Archive for the ‘Grief Support’ Category

Grief and the Holidays Are A Delicate Mix

November 18, 2015


What can you do to honor your sorrow in a healthy way during the holidays?

  • Accept the likelihood of discomforting feelings. The expectations this season imposes in the face of your grief may create apprehension and even dread in you. Traditions you used to enjoy may evoke sadness or regret. Any sense of confusion or unfairness may lead to irritability or anger. All this happens quite commonly, so to expect otherwise only increases your unwanted stress.
  • Lean a little—or even a lot. Let others help you with decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking, child watching, or whatever else seems too much for you at the moment. It’s difficult to do the hard work of grieving while undertaking all the extra work associated with the holidays.
  • Plan ahead while setting your limits. Ask yourself which traditions you will maintain, which you will forgo, and which you will adapt this year. Will you celebrate at the same time and place? Who will be there? Talk with everyone involved and try to decide together. Keep this in mind: fears of upcoming holidays experiences are often much overblown.
  • Include your loved one. Don’t leave them out. Bring their life and your cherished memories into this time. Find ways to make their spirit a part of your commemorations, whether you’re with others or by yourself.
  • Take care of yourself. Take this advice to heart especially during the holidays. Get your rest. Carve out alone time if you need it. Listen to your body, your heart, your soul.
  • Remember that your sorrow should not rule out all joy. Be open to serendipitous moments. Welcome any smiles or laughter that may suddenly sparkle. Be grateful for and respond to any love that comes your way.
  • Reach out to others, if you have the energy. Often you can give of yourself as well as receive. You may now understand and appreciate the needs of others as you never have before.
  • Recall the deeper meaning of the holidays. Each religious tradition has its abiding messages for this time of the year. Take these in—they can speak hopeful truth to your grief.

The holidays this year may be a bittersweet and poignant time for you. With support, with honesty, and with courage, it can also become an important part of your healing.

Please Remember!

Willowgreen has three resources created specifically for grievers during the holiday time. Our books How Will I Get Through the Holidays? and Helping the Bereaved Celebrate the Holidays and our DVD Grieving Through the Holidays (which is actually four separate videos) are very helpful for individuals, families, in support group settings, and for community-wide events. Find them at

A Video Meditation for Those Who Grieve During These Holidays

grief-400We share with you a two-minute video that speaks sensitively to those who are bereaved during this time of the year—a time which holds such poignant memories. It’s by Jim Miller and is entitled What You Shall Never Lose. You can view it here.

Ongoing Support to the Bereaved

February 12, 2013

100 Healing Messages

In October 2010, I introduced a blog called “1-Minute Inspirations” in which I released a new video every Wednesday morning. The format was always the same: there was a beginning quotation followed by 60 seconds of narration, music, and photography. Each video was built around a single thought that provided a bit of momentary depth or encouragement or hope. People seemed to appreciate the brevity of the video and the personal integration of my writing, my voice, and my photography with Eric Clancy’s piano music.

“Why not try a similar approach for a more specific audience, built around a particular need?” I asked myself. So after a year of producing these weekly videos, I returned to an earlier professional interest and began creating a series of short messages for the bereaved. My initial idea was to create 50. Realizing there was so much that needed to be communicated, I doubled the number and titled the project, “100 Healing Messages for Your Grief.” This resource is now available to everyone, and you’re among the first to know about it.

This is how “100 Healing Messages” works:

Once you subscribe, or subscribe a friend, to these messages through the Willowgreen website, you’ll begin receiving a brief, personalized email every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, introducing that day’s topic. A link within the email will lead you to a separate page where the video has been set up to play for you. Each video message is designed to console, validate, inform, and encourage, always ending on a hopeful note. The viewer can also download a beautifully formatted PDF of each message, suitable for reading, collecting, or sharing with others. If you would like to see a sample of the 100 Healing Messages and learn more about ordering this resource with all its 100 videos and PDFs, follow this LINK.

It has been a very full and challenging year of work and I’m pleased that everything has all come together so well. As you’ll see, “100 Healing Messages for Your Grief” carries a distinctive Willowgreen touch from beginning to end. I’m looking forward to offering a new form of grief support through the internet unlike anything that has been created to date. If you have any thoughts about this work once you’ve seen the samples noted above, I’d love to hear from you by email:

The Treasure of a Mustard Seed

December 18, 2012

A Timely Tale of Beginning the Journey Through Grief


The story is told of a woman whose child had died. Her grief was strong and would not let up. It felt unbearable.

