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Resources For Grief Blog

Welcome to this online journal for caregivers to the dying or bereaved—important and challenging work, for sure! My goal is to support you by providing inspirational thoughts, pertinent resources, and suggestions for self-care. With appreciation for all you do!

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Go to Your Happy Place

July 2, 2019

When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go.     ~Alexandra Stoddard

Two months ago I had a cortisone injection in my knee. Before inserting the long needle, Dr. K.told me to go to my “happy place.” My mind flitted from the seashore to the mountains, not landing on any one particular scene as he injected the medication into my injured knee.

Riding bicycle on Washington’s Lopez Island a few weeks later, I rediscovered what used to be my go to “happy place.” However, I had forgotten all about...


Be Flexible

May 28, 2019

 Let us remain soft and supple

like the branches of a sapling.

Whatever storms may come,

our spirit stays flexible,

not attached to outcome,

nor uprooted by the gales.

 Rooted but not rigid,

we can move naturally in the winds of change,

bending but never broken.

Adapted from The Caregiver’s Tao Te Ching, (2013) by William and Nancy Martin

I've learned to know Dina over the last several years. She is a part-time caregiver to Jane, a friend of mine. She assists Jane 8 hours a day, and then goes home in the evening. Jane's situation and needs are always changing, and Dina never knows from one day to another what she will find when she arrives at Jane's home. Will she have had a good nights sleep or not? Will she find Jane on the floor because of a fall while...


Practice Kindness

April 15, 2019

A reader of my blog emailed me about a memorial service she attended recently that made a positive impact. She said five caregivers to the person who died were also present and spoke at the reception following the service:

“The caregivers were not comfortable using a microphone, and were a...


Use Grief Rituals to Help Sustain You

March 13, 2019

In my previous Tip of the Month, I addressed the topic of caregiver grief, and offered a few suggestions for coping, including the use of rituals. Now I’d like to expand a bit on the topic of rituals and ask for your input. 

What are grief rituals? They are symbolic actions providing meaning and comfort after a death, and a means to release the varied emotions of grief. Grief rituals can be personal such as writing...


Grieve Often and Grieve Well

February 8, 2019

“We burnout not because we don’t care, but because we don’t grieve..because we have allowed our hearts to become so filled with loss that we have no room left to care.  ~Rachel Remen, MD (Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal)

We expect to feel grief when a loved one dies, but when someone we are caring for...


Strive for Balance in the New Year

January 9, 2019

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”  ~Thomas Merton

When I visited Nova Scotia this fall, I discovered a small hidden beach filled with hundreds of cairns—human made piles of rocks or stones balanced on top of one another in various positions. Whether done as a form of meditation or as a hobby, stacking rocks takes patience and a knack for knowing the individual rocks—so I’ve been told. 

 I plan to put a photo of these beautiful and unique cairns on my desk in the new year to symbolize the beauty of a life in balance and to serve as my cue card when I feel off-kilter. This generally happens when I’ve given too much time to my business, volunteer involvements, and social engagements, and not enough time to activities that help me feel stable and grounded. These include fixing nutritious meals, exercising most days—out in nature when possible, sleeping 7-8 hours at night, reading every day for inspiration, attending weekly religious services, and spending quality time with family and friends. Yes, I can manage for short periods with these priorities on the back burner, but when it goes on for too...


Nurture Your Memories and Relationships this Holiday Season

December 3, 2018

"To live in the hearts we live behind is not to die."  ~Thomas Campbell

My friend, Nancy, and I walked on the “greenbelt” along the river today. I asked her to show me the bench the park's department had recently erected in honor of her son who died a year ago. The bench, holding a plaque with his name and the words "Forever Loved" provides a place for Nancy and others to sit, reflect, remember and grieve.

We talked about the importance of symbols and ritual and how helpful the park bench has been to her grief journey. We also talked about the...


Cultivate a Spirit of Gratitude

November 12, 2018

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'thank you,'
that would suffice."  ~
Meister Eckhart

Gratitude is an appropriate topic as we approach Thanksgiving in the U.S. And, actually, it's a relevant topic anytime! Noticing, then acknowledging, the things we appreciate in others, in ourselves, and in our day-to day living is a great antidote to unhappiness and depression! And study after study proves the physical health benefits as well, including an improved ability to fight off infection!

A powerful way to nurture a grateful heart is to write down five big or little joys at the end of each day. Your list might include a hot shower, a lunchtime walk, a meaningful encounter, a compliment received, or your own handling of a difficult situation. To demonstrate your gratefulness to others, particularly those who assist and support you, regularly acknowledge their positive qualities. And don't overlook the person(s) for whom you're giving care; they too need...


Don't Campare Yourself to Others

October 7, 2018

Comparison is the thief of joy.  ~Theodore Roosevelt

 As a caregiver, do you ever compare yourself and your situation to others? Social media, in particular, can make it seem like everyone else has a life better than you. Then envy and resentment creep in, robbing you of living in the moment and appreciating what you have.

