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Grief – You Are Not Alone

Jill Emich of ShineThis is a guest post by Jill Emich, Spirit Warrior and Owner of Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place www.shineboulder.com

Grief is a word that invokes emptiness inside. It conjures loneliness and feeing forsaken, forlorn, lost – a sadness so deep that it feels palpable and overwhelming.

Most of us have felt this at some point or another in their lives either from personal experiences or from witnessing another in emotional pain. The first time I experienced grief was when I realized that my dear brother Dennis was born a twin and my mother had lost one at birth. I hadn’t known this until my early teen years when my mom shared her story. Being a triplet myself (yes my mom was just very, very fertile), I felt such a sense of grief for my brother and my mother’s loss.

The fact that my brother shared a womb with another spirit and another body and then surfaced into this world alone was heartbreaking. What affect did it have on his little soul then and what affect does it have now? I will never truly know because my brother is mentally and physically challenged. The only way he communicates is through his powerful huge smile, through his facial expressions, his tears, and those eyes…..

So I grieved for him and with him. I felt all those overwhelming feelings and then I decided to shift it.

dennisI started to recognize the gifts. First and foremost my brother Dennis is still here with us and he has taught me and my family about compassion, patience, acceptance and unconditional love. His story and his existence has made me a better person and I want to share that love and compassion with others. I also know Dennis has a powerful twin angel on his shoulder, protecting him and whispering sweetness into his ear. And, my brother is the glue of our family. He has kept the love strong between all of us and has kept us united. The very rare disease he has gives a life sentence of approximately 25 years. My brother is 44 and his doctors attribute his liveliness to his amazing care, love and his inner strength. His loss has made him strong, it has – this I know.

The other way I am able to transform this feeling of grief is by reaching out to others, sharing the story and hearing other peoples story of grief and how we can transform it through community and family. This is why I know the Grief Support Network is such a powerful and important organization.  It is something I am so proud to help support.  We need one another to heal, to grow, to share, to see a new perspective.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and to learn more about Grief Support Network.  We hope to see you at Shine on September 20th for GSN’s Gratitude Celebration & Fundraiser!  

To get your tickets for the VIP farm-to-table dinner and/or the live auction and entertainment CLICK HERE.

A Conversation with Beth Erlander, GSN Presenter

Head Shot - Beth ErlanderBeth Erlander, MA, LPC, ART is a body-centered art and play psychotherapist who works with children, adolescents and adults. Her main emphasis is helping people deal with life’s transitions. Having recently survived a huge loss herself, she offers experience on how to keep going when life is unbearable.

Beth will be presenting our upcoming Moving Through Grief… Together meeting. She shares some of her intentions for this meeting below. Learn more about Beth and her work at www.yestreecounseling.com.

Tell us more about your upcoming presentation for GSN’s Moving Through Grief… Together meeting:

Children often get left behind or left out of grief, or rather mourning. Some people are afraid to grieve around their kids, and yet we must include them. My talk will give participants ideas of how they can include children in grieving and what is appropriate to say to a child, depending on their level of development. This topic is so important because, if we know our children are actively grieving, then as parents or caretakers we can relax ourselves, which then helps us to grieve in a fuller way.

I hope people will leave this meeting with peace of mind, knowing that they have tools to help their kids grieve. There will be a handout of resources and I will also be talking about red flags to pay attention to regarding children’s grief. Parents will come away with either knowing they are on the right track, or they have some work to do, or that they need to seek outside help.

Share an experience or story about grief and transformation:

I have been living with grief and loss since August of 2012 when my partner fell on his mountain bike and broke his neck-he now is a quadriplegic. My life is a testament to saying YES to loss and moving forward. I have experienced shock and continued cycles that come with the grief process. I also know that it is possible to experience joy eventually and to feel like yourself again. Life delivered a truck full of lemons to me and I have made lemonade, and lemon cake and lemon cookies, and lemon merengue pie, etc.

Share one way that YOU practice self-care:

Slowing down is the best way to take care of yourself when you are grieving. A simple way of doing this is to get good rest. However, there were many nights that I didn’t sleep so instead of making myself more miserable over this, I chose to focus on being horizontal and resting into my bed and allowing my body to feel heavy. I even started sleeping with a rock to help ground me. Any grounding practice can help…but slowing down is so good for the nervous system and your kidney-adrenal system of the body.

become-a-member-grief-support-networkProvide a few focus questions for our community to meditate on and discuss in our group sharing after your presentation:

  1. Am I actively mourning? How you deal with grief and loss is the biggest barometer for how your child will deal with it.
  2. Do I need more support and/or where am I stuck in my grieving process?
  3. How comfortable are you at admitting to children,”I don’t know”? Can you acknowledge that you may not have all the answers that they may ask about the death or loss?
  4. What messages did you receive about death and loss when you were a child? If you had negative experiences, what did you need then?
  5. How are you recognizing/supporting your kids with loss? What are you noticing about their behavior, etc.?

