* something new *

May 25, 2011

I know I have been gone for a while and I apologize. April and May have been incredibly busy months full of lots of clients and lots of writing projects leaving me, once again, too exhausted to do very much of anything except veg out and recoup in my spare time.

I am excited to announce that I’ll be graduating next month (on June 18th)!; And at the same time, this upcoming rite of passage has been bringing up a lot of grief, both consciously and unconsciously. You see, I met my former partner John at orientation for school, on the very first day of our Phd program in psychology. I remember standing by a buffet table in our school’s zen-like courtyard, talking to two new classmates. I looked away for a second and in that moment I saw John standing across the way; in classic John style, he had arrived two hours late. With his dirty blond curls and bright orange t-shirt, he looked sunny like a fresh summer day.

It was that same day at orientation that they told us to look around the room because 1 in 4 of our classmates, they said, would not make it to graduation day. Of all the reasons they gave for why that could be, what they didn’t mention was death.

It’s been a long, hard road these last five years. I can’t even believe how far I’ve come and how much I’ve endured to get it all done. After John passed, I swore I would finish the program on time; I’d be damned if after all the heartache and loss, I didn’t walk away with a phd. Now as graduation day approaches, I’m amazed at my accomplishments and deeply saddened and angry that John is not walking with me. If only he could have held on; if only we could be graduating together. I know he will be there in spirit, shining down in his summery way,  it’s not the same. The day still holds bittersweetness. Just when I thought my grieving was over, here’s another layer. It feels kinda nice actually; just letting the naturalness and realness of it and the love and humanness of it be as it is, as it needs to be.

 

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2nd Year Anniversary Blues

October 11, 2010

To those of you who have survived past a second, third, or fourth anniversary of the loss of your loved one to suicide — what was it like for you? How did get through it?

This is new territory for me. I had thought that I had moved through a lot of grief, but some things are bubbling up to the surface and SOMETHING is rearing its ugly head. This time it feels different. It’s new. I’ve changed and so my way of seeing and feeling this loss has changed. I’m noticing anger and irritability at John. For the way he treated me in many respects. Bothered and almost disgusted by the way he abandoned me without consideration for our relationship or me. Resentful that he wasn’t able to appreciate me as I want to be appreciated. A lot of issues that I have/had with men in general are now being projected onto him because of his ultimate abandonment and betrayal. He shattered my trust in men. Though these feelings and thoughts are not new – they are coming up now in different ways. Lot’s of stress, chaos, and anger.

And yet, I still idealize him. I still love him. I still feel compassion and sorrow for his struggles and his life. I find myself flooded with grief and tears at the oddest moments. Having a hard time speaking about it and about him to others without tearing up. Having a hard time speaking about it to myself in my head without feeling sad and teary. So many conflicting, complicated, and complex emotions and ideas are vying to be seen and heard and are intersecting with one another in new ways. It’s hard to describe or explain, but it feels like a new perspective is molding – beyond my control.

John’s birthday was November 1st (All Saint’s Day).

He died six days later on November 7, 2008.

This is the season.

Anyone know what I’m going through or have you had any experiences with grief or acceptance around the second anniversary you would feel comfortable sharing? I’d love to hear them.

You know I’m so happy Kate has written and asked these questions. I have been going through a transition these past few weeks: wrapping up my dissertation, adjusting to my new internship, seeing clients, lots of training, and awaiting feedback and edits from my ghost editor about my book…and I have had very little energy at the end of it to write. I also haven’t been sure about what people are interested in reading, what blog posts are helping, engaging, emoting, or interesting for everyone, so I am grateful for Kate’s questions because they are about exactly what she wants to know about and are giving me a focal point for writing. I’m going to put a section at the top of the page that says Questions and Contact — and if anyone has any questions about anything related to suicide, grief, surviving a sucide, my experiences, or any aspects of therapy — please write in and I will do my best to answer your questions. This blog is a place for me to express my self but I write mostly for others out there who are going through similar things, and they don’t necessarily even have to be about suicide….so I welcome your questions!!!

So here’s Kate’s comment and her questions:

Just wanted to stop in and say that I frequently check in on your blog as I struggle with my own loss to suicide. While I have been open to grieving and working through my feelings and acknowledging it since my loved one took his life in the winter, I feel like another wave has come upon me. Did you feel that too as it got closer and closer to a year? Do you think that suicide was John’s destiny? Do you think it is anyone’s destiny? That’s one of the issues I think about a lot. I don’t think it was my loved one’s destiny and that’s what I seemingly have been told when I went to a medium and I don’t know why I am so stuck on that issue. Maybe because by his act, he changed my own destiny substantially. Keep up the good work. I wrote a bit after he passed but haven’t been able to for months, might start again. Am looking into EMDR for my grief. Did you try that?

