Empowering Discussions, Grief

Grief is a Life Transformation

“Grief is a life transformation.”

Grief is a powerful transformation. Losing our loved ones to death changes our life.

  That person is no longer there, our plans together, our interactions and the future we saw with each other are gone.
  All the times I’ve experienced grief have been different. Some times have been similar, but my life has changed in varying degrees. Friends and family that were such a presence in my life have left me with voids. Make no mistake, for the most part, these are sad, lonely voids. However, they’ve also given me inspiration to live more profoundly, in a way that resonates with me, not with expectations I had or that society portrays. Each day I am present to this inspiration is a day where I feel myself growing into the most perfectly imperfectly person.
  My life has been transformed by grief so often. So, while I’m not completely comfortable with death, I am less afraid. I’ve become less worried about dying. With this new strength, I can honestly tell my abuela that when she’s ready to go I will be ready to let her go. Grief is still painful, but in a way I know what to expect. And yes this makes it a little easier, not easy, but easier.
  Today would be my mothers birthday. We would celebrate with something fun like dancing or cake at the beach for sunset. Yet while I do feel sadness, my overwhelming emotion is appreciation for the beautiful friends and family I’ve seen and talked to today.
 For a while now I have been working on a book about grief. This experience has opened my heart to just how much my life has transformed from grief.  Grief is a powerful gift, but truthfully I’d return it for my deceased family and friends to be alive and dancing with me again.
Any thoughts on grief? Has your life been transformed? Are you caring for someone who is terminal? Or are you more comfortable to ignore the idea of grief all together? 

“D.I.Y. Therapy: Healing Depression is available trough Amazon as both an e-book and a paperback.  This is not my first book, but it is my most personal. I share my struggles and pain honestly. Openly and honestly sharing healing is my gift to the world. With 1 in 4 people in the USA suffering from mental illness I hope my story will help others to start their own journey to better health.  Unlike a broken bone which heals in a matter of weeks or months, healing mental illness takes much more time and a whole lot of self-love.

If you’re suffering from depression I strongly encourage you to seek help. If you can’t afford a therapist find a supportive mentor, teacher or healer who can help you discover inner peace. Healing is possible IF you are open and willing to commit to a self-care plan. You’re life only  has value if you decide it does.

And it’s okay to stumble and fall along the way. Healing takes time so BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF!

Peace and Hugs, Leah

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Book Reviews, Grief

Book Review: “Not in the Pink” by Tina Martel

Not In The Pink” by Tina Martel

Although I am no Snow White I am living with the seven chemo dwarves. Itchy, Weepy, Weary, Drippy, Achy, Queasy, Bitchy. They bring a friend, Wimpy.” -Tina Martel

Are you looking for a book about dealing with cancer that isn’t bent toward the heroic, and cheerful? As an artist, Tina Martel does an amazing job of recording her battle with cancer with poignant imagery and words that sting. This is a mixture of darkness and fear, hope and humor, love and letting go of eyelashes.

Her book takes you through the realities of a cancer diagnosis without shying away from the painful treatment, nausea, mood swings, the loss of independence and balance, the confused stares, wayward words, uncomfortable silences and the fear of not knowing if you will survive.

Her journey includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, homeopathic and prescription drugs and attempts by herself and others to alleviate the dark clouds that overhang a possibility of looming death.

I laughed and cried while reading this book. It brought back my own memories of when my mother battled cancer. A battle she eventually lost. Reading this book was therapeutic in that it reminded me that we really have no clue where our lives will lead, but we are in control of how we react to the journey.

Get your copy at Notinthepink.ca/buy-not-in-the-pink or on Amazon.com.


Want ideas for a healthy lifestyle free of depression? Read my D.I.Y. Therapy posts.

