We’ve talked about grief on The Skinny Confidential before. I’ve shared how I lost my mom & grandma, so I know how hard grief can be. Especially in December. There’s something about the holidays that really brings out the sadness.
Grief is something that I deal with every single day. It can come up when you least expect it and for me, it’s a really heavy feeling.
Grief can bring up guilt, anger, sadness & so many other emotions. It’s an awful feeling that some people don’t understand.
I thought it was really important to bring someone on during the holidays who has the expertise & tips to help people who are grieving- during this time or any time.
With that, let’s hear from the experts:
Hello Everyone. Thank you so much for inviting us to your blog Lauryn. Thank YOU for sharing your story about your mom. You are a powerful communicator and the evidence of what happens when you cultivate the seeds of unlimited potential from within. Your contribution to health and well-being creates more beauty in the world from the inside out.
We are AngelAnDrew the co-creators of “Good Grief 2Go” and executive directors of the Scripps Performing Arts Academy in San Diego. As certified bereavement facilitators, we integrated our personal experience, performing arts talents with leading science, and ancient wisdom to create a necessary “tool box” to support others. Our creative workshop is loaded with essential resources to help the bereaved move through the pain and allow each person to continue their own exceptional life!
This journey we call grief is immensely unique and personal to each individual. The workshop addresses this with an endless buffet of options to support what lies ahead. No one is ever “prepared” for the emotional roller coaster that is experienced by those who feel left behind. Similar to waves in the ocean, the pain can overcome our hearts unexpectedly and take us to our knees in despair.
At Good Grief 2Go we start small, looking for ways to find just a little bit of relief. One suggestion is by noticing the coincidences that occur when a loved one passes. They happen to everyone. We sometimes call them “hugs from heaven.” Like good ingredients, they can sweeten a bitter story.
Everyone has a story. Sharing our stories become the “woof” ( the invisible space between the threads ) in the greater human tapestry we call life. Sharing our stories is an important part of healing and sharing your story with what we call, “a reframe” invites the rest of the world to listen with greater compassion. The workshop artfully helps the bereaved reframe their story and recognize how to find the support they need.
I spent most of my adult life in grief. Today, I call it my “cosmic two by four.” All before my 21st birthday my life did not appear conventional. Originally from New York, I graduated from high school a year early to be an aspiring Broadway dancer. I started my own business at 17, a dance studio for children in the basement of my parents’ home. What started out as a way to help subsidize my continued dance education became my lifetime career.
Consecutive, unimaginable events started on the Thanksgiving holiday after I graduated from high school. My only sibling, my sister, developed an inoperable malignant brain tumor, my best friend from high school died suddenly on my birthday weekend from congenital heart disease, my dad suffered a serious heart attack and my mom developed Alzheimer’s that lasted 20 years. I married and divorced an abusive man and became a single mom. My 21st birthday was spent at the Bronx zoo with my 1-year-old daughter.
My performing arts education hard-wired me for, “The show must go on!” I never gave up on true love and happiness or having another child. After I turned 40, I met the love of my life, Drew, standing 6’ 8” tall. I called him my Giraffe. ( Representing in many circles the compassionate communicator, the Giraffe is the land mammal with the biggest heart. Drew is the kindest man I ever met! ) We fell in love, got married, pregnant and I told all our friends we were having a baby giraffe. Our world turned orange with cartoon giraffe toys and baby clothes.
The coincidences continue…Even as I write this, a friend has just sent me a text- “you’ve got to have these…”
And so, when our sweet baby Isabella arrived 3 months early weighing in at 1lb. 11 ounces, on “Labor Day,” it was no surprise that the state-of-the-art incubator is called, “The Giraffe” created by General Electric, and is an outstanding piece of equipment for premature babies! After 92 days in the NICU we took home a seemingly-healthy 6lb. baby girl. Then four days later, in my arms with my husband sitting right next to me, she went to sleep and unexpectedly returned to “Dance with the Angels.”
We became certified bereavement facilitators and the peer-to-peer contact for when a baby passes in San Diego. We were asked to speak at the International Conference on Stillbirth, SIDS and Baby Survival in Washington, D.C. Families wanted more. They asked us if we had written a book and CD of our songs. Up until then the thought hadn’t occurred to us. We started writing as soon as we got to the airport as we headed home. We wrote the book, “Surrounded by Angels” and created a CD of our original songs called, “Only for a Moment.” We participated in all kinds of bereavement groups, met with therapists, and today we continue to help train emergency workers. We became acutely aware that there is no compass for how to navigate this thing we call grief and yet some seem to do better than others. Why?
