Archive for the ‘Grief’ Category

In it’s own time…

“Psychically, it is good to make a halfway place, a way station, a considered place in which to rest and mend after one escapes a famine. It is not too much to take one year, two years, to assess one’s wounds, seek guidance, apply the medicines, consider the future. A year or two is scant time.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves


Allow yourself the time you need, to tend to your wounds, to heal your heart, to hold yourself gently.

One of the difficulties of healing is we want it to happen faster, bigger, better- but healing comes in it’s own time, in it’s own gentle way.

I guarantee if you invite healing into your life, into your heart it will work it’s magic.

In it’s own time.



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My brother

Christmas is coming and it brings so many pieces of joy, of light, but for many also of longing and pain.

I have had many conversations recently with people in the midst of various In-Between’s who are struggling with not feeling the joy, with feeling the pain of feeling disingenuous when saying “Merry Christmas”.

My first Christmas after my divorce and the death of my brother I simply didn’t.

I stopped saying “Merry Christmas”, the words felt so hollow, the pain so deep and the gap between joy and the darkness of my heart so wide.  I allowed myself to say “you too” and offer a small smile, but there was no “Merry” that year… and that was okay.  I wish someone would have told me that it was okay.  I wish someone would have told me that it wouldn’t last forever, but that for right then, in those moments there was no “Merry”.  I struggled with wanting to feel “Merry”, I wanted so desperately to be “normal”, I wanted to care, but there wasn’t enough energy left, there wasn’t room in my heart for any “Merry”.

My friend who had lost her daughter was telling me about a Christmas card she received where at the bottom of the card a well-meaning someone had written “I hope all is well”.  Her eyes filed with tears and her voice broke as she shared the pain those words had caused. This is the second year without their daughter to celebrate and all is not well.  Although the capacity to feel joy, to see beauty, to share love will increase right now it is overshadowed by the grief and loss.  Those words stung- a reminder that life is permanently changed, there is a before and after and you aren’t in the place to see that it will ever be “well” again and that the loss looms so large.

Other friends are struggling with the desire for “perfect” Christmases when children are melting down, parents nerves are strung tight, and everyone just seems to be overwhelmed and overstimulated.  We all need to remind each other to hold ourselves gently, to know that our efforts are enough, that even though it doesn’t always feel like it.  The magic of Christmas is that grace weaves it’s way through the difficult moments, that often there is a sparkle of light when you least expect it, and that meaning can be found in the simple moments shared together.  I invite you to remember the most memorable moments of Christmas for you and I doubt they have anything to do with the presents you received but more than likely with the time that is shared, the memories created while catching snowflakes on your tongue, sipping hot chocolate after making snow angels, or watching the snow fall like diamonds in the purple veil of night.   Allow yourself the space to breathe, to be gentle with yourself and to be where you are.  Which may or may not be “Merry”, and that is okay.

May you be held in the magic of the season, may the warmth and love of those in your life hold you close as you heal.  May your brokenness feel a little less sharp, may your tears bring healing and hope and may your heart find the healing that it seeks.

If you are in the midst of grief I offer you these words:

You have permission to not say “Merry Christmas.”

You have permission to be frustrated, to be hurt and to be upset by well-meaning friends and family who don’t understand the depth of your pain, the place you are in or the difficulty this season might bring.

You have permission for the lights that are meant to bring hope instead to sting your heart and illuminate the gap between what you “want” and what you have.

You have permission to cling to the love of those that surround you, to take more than you give, to trust that someday you will be able to give again when life fills you and it is your turn to support, to offer hope, to be the light.  You have permission for that time not to be now.

You have permission to feel great love in the midst of great loss.

You have permission to miss that person, place or thing that you have lost while holding a space in your heart for the possibility of what is yet to come.

You have permission to cry and to laugh and to remember and to share those memories.

And for those who are grieving the loss of someone you love…

You have permission to say their name, to bring up in conversation the memories, the love, the loss that you feel.

You have permission to not know where you are.

You have permission not to be “Merry”.

For those who are supporting those in the midst of grief:

Say the name of those we have lost knowing that your acknowledgment may bring tears, but know that is a part of the healing.  Your remembering soothes our heart.

Acknowledge the struggle that this season may bring.

Ask us to share memories of those that we have lost, allow us the opportunities to remember the love, the laughter and the memories.  Allow us space to keep the love alive in our heart.

