Articles

  • Meaningful Suffering

    October 21, 2014

    “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”                                                                                […]

  • Asking the ‘Why’ Question

    October 20, 2014

    Our logical, analytical mind demands answers to tough questions. Chief among them is often “Why did this tragedy have to happen?” When our pain is great and our loss profound, we go to our mind hoping to find comfort in answers that are not forthcoming. We might be able to answer a question in practical […]

  • Friends of Bereaved: Don’t Do These Things

    October 15, 2014

    The bereaved often feel upset by the things people say to them. Of course, they often feel that nothing is a comfort and anything that is said is offensive. If we are feeling terribly wounded, words don’t comfort; comforting hugs or an arm around your shoulder feel much better. Statements and questions such as, “How […]

  • Nature and Grief: Empowering Teachings From The World Around Us

    October 13, 2014

    Beyond Our Front Doors Following the death of my eighteen-year-old daughter Jeannine in March of 2003, I embraced non-ordinary phenomena to help me develop new insights. One of the things that became clear to me was that we do survive death; that our deceased loved ones communicate their ongoing existence to us. My willingness to […]

  • A Baseball Cap of Memories

    October 11, 2014

    When my husband died, there were reminders of our life together everywhere I looked. Sweet, lovely memories surrounded me, and those memories gave me much needed comfort in those dark, dark, dark days of despair and loneliness. His favorite leather jacket hung in the closet next to my jackets and coats. His shoes lined the […]

  • Ask, Seek, and Knock Loudly on God’s Door

    October 10, 2014

    On the snowy night of December 30, 2012, I was reflecting on the past year in my journal. I have journaled regularly since 1990, when I lived in the bush in West Africa and had little else to occupy myself during the silent nights in my mud brick house. I wrestled for a while as […]

  • Finding Hope After Loss

    October 9, 2014

    The very painful losses of loved ones can perhaps only be made less devastating by giving them substance beyond the devastation. Over time painful grief can be reshaped into something less confined to hopelessness and pain, and more open to faith, hope and healing; and anger and frustration into something less corrosive and more forgiving […]

  • Eight Hard Questions After a Spouse-Loss

    October 8, 2014

    Q: Why are holidays so hard? A: Holidays are reminders of family occasions and have, often painful, associations to events and people. They evoke memories, feelings and nostalgia for what was. It is helpful to do things in a different way at holiday time and to make plans to be with family or friends rather […]

  • Nourish Yourself, One Day at a Time

    October 6, 2014

    It is so easy to feel overwhelmed after the loss of a loved one. Routines have changed. Responsibilities have changed. Everything seems so different, and while it is true that nothing will ever be the same again, life does continue. Working through grief teaches us great lessons and broadens our vision as we discover not […]

  • End-of-Life Decision-Making is a Peace-Finding Mission

    October 6, 2014

    Be present. Be prepared. Be clear. Since publishing a memoir about my dad’s end of life, I received an outpouring of support from others who experienced the loss of loved ones in their own lives. Many sent heart-felt comments and poignantly precious memories. Some sent books they wrote as part of their own journey with […]

  • Music Can Heal a Broken Heart

    October 3, 2014

    I love to write. I write about the spiritual in our everyday lives, and I write children’s books. Yes, I know that they are two completely different genres; yet both make me feel complete. I believe that writing about the spiritual is what I was meant to do. It is my reason for being here, […]

  • As Seasons Change, So Does Grief

    October 2, 2014

    Grief is a very difficult passage to make. We hope when we are grief stricken that someday we will no longer grieve. The reality in grief is that we really don’t “get over” it; we learn instead to live with it. I lost my son to an opiate addiction in 2007. As you can imagine, […]

  • Writer J.W. Basilo on Starting Fresh When the Old Guard is Gone

    October 1, 2014

    How can you use a death and a birth to foster a new culture of decency around the dinner table? This and more when memory artist Nancy Gershman talks with Chicago-based writer, performer, and director J.W Basilo. A National and World Poetry Slam finalist, Basilo is also a PushCart Prize Nominee, and co-host of the Uptown Poetry Slam. His work […]

