The Power of Story

Grief is… podcast

I tell my grief story so that others will be more comfortable in telling theirs. Many thanks to Becky at The Death Dialogues Project for giving me the opportunity to share my story, laugh a little and speak candidly about why we need to collectively move forward in our understanding of loss, grief and new beginnings. Please share so that others may feel less alone. Grief is… on Spotify, Anchorfm, Apple Podcasts,Breaker, Cast Box, Google, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Radio Public and Stitcher.

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Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who has followed this blog over the years. I am forever grateful for all of you.

A little while back I moved “An Eclectic Life”  to another url. Most of the kinks in the process have now been ironed out. Hallelujah!

This change only effects those who subscribe to this blog directly through WordPress.  Notifications of recently published blogs will continue to show up on my Facebook and LinkedIn feeds.

I’d love to stay connected with everyone so if you’re a WordPress subscriber please sign up again through the subscribe feature on my new blog  An Eclectic Life

For those of you wondering why I haven’t been posting here, it was because I was testing out the new site. As part of the process  I’ve recently posted three new articles.

April 23: Buy Cereal    A piece I wrote in the year following Richard’s death that outlined things to remember to do.  Given that we are all a bit overwhelmed and maybe also scattered these days I thought it was worth sharing.  Sound advice with a touch of humour.

May 6: I once dated a hunter    A reflection on hunting, life choices and recent gun legislation.

May 12:    Simple Rituals To Stay Connected When A Loved One Dies  A collaboration with Linda Stuart, Creator of Memorable Ceremonies. Definitely worth reading if you or anyone you know has lost a loved one during this pandemic.

I hope you will check out my new home and  to show my appreciation for your on-going support when you sign up I will send you a free e-copy of “Grief is..” (the booklet).  Once downloaded you can share this pdf with others who could benefit from knowing they are not alone in their grief and that indeed, loss does funny things to us all.  I’m betting this is something we are all coming to terms with right about now.

Wishing you all good health and the ability to keep yourselves safe.

Looking forward to the next chapter.

Stay well,

Heike

image courtesy of depositphotos.com

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I’m being careful

Richard and Emily at his  Surprise Birthday Party 

My brother and husband both had terminal cancer. But, it was respiratory infections that ended their lives. Not covid-19 type of viral infections – just plain old regular respiratory infections. None of their caregivers were ill. The viruses were introduced into their homes by third parties who either didn’t know they were carriers or who thought they were being careful enough. So to those folks out there that believe you do not have to quarantine yourselves for 14 days after returning from abroad as long as you are “being careful” You Are Wrong. Dead Wrong.
Save a life. Stay inside for 14 days.

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Looking for previous “Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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Widow Wednesday #11 Start with the small things

Gratitude is both next to impossible and essential when we are grieving. Don’t even think that I’m going to that place of being grateful because your loved one is no longer suffering or in heaven. That sort of thinking is flawed. That sort of gratitude is very messy and complicated – mostly because it stifles the voices of those who are suffering in order to make others feel less uncomfortable. I’m talking about looking for small ways to be grateful, even when our grief is still powerful.

There came a time when I was still deeply grieving that I knew I needed to change my thinking if I wanted to move away from being overwhelmed and sad all day long. I knew studies had shown that being grateful helped people live happier lives so I figured I had to give it a try- even though I was still feeling pretty gnarly and angry and far from grateful about pretty much everything.

I began by being grateful for little things like my air conditioning working when it was 30 degrees outside, eating a tomato that had grown in my garden and crawling into a bed with clean sheets. Sometimes I was grateful the day was done and no new crisis had reared its ugly head. Over time, I found that by consciously searching for things to be grateful about (and writing them down), my mind began to shift. I came to realize that not every moment of my day was painful.

Holding on to and appreciating those small joys made me acknowledge how fortunate I was to have good friends to sit with, to walk along the beach (even if I had to drive to get there) and to simply stand in the sun and feel it’s warmth on my face.   There was still a lot of chaos and pain in my life, but noticing and being grateful for these small moments of reprieve helped. It also made me realize that uneventful days are, in themselves, gifts and not a given, as I had once wrongly believed. I learned that my days, like life, would always be sometimes easier and sometimes harder. Searching for these small moments of grace in my day made me appreciate and value the people in my life more and perhaps even life itself more. This last part was way, way down the road.

So if you’re struggling start with the small stuff. It may take some effort, especially on difficult days, but it will help shift your thinking, ease you pain a little bit and maybe even make you laugh. Try to come up with three things and work your way up to five. Do this daily and if you forget start again tomorrow. No harm, no foul.

