Monday, February 25, 2019

The Importance of Releasing Your Pain

It's not about letting go of the love. It's about letting go of the grief.

Don't Be Afraid To Grieve. You Can Never Lose The Ones You Love. Love Never Dies.
I had been suffering in silence the loss of my dog, Jack, my father, my home in Sedona and the ending of a decade-long relationship -- all which took place within a four month period.  I had been an end-of-life social worker and hospice counselor for three decades. Always I would advise my clients to stay connected with others, share their pain when they can and be cautious not to isolate themselves. I did not practice my own preaching.  Part of me was afraid that if I stopped grieving that Jack would then be even further away from me, but that wasn't true at all. Remaining isolated, I continued feeling victimized by my loss and life changes. 

In those decades of working with all kinds of people from all walks of life, it was the Veterans who had served in active duty during wartime that seemed to be carrying the most baggage with them at the end of their lifetime. Some were able to connect with like-minded supports but most, especially those from the greatly-misunderstood war in Vietnam, held onto their pain like they held onto their very lives during active duty. As if by letting go they would fall apart. Seeds of darkness had been planted in their heads and hearts all those years ago and most preferred to look the other way thinking they were strong enough to cover up the pain and leave the gory details behind.

But pain longheld does not go away on it's own.  It needs release.  It needs to be acknowledged and shared. The sharing of it is what releases its grip.  Many of these veterans will release tensions, tears and emotions in their final hours of life, never knowing that their lives would have been much brighter and freer had they not stuffed their memories away in the dark archives of their being. It is human nature to release regrets, trauma and reactive memories as one's time of death approaches.

"A strong of flashbacks came to me... all of them flashed before my eyes. The painful memories came 
to say goodbye. They are filtered out of us at the end of life. We cannot take them where we're going 
because they only weigh us down." 

You Don't Need to Bear Your Burdens Alone. You Are Not Alone.

A unique example of the power of the unspoken surprised even me.  One Christmas Eve when I was in college and home for the holidays, my mother and I drove to the mall to pick up a jacket for my grandfather. There was a snow storm but the jacket was of utmost importance.  Suddenly our Volkswagen skidded on the black ice and we ended up in the ditch; my left knee went through the dashboard radio. My mother never noticed and I didn't point it out. Help eventually arrived and we went home.  My knee swelled up like a football, but Stoic Me I did not share my pain mostly because I had a weight problem and I did not want my family to see my body, my skin, my fat, my huge swollen knee.  It took a long time to heal but eventually I healed, silently and alone. 

About twenty years later, I scheduled a Reiki Massage with an intuitive healer. At a certain point he was working on my left leg and he said, "What happened to your knee?"  My honest reply, "Nothing happened to my knee."  (I had hidden it away so long that I didn't even consciously remember that it had taken place). "Oh yes something happened...." and then he said, "I see a little red car spinning out of control."  OMG.  How did he see this when it had been erased from my very own memory?  Why... because our bodies remember. Our hearts remember long after the mind has forgotten. Anything you hold inside of yourself without expression remains inside of you until you express it and set it free.

Perhaps you too have pain that you have suffered in silence.  Those of you who know my story know that at the six month mark after my initial loss, my dog Jack came to me and he guided the pen in my hand to write a dozen pages, him speaking his heart to mine. Writing our story. That was the beginning of my healing.

If you are suffering and don't know where to turn, consider writing down the circumstances, your feelings, your story.  If you don't like to write you can draw it. Sing it. Dance it. The very act of expressing something in a journal, a diary, a private place - is the beginning of release.  After being "trapped" in your mind and heart for days, weeks, months, maybe even years, dare bring it into the light of day on the lines of your paper, the pages in your sketchbook. Already you will feel better -- but that is just the beginning.  

My writing our story was one thing, sharing it was another. Ultimately the best thing you can do is to share your story with someone you trust, someone who understands and accepts you.  You don't have to do what I did and share your story worldwide, but it would be a very good step for you to reach out to family or friends. If you do not feel safe sharing with them, find a very good counselor or support group that will guide you through the rollercoaster of emotions that you will experience during your time of grief. Grief is a trauma and trauma must be processed and released before you can live your life fully again.  The right group will not only support you but the right group can even enhance your life moving forward.  

Don't hold it in. Release it and then let it go.  

