Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Day 11: writing in progress…

October 18, 2018

I was determined to make space, inner space for a poem. Loss made everything sharp.

I suffer from these brief weekends, the tearing up of the roots of love, and from my own inability to behave better under the stress. The poem is about silence, that it is really only there that lovers can know what they know, and there what they know is deep, nourishing, nourishing to the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

For a little while, it is as if my nakedness were clothed in love.
But then, when I come back, I shiver in my isolation, and must face again, and try to tame the loneliness.

May Sarton, from Journal of a Solitude.

Day 10:

October 18, 2018


Day 9:

October 17, 2018


Day 8: I am Grateful

October 15, 2018

I’ve become friends with another bereaved mom. She lost her twenty two year old daughter to leukemia nine months before Ewan died. Her daughter, Karen, was featured in a New York Times article highlighting the promise of immunotherapy. Karen was an example of how things don’t always work out. I clung to her daughter’s story and the hope and life that she was rallying to recover for. Karen journaled her story online and I followed. When her site got quiet, I reached out. Sady, Karen’s mom, Chris replied in her place to let me know that Karen had passed away. At this time Ewan was still alive and in remission.

Chris and I stayed in touch and, as a part of her promise to Karen, Chris continued to write on Karen’s blog. Chris emailed encouraging messages when I shared that Ewan had relapsed. She wrote, “No response necessary…  I just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you, and hoping that things are going as well as they can.” of course another mom who has been in the thick of treatment is gracious enough to offer up “No response necessary”.She offered sound advice, sent books and connected me with Karen’s doctors. Now knowing the pain she was going through, I am amazed that she could even get out of bed.

Some days, Chris is the reason I get out of bed. I see her write about her family, travel and caring for Karen’s siblings and it reminds me that I am not alone in this pain. If Chris can keep moving, I can keep moving.

She is honest about her shattered world. Chris shares her shakey hope in a god. “As much as I have trouble with the whole concept of God these days (because why would anybody take these beautiful children, and leave so many cruel people here???) I have to continue to believe in the Heaven part, because I can’t bear the thought that I won’t get to see them all again.”

She gives me a space to feel understood and comforted. She allows me to allow myself to own my doubt in why anything happens and life and existence itself. Its an honor to know her.

Last night, I was at a workshop on building resilience. Practices such as cultivating gratitude and paying attention to how I walk into a room (pausing to breath, and being aware of my emotions) were discussing. The message that most resonated with me realizing the difference in the voice I use when talking with myself versus when talking with a friend. When it comes to me, I am a harsh critic. With friends, I express compassion and patience. Chris voice, from across the country, teaches me how to talk to myself with kindness and compassion, even in the face of what feels like the most miserable failure.

I am grateful for Chris.



The truth is, we all need a mentor.
Especially inside this wholly disorienting grief,
inside a culture that cannot and does not understand. We each need a guiding star, an example to live into.

Today’s prompt:

Tell us about a guiding star inside your grief: are there people – whether real, mythological, or fictional – who live their own grief in a way that gives you encouragement, inspiration, or direction?

If you don’t know of any, can you make one up? Create a wholly fictional, fantasial role model: someone (or thing) who lives with grief in a way you admire, or in a way you just find really neat.

How has this person affected you? What feels possible in the light of what their life is?

From Megan Devine’s Refuge In Grief Write Your Grief Workshop

Day 7: “I Feel Powerless.”

October 14, 2018

Day 7:

Free form is fine, but you are also getting a haiku.


unrelated rats
embrace anxiety stress
resilience nature

“I Feel Powerless.”

premature death
no more flow
no grow



For your Sunday prompt, let’s get a little creative.

Find a Sunday paper, or any newspaper (even one of those free dailies will work).

Open the paper to a full spread – one with lots of articles and words, not a bunch of photos. Get yourself a highlighter or colored pen.
Close your eyes for a moment, take a good deep breath (as deep as you can).

