Saturday, July 12, 2014


I am just coming out of a few months of a dark depression. It was awful and I felt so hopeless and defeated for much of that time. None of my old "happiness tricks" were working and I was getting worried... I was crying every single day and I couldn't stop it. It was just pouring out of me. I am on my full dose of anti-depressant at least for awhile. I want to make sure I am good and over this hurdle before I take myself down to my maintenance dose. I have not had a bout like this in many years and it seemed to just go on and on no matter what I did to take care of myself. Of course I am "the mom" so I keep moving and doing, but it felt awful, like plodding through deep sand.

A few weeks ago Molly called me and said, she felt like she needed to be back on her anti-depressant. However, it takes a few weeks for them to kick in and that poor girl suffered mightily as her depression picked up speed and the antidepressants weren't working at their full capabilities yet. It was a race.....for the medication to begin to level off her brain chemicals before she was in total darkness. She said it came out of nowhere and it was like being hit by a train. She was flattened. It was horrible to watch. I spent the night with her a few times, I met her for dinner, we talked on the phone, and texted through out the day.

Watching this happen with Molly (who has given me permission to write about this here) and knowing my history with my girl, and knowing my mom's history (hospitalizations, ECT, medications and substance abuse,) and her mom's history (hospitalizations, medications and substance abuse) and my history (medications and comfort eating lol) is clear that there is a genetic component to depression in our family. I hate it. I hate that two of my girls are stricken with this awful debilitating disease and are on psych meds. I worry about what the future holds for little one who has a melancholy personality to begin with. I know my son has also struggled in the past but is not open to treatment or medications. I have wondered if there is something I did to create this? Did I make my fears a reality? Its like a family curse!

I am also aware of how differently my two big girls have handled their individual battles with depression. The first time I thought that Molly might be depressed was around 11 years old. I just loved her and spent extra time with her and eventually it seemed to have passed. I probably bought her new art supplies and got her going on an art journal....that would be so me! LOL At that point I wasn't able to handle the idea that my kids (as in multiple) had problems! I felt it a total reflection on my parenting abilities or lack there of. My girl's first depression hit around 12-13 years old, during puberty. It knocked her flat. We sought help. While we were seeking help in the medical community, she was seeking help of her own. Thus our story began.

As the years progressed, my girls issues progressed into what we all now know they are today. It was a spiral of the greatest proportions. One thing led to another.

As the years progressed Molly did fine, until she wasn't. Her depressions seem to be a blast. They just shout out into her face and lay her out. This is her third bout and by far the worst. However, she handles her life by working hard, working out, eating healthy, maintaining her emotional health, living an honest life....yet still she is hammered occasionally.

They each have dealt with their depression issues in very different manners, yet each still struggle. This time really opened my eyes to this vast canvas that lays before me of our lives. The ways we have handled our stuff, the outcomes, where fault might lie, where mercy does lie. Depression is not a moral issue. Its not a weakness of character. Its not a lack on anyone's part. Its a physical chemical imbalance that we need to constantly maintain and work at cultivating our mental health. And sometimes despite our very best efforts, it still falls apart. I look back at my girl's early years and I think of how desperate she must have felt to find some relief from this gnawing inside herself. However really, if I am going to be honest, I wasn't totally available during those early years because I couldn't bear the idea that I had somehow caused that for her. I lived in a lot of denial that it wasn't as awful or as painful as it really was.

I have since learned so much and I know that depression is not my fault. Addiction is not my fault. I however, do wish I had been more courageous and more pro-active during those early years with my girl. I'm not beating myself up....these are just facts.

This morning the hubs and I spent the morning, like several hours, sitting on our deck under our big tuscan orange umbrella (I just bought it and I LOVE the color) drinking coffee and visiting while 4 dogs rambled around us. I, in a moment of brilliance said, "omg its almost 11! Ive wasted the whole morning!"

My hubs bless his heart, knew enough to not take it personally and said, "THIS is not a waste. Sometimes we need to just be Annette, and thats ok."

I am always learning....
Bless us all....
PS: One of my clients is turning 97 today. I think I am going to bring her some flowers and go get my feet done. What a great day this is! I'm so grateful to be feeling better and that my girls are feeling that life and all of its requirements are doable for today.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our differing journeys.....