If you are suffering the loss of a pet, I invite you to visit our Facebook Support Group and find out how powerful it can be to share with others who understand, validate you and help you to grow into a whole new you.  The new you who is stronger and wiser than ever for your experience of love and loss. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How many take love for granted? 
It starts out sweet and then disappears. 
Imagine the fun they had putting this sculpture of LOVE into place. A few days later, people still notice and appreciate it. 
A few weeks later people start using it as a landmark. 
"Turn right at L-O-V-E, go down three blocks and turn left on 
I-Could-Care-Less Street!" 
A few months later they pass in its shadow, hardly noticing. 
Such is the way with love that is not nourished or nurtured. 
But look! Years later it still stands tall and strong! 
Of course it does. It is more stable and more powerful 
than all the inattention in the world. 


“Oh –it’s crazy really,”
I’d tell the girls at work
How I fell down the stairs
Or hit my head on the kitchen cupboard
Or broke my wrist chasing after the family dog.

I’d feign laughter over my “stupidity,”
Wondering if they could read between the lines
And see my helplessness
My misery. My lies…
Wishing that they could.
Praying that they wouldn’t. 

Most of my friends didn’t care for him when we married. 
I never understood why – 

He seemed…
Well… so perfect.
All of a sudden he changed. 
Overnight he became a monster, 
Like a werewolf at full moon 
when the sun goes down. 
Only the sun never comes back up. 

I tried to rise up when the kids went off to school
And I took a job that satisfied.
It should have been the happiest time of my life. 

He couldn’t tolerate it. 
He chided me. Ridiculed me
Criticized me. Beat me
Until I wondered what shreds of me were left
That I could offer anybody. 

Looking back 
I should’ve been angry. 
I should’ve fought back.
I should’ve left him. 

But through it all I was loyal. 
I was the only one who saw his insecurity. 
I eventually realized
I’d had it all backwards.

He had needed me to need him so badly
That he did everything in his power
To make me feel so insecure
That I would never leave him. 

My leash was his anger.
My prison was our marriage.
My armor was my spirit.
Somehow through it all
He never cracked my spirit.

Somewhere in the core of me
Was the belief
That I would prevail.
That I would be strong. 
That I would find a way to pursue
What made me happy. 

My spirit was stronger than his. 
Now he is in how own prison
And my Someday has arrived 
At last. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Ripple to Eternity

A ripple on a silent pond can reach eternity.  
The water becomes calm again but 
forever holds the memory.  

Butterfly wings across time, across space, 
the gentle vibration cannot be erased.  
The power of one, as small as those wings... 
Small as the red-throated hummer spinning 
eighty beats per second! 
Too small you say?  

Wait 'til the mosquito comes to your bed tonight 
and never again say you are too small!  
Yes, one can make a difference but wait!  
Put two sticks together and then try to break them!  
The effect of the butterfly wings ... 
only possible because it has two.  

And the power of many small loving hearts 
can swell like a tsunami wave, 
all because of 
one ripple 
on a silent pond.

Monday, December 31, 2018

A New Year

It’s New Year’s Eve…
I’m waiting your arrival
To ring in the new year.

We dated years ago and
Despite our differences
I loved you so.

Parting as the best of friends
We still get together
On Saturday nights
And Sunday afternoons
And New Year’s Eves
When there’s no one involved
With you and me.

Sometimes I think, maybe?
Maybe we could love again?
Maybe it would work this time?

It’s New Year’s Eve
The call comes in:
You won’t be coming after all.

It’s New Year’s Eve.
I understand.
Nothing’s New.

by Kate McGahan

Friday, December 28, 2018

Getting Through the Holidays: Anniversaries of the Heart

Every grieving mother knows how old her child would be today. You know how old I would be now and how long I’ve been gone. The heart remembers everything. You are connected to me by the love that we share, a love that tugs at your heartstrings at special times. You might find yourself thinking about me continuously one day. You just can’t get me out of your mind! Maybe you even have a dream of me or receive an extraordinary sign. You look at the calendar and realize that it is the anniversary of my passing or my birthday. The heart remembers everything. 

“One day without him…”
“He was still here this time last week.”
“I’ve made it through the first two weeks.”
“I can’t believe she’s been gone a month.”
“It’s been 2 months, 2 days, 7 hours, 35 minutes.”
“3 months have passed now.” 
“4 months.”
“5 months…152 days”
“I’m coming up on 6 months.”
“It’s my first holiday alone.”
 “This would have been her birthday.”

We’ve been through one round of all the anniversaries of the heart. 365 days of “first times.” Oh, but it’s still complicated isn’t it? Leaving the first year behind, it’s like we lose that too. The anniversaries will keep coming. There will be days when you just aren’t feeling so strong. Maybe you go a park or a restaurant where we used to go and even though you might have a new friend with you, you are filled with tears and memories of our days together. It’s okay. Let them come. Those were the days my friend… 

Creating new traditions is a very good way to move forward, to honor me and to honor the special days of the year. Sometimes you need to create new traditions for yourself when you are faced with loss---or if you are struggling with family issues and disappointments.

