Tag Archives: honesty

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Thanksgiving, Birthdays and Grief

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How are we supposed handle it when Thanksgiving, Birthdays and Grief all hit at the same time? November 25 is the birthday of my former fiancé. He would have been 62 years old. This year it is also the day before Thanksgiving. A bittersweet day. Every 7 years his birthday would fall on Thanksgiving. It usually became a double celebration.

One year in particular stands out to me. We drove to see the Christmas lights and garden displays at Longwood Gardens. We heard it was amazing. The word “amazing” just doesn’t do it justice. Longwood Gardens consists of over 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania in the Brandywine Creek Valley.  It is one of the premier botanical gardens in the United States. It is the living legacy of Pierre S. du Pont, a world traveler from an early age, who was often inspired to add features to the garden after attending world’s fairs. The most notable additions being the massive conservatory, complete with a huge pipe organ and an extensive system of water fountains. Years before it was a public garden, the land on which Longwood Gardens stands was home to the native Lenni Lenape tribe and Quaker farmers. Since then, the land has undergone significant transformation to become the magnificent property that is enjoyed by more than a million guests each year.

Every year at Christmas time, more than 500,000 twinkling lights and spectacular fountain shows compose a brilliant Christmas wonderland. Visitors stroll through the ground which has lights strung on 40 miles of wire glowing in the trees. Large, starry snowflakes and icicles sparkle throughout the Gardens, while the continuously performing Theatre fountains present the colors of a Christmas rainbow. Although it was close to freezing, we walked through the Gardens in amazement.

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While in the area, we stayed at a beautiful Bed and Breakfast, Sweetwater Inn. Established in 1734, it is an historic 50-acre estate located in the heart of The Brandywine Valley. We were told by the owners that the cast and crew of the movie, The Village, had been staying there. The Village was a 2004 American film, written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starred Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver. We had just missed seeing all of them by one day!  We also visited the Brandywine River Museum home of the works of American realist artist, Andrew  Wyeth and his family. His father, N.C. Wyeth was an illustrator of many children’s classics such as Treasure Island and The Last of the Mohicans. Andrew’s son, Jamie Wyeth, is a contemporary American realist painter. The museum is housed in a converted nineteenth century mill on the banks of the Brandywine Creek. Visiting the museum was a beautiful way to end a beautiful weekend. These memories will last forever.

Now when November 25 and Thanksgiving roll around, part of me just wants it to be over. Another part of me thinks back to all the wonderful times we spent together. Just like our time in Pennsylvania. Freezing as we walked through Longwood Gardens but not wanting to leave. Since he died, I still try to remember his birthday every year.  With wonderful memories like this, it isn’t hard to forget. I think it is healthy and honest.  Remembering him just seems like the right thing to do.  I just focus on all the great memories we had together.

Happy Birthday.  I haven’t forgotten you.

I know you are having a margarita (or two) in Heaven today!

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

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My Personal Loss Story

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 In 2015, The Grief Recovery Method® Blog featured my own Personal Loss Story.

https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2015/05/personal-loss-stories-sharon-ehlers

[Over the last 35 years, The Grief Recovery Method® has been honored to work with some incredibly brave people. Every day we receive phone calls from people with unimaginable stories and enormous courage. We will be featuring some of these stories in our new weekly blog series. This is Sharon Ehlers’ story.]

April 2015 marks the three-year anniversary of my former fiancé’s death. Since time does not heal when it comes to grief, it is not surprising that the “Anniversary” of his death is just as painful as the day he died. Although we were no longer together when he passed away, I can honestly say that he was my one true love. The pain of his death has been soul wrenching and gut stomping. Time couldn’t possibly ever heal that wound. Why would I want it to?

The first day, the first week, the first month, the first year after his death was tough. Who am I kidding – every day, every week, every month and every year has been tough. But the 4th of every month became a recurring, in-your-face reminder that he was gone. So I decided that I had two choices about how I was going to handle it – bottle it all up inside and walk around pretending I was ok or face it head-on and let the emotions flow.

So on the 4th (and most other days), I spent the time crying until there were no tears. I shouted at the sky. I took long walks. I went through old pictures. I read old cards and love letters. I listened to “our” songs. I remembered the good and the bad. I called his Mom and we cried together. I had a Memorial Service for him with my children up on a hill overlooking the ocean and we released a balloon to the heavens. We cried and held each other. I JUST LET IT ALL OUT. Then I let it out some more until I felt empty. The emptiness didn’t lessen the sadness or the pain but it felt better than holding it inside.

