I’m thankful for mommy and daddy, blankie and bear

Those were the words my daughter dictated to her pre-school teacher 20 years ago. In bold marker, the teacher dutifully wrote them onto the strip of sticker decorated bristol board that would become my daughter’s crown for the afternoon’s sharing circle. She did this for all of daughter’s classmates.

It touched the hearts of her daddy and me. Not only did we get top billing but we were without a doubt in esteemed company. By now I suspect many of you are smiling, perhaps remembering your own child’s sweetness or maybe even the uncomplicated innocence we all shared when we were three.

The last years have been hard. There has been a lot of loss. And like any holiday when family gathers, Thanksgiving is a reminder of who no longer sits at the table.

For years, my late husband, daughter and myself would play a game at the dinner table. We would list three things we were thankful for that day. I never tired of hearing one of the things my husband was thankful for was coming home. Kind of hokey, but, when spending time with your family ranks in the things you’re most thankful for it’s always a good thing. On rough days, it meant that being home was a reprieve: on great days, it was a place to share one’s triumphs with those who meant the most to you. It also meant that, regardless of the day, you had a place where you were welcome and loved.

Last year, much to my niece’s surprise, I asked those gathered around our newly configured family table to list three things they were thankful for. It seemed like the place and time to carry-on with this lovely game. This year, I’ve given her ample warning and I’m looking forward to hearing her thoughts.

As for me, I will be thankful for the people sitting at the table, for those who are absent due to other commitments, and for those who are absent because they are no longer with us. I will be thankful for the love and connection I share with those present, for all the love and support that has been given to me throughout the years and the love that I too have been able to give. And I will be thankful that I am here and able to continue moving forward with love. After all, isn’t that what my daughter captured all those years ago? Deep connections, people (and bears) in her corner, and the comfort that having these things bring to us all (soft blankies included).

Happy Thanksgiving,


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Everything is different when we grieve – even Back-To-School

Everything is different when we grieve


The Labour Day weekend marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Bathing suits and beach umbrellas are put away and new jeans and knapsacks donned.

Today I am thinking of those that find themselves surprisingly thrown by how different it all feels this year. I’m hoping their teachers, fellow students and colleagues will realize that below the surface may lay struggle. I’m also hoping they will be patient and kind to these individuals, whether they are children or all grown-up. These are courageous people who are letting go of old norms and fighting to build new ones.

The loss of routine that accompanies grief is yet another one of those things those who grieve must deal with. Things look the same on the outside, but they’re not. As with everything else, new routines become established over time. Unfortunately, part of the process involves continually encountering the disappearance of yet ‘another’ unconscious habit. These reminders are painful.

I wrote the following excerpt during the second Back-To-School season after Richard passed. (We all know that first fall was a blur.) I only now realize how difficult that first Back-To-School was and that is why I write this blog today: to let those of you who are grieving know you are in my thoughts and to remind others of your courage.

Hang in. It does get easier. I promise.

Learning to live again is… sometimes struggling to remember, and reaching in your mind to remember the old routines and rituals. The familiarity and comfort of these unacknowledged rituals are gone. What were the back to school routines for the professor and our daughter? New jeans or khakis, or was it both? I don’t recall. Earlier years, when the patterns were being set, are clearer to see, though the feelings that went with them are fuzzy or can’t be felt. Is the absence of these routines and the emotions that went with them the price for feeling less pain?

Excerpted from Grief is… Thoughts on loss, struggle and new beginnings

~Heike Mertins~



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Trigger Days

When you lose someone you love there will always be trigger days that follow. As the anniversary of a friend’s death drew nearer I had my first experience with trigger days. I was anxious and on the actual date I felt a sense of unexplained sadness all day long. It was 1987, I was twenty-four years old, and no one I knew talked about grief.

I had no idea that grief would come with trigger days. It took me a couple of years to figure out it was not a coincidence that I would feel this way leading up to the anniversary of his death. Even though we now know these things are possible, sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge they are happening to us. But, this doesn’t change that they do. Trigger days happen to everyone.

Today is a trigger day. I won’t go into details. Today I have planned to take very good care of myself. I have learned that stepping back and being kind to myself is the best way for me to get through the day. It brings me into tomorrow less stressed and stronger. I highly recommend being gentle with oneself on trigger days.