Exhale, and begin to lightly scan the paper, underlining random words from all over the page. What you’re doing is building a found-word poem, or a short prose piece, by taking single words from various sentences and joining them together.

Let the available words dictate what is written, but don’t feel stuck to one article or column. You can ramble all over. Try it a few times: you’ll be surprised what you find.

From Megan Devine’s Refuge In Grief Write Your Grief Workshop

Day 6: Kindness

October 14, 2018

A friend called me up and asked if I’d like to take a walk today. She shows me kindness in all sorts of ways. She has boxes of tea delivered to my door. She takes my daughter out for ice cream. She drops off books on grief (like It’s OK That You’re NOT OK). Today, we walked through a wooded park then over to a town square. We passed a coffee shop. Inside, we bought cups of tea. I paid as my way of acknowledging her kindness — kind for kindness. We walked on with tea in our to-go cups. A child riding her bike passed us by. I recognized the child; she had been in my son’s class. The girl’s name reminding my friend of a story. She shared that childhood friend of hers who died in a head-on car collision.  The truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and the truck jumped the media and hit them from the opposite direction her friend and his wife died instantly. Their ten-month-old baby in back survived. For 2 minutes, as I listened, I forgot about my grief and listened to her as she shared sadness and tragedy.

That’s kindness. Seeing and being seen. Sharing and listening. Extending a hand, making a call. Not being alone. Companionship over a cup of tea. Kindness takes two and takes thoughtfulness.  But I can be alone and be kind. It is extending a hand to my sad self. Listening to my sad self’s story and offering my own shoulder to cry on.


Touching in to your grief can be brutal. Even when the pain never leaves you, sometimes purposely turning to face it can be exceptionally hard.

So today, let’s focus on kindness.

For all you have been through, for all you have seen, kindness:

Let me be to my sad self hereafter kind.” – Peter Pouncey, Rules for Old Men Waiting: A Novel


Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.

“Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems.
© Eighth Mountain Press, 1995.


Prompt 6:

What would it mean to offer kindness to yourself in your grief? What would kindness look like?
How do you, or how would you, “be to my sad self hereafter kind”?

From Megan Devine’s refuge in grief, Write Your Grief, Grief Writing Course


Day 5: Meet Grief

October 13, 2018

Day 5: The Undraining Drain

Drain running but slow draining, frothing sludge pools in the basin. The shower is clogged again. At the core of the problem is a nest of coppery and blacken crud. I grip and tease off the tangle of hairs from the round, shower drain strainer. But it’s a futile fight. Everyday fistfuls come out and fall to the floor. I return hoping today is my day to wash away pain but it’s back and backed up; it’s plugged and pooling up at my feet again. Soaked feet seep up and heart hurts — capillary action. When will the hairs stop falling out? I should have shaved head, like his, long ago. No use now. My insides are the same as that pipe. Gritted and coated with build up of soap scum. Gummed with hair. What was intended to get me clean has clung to my insides, now I am unable to do the simplest of jobs. My drain arms are broken. Nails have been driven in from the underside. And the trap is jammed. All tomorrows are backed up, too. 



For day five, I’d like you to try a different kind of prompt: one that focuses on the craft of writing.

If you were writing fiction, you’d want to know the voice of your main character. You’d want to know the way they walk, the kinds of food they eat, how they comb or don’t comb their hair. They would need to be real. In way, your grief is a character: it has a rhythm and a voice. It is particular to you. If we’re going to be working with grief, let’s find out who s/he is.

The creative tool is called personification. What we’re really doing is giving grief, itself, a voice. When it has a voice, it can tell us things.

So: let’s think of this exercise as inviting your grief to introduce himself / herself to you.

an off-the-cuff example: Grief rocks, slumped in a corner, spent drink in her left hand, dirt smeared across her forehead. She hums and she cries; her hands flit against things I don’t see. As I come near, she looks up, startled but clear eyed:
“What do you want?” she asks, adjusting the straps of her dress.
She pats herself down gently. “What is it you most want? Maybe I have it. Maybe I have it somewhere….”