We have been walking on this journey for many years now and the one thing that I have learned......actually I have learned many many things, but the one thing I want to talk about today, is that there are all kinds of ways to do this journey.

I have wished more times than I count that there was a method, a list of steps to take, do this and this and then this will be the outcome. If you cut them off they will come running back. If you kick them out they will hit their bottom (if they don't die) and seek help on their own. If you love them well enough they will turn from their wicked ways. If you involve them in sports and are interested and engaged in their lives, if you are a supportive and present parent, they won't go down the path of drugs and self medicating to begin with.

We have done all of the above. ALL OF THE ABOVE. Plus some. What I have learned through this is that it really matters not what I do or don't do. My girl is going to get healthy when she is ready to do so. Maybe this time is it, maybe not. I have no way of knowing.

Another thing I have come to see is that there are no "right" or "wrong" ways to parent an addict. I suppose screaming profanities wouldn't be very healthy for anyone.....Lord knows the times I've done it it produced nothing good except guilt in me and shame in her and loads of anger in everyone else. The thing I do know is that all of us, each and every one of us, especially all of us here, who take the time and care enough to write out their thoughts in a blog, are doing the very best we can at any given moment.

Years ago, an old blogger friend who has long since left our blogging community, said to me (we spoke on the phone a lot at that time) during a time that our girl had called us to come and get her from some dire circumstances....she stayed with us for awhile and eventually it wasn't working, but I was terrified to return her to what we had just picked her up from... This dear sweet woman who had been through hell and back with her own child and was far tougher of a parent and woman than I could ever hope to be, said, "If you can't make her leave just because you can't do it...thats ok."

We have kicked her out for years at a time, we have shunned, we have loved fiercely and at the cost of much else, we have been angry, we have been hurt so deeply there are no words, we have been afraid, we have had our bodies react physically to circumstances and things we have seen. And we are still here. What WE did really didn't make a difference. The choices that we agonized over were not the beginning of sobriety for her or the seal of death on her fate. We aren't that powerful!

For today we are doing what we feel we have God's grace to do. When that grace lifts and we can't do it anymore, then we will stop. For today I think my girl is clean, she is here present with us, each day building in some small ways, her life. I am not a part of that, except to say "hey" at the end of my work day. Its not perfect, but its what we have for now. Its a hell of a lot better than where we have been, so for today I will be grateful for what we have. Even if it doesn't look like much, its something for her and I see that. Its a beginning. Each sober day off of heroin is a victory at this point. It can go either way for her.....and that is up to her. We will see what she does with it.

May God's grace be sufficient for us all... including our newly sober addicts who are finding their way through each day.

PS: At Ron's recommendation I just ordered the book Beyond Addiction: How science and kindness help people change.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Healing From the Inside Out

I am reading a book called God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet. Its about one of the last almshouses left in America, the Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco. It is a place that serves the indigent and people with no other resources.....the drug addicts, the homeless, the mentally ill, the severely disabled, and the elderly.

I'm going to tell you a story from the book about a woman named Terry Becker. Terry was a heroin addict, prostitute, alcoholic, homeless woman who was brought in initially to an emergency room because she had suddenly been stricken with a total paralysis of her limbs. It was found that she had transverse myelitis, an inflammation of her spinal cord. She was sent to Laguna Honda for rehabilitation.

The gist of the story is that they would get her back into "functional" shape but her boyfriend would show up around the first of the month to have her sign her check over to him. He would say he was just taking her out for a few hours, but days would go by and she would end up abandoned on the streets of San Francisco in her wheelchair, still a quadriplegic from her transverse myelitis, unable to help herself. This went on numerous times. She would be brought back, nurtured back to relative health, but the boyfriend would show up on the first every month and she would let him take her.

He beat her mercilessly, broke her leg, gave her drugs and alcohol, and left her sitting in the wheelchair so long she developed a gaping pressure sore that was filled with infection. She was again brought back to Laguna Honda where plastic surgeons grafted skin from her legs and meticulously stitched and covered her wound. She could only lay on her stomach on a gurney while it healed. Again, the boyfriend came and took her out and again she was brought back in the worst shape ever. The back wound had opened and was now half way up her back and down to the tail bone, gaping and to the bone and filled with infection. The surgeons were appalled and refused to help her again, saying she would need to wait it out and see if it could heal the old fashioned way. Dr. Sweet had never seen a wound so deep, so gaping, and so all encompassing of an area.