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Last Year Grief – This Year Rebirth

… Alternate Title:  The Power of Cupcakes! …

 Last year was full of so much grief I couldn’t focus on much else. I eventually felt like I would completely break if I didn’t take some time away and travel. So I left paradise to spend time with family and friends and reconnect. It was very healing. I made the right choice. (See my earlier posts on grief)

Monday was the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. I imagined the day would bring back the pain of losing her. I was pleased to find that I was able to consciously recognize the day and not be overcome with sadness. So I didn’t need the companionship which I told my friend I was sure to need when she suggested we have a rain check for our plans that day. 😉


Instead I woke up and felt healthy. I decided to finally explore Switzer canyon by my new home base. The area was beautiful. I had fun climbing over fallen trees, walking on rocks in the dry bed stream and taking photos of all the natural beauty. Most importantly I set down and meditated, filling up on positive thoughts and clean air.

Later in the day I went home, cleaned and worked in the yard beneath the warm sunshine. I love gardening so that was refreshing. Later I went to run errands and decided to stop at Babycakes in Hillcrest for two delicious cupcakes. One was chocolate with raspberry filling, cream icing and a strawberry on top. The second was German Chocolate with coconut filling. I tried to eat slowly, but they didn’t stand a chance. I sat in the yard staring at a wisteria vine while soaking up sunshine and bathing in the warm breeze.

Photos of authors mom and grandparents circa 1945
Photos of authors mom and grandparents circa 1945

After all that I was exhausted and fell asleep, almost missing the chance to see my friend and her family at the park not far off. I took a long walk that evening, chatted with my brother on the phone and realized that the most painful of grief had graciously run its course. I made it through the first anniversary of my mom’s death without falling down and sobbing in pain. Not to say that’s a terrible thing but I much prefer feeling happy and thankful for the time we had.

I still have moments where I want to hold my mother and feel sad that I cannot, but when that happens I allow it to come and go as needed. If I’m doing something important, I use the same exercises that helped me overcome depression. I focus my thoughts on the positive and allow the negative to dissipate. (See my D.I.Y. Therapy posts)

In regards to the loving relationship and wonderful memories I share with my mom I know that I’m lucky, so, so, so lucky. I also understand that if I was still in my previous depressed state the grief would overwhelm me and I would not be able to feel the freedom of missing my mom without the weight of pain. This is something not everybody is able to experience. We all deal with grief in different ways.

Last week I was talking with a friend whose mother had killed herself. My friend mentioned how she didn’t like when people brought up the anniversary of her mom’s death. For her it was a memory she’d soon forget, not one that she wanted pulled into the front of her thoughts.

So if you’re grieving a loved one remember that how you grieve is totally fine. It’s your grief and you will heal if you allow yourself to go at your own pace. Don’t have expectations, just let it be.

If you know someone who is grieving, let them be. Allow them to be sad, angry or happy. Don’t assume you know how another should feel or what “stage” they should be processing. We are all unique.


Author with her mom.
Author acting goofy with her mom.

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Empowering Discussions, Grief

Grief: Three Months In and the Adventure Has Picked Up Speed

I attended my first grief support group today. As the group leader Rick said, “It’s like a club nobody wants to join”. Ha!  Isn’t that a truth!

IMG_20140522_174117The book, “Unattended Sorrow” by Stephen Levine was recommended by Rick. Luckily the library had it and I’m taking it with me. This was my first grief/bereavement group since my mother died 3 months ago.

It wasn’t agonizingly sad nor was it upbeat, but it was somewhat comforting to not feel so alone that hour of time. I mostly listened. I shared what I could, but these days words tumble out of my mouth in a messy ball. A few times, even though I don’t feel so sad anymore, tears rolled down my cheeks. Vocalizing coherently right now is not easy so listening and being part of a group was enough.

There was 3 of us in total. They had both lost parents and a husband/wife. She had lost her husband 3 weeks ago, he was leading the group for a few years having los his wife 9 years ago. Both were over 65. Though I don’t wish death on anyone my age, I was hoping there might be someone close to my age there.
Nobody who showed up is going to the memorial service on Saturday. I imagine that will be an entirely different and sadder experience as there is no mention of an age minimum to donate a body to the med program. All I ask is there not be any parents who lost a child or teen. I think that’s the worst. My mom had almost 71 years and she wore them out well. 🙂

So what did I learn today? Mostly that grief may have lightened or seem gone, but it sure as hell has not completely healed.  So if you know someone who has recently grieved give them some love now. Don’t wait another minute.