K.

Kate I am truly sorry for your loss and that you are in the midst of another wave of grief, they are so hard, sad, lonely, and blinding. The truth that I know though, if it’s any help, is that they pass, they are temporary. I definitely had new waves of grief hit me as the one year anniversary of John’s passing came around. It wasn’t too extreme for me though- because I had a lot of support while training for the suicide hotline, was learning so much and had also just moved to Los Angeles, so I was in a new environment and it was very therapeutic. Los Angeles has amazing sun light – brighter then anywhere I’ve ever seen in the U.S, and I was sitting on the beach a lot just staring at the ocean, and that helped too. But I did notice that as the anniversary of his passing came up, November 7th, and his birthday came up – November 1st — I was generally down and was still tearful just about every day. I was also writing about him every day and so that was on the one hand very cathartic and healing but on the other hand also very hard and painful. It wasn’t until a few weeks after the anniversary of John’s passing that I was hit with a huge tidal wave, tsunami of grief. That was when I was in New York and I wrote that entry for my book called In Between Worlds (which is posted on this blog somewhere either in August or July). It was another major dark night of the soul and I struggled with my old familiar existential pain: not wanting to be here anymore and wanting to be with John; I couldn’t bear another minute without seeing him or being with him. Somehow this passed and I moved through it. I continued to write and pour my heart out to John on the page. The a few weeks later I finished my first draft and had a MAJOR breakthrough that same day while I was at a Lady Gaga show….this is something I will for sure have to write about.

I have been wave free for around 4 months now. My last major wave of grief came at the end of May – about a year and a half after John’s passing. During that spell I purged a lot of stuff (and it was also thanks to watching Lady Gaga’s Alejandro video – – go figure – she must have some sort of key to my freedom – using the darkness as the doorway…) and was able to let go of a good chunk of my old self and of my fixation on understanding everything.

Everyone’s grieving process is different and so the exact timing of the waves of grief is different for everyone, but anniversaries and birthdays are especially hard times for most everyone. And our bodies also have a memory of the trauma and the anniversary of the trauma, so you might also experience some forms of lethargy, fatigue, or even illness. Once again, it varies from person to person. As the anniversary of John’s passing is soon approaching, I am noticing I am starting to feel some tremors of sadness and vulnerability; the raw realness of loss is fluttering through my system…slowly…something is coming…and something will be released…

Speaking of trauma- to skip to Kate’s last questions — I was just at a training for EMDR this morning, so it’s synchronistic that Kate asked about this. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is a modality of therapy that is usually used to treat trauma. And make no mistake about it — learning that a loved one has killed themself is a huge trauma. Our normal functioning of our brains and nervous system are interrupted and we are not processing information in the healthy way. Our bodies go into fight or flight mode and everything including thinking and appetite are disrupted. So EMDR therapy uses certain techniques – like tapping or using a specific eye movement technique — to help the reintegrate the pathways from different parts of the brain that have been interrupted.

WHile I personally have never done this quite of therapy work for myself, nor have I worked with any clients in this way, I have heard some amazing stories about how powerful and transformative this work can be.

Now about whether I think it was John’s destiny to kill himself and do I think it’s anyone’s destiny to kill themself ~ Yes I do think it was John’s destiny to kill himself. I also think it was both our destinies to experience this and that we decided to go through this before we got here and became John and Sarah. And we also decided to do this because he and I are now working together. He is on one side in spirit form and I am on the other side in human form. I tune in to him and he talks to me all the time (while sitting with clients or while writing…and at the grocery store, on the dance floor ,or wherever). It seems like we decided that this would be a stronger arrangement (what was I thinking???) for our work in the world. And since he now is one of my spirit guides, I guess it makes my connection to my guide all the more powerful that I’ve met and loved him in the flesh versus having guides whom I’ve never consciously met or seen. So yes it was his destiny – and he, in many ways, was hard-wired to self-destruct at a certain age, as he had suffered from childhood abuse, sexual abuse, childhood epilepsy, and narcolepsy. The man did all he could with the hand he was dealt: he was a state champion football quarterback in high school, ditto for weight lifting, ditto for track and field, drama, and choir. He was as gifted as he was cursed, and he had the biggest, kindest most loving heart of anyone I have ever seen or know (and I’m not the only one who says that: at his funeral the pastor and many others literally compared him to Jesus — it was pretty shocking). If John could have made his life work I know he would have because he tried and tried so hard, but it wasn’t his path to live longer than 30. It was his destiny to change all of our lives with his suicide. In one of my sessions with a medium, Felix- we talked about this, and what came up was that as scary and as weird as this may sound to some, in many ways his suicide was a sacrifice for the spiritual growth of others ( I will post this too after I transcribe it). His life on Earth was done. I feel that he was so loving and lived every moment so fully and with so much warmth and love that he fulfilled his purpose here in such a short amount of time. His life was about teaching  love. In this, he has been my greatest teacher. I still learn about love from him every single day.