Know that your presence is a gift in and of itself.

Know that we may cling to you for the love and light we are looking for – but you are not responsible for making us “Merry”.

Know that even though it doesn’t take the place of what was lost your love is enough.

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There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen

I was reading through something I had written a year ago and was struck by the clarity, the depth, and the authenticity of it.

At the time I didn’t feel clear at all.  The words just fell onto the page and I just left them, too tired to “fix” them so they were “pretty and sparkly” (aka- perfect).  I have been reminded recently that the more I try to control things, to rearrange them to fit what I “think” they should be- the more frustrated, overwhelmed and overstimulated I get- and the less clear things are.

It reminded me too, that if we allow ourselves the space and the safety to be brave, to be honest, to be open we often have the wisdom within us to find that next step.  Even when we are swirling in the midst of chaos, if we are able to breathe deeply and tap into the core of our being, the Divine spark within us that knows that where we are is where we need to be will guide us there, one step at a time.

I am slowly remembering (again) to release my death grip on control and perfectionism and see the beauty in the process, in the midst of the In-Between.

So to my heart I vow:

I am no longer waiting to see the beauty until it is all cleaned up and sanitized accordingly- but instead see the beauty in the midst of the pain seeking the raw power of a vulnerable heart.

I am trusting in the process to be the important part, not the moment where you survey your work at the end of your life, instead the living the depth of it in the midst of it.

I am willing to believe that we can become strong in the broken places- and that light shines through in the cracks of our foundations and THAT can be beautiful.

I can give myself the same grace and forgiveness that I offer to others, and to surround myself with people who remind me when I forget.

To let these words apply to me too, not just everyone else:

We’re all stumbling towards the light with varying degrees of grace at any given moment.

Bo Lozoff

To remember even the process is beautiful.

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Christmas Light

A friend of mine wrote this prayer when she was looking for the words to soothe an aching heart and couldn’t find them.

Sometimes that is how the In-Between is… we may find what we need in other people, other’s words, and sometimes we need to write it ourselves, to seek our own healing, to seek our own inner wisdom, to take time to search for the hope held deep within ourselves.

Wherever you are in your In-Between may you find peace, may you find rest for the restless nights, may you find light in the midst of darkness, may you hold yourself gently as you navigate your journey.

May the God of unconditional love surround those that are hurting this Advent season. Loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, and loss of relationships can lead into a loss of hope. Help us to nurture the traditions that heal while creating new ways to honor those not physically present this year. As we fill our hearts with the songs of the season, fill our hearts with gentle compassion for the ones finding it hard to prepare for a Silent Night.


~ Alison Feigh


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Mitch and Daniel (one of my favorite pictures)

So these past few weeks with getting the books, starting the disseminating and sharing all of them has been amazing, powerful, overwhelming and lots of FUN!

People are sharing their stories of their response when they first read the book, letting me know their thoughts, letting me know they are proud of me for realizing a dream, telling me who they are going to get the book for and my personal favorite- I have been getting lots of great hugs!

A few of my favorite moments so far:

* At my celebration dinner after my first book signing our waiter turned to me and said softly “Wow, you are an author, that is amazing.  Do you know how amazing that is?  Can I touch it?”  And when I laughed and said, “Of course”, he took my creation, my baby in his hands with such reverence.  Here was this young man who didn’t even know me, but who wanted to celebrate, who wanted to share in a magical moment.

* Getting phone calls of people who are so touched by the book that they simply cry instead of speak, both of us knowing sometimes that words are simply inadequate.

* Seeing people’s smiles as they come up to give me a hug.

* Not being able to finish a meeting at the Coffee Shop because everyone was stopping by to say congratulations.

* Being able to have something in common with so many that is positive.

For so long after Mitch died it seemed that there was this immense outpouring of love and compassion, but the empty space was still there and the love that was given simply echoed in the emptiness.  People were coming by to give hugs, love and support, yet there was an air of sadness and a heaviness that was so pervasive.  With this it is so different.  It is a celebration of a dream reached, there is a lightness, a sense of hope, there is an electricity that is contagious.

A warning to those of you who are stepping forward in bravery- chasing down and achieving dreams is addictive!  The way this book became a reality was by setting little goals that ultimately led to this goal of holding my book in my hands.  And since I am still riding high on completing that one I want to set another goal.  I know the best way to achieve a goal is by telling people about it, people that can hold you accountable, people that can help you achieve it.  So here it is, what I haven’t even allowed myself to voice out loud yet.

