Podcast: Wanting to feel included but then be excused from participating…

Today's podcast comes out of a series I did called "Grief Truths" where I wrote about some of the tough realities we discovered after entering grief territory. This episode's topic explores more of the social-relational and self care aspects of the grief experience. It came out of my realizations that I wanted to be invited to things after our son died because I wanted to feel included (vs. feeling people were avoiding me because grief was scary to them). AND in the same breath, I wanted to be excused, no guilt nor shame about it, when I turned down the invitation because I couldn't handle "happy la-la" any longer.

So this episode tackles how we might realize new needs and how to create new priorities so those needs are met while being gentle on ourselves and those we love. Some details:


  • Invite me, but excuse me for turning down that invitation.
  • Baby showers and family activities after the death of a baby are not the same as pre-grief.
  • Craving more self care, family care, and genuine relationship.
  • Why pre-grief friends and family may not be able to serve your needs now.
  • Family and friends post-grief, who have had their own grief experiences, often understand most.
  • Time is precious, so being politely uncomfortable becomes a waste of everyone's time.
  • Priorities change for so many who have grief experiences.
  • Loss often includes other additional loss sometimes.
  • Being aware is hard, but we need it to figure out how to meet new, maybe unfamiliar, needs.
  • Holiday rituals change and not everyone can get on board with that.
  • How to allow for new rituals and priorities without judgment of self or other.
  • Children's Memorial Day, Blue Christmas services
  • Change can be complicated if shame enters the picture.
  • This is the space of creativity, and post-grief we begin to practice how to do things for own best care, even when it is hard and is annoying.
  • But you are your own best advocate.
  • Spending energy on this can only benefit you and your community.
  • Asking to have needs met.
  • It's okay that grief affects us BECAUSE we affect grief, too!
  • You can do this.

To stream this podcast, click here.

Thanks as always for listening!
From my radical grandma heart to yours,
k-

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[Originally published as a written article at Radical Creativity, Friday, March 30, 2012]

Re-making the holidays: new priorities of grief


The newly bereaved are often taken aback when they discover that grief has changed more than just “the year of firsts.”  As bereaved people, we heard a lot in the early days of grief about how we should be prepared for the first Christmas, first Mothers Day, first holidays that came after the death of our son.  And it is true that we needed a lot of extra support during those “firsts” to cope with the waves of grief and to understand the continuing bonds of love while trying re-member our family that had been so dismembered by the shattering of grief.

But what no one told us was that this grief experience lasts long after the “firsts.”

I was utterly in shock when I hit my second Mothers Day and realized that I would be FOREVER without my son’s physical presence on this holiday.  Every Mothers Day I faced, for the rest of my life, would be yet another holiday lived with the reality of my son’s non-existence.  THAT was overwhelming.

So how can creativity help us when we get through the “firsts” and then face our entire lifetimes full of being without our loved ones on holidays?  Well, we become our own best advocates, and we find out what our new priorities are for re-making the holidays into something meaningful again.  As with everything on the grief path, there is no prescription for this that will fit every single one of us.  We each have to find our way. 

AND there are a lot of resources and folks out here who are willing to share and help us re-find meaning during holidays:




These are just a few starting points, just a smattering of ideas, for you to start discovering your own path. The possibilities are endless though, truly. You know what fits right for you and your family. You have every permission and right to re-make the holidays into something meaningful now that grief has changed your priorities and perspectives. And remember, by doing this kind of thing yourself, you model for and give permission to everyone around to do this kind of integration and re-creation themselves. By re-making the holidays, we engage in the potential for an even healthier community!

Reiki to all reading this,
Kara

Reiki in reflection OR how do you use Reiki?

Often people will ask what my Reiki certification has to do with grief support work. Since I use it similar to a mantra or meditation practice, it is a tool I'm using daily for both self and community care.

At times I have a specific list of folks who have asked for support, and other times, I'm thinking of the stories of all the families and caregivers who have touched my life over the years. It is easy to find myself thinking that there just can never be enough SUPPORTIVE energy in the world. Everyone is so vulnerable. On all kinds of levels. Some fight it and come off "detached" or "professional" or "defensive." Others are so strongly feeling the effects of brokenness that they are walking expressions of the vulnerability combined with a sad wondering about how they will ever find a way. Even those who have done quite a lot of self exploration and re-creating are vulnerable because they know what it means to lose it all and come back. No matter the details of their grief experiences nor where they are with things now, it just seems there can never be enough SUPPORT for us all.

So I often find myself starting my day in the studio OR if travelling, maybe sitting in the hotel lobby or in the airport terminal, sending Reiki Reiki Reiki. Sending to all who pass by, physically or in my mind. Sending it to the floor so it vibes out for everyone who walks over it. Sending out via the world wide root system of the trees so it vibes out for anyone walking anywhere. 

I'm not sure how we create "real" community in the sprawling lives we now lead. I'm not sure how we keep our eye on the nurturing and beauty of inclusive diversity when the sprawl seems to be filled with the realities of white supremacist, hetro-normative, cis-gendered, imperialist, colonialist, capitalist patriarchy. I'm keenly aware of how much resource it takes for people to be exposed to something other than the sprawl, to be outside the dominant narratives. And I know there are lots of actions I can take. Awareness of the reality for so many. Analysis of how these things affect every single day stuff for each of us. Action to make space for and amplify those who are experiencing marginalization precisely because we know their grief experiences are compounded by marginalization. And while it may seem silly, one of the actions I take regularly is sending Reiki to any and all who need it. 

I sit, quietly in my studio, hearing the drone of the ferry traffic out on the street. Or with the murmur of conversation playing out around me at the cafe. Or when travelling, staying present in the beeps, clicks, tv stream, chatter, fear, laughter and bubbling of humankind displayed at airports, hotels, restaurants. And I send Reiki out as one way to offer ... ??? ... kindness in thought and heart from me out to the world. It seems like a better practice than the stomping rants I'm very good at when seeing all the hurt on so many levels for so many. 

How about you? If you are a Reiki practitioner, how do you use it? If you also do grief support work, how does Reiki intersect with that work for you?
-Kara



[Previous version published in Radical Creativity 2008]

mass of sleepy eyes, morning pages, and moving slowly


Some mornings are just a mass of sleepy eyes and hurting stomachs and trying to convince myself to just go my own pace. Go slowly if need be. Let the lists hold the things your brain is too swollen to hold. There is no race to a finish line here.

-----

Sometimes morning pages can help me slow down or let go. Have you ever kept morning pages? I admit I do laugh every single time I stumble across one of my past morning pages notebooks or files on my computers. They are just filled with "fuck-this" and "nooooooo" and "oh-my-gawd-i-hate-this" and "whyyyyyyyyy!?!" Sometimes there's a spark or two at the end where the fog lifted and there will land an "ooooooooh. okay." :) Are your morning pages like that, too? Or is it just me?

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One of the most difficult creative practices for me is the practice of not getting attached to any particular part of a process. Dealing with chronic health stuff means confronting this on a regular basis. One day, things go swimmingly and ooooooh it feels great. Energy levels stay with me. Stuff gets done. It seems relatively easy to be engaged with other humans and creatures. But as with any process, sometimes things slow down or an ache arises or some new combo of some "solution" makes me react in unexpected ways. And so maybe the energy isn't with me. Staying hydrated is the major accomplishment of the day. Engaging with any living being is risky at best.

That is all shared from a chronic illness perspective, but even as I type it, I can hear friends and loves in my head saying, "Hell, that's my everyday, health stuff or not, that's humanity." Cycles. Processes. All our glorious messiness. For me, the question continues to be, "How can we be present with whatever IS rather than judge it, hate it, try desperately to change it?"

-----

Springtime in the garden often is really exciting and teaches me these lessons over and over. Look at the deep rich colors and beautiful shape of those rose buds in the pic with this post! I adore this plant. It shows up for Spring in a thriving manner each year. New legs of it bushing out at the bottom. The top of it brimming with new flowers like this. I get all attached to it and tend and weed around the bottom, make sure it has water, fall in love with it.

Inevitably though, somewhere along the line, the deer fall in love with it, too, and will show up, ghosts in the night without a sound, and leave me with munched limbs and flailing leaves. This often leaves me so frustrated. Even though the bigger picture is that we put a garden right in the middle of one of THEIR paths, and they are foragers who have just discovered good food. :) Can't blame them for eating well!

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Glorious messiness. Of being human. I find it hard to love it. I find it easy to hate it. I find it difficult to practice just allowing it all to be *IS*...is-ness. Just *IS*. No judgment. HARD to do. How do you practice it in your grief and life experiences?

Reiki to all eyeballs who've made their way here!
Kara

[Previous version published 2016 in Radical Creativity]

Paper bags, throw away lives, and impossible expectations...


It is incredibly frustrating to see individuals, and our society as a whole, having impossible expectations around grief experiences. Today's share comes partly out of this rant I originally shared on one of my social media feeds, and it is worth repeating here to start us off:

Oh for the love of Pete!!!!! ARRRRG. Listen up, peoples. You cannot ever know more than the oppressed person themselves about what they need to find their liberation. This goes for social justice issues as well as for grief experiences!!!!!! If you actually think you have the right to tell another person they "need help" or "should get over it" or "need to find closure" or are "too sad" -- fuck you. You have internalized white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchy and are playing "father knows best" instead of being compassionate and present to a person who is already fucking hurting. Take your colonization bullshit and go play in your own yard. Hurting people need relationships that are partnering, curious, supportive. They do not need your prescription of propaganda for "the right way to do grief and healing" bullshit!!!!!!!!! ARG. [Have I mentioned my ability to be patient is challenged lately? ;P ]

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Couple of years ago, I took one of Patti Digh's Verb Tribe courses. The creative approach that had the most lasting impact on me was her insistence that we write our different topics each day using a sharpie pen on a paper bag. Her idea behind it was that if we get all caught up in the "preciousness" of "good" pens and "quality" paper and such, we set ourselves up to have to be "perfect" and have what we created using those things be exceptional. But if we are writing on any old paper bag with whatever pen we have handy, it can get us in the habit of just writing to practice writing, to watch the words drip out of our fingertips, to let them move across a surface without them being so precious as to have to be perfect.