Kate, I can’t say for sure about the destiny of your loved one, and I’m glad that you are mulling these questions over, as only you can really know what the purpose and meaning of all of this is in your life. But while I would never encourage anyone to take their life, I can see how some people have such huge burdens and no matter what they do or what you try to do to help them, their suicide somehow always feels like it’s lurking around the corner. It’s like they are programmed to self-destruct. The hard truth about surviving a loved one’s suicide and about work as a psychologist with suicide is that for some people – if they want to kill themselves they are going to do it no matter what. And yes, there are spiritual reasons for a person wanting to kill themselves and spiritual truths to be learned through living through someone else’s suicide. When someone very dear to you passes over from suicide it most definitely changes your destiny – and that is your destiny. The hard part is getting aligned with it and getting out of the darkness. And that’s where the spiritual growth and the healing and all other spiritual work comes in. And that too is part of your destiny.

I hope this helps…..please always feel free to write or ask me anything. I’m more than happy to answer what I know — and of course my answers may or may not be a right fit for everyone.

*** Sending strength and love ***

It was a very dark and lonely road. Sometimes I would fly into rages of grief or anger and throw dishes or whatever I could find against the kitchen wall and then collapse in desperation and the futility of it all. I like to get a little crazy (like the song says) and take myself on an emotional trip, to really give life to my feelings.

Like last week for instance, I was feeling a strangely heavy kind of grief about finishing my book about John. I knew and felt that the tides were changing and that for my own sake I have to start letting go. I can’t keep looking back. If I want a gloriously happy life for myself (and I do – and so does John) I know that holding on to all that has happened and keeping John frozen or waxed in the past as I once knew him, is not going to be in my best interest. With the completion of the book, it felt like the time was right. Now letting go is not easy. People say “oh you need to let go” or “just surrender,” well yeah…but how? It’s so much easier said then done. It’s a process, and for me it takes work, acknowldgement, and actually doing something about it (like dancing, writing, beaching). I was at a pretty pivotal point. So I went out and bought some freshly made goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, crusty bread, chocolate, and wine from a local and well-loved Italian grocery in Santa Monica. I packed it all up and had myself a nice picnic on the beach. I brought flowers and one of my favorite pictures of John and I sent them off into the ocean. Then I got drunk on wine and cried, laughed, and went  a little crazy while listening to my ipod. I find it’s important to indulge our emotions every once in a while, within reason, and as long as we are safe from causing ourselves or anyone else harm; kind of like throwing a tantrum but not subjecting anyone else to it.

But back to last year ~ after my emotional bouts of rage and grief, I noticed an odd nothing kind of feeling take over me. It was like my brain and body did not have any more juices or capacity to experience those feelings anymore; they were maxed out. So for a few days after my fits I wouldn’t feel any pain. I knew I was still grieving and I knew I should feel pain and sadness, but I couldn’t. It was like being in standby mode. At first I could only be in standby mode for a few days and then the grief would come barreling over me all over again. I would feel it, go back down into hell, and mourn and grieve. Then another standby mode to over and this time it would last longer than the previous one. Then the next wave of grief hit me and was then followed by another standby mode. This continued on until my standby modes became more my norm than the grief.  It was during these periods of being on hold from the grief that I began to grow stronger and feel better. Soon, during the stanby modes I was able to start feeling positive emotions again, and all of the work I had been doing in therapy, my meditative practices, and with a shaman, had the space to really integrate and take effect in my being.

This ebb and flow still continues now, but in very tiny ways. My new way of perceiving and experiencing the world is now my main way of being. And now it’s the significant markers, like the end of the creative process of my book, that any residual grief comes bubbling up to the surface. I imagine this will continue going on until my system has completely purged itself of all the grief, my old beliefs, and my old way of being. It could take months, years, or the rest of my life. Maybe the purging is a return to the innocence within, the origin of it all. This reminds me of a line from John’s suicide letter in which he wrote:

Somehow I have to believe that there is some original innocence within that transcends all.



I know everyone’s grieving and healing process is different; feels different, looks different, and gets resolved in different ways and at different paces. But I hope that some of my experiences might reflect different parts of your journey.

I’m sending support, healing, support, and love for all those reading this in darkness. We are linked together.

