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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We've Moved!

Hi Everyone,

My blogging about grief has moved! Click on "Gifts of Gab from Graceful Grieving"

I have posted some new posts and there is now a section for book reviews on the topic of grief in general and books about infant and pregnancy loss.

Thanks for reading Gifts of Gab. I will continue to post here about matters other than grief.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Graceful Grieving is Growing!!

Happy New Year Everyone!

So much has happened this year I hardly know where to start. The grief work I have been doing is expanding rapidly and through Graceful Grieivng's Facebook page we are reaching people all over the world! I also created a YouTube channel for Graceful Grieving and our first in a series of videos, "Crippled Bird" by Dolly Parton has been seen by over 1180 people in 2 weeks.Take a look:

May you have many blessings in this New Year!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Our National Guardsmen Are Dying of Unresolved Grief

Time Magazine just featured an article called “A Soldier’s Tragedy: He killed his wife, his daughters and himself. What one National Guardsman’s murder-suicide reveals about the plight of weekend warriors.”

Matthew Magdzas joined the Army National Guard in 2005 fresh out of high school and a year later volunteered to go to Iraq. Matthew spent 12 months on the front lines and was described as an “exceptional, safe and responsible” soldier by his commanders. “He was awarded several decorations, including the Combat Action Badge.” Matthew saved the lives of many of his comrades by “neutralizing” the insurgents.

After a 2-week debriefing, he was sent home to his wife and daughter, with no job and a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He did everything he was supposed to do. He sought help from the VA, and received several medications for depression, anxiety and pain. Matthew was placed on suicide watch, but expressed frustration about the care he was getting through the VA. I think it’s important to note that 6,500 veterans kill themselves each year… that’s 18 PER DAY.

He got no relief from his counseling sessions, and I have to say, I don’t know how ANYONE could find relief or comfort from the sessions Matthew described to a friend. “They pretty much sit me in the room, and they make me rehash only the things that happened in the war. I’m having worse nightmares that don’t go away. They’re not helping me get over it. They just listen to my stories and send me out the door.” He was then ordered to Fort Knox, KY for a mental evaluation. Because the psychologist determined Matthew had chronic PTSD, “it would be in the best interest of this soldier and the Army” for Matthew to be discharged. To a combat soldier, that is like being thrown into the trash.

I have zero experience with the military, and even less experience with war combat, but I have experienced PTSD, and am very familiar with death, unrelenting sorrow and despair. I am sure PTSD plays a huge role in veteran suicides. But I believe the VA and General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff and top suicide fighter is missing a critical piece of the treatment puzzle: helping our combat veterans grieve! These men and women are trained to kill and to maintain focus even as their buddies are being killed and maimed right next to them. That is more than any human being should have to bear.

I know I’ve said this before but our culture doesn’t like seeing men grieve. I can only imagine that sentiment being amplified by the macho culture of the military. But if we don’t start teaching these men that it is not only okay, but that it is imperative for their recovery and reentry into civilian life to grieve, we will only continue to see more casualties.

I plan on reaching out to General Chiarelli, and encourage other grief specialists to do the same. We have to help our hurting soldiers and their families.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Late Night Light Bulbs

It’s midnight and I am on-call tonight. I have been on-call many nights and my pager never goes off in the middle of the night. Last week I was on-call and at 2:00 AM, my pager actually went off! For those of you who don’t know, I work for my local hospital in the Pastoral Care Department. I am called in to support families who have experienced a tragedy that has left their loved ones on life-support with a grave prognosis. The cause can be anything from a drug overdose to a car wreck, from a pedestrian getting hit by a car to a freak accident, and everything in between.
Every shift, I come home with a new set of rules that my child is going to have to abide. In previous posts I have already established the “Helmet Rule.” That is that no one is to do anything, at all, without wearing a helmet. No matter how simple the task. I am wearing my helmet as I type this. Then came the “No Driver’s License Rule,” that pretty much speaks for itself. My son cannot get his driver’s license and will be under 24-hour supervision until he is 35 years old. My son and I were looking at a life without freedom until I came up with this brilliant idea.

What’s my brilliant idea? Wait for it … Full Body Bubble Wrap! Wait - just hear me out before you make a snap judgment. If I put my son in Full Body Bubble Wrap, every part of his body will be protected. No more helmet!


So he’ll look like the bundled-against-the-elements kid from “A Christmas Story,” but if I have my way, it will be law and every boy and girl will look like a sausage. If every kid looks as goofy as the next, we will have eliminated teasing. Drugs will no longer be a threat because these bubble wrap suits don’t have pockets. If my son doesn’t have pockets, he can’t carry money. Even if he did have pockets, he couldn’t bend his arm enough to reach into his pocket to get the money, never mind the fact that the drug dealer couldn’t bend his arm enough to get the money out of his pocket to pay the drug cartels.
Here’s a side affect I am sure you haven’t even considered: with full body, non-transparent bubble wrap ensembles, teen pregnancy rates would surely plummet! Virtually every parental fear eliminated in one felt swoop. The only way our children could fight is by popping each other’s bubbles. Snap! Pop! “Oh no you didn’t!” Snap, snap!
Here’s to a cushier world where our children can grow up free from danger, early parenthood and expensive, ridiculously trendy fashion choices.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Flight of The Fallen Soldier

On my way to Vermont to pick up my final study, I flew on a plane that was bringing one of our fallen soldiers home to his final resting place. I don’t know a lot about the military, so I was surprised when the flight attendant asked all of the passengers to remain seated so that a fellow passenger and soldier could exit the plane first in order to accompany his fallen comrade. Whether I agree with the war or not, I am comforted by the idea that our soldier isn’t just being shipped home, he or she is being respectfully brought home.

The flight was late and making my connection was going to be really tight, but all of that meant nothing. In fact, I felt honored to be on the flight, like I was part of something very important. What, I wasn’t sure, but it felt big. Regardless of anyone’s faith, politics, nationality and even sexual orientation, for a brief moment, we were all in solidarity, proud, honored and humbled. Then I thought of the family waiting for their child to come home for the last time. My heart broke. I prayed for the family, the fallen soldier and his companion and then I prayed that we all would treat every soldier as if he or she were our own child. If every man and woman (yes, every politician) did that, maybe we’d approach things differently.

I’m not one who thinks I have all the answers. I don’t. I have even been guilty of being a bit too Pollyanna on occasion. But I do believe if we all just stopped for one second, shut our pie holes and saw the beauty in each other’s differences, we’d be in a hell of a lot better shape than we are now. Can we just drop the whole idea of needing to be right?  Can we, just for a moment, remember that any person we are against is someone’s child? If we could remember that, there would be no war or dead soldiers who need to be accompanied home. I know it’s idealistic to think a truly peaceful world is possible, but until it is… let’s do our best to take care of each other, love each other, and treat each other with respect.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To Grieve or Not to Grieve, That is the Question!

 If you were given the choice between diving into the darkest depths of the ocean, fully equipped with all of the gear needed to handle whatever you might encounter, OR being slowly dragged down by an 80-pound anchor while you flailed frantically to keep your head above water, which would you choose?

Well, when it’s put that way, I’d have to choose diving into the depths. Grief is a lot like plunging into the depths of a dark unknown ocean. When we plunge into grief, we fear we will never resurface. So we choose instead to frantically tread water while lugging an 80-pound anchor that slowly drags us to the very place we were trying to avoid. How ridiculous is that?

Last year, I had a very important friendship end. I chose to dive right into the darkness of my grief and bawl my eyes out! I was pathetic. I cried in front of everyone I encountered and even cried during a presentation I gave about, of all things, sharing and being open about one’s grief. I was literally a sobbing mess for eight days. As I look back, I realize it took a lot of courage to allow myself to express how I was feeling. I was honest and shared my sadness with an open heart. Then a funny thing happened. The crying stopped and I felt light and free.

If I had chosen to pretend that I was fine or tried to repress my grief, kicking wildly with that anchor chained to my legs in an attempt to keep my head above water, I would have been dragged down into the darkness anyway. My heart and soul would have been battered and exhausted. I am certain that I would still be sad had I tried to fight my grief. But I chose to dive into the depths, trusting that I had the gear I needed to face what had to be faced. Including taking responsibility for my part in creating the circumstances that ended the friendship and understanding that I wasn’t a victim. As a result, I became stronger and light enough to resurface quickly. It was a very empowering experience.

I am using a minor loss in order to give you a simple illustration. I know that major losses are complex and more difficult to face, but the same principle applies. In July of 2004, my brother died, five months later, my infant daughter died as well. It was as if my soul knew that the two losses combined were more than I could handle, so I put fully grieving the loss of my brother on hold. It took a great deal of energy just to get through the day and I felt heavy and tired all the time. The blocked sadness also blocked my ability to experience love and joy to the fullest.

On the third year anniversary of my brother’s death, it hit me: my brother was gone. That is when I began to really process my grief. I dove in by writing, reading and sharing about my loss. It’s been six years and I have just begun to resurface. I am sure people thought, “Honestly, it’s been years, shouldn’t she be over it by now?” I can’t help but wonder if I hadn’t put my sadness about my brother on hold and given myself the time to grieve, would I have been able to resurface sooner? My guess is yes. My energy started returning just this week! I am starting to feel more love and joy in my everyday life more than ever before. Having processed my grief doesn’t mean I won’t continue to miss my brother, my baby and even my friend, but as long as I allow myself to feel my sadness and let it come up and out, I will continue to be empowered.

Do not be afraid to dive into your grief. Get the tools and support you need to work through your sadness and you will avoid a lifetime spent in darkness fighting to get to the light. If you need support or would like to learn more about the tools needed to effectively process your grief, please contact me by email or phone. I would be honored to be your spiritual grief companion. You, too, deserve to live a life filled with energy, love and joy.