22 August 2012


The amazing Della is 21 months old. Plus 13 days.
Last time we were up at camp, she sat on a horse.
She sings.
We play imaginary everything.
She pretends she is a snake
or a frog

Has a pathological fear of spiders.
Has learned from some heathen to make a shriek heard round the world, tangled in with the word NO while going boneless, or pushing off me with all of her strength, or flinging herself backwards out of my arms, or clawing at my face.
I hate it. I'm just sayin'.
I hold my face still. Count to 3 before I respond, but man alive and boy howdy (my two favorite superheros this week), it really really sucks.

She has been insanely wonderful in all of our travels.  Adjusting to new places, back and forth, back and forth. Adjusting to seeing Doug and leaving again.  Adjusting to the changing rhythms of weekends, to daycare.

We still co sleep, which is a mixed blessing.
She still wakes at 4am (Hello Orion! I missed you!)
We are still nursing. (Baby led weaning anyone? um, hello?)

She still loves tractors
Our favorite llama died of old age, so now we are trying to bond with alpacas, which are entirely less fun to say.

She is amazing, people.  I still am rocked by how much I love her. How inept I feel. How blessed. How old. How awestruck.  How lucky. How lucky. How lucky.
And yes, she was, in fact, wearing a giant monkey/sheep/woolen hat with long dark braid-like-objects while eating breakfast (cheerios = yar yars). Don't you?

20 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Day 20 Truth

So, yes, this month of Mindful Healing is not going to be a whole month after all, not a month of posts anyway. It turns out that (*SURPRISE*) thinking/talking/writing about grief and healing is profoundly difficult.  It has positive power (yay transformation!), but also an unavoidable power to keep me pulled down, when really, I am wanting to be pulled up. No, not like a flower, more like a sock.

Here we are.

I want to offer this to you:  healing can come from focus, but it can come from rest. It can be all about intensity, work, process... it can also be about letting it be, leaving it alone, stopping the incessant poking.

Of course, this is how I got into my encapsulation problem, where I created pockets of brand new grief, tucked in there, covered in scar tissue and optimism, created by the false hope that avoidance would result in some miraculous behind the scenes healing.
So I am not advocating avoidance.

But I am advocating being true to yourself.  As I am about to be right here, right now.

We survive our losses by whatever means possible. Breath by breath by breath by breath. I made myself eat. I slept when my body and mind allowed. I moved. I got clean, got dressed, went into the world. No, not every day. No, not always well. No not always.
Often and often with surprise, memories kick in for me, like stepping on a hoe. It is sudden, it is intense, it is difficult. And then there are anniversaries that are tailor-made for emotional slogginess. And oh, this year I wanted so much to do something, anything, that would make this time of year less shitty.

This year I made a promise to myself to do something differently, and I did. And it has been wonderfully and surprisingly healing. It has, indeed, been mindful. It has been transformative. I have come up with some new grief management skills that I will use forever more.

This morning, I woke to a starry sky at 4am, cold clear air.  A need for socks and a sweater. And a feeling, deep down and true, that I am done with this for now. This particular inquiry. I need to stop poking, however productive it has been. I need to let it rest. Let me rest from it as well. I survived the anniversary, and I am ready to not be working on it with such intensity, however mindful, however gentle and well-intentioned.

there you have it.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

15 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Day 15 your story

For those of you along for this journey, I wanted to write about telling our stories. Specifically, the twin challenges of working/living/loving alongside those who know your story, and those who don't.

It sucks rocks to have to tell your story to someone new. It sucks to watch their face register the pain of the new information, it sucks even to feel the compassion. And oh, how it sucks to tell it.

It also sucks to have folks who have known you through your loss continue to feel like you are broken,  or in need of protecting, or to feel that somehow they continue to see you through the lens of your loss. It makes it very hard to move forward.

But it also is hard to feel broken, feel in need of protecting, and in the midst of living through the lens of our loss, while others feel it is time we move on, get over it, focus on the positive things that are happening in our lives.

It sucks rocks to be someone with this story.

But try to remember, there is power here too (hidden maybe)- power to connect, power of compassion, power of sensitivity that others don't necessarily have...

No wise words here, just yes, I get it.
There are no secrets here. No tried and true. Just suckitude.

We awoke this morning to a vibrant glowing orange sky.
As we watched, it got brighter and brighter, then lightning, thunder, and a slow turn from orange to gray as dawn truly turned to sunrise.