Let me know how this turns out for you.

If someone you love is struggling consider making a game of this with them. I can guarantee it will make you more grateful for what goes on during your day. More importantly, it may help your loved one.

P.S. You don’t have to wait for loss to make this part of your day. We used to play some version of this around the dinner table every night. I never grew tired of hearing that one of the best things of Richard’s day was coming home to be with us. Those moments will always definitely be some of my favourite memories.

Till next time,
Stay well,
Heike

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Looking for previous “Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here
To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here
If you’d like to read more on how I put this into practice check out my blog on my gratefuls buddy Everyone needs a Jo-Anne.

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Finding Gratitude through Living

Gratitude through Living

At 18 I dove into the ocean of gratitude and never found shore

~Dr. Patch Adams~

What are you waiting for?

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Things not to say


1. Is he still alive? I thought he’d be dead by now.

2. But she lives in such a nice neighbourhood. I’m surprised she goes to AA.
(only poor people are alcoholics?)

3. Wow! What did she do to deserve that?
Upon learning that my brother and husband died 18 months apart: their deaths, my karma

4. He’s been struggling for a long time. You’re not really surprised he killed himself?
Death is always a surprise and we always hope for a better ending.

5. Well he made a lot of bad lifestyle choices.
Implies his death should not be a surprise or that it is somehow deserved.
note: Sometimes those who make ‘poor’ lifestyle choices live a long time and sometimes those who make ‘good’ lifestyle choices get sick and die young. Stop looking for a reason.

Let’s work to enjoy the moment and be kind with our words and our thoughts. We are all in this together.
Till next time,
Stay well,
Heike

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Looking for previous “Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

free image from clipart-library.com

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Widow Wednesday #10

Widow Wednesday

Welcome to Widow(er) Wednesday, where I share what worked, what didn’t work and what could work better.

To better support the grieving accept their messengers of love.

Messages of love

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
-Rumi

Pretty much everyone I know who has lost a loved one has told me a story of how they believed their loved one showed up in another form after they died. Not all of these people are religious and I could easily build an argument that having these experiences contradicts many religious doctrines. And yet still, even those who are deeply religious have told me these stories. I too, of course, have my own stories.

The very fact that we speak of angels, spirit guides, messengers and feeling someone’s presence indicates that these experiences are universal.

The time has come to accept these happenings as valid as well as valuable.

Whether healing comes in the form of a Spiderman band-aid, antibiotic cream, stitches, a warm cup of tea, a shot of brandy, a soft blanket, a hug, or the presence of someone who cares is irrelevant: all wounds need support in order to heal.
Sometimes we need all of these things to work together so that we can heal and some supports are more effective than others. When our wounds are not visible we still need to be supported to heal.

Consequently, I’ve come to realize when someone tells me of their late husband visiting in the form of his favourite bird or butterfly, or in my case, feeling my late husband’s presence in the wind, that she and I are being supported in our healing by our loved ones. These messages and messengers are gifts of healing.

The bottom line: I can accept another’s truth even when their experiences differ from my own. I’m sure you can too.
Till next time,
Stay well,
Heike

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Looking for previous “Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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One of the Greatest Things Ever (so far)

Free vintage wedding image: The Graphics Fairy

A friend and I recently watched her ’70 something year old’ cousin marry her ’90 something year old’ fiancée. It was a beautiful ceremony. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Otherwise, I would have missed witnessing this joyous occasion. For this, I am grateful.

I wasn’t invited and my friend didn’t bring me along uninvited.

The ceremony took place in New York State. We were in Ontario. My friend’s mom (the bride’s first cousin) set up a Facetime call (in New York State) and then added in my friend and her two sisters. As we waited for the ceremony to begin we exchanged greetings and happy thoughts. When it did begin, we quickly muted our microphones to avoid any unintentional interruptions. Everything went smoothly and everyone rejoiced.  It’s one thing to enter into marriage all starry eyed in your twenties believing only good things will come your way. It’s another to make that commitment in your 70’s, 80’s and 90’s knowing very well what still lies ahead. It is love and courage personified.

It was a stellar afternoon and realizing that I’ll be able to attend all kinds of fabulous events via Facetime moving forward has made me very happy.  Using technology to support one another, stay connected and share in one another’s joy is a great thing. It is technology and life at its best.