Right after John passed I wanted to go after him. I needed to find him. But of course I couldn’t. I have an intuition – and other guides, psychic,shamans have confirmed it- that I’m going to live a long life. Great. So the thought of living out all my years without him, waiting to be with him again, was absolutely terrifyingly brutal. I was horror-struck at this notion.

So I got it in my head that if I were to have an “awakening” or become “enlightened” that that would so radically alter my consciousness and my sense of time – that the rest of the years of my life would fly by just like that – snap*. This was my only real intention for cultivating a regular spiritual practice: to shift my sense of time so the years don’t drag by and before I know it – Viola– I’m with John. Many people aspire to be awakened because they want freedom from suffering. Now that sounded like a nice by-product but it wasn’t part of my main purpose.

I am very fortunate to have many amazing like-minded, spiritually minded, psychically abled friends in my life. Well one of these such friends – let’s call him Ben – was staying with me and sleeping on my couch for a time right after John passed. We stayed up many late nights talking about John and trying to piece together the mystery of his suicide. Those were very intense and very dark days. Ben is an amazing mystic and widely read expert on esoteric and occult phenomena. He also is a hard core meditator, so his presence in my life had a big impact on cultivating my beliefs and practices that could help me get to John.

In those early days he shared this with me because he felt it rang true to my style of spiritual path. It comes from this book called The Seven Rays (there are many with this title and I’m not sure exactly which one it is – although this was printed in 1930) which I have to say I don’t know much about. The concept is about different approaches to meditation that are best suited for different types of people depending on what ray they come from.

The Ray of Devotion is pre-eminently the ray of sacrifice.  When it is the egoic ray the method of approach through meditation takes the form of one-pointed application, through love of some individual or ideal.  A man learns to include through love of person or ideal; he bends every faculty and every effort to the contemplation of what is required, and in sacrifice for that person or ideal lays even his causal body on the flames of the altar.  It is the method of divine fanaticism that counts all lost apart from the vision, and that eventually sacrifices joyously the entire personality.  The causal body is destroyed through fire, and the liberated life streams upward to the spirit in divine beatification.

Though I have always been a seeker, questioner, explorer, and experimenter with all kinds of spiritual paths, mind altering substances, and paranormal stuff, it felt like my devotion to John was the kick-start to a commitment to the beginning of something – my true spiritual path. And I would burn all of my causal body and sacrifice everything – whatever it would take- to see and be with John again. I printed out this quote and hung it on my wall.

I began to practice meditation every morning for 15 minutes and every night for 15 minutes. I used a process called The Presence Process which is an 11 week process for attaining more presence and for untangling the conditioning of the mind that goes back to early childhood. It was intense and challenged me to be very disciplined. It was not my favorite but I do recommend it.

So in the mornings, I sat and meditated and did the breathing exercises that the book advises. I also learned from working Liv, the Shaman, to sit and make offerings to my guides, my angels, the elements of spirit, and to John. I created a little altar space where I set up photos of John and any special objects, crystals,feathers, poems, flowers, books, that were meaningful to me. Each morning before I meditated, I took a bowl and poured offerings into it. Now there are many teaching about the different offerings and they vary from culture to culture and shamanic lineage to lineage. I’m not so familiar with these teachings but based on my work with Liv, I loosely copied what she did. She usually made offerings of ash that had been created during a special ritual. I had no access to this kind of ash, so the ash was out. She usually made an offering of some kind of alcohol to her ancestors. I know that John loved red wine and my grandfather loved scotch so I alternated between these. Liv told me that I have a big posse of Angels that surround me and that I am most guided by the angelic realm. She also said that angels like sweets (hence I have and always have had a MAJOR sweet tooth– it’s a problem :)) and so I would also make an offering of honey or sugar. Cinnamon was one of John’s favorite things in the world – he used to put it on everything, so I would also offer cinnamon.

So the process looked like this: I would (out loud or in my head) welcome John, spirit, all my guides, my ancestors, my angels, the earth spirits, the water spirits, the air spirits, and the fire spirits into the space. One by one, step by step, I would announce that I was making an offering of wine and then take a sip, spit it out into the bowl and then pour some into the bowl. Then I would pour the honey into the bowl, and then next the cinnamon…and whatever else it might be- flowers or something Liv suggested… and then always end with an offering of water.

