So without further ado, let me get to the final two aspects that make suicide grief a unique type of loss.

5. Loneliness, isolation, alienation (disconnection from the norm and from peers)

When a partner or close loved one dies by their own hands, we as the closest survivors, have been thrust into a new paradigm, a reality without any signposts. Suddenly a fissure’s appeared in the way we used to see and experience the world and now nothing can be trusted. The structures we normally held onto for conscious or unconscious support have collapsed. Our minds have been fucked by the unnaturalness of the sudden and terrifying suicide of our loved one. But the structures are still in place for everyone else; their minds are still in tact. We are forced into this new reality alone. This reality shift, unfortunately, creates an empathic barrier between the immediate survivors and everyone else. Months after the death, other people’s lives have gotten back to normal, ours haven’t and may never in fact, be normal again. Unless they’ve gone through it, it’s impossible for anyone to know what this death (yours and your beloved) is like. Nothing anyone says or does helps; they’re offering help from another world- a world that no longer has any bearing on where we are. The old world goes on around us like nothing’s happened. But for us, time stands still on the day our beloved left. We are left alone in darkness trying to make some sense of a tragedy we didn’t ask for. Four months after John died, I was rudely awakened by the fact that it was my 3oth birthday. I couldn’t believe it; time had actually passed, life had continued, and somehow I had aged. And aged I had. While my friends were going about the humdrum of their  normal twentysomething/thirtysomething lives– work, school, partying, career planning, family building— as was appropriate for their stage in life, I felt like I was a hundred years old wrestling with emotions and facing my own mortality in ways beyond my 30 years of age. While I was figuring out how to breathe without my beloved or how to express my volcanic rage at my fucking life, my peers’ carefree chitchat, ironic joking, and conversations about pop culture, current events, or relationships seemed meaningless, frivolous, and insignificant. It was old world stuff. And I was too old to care. I had had a firsthand trip to hell and back; battling through my grief and scrounging up strength to find a will to live gave me a perspective about myself and about life that most people don’t quite find till later on or perhaps when their own parents pass on and they have to confront death.

As time goes by though, and the months turn into years, the sense of disconnect from others fades as the rawness of the wound has subsided and it’s no longer a bleeding hole front center on my chest. My trip to hell has faded somewhat into the background and I can choose to enjoy material world frivolity, play, and most importantly feel joy and humor in any capacity. In fact, the sense are heightened and the capacity for connection to life and its endless pleasures, and to people living with all ranges of suffering is deepened and expanded.

6. Suicide temptations.

One of the biggest factors that makes experiencing the loss of a loved one to suicide unique is that it inspires suicide ideation in its survivors. It is not widely known by most people, but in fact, according to the suicidology literature, if you have survived a suicide, you are at risk for your own suicide. On the suicide hotline where I worked, we specifically ask our callers if they are survivors to find out how likely they are to make their own attempt.  If you are a survivor, there’s a greater chance you might take your own life. The grief is that acute, that intense. Additionally, widows in general, are a group of people notoriously at risk for suicide. A suicide widow, therefore, is even more at risk for her own suicide.

Suicides in general, give others who are suffering permission to take their own. If someone else goes first other people in pain are more apt to follow. Hence the copycat suicide phenomenon. According to the Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles, suicides occur more frequently than homicides, however, the media doesn’t report the amount of suicides because of the tendency for people to mimic them. The more suicides are reported in the news, the more people make attempts.  And so too with the death of a very close loved one, especially a partner, spouse, husband/wife– the temptation to follow our loved one through the opened door of death is magnified and highly dangerous. In facing the suicide of a loved one we are confronting our own mortality. How badly do we want to live?; how badly do we want to die? Which desire wins out? Which carries more weight? If a beloved or child has died by suicide, half of our being has been murdered. The lingering question is how can we carry on with half a self? How do we repair and rebuild the missing half? It’s an enormous task and requires much strength, tenacity, and will power. And in the early days and weeks after a suicide (especially after funerals and memorials), when life feels so dark and cold, so lonely, we barely have the energy  to hold our bodies upright let alone rebuild. We have to somehow try to survive this danger zone until we find sufficient reserves within us to propel us forward and until we find deeper meaning to our loss and greater reasons to live. But until that time comes, the haunting, the desire to reunite with our loved ones, continues.

I hope these last three posts have resonated with all the survivors out there reading this and it helps you make some sense of what you’re experiencing and why it’s so painful. This is not an easy road. Please remember you are not the only one walking this path. Others around the world are going through their own grief and feeling the same kind of bleakness and suffering you feel. You must hold on. The pain does lessen, and in time, as you continue with your healing process (whatever form that may take – dance, prayer, meditation, writing, horse back riding, therapy, grief groups, meditation….) you will emerge a stronger, more whole version of yourself. So stay with it.

