Healing Retreats or Vacation Therapy?

greendrinkJust returned from an amazing weekend in Tampa at the annual east coast Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation’s “Camp Widow East”. As in the past, the energy was high, hugs were abundant and topics on loss, healing and moving forward for those widowed, packed the two days. It was wonderful to see those from past camps and meet new men and women on this most difficult journey after loss.

We shared a healthy green drink (above photo), a healing self-massage (fully clothed of course) and a good deal of laughter at my workshop Healthy Living After Loss. I’m so grateful for all those who attended.

You can find more information for the upcoming Camp Widow West in San Diego, July 11-13 and the first International Camp Widow being held in Toronto, September 26-28 at this link: http://www.campwidow.org/

I’m thrilled to be a presenter at the first Widow’s Peak, A Weekend of Upliftment, Personal Transformation and Learning To Let Go, June 6th -8th at The Art of Living Retreat Center in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Join six extraordinary authors, thought-leaders and teachers for a peak conference experience…lovingly designed for women who have lost a spouse or loved one.

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I’ll be joining my friend Carol Scibelli, author of Poor Widdow Me  (a soon to be NYC theatre production), Lorna Bell the author of Yoga for the Grieving Heart, Debbie Ellison the Director and CFO (Chief “Fun”ancial Officer) of Laughter for Wellness and a highly trained and experienced Laughter Trainer and Creator of the annual Laughter Yoga Conference in Atlanta, and others.

Join in for healthy cooking for one demonstrations, painting and a potters wheel. Treat yourself to a heavenly massage, facials or Aryuvedic body-work .

Watch for details coming very soon! well,

Audrey

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I Need Help With My Grief: What’s Wrong With Me?

Last week I received a call from a very hesitant woman. She had been widowed for fours years. She came across my website and her health has been a concern since she has been experiencing no energy, a lack of motivation and direction. She began the conversation with “I should be able to do this by myself but, I’m good for a few days but then I lose my momentum”. She spoke of having no one to share her small accomplishments with. “When I eat healthfully and I’m proud that I stayed away from unhealthy foods, or actually went out for a walk, there’s no one to tell, no one to say a job well done”. First we rephrased her statement to “what’s right with me!” cheeringlady

You have supported and praised your children and your spouses/partners and now you may actually need someone to cheer you on or encourage you when you bring yourself from down in the dumps, to actually getting out to walk or cooking a healthy meal, huge steps some days. We are social creatures and we all do need support and encouragement. Needing help is not failure, it’s human and normal. There are just down days on this journey through grief and encouragement is something everyone needs. You are on the road to discovering your new self after loss.

Find a buddy, join a group reach out for someone to be a cheerleader in your camp.

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How Long is Too Long? Grief’s Timeline

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAre people really putting a time limit on grief? Those who love and support us after the death of a loved one want us to “move on” and “get over it” ASAP. They are not insensitive; they only want us to be over the pain because they have no idea what to do to make us feel better.

The subject of how long to grieve is a frequent topic of discussion with clients, one that no one has the answer to and actually, there is no right answer. Grief is so individualized that no one can tell you how long you should be experiencing what I call “active” grieving. Grief after the death of a loved one will always be with us but when we understand the process of grief we learn to integrate the loss into our lives, it does not stand apart. If however, and only you will know, you continue to carry anger, tend to isolate or feel you have no control over life I would advise that you speak with a grief specialist and consider the possibility that you truly have not allowed yourself to grieve.

I chose to write about grief and time this week after seeing 60 minutes Anderson Cooper’s interview with Liam Neeson, not the one that aired but the one that appeared in the 60 minute overtime piece Living With Grief, A Conversation Between Men. Here is the link http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/living-with-grief-a-conversation-between-men/. I believe this is one of the most candid pieces I’m ever seen by an interviewer on a subject that has been avoided. I commend Anderson Cooper for giving Liam the space to openly speak about the tragic death of his wife Natasha five years ago and to share his own feelings of grief after the death of his father and brother.

Time is not what heals our wounds, taking action, understanding grief and openly speaking about our loved ones does.

Are you fully living your life after loss? If not, why? If not now, when?

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Where Are You Living Today.. Past, Present or Future?

At times, when a loved one has died, we want to be in a place before this life changing loss happened just to feel that person in our life once again. I have heard these words in one form or another from many. When they have been asked, “what do you want” the answer is always, “I want them back”.

One man between past and future.Yes, we all do wish and pray that this is not real. Early after a death, in the beginning of our grief, we even have periods of disbelief. I remember having so yearned that I would swear I saw Joe on the street or driving past me in a car. Have you had that experience?

It’s not easy to be in this present place without our loved one. But, the past is just that, our past and we are in the present, forever changed and, the future can be frightening. Many who are grieving oscillate between being stuck in the past and fearing the future and in the meantime just surviving the present, not remembering how they got from morning to nighttime.