After making the invocation and giving the offerings, I would sit quietly with my eyes closed and notice any sensations around me in the air. Did the temperature change? Did I feel something move? Did  I feel an itch? Did it feel like I had a hair fall on my face? This one I feel/felt alot- like a hair falling over my lip and then I would go to move it and there was nothing there. ALOT of the time I would get chills. This is pretty common when talking to mediums or people who are in touch with loved ones on the other side. I’d pay attention to any images that would come to me in my mind’s eyes. With my eyes closed I often feel and see light- lots and lots of light. John was always very light when he was in a body, and when I am feeling and seeing lots of tingling warm  bright light I know it’s John. And he comes alot. So much of the time during my sitting practice, I will sit and feel chills all over my body and see and feel a warm light and feel flooded in this sense of light and love. And its amazing! It’s like being flooded with love. And it can also be hard, feeling so much love- especially when there’s so much grief associated to it, can bring up a lot of emotion. Often times when I bask in his love I am overwhelmed with tears (of all kinds) and sit and cry and cry. It can be hard, but it is also healing and feels good. I just go with it.

I think sitting and basking in the love, chills, tears, and light coming from our loved one on the other side or coming from whatever/whoever source – is the most healing and essential part of any sitting practice and I think that holds true for everyone, not just those who have lost someone and who are grieving.

But back to the offering ritual. After I have made my offerings ( I no longer do this- as I’ve felt that it’s no longer necessary for me- but I’m sharing it because it’s how I started to cultivate my relationship with the other side) – I expressed thanks for things in my life that I appreciated and thanked everyone for all of their help. I get as specific as I can. Then I would ask for help with certain things that I was working on or struggling with. A big one that I asked for was for help in cultivating my psychic abilities, for help in knowing- really knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that John was still alive and that he hadn’t died. I asked for signs from him to show me that he was still alive. I asked for ways in which I could grow to be able to see him and feel him and hear him as strongly as possible. I asked for help in eliminating my mental, skeptical, and doubting filter. I asked for strength, guidance….things like this. I usually asked to be able to see John again or asked to have a dream about him. Sometimes I would talk about a dream I had and then ask for guidance in understanding the messages of the dream. Then I would sit and allow myself to receive an answer or imagine the answer as best as I could.

Sometimes I would practice imagery/visualization exercises like imagining a gold ball in my minds eye and holding it there for as long as possible. This was to help sharpen my ‘inner seeing’ / clairvoyant sense. Sometimes I would practice listening and hearing all of the sounds around me, as many as possible and from as far away as possible. Then I would play with how I could magnify these sounds. How could I hear things that were even farther away?

After all this, then I would  begin the 15 minute meditation process from the Presence Process. Over the course of the last year my practice has changed as I change. I like to keep things fluid and adaptable, not rigid or dogmatic. I have let go of the ritual of offering wine, water, etc. But I do still welcome everyone and especially John every morning and offer gratitude for all their help, guidance, wisdom, and inspiration in my life. I talk to them about what’s going on in my life, and I ask them questions and wait for the answers. I set my intentions for the day and ask for specific help about specific things.

There’s this Yes/No communication technique that I learned from a service called Inner Expansion that helps people learn to communicate with their angels. I ask a question in a yes or no format – phrasing it with: “Is it in my best interest to x,y,x ….? And I let go of effort and let my head either gently fall to the side as if it is about to nod “no” or fall slightly forward or back as if it is about to nod “yes”. If it falls to the side, the answer is no. If it falls forward, the answer is yes. You can learn more about this at the website: they have a service where they “hook” you up to your angels and do an analysis about which psychic abilities are most natural to you and strongest – that’s how I learned that my clairaudience is strongest.

Another resource that I found incredibly helpful in shifting my beliefs about all of this stuff and moving from the rational, skeptical, into a place where I am less doubtful about all of these phenomena and am more and more  open and know that anything is possible – is an audio program called the Spontaneous Healing of Belief by Greg Braden. He explains the physics of many scientific experiments that prove the possibility of other dimensions, paranormal phenomenon etc..

A great book about meditation from a now deceased Buddhist master is called Dipa Ma. This woman lived through the death of two children and her husband. Miserably sick and grief-stricken she started to meditate and soon had many enlightenments and became an amazing teacher. She used to say “If I can do it, you can do it.” I highly recommend this book!

So what’s it all been good for? Have I “woken up” or haven’t I? I’ve had some amazing profound shifts in awareness. Perhaps I will write about those experiences in other posts. There were around two or three major ones that I could try and write about in some way. But whatever it was that happened — and I have experienced so many different kinds of healing and so much growth and transformation in the last year – (it’s pretty crazy) –  I am in some ways, literally a different person— and so yes, I have noticed that my sense of time has changed. It feels pretty blurry and amorphous and it has definitely sped up. Time is flying by. While most people may lament this, I love it and celebrate it. Can you believe it’s already practically September? Where did the summer go? Ahhhh……… cie la vie!

If anyone has any questions about any of this or wants further clarification, please feel free to ask. It’s alot of stuff to write, and I feel I’m only barely scratching the surface of my process and the effects of the healing work I’ve done. I’d be happy to explain more!

