Monday, January 31, 2011

Yet Another Sign

As I've said here before, I LOVE the little winks we sometimes get from those who have died. When I was writing the book and asking for input, stories about post-death communications were among my favorites. Some were incredibly specific and compelling, others were so contrived as to be embarrassing. But what's consistent is the comfort we feel when they happen to us. It's no mystery as to why I love them. I want to believe my parents can see what's happening in my life. I want to believe our connections are too strong to be broken by death.

Last week my son was selected to be part of his school's basketball homecoming. He and his escort were all dressed up, announced during halftime, you know the drill.

Well, the week before, I had scanned a few pictures of my dad and despite my extreme caution, one of them got lost. I looked all over. I called the drugstore where I scanned them, but wasn't satisfied they had searched properly. I went, (twice!), and checked the scanner trays myself and looked through the lost and found. I grilled every member of my family and scoured the car for the stray photo. No luck. I was mad at myself for losing it, and may have to find a new drugstore.

Back to homecoming. The day before the big game, my son called me from school to give me some final details and told me he found the picture of Grandpa! Apparently it fell out of his backpack as he was turning in the paper giving his escort's name, etc.

Was this just a coincidence? To anyone else, that would be the obvious conclusion. To me, though, I just don't see how it could have possibly gotten into my son's school papers. The fact it just happened to "fall out" during this exciting time for him seems a tad convenient. Still, I have to acknowledge my desire for it to be an "Atta boy!" from my dad. He loved David so much....

Thank you, Dad. Thanks for the wink. I miss you every day, and if I believe these signs are proof that you are still with me, well, where's the harm in that?

Thoughts on Hope

From Donna Marie Thompson, the host of Blog Talk Radio-

Hope is a Renewable Resource

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” Albert Einstein

Where does hope come from? And where can I get more of it – you might ask. Hope comes from your desire to seek a better future. It can come from the realization and acceptance that you cannot do it alone combined with the courage to reach out. Hope can come from reaching out to God to help guide you on your path – from out of the darkness and into the light. Hope can lift you out of sadness and help you focus on a new beginning. Or a renewal.

Hope can instill a renewed enthusiasm that there is indeed something more and better to come. Yes, you are a major player in making your new future happen. Yes, you can marshal your resources toward an important goal. Hope opens possibilities but you must be open to them and willing to let go of the past that is holding you back. You need to make room for hope in your life.

Three- Step Call to Action

  1. Decide to seek a better future and define what that entails.
  2. Commit to replacing negative thoughts with hope.
  3. Take action toward your goal.

Just Say No to the Status QuoTM

  • About the Author

  • Hello, I'm Donna Marie Thompson, PhD, co-author of Bouncing Back:Thriving in Changing Times with Brian Tracy, David Riklan, Wayne Dyer, and John Assaraf. The 5 E's To Recovery Program provides a structured, supportive, and positive environment for you to find your joy and happiness - to heal and move on. To cope and conquer. To overcome.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Can I Have an Easier Question?

Today's post is from a brave and generous blogger, Maureen Hunter. Maureen is grieving the loss of her son, Stuart. She writes with heartbreaking honesty about her pain, but also shares where she finds hope and comfort. Her site is full of excellent tips and resources. An oasis for any parent with empty arms. Thank you, Maureen. For the work you are doing and your friendship! -Alicia

One question that instills horror and paralysis into the heart of any grieving mother is, “How many children do you have?” It seems such an innocent question to many, bandied about in general conversation and one that we ourselves would have asked countless times, but everything is different now and I don’t know about you but I want an easier question. I had thought about how I would answer that for the first time after Stuart died, I had it all sorted in my mind, how it would happen, what I would say…..but the reality was far from my imaginings.

One night I got something in my eye, it wouldn’t budge. With eyes streaming and one eye half shut I had to go to the local hospital for after hour’s treatment. I had been there only 3 weeks previous, in the very same room, when my son was taken there initially after his accident. I remembered everything but I was stoical, I was coping. But then, the nurse, whilst ‘fixing’ my eye said, “How many children do you have?” Instantly my eyes welled up with tears and I became totally speechless. This was the first time anyone had asked me that since Stuart died and I couldn’t respond, no words would come out and I was totally overwhelmed with the impact the question had on my very being.

It’s happened so many times since then and now I have a bit of a repertoire up my sleeve. Circumstances dictate what I will say, whether I play it safe and say “I have 3 children” or whether I tell the whole story and elaborate. It all depends on who’s asking, the relationship I have with them and the social situation I am in. It also depends on how I feel emotionally. Sometimes I don’t have the inner strength to go into details, to add that little bit more, so I keep it brief for my own sake. That’s just how it is. But for me, its always 3, I have 3 children, always have and always will have.

-Maureen Hunter

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Great Advice For the New Year

This is a great piece from my new friend in Vancouver, Susan Moore. Susan is doing some exciting work in bereavement and life management there. You'll find a link to her site at the end.

The Start of a New Year

For many, the New Year brings a sense of excitement; a new opportunity to create change, get in shape, stop smoking, recover from the holidays and set goals for the next 12 months. For those who have lost a loved one during the holidays, the start of the New Year can be devastating.