Sending much love and strength………………………………..xoxox

Sarah

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mining gold in hell

December 31, 2010

Finding purpose, finding meaning in my loss has been my lifeline. It is the only thing that has kept me going and organized me up from being a puddle of pain lying at the bottom of the abyss and into a functioning, spirited, driven, human being. I urge you to find your own meaning and purpose in your loss and begin to tell a new story, over and over again, about your life and the reasons you’ve had to endure what you are experiencing. There is a real purpose for your being here at this time, this place. Your heartache, your loss, your grief, your pain is molding you into a new version of yourself. Whether you feel it or not. Try to uncover the gold, your gifts and strengths that have been hiding in the shadows for so long. You are so close to them now. What are they? How can you use them? What can you do with them? What can you do with them to make your life a better one, an exalted version of the one you used to live?

How can you live up to the highest designs of your being? How can you use what you’re experiencing to be of service to others? How can you make the pain you are going through or have gone through worthwhile and echo out through the annals of history? You may not know the answers now, the pain might be too deep and the darkness too blinding, but keep fumbling one foot forward, one step at a time, and more will be revealed in time. I promise. Don’t let your loss be in vain.

 

 

sweet acceptance

December 10, 2010

I know some of you out there reading this are in the thick of your grief and can’t imagine life ever getting any easier or your pain subsiding. I remember being there: feeling that my wounds would never stop oozing, my tears would never stop flowing, and I would never feel complete without my beloved. I would never have imagined that I would be ok again.

Over the course of this past  month-and-a-half something has shifted in me in an enormous way. I wrote in an earlier post that I was suffering from what I called the second year anniversary blues. The weeks and months before the second year anniversary were fraught with much anger, chaos, stress, and constant low-grade irritation. Then it was the anniversary of John’s birthday on November 1st. He would have been 32. A close and dear friend visited and stayed with me. I was able to shed some tears over the loss of his beauty and how hard it has been not seeing his kind of beauty replicated anywhere in the world. How hard it is to begin dating men again when no one compares to his inner and outer beauty. My friend shared of her own loss of how his special, kind, loving nature had affected her so deeply.  We stood in the middle of Barnes and Nobles as she held me in her arms and I cried.

We saw the movie The Hereafter together and that helped me understand at a greater level that the grief and loss that we experience when a loved one dies is such an excruciatingly painful part of life that we all experience. It’s not just me and a few people I know experiencing the sadness of a death. It’s all of us. All around the world, people are crying, missing, and longing for their loved ones. We are not alone in our grieving. The Hereafter also reminded me of what a sweet feeling of relief it is to know that our loved ones are still alive, loving us, always with us, and even a part of us.

On the day of John’s birthday a state of grace set in. The week between his birthday and the day of his passing (November 7th) was an unusually hot one here in Los Angeles, with temperatures up in the eighties. It was a week full of warmth, peacefulness, and gorgeous sunset drives home on the freeway with palm tree silhouettes back-lit with yellows and blues.

That weekend I spent at a buddhist monastery in the mountains near San Diego. I turned off my phone, retreated from the world, and rested. During my meditation on sunday November 7th, through tears of love, I heard guidance telling me to rejoice and celebrate the day as the day in which John was finally released from his pain. The day he found the freedom he had always searched for. I could choose to commemorate the anniversary of his passing as a sad, lonely, depressing day or I could choose to celebrate it with him and feel joy about his release. I didn’t have to miss him or feel separated from him because he is with me and always will be. So go down the mountain and celebrate and have fun together, is what I heard. And so I chose to celebrate. I left the monastery and drove to the ocean ( i love california!). It so happened that there was a village fair going on that day in the town I happened to drive right into. I wandered through the fair in a state of peace, joy, and gratitude for all the beauty in my life and most of all for John’s companionship and love.

That day was a miracle – a shift in my perception – and since then I have let go of the past that I used to have with John. I have let go of my grief, my sorrow, and my loss. My perspective in my life and the world has changed so dramatically from a few years ago. My life and my place in the world feels exciting. Time is moving fast (and I love that) and I am more conscious of the gifts in my day to day life and the gifts that I have been given in order to be here and be of service.  I am excited for my future and the possibilities that lay ahead.

I know that what I just described may feel far off or impossible for some. I offer it here as a possibility; an invitation of hope. I never thought I would feel this way. And here I am. Let me hold the space for the possibility that one day you will feel infinitely better than you can imagine right now.  Things will get better in time, I promise. Keep grieving, keep processing, journaling, dancing, moving, meditating, and healing.  And in whatever it is that you do – don’t forget to pray for a miracle.