I feel a little raw now. What I wouldn’t give for a long firm hug.  Maybe I will get lucky and run into a friend? That would be something indeed since none live nearby. What I wouldn’t give for a car right now so I could drive somewhere and hug someone I know….sigh…life is greater than any adventure I ever read

Empowering Discussions, Grief

Dealing With The First Mothers Day Since My Mothers Death

It’s been almost 3 months since my mom died and sometimes it feels like the grief is growing. I suppose that’s just one of those things that happens as my mind slowly realizes that she isn’t coming back. And now today is that used-to-be-wonderful holiday celebrating moms. Yeesh! What an extra punch to the gut.

 It took a while for me to think of a way to honor my mother on this day. Since parties aren’t my thing and I don’t have anyone to celebrate with anyway, I decided to make a donation to Help In Crisis, which is a domestic violence resource center and shelter for women and girls that she helped create. Coincidentally, or not, both I and her eldest granddaughter have both worked for DV resource centers. My mom knew how to set a loving example; by simply being one. 

I’m very proud of my mom and loved her so much. Today I’m going to work at the flower shop where I have been going back every Mothers day for the past few years. I think it will be fun, but the owner understands that I might not be able to stay if it makes me too sad.

“HELP IN CRISIS, This donation is in the memory of JoAnne Duncan, $10.00” http://helpincrisisinc.org/hic/history.asp



Empowering Discussions, Grief

Compacting Grief: Playing the Question Game of What If’s and Should Have’s.

There is nothing fair about grief. Life in this universe is inherently unfair, but as we grow wiser we learn various ways to solve problems and make it as fair as possible so we can thrive. Many times there are guidelines and rules to follow based on previous experiences and those passed down from generations. But with grief there are no obvious solutions, no rules to follow, no easy answers. When you lose someone so close to your heart, so important to your daily existence, who you loved more than anyone, your life can seem empty. The word unfair becomes your anthem.

textgram_1399424397The past few weeks I’ve constantly battled with thoughts of what I should have done, could have done, if only I had known that her time was running out. I know that there is nothing I could have done. She fought the cancer stubbornly with a toolbox of medicines and cures, but in the end she lost. There is no going back and there is absolutely no use in beating up myself wondering… “What if?” I call this the question game.

Questioning if there was anything I coud have done to save my mom allows me to live in the past, but this isn’t a mystery novel. I can’t turn back the pages and figure out the clues. Her novel is finished. I can pick it up and read it, but I cannot rewrite the ending.

I cannot live in the past wishing for a time machine any more than I can live in the future imagining the life I would like to have. The past is over and the future I want can only happen if I take action now in the present. There is no jumping back and forth in this reality.  The past has a seductive way of luring me in, inundating me with cozy memories that wrap around my cold and empty self. It blurs the present so my steps forward are muddled, and disguises the future as a place to be feared. This isn’t the first time I’ve been seduced into living in a world long gone, but I hope it’s the last.

There is a lovely distraction when I’m around people or busy working which allows me to move forward intently without worry or sadness. Once I am alone however the grief becomes physical pain, gnawing at my insides; my stomach ties in knots and tears forcefully push against my eyelids. Distractions keep my could have/should haves, at bay.

So my goal now is to spend as little time alone as possible. This is not easy as I don’t have any close family or friends nearby. There are people who I know well and like that I can spend some time with, but they lack the comfort I really crave. That comfort from someone who I’ve always loved. Under normal conditions my introverted personality makes forging new friendships a heavy workload, and now with low energy and cluttered thoughts,  relationships become a seemingly insurmountable task.

I substitute closeness for masses of people. I write this sitting in the library surrounded by people I don’t recognize, but this is a comforting place for me and it keeps me from being alone. Later I will go watch the sunset with another crowd and eventually meander home to my roommates dog(she is out-of-town right now and I’m dogsitting). Probably the evening will be whittled away online with shiny, noisy distractions.

I have been seriously looking for a second job so that my empty time will fill, and also to get out from under the squashing weight of debt. In the past 2 weeks several resumes have been sent and applications filled out. I would love to receive a call for an interview, but my previous experience over the years of job searching does not fill me with hope.