  • Quiet and Patience are Stepping Stones to Healing

    October 1, 2014

    The earliest feelings of mourning include the initial shock (this can’t be happening), the denial of the reality, and feeling overwhelmed and numb. It is not uncommon to feel some loss of self-esteem and extreme vulnerable. Symptoms usually include a variety of internal complaints, a great deal of crying, insomnia, waking from sleep or not […]

  • Music and Grief

    September 30, 2014

    I was afraid. If death could just sweep in and take Duane and Jody, then none of us is safe. Her death robbed me of an innocence of sorts…the belief that we all will live full lives surrounded by the people we love. But that all changed on January 26, 2003, and, now, I am […]

  • Happy Birthday to a Husband Gone

    September 30, 2014

    I wonder how your Retire-at-55 plan would be going by now? Would we be Florida-bound? Or woefully far from the dream? That seems to be how life goes. We smugly think our plans are well-made, well-plotted, that hard work and diligence paid. Or we think God had other plans or we missed the mark, failure […]

  • Preparing for Winter Blues, Anniversary Reactions, and the Unwelcome Return of Grief

    September 29, 2014

    Fall has come to Minnesota. The trees are turning gold and orange and red. White-winged Juncos, birds in the sparrow family and harbingers of winter, have returned to the backyard feeders. Nights are colder, and there is frost on the lawn in the mornings. Much as I love fall, I’m always a bit uneasy because […]

  • Lightness within Darker Days: Creating Routines

    September 28, 2014

    It’s that time of year again when weather changes, light changes, and layers come out to keep us warm. It’s that time of year again when traditions and aromas of childhood and warmth fill the stores and environments we occupy. Maybe this time, the past traditions and changes don’t fit our outlook of life woven […]

  • Sadness Creeps Back, Sometimes Out of the Blue

    September 27, 2014

    I lost my husband of 35 years nine years ago, and the overwhelming grief that I felt is somewhat of a distant memory. “Yes, somewhat of a distant memory, until something triggers that gut-wrenching heartache,” I mutter out loud as I write. It is strange how it manages to creep back into our lives, out […]

  • The Ruby Connection

    September 26, 2014

    My mother died 2 months after she turned 48. Her boyfriend was suspected in her death, but he was never charged. This left me with no answers, no closure, and no mother. I think this emotional “lostness” created a need for connections to her that I may not have experienced otherwise, at least not at […]

  • Already Among the Dead

    September 25, 2014

    I walk among the dead. This began when my wife died in April 2001. So when the planes slam into the World Trade Center, my heart doesn’t move. The towers collapse, sending clouds of dust billowing into the sky, people stumble into the streets stunned, and I feel nothing. Why should I cry? Why should […]

  • Helping the Bereaved Parent Survive the ‘Season of Cheer’

    September 23, 2014

    Once you become a bereaved parent, events that you once looked forward to, you now dread. Everything from the start of the school year right through to Memorial Day is filled with memories that now evoke as much pain as laughter. For most of us, however, it is that period of time between Thanksgiving and […]

  • Jump-Start Your Resilience by Telling Your Grief Story

    September 18, 2014

    Resilience is a skill, perhaps an art, learned from life experience. When a loved one dies our resilience may disappear for a while. Much as we want to be resilient, we can’t seem to do it because we’re so mired in grief. At least, that is my experience. In 2007 four of my family members […]

  • The Terms of My Surrender

    September 17, 2014

    From the moment you came into my life, I hated you. I despised you. You came on the heels of my worst nightmare come true – the death of my young daughter. I didn’t know your name at the time. I just knew that you brought with you all the horrible feelings and emotions I […]

  • Thoughts on 9/11: Holding onto Hope

    September 12, 2014

    I feel so much loss. It’s September 12th, 2014, thirteen years after the terror attacks that I witnessed while living in New York City. I kept a media blackout in my home and my heart yesterday. I don’t want any more images of those burning buildings to flash before my eyes. I don’t want to […]