 There is no doubt that the caregiving role can be demanding, with the rewards often coming in small increments. But, those rewards, joys, and unexpected opportunities are there to be found, if and when you take notice. For example, ask yourself, what wisdom and insight have...


Use Imagery in Tense Situations

September 11, 2018

“Change your mental imagery, and the feelings will take care of themselves.”  ~Maxwell Maltz

Have you ever taken care of someone whose emotional intensity caused you to feel anxious? Not knowing what to say or do, you might secretly have wished you could escape the situation somehow! Yet, you realized the other person needed you to be there with them. Maybe they were distraught about their declining health, upset with their physician or family member, or weeping uncontrollably because of a loss.

In situations like these, I sometimes use imagery to help create the emotional distance I need. Then I am more likely to stay calm and emotionally present with the other. Here are a couple of imagery exercises you...


Reminisce about Happy Memories!

August 14, 2018

 "Memories are a key not to the past, but to the future."  ~Corrie ten Boom

As I was looking through an old photo...


Keep in Mind, It's Not All About You!

June 6, 2018

"We often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive...and sometimes taking things too personally."  ~Dalai Lama

My dear friend has been flying back...


Petition a Higher Power

May 6, 2018

"Prayer begins where human capacity ends."    ~Marian Anderson

Last month I shared about the importance of keeping some emotional space between yourself and those to whom you provide care. I suggested talking with a trusted friend or counselor if you're bringing a patient's problems home with you. This month I'm offering another approach for creating some emotional space when concern for the other weighs heavy on your mind and your capacity to deal with it is dwindling. That is, try giving that person and situation over to a higher power through prayer or meditation.

 A simple prayer or mantra I often use, while modifying the words to fit...


Create Some Distance

April 3, 2018

A recent post by Washington Post's advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, grabbed my attention. In her column titled, How to witness suffering, yet avoid emotional burnout, Hax states that "None of us can afford to live and die by others' suffering, nor are we built for it." She suggests that while it's normal to feel sympathy for another's pain, it is not wise to dwell on it. Rather we should "get on with something joyous or even just ordinary..."

While on the surface her words may sound callous, in practice, we caregivers are most effective when we create some emotional distance between ourselves and those experiencing distress. Yet, there are times when another person's suffering...


Try a Foot Soak to Quiet Body and Mind

February 17, 2018

Penny Gillett, Social Worker at Capital City Hospice in Columbus, Ohio shares with us her favorite self-care practice:  "I take time for a foot soak on Friday evenings.  I set up my family room...


Draw on a Higher Power

January 17, 2018

Carmella M. Dow, MSW, Bereavement Coordinator at Concord Regional VNA in Concord, NH recently sent me a self-care practice that sustains her as a caregiver. She wrote, "I could not do the kind of work that I do without the source of my...


Carry Your Burdens Wisely

December 27, 2017

As we near the end of 2017, you may be looking back on it as a year...


Look Toward the Sun

November 17, 2017

The following Self-Care Tip was submitted by Rachel Nafziger Hartzler, of Goshen, IN. Rachel is a Pastoral Care Volunteer:  A favorite practice of mine is sitting in the sun. As often as possible, I schedule into...


Accept Your Vulnerabilities

October 13, 2017

"When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable.
But to grow up is to accept vulnerability...To be alive is to be vulnerable." ~Madeleine L'Engle
"You are amazing!" and "I could never do what you do!" is the admiring feedback caregivers often receive. Yet, in spite of the accolades of others and the important and gratifying nature of our work, we caregivers aren't superhumans!  We have challenges and problems like everyone else that can threaten our ability to provide care.   


Own Your Feelings

September 13, 2017

"What we resist persists~C.G. Jung 
Intense and conflicting emotions go hand-in-hand with caregiving.  But what to do with these feelings? Most importantly, we should notice and accept them without self-criticism. Feelings are what they are; they're not good or bad, right or wrong. And, when feelings are "owned," we're less apt to act on them in hurtful ways or expend precious energy denying their existence, often through overeating, overworking, overspending or misusing drugs and alcohol.

Which of the following emotions have a familiar ring to you?  
­~Anxiety/Fear: The future is unknown for me, and the one...


Ask for Help!

August 6, 2017

"It's not the load that breaks you down; it's the way you carry it."  ~Lena Horne


A fellow parishioner called recently to ask if I would bring a meal to him and his wife. Knowing his wife was suffering the effects of chemotherapy had prompted me to make offers previously, but he had always declined help, until the day he courageously reached out. I was pleased he called, as preparing a meal was a tangible way to assist.


Asking for and accepting help is difficult! Who likes to be dependent on others, especially if there's a chance they won't do things our way or according to our standards and timetable? But thinking we can or must do it all ourselves is a counterproductive trap, one that most of us have fallen victim to at one time or another. The reality is, we will achieve more than we ever could on our own...