By August 7th of 2012 I want to have sold 10,000 books. 

2 reasons:

A large part of who I am is because I am a Minnesotan and as everyone knows Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  Thus 10,000 seems like a fitting number.

August 7th of 2007 is the day we lost Mitch, and I know to the depths of my toes that he would have been my biggest cheerleader in this effort.

One of his favorite songs was Imagine by John Lennon, and it seems fitting to set a lofty goal in his honor.  Mitchell was a dreamer, a large heart in a lanky body that loved hard and lived fast.  He would approve of me doing something that scared me, that stepped me out of my comfort zone.  He was constantly pushing the limits of life, in true boy fashion he was drawn to anything that had wheels and could go faster than your mother would approve of and he was forever encouraging me to stop caring so much what others thought.  “Erica- just live your life the way you want to.”  So this is what I want, and I am going to drive fast and stop asking questions that get in the way of achieving dreams.

Another lesson I have learned along the way, you don’t always have to know the how, you just have to have the desire.   I have found when it is right for me, when it is in service to the greater good, to my purpose here on earth it just unfolds.  As long as I continue to show up, work hard and listen to that little voice of love that I hold inside my heart things work out and the next step appears.

I also know that in living out the question I will get my answers.

So how will I get to 10,000?  I have a feeling that will be where the magic happens, where hard work on my part meets Divine inspiration and perfect placement.  Where by releasing my best work into the world it will find it’s own way on it’s merits and a little help from my friends. Already it has begun to do what I have hoped from the beginning… after people get it, they read it and realize, oh wow, this applies to my mom, my friend, my sister, my aunt… because the truth of the matter is that there are so many times we are in the In-Between… healing, learning, loving, hurting, falling, rising, and growing… and this speaks to that place.

So if you are willing to help out please share this post, this book, this blog, this Facebook page.

And if you want to find out more about the book go here.


And if you have read it, if you have shared it with  others I would love to hear your responses, your thoughts… by far that has been the best part of releasing this dream into the world… hearing how it has touched others.  Leave your comments down below, or on the Facebook page, or by e-mail- compassioninallthings at gmail.com

Thank you for filling me up with your love, my heart is full to overflowing.

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Leaves and Light

All too often when we are in the midst of deep pain we stop.

We stop breathing, we stop hoping, we stop wishing, wanting… the only thing it feels that won’t stop are the tears and the darkness that surrounds us.

And yet, there is a piece of us that always, even in the midst of the darkest night stretches out for that light, for that hope, for that deep breath. But at times that peace and certainty of a new tomorrow feels so far away.

When we are in the mist of chaos and pain our focus narrows, it becomes laser-like focusing only on the pain and darkness.  We feel like this moment is the only moment that exists… and when we are knee deep in blessings, full of laughter and surrounded by joy we want to swim in it, we don’t ever want it to end… and there are the other times… these moments when we stop.  We contract, we don’t allow anything in or out and the pain stretches out beyond what we can see.

It is those times we need to be reminded:

This isn’t the end of the story.

Often this is a new beginning, but it is important to honor the ending.

This pain won’t be this intense forever.

This hurt won’t last.

We will keep breathing, our hearts will keep beating.

It takes a skillful hand and heart to allow us to feel deeply the hurt, the pain, but yet hold this awareness.  In those times we are desperate to hear those words- “it will get better,” “it won’t always be like this,” “just give it time”- … but not at the expense of belittling where we are… it is a delicate balance… this place of accepting where you are, and knowing you won’t be there forever.  This balance of honoring the pain, the past, and stepping into a new future.

Nature does this so skillfully reminding us that we are constantly changing, unfolding, becoming, expanding and contracting.

This why I wrote the In-Between.

To be that voice, to help navigate the delicate balance between accepting where you are and knowing that this isn’t the end of your story.

Because this isn’t the end of your story.



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I was saddened to hear of the passing of Steve Jobs today… but I have also been moved as Facebook has lit up with people sharing quotes, pictures and memories.  And it just solidifies what I already knew, but needed to be reminded of.  People respond to passion, they respond to integrity, to quality, to leadership, to intellect, to kindness, to hope, to love.

People who have found their passion and live it out on a day to day basis shine- and his light shines brightly, even now in the midst of a dark night.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

~ Steve Jobs

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

~ Steve Jobs

Mr. Jobs- Thank you for changing the world.