By this time Dr. Sweet and Terry had formed a sort of friendship. Terry again could only lay on her stomach on a gurney and wait for her body to heal itself. If it could.

The part of this story that spoke to me is still to come....Dr. Sweet had done her masters thesis on Saint Hildegard of Bingen. "The doctor of the church." (You can google more on her....very interesting actually) Hildegard had a concept called "viritidas"....which means greenness. New life, vigor, youthfulness. She used it to mean the power of a plant to put forth leaves and flowers and fruits AND  she also used it to refer to the power of human beings to heal and grow and give birth.

Dr. Sweet began thinking about how Hildegard would treat Terry's gaping pressure sore. It occurred to her that she would have removed obstructions to Terry's viritidas, to her bodies power to heal itself. What was in the way of this woman's body healing? So many things....wrinkled bed clothes, a hard mattress, dirty clothes, the use of nicotine, poor nutrition, dirt, unnecessary medications, fear, depression, hopelessness...all were obstructions to Terry's body healing itself.

Dr. Sweet understood that she had to see Terry in her mind as she could be, as she was meant to be, whole and healthy and vibrant...and work her way backwards. She decided that in addition to removing obstacles, she needed to fortify Terrys natural viritidas with earth, water, air and fire.....good nutrition, tasty food, liquids and vitamins. Deep sleep, fresh air and sunlight. And time. As much time as Terry needed.

So they began their journey. Within a few weeks Dr. Sweet began to see deep inside the wound, what appeared to be new pink skin growing. But then it was the first of the month again.....

This time Terry wheeled herself facedown to meet her boyfriend in the smoking room. They talked for a long time. This time Terry had sent him away telling him to never come back again. Terry then quit smoking, she was eating healthier and without the effects of the nicotine, her body and her blood vessels could absord the nutrition more thoroughly.

Little by little the sore began to heal. Her spine was being covered with new fresh pink flesh. And this is what spoke to me.....It took a very long time. Two and a half years of just being, of just focusing on being healthy and letting her body replenish itself with no outside stresses. Two and a half years and her body healed from deep inside itself where it was barely visible. Little changes here and there that were taking her on her way. If one hadn't known to wait and to let it happen and be patient, they could have assumed nothing was working and given up on her and sent her away. But Dr. Sweet was a patient woman who despite the numerous early setbacks didn't give up on Terry. Each time Terry presented herself to the hospital to get well, Dr. Sweet took her at face value and they started again.

By the end of the two and a half years, Terry's wound had healed, she had gained weight, her hair grew back in thick and dark, she started to wear a little makeup, her teeth had been fixed and she had been given a pair of eye glasses. A social worker had found her brother who wanted her to come and live with him. Thanks to the hospital's "patient gift fund" they were able to buy Terry a plane ticket and send her out to her brother who was waiting at the other end to pick her up.

Dr. Sweet never heard from Terry again, but did read her obituary 11 years later. In the picture she still wore the glasses the hospital had given to her and there was mention of life with her children and grand children.

Of course I think of my girl. My girl who is not physically broken in those ways, but her soul is broken from years of self abuse. I think of the demands upon getting out of rehab, to immediately "get a job" and live in "real life" from her counselor.....and I think, isn't this the problem? She hasn't been able to do real life in many years. Aren't you demanding that she rid herself of her symptoms, but you aren't looking at what lies beneath? Can't we give her time without it being considered enabling? Can't it be a time of rebirth for her, of fresh new pink flesh being generated from within while she reads books, and waters her gardens? Can't there be mistakes and temper flare ups and missteps without it being the end? Because we are all, including her, including me, including the dad, just people. Imperfect people who need to be tended and nurtured in a multitude of ways and most of all, be given time to heal.

May we all remove the obstructions and fill our lives with what we need for our own viritidas. Our own new growth and rebirth. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

While I was Away....

First I want to apologize for just stopping blogging.....I should have said I was taking a break. I hadn't really intended on stopping but day by day I just had nothing nice to say. I would sit in front of my laptop and try to put together a post and I just wanted to spew I didn't say anything. LOL Be grateful, people!