If your grief is a character who can come forward and speak, what kind of voice does s/he have? Don’t tell us about it, let him or her actually speak. Write in grief’s voice.

To get there, you might begin by taking just a few moments to quiet yourself. Close your eyes. Take a few breaths. As you feel yourself center, pick up your pen or set your hands over the keyboard. Take another breath, and on the exhale, imagine you ask your pain this question:

“Who are you?” or “Tell me who you are…”

If you see an image – a being, a creature, a person, describe what you see. Can you engage with it? If your grief is a character who can come forward and speak, what kind of voice does s/he have? Don’t tell us about it, let him or her actually speak. Write in grief’s voice.

Give it some time – allow the voice to find itself. If you feel stuck, be outlandish: make something up. Play with it. See where it goes.

From Megan Devine’s Refuge In Grief Write Your Grief Workshop

Day 4: It’s 9am on a tuesday morning, and I’m standing…

October 11, 2018

Day 4:  it’s 9am on a tuesday morning, and I’m standing…I don’t know what to do with my hands…

Maple syrup on pancakes has a particular way of making a mess. Not the genuine maple syrup boiled from the sap of trees in Vermont — that kind has a tiny twinge taste of twigs and a crystalline color that refracts light like a glass prism. With leaves like a hand giving a high five. They turn from green to crimson to gold to dead.

No, this is the sugary stuff made from caramel colored corn syrup and a few other ingredients ending in ‘ate’. It is a liquid sugar. A little like him — he was a solid sugar, but he was 100% genuine, no artificial color or additives about him.
It’s that syrup, a sweet viscose motor oil, that powered his Saturday mornings and would find its way in unusual places. On the back of chairs, in hairs. On fork handles and floors. The smell of his sweet, pancakey breath with was coated at the rims with sticky, glossy stuff. Smell is the sense that can’t be censored.

Now, I smell the pancakes on the griddle on Saturday mornings and am awash in mourning. The little log cabin tucked away in its white blanketed scene, sitting quietly on a label on the front of the slender plastic dispenser. Snow smell is in the air. Cold, crispy and empty.



People always say that it hurts at night

and apparently screaming into your pillow at 3am is the romantic equivalent of being

But sometimes
it’s 9am on a Tuesday morning
and you’re standing at the kitchen bench waiting for the toast to pop up

And the smell of dusty sunlight and earl gray tea makes you miss him so much
you don’t know what to do with your hands.

― On Missing Them, Rosie Scanlan

Day 3: I know where I live…

October 10, 2018

Day 3: I was living in the forest…. I know where I live… Here’s how I live in the desert…

It’s the same place — the same room. What’s changed? Its undeniably different. I’ve changed. Eyes open and I am numbingly awake but can’t see. Lights on. Suddenly, lights off. This is real loss. Locks are changed and I am chained in this lightless bleak, black basement room at night with a smashed lamp and shattered glass at my feet.

What was loss before was nothing. The loss of the car keys or that wadded up twenty dollar bill. Where did it go? The loss of the friend who stop texting or the love who stop calling, those losses were so insignificant. The death of our beloved cat, Night. She was suave, elegant and black, except for a patch of white on her chest. I found her on a frosty breathed morning, in the gutter; she was struck by a car and from the stiffness, had been there for some time. We buried her in the back yard. Theses were baby losses. Like someone taking a jangly, brightly colored toy out of my drool drenched hands. They were the dimming of a lamp in the room, the drawing of sinuous, velvety drapes.

On the loss of his wife, Jason Rosenthal writes, “ loss is loss is loss.” This struck a tuning fork of truth in me. Loosing car keys is loss. Unrequited love is loss. Sharing epitaphs and tears over your feline friend’s fresh mound of dirt is loss. She was a good cat. But the room is now suffocating. Akin to pottery in a gas kiln firing in reduction — some things are unpredictable and suck the oxygen right out of the room. Some losses not only turn off the switch but topple the lamp and take the lightbulb and smash it as they leave.