Stay well,


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Runaway Truck Ramp Next Left

Photo credit: https://www.transwest.com/how-runaway-truck-ramps-work

I first saw a version of this sign when I was driving to the Grand Canyon two years ago. The first thought that went through my brain, having never seen any signs like this is in good ole’ flat Southern Ontario, was “that’s kind of funny.” The second thought that quickly followed was “Holy Moly, this road is really so steep that truck drivers can lose control of their trucks.” In the next second you can be sure that I was checking my rear view mirror for big trucks.

I’ve loved these signs since then: mostly for all of the above reasons. Recently, however, I’ve begun to wonder “ if we can build things like runaway truck ramps that give drivers a safe place to stop and collect themselves before starting out again, why has this idea not transferred over to how we live?” If truck drivers are encouraged to pull over when things are not going well, then why don’t the rest of us do the same? It really is a simple concept.

I do believe that the majority of us well recognize the signs of a situation in our lives escalating beyond our control. Wouldn’t it be better if we chose to accept these truths, pulled over safely, and waited till we were ready to start again?

No driver wants to use these ramps and I suspect that when all drivers see signs that proclaim one of these ramps is coming up on the left that they drive a bit more carefully. And isn’t it great that we’ve had the forethought to build these ramps, both as a safe guard and a warning system.

We all recognize the signs of when a something in our lives is careening out of control. Isn’t it time we learned to pull over? Better yet, wouldn’t it be sounder to proceed more cautiously and maybe slow down before we find ourselves in need of a runaway life ramp? These are, of course, rhetorical question.

Wishing you safe driving, presence of mind and a good weekend.  Stay well, Heike






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Hug Someone You Love Today

Em & Mom
Hug Someone You Love Today
The very fact that I now live in a place where my grief has become one of the stories of my life is somewhat remarkable. It’s taken a long time for me to incorporate my experience of grief into my life story. It is now a part of me the same way that loving to laugh is a part of me.
I used to think once the logistics of dealing with my husband’s death were over I would easily close that chapter and move one. I once thought it would take about 90 days to do so. I was, after all, feisty; I still had things to do, places to go and worlds to rock. Ninety days – how ludicrous. As if eighteen and half years of creating deep neurological pathways entrenched in love and accepted imperfections could be replaced in ninety days.
To those who grieve I say once more, take all the time you need. It will get easier. Your grief story too will become part of your life story. To those looking to support someone who is grieving please be patient. If you question how challenging rebuilding your life one new habit at a time can be I challenge you to walk for 30 minutes everyday until it’s become a new habit. When you fail to do this for even 90 days straight, be grateful you are only trying to incorporate 30 minutes of walking into your life story and not the loss of your most loved ones. Hug someone you love today. Hug someone who needs a hug (p.s. we all need hugs). Consider yourself hugged. Enjoy the weekend!

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5 Things I remember and hope to never forget

5 Things I hope to always remember

1. There was one black telephone in our apartment for all 5 members of my family. There was no caller i.d. and we rarely received unsolicited sales calls. I don’t recall ever getting a scam call. Call waiting was what you did while you waited for the phone to ring because a friend had said they’d give you a call after school.

2. Phone calls were usually short and a means of setting up a time and place to meet up. Chats with friends and family far away were about catching up on all the news until the next time we’d talk. If we couldn’t afford regular long distance calls and many couldn’t, we’d write letters. Letters were newsy and frequently filled with funny stories. Sometimes photos would be enclosed.

3. There was no children’s programming on TV before school. This meant I ate my breakfast and nattered away with my sister and my mother before rushing to brush my teeth and get out the door.

4. Kid’s programming went till 5:00 or 5:30 during the week. With nothing on we’d turn off the TV, play till dinner, do homework, or do chores.

5. It was always exciting on Monday mornings when my friends and I would ask each other about what we did on the weekend. There were so many different things people did. We’d ask each other questions and learn about one another’s worlds.

Why do I hope to never forget these things? Because these experiences give me a point of reference for when I feel I want to disconnect from technology. They also gave me the skills to plan get-togethers, develop interests other than watching television and the gift of being curious about others and the world that existed beyond my home. These have all in turn helped me to be less lonely and to live a more vibrant life. How truly fortunate I was to grow up when I did. Happy Friday! Wishing you all a lovely weekend with friends and family and limited technology.

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Grief is…

Grief is… missing being loved by the person you lost.
~Heike Mertins~

We always talk about missing the person we’ve lost, but, we seldom speak of missing being loved by those we’ve lost. I think it’s an important piece in understanding what it feels like to grieve.

Today I’m being grateful not only to have people in my life whom I love, but, also grateful that they touch my soul by loving me.

Happy Friday!

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