She went to the wise old man in the village and asked, “How can I come to bear this? How can I be healed?”

“It’s really rather simple,” the old man replied. “All you have to do is find a mustard seed and bring it back to me.”

“One tiny mustard seed?” she asked. “Something with no real value? That’s all I need?”

He said, “Yes, that’s all. Now here’s what you do: go to your neighbor’s house, explain your situation, and tell them I’ve sent you to collect a mustard seed from them if they have never known grief. If you cannot get the mustard seed there, then move on to the next place until you come to the first house where someone can put in your hand what you seek.

Today there is a sense in which we are like the woman seeking that mustard seed. The tragedy of what happened that Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut leaves us grieving. It is a grief that does not go easily away.

For some the grief seems unendurable—those parents and siblings, those spouses and children, those grandparents and other relatives of the ones who died. Grief strikes many others too—the neighbors, the close friends, indeed, everyone in the community. In varying degrees the grief spreads across that whole state, the entire nation, and into other spots around the world.

“How can we bear this?” we ask. “How can we begin to heal?”

The grieving woman went from house to house to house and each time she came away empty-handed. Each time she found that others either were in grief or had known grief. And most times something else happened: after the woman received the response to her question, she became the recipient of their questions, their interest, their concern. “What happened? What’s happening now? What’s going on inside?” Sometimes these others shared a bit of their own experience in return, their own perspective.

Eventually the grieving woman returned to the wise man and said, “I don’t have that mustard seed.”

He said, “I know.” And he said it with an understanding smile as he looked into her eyes, for standing before him was a woman who had begun her journey toward being able to endure what had seemed unendurable. She had started on her way toward healing.

Today all of us are a part of this story. Some of us identify closely with the bereft woman. Grief settles over us, whether it relates to death in Newtown or in our own town, to death that happened days ago or death that occurred years ago.

Others of us are like the people in the houses the grieving woman visited. We’ve known death but our grief isn’t quite as fresh nor nearly as heavy.

All of us are connected. All of us are, in some way, at some time, shaken by loss and touched by grief. And right now what happened in an idyllic town in Connecticut touches us all.

How can we bear this? How can we be healed?

We cannot ignore the tragedy and the urgency of this critical event. We must look honestly at who we are as an American culture today—at what we accept and what we expect, at what we stand for and what we hope for. We must look carefully at how we deal with mental illness, at the popularity of violence-prone entertainment, and at the increasing proliferation of guns, including assault weapons.

These are huge tasks. They will take years to be addressed. Yet without letting up on our commitment to make far-reaching changes, we must also ask, “What can we do immediately in the face of our grief?”

I believe there are many things we can do. We can visit in the homes of our neighbors, our friends, our families and we can talk to one another. We can speak with each other in those places where we work, where we play, where we worship. We can ask our questions and listen carefully to one another’s answers in beauty salons and barber shops, in coffeehouses and restaurants, on street corners and sidewalks everywhere.

I believe we can seek out the wise people who are among us and listen carefully to what they say. We can voice any questions we may have, including the very difficult ones, even if we’re somehow aware that our questions may be without answers. We can tell our story every chance we get, if that’s what feels right. We can take to heart what others around us have learned and will freely share. We can let ourselves be cared for, if caring is what we need. We can let ourselves simply be, wherever we are, trusting that the time will come when we’re to move on.

For those who have the energy and the compassion to put grief in perspective, I believe we can reach out, gently and yet firmly. We can stay with others in the pain of their grief and not hide from it. We can listen, time and again, with our eyes as well as our ears, with our souls as well as our hearts. We can do whatever we can to place ourselves in the other’s shoes—indeed, in theirs hearts and souls—so we can know their reality as surely as we can. We can stand in the truth and the genuineness of our own lives too, for that is what provides a sense of security when times seem insecure. We can continue to believe, not blithely but maturely.

I believe that together we can experience that healing is possible. It begins within us, and continues between us, and includes a source beyond us. And then our grief will not limit us but help transform us—as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a world.

You’re invited to view a short Willowgreen video related to this understanding of grief by clicking on the image above.