My career, or lack thereof is another chance for the “What if?” game. If only I had a real degree, I should have stayed with my other jobs longer, I could have saved more money, What if I had made different choices, etc.

Much of this question game centers around one popular thought, “What if I just gave it all away and took my chances living from one moment to the next?” While this fantasy of living a life free of any demands is somewhat appealing, it’s also scary. Everyday I see people on the streets who have given it all away. They don’t seem too happy, some seem to have given all of themselves away along with their career and things.

The question game doesn’t help, but instead compacts my grief. I don’t yet have an answer for how to stop it, but I’m aware I need to stop it so I’m working on an answer.

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Empowering Discussions, Grief

Grieving After Two Months: Losing My Mom, Not My Mind


I’d like to say that since two months have passed after my mother’s death I feel much better about losing her, but I don’t. Now is even more overwhelming because it’s so definite.

I went to work the morning after she died for no other reason than needing the paycheck. It was not fun, but I did my job as usual. The first few days after she died I started calling her friends that I personally knew fairly well. I didn’t want them to find out on Facebook or in an email. These were people who she loved, but lived far away so they at least deserved a phone call. It was almost easy to deliver the news because I was in shock. I refused to cry and it wasn’t hard at first. I felt sad, but incredibly numb. About a week later is when the waves of grief would begin to knock into me and I would cry. Crying is at it’s most basic a physical release, but also very draining and the vulnerable feeling doesn’t sit well with me.

I was starting to feel slightly better last month. At the end of March I went on a trip out-of-state to visit some family who I am very close to. This was the weekend of my birthday which I had no interest in celebrating…. That word sounds so foreign. How could I feel so sad and celebrate?

Last week I went to deliver some of my mom’s things to her friend out-of-state. I also spent the weekend with one of my best friends who I always feel comfortable enough around to be completely stupid so if I needed to cry there wouldn’t have been any hesitation and there wasn’t. We went to a small town where coincidentally I used to live with my mom and siblings when I was 12. In hindsight this was not the smartest idea as being there filled me up with memories and sadness. It was nice to be with my friend and stay busy, but it was also very difficult.

What I can clearly realize is how much comfort I am seeking. I find myself consistently craving being held. Even if it’s not cold I like to snuggle up in sweaters and blankets just to feel enveloped. I want her brushing my hair out of my eyes, reading me a story and snuggling with me as I fall asleep. So far I haven’t found a service anywhere that offers that for adults. At least not in a non-sexual manner. LOL! So it turns out there is at least one downside to being single.

While I don’t feel a constant sorrow, my energy and focus wanes from moment to moment. What I check off my to-do list these days is slow if it gets done at all. Going through my mothers belongings has been like walking through knee-high mud. Thankfully she didn’t have tons of stuff, but I don’t have space to keep much so a lot has to go away. Sometimes picking up and item can be a trigger for tears and pain Deciding what to keep and what to giveaway or sell is a challenge. Letting go of her things is akin to shredding memories of her. Even if I don’t have a clear memory of an item if it causes me to recall even a fraction of the past and then I have a hell of a time saying goodbye. An easy problem compared to many in our world, but one I must confront anyway.

Other than this emotional stress I have a pressing matter to take care of; creating an income. Financially, the sooner I get a job and start my assent out of debt the better. I know the longer I wait to find more paid work the more debt I’m accruing, but this is a common stress. It’s simple exasperated at this moment. I’m capable of working, willing to work, possess a good work ethic, and wanting to earn an income at a job that is at least somewhat enjoyable. That means anything but retail, sales, or hospitality which I’ve had more than enough of at this point. My doubts of whether I can be productive enough to keep a good job during this time is enough to impede that process. I don’t want to waste an employers time or burn bridges through sheer flakiness. Thankfully I know that soon finding a job will be an easy step for me to take and I will enjoy it.

This weekend I am taking another trip out-of-state to see family and two close friends. I’m happy see them all, but wish so hard for the visit to be under happier circumstances.  I need to take it easy this week at least when it comes to thinking of the future. I need to breathe.