Discover the Power of Two Questions

June 1, 2017

"People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for. . ."  ~Harper Lee

As caregiver to his wife with advanced M.S., my client felt isolated, exhausted, and emotionally drained. Furthermore, the relentless demands of caregiving made it difficult for him to stand back, reflect, and gain perspective on the situation. He needed a caregiver for himself! I suggested he try a daily Examen practice, hoping to encourage daily self-awareness and counter his difficult and negative emotions.

Examen is a two-question process taking just five minutes, but with many longer-lasting benefits. And, it's good for anyone, not just caregivers! Credited to St. Ignatius, Examen is a way to reflect on the positive and  negative aspects of each day. It requires setting aside a ...


Create Rituals in Times of Loss

May 9, 2017

Rituals keep us from forgetting what must not be forgotten and keep us rooted in a past from which we must not be disconnected. ~Tony Compolo

Several weeks ago I took my mom's cremated remains back to her roots in Southeast Iowa to be buried alongside my...


Acknowledge the Sacred

March 14, 2017

       "As you engage in the simple acts of care, you may begin to witness signs that the Divine is in your midst.” ~Rev. James E. Miller

With a degree of trepidation, I headed out of the hospice office parking lot to visit Joe. His edgy and prickly demeanor on my two previous visits made me cautious with my words. I tried to be attentive and respectful, but truth be told, I stayed as short a time as possible—just long enough to accomplish my nursing tasks—before making an exit.

Future visits to Joe fortunately softened my attitude, particularly as I saw glimpses of the fearful vulnerable person beneath the prickly facade. I considered how tough it would it be to have a life full of plans and expectations suddenly go awry because of an out-of-the-blue stage-four cancer diagnosis; then three months later to be receiving care from a complete stranger! Putting myself in his shoes helped me empathize and listen more intently to the feelings behind his words. He, in turn, became more open about his fear of losing control. A sacred space seemed to envelop both of us in those...


Consider Self-Care a Part-Time Job!

February 1, 2017

It's winter as I write this, and the weather has been downright depressing. Six weeks of little to no sunshine has had a cumulative effect on my spirit. Exercise has been a chore, and I've had little motivation to lose the extra pounds I gained over the holidays.
Into this stupor of self-neglect, I attended a noon seminar on the topic of healthy aging. Not surprisingly, I learned that the same tactics known to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases--a healthy diet, adequate sleep, regular exercise, spiritual practices, and fostering friendships--are also the keys to healthy aging. What else is new? I thought. But when, near the...


Strive for Balance, Especially Over the Holidays!

December 19, 2016

In yoga class, I often find the one-legged balancing poses the most challenging. Along with finding my center of gravity, I am required to stay alert and focused while also remembering to breathe. Some days my mind is cluttered with worries and "to do's"--not uncommon for a caregiver and particularly over the holidays--causing me to wobble and lose my balance. Other times, when muscles, bones, thoughts, and emotions are more aligned, I maintain the pose with relative ease.


Balancing the daily routines and rituals of life is much like practicing yoga. A sense of harmony prevails when I stay focused on priorities, like eating regular nutritious meals (and not overindulging on alcohol or sweets), making time for regular exercise, and connecting with friends who nurture my spirit. But I feel "off"--even irritable and sulky--when, for too many days in a ...


Seize Opportunities the Holidays Bring

November 9, 2016

Below is a copy of a Self-Care Tip I posted two years ago this month. I thought it appropriate to resend in advance of the holidays. And, I think it has particular relevance if tensions have developed with family, friends, or co-workers as a result of this divisive election!


Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and a month later we'll be celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas. Holidays, while enjoyable for some, create a great deal of stress for others. Those individuals and families impacted by life-threatening illness or the loss of a loved one often...


Grieve the Losses

October 16, 2016

" We burnout, not because we don't care, but because we don't grieve. . .because we have allowed our hearts to become so

filled with loss that we have no room left to care."  ~Rachel Remen, MD


My 97 year-old Mother died three weeks ago. I had been with her less than 48 hours before she died, and assumed she would still be alive when I visited her in a month. After the initial shock at her sudden passing had worn off, I felt a deep sadness knowing she had been alone when she died. I...


Make Time for Leisure

August 8, 2016

"Life is lived in the pauses, not the events." ~Hugh Prather

Busyness, like cleanliness, is next to godliness, or at least that was my childhood take-away message. But, I also learned that one day each week-the Sabbath-was set aside for morning church services, followed by an afternoon of rest and leisure. Extended naps, reading, and relaxed drives in the country were the norm.
Though I frequently attend worship services on Sunday, I seldom set aside the rest of the day for sheer leisure. My distractions are numerous:...


Be Where You Are

June 21, 2016

                              "As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are.  Otherwise you will miss most of your life." ~ Buddha

When news of the Orlando shootings came across my computer screen, my thoughts raced--to the injured, to the families of those who died, to how this can be happening again, to what the future will be like for my kids and grandkids. My...