I’m still here! Translating Grief is in transition, but I am still accepting new clients and counseling existing clients. The phone number that has been listed for Translating Grief (518.930.2429) is no longer in service. I am only accepting contact via email @ translatinggrief@gmail.com. Once an appointment is made, I provide my phone number. I’ll try to change that on the site wherever I find it, but wanted to state it here.

I’ve moved location and am in flux home-wise. We had hoped to purchase a home by now, but the right property is hard to find! So we are apartment dwellers – happily so for now – and I have not marketed or advanced Translating Grief in any way since moving last year. When it is re-launched, it will change somewhat (offering in person sessions, on-line classes, etc.), but that is quite a way out…probably a year or more.

Here’s wishing you all a peaceful and healthy New Year.


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Wisdom of The Doctor


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It’s not crystal clear, but this is my favorite photo of Gracie.  She was the quirkiest dog I’ve ever known.  We were on our way to the kennel and she was in the very back of my SUV.  She always loved to ride in the car…

About a week after our dog, Emily, died, my son was home from college and wanted to be part of the picking out another female dog.  We still had George, our golden lab/German shepherd mix and he was really struggling without Emily to tell him what to do.  Against my better judgement and with a heart that was grieving deeply and not ready to welcome another dog, the four of us (husband, son, daughter and me) went to the local humane society to take a look at what they had.

Humane societies are the saddest places.  All of those dogs and we could only take one home with us!!  We chose a couple to get to know.  The first one was waaaaayyyyy too energetic and young.  We prefer dogs a bit older.  My daughter chose one and she was brought into the little room with us.  All four of us sat on the floor and this dog kept going back and forth between my son and husband, completely ignoring the girls.  The boys seemed to really like her and then…THEN…she put her paws up on my husband’s shoulders, looked deeply into his eyes and licked him on the face.  I kid you not.  You know how in the old cartoons, when something happens and hearts start to circle around a characters head when they fall in love.  Yeah.  Hearts around my husband’s head.  That dog was going home with us.

We renamed her Gracie because we already had a George.  Those of you of a certain age – ahem – will recognize the names of the famous comedy team George Burns and Gracie Allen (still my favorite duo).  However, if we had waited a bit, we would have named her Kitty.  She had apparently been living in a basement with cats for quite some time and had adopted cat-like behavior.  We always said she was a terrible dog, but a great cat.

Once we got her home and settled in, we noticed other things about her.  Like how fast she could run.  We’d go for walks with her and George and she would literally jump over him to pass him on a trail.  So we nicknamed her Gracie Gazelle.  We also occasionally called her Pretty Pretty Princess because when she came back from the groomers, she would prance around KNOWING how adorable she looked.  She liked to be clean.  Like a cat.


She had a habit of crawling up onto my husband’s lap and snuggling around his neck.  Like a cat.  And she even head-bumped.  Like a cat.  She ignored people when they came onto our property or into our home.  Like a cat.  I think she thought it was beneath her to bark.

Gracie was a unique mix.  Part German Shepherd.  Part Husky.  Part Doberman.  She had half a blue eye.  A big, fluffy Husky tail.  A floppy ear (what one vet called a cocked ear – one up and one down).  She used to curl up in a ball like Husky’s do…and like cats do.  She loved to be outside, especially if the weather was cold.  And she loved to take a nap on the lawn while it was snowing.  Her Huskyness ran deep, though she looked more like a Shepherd.

She was always a perpetual puppy.  Until she got old.  Literally overnight.  We noticed last Spring that she seemed older.  Slower.  Less interested and less responsive.  As the summer passed, she started falling and listing to one side.  She started sleeping more, going out less and for shorter and shorter periods of time.

Then my husband had a dream.  In it, George was sitting up on a hill on beautiful green grass under a bright blue sky.  He was looking backwards, over his shoulder beckoning to be followed.  At first, my husband thought George was waiting for him, but then realized he was waiting for Gracie.  They had been great companions, great friends.  That was the first big cry we had…knowing that the end was near for Gracie.