A Conversation with Kim Mooney, GSN Presenter

KimMooney

Kim Mooney is the Board Vice President of Conversations on Death. Kim has worked in the end-of-life field for more than two decades as a hospice grief program manager and community educator at Tru Community Care.  She has served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Death Education and Counseling and is engaged with local groups that help individuals prepare for death with grace and choice.  She is interested in the ways that people can live passionately and deeply, so that dying is a completion, not a failure.

Kim will be presenting our upcoming Moving Through Grief… Together meeting. She shares some of her intentions for this meeting below. Learn more about Kim and her work at www.conversationsondeath.org.

Tell us more about your upcoming presentation for GSN’s Moving Through Grief… Together meeting:

Grief is our birthright. It is a cry from our souls back to our God to give us the strength, guidance and faith to live our human lives as fully as we can. Just saying its name begins to change our lives.
After this presentation, I hope that people feel a little more comfortable thinking and talking about the topic, which has so many different aspects that we are unfamiliar with until we have to deal with it head-on.  I would like to truly recognize the gift that contemplating death gives us all – a wake up call to live every day with as much presence as we can!
This topic is important for healing because death and grief are two sides of the same coin, not just physical deaths, and the process of letting go in all of the small and large deaths in our lives helps us respect our grief. 

Share an experience or story about grief and transformation:

Dying and grief are both personal and universal. In 21 years of working with dying and grieving people, I have seen that when we can hold the tension between mystery and understanding, between what we think of as night and day, or life and death, we create the capacity to develop deep compassion for all.    

Share one way that YOU practice self-care:

I can feel that when I am out of balance, my vision is dimmed for myself and for others.  I find that sitting quietly and feeling my breath and re-membering what it is like to be in a healthy body is one of the most nourishing things I do.

UntitledProvide a few focus questions for our community to meditate on and discuss in our group sharing after your presentation:

  1. Why are we here in the first place?
  2. Do you have an understanding of how the deaths of all kinds in your past inform how you live today?
  3. Are you more afraid of dying, death, or what may be after death?
  4. Why do we die?

A Conversation with Wendy Stern, GSN’s Executive Director

head shot - Wendy Stern

Wendy Black Stern, PRYT, CYT is the Founder & Executive Director of The Grief Support Network. Wendy has spent the past decade empowering her clients to look within themselves to find the wisdom that they seek.  She is the founder and executive director of the Grief Support Network and has a private practice in Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. Wendy also teaches yoga classes, teacher trainings, and Phoenix Rising groups for grief support and self-empowerment. Learn more about Wendy and the rest of GSN’s Board of Directors here.

allison-litchfieldAlison Litchfield, CR, RYT500, has devoted 22 years to being a student and teacher of yoga. She integrates many styles into her teaching, weaving ashtanga, vinyasa flow, and tantric philosophy, with her understanding as a certified rolfing practitioner of structural integration. She helps people release blocked energy and discover a greater connection to joy and peace. Learn more about Alison’s work at www.embodyradiance.com.

Wendy and Alison will be co-presenting our upcoming Moving Through Grief… Together meeting. Wendy shares some of her intentions for this meeting below.

Tell us more about your upcoming presentation for GSN’s Moving Through Grief… Together meeting:

This meeting will  take you on a journey from Grief to Gratitude, using yoga and meditation as tools to connect you with your breath, body and emotions.  We will explore and release the ways that grief is held in our bodies and learn practices that increase vitality, flexibility, and self awareness, offering a sanctuary for deep personal reflection, acceptance and self-empowerment.   This  experience will offer you a taste of GSN’s new Yoga Program, which we will be launching this coming fall. Through movement, we invite you to be present to your grief and to awaken to your potential to heal and transform.

What do you hope that others take away from your presentation?

My hope is for people to become more aware of  the thoughts, feelings and sensations that live in their bodies and to receive the inner wisdom that is available once we can slow down and turn our attention inward.  By practicing yoga together in community, you will have the opportunity to be supported by the collective energy of our shared experience, allowing you to feel supported as you are present with your grief, move through it with courage and release the residue of old stories, trauma and suffering that no longer serve you.  The intention of this presentation is for you to have a sacred space to fully embody your grief so that you can heal, transform and experience greater freedom and joy in your life. 

Why is your topic important for healing from grief and loss?

Yoga and Mediation are powerful tools for healing from grief and loss.  Mindfulness, body centered  practices such as these, intentionally bring your attention into your body and provide incredible release of the emotions and tensions that are held inside.  By becoming more aware of your thoughts feelings, body sensations and story, you are better able to allow your grief to move through you so that you can come to a place of acceptance and peace.  Bringing people into their bodies in a safe, supportive environment also opens up the channels for clear, honest communication and sharing from one’s heart, which brings us closer together as a community and supports us as we learn and grow together. 

yoga-programShare one way that YOU practice personal self-care:

My daily mediation and yoga practice has literally saved my life.  Each day, when I arrive on my mat, I have the opportunity to connect with myself, with my true essence and innate sense of oneness with all beings, which supports me to be more grounded, calm and focused in my day.  I love the feeling of stretching, opening, and feeling strong in my body.   Yoga helps my energy to flow and my body and mind to awaken.  I also enjoy practicing yoga in classes, because I  often feel energized and inspired by the collective energy that happens when we practice yoga together in community.  I notice on the days that I do not practice that I feel foggy, sometimes even depressed and disconnected from myself and the people in my life.  Yoga has been my greatest tool in healing from grief, because it has taught me how to slow down, nurture myself, listen deeply,and let go of  my suffering and pain.

Provide a few focus questions for our community to meditate on and discuss in our group sharing after your presentation:

  1. When you bring your attention to your breath, allowing it to naturally flow through your body, what do you notice?
  2. When you check in with your body in an open, non judgmental way, what do you notice?
  3. What effect does your meditation and yoga practices have on your thoughts, feelings,body and spirit?
  4. What do you learn about yourself when you are fully present in the moment that you are in?

A Conversation with Heather Menzie, GSN Presenter

Heather MenzieHeather earned her graduate degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Wilderness Therapy from Naropa University in 2008. Her therapeutic expertise, mindfulness, and ease helps her clients find their footing as they process specific issues such as grief and loss, trauma, life transitions, anxiety, depression, and disordered eating patterns. Through a variety of therapeutic modalities and listening for what her client’s individual goals and needs are, Heather provides a creative and safe environment for healing to occur. It is her belief that individuals and families can confront, transform, and heal.

Heather is registered with Yoga Alliance as an RYT-500 and loves bringing mindfulness based practices such as yoga and meditation into her work to help individuals and families relax and sense into their innate wellness. She teaches Trauma Sensitive Yoga and Yoga for Grief. Learn more about Heather and her work at www.lightquestcounseling.com.

Meet Heather in-person at our upcoming Moving Through Grief… Together meeting on Sunday, May 18 at 1925 Glenwood Drive, Boulder, CO. 

Tell us more about your upcoming presentation for GSN’s Moving Through Grief… Together meeting:

This meeting will get us outside! We will spend time connecting with nature; which brings us in close contact with ourselves. We will explore our personal grief path, which can be often times mirrored by our natural surroundings. Through mindful exercises and slowing down, we will have an opportunity to sense into our personal stories and if you so choose, you can share your story with others. 

What do you hope that others take away from your presentation?

My hope is for people to have an opportunity to feel connected to their natural surroundings and sense into the innate healing aspects nature offers. By creating and walking your grief path, you will have an opportunity to witness your journey through the eyes of the land as well as create some ideas for the future steps you would like to take.

Why is your topic important for healing from grief and loss?

Nature is a resource, which can provide you support on your healing path. In Boulder, we are so fortunate to have access to this incredible resource. From an eco-psychology perspective, as we heal ourselves on the land, we offer healing to the land itself. This relationship is sacred. 

Share one way that YOU practice personal self-care:

Walking in wild places with my dog, Wilson, is one of my favorite self-care practices. I love seeing him dive his nose into the sensations that surround us. I enjoy both the movement aspect of hiking and also finding stillness. In the stillness, I like to gently explore something that catches my intention. This could be as simple as exploring the tiny details of a petal. I notice in these moments that my breath slows down, and I become present. A sense of deep nourishment moves through me.  

