jumping into the next love; they push the devastating emotions down and try to pretend that they don’t exist, which sadly will often lead to the manifestation of disease; and others will try to drown out the pain with drugs and alcohol. None of these escape mechanisms will work. To quote Ovid,

“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”

By trying to distract ourselves from grief, we are making a mistake. By trying to ignore the grief, we are not honoring the loss that we have experienced. We are also denying ourselves one of the most powerful opportunities for growth and learning that this earthly life affords us. Our darkest times are our most powerful teachers. The sage knows that to try to skip over such difficult times, is to deny himself of powerful learning and soul evolution. In the wise words of Marcel Proust,

“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

There is no doubt that grief is painful, and in many cases, devastating and debilitating. I’m sure none of you will argue with that. It can change your life forever, and often against your will. That has certainly been the case in my life. And while it may get easier with time, it can still be something that we simply have to learn how to live with, as difficult as that may be. But even in that circumstance, if we can dig in deep and instead of running away and hiding from grief, if we can muster up the strength to walk through it and experience it, and allow ourselves to ride the wave, it has the power to transform us.

“Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart.”- John Adams

This post is dedicated to my friend Judy.

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It is an age old question: is the soul eternal? Mankind has been asking this question since the beginning of time, throughout all civilizations, all around the world. So who am I to try to answer such a question? I am just a simple girl who has had some pretty extraordinary experiences. One such experience occurred in June of 2008 in Southern California.

I was in San Diego working at a convention and I was sad, incredibly sad. I had just learned that the man I loved had moved in with the woman with whom he had replaced me, virtually instantly. I was devastated, absolutely gutted. It was painful enough that he had replaced me so quickly, but this had been the best friend I’d ever had in my life, and he had callously cut me from his life and broken off all contact, as if I’d never meant anything to him at all. To learn that he had now moved in with her was just the proverbial icing on the cake, on a very dark and disgusting cake.

I could not function. Here I was at this conference booth, dressed up in my sharp suit, trying to sell our product to whomever walked by…but I was just going through the motions. My head was entirely elsewhere and as I had just learned this painful news, I was quite nauseous and unstable on my feet. I decided that I needed a nap: the kind of nap where you just disappear into the mattress, where you fall heavily into an alternate reality and forget about the waking world, even if only for a short time.

The afternoon break came and I immediately went back to my hotel room and sank into the bed and cried. It hurt so badly. “Will this pain ever go away?”, I asked myself. Of course I’d been through heartache before in my life, this was certainly not the first time. But this was by far the most profound, the most life-altering and I could sense that it was a grief that I would carry with me forever. I tried to cry myself to sleep….

…Suddenly I was at the foot of the bed, looking back at myself sleeping. I was initially confused. “How can I be seeing from over here if my body is over there?”, I asked myself. “How can I be looking back at myself?” I asked myself if I was dreaming. “No! This is definitely not a dream. I am more awake, more lucid than I’ve ever felt.”, I exclaimed to myself. I looked around the room and saw all of the reminders that I was in fact in my hotel room: I saw my suitcase on the floor, my shoes by the side of the bed, and I saw my body sleeping in the exact position in which I knew I had fallen asleep, with my left arm tucked under my head. I looked down at myself where I was…I was floating!

In that instant it hit me… I was outside of my body! I was having my very first Out of Body Experience. Now, all of my life I had believed in this sort of thing, it is not something I had ever questioned. Whenever I’d read stories about other people having OBEs (Out of Body Experiences) and near death experiences, and read the similarities between all of the different stories around the world, I’d never had any doubt of their veracity. I’d always found it fascinating and intriguing. But it never occurred to me that this could happen to me.

What happened next would blow me away. I floated over to my sleeping body and I began stroking my hair. I said to myself, to the me sleeping in the bed, “Don’t worry Jeannie, everything is going to be ok.” The physical me began to cry and at that moment I swept back into myself and BOOM: I woke up in the bed, tears pouring down my face.

I immediately knew what had happened: my higher self had given me a message of comfort that day, a message of higher truth. I was speechless… But not only was I speechless, I was elated. Before I had gone to sleep, I had been devastated beyond all belief, and while that pain was still very much alive, I had just discovered something so much greater, something that made that pain virtually irrelevant, and something that I knew would change my life forever. I had just confirmed for myself that the soul is eternal, that our physical bodies are merely a vessel and that when this body breaks down, our soul lives on and goes elsewhere. I simply knew this with 100% certainty.

People have asked me if perhaps it could have been a dream, and I know some people will read this and think that. And as you read, that was the first thing I asked myself when I realized what was happening. All I can say is that anyone else who has experienced an OBE will know with 100% certainty that it was not a dream. There is no greater lucidity, no greater alertness than you feel during an OBE. You feel an incredibly heightened sense of awareness and knowing, far greater than you feel in the waking world. On top of that, you feel an incredible amount of peace, a lightness and a Universal love. You can feel that you are connected to and part of something greater.

Whatever was going on in my physical life, whatever painful emotions I felt, I knew that from that moment on, my life would never be the same again. I now knew that I was part of something greater, some elaborate and intricate scheme (whatever it may be), and that my soul was eternal. I now knew that my body was just that, a body, and that the soul would continue living on after this life. Armed with that knowledge, I know that I can walk through my life on this Earth and I can experience everything from a much higher place of awareness. I can handle anything that comes my way, for I now know how fleeting, how temporary it all is, and how small our human problems really are in the grand scheme of things. I now have a higher vision, and with that…. peace.

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