When an old man dies…

library burns

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From the archives: Top 10 Ways to Memorialize Someone on a Holiday

Top 10 Ways to Memorialize Someone on a Holiday...

On ‘ordinary’ days it’s easy to wear the public mask on the outside and pretend all is well on the inside. But there’s something different about gatherings, especially on a holiday. The loss seems larger, more present, more painful. It can feel like a performance in a play as we wrestle with the increased intensity of our emotion. Usually, the others present at these holiday gatherings are also missing your person. Why not acknowledge the loss together? It’s often up to the griever to tell others how to help them and shared grief is helpful.

Here are the top 10 ways my clients have memorialized their person during a holiday.

1. Leave an empty chair and place setting
2. Place a photo somewhere prominent.
3. Light a candle…maybe in front of that photo.
4. Toast the person at the start of the meal.
5. Go around the table and share a memory specific to this holiday.
6. Ask for a written memory specific to this holiday to put in a memory book. (Repeat this practice for any subsequent holiday and add it to the book.)
7. Plant a tree or flowers together.
8. Release balloons with messages written on them. (please remove the long strings first!)
9. Prepare your person’s favorite dessert…and tell the others that’s what you’ve done.
10. Ask for donations of non-perishable food and bring to a local food bank.

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Announcement: Presentation in Rome, NY



“Merry?  Not so much…” is chock full of information about grief during the holidays, including lots of practical tips and tools for coping.


Presented by

Lisa B. Wolfe, LMSW

Owner and bereavement counselor for




305 E. Locust Street, Rome

Thursday, December 10

3:00 – 4:30

$20 per person


Please register by signing up at Ava Dorfman’s front desk or call them at 337-8320


For more information, please call Lisa at 765-6530

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This Thanksgiving…


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Learning to swim….and surf….

learn to swim

Or surf…

Grief does come in waves.  Often they are powerful and overwhelming and you can see them coming.  Sometimes they come out of nowhere and surprise you or knock you to your knees where you stand.  There is no running away or ignoring or wishing them away.  They come.  Over and over and over again until you feel like you don’t have the energy to take another breath.  It feels a lot like drowning on your tears and your emotion.

You become an expert at riding these waves.  Just as real ocean surfing requires incredible balance and muscle strength, riding the waves of grief requires incredible balance and emotional muscle strength.  It is important to try to find some balance between the constant assault of grief and built in breaks from the grief.  Some people find this break in work or movies or games or activities or exercise.  It’s important to find what works for you even for just a few minutes a day.  It is equally important to build those emotional muscles.  You do that by allowing the waves to reach you…by leaning into them and experiencing them fully.  Allow whatever emotions you are experiencing at any given moment to fully wash over you.  This is not easy.  Our natural tendency is to avoid pain of any kind.  The more you lean into the pain though, the stronger your emotional muscles become.  The benefit is that you learn that you can cope with them.  You learn they are not permanent.  You learn that they pass.  Just as muscle memory assists any athlete with automatic motion and reaction, emotional muscles will do the same thing.  You recognize the signs of impending intensity.  You learn what works for you to cope with them.  You learn to take the time to feel the feelings knowing it will pass and you can return to some level of equilibrium and balance…until the next wave…

As always, if you’d like to chat about your grief journey, call or email me.


Copyright 2015  Lisa B. Wolfe, LMSW, Translating Grief, LLC

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Iceland Gulfoss

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Do You…

Do You

The attached photo was taken over the summer on a rainy, chilly day.  It was just so cozy and something compelled me to take the picture.  You may notice the Christmas lights I still have hanging.  When the Christmas season was over last year, I just couldn’t bring myself to take them down so there they stay.

Over the course of June and July, we had the pleasure of hosting two young girls (new family members) aged 10 and 6 (now she’s 7).  My office has a day bed with a trundle and that became their bedroom whenever they slept over – which was quite often.  The first time they walked into the room, the 10 year old exclaimed “COOL!  Christmas lights!  Can we keep them on at night?”  The then-6-year-old made a face and asked in a snarky tone “Why do you STILL have Christmas lights?”  I replied “Because they make me smile”.

I recalled this during a recent conversation with a client.  She was talking about how things have “evened out” for her with the passing of time and she finds herself returning to some of her previous activities – the ones that make her smile, she said.  And with that, she’s gotten some push-back from family and friends.  “Isn’t it a little soon?” someone in her life asked.  She replied “Define ‘too soon’”.  HA!  I like that response! She put it right back on the person judging her.

What I suggested to her was that she continue to “Do you.”  Do what you want, when you want, with whom you want and don’t listen to what anyone else has to say about it.  It’s your life.  It’s your grief.  It’s your journey. We all have a different time line, a different set of coping skills, a different support system, a different personality.  How we decide to cope with our own, individual, unique grief is completely and absolutely up to us.  No one else.

Get out there and DO YOU.  Whatever that means to you….

Copyright 2015 Lisa B. Wolfe, LMSW, Translating Grief, LLC

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You are cordially invited to FOOD GROUP…

Food group date

Lately I’ve been obsessed with the show “Chopped”.  The challenge on Chopped is to take a basket of unrelated ingredients and make something tasty out of them in a limited amount of time.  It might seem like a stretch to some of you, but I related that to my bereavement support groups.  A group of strangers to each other enter into a trust covenant within the support group and it’s my role to create a cohesive and supportive group in a limited amount of time.  Going further into my mind (scary, I know), it occurred to me that I could combine my passion for cooking and feeding people with my passion for those who are bereaved and create a time-limited support group around  a four course dinner.

Stay with me now….

I’ve been facilitating bereavement support groups for a number of years now.  Without fail, someone always suggests bringing in food on the last of the six group meetings.  It’s always a very social time and usually the participants exchange contact information — something I strongly encourage.  Often, the group itself is the first step back into a kind of social life for the grievers.

Combining these two ideas has resulted in my newest idea:  “Food Group”.  My usual six week support group will be condensed into the time it takes to complete a four course meal – about 4 or 5 hours.  I’ll do the cooking and my participants will do the eating and the talking and the sharing and the supporting…all facilitated by moi.  Hopefully, they will bond by the end of the meal and exchange information to keep in touch.

There is something very homey and warm about gathering around a table and breaking bread together.  I’m both Sicilian and Jewish – two cultures for which food is central to how we support each other.  We gather together to eat when celebrating and when mourning.  When sick and when well.  Both cultures feed a cold and feed a fever!  I’d like to extend that hospitality to those who are grieving and who are ready to step out for a meal with other grievers for companionship, sharing, learning and support….and hopefully a continued bond with each other long past the dinner….

Please call me at 1.315.765.6530 or email me at translatinggrief@gmail.com for any questions or for more information. This group is open to any adult who has experienced the death of someone they love.   Registration IS required by October 16.  The fee for the group and the meal is $50.00.  Space is limited to 9 participants.  The dinner will take place in either North Utica or Marcy. (I haven’t yet decided on which of three options to choose.)


Copyright 2015 Lisa B. Wolfe, LMSW, Translating Grief, LLC

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We remember….


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Grief is like a shipwreck….

grief like a shipwreck

Brilliant analogy.

Read the whole article here.

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