Something interesting began to happen… as we met with more and more people, the answers to our “why” became more and more evident and that is what helped us to create our program.
“Good Grief 2Go” journeys with the bereaved. Synchronicity provides a little relief to reframe the story. We add self-care, a tender look at unfinished business and how we can reflect the Love. Finally honoring your path, creating traditions and being of service completes a personal foundation for a “new normal”.
The holidays are around the corner. Finding a pathway that works for you is imperative.
Here are 5 simple and effective tools to take with you through a season of uncharted emotional waters.
5 TIPS TO MANAGE GRIEF DURING THE HOLIDAYS
#1 Be open to the synchronicity of life.
Just reading this blog can be a springboard that calls forth more… Sweet coincidences are those moments that make you go mmmm…. When my mother passed after 20 years of suffering from Alzheimer’s, it just “happened to be” on the day that “once every ten years” the Painted Lady butterfly migrates north through San Diego. The memories of my mom’s passing have been overcome by butterflies. There seemed to be thousands of them and they were everywhere! To this day, every time I see a butterfly a warm feeling comes over me. It’s like a “hug from heaven” reminding me that Love never dies, it merely transforms into more love.
#2 Drink water.
Hydration and nutrition are major keys in this journey we call grief. Stay away from processed sugar and think green. Once you start noticing, it is amazing how just what you need will “show up” at the perfect and right time. For instance, an interesting “recipe book” will find its way into your awareness. Did I mention Julie Morris? Dr. Steven Grundy? Ha! See, it’s happening already!
#3 Forgive those who say dumb things…
They will! Honestly, they just don’t know… They can’t. They don’t know what you know! So let those words pass by you “uncharged” and leave a copy of this blog randomly on their coffee table!
#4 Grief is a journey through seasons… seasons change.
Time itself can become our friend. Joy will return and sometimes when we least expect it. Recognize that everyone grieves differently, be gentle with yourself and others. Be honest. Strategize options for where and how to spend the holidays and changing your mind is your prerogative.
#5 Create a Tradition.
I think one of our favorite holiday traditions was created by a family who experienced the passing of their sweet baby. We call it “Charlie’s Stocking.” The parents requested for their friends and family to write a letter about how Charlie inspired their lives. They placed the letters unread in “Charlie’s Stocking” then on Christmas morning they took turns reading the letters out loud. Years later his stocking still gets letters! “Charlie’s Stocking” is a big gift from a tiny baby. It is a tradition worth starting for anyone who has experienced the passing of a loved one. It allows “Giraffe Communication” to expand Love.
There will never be a “good reason” for why these unimaginable things happen. However, we can explore the deeper meaning of life and allow our hearts to no longer be heart-broken, our hearts are cracked wide-open, ready and willing to do more, be more, and live with purpose, leaving this world a little bit better than we found it.
Creating a service project allowed Drew and I to become partnered with our Angel. It builds community and sometimes it is strangers that are able to offer more emotional support than those who are closest to us. We started Isabella’s Giraffe Club when our daughter was born because she lived. The original intention was to purchase a “Giraffe Incubator”’ for the hospital. When she passed unexpectedly, there was no way we could have imagined our journey from nowhere to “NowHere.” When I received a Channel 10 Leadership Award for our volunteer work at UCSD Medical Center, a very Nice Guy was watching the news the night is was reported. This anonymous and extremely generous person donated $400K to the hospital because he was inspired by our little angel, Isabella!
Currently one of our “Good Grief 2Go” graduates, Jennifer Palkovic, and her family have spearheaded the revitalization of a playground in Rancho Peñasquitos, San Diego. Sienna’s PlayGarden became a catalyst for connection! We were witness to the entire community contribute in all kinds of ways to support this family move through their grief after the passing of their daughter, Sienna. There is no measure to the value of service. Big or small, ALLways count! Simply, sweeping the porch for an elderly neighbor can shift helplessness to hope.
Graduates from the workshop are invited to monthly gatherings that include beach walks, candlelight yoga and more opportunities to find additional ways to “practice the tools” and move through this dark night of the soul to joy.
We are excited to start a new online “Good Grief 2Go” workshop in the New Year to answer a call for those who are unable to come to our workshops in person and those seeking support outside of San Diego.
If you guys liked this post let me know and we can do more like this.
THRIVE DURING THE HOLIDAYS