Right now I should be working on my dissertation and writing a scholarly section on the Jungian significance of Synchronicities and irrational causality in the mate selecting courtship process, but after hours of dragging through the material, I just can’t bring myself to write the write-up. It’s a magnificently gorgeous day here in Los Angeles as I sit in a glass library atop a hill overlooking the City of Angels I’m having a hard time focusing on academics.

Instead of dissertating, I’ve been recollecting about how far I’ve come in the last two years and the ways in which I’ve gotten to the place to which I’ve gotten. In my mind I’m outlining a process that I would like to eventually formalize into an integrative grieving process that guides and navigates people through the stark and hellish bereaved landscape. As is consistent with the title of the blog and my point of view, this process integrates the dark and the light: a full descent into the abyss and embodiment of the pain and the darkness while also allowing for a newfound awareness of Spirit, the other side, and the miraculous overlap between the worlds that manifests in a variety of signs, symbols, and synchronicities. It is a massive overhaul of the old way of viewing death and a doorway into a new understanding of what we consider to be death. Like I have written before, it is a healing journey of faith and of opening up to new ways of perception and a six sensory type of reality.

So allow me to start mapping my process and join me as I see what happened to me and was has helped.

Three days after John passed, I happened to have had a chiropractor appointment scheduled from weeks before. Rather than cancel, I went because I knew my body was a mess, I hadn’t eaten or slept in any real capacity. I don’t remember much except that the chiropractor said that my body was barely breathing, my chest and lungs were hardly moving, and while I had been lying face down he had even wondered if I was even alive at all. I barely was. He was helpful in reminding me to breathe, and shifted some things around to help me breathe a bit more easily.

I looked for some grief support groups…and crazily enough there was a wait list for the Suicide Survivors group. In Palo Alto there’s a fantastic organisation called Kara that deals exclusively with grief and so I had an appointment with the intake director. At the end of our session (she was very empathic and supportive) she told me that she thought what I was struggling with was of course my own grief and loss but also issue relating to my own mortality and she thought that I would perhaps be best helped by working one on one with a therapist and she recommended some names.

Over the course of 9 months I worked with two different therapist. One was a transpersonally oriented one and we utilized modalities such as Authentic Movement, Art Therapy, and gestalt work in addition to the usual talk therapy. I really loved the Authentic Movement (but I’m partial to movement) She also held a lot of space for me to just cry. I think she was excellent and if anyone in the Silicon Valley area would like her name, feel free to contact me through this site.

The second therapist was a Jungian expert specializing in symbols. I saw her on an occasional basis and we mostly worked on understanding my dreams. During the first 6 months after John passed, I had a very active dream life, a lot of dreams about John, and a lot of dreams about New York City. I kept a dream journal and recorded them every day. I could tell that something major was happening in my dream life and in my unconscious and I wanted to learn the language my dreams were speaking and also have a trusty translator. It really was like starting to learn a new language. I’d be happy to pass along this therapist’s contact info as well, so just email me.

In addition to keeping a dream journal I also kept two other journals: one for the regular journaling I did every night, and the other was to log all of the signs and synchronicities and messages I was receiving from John on the other side. I felt I had to write them down so I didn’t lose them or forget them, especially for the years to come. Writing has been enormously therapeutic and eight months after John’s passing I started writing my book.

In the first few months I went to acupuncture because my energy levels were so low. This was helpful.

I saw a spiritual guide on a few occasions, but eventually he wasn’t helpful because it was obvious he just didn’t get what my pain or grief was like. He encouraged me to really “surrender” and know that the pain I was feeling was God feeling separate from himself and me and that my missing John was just the separation I was feeling from God, and that in the depths of my pain I should be aware of this and when I truly became aware of this truth then I would “wake up” and no longer feel separation and despair. I’m rolling my eyes as I write this. There may be some kernels of truth in certain things about what he was saying but this was just b.s to me and minimized my loss and my excruciating pain. I then stopped seeing him.