What does help? Spending time with my brother, going out and sightseeing in search of beauty, eating good food, calling loved ones on the phone, working on projects that don’t require too much thought but are just challenging enough to distract from grief.  I keep busy, but also allow for moments of serenity where I focus on breathing and not denying my emotions. Writing of course is a big help. I feel refreshed after I write. My advice to you is get into the things you enjoyed before and find beauty where you can.

So if you are grieving let these words comfort you in knowing that you are not alone. We will survive this loss, but it will take time and effort. We will mess up; possibly say or do something reckless or ignorant because our minds and hearts are so preoccupied. When this happens remind yourself that you need time to recoup and there is no specific time line. We are imperfectly perfect. We all grieve at our own pace and deserve that chance if we are to continue on with life. Seek out what YOU need and allow yourself to heal.  

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Empowering Discussions, Grief

Wading Through Grief: Losing Mom

We lose part of our identity when our parents die, no longer daughters or sons, but not quite orphans.

A year and a half ago my mom got sick with cancer so my schedule became intertwined with hers. I thought to myself, if she dies how do I want to look back on this time in my life? What would I regret or treasure?  In answer to those questions, I chose spending as much time as possible with her. She got better, and then worse, a few times over. There were lots of times when she seemed okay. We would spend an hour or so at the beach almost daily, we went to eat, she had pedicures, we visited with a few people when she had energy. Life wasn’t terrible we laughed, but it was uncertain and sad.  We pinched our pennies and I am eternally grateful for her friends who would occasionally send money to make sure she was comfortable.

After a while optimism ruled and I felt the chances of her beating cancer and living many more years was possible. This was my mom of course. She who is strong, stubborn, intelligent, loving, my caretaker, my friend. How could she possibly die so young. But then her body finally gave up. She died this past February.  With a father I was not close to already deceased, my days of being a daughter have ended.  That is a very odd position to lose.

So now I wade through grief, the five letter word!  Grief is akin to being pulled out into the stormy ocean. Tides ebb and flow, pulling you out and pushing you in, but there is no sudden push to the shore. You have only the power of your body to guide you to shore where eventually you can dry out in the warms sun.

I’ve lost friends and our beloved family dog to the hands of death. The finality and unknown path of death is rough to deal with for us mortals. All grief is difficult and sad. Losing my mom, someone I saw almost every day and whom I was very close with has been overwhelming. She was my rock. The way my siblings and their children have spread out across the states, she was always traveling and keeping us close.  I can’t write anymore now, but here is a poem I wrote recently. If you know someone going through grief perhaps they can find comfort in reading this. I’ll let you be the judge of that.


They ask me to speak, but it’s so hard to think. I need some time, some paper, some ink.

Has it really been a month since I saw you last, funny how times moves so fast. In grief, what seems like yesterday becomes the distance past.

Weren’t we just on the beach taking walks together or sitting close against the wind in our cozy sweaters.

My life with you seems awfully short, now all that’s left are memories to sort.

Photos, t-shirts, jewelry, and books. Telling your story with wanting looks.

I had imagined this only in my riper age, because losing you then would mean less time spent away.

I miss you so much it hurts everyday, but I know that eventually the pain will fade.

Your memory will survive; in hugs, kisses, and stories you will thrive.

Never forgotten, you have so many friends, such a big family, so many places and faces.

We’re not religious or believing in heaven, but I will wait and see if there is another story which includes you AND me.

Don’t worry I won’t sit here in sorrow, what did Dr. Seuss say? “Your mountain is waiting so get on your way”.

You taught me to love, to not be afraid and most of all to enjoy today. That lesson took me a while, but I’m now on my way.


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What to say?

My brother sent me this poem today. I am not sure where it is from, but it really hits the target when you have a great loss.

Don’t tell me that you understand
Don’t tell me that you know
Don’t tell me that I will survive
How I will surely grow
Don’t come at me with answers
That can only come from me
Don’t tell me how my grief will pass
That I will soon be free
Accept me in my ups and downs
I need someone to share
Just hold my hand and let me cry
And say ‘My friend, I care.”