Over the course of the next month, she began to decline rapidly.  Naturally, she waited until we were out of town to have a major series of strokes.  Not only were we out of town two hours away, but it was our 35th wedding anniversary and we were supposed to leave for a vacation the next morning.  While my husband canceled our vacation reservations, I packed up our stuff (I had spoken at a conference earlier that day) and we headed home.  My daughter and her boyfriend took care of her until we could get home, God bless them.  That was a long two hours for all of us.   One look and we knew it was time.  We loaded her in the car, drove through tears to the emergency vet and prepared to say good-bye to our Pretty Pretty Princess.


As we were waiting for the vet, I noticed for the first time that when Gracie was laying down, the patch on her chest looks like a heart and I snapped this picture.  It might seem a bit morbid to do that, but to me it was comforting…like a sign of love from our departing girl.

The vet was amazing.   Compassionate.  Thoughtful.  Mindful of Gracie’s needs and ours.  She gave us time with her to let us say our goodbyes and our thank yous and express our love and appreciation.  Then she came in and Gracie was gone quickly and painlessly.  An end to her seizure, to her pain and to her life.

Rest in peace, Gracie.



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Grief is a lot like…menopause?!



Bear with me now….Grief has been compared to so many things — waves, storms, shipwrecks, ping pong balls — but I’ve never heard it connected to menopause.  My brain just does funny things when I’m watching someone have a hot flash…or when I’m experiencing the joys of one myself.

Recently I’ve spent a bit of time with a woman I love who happens to be hot flashing her way through menopause.  She can’t get through a day or sleep through a night without multiple hot flashes.  Maybe you know the kind.  Toes to nose heat.  Full body sweats. Flushing.  Discomfort.  Embarrassment in public.  Not fun. Really – REALLY – not fun.

Because I’m a grief counselor, everything relates in some way to grief and loss in my mind. As I watched her flash, it occurred to me that there are, indeed, parallels to a grief journey. Here are my 4 A’s connecting the two:

Assault.   You have no control over when it begins.  Menopause just starts when it starts. Your grief starts when it starts – when you lose someone or something you love.  There it is in all its…glory?…somehow that doesn’t fit…in all its nastiness?  confusion? intrusiveness?  The symptoms are involuntary.  You are going to experience menopause whether you want to or not — assuming you’re a woman 😉  You are going to experience grief no matter how hard you try to run away from it, avoid it, or repress it.  It bubbles up. Trust me.  It bubbles up.

Ache.  Hot flashes and the other joys of menopause occur whenever they darn well please. It’s the same with grief ‘attacks’.  Triggers pop up.  Sometimes you can see them coming. Sometimes they ambush you and overwhelm you – toes to nose – and there is no stopping it.  It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of a grocery store or in the privacy of your own home. It hurts.  It intrudes.  It’s complicated and confusing and painful and we just want it to go away.

Adjustment.  This life becomes your new life.  Your adjusted life.  What was before is no longer the same.   It is different now.  Life has unalterably changed.  In menopause, it feels like a betrayal of your body.  The way that it functioned.  The way you could depend on it. The way you viewed it.  Now it is acting with a mind of its own.  The same for grief.  It definitely has a personality.  It has a life of its own.  Its own emotions.  Its own reactions – sometimes at the least convenient times.  It is always with you.  Always present. And you learn to live with it.  Both of them.  They become your companions.  Your -as my daughter in law says – second pair of underwear.  Over time you learn ways to cope.  The woman I love carries around a little plastic portable fan.  She sleeps with the air conditioning on full blast AND a fan…and sometimes those are not enough.  She’s tried a lot of remedies, some Western, some non-traditional.  None helped.  Coping with grief is much the same way. We are all so individual, so unique, that what works for one may not work for another. In fact, I’m not sure anything “works”.  There is nothing anyone can say or do that will remove the pain of grief.  But I will offer these as nearly universal coping tools:  1.  find at least one person with whom you can talk openly and honestly.  Someone who will not judge you or try to talk you out of your grief.  Someone who will enter into your space and love you through the worst of the pain.  2.  Allow yourself to sit in the pain.  It hurts. Avoidance is counter-productive.  Lean into it.  Identify it.  Feel it.  Experience it.  And then breathe it out and move onto the next thing.