Day Three

Today’s prompt is about living in a changed world, finding ways to live in the changed world:

“I was living in a rainforest. I knew the trees and the frogs, the lush green life. With no warning, I got shoved into the desert. I know this is the desert. So take back your plastic palm trees and your cups of water; quit telling me it’s the same. I know better. I know where I live.”

Megan Devine, from my collected journals.

The desert has many teachings

In the desert, turn toward emptiness,
fleeing the self.

Stand alone, Ask no one’s help,
And your being will quiet, Free from the bondage of things.

Those who cling to the world, endeavor to free them;
those who are free, praise.

Care for the sick, But live alone,
Happy to drink from the waters of sorrow, To kindle Love’s fire
With the twigs of a simple life.

Thus you will live in the desert.

– Mechtild of Magdeburg, excerpted in Jane Hirshfield’s  Women In Praise of theSacred.

How do you live in a landscape so vastly changed? Write from any line in the above pieces, or start today’s writing with one of the following:

I was living in the forest….
I know where I live…

Here’s how I live in the desert…

Day 2: What does not show…

October 9, 2018

Day 2: “what you don’t know… ” or: “what does not show…”

We all carry sad stories inside curled up and crying  to seep out. I see it behind behind the blanketed dull and far off stares in eyes of strangers behind me waiting to order lattes. It’s a flat, matte light, lacking liveliness in their look as they gaze at nothing in particular, or maybe searching for hope or contact on their phones. So few of us are alive.

IMG_2996A child is alive. And then he is not.

What does it mean to be alive? It means to feel. To taste colors — smooth and fiery orange Brandy burning down the back of one’s throat. And to whif pine scented underarm deodorant mulched with mildewing crunchy copper leaves and tears of raindrops on the breeze. It’s sadness in October. And sunshine, anytime, anywhere, warming your face. It’s the heart-racing thrill of the drop and the jerk and the trill of a roller coaster. Being alive sparks a light in the eyes that flickers and dances and knows things and recognizes life.

When he stopped being alive, I stopped caring what others saw in my eyes. I do not dab makeup over my grief. I lost the will to care or conceal the purplish, puffy circles encasing my eyes. These swollen, grief-stricken blisters of vision are my new glasses and I wear them with love and dignity. With the honor and privledge that comes from walking hand-in-hand, with life at its best and silliest. I still feel. I feel so deeply and brutally it’s hard to stand up. And I don’t care what the others in the coffee line are thinking. They are not seeing me now any more than before from their eyes in a room with lights out, anyway.


Today’s prompt is about the public face we present versus what we know inside – the gulf between what we show and what is real:

“If you have ever lost a loved one, then you know exactly how it feels. And if you have not, then you cannot possibly imagine it.”
Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning

“I accepted all this counsel politely, with a glassy smile and a glaring sense of unreality. Many adults seemed to interpret this numbness as a positive sign; I remember particularly Mr. Beeman (an overly clipped Brit in a dumb tweed motoring cap, whom despite his solicitude I had come to hate, irrationally, as an agent of my mother’s death) complimenting me on my maturity and informing me that I seemed to be “coping awfully well.”

And maybe I was coping awfully well, I don’t know. Certainly I wasn’t howling aloud or punching my fist through windows or doing any of the things I imagined people might do who felt as I did. But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.”
Donna Tartt,  The Goldfinch

We often put on our “public” face when we go out, hiding private pain behind a tight mask of “I’m fine, thanks,” and hurried attempts to walk-on-past. There is so much we do not say. So much hidden behind a public numbness, or a polite and clipped response. But inside, there is so much more: howling and punching, pounded by grief. What is hidden below the public surface.

If you could tell people something, tell them what is true, what is true about grief and love and loss, something they do not know, or can’t know, what would it be? If you could address them, what would be said?

From Megan Devine’s Refuge In Grief Write Your Grief Workshop