This week of travel and no daycare has resulted in sporadic time for anything external-- full time Della means no time or chance to post.
I'm rolling with it, since this time is a gift.
Time in the car means time to think. Time away from the computer feels like half relief, half panic. So many things piling into my inbox that need the kind of attention I don't have to offer in this moment.
Learning to let it be, oh my, is so challenging!
But the thinking has been fruitful, and the time with Della is intense and wonderful.
I will resurface next week.

11 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Day 11 Transformation

By date, this is my hardest day.

But this year, by the mere (and mighty) act of deciding to transform this month into something positive, something mindful and intentional, not something that I am at the mercy of moment to moment...well, something shifted, something transformed, something happened to loosen a grip on my heart that has been holding tight for 9 years.

I do not know what in me has finally allowed this transformation to occur-- maybe it was time passing, maybe it was being tired of feeling so at the mercy of memory and regret, maybe it was just luck that I stumbled on some combination that is allowing me to put forth positive energy while, yes, still remembering.

I'm still actively shoving things aside, don't get me wrong.
But each time my heart wants to put a timeline on this day versus that one, or wants to replay things I know to be true, things I saw, things I heard, I am finding it *easier* to jump off into a memory I believe to be positive. One I can hold that is not about me, not about the loss, but just a good memory. I know I am lucky to have one. I know I am lucky to have this work.  I am lucky to have this outlet, this one, here on blogger.  I am lucky that I can talk about this at all. I am lucky in a million ways.

But for me, the past nine Augusts have always felt like minefields.  Ones I knew to be strewn with mines, not just the possibility, but the certainty. It was a question of when, not whether.

This year, through this act of mindfully cultivating healing and self care each day, gentleness, compassion, all I can say is wow.

It has been transformative for me.

I questioned and question whether this is the right forum for this particular series, but I am connected to no other population that has experienced nested losses quite like this one. I hope that by writing it out, reminding us all to extend ourselves some latitude, gentleness, compassion, and awareness of how complex loss can be, maybe some of you are feeling a little more healed or at least feel that incremental healing is possible.

That would be my wish.  That we all can heal a little bit more, and let positive transformations happen, even (or especially) when they are totally unexpected.

10 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Day 10 Breathing

There is a deep fatigue in loss, isn't there? There is so much to carry.

Sometimes, things spiral. Memory, regret, longing.

What if, for this moment, and maybe the next, we just try to be mindful of our breathing. We don't have to try to do anything else. We don't have to be anyone else. We don't have to pretend or imagine or regret. We don't have to wish or long for...
We can just be.

A few days ago I posted a short audio meditation as an assist for "I am here, in this moment" (under 3 minutes long).

I'm going to post it again here, because really?  The only way through anything is breath by breath by breath.
And not every moment has to be filled with heavy lifting.

Today I invite us all to return to this moment, to breathing in this air, to breathing out this breath. 

Background music is Healing Relaxation With Tibetan Singing Bowls

08 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Day 8 Identity

As part of our healing process, it helps to admit that with our loss, came the loss of one or more identities, roles, personas, facets of our selves as we were, were becoming, or hoped to become.
There is such power in projecting forward our hopes for ourselves and our lives and our loved ones. We connect to an outcome, or the status quo. 

I introduce myself-- I am Kate, I am a ____ usually filled in with workstuff
but really, aren't we all a million different things?

Some of these are contextual
some are permanent
some are transitory
some are things we can have or achieve again 
and some are not

Like innocence, loss of identity can be staggering.
Who am I now? is such an existentially frightening question.

In the moments after loss, this can be profound.
But it turns out, for many of us, there are longer term implications too. 
We will forever be the person who experienced the loss.

So, I invite you to join me in an intention-- 
just for today I will honor the lost parts
and I will hold myself gently in cupped hands, light streaming through the seams, glued imperfectly... no, not back together, but into something new.

07 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Day 7 Innocence

With loss comes loss of innocence.
Suddenly, there we are.
We cannot unknow it.
We cannot undo it.
We cannot not have it have happened.
We cannot ever be the person we were before.

Wisdom comes, yes, but the expense. Oh, the expense.
Fear can come too-- fear that something like this could happen again. Conscious fear, unconscious fear, ride shotgun, whispering worry.

But it cracks us open to a different kind of compassion. A different way of knowing. A different way we can connect to other people.

It is one of the things that makes this medium, this internet, so powerful.  We connect over countless miles, different cultures, different languages, over losses that are somehow shared experiences. Not replicas.  But over the solace of hearing
Yes, I have been in that trench.
Yes, I have fought that fight.
Yes, I have been wounded too.

There is such a profound potential for connection, for offering and receiving compassion.

Just for today, imagine extending yourself the same compassion you would extend a stranger-- gentle understanding, room for whatever is coming up, support, kindness.