I may have used the following quote before but I do feel that if after a death, one isn’t able to begin on the road to recovery and discovery, precious time is lost. We can forever keep the memories of the life we had with our loved ones, never to be forgotten and integrating the loss into our lives as we move forward to a new present.

If you think what you’ve always thought,
Then you’ll feel what you’ve always felt.
If you feel what you’ve always felt,
Then you’ll do what you’ve always done.
If you do what you’ve always done,
Then you’ll be what you’ve always been. –Anonymous

Change your experience of grief. If not now, when?

https://www.timetrade.com/book/LQ8RG

With the past, I have nothing to do, nor with the future. I live now. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be well,
Audrey

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Avoiding the Conversation: I’m a Widow

Do you feel it in the pit of your stomach when you’re asked, “Is your husband with you?” or “Who’s your husband?” Setting aside widowhood, what is with the assumption that all women are or have ever been married? That ruffles my sixty-year old feathers! But, I digress.

Fading memoriesMost often times, and sadly, these questions come from other women. And as you calmly inform them that your husband died, the standard response “Oh, I’m sorry”, is heard. It’s twenty-three years since Joe died, I’m recently remarried and I still get that response when I say I was a widow and I still feel my bristles going up. Next question “Was he sick for long”? Why does that even matter, he died. As if caring for a spouse lessens the grief after their gone. Pre-grief? You can’t grieve what you haven’t lost yet. You may grieve the loss of the lifestyle you both shared or the loss of your dreams or of looking forward to aging together but nothing can prepare you for the grief that follows when they are physically no longer with us.

These well intended, information seeking questions, may be a trigger for the conversation you all to often avoid. What if you actually stood fast and told your story rather than quickly putting on that mask as if your life is unchanged? Would the other person actual stay to listen? Would they then understand you more? Perhaps. More importantly is that you talked about your loved one. You went to your grief and sadness. Not easy.

I have never known a widow, including myself, who ever grows tired of talking about their loved one who died. The most poignant memories we have are those that help heal our hearts and sharing them strengthens them. Yes, it may very well trigger a sad heart but it’s all part of the journey.

“When dealing with painful emotions, the way out is through”.
- Joseph Goldstein, Author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening

Laughter as a Catharsis For Grief

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards
  Soren Kierkegaard

Even when we are grieving, there are some things in life that can make us laugh. I’ve listened to clients who have a sense of guilt if they are having fun or laugh rather than cry. Both crying and laughing are a catharsis for our emotions all of which need to be expressed so that we heal.

It’s only normal to laugh when a funny situation arises or you hear a funny story, no guilt necessary. In fact, we don’t laugh enough. Babies laugh all the time because they find most of the world and us funny. The average 5 year old in the U.S. laughs 400 times per day. The average adult laughs 15 times.

I’m sure you’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine and the story of Norman Cousins who has actually been looked at as the father of mind/body medicine with his 1981 best-selling book An Anatomy of An Illness. Why don’t physicians prescribe “Laughter T.I.D. (three times a day) for the next thirty days”. My clients and I laugh together either while practicing a new technique for healthy living or at the absurdities of life and around the experience of loss and grief. Laughter is universal and is a way to connect with people.

Yes, we need to process our grief but that doesn’t mean living grief every minute of the day. Look at laughing as yet another tool for healing. Laughter enhances your mood, decreases stress hormones, enhances immune activity, lowers bad cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, and raises good cholesterol (HDL). Laughing and crying both serve to rebalance the chemistry of stress, tension and pain. I work with my clients on being in the present moment and laughter can bring you there. You cannot think and laugh at the same time!

Zen Buddhists believe laughter cleanses the soul. Have you ever noticed how the Dalai Lama giggles after he speaks? A not often heard quote from an Indian Guru is “dreams are the excrement of the mind, feces is the excrement of the body and laughter is the excrement of the soul”.

Life is quite absurd so go and have a good laugh. Double click on the speaker below.

speakerLets talk.. contact me Audrey@wisewidow.com.

 

Be well,

Audrey

 

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Grief, Stress and Insomnia: Putting Your Health at Risk

Wake Up Time:  Middle Age Woman Yawns In BedWe all experience an occasional sleepless night. I’ve found myself at the computer at 4:30am too! Too much caffeine or a deadline to meet can keep us from resting soundly. When we are learning to live life after loss, our sleep patterns can be severely affected which may lead to night after night of less than restful nor an adequate amount of sleep.

100 million Americans are sleep deprived. Are you one of them?  If you’re experiencing short term memory loss, poor judgment, lack of coordination, inability to learn and think clearly, then perhaps a nighttime routine is in order. Just as being in a constant state of stress can impact health, lacking adequate and good quality sleep can cause increased blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, decreased immunity and increased nervousness.

Here are some techniques that may be of help if implemented into your daily life.