Attitude.  Both menopause and grief are facts of life.  There is no escaping them.  But we don’t have to be destroyed by them.  Facing either head on, head up, eyes and hearts open can be incredibly empowering.  Embracing our changes, our lessons, our uniqueness, our flashes, our triggers,  in the face of them, is what helps us to grow.  Eventually we develop more compassion for others who are experiencing what we have experienced.  A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.  I’m not saying that smiling, or talking, or thinking positive is the solution to either one.  I’m saying that there is growth and empowerment and, even, meaning in the struggle.  We are changing.  We are growing.  We are becoming.  How and where and who is up to us.

As always, if you’d like to make an appointment to discuss your journey, please email or call me.  I offer a free consultation to see if we are a good fit.






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Don’t speak to fill the space….



So…we were binge watching Orange is the New Black and a character died (no spoilers from me).  When another character wanted to offer condolences to the grieving “family”, yet another character warned her to not say “She’s in a better place” and not to “speak to fill the space”.  I chuckled when she said that last bit because that’s what so many people do.  Being uncomfortable with the kind of pain someone is experiencing – and likely expressing – causes people to just try to fill the space with unintentionally painful or, even, hurtful words.  It’s not necessary to fill the space when offering condolences.  Just being there is important.  And, please, for heaven’s sake, never never NEVER say “I know just how you feel”.  This article is a comprehensive collection of how others offered their condolences.  It’s a looooonnnngggg list, but might give you some ideas about how to comfort someone who is hurting beyond words…



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The stages of grief (a few more than five)

Especially for those who’ve lost a child…but applies to any deep grief. So authentic and real…

Retro Girl & the Chemo Kid


I don’t believe in those five stages of grief. There are plenty of other theories around. This isn’t one of them.

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Freedom isn’t free…

Punch bowl cemetery

This is a photo I grabbed off the internet of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, more commonly known as Punch Bowl Crater.  We visited there on a family trip in 2004 following my son’s college graduation and it happened to be Memorial Day….which is also the day he was born.  The location of this cemetery is stunning, but what really struck me is that every.  single.  grave.  had an American flag and either a lei or a bouquet of tropical flowers or both.  The fragrance from this is impossible to describe.  The sight of all those flags on all those graves in a such a stunningly beautiful place is paradoxical.

There is a monument at one end of the crater (picture below).  It’s massive and as you get closer to it, you begin to realize that each of those walls leading up the top of the steps is filled – FILLED – with the names of those who died in the Pacific in all conflicts.  It’s literally breathtaking, in that it takes your breath away to see so many names.  It’s a little like I felt when I saw the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC for the first time, only there were so many more names on this monument.  So many more people lost in war.

punch bowl cemetery 3

Memorial Day is all about remembering those who died in service.  Those who joined or were drafted and signed on the dotted line to give everything, up to and including their life for this country.  The sacrifice goes farther in that the loved ones also serve out a life sentence without them.

As you go through this weekend and celebrate the beginning of summer here in the USA, please take a moment and remember.

Remember the service.

Remember the sacrifice.

Remember the loved ones.

Freedom is not free and I am personally grateful for those who paid the price.







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Open Mind Friday

open mind friday

cracks with light shining through

What are your thoughts on the above quote?  Is there truth to it?  Can there be beauty in pain?  “Beauty from ashes”?  What has your experience been?

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Mother’s Day for those of us with crappy mothers…



mother's day for those of us with crappy mothers

My mother threw me out of her house when I was 15.  It was the week after Mother’s Day and just after she married her live-in boyfriend without telling me.  I’ll spare you the details of the actual night, and the events leading up to it, when she literally told me to get out around 10 pm on a school night.  Fortunately, gratefully, my father took me in to live with him, his new wife and her three kids (but that’s another story).


About 3 years later, I attempted a reconciliation at the behest of my grandmother.  Let’s just say it went poorly.  We parted ways again and that was the end of that.  It will be 40 years next week that I have been motherless.  Before you feel sorry for me, let me tell you that it was the best thing she could possibly have done for me.  Without her toxicity – and through a whole lot of bumpy years followed by counseling – I was able to learn and grow and thrive and become who I am now.  And I like the me I am now.