I think of the stones that line my shelves, the ones worn smooth from untold waves, of salt and sand.
The ones I picked up warm from the sun, piled into my pockets for comfort.
Their velvet softness a response to a billion minute collisions.

06 August 2012


No photo actually looks exactly like Della-- it is as if the thing that is she is present in the kineticism, in the wildness, the glint, the saunter....
but this photo?
Yes, she looks like this sometimes, if you can imagine it as a pause between this moment and the next one... but that glint?
YUP.  All Della.

Taken this weekend up where Doug is working-- found it on his facebook and wanted to share.

Mindful Healing, Day 6 Collateral damage

No loss is simple.
When we lose something, there are often many other things we lose along the way. Faith, hope, expectations, dreams, a future we envisioned, peace, identity.

Today I invite you to acknowledge that there might be unresolved pieces, futures and dependencies you might not even know you had started to create, build up and build on. I invite you to acknowledge them even if you don't know what they are.

This is not about intention, or lack of intention.
This is not about setting ourselves up.
This is not about foolishness or delusion.
These pieces-- doesn't it make sense that they are the natural byproduct of hope?-- ideas and emotional connections cast forward into a future with some expectation (however unconscious) of how things might be or become.

This is about all the things that come along for the ride when we begin down a path.
Yes, our fears are along for the ride too (go check out Sprogbloggers most excellent post).
But this post is about all of the things that line the sunny side of the road, all of the good things we imagine that will be.

The fact is, I know of only some of my pieces of hope. But I am still, all these years later, realizing just how many there were and are.

So how do we best deal with this unfinished business? This hope, or that one, that we suddenly realize or eventually realize is tied up to what we hoped would happen? These bits that are not central to the loss, but are often central to who we are and who we let ourselves become?

I think the best we can do is hold ourselves gently and offer heartfelt compassion to both who were were then, and who we are now. We did and we do the best that we can.

I think that we need to be more gentle with ourselves when we catch ourselves in our whatiffing. In our whatmighthavebeens. In our ifonlyies.  In our perhaps unfolding awareness that our loss means the loss of so much more.   Be gentle--Your future, as you envisioned it consciously or unconsciously, shifted out from under your feet. You may feel out of whack in ways that you cannot explain, or in ways you cannot articulate.  These places of unmet hope, of unmet expectations need healing too.  They may need a bit of attention, perhaps even a bit of grief, a bit of letting go, even if we do not know all that they are, or all that they impact.

Be aware that there might be an undercurrent holding you to these nested losses, that these too might be links we hold as connections to what we lost. So it is not necessarily as easy as brushing dust from our hands, saying There, enough of That.

I offer this intention and invite you to do the same:  
Just for today, even if I do not know all of the details of all of the repercussions of my loss, I admit and acknowledge that there were plenty.  
I will accept (for today) the fact that some I will know, and some I will never know.
But no matter what, I will be gentle with myself as they come up, and release them as best I can. 
I will also meditate on releasing all of the tangled bits I will never fully know, imagining combing them out, perhaps twining them around my hand, imagining placing them lovingly in a basket tied to a balloon, imagining releasing them. 

03 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Days 3-5 First do no harm

I'll be mostly offline until Monday, so I'll offer all of us this seemingly simple assignment for the next few days:

Let's be gentle with ourselves.
Let's be mindful of when we are doing more harm than good. Even if the harm is disguised as habit.
Let's try to make choices that lighten and simplify...
and let's give ourselves permission to not make decisions that we are not ready to make, to not make plans, to not say yes, to not say no.  Let's give ourselves permission to buy time, say, we'll see, to wait until we know more or know more clearly what we truly want or what we can truly handle.
For the next few days, imagine that we are a close friend. How would we treat us? What words would we choose to speak? What support would we offer? What diversions would be create? What laughter would we find? What gentle touch, what compassion, what kindness would come?

Give yourself that.
Go on, try it.
I'll try too.

See you monday.

02 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Day 2 Being here now

Welcome to day 2!

A particularly tenacious aspect of grief is the rip tide, the undercurrent that pulls us back again and again and again... memories, upwellings, reminders, regret... they all keep us rooted in and connected strongly and immediately to the past event, while keeping the feelings fresh and present.  It can be hard to stay present in this moment, this one.

After yesterday's toughie, I thought we could all use a little break.
So today, I offer a gentle exercise in mindfully being here now.

This takes just a few minutes-- seriously, like a minute (my-noot) re-boot.

Find your mind racing/retracing?
Gently say, "stop". You can whisper it. You don't need to yell. I bet it is tired anyway.
Let it know you'll get back to it in a moment, but in This moment, you are going to take a well-deserved break.