 

 

As darkness descends

November 30, 2010

It’s that time of year when the days are shorter and we are immersed in longer periods of darkness. Literally. And often emotionally. I know some of you out there are in serious pain and suffering. I wish I could take a magic wand and wave it away. But this is our work. Marianne Williamson says that a miracle is simply ” a shift in perception.”  How can we cultivate the practice of bringing miracles into our day to day life; finding a moment of peace amidst the heartbreak, erupting in peals of spontaneous laughter, savoring a hot cocoa or decaf mocha (which is my favorite), and reaching out to a friend when we feel lonely. Be kind to yourself. Go to bed earlier. Listen to soothing music. Watch healing videos on Youtube (I’m obsessed with Marianne Williamson right now). Make a wholesome vegetable soup for you to enjoy throughout the week.

As I can only speak from my own experience, I promise this pain shall pass. I promise. You have to hold on for the ride. This is a time to go inward and find your treasure and find your power.

 

Much love,

Sarah

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.

Immediately after John passed, that night in fact, I had communication with him. I have always had natural psychic abilities and experiences from early on, but because whenever I had shared these with people, I was often branded crazy – I had sort of dismissed my abilities and shoved them under a rug. But things had changed, I was living out in California amongst like minded and abled people where these things are quite common and acceptable, and using my extrasensory senses was what would help me talk to John. So part of my daily practice was to sit down every morning and talk to John and try and develop my clairaudience abilities (the psychic sense of hearing- which I know is my strongest ability)- by just listening to whatever thoughts came in my head.

For many months I struggled with doubts about what I was hearing and receiving. I thought that I was probably making things up and that the things I was hearing were obviously not John and even if it was John I was missing a lot of what he was actually saying, it was like I could only make out a few things here and there and the things I was hearing were only what I wanted to hear. I struggled with my own innate and New York conditioned skepticism and doubt, especially self-doubt. My mental filter was still too strong. It was like on top of all the grief and pain I was experiencing I was struggling with calling myself “crazy” for “hearing” and communicating with John- surely I was insane and none of this was real, and I couldn’t trust my intuitive or clairaudient abilities even though I have had so many varying experiences over the years and so much proof with my own eyes…i kept asking for more “bizarre” contact and proof that John was still alive because my mental, rational, old way of being, all of my conditioning, and all the criticism I had received and internalized over the years had such a strong hold over me and wouldn’t let me believe or allow or have faith.

And now I’m happy to say that this part of me has died, another odd gift of John’s/my death. But I had to work on this, actively. I kept asking John for signs of his presence– and they would come – like electricity blowing out in my kitchen, or candles exploding, and many others– but I also worked on this process in therapy : understanding the origins of all this need for “proof” and analysis and making sure everything was rational and sane…and learning and acknowledging what purpose that role had served in my life- how it was a necessary adaption and one that, given my current situation, was just no longer relevant.

I also worked on my doubt with Liv, the shaman. She assured me that all of my abilities and experiences were real and in fact were coming from John, time and time again. She and I practiced my communication with him together and she confirmed that what I was hearing was in fact what was being said. She was the one who pointed out that the only thing blocking me was my mind which was acting as a “filter”  and blocking the flow of messages from John and Spirit. It was like opening up to the signals instead of negating what I was receiving before I even let it have a chance to come through. I just had to TRUST a little and let it be and see what happened. Often times I would hear songs in the air right before they came on or words that were right about to be spoken. So for me, practicing this ability was not so much about practicing “making” things up or guessing but more about practicing getting out of my own way and allowing what is already there to move through me without me stonewalling it. It was a deeper practice of allowing, trusting, and believing (especially in myself) – which of course healed and continues to heal all aspects of my life and facilitates exponential growth spurts. And so every morning I asked for guidance around letting go of my mental filter and for help releasing doubts, skepticism, and cynicism so that I could open to and receive and flow with whatever communication and guidance I was receiving.

I also read a bunch of books about channeling and ‘how to’ be a medium, and about shamanism. These were helpful too – in terms of practical techniques, anecdotal evidence for my questioning mind, and to also provide context and “theory” for what I was studying. The more I read the more it opened up my imagination and that was crucial in developing these abilities because John would share with me things that he is/was doing over there on the other side that I would have no reference point for or no way of imagining from my limited perspective, so I had to keep taking my imagination to places it had never been or seen.

Next time, I’ll write about my daily practices, what I did, and what they were about.

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,