I have gotten so many sweet emails and messages asking if I am ok.....and I am. Relatively speaking. Everything is status quo around here, but I have been miserable. I am not happy. I am filled with resentment and sadness and anger. I am so disappointed that despite all of the good things in my life, there is also the dark stuff too. I am just sick of doing this. In so many ways, in so many facets. Truth be told I think my way is the right lots of different areas and I am so frustrated and impatient in waiting for individuals to figure out their personal path....when I can see so clearly what would be appropriate and healthy! LOL So I am back to thinking that I know what is right for other people. Not a good place to be in. It produces nothing good in me or in others. It is counter productive. But there it is.

I was thinking that like what I posted about grief a few weeks back, about the value in just sitting with it for awhile, that I have worked so hard for so long to be happy, grateful, and ok despite circumstances that really are quite miserable...that maybe I just need to sit in it for awhile. Feel my anger, feel my sadness, work through my resentments and stop denying their existence. The one thing I do KNOW is that this will pass. I am not going to live my life a mean, angry, bitter person....its just not who I am. I am not a grudge holder.

I have always believed that people are doing the best they know how to do. That no one is really truly awful, that something happened to make them lose their moral compass (addiction, mental illness, abuse)....but recent events (not with my girl.....I'm sure she's relieved she isn't the focus of my discontent) have shown me that maybe I am not right. Maybe people really do shitty things just because they are selfish or manipulative or evil. That thought has discouraged me so much. Its been just a devastating realization that everyone isn't always trying to do what is right.

So while I was away this is some of what I have been doing.....

I am going to turn 50 on Saturday. So we met my niece and her daughter and I had all of my girls with me, and we went out to lunch and then to Molly's tattooist who gave me my first tattoo. I feel a little silly, but its very meaningful to me. The idea of all sorts of people and circumstances being in God's hands has carried me for a long time. The symbol is a celtic trinity knot (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) and the rounded places would make 6 points....which stand for the 6 attributes of God... power, wisdom, majesty, love, mercy and justice. So a dual meaning.

I raised 3300.00 in 10 days for a granite memorial bench for my girlfriend whose son died May 21. I have been just devastated at the loss of this sweet boy. He was 26. I have cried and cried over this one. He was such a sweet kid. We have all been friends for the past 18 years. He was one of those boys that after you visited with him, you just felt so good. Like everything is ok in the world.  

I went to a Greek Orthodox church for a memorial for the dead. It was a mass where they pray a blessing upon those who have passed on. What a cultural experience. It was a liturgical service so the majority of it was sung in Greek and English. There were icons hanging all over the building, and little lanterns with lit candles lined the walls. The thing that really touched me were all of the young families who were there with their babies and young children. That was not a church that was "seeker friendly" who worked to make it fun to be know, big screens hanging from the walls, lively music with a live band, a trendy pastor. This was deep and traditional and filled with centuries of history. All of the children stayed in the service with their babies crying and children talking, spilled cheerios, was all just part of their service. In the midst of the perfection, there was room for real life. The priest, dressed in his fine robes, would stop during parts of the service and ask if there were any questions. He welcomed dialogue. It was really quite amazing. 

I thought of how all of this finery and ritual is unnecessary to approach God. He welcomes the most broken, the filthy, the naked, the most sinful and He takes us in and loves us and redeems us into His most loved and cherished children.....but all of the beautiful things that I saw there, all of their singing and ritual, was their offering to Him. This was their form of worship. Their gifts to their King. It actually was quite touching. 

I am spending my time doing what is necessary right now. I am not obsessing over exercising or diet for today. I am eating healthy, but I am not counting calories, or points, or any of that. I am just eating like a regular person. Not binging and not starving.

 I sat in my bed on Friday night and read a real book (as in a hardback with paper pages) for hours. A novel. I have about a quarter of it left and I can't put it down. I haven't read a cheesy book with no value in so long! lol Its really been great! 

So I am still here. Just plodding along. Thank you to those of you who wrote to me or messaged me. Bless your hearts! 

Much love to all of us.....

