Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Hard and the Beautiful: How Healing From Hurt Can Help Others

Yesterday, I spent an hour in the studio as part of a project some friends are producing regarding grief recovery and coping with the holidays after losing someone you love. I was asked all sorts of questions and told some of my story after my first husband, Brent, died - the journey of grief, what kinds of remarks, advice and attempts at comfort from others were helpful or unhelpful, how friends held me together, how some parts of the journey I just had to walk by myself, how faith and doubt impacted the process and finally, how we remember him on special days.

One reflection came out of my son's recent wedding. He had chosen his favorite photo of his dad from 1990. Brent is rocking aviator sunglasses, a fabulous 'stache and wearing acid-wash jeans while feeding the pigeons in Piazza San Marco, Venice. They put the snapshot in a small frame which the florist then wired into the bride's wedding bouquet. In this way, they honoured Brent's memory and included him in their wedding day. We also included tributes to Brent's influence and legacy in our speeches during the reception. There was also a memorial table set up at the reception which included my father's guitar, given to my son after he passed away, and photos of my parents, Brent and his sister, the bride's grandfather, and a dear family friend: special people on both sides of the family who have passed away but whom we would have desperately loved to have present. They had a candle burning with a note indicating it burns in memory of those we love who could not be with us.

Another healing practice I introduced our first Christmas without Brent. We had already planned for his brother and family to be with us, so we decided not to change plans, even though we'd just been together for the memorial service only a week prior. It felt really important to not make any significant changes and we wanted stay closely connected to each other because grief was so raw. I found a candle-lighting ceremony on-line that included reflections for a new holiday healing tradition using four or five candles, modelled after an advent wreath. I tweaked it to make it personal for our family. An explanation and a copy of the brief text is available at this link.

I've also asked the question on Facebook about what others found helpful or hurtful during their grieving journey and I have been honored to hear many stories, both in the comments and in private messages I have received.

Do you have any stories to share of how you lived through and began to heal from the hurt of trauma and bereavement? How others helped you or wounded you further? Please share them in the comments or email me at

It seems the more we are able to tell our story in a safe place to compassionate hearts, we heal just a little bit more.

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