A Conversation with Elizabeth Astor, GSN Presenter

Headshot - Elizabeth AstorElizabeth Astor is an acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, medical intuitive and classical homeopath with a private practice in Boulder, Colorado. She has been studying meditation for 11 years with teachers such as HH the Dalai Lama, HH the Karmapa, Adyashanti, and Dr. Reggie Ray. Elizabeth has been teaching meditation through the Dharma Ocean Foundation since 2010.  Her work as a meditation instructor focuses on somatic meditation, which offers a way to relate to our experience in a direct, clear, and healing way.

Meet Elizabeth in-person at our upcoming Moving Through Grief… Together meeting on Wednesday, May 14 at 1925 Glenwood Drive, Boulder, CO. 

Tell us more about your upcoming presentation for GSN’s Moving Through Grief… Together meeting:

I will be teaching people how to work with their emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations as they experience grief in a way that is embodied and compassionate. Mindfulness and meditation taught in a somatic way can help us to be able to stay present with what is happening in our hearts and in our lives so that we can truly find a way to receive the gifts and healing within every experience.

We will do a 50 minute meditation session, with about half of the time lying down, followed by a period of sitting up. Afterwards we will circle up for questions and for people to share their experience.

What do you hope that others take away from your presentation?

My intention is that people will get an experience of how to work with themselves and their emotions in a way that helps them stay integrated and present, and how to not have to shut down or feel overwhelmed by grief.  These meditation practices are a way to help  us become our own best friend, and to be able to live a more full and embodied life.  I hope that people will learn a tool to help them fully feel what is happening within them and to not be afraid of those feelings.

Why is your topic important for healing from grief and loss?

In the intensity of our experience, we often feel the need to shut down or run away from ourselves.  If we can learn to stay present with our experience, be kind to ourselves, and feel what we are feeling directly without the overlay of story or resistance then our grief and the challenges of life can become a gift, a healing journey, and very powerful.

Share one way that YOU practice personal self-care:

I practice meditation and mindfulness daily.  This practice allows me to stay connected to myself, my life, and to others around me. When intense experience arises, this daily practice gives me the foundation from which I can stay grounded, more clear, and relate to my life and others from a heart-centered, kinder place.

Lake-pukaiki1Provide a few focus questions for our community to meditate on and discuss in our group sharing after your presentation:

  • How can the practice of body-based meditation be a resource for each of us in the process of facing loss and grief? 
  • How does staying in our bodies when we are in emotional pain help us to heal more quickly?
  • How can the practice of meditation help us heal our pain from losses from our pasts, as well as our current experiences of grief?

A Conversation with Katie Asmus, GSN Presenter

Katie AsmusFor Katie Asmus, life is an unending journey and adventure. Throughout her life, she has had an enduring interest in psychology and spirituality, as well as a profound love for people and the natural world. Katie is constantly in awe of the strength of the human spirit and the inherent wisdom of our body-minds. She draws on this inherent wisdom of the body-mind to facilitate healing and growth in those whom she serves. Her extensive path of service has taken her on a journey through work with underserved rural populations, departments of corrections, community mental health centers, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, wilderness programs, institutions of higher learning, and private psychotherapy practice.

Meet Katie in-person at our upcoming Moving Through Grief… Together meeting on Sunday, May 4 at 1925 Glenwood Drive, Boulder, CO. 

Tell us more about your upcoming presentation for GSN’s Moving Through Grief… Together meeting:

In this experiential presentation, I will discuss how grief and trauma often times go hand in hand.  I will inform you, through a somatic (body-centered) perspective, how grief and trauma affect the body. I will support you in identifying your internal and external resources to work with your grief. 

What do you hope that others take away from your presentation?

I hope to share how grief can be viewed as a rite of passage, considering the perspective of post-grief or post-traumatic growth. Viewing the grief process as a rite of passage can shed new light and life into your experience.

imagesWhy is your topic important for healing from grief and loss?

By identifying these aspects of yourself, you will increase your capacity to navigate your path through the multi-layered grief process. 

Mourning Fog

fog

Photo credit: James DeWalt

This is a guest post by Lonnie Howell, a mentor to young men and a musician, who lives in Rollinsville, CO with his wife and three children.