The other practitioners I saw included a shaman- Liv – whose website I listed on the Healing Resources Page. She was powerfully helpful. She channeled John and communicated with my ancestors and others on the other side and we were able to make some sense out of what was going on. She was very instrumental in helping me learn and grow through the grief. She also opened up a doorway into a magical way of being in the world that is not just airy fairy and “delusional” side effects of grieving but rather rooted and grounded in the ancient, indigenous, shamanistic cultural heritage that is intrinsically more connected to nature and has a more interconnected relationship to the realm of Spirit. I learned these new ways and they inspired me into cultivated a new relationship with the invisible, one that is manifest through objects, nature, and ritual. Liv also did a variety of healing practices on me- soul retrieval – that is – scouting out lost parts of my soul that had broken off over the years since I have been born, as a result of trauma or fear. She said she found a lost soul part that had left when I was 29 – right after John passed. She also found and reintegrated other parts that had left at earlier ages. Whether you believe in this or not, all I can say was that regardless of the objective truth of what was or wasn’t happening, I certainly felt lighter and more in tact, and once again inspired by the possibility of the infinite and of miracles. Liv often had me do “homework” where she would give me an assignment or a ritual to do. For instance, she told me to take wine, chocolate, and flowers to the beach and sit and have a picnic with John and make offerings of flowers and a picture of John to the ocean. Another assignment was to gather with my friends and ask each of them to tell me how they saw me. Ack! That one was hard- terrifying and embarrassing, but ultimately well worth while for everyone who shared. Liv taught me several practices and rituals to do every morning during my daily morning practice, which I did for a while and I will surely share in the next installment of this post.

For now, I hope that those reading are garnering some ideas about how to begin a healing journey. I know some of my ways may be too out there or alternative, and I know in some cases resources may be an issue. Whatever the case, I hope you find some way of taking care of and befriending yourself. Maybe it’s just writing out dreams, or starting a daily journal. Maybe you’ll seek out a therapist (I hope you do– a good reputable one who has personal and professional experiences dealing with death and grief).

I will write about the other important things I did to pull myself up out of the abyss, as soon as I can.

Sending strength,

Here’s an excerpt I’ve been editing and I feel moved to post it. As always, I welcome comments and feedback! (*just a note – it’s brutally honest and might be triggering. So please read with self-care*)

Date: November 28th, 2009

Subject: in between worlds

Dear John,

I don’t know if being in New York right now is good for me. I’m falling back into that in between state, not wanting to be here anymore, searching for you, longing for you. It’s dark and cold again. I can’t type, I’m going to write by hand. I miss you.

I don’t feel well. I don’t look well. I look pale, dark circles under my eyes. My eyelids are puffy. My muscles feel weak and slack. I feel I am losing my strength, losing my grip again, losing the joy and the drive that I found recently to go on. Life just doesn’t feel worth living without you in it, and what am I supposed to do. I can’t go to where you are. I couldn’t deliberately take my life and yet I don’t want to be here. Don’t want to go on. I suck smoke into my body, slowly poisoning myself with a hard edged glee. And I don’t care.

What would it feel like to be with you again? To run into your arms and race into your chest and feel you alive in my arms? For you to be real again. I would squeeze you so tightly the air would evacuate. You might not be able to withstand my ferociousness. The tears stream and fall down out of my eyes every day. Love and kindness are what bring me to tears. When I see it in life or in the movies I feel you and my heart aches with pain and with love. It fills me with emotions that I can’t describe but they take the form of tears. Grieving is a form of loving.

As time passes it can sometimes seem as if you never existed at all, like I made you up and you are a figment of my imagination. You came and went and the evidence of your life now lives only in my memories. But as time moves on, will I be able to remember you anymore? Some of it has faded. Like I can’t remember exactly what you sounded like and I can’t remember exactly the kind of words you used when you spoke. You were real though right? Too good for this world. And I was lucky enough to have known you like I did, to have shared a piece of your body with you, and to have taken care of you as best as I could.

You haven’t been in my dreams for a while now. I remember when you had first passed, the electricity in my kitchen would go out and a candle exploded mysteriously. I had dreams of you often. Dreams where you were still alive but also dead at the same time and you were going to kill yourself. But this time you were going to kill yourself in different ways, with needles or with a gun. And I wanted to save you. I tried to save you in my dreams but I got there to late, too damn late, and I couldn’t save you. Ah the frustration and rage burns me up. I want to rage the world in a howling lightning storm and smash it all to pieces, smash myself to pieces for getting there too late. My heart is shattered and oozes out love in fragmented ways. It will never be whole again and I don’t know if I can ever love anyone again. I’m growing old and haggard. I see it clearly in the mirror. And it’s ok. The older I get the closer I get to death and the closer I get to you. My smoking helps. I can’t wait to be old. I’m jealous of old people I see walking in the street or wheeling around in wheelchairs. I’m envious of how much closer to death they are than me. I have a good eight to ten grey hairs now in the front. I’m sure they have sprung up in this year of mourning. So be it. I welcome them. I have a feeling though that I’m going to live a long life, like into my eighties. That’s at least fifty years from now- more than what I’ve already lived so far. I can’t fathom it. I don’t know if I can bear all that time ahead of me without you, waiting to see you again. In heaven I want to see you play football. I’ve never seen you play. I want to hear you singing in a concert hall. That would be my version of heaven right now. I never knew you in high school as a football star but I feel like I did. Like somehow I did know you when we were teenagers and I can feel it in a weird way that I can’t describe. I would have loved you and recognized you anywhere, anytime, in any place in history.