I find that if I say stop and tap my thigh, I can stop saying stop, and that the tap will continue to work to remind me to come back to the present moment. I can often get myself out of grief loops this way.

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes if you want, or softly focus your eyes on something neutral to pleasant....
While you Breathe in (slowly but not with effort): say to yourself, "I am here"
As you breathe out: "In this moment"

Would you like audio assistance? Here's a short (under 3 minutes) guided exercise:

Background music is Healing Relaxation With Tibetan Singing Bowls

If ideas and thoughts come in, gently say stop, or tap your thigh, and let yourself return to the repetition of I am here, in this moment.

I invite you to try doing this for just a few minutes.
See if anything shifts for you, if anything comes up, if anything releases just a little bit.

Ok, so I did not use the word meditation until now, since meditation can seem kind of intimidating, but really, meditation is just this: mindfully coming back to this moment, again and again and again.

Want a more kinetic (but not frenetic) version?  Try walking meditation--walk very slowly, letting each foot fully contact the ground before moving the back foot forward.... and simply pay close attention to each foot as it is coming into contact with the ground.  Focus on arriving, not leaving.  Thich Nhat Hanh, the well known Buddist monk and peace advocate, says when he does walking meditation, with each step, he repeats, I am arriving, I am arriving, I am arriving, or, perhaps more powerfully for some of us, I am home, I am home, I am home. (A thank you to Oprah's interview with him on Super Soul Sunday several months back for this insight).

Want the assistance of some sweet visuals?
Just want to have a 2 minute break (with or without guided meditation) anytime?
Go to www.calm.com

Remember, you can take mini breaks throughout your whole life if you remember to do this-- just quietly fall into it, and for a few breaths while you wait in that checkout line or for the water to boil or that file to load.... just bring yourself back to this moment, this moment, this moment, this moment.

01 August 2012

Mindful Healing, Day 1 Shame

Jumping right in to my month of mindful healing with a toughie since it is what was rattling my cage as I awoke this morning:
Let's talk about shame.

Yikes, right?
Now wait, don't click away; this may be gentler than it may appear.
It does not require you feeling any additional shame.
Or doing any deep delving into discomfort or cause and effect.
Or replaying.

This is about acknowledging that, for many of us, grief is tangled up with guilt and shame.
And most of us know what our shame triggers are, or at least are familiar with some of them.
And this is about releasing the grip that shame has on our hearts. Even if it just releases a little, wouldn't that additional space be a great thing?

Ok, first and most importantly:  If you do not feel safe, don't do this.
Let me repeat,
if this does not feel safe, just don't do this.
Don't even read it.
Screw it.
This is about healing, not hurting.  And if this hurts? There are better ways to use your time toward healing your heart.

Promise me, heck, promise you, that you'll stop if it sucks, ok?

Option 1: Quietly speaking the truth so that your heart can hear it.
Try saying out loud (even a whisper into your cupped hands counts):
I acknowledge my feeling of shame, but I was not and am not responsible for what happened.

Then imagine letting it go, imagine the words sitting cupped in your palms and then blow them away as if they are dandelion seeds, and imagine them floating away.

You do not need to repeat any details at all about what happened, you already know them by heart.
Just whisper and gently, compassionately, release the words.

If it feels right, you can do this again and again, feeling the weight lessen each time (the first time is hardest).  You may find yourself speaking louder as the weight lifts. Or you may find this goes deeper and deeper and once is PLENTY.
Trust yourself.

You can repeat this for other facets of the shame-- be careful and mindful to use language that supports your highest and best.

Option 2: If you'd rather do something more tangible, write it down.
Again, write the acknowledgement of the shame, and then state the reverse of the thing that is causing shame. EVEN IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE IT (yet). Use "for what happened" in place of the event, don't replay it.

Then, shred it. Light it on fire. Release it/transform it in some way that allows it to not be buried or hidden (for example, don't paint over it)-- truly let it be gone.

It is important to acknowledge it, but it is also important to not dwell.

To close, be very gentle with yourself.  Open your eyes, engage your brain in the here and now, and really look at something way out in the distance--trees, clouds, sky, things that are big and real and current and humbling....
really see what you are looking at, this sky, this cloud, that tree...
put your hand over your very big loving heart, fill yourself with as much love as you can muster and whisper (inside your head is fine):
No matter what I may think or feel, I deserve healing. I deserve wholeness. 

Ground yourself in the here and now. Wiggle those toes.  Breathe deeply, taking in this moment.  In this moment, nothing is happening but compassion and healing.