Anniversaries and holidays can be difficult at best when your life feels empty or incomplete. One of the things you can do for yourself during these times is to celebrate the life we shared. Do not mourn my loss. Celebrate my life. Create a lovely altar, light a candle. Say your prayers. Invite me to visit you. Talk to me. Tell me about your hopes and dreams. Reflect on the good times. Tell me you love me over and over again. Soak in the happy times of being blessed by someone in your life who loved you and who loves you still. Someone who taught you the meaning of love, not fear. Celebrate our love. Know that love never dies. 

When you are visiting people over the holidays who might not understand what you are going through, take something tangible and subtle with you; something that you can wear or hold in your hand when you are you are longing to be with me instead of them. It's okay to talk about it if it feels like the right thing to do for you. It’s okay to not want to talk about too. Just tell them that. It can also be quite handy to excuse yourself so you can go to bed early. That's okay to a point too. You have a very good reason and you are learning at last to take care of yourself. Balance the holiday and try to stay balanced within yourself as you move forward to the next anniversary without me. Balance is the key to all healing. Time and support will take care of the rest.

When you are surrounded by joy and celebration it can actually make you feel worse when you feel worse. If you want to avoid parties and celebrations altogether you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or some other charity event. It often helps one to feel better when they help people less fortunate. You can also opt to stay home, but I will be hoping that you will be willing to share the holiday with someone you love and trust. Someone who lets you be you. Go easy on yourself. 

The first of every month would loom ominously. She braced herself every time a new month approached. The August 1 anniversary was tough. Then a funny thing happened. December 1 arrived; sixteen months. The day came and went. On December 2 she realized she had not noticed. She felt guilty at first until she realized it was a sign of her healing. My life was the important thing and our relationship, now on new terms, was all that mattered. She forgot February 1 too! And March! She didn’t remember until after a whole week had passed! Who knew what would happen on April Fool’s Day? Well! She fooled me and remembered! This is how it will happen for you too, 
in your own time and in your own way. 

This post is an excerpt from our latest book, "Only Gone From Your Sight: A Personal Approach to Human Grief & Loss"  Currently available on Kindle and coming soon to Amazon in Paperback!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Natural Cycle of Life and Death -- and Life

An excerpt from our latest book, 

"Even the tiniest perennial grows only to die. It comes back again and again when the season and the time is right. Even annual flowers grow seeds as they grow so that they can drop the seeds of themselves and live again year after year, life after life." 

Nature continually reminds us of the natural cycles of life. If you were a flower, when the harshness of winter comes you would pull yourself deep inside to protect yourself from freezing, to prevent yourself from dying. You toughen up the outside, close yourself up and go deep within where you are always safe.

Then after quite a long while there comes a bit of warmth and a welcoming day brings with it the thaw. Spring comes and something inside of you stirs. You realize you’ve survived another winter. The ice melts away and you can feel the outside of yourself again. As the warmth so long gone from your life surrounds you, you decide maybe it’s worth blooming again for another season. Hope returns to your heart as you prepare for new life.

You begin to open again as the sun fuels your soul. Your energy returns. An infusion of life force comes to you, giving you more power than you have known since you went into hibernation. This power is the force that pushes you to develop your stems, to press through the soil, to stretch forth and reach towards the light again.

Sometimes Spring can make you an April fool, bringing a bluff! What you planned on, the rain that waters your roots so that you can grow again, turns unexpectedly to ice then snow and it finds you unsuspecting. You are vulnerable and alone, exposed and unprotected. Your tender life is threatened. In some seasons the storm will pass quickly and you will survive; other seasons you can be hurt so deeply that you must withdraw and retreat deep into your roots where you will take the remaining seasons off to rebuild yourself and prepare for the distant day when Spring returns and gives you another chance to thrive.

Despite everything in this year you have survived and in the next season you will grow hardy and beautiful, thriving for the harshness that once threatened you. The early blooms that sprouted, only to be frozen, pinched back by Nature Herself, are destined to return brighter and stronger than ever.

This is the YOU that has grown from the cold harsh winter of your loss. You are the flower that is destined to bloom again. You are the root. You are the bloom. You are the spirit; you are the soul that lives inside every living thing. With each passing season you become stronger and wiser. You go deeper and deeper within where your power can be found. Your roots reach further and further into the quiet nourishing protective earthy space that surrounds you. Look how far you’ve come from being the fragile shoot that first made itself known in the landscape of life!

Your colorful blooms will burst forth stretching now to the sky and you’ll show no fear because you know that no matter what happens you will adjust to the climate that surrounds you and you will be okay. It’s what you’ve learned.

And so it goes.

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