  • Avoid caffeine
  • Have some tryptophan ( grandma’s recipe, warm milk at bedtime)
  • Take a hot bath one hour before bedtime
  • Remove the TV and or computer from the bedroom and remove yourself from using them at least one hour prior to bedtime
  • Limit alcohol: alcohol disrupts sleep cycles and melatonin levels
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and any lights (clock, cell phone, computer) are covered or turned away from your sight
  • Lavender or jasmine sachets under your pillow
  • Eye mask (a must for me)
  • Ear plugs
  • Self massage
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Deep breathing
  • Guided imagery

Just as you have a morning and waking routine, begin to think of the hours before bedtime in terms of a establishing a routine that will contribute to a feeling of relaxation preparing you for a most restful nights sleep. Think of the routine we establish for our children. Do or did we dare to vary the routine? Unthinkable!

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Be Well,

Audrey

Are you S.A.D.?

It is the time of year where many people experience what has become known as seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D.  I’m personally not one for putting a diagnosis on what we have experienced for years, fewer hours of sunlight, a natural phenomenon. However, life does change at this time of year and with it, so must we. Nature knows this is the time of year to hibernate and slow down but for us human animal’s, isolation and seclusion are far less desirable and can contribute to an already sad emotional state as we’re grieving.

EternityHow can you bring some sunshine into your day while waiting for the season to pass? For me, buying flowers for myself at the corner store brightens my day. ­­I put them on my desk so they are in constant sight. Play music and sing along if you’re so inclined. I just listen! My fallback is Pandora. I can switch it up from classical to some Adele to The Chieftains and listen while I work on the computer.

When we’re grieving, at times, we feel as if the world is avoiding us. Perhaps you can remember a time when you walked the other way when someone who had experienced a life-changing event was heading your way. Few people know what to say, not that it’s a good excuse but, it’s the truth. How can you be with people but not necessarily engaged? Have you ever people watched? I’m in a city so it’s a never-ending experience of people watching. When I can, I go to a Starbucks or any local café with my computer, a pen and paper or a book and I watch the people. I don’t stare but I notice. It might not be a direct connection or a conversation but it’s out of my home and with life. Nature, if you’re not in a city, also provides a connection and that is what we need when we grieve, connection. Hug a tree, listen to a brook, feel the breeze. There is always sound even in silence. Learn to tune in to what nature has to say.

What have you found that brings some sunshine into your day now that winter is here? Post some ideas here; you never know whom you’re helping.

Be well,

Audrey

Easing Grief With a Question

I don’t usually blog about my radio show but last night’s interview really made me think about what I’m frequently asked by non-grievers. “What do I say or do to help, when a friend or family member has lost a loved one”? Just as with grief, we are not schooled in what to say and what not to say when someone is in pain after the loss of a loved one. What Dr. Virigina Seno shared last evening and, will share on my next two radio shows is, what I think might just be the best question that could be asked and can be broadly applied to support someone experiencing any loss.

questionsWhen we are moving through life after a loss, we move in a fog, barely putting one foot in front of the other. When asked what we need, we truly have no idea. The question is too big! Asking how a person feels, too big! But, ask how a person is feeling this morning narrows it down and helps to bring the person into the present moment. It can be moment to moment after we lose a loved one.

The question Dr. Seno presents is so simple but, as she shared last evening, is so powerful. Consider this question, “What is most important to you RIGHT NOW?”

I think it is brilliant! Now, the challenge is not in asking the question. The challenge is, after asking, to allow the silence. This silent space gives a person the opportunity to pause, think about right now, and possibly provide an answer, and usually not one that you would have expected. We can never guess what would be most important to someone else, no matter how well we believe we know them.

Try it for yourself and ask the question. Practice it and see what comes up for you. Remember, the question is about “right now” and the silence is the key.
“What is most important to you, RIGHT NOW!”

Make This Your Year for Change 2014

The reality of life can be painful and widowhood is a harsh reality. I remember feeling sad about another year coming, identifying myself as a “widow”, and rather than being excited about what I could create in the new year personally, professionally, physically, or spiritually, I just stayed in my “widowhood”. That had to change, and it did.

I’m not a “resolution making” person but I do have aspirations and not just on January 1st. There’s more power in aspiring then in resolving. Aspirations do require change and change certainly isn’t easy but the first step is to realize that you do have control and you can aspire to move you forward. New habits and behaviors can be uncomfortable, at first. Then, with repeated practice they become the new normal for you. 

2014Before starting to write down what you aspire to in the coming year, I challenge you to write down what makes you who you are, you the woman. Do not include your marital status! If you write anything, you’re a writer. If you exercise you’re an athlete, if you practice yoga you’re a yogi. Are you an advisor, a philosopher, a cook, a bookkeeper. If you have children you are a counselor. What are the many wonderful things you offer to others that make up who you are? What do you identify with?

What would you like to add to that list in the New Year? Think aspirations rather than resolutions. “I aspire to (a strong desire, an ambition, a desired objective)______________________________________________.”

Next, what steps do you need to take to move you toward fulfilling that aspiration? Make the steps small and doable. If you aspire to write, commit to writing fifteen minutes a day. Don’t overcommit. 

Let me know your aspirations for the New Year and if there are any challenges you face to you making that first step toward their actualization.