The first few months after a loss are most difficult to deal with, and sometimes even harder to describe. Time seems to lack any sort of consistency. Awaking from a night’s sleep is a challenge in itself as dreams might be the only break from insistent, incessant grief. We must face another long day in this alternate reality without our loved one, which sinks in immediately upon waking. Bodies ache and the once routine act of getting out of bed feels like climbing a steep hill. Thankfully we are creatures of routine and can autopilot our way to maybe make a hot morning beverage and care for our partners, children, or pets. Most days I did not have an appetite but coffee had a comforting effect and provided a small burst of motivation for necessary chores. But the days and the weeks seemed to swirl together like cream in my cup…

On this particular day, the sky was gray and fog blanketed the mountains in ever-changing layers. Vapor spiraled up from the trees like apparitions. I remember drinking my coffee and staring out the window wondering if any of this was real. I would begin to daydream about the life I once knew, the person I once was, then slip back into my battered body which always hurt worse in the morning. The gloomy scene that played like a black and white movie through the window perfectly reflected my mood. I remember walking to the bathroom and briefly looking in the mirror before returning to my depressing seat at the window. I decided to grab my journal and a pencil and attempted to capture the moment…

mourning fog

morning coffee, feed the dogs as
thick fog hangs in grayish tones
dampness creeps into the house
and further chills my aching bones
misty vapor full of ghosts
haunting hills, blinding perspective
visitors that need no host
obscuring present day’s objective
clouded thoughts and silent words
whispering unwanted feelings
hunger leaves as mugs are stirred
another day that grief is stealing…
weak eyes rest on bags of black
tangled hair and mangled features
mirror’s image holds a strange,
pathetic yet familiar creature
the last exhale of Winter’s breath
the longest one I’ve ever known
waiting for Spring to spread it’s wings
and migrate back into it’s home
without a sound, mope around
slipping in and out of dreams
of sunny days on higher ground
before life’s fabric split it’s seams…

As painful and uncomfortable it was to be present with grief on those seemingly impossible days, I know now that deep growth and realizations were happening. I can reflect on those disorienting weeks and months and know this: I survived and I am OK. There’s much of that time period that I don’t remember, but looking back I am grateful for the ability to capture some of these moments of despair. It’s empowering to know that I survived those dark days. If you are in those days now, or can relate to similar times, know that you will be alright and you are doing tremendous work…

Lonnie Howell is a mentor to young men, as well as a musician. He tragically lost his father who was 49 years young, and more recently his son who died unexpectedly 10 days after his first birthday. Lonnie writes poems and songs as a creative outlet to cope with his grief, and frequently spends time discovering the healing powers of nature in the forests of the front range. He lives in Rollinsville, CO with his wife and three children. He can be contacted at lonnie.howell@gmail.com.

A Conversation with Melissa Michaels – GSN Presenter

Melissa MichaelsMelissa Michaels, Ed.D., is the Founder and Director of SomaSource® Educational Programs, Surfing The Creative® International Rites Of Passage Programs, and Golden Bridge, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving and empowering the lives of young people through rites of passage, mentoring, and community support.

She creates movement based cross-cultural educational opportunities focusing on the potential that is available at major life thresholds. Mapping the journey from trauma to dynamic well-being, her work utilizes the expressive and social arts to establish body and heart as resources authentic expression. Rooted in rhythm and fueled by breath, this work inspires the sacred union between Spirit, flesh, psyche, and deed. You can learn more about Melissa and her work at bdanced.com.

Meet Melissa in-person at our upcoming Moving Through Grief… Together meeting on Wednesday, April 30 at 1925 Glenwood Drive, Boulder, CO. 

Tell us more about your upcoming presentation for GSN’s Moving Through Grief… Together meeting:

I will share with the community what I have learned both through my own significant journeys through loss and grief and from my work with thousands of people who have faced complex losses and deep processes of grief. The teachings will be shared through both story and through experiential activities that are gentle and comforting to anyone on the path of living and loving. We will explore basic ways for being present in our bodies with the sensations of aliveness ranging from our deepest grief to our most expansive joy. We will also learn universal ways to express the pain and beauty of our heart’s truths. 

Share an experience or story about grief and transformation:

Over a decade ago, I navigated my way through the death of a fiancé who drowned in the ocean in front of me and my children. I will sensitively share the powerful story of this gentleman’s tragic death and the thorough journey of loss and return that I faced along with our family and community. This story is a powerful teaching in resilience, a community’s journey through shock into great creativity and profound healing. It is a beautiful love story.

Share one way that YOU practice personal self-care:

I practice self care through the ongoing practice of sounding and moving emotions as they arise in my body and heart, prior to communicating with the “other” about my feelings and needs.

Melissa Michaels - DanceProvide a few focus questions for our community to meditate on and discuss in our group sharing after your presentation:

  • What are grief’s gifts? 
  • How can the body be a resource for each of us in the process of facing loss and grief? 
  • What are the resources that we can call upon to help us when in a cycle of grieving? 
  • How can we assist ourselves in completing losses from our pasts along with addressing current experiences of grief?