PS: It felt so good to type all of that out! What was I thinking, not spewing my venom here in my safe zone?!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Religiosity and Jesus

Some of my long time readers know my religious history...legalistic religion vs. knowing a God who is loving and compassionate. The God I was taught to love and honor was a harsh taskmaster who punished and shamed His children despite their best efforts. He would raise the bar just as I approached, thinking I had arrived at my destination, I am ok, safe, only to realize it wasn't I would forge on ahead and try harder. I spent many years living under these expectations. I think there are several reasons why that seemed to be the groove I got stuck being that I was raised in an alcoholic home where "trying harder" was what sustained me. If I am anything, I am a hard worker. I always wanted to be good and right and ok, believing that if I could be ok enough than all would be well in my world and for the people I I tried... and tried... and tried... and tried.....

Another was that I was afraid of never being good enough and all that ailed us was really firmly planted on my shoulders right where it belonged. I had no real instruction on how to live, so I watched people, I watched everyone and picked up things that I liked and I tried to implement them into my life.  I tried to weave together a person, me, to create who I thought I should be.

It was an unfathomable amount of work! Good Lord.....can you imagine? Not knowing what to do, or how, but watching everyone around me to pick up cues on how to be a person.

Eventually my life had fallen apart, nothing was going according to plan, my girl was wild, my other kids were afraid and angry, the dad and I sullenly walked together and didn't know what to do to fix it all. I found my way into the rooms of Alanon during this time and it was there that I was introduced to a compassionate God. The compassion and the unconditional love was not based on how hard I tried or worked, but just was there, a gift to me....and it changed my life.

I know if you have been reading me for awhile, you may have read all of the above in earlier posts....but what I am getting at is this. I am watching as people I have known for many years, people who lived under the "try harder" methodology of serving God, people who by all appearances were far more successful than I was, are being broken and changed. People I never in a million years would have thought could change....are. People who believed that doing it right, or that we could attain perfection in God, are now, due to their own heartbreaks, risking all and saying, "Everything is not ok. We are broken."

They are sadly experiencing rejection from within the church. Judgement and criticism, from those who still strive to make themselves presentable to a God who is waiting patiently for us to come and stand before Him, naked, with all of our shame and our fear and our failures and imperfections and let Him have it all and He lovingly takes it and says, "I will handle this now." God however, is carrying these families, these individuals in some beautiful ways. They are coming out of a spiritual prison so to speak, and into freedom where God's children can make mistakes and not be perfect and a loving Father guides them and directs them toward personal growth and toward being close to Him. Because all He really wants is a relationship with His kids....much like all of us here. He has to wait until the child is ready.....just like we do. He knows our pain and our impatience more than we understand.

God uses all sorts of circumstances to bring His children to Himself....there are all sorts of sufferings going on all around us, but God is there with the broken hearted.

For me personally, I have never known God in such a real way as I do today. I am filled with joy and hope when I hear of someone who is on this journey...this journey, painful as it is, of being stripped of all of the pressures to make themselves worthy of knowing God, of being in a relationship with God....because if the truth be told, God sent His son for the broken hearted, imperfect, sick, lonely, for those of us who couldn't pull it all together on our own. We need His grace and His forgiveness and His love and acceptance of us in order to ever be able to believe and to have faith and to surrender our will. Its too terrifying and exhausting any other way. Faith = believing in the unseen.

Our faith is in God....not in a church, or a church staff, or a doctrine. Our faith is in the fact that we couldn't, but God could and He did, He is.

Be gentle with each other....we are all finding our way the best we can, learning to let go and to trust is tricky business.

Much love and God bless us all......

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dark days.....

Ron wrote this post called  Breaking the Stigma and I encourage you to go over and read it. He starts off with the sentence, "You are not alone." Unless we choose to be! He goes on to say so much more and to take a stand as a proud and loving parent of a recovering addict. He points out that whether our kids are clean and sober or not, we still can stand with them and be proud of them and love them. He talks about drugs being illegal and leading to illegal behavior.....tough circumstances to be proud in, but he points out that the illegal activity is a symptom of the disease. He posts a beautiful picture of he and Darlene at the bottom....standing proudly and publicly with his lovely partner through this journey of having addiction blow in and swirl all through their lives.

Our addicted kids are human beings first and foremost and they haven't always been this way. The core of who they are is still there somewhere underneath all of the fear and anger and bravado. I am thinking a lot about mental health these days, in addition to addiction...more than usual. I feel like its all too much right now. The news, the sad stories of kids that have been in our lives for many either lost in some way or gone from this earth. I think of the grief the parents feel and its just too much.  Maybe I am being brought to a deeper level of acknowledging my powerless. Every person's tragedy can't become mine too. I don't know why I am like that....empathy to a fault and its exhausting to care so much.

Little one and I were watching a show about autism and this young family had autistic was volatile and one was placid. The dad came home from work and they interviewed him and he said, "We don't go on vacations, we don't have people over, we don't have a savings account anymore, we have no time alone....we are just trying to survive each day," then he began crying and had to leave the room.

I totally got that! When you have a sick kid in the family, whether it be neurologically, mentally, physically, it drains you of everything, and feel *less than* everyone else. I feel less than right now. Like I don't measure up, it didn't turn out the way I planned for it to. If my girl had had cancer rather than debilitating depression, anxiety, and addiction, my friends would be mailing me cards of encouragement, bringing dinners over during bad times, asking how she is, volunteering to drive little one to soccer for me. Instead no one asks and we forge on ahead.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have had 4 deaths in the month of May, all due to some sort of tragedy......suicide, overdose, or alcohol related. This has been the last straw for me emotionally I think.
 Mary Christine commented on my last post that sometimes we just don't feel well and its ok. It just is what it is. I am working on just being where I am and not pulling, pushing, and talking myself out of it. Maybe I do need to just feel it until I am done. God knows its been a month filled with sorrow.

Anyway, I am sorry this is such a bummer post. I am a wallower today. I will get over it, but for today it feels so sucky!

Ron's post is awesome I hope you go over and read it! lol


Friday, May 30, 2014


A close friend of mine lost her son on May 21 in a tragic circumstance. I have cried everyday since. Despite my own feelings of loss and sadness at the loss of this beautiful young man, I can't begin to fathom my friend's feelings of loss and heartbreak. It is truly a devastating loss for us all, but for his momma and his dad, I can't imagine. We all are grief-stricken.

Someone posted a piece on Facebook about "complicated grief" written by Tom Zuba who had lost 2 of his precious children and his wife, all at different times, through different circumstances. He is now a life coach and teaches people about grieving. What he wrote was so powerful and so freeing. My friend read it and felt release and permission to just be where she is with her grief. To let it take whatever form it will.

I am sharing it here and I hope you will read it too, because I think that grief is not always just about dying. I think that many parents here in our blogger world feel grief that we may think we don't deserve to feel, or that we try to shush away because after all.....our child is still alive. 

However, we are most certainly grieving the lives we thought we would have, the lives we thought THEY would have. There is so much loss associated with having a child with the very terminal disease, condition, issues of addiction....whatever  you choose to call it, it is terminal unless brought into remission. So we live, waiting for that phone call. Waiting for the next crisis, the next relapse, the other shoe to drop. Even during good times, "it" hangs over our head.

What if we allowed ourselves the freedom to grieve as we saw fit,  as our hearts led us? To just sit with what we are feeling, the deep sense of loss or fear or even anger. What if we had the courage to embrace the process of grieving? I think for me I have been afraid to unleash whatever God awful sorrow was lurking inside of me, because it might be too strong, I might never stop crying or feeling sad, it might cripple me and stop me from being able to function. I think it can be a terrifying process, but I also think it is so necessary and it leads us to our liberation from living in fear and with that heaviness that hangs over us, to a place of acceptance of what is. Grieving is a process, like so many others.....and once we can find our way through to the other side there is new life there. Maybe not what we expected. Not we had planned on or hoped for, but beautiful, fresh, and new in all of its own miraculous ways.

Let us all find the courage to walk through whatever losses we experience and to keep on living full vibrant lives as we set out to heal our broken hearts.
Much love for us all......

Below is Tom's essay shared here with his permission:

 This is a piece I wrote some time ago in response to an article in Parade Magazine about "complicated grief." I'd love to hear your thoughts/feelings...

What if I told you that the appropriate, natural, even healthy response when someone you dearly love dies is to kick, scream, roll around on the floor, and foam at the mouth? Until you no longer have a need to do that. Well, it is.

But instead of the kicking and screaming, your doctor will now encourage you to take a pill to “take the edge off of it.” “No need to feel the pain,” he or she will say, when there’s a little pill for that.