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Yesterday I woke up to a call from a friend who was in the midst of deep emotional pain.  It was the ending of a relationship, a packing of their life shared into little boxes.  And to no ones surprise she was reminded that life doesn’t fit so neatly into boxes.  There is the unexpected running into momentos, pictures, moments that they had shared, milestones that were celebrated, and now the untangling. The unraveling of lives that had been woven together for the better part of a decade.  Loss, grief and pain were consuming her and darkening her field of vision.

An hour later I was in the salon waiting for my first client.  And as he rose with difficulty his eyes met mine, only they weren’t the same eyes I had looked into the last time I saw him.  This time his eyes were clouded, full of fear and pain.

As he walked slowly, gingerly back to the massage table he was sharing about his back pain.  The fear of the next spasm- the pain that would bring him to his knees, the unpredictability of it, the intensity of it and how his life in the past two weeks had been closed down, reduced to the bare essentials- his life darkened by pain.

Pain- emotional, physical, both bound by it, both deep in the middle of it… both scared of the spasms… both afraid of what comes next… what unsuspecting move or discovery would bring back the blinding pain.

For both the same remedy… touching the tender places, touching gently at first, finding the edge of the pain, finding the borders and the cause, re-introducing the body and the heart to touch that won’t cause pain, breathing in and out, finding safety for sore muscles, for broken hearts.

Both left in different places… both remembering that they are more than their pain, that there was life before, there will be life after- but for now life requires gentleness, modifications of various sorts.  Both require lots of rest and water, getting rid of the toxins, clearing out the residue of fear, and learning to trust again.

Trusting the body, trusting the heart, trusting the healing.

And again it comes back a simple recipe for healing…


Listen to the pain

Attend with gentleness

Find safety for the hurting places

Trust in the process

Seek out comfort

Look for the healing

Once the pain has opened up the way for the new beginning look to the path stepping one foot in front of another.

Keep breathing.

Pain is the one thing that we spend so much of our time avoiding, keeping the house at just the right temperature, keeping ourselves away from any element that might create mess in any form.  Yet, the best of life happens in the mess.  Often the moments of greatest stretching and growth happen in the moment of tension between our comfort zone and the beginning of pain.  Sometimes these moments are ones we consciously invite, and sometimes they are moments that are forced upon us.

Either way we still choose how we respond to pain.  Do we breathe into it, or as Brene Brown talks about “lean into the discomfort.” Or do we constrict our lives, allowing fear to have us focus only the darkness.

It is my hope that you put your faith in the crack of light, that little shaft that breaks through to show us the way back to the light in our life.  My hope that you would trust in healing, trust that as John O’Donohue reminds us “You are more than your pain.”

“Even though life may have moved wearily and painfully through such a person, they have still managed not to let it corrode their soul. In such a face a lovely luminosity shines out into the world. It casts a tender light that radiates a sense of wholeness and wholesomeness.”

John O’Donohue,

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

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Bittersweet and sacred…

Annabelle and "Dotda" on her first day of school

So this will be the first time in this place that I talk about my brother.

August and September are hard months now… they have been for the past four years.

Four years ago at 6am August 7, 2007 my parents called me to say that I had to come home to Minnesota, that Mitch had been in an accident and he wouldn’t be coming home.  On September 15, 2007 his daughter Annabelle was born.

Every year is different with grief, each year it is something different that hits you.  For me the first year was pure shock, the first year was devoted to the all-consuming grief, as Joan Didion so aptly puts it “The Year of Magical Thinking”.  Then the second year it sinks in and life finds it’s way in the cracks and for brief moments I found myself smiling again, making plans for the future again, enjoying bits and pieces of my life, then it feels like from the third year on it is a random hit or miss thing.  Things that used to bother me don’t, and the things I never thought would do… it makes it difficult to predict, and if you can’t predict you can’t control, which for someone who is learning to make peace with the fact that I liked to completely control my life makes me feel out of control and easily overwhelmed.

This translates into exhaustion and desperately wanting off the roller coaster ride of grief.  And quite simply to be done, after all it has been four years, the tears have been cried, the milestones have been lived through, isn’t that enough.  There are moments that it is too tiring and I am desperate to be completely healed, or just simply break… but instead I find myself in this middle place, in my own In-Between (and not the irony isn’t lost on me)… realizing how far I have come, but also being reminded how tender my heart still is.  Sometimes surprised by how quickly the tears can come, and sometimes even more surprised by how they didn’t or won’t.