I dream of us being kindergarten sweethearts. You chase me around the playground trying to peck my cheek with kisses. I savor each one. I tell all my friends, my teachers, and my parents that one day when I grow up I’m going to marry you.

Oh, I’m not well. I’m really not doing so well right now. But who is there to tell. What is there to say even? My sister Eden is in the next room, pregnant and asleep. I know I should be happy about the things that I have to live for, but deep down, I’m not.

I have to keep believing, keep trusting that things will work out for the best- that everything happens for a reason, that there is some reason for this loss in my life, some reason that you are not here anymore. Its got to work out better than this. It’s got to have a good ending some way, some how. What kind of good ending could possibly make up for the loss of you? I doubt it could be anything that could make up for your death. If there was a way to bring you back, I’d trade all of this, my lot in life, my purpose in life to be together with you again. If only I could.

Sad eyes. You had sad eyes. Sad eyes and a big heart that was so beautiful to me.

I would do anything to be with you again.  Ha. Anything but suicide. Have I said that enough? How nice to be like Romeo and Juliet and have the freedom to die for each other. I don’t have that freedom, I’m trapped in this body and trapped here on this Earth to serve out the rest of my days until I can be with you and die my natural or accidental death. Oh my god. How I wait for the day where I can be back with you and never ever leave your side again.

Everybody has somebody it seems. Loving someone who isn’t actually here is a strange thing. It moves forces in me that I never knew I had. It’s sickly and melancholy and challenges my faith every day when I wake up and I renew it anew. I feel you everywhere. I want to believe it’s you. No. I know it’s you. Am I getting weirder to people because I’m still holding on to you. You the love of my life that abandoned me to suicide. Why does she even still care about him? What is she so hung up on? I can hear them say in their minds. How can I explain all that you mean to me? I can hardly explain it to myself. All I know is that it is love. A love that makes me whimper in the dark with the pain of missing for you and the knowledge that you will never be found.

It’s a year after your death. I have tried to move on. I make a commitment to be happy every day. I am in New York, in bed, writing this to you in the dark. I am in the room that I slept in every night as a child. I am in the room where I lay on my turquoise carpet in despair from my own frustration of not being able to live up to my own potential. I am back in my own familiar darkness and loneliness. The bare trees, sepia sunlight, abstract city lights, cozy interiors, family I feel separate from, and the old familiar ache of something missing. Always looking for love. It’s sixteen years later. Most people’s lives have changed. And somehow mine still feels the same. Almost everyone I know is married, engaged, pregnant, successful, or famous. I am neither of those things. I still lie here alone crying privately with a broken heart. Waiting for you my dear. Waiting right here because there is nowhere else to go.

Nothing compares to your likeness and nothing ever will. Football and wheat fields, the forever golden boy who dies by train. Farm boy superman. The weight of the world on your shoulders. Bitter beauty and sadness everywhere. Down the first road to your farm, down the dirt road to your pond, under the thunderclouds in the rain. The sky is so big I could lose my mind with love. Love that has nowhere to go.

I get sucked down over and over again in endless cycles and waves of grief. I go up for air and I feel I’m starting to reemerge into the world of the living – feeling some joy, vitality, appreciation for life’s gifts and miracles. Finding myself enjoying commercials, consumerism, romantic comedies, trivial conversations, and celebrity gossip. I feel driven to work, to finish this book,  get the PhD and serve others who feel suicidal, help them find the will to live; the will to love. Things seem to be going well and then I get sucked under by a wave of grief that seems to come out of nowhere and the riptide pulls me back into that place where death is near. I am pulled back into hell. Things that might have brought me brief joy are no longer interesting, no longer happy. I don’t care. My pain is too great and all I want is you.  There is nothing in the world that will bring you back and so there is nothing that can help me.

I pray to see you in my dreams tonight. Give me some relief.

Sarah

** At High Risk **

August 8, 2010

I didn’t know this at the time when I was going through my grief- and it’s something I came across in my research on suicide:

Widows in general (of non-suicide related deaths) are one of the highest risk groups for suicide.

Thus making widows of men who completed a suicide the group that is MOST at risk for suicide.

If you are a widow of a man who completed suicide, or you know of a woman who lost her husband, boyfriend, or partner to suicide – it’s important to be aware of this vulnerability. These feelings are normal, natural, and common; we just don’t speak about these things in our society. We’re too scared to.

Make sure you have support, loved ones around, and group activities to partcipate in. The more “buffers” (people around you, community, events, activities) you  have in your life, the safer you are.


Faith. Hope. Strength.