In the end, some of the things I wrote on the bags were gems. Some were starts that evolved into other pieces as I played with them. Some really were just trash that became bags used to ripen avocado or interesting surfaces to use as collage backgrounds on art pieces or something.

All of it was a reminder that if we want to be writers, then write. It's kind of like some of the sparks that Barb Sher has written throughout her different books about how if we want "to be" something, just start being it and see what happens. Now, of course, in a practical way, she wasn't advocating anything ridiculous like wanting to be violent, so start walking around with a gun!! But she was saying that for many things, you don't have to have a license or particular degree to just start doing it. If you want to be a writer, start a blog and write. Open a notebook and write. When someone asks what you do, answer with, "I'm a writer."

These things revolved around permissions that I had to practice giving myself. Maybe it is because I'm a girl/woman. Maybe it was some moral thing about "telling lies" from the religion I was raised with back in the day. Maybe it was individual internalized crap, maybe it was imposed from structural inequities, maybe both. Maybe maybe maybe. But for some reason, until encountering these kinds of practices with permission for myself, I kept looking for permission to call myself thus-and-such from someone else.

As a college student, I met a musician after a gig one night, and he asked about my studies. I told him I was a student of a particular professor, and the musician (who knew of this professor) said, "Oh you are a writer then. Great. What do you write?" It took me a moment to answer him because I was shocked. I hadn't yet allowed myself to call myself a writer "officially" or anything, let alone hearing it come out of someone else's mouth! Why did it make such a difference to have his validation? Why did I need that? Why did it shock me? And on and on.

Anyway, all this babble to say I keep re-discovering every single day that the value of practice is in the practice, not in the quality of the paper or pen. I want to be a writer, so I write. I want to be an artist, so I make art. I want to be a gardener, so I drop seeds into the dirt. Live it. Go for it. Take out that stack of paper bags and make art. And by the way, the muted mandala/gelli press art you see in the photo with this post is done, yes indeed, on a ripped up paper bag!!

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This phrase: don't throw away your life. Or the idea where social injustices occur and we humans ignore it as if the people affected are just living lives that are disposable: throw away lives.

The amount of grief in those phrases makes me buckle under the truth that these are not just words. Rather, we are talking about human beings here.

I can understand we care about another.

But to impose your ideas of right and wrong on others by trying to guilt them into thinking they will throw away their lives??? I don't mean the big things. If someone you love is an addict, then maybe, yes, okay, I can see you asking them to seek help, support, rehab so they "don't throw away" their lives. But to tell someone they are throwing away their lives because they want to major in art in college? Or to suggest they are throwing away their lives because they want to marry someone of a religion or race you don't like/don't want them to/whatever? Seems...needlessly violent, harsh, causing oppression instead of actually being in relationship with them?

I can't understand how we don't care about each other.

To look at the justice system or the water system in the good old USofA and throw up your hands and say, "Oh well, nothing I can do," seems like a defeated acceptance of the idea that people are disposable. Or to keep doing exactly what we are doing because "that's just how it is," seems like a collusion with the idea that some are just living throw away lives. Not saying we can be the solution, solo, ourselves, BUT we can DO something. When I am called for jury duty, I can go into the courtroom and when asked questions in voir dire, I can speak the truth. They'll never want me for any jury probably and the judge might threaten to have me arrested, BUT I can still speak the truth. I may not be able to change the pipes in places like Flint, but I can keep sharing on social media about the situation. I can sign petitions. I can donate money. I can protest visibly in the world, on the street when possible.

While the idea of using tossed away paper or disposable paper bags for writing, for not making writing process too precious, makes sense to me; the idea of LIVES being disposable makes no sense to me. We may make mis-takes (missed takes, like in the movies, so do another take). BUT we don't throw away our lives if we major in art or inter-marry religiously or racially. We have big social justice issues in the world, and while we individually can't fix the big picture, the people affected most by these issues are not lives we can throw away! There is action to be taken. Do something. Start by LISTENING to the people most affected!

The oppression of grief around these ideas is relieved some for me by taking action.
What does it for you?

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More than ever, I hold close to my heart, the idea that it takes creative approach and practice to address our grief experiences and remain in touch with our humanness; our vulnerability; our (maybe broken) open hearts.

None of us can meet impossible expectations. We can only live our lives as practice. Make mis-takes (missed-takes), try again, keep experimenting. I have no answers beyond that. There are no such thing as "experts," but rather just people who are practicing practicing. And after all their practice, they know what works for them and are open to sharing BUT that should just be an invitation for you to practice and find your own ways. Their ways can't possibly be 100% yours, too. That's okay.

Listen. Learn. Do.

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Don't have some sweet, wind-it-up, conclusion here. The swimming-ness flow of all these thoughts is all I have to offer as a reflection of my own grief + creativity. May Reiki flow to any and all eyeballs who come across this.
Kara

[Previous version published 2016 in Radical Creativity]