I didn’t have my words for the past few weeks… and they are coming frustratingly slowly, and haltingly, and for those who know me well know that means I am irritable, frustrated, quiet and crabby.  Words are how I make sense of the world, and instead I was brought back to that place of numbness, of not engaging, of doing everything but sitting in front of the blank page to figure out what threads were begin tugged, what buttons were being pushed and what parts of my heart needed to be held more gently.

And then here it was, in the mail, my authors copy of my book, what I have been waiting for.  And with it are a million to do’s, blogs to write, posters to make, book signing parties to plan, people to tell, e-mails to send, stories to share, high fives to be given, moments to be celebrated and yet… this moment I have waited so long for I felt this shadow, this weight, this otherness…

And here it was on the calendar, all these dates, milestones and reminders that Mitch isn’t here to celebrate with us.

And that is the piece about grief, the bittersweet part… life continues on… even after the loss.
Light finds it’s way into the corners of your heart and you begin to feel again a little at a time.
But yet, there is that place in me, in my body, in my heart that remembers, that knows even before I do what day it is.

To have it be so near to 9/11 where for the United States there is a collective grief, to have so many reminders of loss on Facebook pages, the television, the blogs, everyone asking “where were you?”.  It makes it harder to avoid and simultaneously reminds me how true the words that I scrawled on a napkin after reading the quote somewhere “Grief is universal, grieving is individual.”

And the other day I finally started my words:
Annabelle started preschool 
I went, Mitch didn’t.
The book is here. 
Mitch isn’t. 
But yet it wouldn’t be without grief breaking me open. 
So bittersweet.. 
All of it. 
Not one without the other, all intertwined, grief and growth, love and loss, moving forward and remembering backward… 
This crazy, beautiful, sad, amazing, breathtaking, wonderful life.

And this time I fought less, and listened more to the grief, I surrendered more quickly and remembered that sometimes I just have to stop.

Grief has reminded me:

To listen.

To pay attention.

To hold myself more gently.

To know that four years later, it will still hurt, and there will be moments.

To know that sometimes I won’t have words, but to trust that the words will always come.

To know that I am surrounded by people who find their way to my side at just the right times.

Mitch and I

From my old blog on Feb. 16th of 2011, and it applies today.

So interesting how often when the loss washes over me in the very next breath I am held in love, and all of the blessings, all of the healing, all the love and the light that has been shared with me envelops me… such a sacred place.

Bittersweet and sacred.

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From the Minnesota Quilt Show 2011

When sad, be really sad, sink into sadness. What else can you do? Sadness is needed. It is very relaxing, a dark night that surrounds you. Fall asleep into it. Accept it, and you will see that the moment you accept sadness, it starts becoming beautiful. – Osho

(Thanks to Alana’s post at Life After Benjamin for this powerful quote)

I am beginning to accept and trust that if I truly let myself go into sadness that I will not stay there for longer than I need to.  It gets uncomfortable after awhile, like a sweater that is just a little too small, and I long for the lightness of being, of joy bubbling up… but I have learned how to honor sadness, let it wash over me, do what it will and then watch it ebb away.  And the more freely I allow myself these moments, the more I just sink into sadness, ask it what it wants of me, what does it want to say, the more quickly it responds, and the more easily it retreats.  So often it simply wants the chance to sit with what is in the moment, honor the loss, mourn the empty places and give voice to what was lost before moving on to a full throttle life.

Sadness requires a sitting in the unknown, in the silence, in the empty spaces… and we who are so fast to fill our lives shudder at the thought of an empty space, a moment where we hear our own breath echo in the silence.  But this is an opportunity to touch sadness, to turn it over in our hands, to feel the sharp edges, to see how it fits into our lives adding something even if we can’t quite name what it is yet.

There were so many times in the midst of my deepest grief that I doubted that I would ever feel happy again, that I would ever truly smile again.  The smile that seems to come from deep inside that can’t help but force itself out.  Gratitude was fleeting and so much of me was numb and life felt flat and lifeless.  But over time, bit by bit, there were moments that reminded me to trust, to know that my very being was laced with joy, that my gratitude would return, that my love was never lost, that as Rilke reminds us “no feeling is ever final.”

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
Rainer Maria Rilke

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