Stay well, Heike

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Looking for  “Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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Grief is (a short doc)

This summer I had the opportunity to work with Back Lane Studios and make a short doc. The goal, as per usual, was to let grieving folks know they are not alone and to make everyone else a bit more familiar with what to do when friends, family and co-workers are grieving. (hint: watch and share this video to show you get it). It’s an 8 minute commitment and I’m pretty sure you will learn something.
Stay well, Heike

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Looking for previous “Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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Widow Wednesday #9

Widow Wednesday

Welcome to Widow(er) Wednesday, where I share what worked, what didn’t work and what could work better.

How to support the grieving: Accept that loss is a life-altering experience

Time is a social construct and created through thinking. Grieving is an act of the heart and does not understand what the brain is talking about. If we are to better support those who grieve we need to let go of the expectation that someone who has had a great loss will one day go back to being how they used to be. Losing a loved one is a life-changing event and like all other life-changing events it alters how we live in the world. We change when we become parents, fall in love, move countries or switch careers and no one expects us to go back to how we used to be before these things happened. If we could accept that the loss of a loved one is a life altering experience and expect that those who have lost a loved one will change and that it will be okay, then we would all be ahead of the game.

In Widow Wednesday #8 I reflected on how grief changes over time. This is both a hopeful reality and a fascinating phenomenon. In the early days it was unfathomable to me that loss could affect every aspect of my day to a degree I could never have imagined. Yet, somehow I walked through those days even if at times it felt more like crawling and more than once I had to pick myself off the floor to keep moving. Losing my husband changed me; it destroyed the story I’d written for my life and made me re-think about what was important to me. Consequently, I had to find a new to live. This was something I did not know would happen.

I thought that a day would come when my feelings of loss would simply and forever disappear completely. I would be healed and I would go back to living some slightly altered version of the life I lived before. I had to learn that there is no such day and that I will never again be the person I once was. This is one of the hardest truths about loss.

This is the truth I refer to when I tell others we do not move on but move forward and that it takes time to learn how to incorporate our grief stories into our life stories. And that it can be no other way. None of this implies that a time will come when this process has an end point. I am cautious about revealing this truth to those who are grieving and in pain. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. When I do, I acknowledge that loss and grief will come again (because in life it does) and that next time you will be less surprised and in some ways better prepared because now you know that this is possible. This has happened to me and to those I know who too have lost loved ones. It is a part of the changed me.

It will take time to change the misbelief that losing a loved one is not a life-altering experience, which is why it is so important that we start talking about it now. It would be a shame if the only way to learn this truth continues to be through losing someone we dearly love. Because then we will have failed to support those who grieve as well as we can. Surely, we are smart enough to begin by entertaining the possibility that this is true and hopefully one day we will all accept it as such.
Till next time,
Stay well,
Heike

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Looking for previous “Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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Welcome New Year!

Welcome New Year

 
I know I am the sum of all my stories
I await the stories you will bring this year
 
I no longer wish for things to happen
I know the truly important things are beyond my control
 
I do commit to improving my life one word at a time
Last year’s word was health
I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything that I knew would create stress
in my body, my mind, my life
Stress begets poor health
 
I promised myself I would do things that supported my becoming healthier
(most of the time)
Good chocolate and ice cream can always be rationalized
They are after all good for my spiritual and mental health (antioxidants too)
 
Swimming more, laughing more and seeking out good company were all winning choices
So too was sitting quietly enough to listen to what my body needed, my mind required and my heart desired
The agreement to always put health first made it easier address conflicting wants
And surprisingly, brain has become less demanding when it comes to having coffee and in return stomach more forgiving overall
 
Together, the stories written are of successes
Even the failures
They are the ones that tell of my humanness and the value of falling short from time to time
They are the ones that taught me being kind and accepting my humanness supports my well-being
 
So as the old year gives way to the new I look forward to
Taking all my stories with me
The sad ones, the painful ones, the funny ones and the ones that leave me smiling and light
They are all the stories of my life to date and they will become part of the ongoing story that will be my life
Today, tomorrow and for a long I am fortunate enough to be here
 
Wishing you all a wonderful 2020 and the knowledge that yesterday’s stories become a part of the who we are, how we live today and what we will create tomorrow.

It is not a coincidence that healthy holds the word heal within it. It’s been a year of healing for me and I look forward to using what I’ve learned this past year in the years to come.

Stay well,
and if you’re in need of healing make supporting your health your deal breaker.
You’re worth it.

Looking for previous “Widow Wednesdays? Start here withWidow Wednesday #1
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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