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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Changing the Facebook page…


I’m so encouraged by the response I received from my most recent post.  Sooooo many emails and a couple of public responses.  I thank all of you for your kind words.  It meant a lot to me to hear, not only your feedback, but your words of support for me personally.  I really am okay…improving every day and feeling so much better.

The one constant was that everyone agreed that making the Facebook page a closed group would be beneficial so that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m inviting all of you who follow Translating Grief on WordPress only or via email to head over to my Facebook page and give it a like.  In about a week, I’ll change the status to a closed group.  It’s my understanding that those who have already liked the page will stay in the group.  Anyone after that will need to be approved by the administrators (who is only me at this time!).

I’m really hoping that the closed group will provide a place for those who are hurting to be open and honest, to give support, to seek support, to have lively, respectful discussions about topics related to grief and to be a go-to resource for supports on the web and in the community.


Posted in Bereavement counseling, Coping with Grief, Counseling, Grief, Support Systems, Supporting a Griever, Telephone Counseling, Translating Grief | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A personally tough winter…


This past winter has been one of the toughest for me personally for a couple of reasons. One is health related and one is house related.  I’ll start with the latter…

In December of last year, we had a flood in the downstairs of our house.  It started in the bathroom (the toilet backed up and spewed dirty water into the air!!) and destroyed both adjacent bedrooms.  One of those bedrooms is my home office.  When ServiceMaster came to clean things up, they tore out sheetrock, all the carpeting, cleaned everything completely and threw away anything that touched the sewage water.  When they left, it looked like the disaster area it was.  It took until just last week to complete the renovation of the bathroom and both bedrooms.

Meanwhile, I had no office and had to work in the regular part of my house…either in the family room,  or at the dining room or kitchen table.  Except for my clients, everything else was just harder to get done.  I would find my mind drifting to the floor that needed sweeping or the furniture that needed dusting or the dishwasher that needed emptying and I never seemed to get anything work-related done.  Or maybe I used it as an excuse to do nothing work-related because of the second issue…

For the last 25 years, I’ve been coping with a chronic illness.  After countless doctors and appointments and tests and even a couple of surgeries, I was still sick.  This past year has been the hardest and things just seemed to get worse and worse…to the point that I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything and I was beginning to feel depressed and hopeless and isolated.  Once I recognized that I was spiraling into a very dark place, I called my regular doctor and made an appointment.  She recommended a new specialist who has turned out to be a godsend.  He listened, ran more tests, continued to listen and finally provided the correct diagnosis and, more importantly, what to do about it.  I’m now following the instructions to a tee and am beginning to feel so much better physically. More substantial to me is that I am feeling so much better emotionally and I feel hopeful that I can at least have some control over it going forward.  It is still a chronic issue and I can never let up, but I’m no longer feeling depressed and I once again have energy and hope and motivation.

That said, while I was at my lowest, I found a few closed support groups on Facebook that became absolutely invaluable.  While I do have an excellent support system, they simply don’t understand what it’s really like day in and day out.  The people in those groups do. We are comrades in the trenches together.  It was such a relief to be able to ask questions and comment knowing that even my family and friends couldn’t see what I was posting. There is a real freedom in that and it got me thinking…

Over the years of posting on this blog, there have been very few public comments and many many private email comments.  Now I know why.  I get it and I’ve decided that I’m going to make my Facebook page a closed group in the hopes of allowing others to comment and post freely without having to worry about what their family and friends will think or say.  It just makes sense to me.  I hope that it will become a safe place for discussions of all kinds related to grief and loss (of people, pets and things) and caregiving and living with illness and anything else we can think to talk about.

I’d like to know what your thoughts are about a closed Facebook group.  Would you be interested in participating in open, honest discussions in a forum no one else but members can see?  Do you belong to other closed groups that have been helpful?

As always, if you’re not comfortable posting in the comment section, you can email me at or call me at 1.315.765.6530.




Posted in Bereavement counseling, Bereavement Support Group, Coping with Grief, Counseling, Grief, Moods, Support Systems, Supporting a Griever, Telephone Counseling, Translating Grief | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments