heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 4 of 7: Surviving that undertow called Grief

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“The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

Grief. It is an intense emotion and a very personal experience. We all grieve differently. Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest authors of all time (remember War and Peace?), once wrote that “Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow.”  I know a very few people – family and friends alike – who manage to wade through their grief quickly and in a matter of fact manner.  Many others, like myself, grieve deeply and over a long period of time.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve… although some people do experience a level of grief that spirals them into a deep depression that lasts years, decades and, in some extreme cases, a lifetime.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

Washington Irving

In my life, Grief has been a frequent visitor. We have a familiar routine, Grief and I. Grief sweeps into my spirit, like a Category 4 Hurricane.  I allow myself to remain in the eye of the storm – daring it to make me collapse.  Somehow, I always manage to survive – still standing, although somewhat bruised and battered.  As American author Anne Lamott writes: “It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

It never goes away. It is always with me, to some degree.  A memory, a smell, a song…  can evoke joy and sorrow and then joy again – in one full sweep.  This is why I refer to Grief as an “undertow” –  a flow or current of water beneath the ocean waves near the shore that is powerful enough to suddenly lift you and immerse you in the next incoming wave.

“Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be. … Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.”

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

I prefer to deal with grief privately – hugs from well-meaning people are not encouraged as I don’t like to be touched when I’m in the throes of grief.  For me, it’s a solitary experience.

According to psychologists and grief counselors, there are five stages of Grief: Denial/numbness/shock, Bargaining, Depression/sorrow, Anger and Acceptance.  However, as much as we want to give everything a label and a chronological order… the fact  of the matter is that one goes back and forth (a number of times) between these stages.  I’ve spent a lot of time visiting and revisiting the stages of bargaining (i.e. what could have been done to prevent the loss), sorrow and anger. And  as for the final stage, Acceptance, well … it is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow, but once you do, it does bring some sense of peace. Not closure. Just peace. And that’s what you need to survive the undertow.

Some Book Recommendations:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

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Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Lossby Pat Schwiebert

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*Note:  The title of this Blog, “Surviving that undertow called Grief” is the title of Volume 3 in my Baby Boomer Series™ of books (in progress)

Photo via flickr.com

 

 

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 3 of 7: Animals are Divine creatures… be kind to them

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“For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the Earth”

Henry Beston

I have often said that if I had to choose to be in the company of humans or in the company of animals, I’d choose the latter.

Animals are pure, beautiful and Divine creatures. Wild animals fill me with awe. Domestic animals, like (for example) dogs and cats, are trusting, loyal and love unconditionally. When humans betray their trust… by mistreating or ignoring them, this – in my view – is a heinous crime.

I condemn the act of hunting and killing animals for sport. It is, quite simply, repugnant.

In my most bleak and darkest moments, my dog and cats have raised my spirits and given me solace. It is an honour and a privilege to be their caretaker.

Over the years, my husband and I have saved and provided a haven for frogs, lizards, birds, quails, squirrels, possums, cats and dogs. We have eight indoor cats (four were born in our home and we hand-raised one that was abandoned by her mother at only five hours old). We also feed all the stray and feral cats in our immediate neighborhood – seven of them (at last count). Our beloved 14½-year-old Black Lab (“Bacchus“) died four months ago and we are still grieving. Even our cats are mourning his loss.

Animals… ALL animals… need our protection and respect.

If you are an animal lover/activist, then I am preaching to the converted.

However, if you are unaccustomed to or uncomfortable with animals, then I urge you to befriend a dog or cat. I am certain that you will be smitten after the first encounter.  But, if you’re not, simply remember to extend kindness to any animal that may cross your path.

They are the innocents. They have no voices but their eyes speak volumes.

They cannot advocate for themselves. So, it is up to us to do that for them.

After all, the very best of humanity is the practice of human kindness and compassion. It should, it MUST be extended to our animal brethren.

“Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission–to be of service to them whenever they require it… If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

Saint Francis of Assisi

Movie Recommendation:

Cry of the Innocent: The Voices That Can’t Speak” (written, directed and produced by Katherine Lowson)

Some Book Recommendations:

For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the United States – by Diane L. Beers

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Heritage of Care: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – by Marion S Lane and Stephen L. Zawistowski Ph.D

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Photo via flickr.com

2015 Tribute

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2015

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The Season of Giving

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“For it is in giving that we receive.” 
 Francis of Assisi

As we count our blessings this holiday season, please remember that there are millions and millions of people – around the world – who are hungry, homeless, displaced, discouraged and lonely.

In this, the season of giving, please do what you can to help a neighbor, a stranger, a family in your community.

Donate food, clothing, blankets and toys to your local missions.  Help out at your local food bank. Share your Christmas feast with someone less fortunate.

If you dine in restaurants, give your leftovers (that you would normally take home) to the homeless man or woman huddled on the sidewalk. Don’t pass them by, averting your face.  Show them compassion.

Spread a little Hope and Kindness.

After all, this is the season of Light… is it not?

May the true meaning of the holiday season fill your hearts and homes with many blessings.  Remember to take time to slow down and enjoy the simple things. I wish you, dear readers, much happiness today and throughout the New Year.

Blessings and Warmest Wishes,

heatherfromthegrove

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
Charles Dickens

A Thanksgiving Prayer: Remember the hungry, the jobless, the homeless and the suffering

A Thanksgiving Prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Amen.

Samuel F. Pugh

Images of praying hands and Thanksgiving dinner via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Saying Goodbye to an Old, Beloved Friend

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BACCHUS

2001 – 2015

R.I.P.

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Walk with an Old Dog

(Poem written by Gayl Jokiel)

Because you will not be forever,

Hope against time I may,

I paint your picture in my memory

Eyes blue with age, muzzle gone grey.

 

Because you walked with me in springtime,

Puppy-clumsy, running free.

As you grew older we grew together.

You became part of me.

 

Because you shared with me my sorrows,

Not understanding, simply there.

Often spurring me to laughter,

My friend, you know how much I care.

 

Because the years have slowed your fleetness,

Though your spirit is still strong.

I promise I will take more time now,

So that you can go along.

 

Because you do not fear the future,

Living on in the now,

I draw strength from your example,

Yet time keeps slipping by somehow.

 

Because the day will soon be coming

When I will no longer see,

You rise to greet me, but in my memory,

You will always walk with me.

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Photo of Bacchus Copyrighted © 2015 by Heather Joan Marinos.  All Rights Reserved.

Books That Make You Think

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If you are in the mood to read a book (or two) that will make you think, give you some new perspective, and maybe even answer some of those existential questions that have been lurking in the corners of your mind…. then you may want to get yourself a copy of any one (or all) of these seven books, listed below.

Caveat:
If you are looking for a light summer read, these will not fit the bill.
They are not fiction. They are not self-help books.
They are, however, very interesting, thought-provoking works of non-fiction.

The Road to Character
by David Brooks

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heatherfromthegrove’s Rating:

5

About the Book:
“In The Road to Character, David Brooks focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues” — achieving wealth, fame, and status — and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.”
About the Author:
David Brooks is a bestselling author and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times.  He appears regularly on “PBS NewsHour,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He teaches at Yale University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Theft of Memory
Losing My Father. One Day at a Time.
by Jonathan Kozol

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heatherfromthegrove’s Rating: 

5

About the Book:
“Jonathan Kozol tells the story of his father’s life and work as a nationally noted specialist in disorders of the brain and his astonishing ability, at the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, to explain the causes of his sickness and then to narrate, step-by-step, his slow descent into dementia.”
About the Author:
Jonathan Kozol is an American writer, educator and activist – best known for his books on public education and his fifty years of work among our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable children.

Them
 Adventures with Extremists
by Jon Ronson

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heatherfromthegrove’s Rating:

4 stars

About the Book:
“As a journalist and a Jew, Ronson was often considered one of “Them” but he had no idea if their meetings actually took place. Was he just not invited?  Them takes us across three continents and into the secret room…  Ronson’s investigations, by turns creepy and comical, reveal some alarming things about the looking-glass world of “us” and “them.”  Them is a deep and fascinating look at the lives and minds of extremists.”
About the Author:
Welsh journalist, documentary filmmaker and bestselling author of  The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

Why Does the World Exist?
An Existential Detective Story
by Jim Holt

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heatherfromthegrove’s Rating:

5

About the Book:
“This runaway bestseller, which has captured the imagination of critics and the public alike, traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. Holt adopts the role of cosmological detective, traveling the globe to interview a host of celebrated scientists, philosophers, and writers, “testing the contentions of one against the theories of the other” (Jeremy Bernstein, Wall Street Journal).”
About the Author:
Jim Holt is an American philosopher, author and essayist. He has contributed to The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The American Scholar, and Slate.

Gotta Find a Home
Conversations with Street People
Book 1 of 4
by Dennis Cardiff

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heatherfromthegrove’s Rating:

5

About the Book:
“Dennis Cardiff has been involved with street people since 2010, when he began to reach out, on his own, to some of the people without homes who he encountered in his daily life. In his new book, he documents conversations he’s had with them over the past 4 years and, in the process, gives those who are often robbed of their humanity a human face. Written in diary form by month, and including some of Cardiff’s own poetry, the author chronicles the lives of people who are often ignored, feared or reviled.”
About the Author:
Dennis Cardiff is a Canadian writer, author, poet and artist. 

Nickel and Dimed 
On (Not) Getting By in America
by Barbara Ehrenreich

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heatherfromthegrove’s Rating:

4.5 stars

About the Book:
“Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job — any job — can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly “unskilled,” that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you want to live indoors.”
About the Author:
Barbara Ehrenreich is an American author and political activist.

In Defense of a Liberal Education
by Fareed Zakaria

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heatherfromthegrove’s Rating:

4.5 stars

About the Book:
” Fareed Zakaria argues for a renewed commitment to the world’s most valuable educational tradition. Zakaria eloquently expounds on the virtues of a liberal arts education – how to write clearly, how to express yourself convincingly, and how to think analytically. He turns our leaders’ vocational argument on its head. American routine manufacturing jobs continue to get automated or outsourced, and specific vocational knowledge is often outdated within a few years. Engineering is a great profession, but key value-added skills you will also need are creativity, lateral thinking, design, communication, storytelling, and, more than anything, the ability to continually learn and enjoy learning –precisely the gifts of a liberal education.”
About the Author:
Fareed Zakaria is the Emmy-nominated host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, contributing editor for The Atlantic, a columnist for the Washington Post, and best-selling author of The Post-American World and The Future of Freedom.

Life Is Precious

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“This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind…let it be something good.”    ― Author Unknown

Life is precious.

Our journey in life is finite, which is why it’s so important to appreciate each day, to savor what we have and whom we surround ourselves with.  A sunny day, a fresh rainfall, the sound of trees swaying in a summer breeze… these are the things we sometimes take for granted.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

I have a handful of friends and family members who wake up each morning, prepared to fight the battle of their lives, just so they can live another day… be with the people they love, do the things they most enjoy.  Their enemy? Cancer.  These people have become warriors and their  spirits shine through their resolve.  They are acutely aware of  how truly precious life is.

Recently, a colleague was diagnosed with Stage II Parkinson’s Disease.  This diagnosis has rocked his world…  and not in a good way.  Suddenly, the time he thought he had ― to do the things he needed and wanted to do ― has been ripped away from him.  A man who is always in control now finds himself out of control.  He is scrambling to reprioritize and to figure out how to prolong the inevitable.  And he makes sure to tell his children, each day, how much he loves them.

Yesterday, we (my husband and I) received shocking news that a former colleague had died this past December ― of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  He was a good, vibrant, intelligent man.  His wife and two children, family and loads of friends mourn his loss.

Yes, life is precious.

Don’t waste one singular moment.

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”     ― Jack London, American Author

 

In The Spirit of Easter

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“Easter is a time for us all to extend a helping hand to those in need, and to solemnly reflect on the notions of personal sacrifice and compassion that underlie this occasion.”Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

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