For the first decade or two, Mother’s Day was a challenge.  I was full of anger and resentment and bitterness and my thoughts were always about her and how she abandoned me…even after becoming a mother myself, I still focused on her.  Then…I didn’t anymore…partly as a result of counseling, partly as a result of my own motherhood, partly as a result of aging out of it.


Now, Mother’s Day is a day to think back on my own motherhood.  To remember my children as they grew up and how they are now.  To take pride in the fact that without my own mother’s guidance, I (well, my husband and I 😉 ) raised two awesome adults.  To rest in the knowledge that my sister and I broke the cycle of toxic mother-daughter relationships.


Getting to a place where Mother’s Day is no longer painful for me took the following:


  1. Find people who understand.  You will hear this from many people when they learn that you no longer communicate with your mother or don’t like her:  “But she’s your mother!!”, or “But you only have one mother!”.  Gah.  These people are not your tribe.  The ones who – even if they don’t fully understand – don’t judge you and listen empathetically are your tribe.  It’s not like you have to form a crappy mother’s club, but it helps to have people around you who at least try to understand.


  1. Consider counseling. I found a great counselor many years ago, when I was in my late 20’s, and I saw her weekly for almost a year and then every two weeks for another year.  It helped.  Oh, how it helped!  We were very very poor then and really couldn’t afford it, but we agreed that the investment was worth it, our marriage was worth it, my life was worth it.


  1. Find other women to help fill the void. Now, I’m not suggesting to go out and find another mother.  I found myself naturally attracted to forming relationships with older women.  If there was someone 20 years older than me in the room, I wanted to talk to her.  Before we go and get all psychoanalytical here, let me say that I wasn’t looking for a mother replacement, I was looking to glean wisdom from them.  There are just some life lessons that can’t be learned from people our own age or from a counselor (and that hurts to say since I’m a counselor!).  I’m simply suggesting to have a conversation, whenever you are given the opportunity, with someone older and wiser and from whom you might learn something.


  1. Focus on other mother’s on Mother’s Day. Are there mothers in your life that you might like to compliment?  Are there women in your life who have helped you along the way or supported you or guided you?  Reach out to them and thank them or simply acknowledge what a great job they are doing as a mom.


  1. Pamper yourself. Your needs are just as valid as anyone else’s needs.  If Mother’s Day is painful for you then acknowledge that.  Marinate in it.  Take the day for yourself.  Have a good cry.  Binge on Netflix.  Take a hike by yourself.  Surround yourself with people you love.  Do whatever brings you peace.


  1. If you are a mother, try to stay in the moment with your own child/ren. Enjoy them, enjoy being a mom, enjoy those sticky hands and the messy kitchen from breakfast in bed and the joy on their little faces when they try to make you happy.



This is by no means a comprehensive list of how to help yourself through a Mother’s Day, but these are some of the things that helped me get through them when they were hard.


If you had/have a crappy mother, what are some ways that you cope with Mother’s Day?




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The Saga of Changing the Facebook Page…


Oh man.  I thought it would be easy breezy to just change the privacy setting on my existing Facebook page from public to a closed group.  Nope.  After searching and searching and searching for the answer, I found it, as my granddaughter would say, ‘by my own’.  I didn’t need a techie-minded millennial to help me after all 🙂  Problem is, it’s not a simple fix.  What I have to do is completely delete the current PAGE and create a different GROUP.  It also means that anyone who has liked or is following that page will not be automatically moved to the new group.  They will have to find it and follow it again.

I don’t have that many Facebook followers to begin with and I expect it will take some time to build up a following.  That translates into few people reading my very clever and well thought out 😉 posts and even fewer commenting.  It’s hard to have a lively dialogue when there isn’t anyone there!!  Still…I’m stubborn and intend to keep on keepin’ on by posting and asking and discussing until such a time as there are people who are reading and responding and discussing.

I’m not sure how long it takes between the deletion of the current page and the allowable start time of a closed group with the same name, but I hope you will stay with me and eventually follow my Facebook group.

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