And instead of rolling around on the floor and foaming at the mouth, many of us have bought into the mythical, iconic images of a graceful, dignified, and somehow-through-her-black-veil, still beautiful Jackie Kennedy navigating her husband’s funeral and burial. Images that travelled round the world and continue to hold power over us. By doing so, we’ve unknowingly and unconsciously set ourself up to create pain on top of pain. It’s now become the American way of doing grief. Pretending. Denying. Repressing. Staying strong. And sucking it all up. I call it the old way of doing grief. Trust me. It doesn’t work. I tried it three times. My 18-month-old daughter Erin died suddenly in 1990. My 43-year-old wife Trici died equally as suddenly in 1999, and my 13-year-old son Rory died of brain cancer in 2005. Along the way, I discovered a new way to do grief. A way rooted in hope with the promise of a full, joy-filled life.

We’ve forgotten that death is a normal part of life. We spend millions and millions of dollars because we’re so desperate to prolong life, regardless of the quality of life our beloved experiences during their last few days, or weeks, or even months. We call this love. It is not.

We’ve told ourselves over and over again that the death of a child is unnatural. Our mantra is now “No parent should have to bury their child.” We’ve conveniently forgotten that up until the beginning of the last century, due to advances in medicine, almost every family buried two or three or even four of their children before the kids reached the age of five.

In our attempt to get back to “the way things were” as quickly as possible, we’ve shortened the rituals surrounding death. We now need to wrap it up and tie it with a bow in three days or less, because most of us have to be back at work. A two or three day visitation and funeral where immediate family was supported by extended family, friends and neighbors has conveniently morphed into a quick and easy one-stop, no muss no fuss, sign the book so they know you were there; walk past the dead body or better yet, the ashes in a pretty urn; shake a hand with a bumbled “my deepest condolences;” and you’re back home in 15 minutes or so, if you timed it right. We will do anything and everything possible to make sure we never have to feel a feeling or express an emotion.

And now we’ve decided that grief is the enemy. A sickness. A disease. We need to label it and dissect it and give a time period - 365 days - before it becomes “complicated.” We’re being told that women have a harder time, and are more susceptible to “catching” complicated grief. Same scenario if the death of your beloved was sudden, or by suicide, or your beloved was a child, or God forbid, you’ve had multiple losses.

Grief is the automatic, internal response to loss. If you are human and you attach to people, places or things ~ a beloved, your job, your house, your car, your health, your youth, etc ~ and you lose that something, you will grieve. Everyone grieves. All the time. And grief expresses itself in countless number of confusing and surprising ways, such as sadness, and anger, and guilt, and numbness and confusion. Grief expresses itself though overeating or losing your appetite, through heart palpations and dizziness. Through loss of memory, and a strong desire to stay in bed, or work all the time or sit in a chair and stare. This is all grief. Most of us don’t know much about it. How would we? We pretend it doesn’t exist. We never talk about it, until it is our turn to navigate the journey.

Although, the very nature of grief is wild, and unpredictable, and nonlinear, and yes, cruelly complicated, grief is not the enemy. Grief is not to be avoided at all costs. Grief can be the great teacher, when we let it.

We heal from all the losses we experience when we mourn; when we identify what is occurring on the inside and push it up and out. This is the new way to do grief. We mourn when we externalize the internal. The problem is, however, that most of us are given 3-5 days to mourn and then it’s back to work and back to “normal.” It’s the message we get over and over from our boss, our family members, our friends and our colleagues. They don’t know any better, and won’t until it is their turn. They are innocent and ignorant.

When someone we dearly love dies, a part of us dies too. The part dies that was wrapped up in the plans and wishes and dreams we had for our life with our beloved, be that a child, a spouse or partner, a parent, or a dear family member or friend. Life will never go back to the way it was. The challenge, and the opportunity is to create a new life. A life that is richer because we were capable of loving, deeply. A life that is more compassionate, and kinder, and more gentle. A life filled with gratitude for what is.

Healing occurs when we mourn in a safe, sacred space where we get to feel every feeling and emotion that arises. A space where we feel loved and lovable, and where we are seen, heard and honored. Sadly, we no longer create this space for ourself and we certainly don’t create that space for each other. Therefore, most of us no longer mourn. And that’s why our grief journey may get complicated. It's not the grief that’s complicated. Grief is natural and normal. It's the lack of understanding, love, compassion, kindness, gentleness and the willingness to accompany another person on their journey that complicates the journey. We can do better.