I think I also forced myself to do this because those around me didn’t know what to do.  Most people avoided me. Others wouldn’t bring it up at all. After all he committed suicide and who wants to talk about “that” subject. If talking about grief is the #1 taboo subject in America, who wants to talk about grief related to someone’s suicide? This is probably taboo subject #2. These two topics are tough if not impossible to discuss. So that’s pretty much what happened – no one would discuss anything with me. I felt more and more isolated.  I felt more and more alone.

Since I knew I needed to do something (rather than avoid it), I took matters into my own hands and began my own grief journey. It wasn’t really even a decision for me. I automatically chose to drive myself into the grief at full throttle. I figured hitting it head on and wrestling it to the ground would give me some chance of coming out the other side. Ignoring it? Well that could lead to all kinds of problems and I certainly didn’t want to go there. I had seen others who never faced their grief and I didn’t want that anchor dragging me down for the rest of my life. Seemed to me like there had to be a way to survive the grief I was feeling.

As with most things in my life, finding The Grief Recovery Method® actually happened purely by accident (or maybe it was destiny).  I was off work after foot surgery and had an extended amount of time to figure out what I wanted to “be when I grew up”.  I was still thinking there had to be a better way to deal with grief.  Since I was pretty much stuck in my bed, I searched the web and found The Grief Recovery Method®.  After reading as much as I could on their website and downloading their free eBook on Grief and Loss, I realized that they really got it. I decided I would pursue their certification training with the hope that I could help others (and maybe myself too in the process). I signed up and never looked back!

I found that during Grief Recovery Specialist® Certification Training, creating the Loss History Graph was especially cathartic.  Seeing every loss I had been through (and then some) on one timeline was overwhelming.  It helped me to better understand why I had reacted the way I had to loss throughout my life.  Developing the Relationship Graph and Completion Letter for my former fiancé really helped me to heal.  With the latter, many of the things I never got to say (apologies, forgiveness and significant emotional statements) flooded out of me.  I felt like I finally had completion after reading it out loud.  It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I am so thankful for that experience!

Today as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, I am working to build a business to help others heal their unresolved grief.  Through one-on-one and group sessions, I can help guide participants build their own grief recovery action plan. It is humbling and rewarding to help Society recognize that grief is tied to so many different life experiences.  Maybe in understanding grief more completely, we can become better family members, better friends, better lovers, better people and live better lives. Isn’t that really our ultimate goal? It has sure helped me tend to my own broken heart and hopefully touch the broken hearts of others.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

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Getting Past “Grief Victimhood”

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Admit it. We all know people who wallow in self-pity and/or perpetual sadness to the point that their “grief victimhood” defines them. They limit their thoughts and feelings to only the negative aspects of a person who has passed or a loss event that has occurred in their life. They cling to the disappointments and anger they have suffered at the person’s hands. It’s a story that plays over and over again.

As their friends and/or family members, we try to be understanding. We try to listen but at some point we reach our saturation point. We see them coming down the street and we cross to the other side. Their name comes up on our caller ID and we don’t take the call. We love them but their refusal to stop playing the role of a victim is more than we can take. So why are so many people comfortable in the victim role?

I am not a psychologist but I would imagine that victimhood is a learned behavior. While growing up, they witnessed responsibility being passed from person to person. Dad would say it was Mom’s fault if he had a bad day. Mom would say it was the kids fault if Dad was in a bad mood. Kids figured it’s their parents’ fault if they can’t go out and play with their friends. As these children grew up, they continued to take no responsibility for their actions. Then they start their own families and the cycle continues with their spouses and children. No responsibility. Always someone else’s fault.

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In some cases, there may have been horrific events that led to a loss of safety or trust resulting in their sense of victimhood. Completely understandable they are in pain. They should be. But in other cases, they didn’t know any better because being a victim was all they had seen growing up.  Either way, unless they take the action steps to move beyond the victimhood, it will be something carried with them to every situation and every relationship throughout their lives. For many, victimhood is like a comfortable chair – it envelopes them and becomes familiar.  For others, they want to move beyond their victimhood but don’t really know how. What if they could actually experience the happiness that seems to have been so far out of their reach? Does society really give us the tools to get beyond “grief victimhood”?

The Grief Recovery Method® requires a person to take an HONEST look at their life. It isn’t easy. They must take responsibility for the fact there is a problem and only they can fix it. They need to admit there were BOTH negative and POSITIVE aspects to the loss events that occurred throughout their life. They must be committed to taking the action steps towards breaking the cycle, and begin the healing process. Step-by-step. Relationship-by-relationship.

Once they have taken that first step, they can move forward with a different outlook on life and say GOODBYE to victimhood once and for all.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

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