There is seasonality to death rates with marked increases before and after the New Year. In addition to the standard increases in seasonal flu’s, weather related accidents and overindulgence, the spike in the death rates can also be attributed to the strength of the human spirit. Hospice and palliative care workers have often witnessed terminally ill patients ‘hanging on’ through the holidays, wanting to share another holiday, not wanting to make the holidays a time of grief.

If you have lost a loved one during the holidays, you are not alone and there is support available for you. The Living Through Loss Counselling Society of BC ( is a not-for-profit organization that provides professional grief counselling to adults and children. You can contact LTLC by telephone at 604-873-5013 to get more information or to schedule an appointment. The BC Bereavement Helpline ( is a non-profit, free, and confidential service that connects the public to grief support services within the province of BC. The helpline can be contacted at 604-738-9950 or toll free at 1-877-779-2223.

I have had the opportunity to work very closely with LTLC and BC Bereavement during that past year and I am awed by the incredible support they provide to those in need.

If you are the primary caregiver, family or friend of someone who is dealing with a life-limiting illness, the support organizations shown above are also there to help you. Grief is something that affects us all before, during and after the death of a loved one. There isn’t a time limit for grief – starting or ending.

These support services are also there for you if you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This is a huge, devastating, painful experience and accessing the support services available in the community can help you understand, cope, process the huge challenges you are facing.

Self care is very important when grieving and care giving. Lynnette Pollard-Elgert, Executive Director of LTLC & I co-authored an article printed in the Vancouver Sun dealing with Grief and the Holidays. Many of the same points about self care can be applied after the holidays:

- Drink water and lots of it! Water helps to flush toxins from the body. Grief creates excess amounts of stress hormones, like Cortisol, which is associated with disease, sleep disturbances, and other physical maladies such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks and stomach disorders.

- Stay away from alcohol. This can be difficult during the holiday season. Alcohol is a depressant, spikes blood sugar, dehydrates, and is not helpful during the grieving process. It may numb the pain for a short time, however the grief process does not move forward it holds you in the same place you were before the alcohol and you feel worse the next day.

- Rest. Rest helps boost the immune system and counteracts the effects of stress on the body. Office parties, family events, and children’s holiday functions can all be exhausting. Taking time to rest is particularly important when normal sleep patterns are interrupted.

- Eat healthfully. Grief often significantly increases or decreases appetite. Holiday foods, while tempting, are usually high in sugar and fat – so enjoy these “treats” in moderation. It is important to eat a healthful, balanced diet with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables.

- Take supplements. Talk to your doctor about adding a Vitamin B Complex and Vitamin D to your diet. Vitamin B complex helps manage stress. Vitamin D helps balance mood and counteracts the effects of low exposure to sunlight, which can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder in some people during the winter.

- Exercise. Physical activity releases serotonin in the brain, which, in turn, helps balance mood, increases energy, boost the immune system, and normalize sleep. Winter weather can put a damper on going outside for exercise. Consider physical activities that can be done indoors like yoga, swimming or aerobics.

- Self care. Take time to do the things that make you feel good. This can include getting a massage, seeing a movie, or eating at your favorite restaurant.

- Talk. Spend time with family and friends who will let you speak as much or as little as you need. Processing the loss of a loved one is exactly that – a process. Talking about what is happening for you will help you heal.

- Take time. Grief does not have a timeline – it takes as long as it takes. Spend time with people who support you and who do not expect you to ‘be over it’.

- Feel what you feel. The death of a loved one is painful. Many people feel ‘guilty’ if they laugh or have fun after someone has died. Do not judge yourself for enjoying some holiday activities.

- Ask for help. Reaching out and asking for help is not a weakness. Everyone needs support. You are not a burden. If you do not want to rely on friends and family, there are community resources that specialize in bereavement support:

Bell Alliance Transitions can provide you with the support you need to during any critical life change. We provide a free, no obligation needs assessment in the privacy of your home. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have. We are here to help!


Susan Moore, President
Bell Alliance Transitions, Bereavement & Life Management Support Inc.
Suite 201 – 1367 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC V6H 4A7

Tel: (604) 873-8723 Ext. 139
Cell: 778-789-4271
Fax: (604) 873-8785

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grief Triggers

Grief triggers. Those emotional sucker punches out of nowhere. They can be anything that brings up those feelings about the person who has died. A song, a place, a smell, anything at all. Maybe a holiday. Maybe Valentine's Day.

For me, it's my dad I miss on Valentine's Day. One look at Whitman's samplers and suddenly I'm five, hugging my daddy on Valentine's Day.

What is it for you? What takes you back to a special moment with the person you are missing? How do you deal with them when they hit? Do you surrender and feel the pain and nostalgia or push it back?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Best Gift EVER

The other night the doorbell rings, and it's the FedEx guy. He has a big box marked with a warning not to deliver to an intoxicated individual. Okay, so he has my attention now. I sign for it, and my kids and I all "stab it with our steely knives". Once opened, I scream with joy at seeing it's a CASE of my favorite wine, L'inizio!! I noticed a card on top addressed to me. In it was an incredibly sweet note from one of my oldest, dearest friends, Craig Colagrossi of Colagrossi Wines. He and his lovely wife Beth offered their congratulations on the book and told me to pull out the middle bottles. I did, and about fell over. He had them labeled with my book cover!! You have to understand, this was a small bottling, in great demand, and there are only a few cases left. Very few, like five or six. How do you thank someone for such a thoughtful, generous gift?



When someone dies, (other than attending the service), I do this for the family-