  • When it’s Grief, Not Depression

    September 9, 2014

    One sleepless night, I tiptoed down the stairs, slipped outside and stared up at the low-hanging moon, so close to me it looked as if it had been pinned against the black canvas with a thumb tack. I reached out a hand to snatch if from the sky, tuck it inside my heart, feel its […]

  • Easing The Way At the End of Life: A Conversation with a Palliative Care Doctor

    September 8, 2014

    Elaine Mansfield: My husband Vic was strong and fit when he was diagnosed with incurable lymphoma. He went through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant with relative ease and regained his vitality. Eight months after the stem cell transplant, we went to the ER because of swelling and arrhythmia. I refused to leave the room […]

  • Joan Rivers’ Last Days Reminds Us Importance of Living Wills

    September 8, 2014

    This week, the world lost another comedic icon – Joan Rivers. I must confess, I was sad at the passing of this woman. I grew up watching her on television. It was announced that she was on life support. To imagine a woman this vital on a ventilator is almost unthinkable. And yet, every day, […]

  • Wildest Dreams: How We Can Learn to Grieve

    September 8, 2014

    On the day my wife died, the house was overflowing. In the room with me were our kids, 2 1/2 and 14, and a few friends who had pretty much moved in with us those weeks when we knew it was the end. Out in the living room were people who had supported us through […]

  • Beyond Williams and Rivers, the Everyday Superstars: The Caregivers

    September 8, 2014

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve lost two major comedic forces, Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, both of whom brought great joy and laughter to our world. Accolades and impact statements have flooded the Internet, along with heartfelt condolence messages. How wonderful for their families to feel this outpouring of love and respect. Yet away […]

  • Because My Son is in a Box

    September 6, 2014

    Because my son is in a box on my shelf, I no longer give a shit about how I appear to the outside world.  I do not care that I am misunderstood.  I do not care that I am offensive or seem selfish. For once in my life I have no desire to explain myself.  […]

  • Life Isn’t Short, But Our Memories Are

    September 5, 2014

    You hear it all the time. “Life is short.” “Time goes by so fast.” “It seems only yesterday that ….” “How did I get this age?” “Where did the time go?’” Let’s look at this closely. First, because we sleep about one-third of the time, this leaves 67% of our life in a waking state. […]

  • Working on Posttraumatic Growth, Another Life Journey

    August 31, 2014

    For the past seven years I’ve been learning and writing about grief. In 2007, four family members, including my elder daughter, father-in-law, brother, and former son-in-law, all died. My daughter, mother of our twin grandkids, and the grandkid’s father, died in separate car crashes. I wondered if I would survive these traumatic losses. There was […]

  • Everything Happens for a Reason? Not Necessarily

    August 30, 2014

    Everything happens for a reason. We hear it all the time. I have been hearing it for years from my Psychology students. Part of my job as their instructor is to teach them the art of critical thinking. Yet, when my students get involved in a discussion especially of a senseless tragedy, inevitably many of […]

  • Using the Pen to Return from Grief

    August 29, 2014

    Since my dad’s passing in April of 2012, I’ve learned there are many, varied, and sometimes unusual, ways people find to support their grief and integrate the inescapable reality of loss. No single process is best for everyone. For my own acceptance and eventual comfort, I turned to the pen. His death was not unexpected. […]

  • Comic Yisrael Campbell on Uplifting the Dying

    August 23, 2014

    How can you use your talents to make the dying feel like they’re at the center of your universe? Be a DJ on a pretend radio station with your friend’s name in the call letters: this idea and more when memory artist Nancy Gershman speaks with Yisrael Campbell (born Chris Campbell): a comedian of Irish and Italian descent, who […]

  • Don’t Forget to Check Your Dip Stick: Maintaining Strength During Grief

    August 19, 2014

    After crouching on a lime-green foam kneeling pad, he pushed with all of his might against the 6’x6’ thick concrete cover. “Wait, Dad, let me help you,” I interrupted as I joined him by squatting down near the well cover, planting my feet firmly in the bordering sedum. “Oh, I can do it. Just hold […]

  • We Would Have Died For You: The Journey of Bereaved Parents

    August 19, 2014

    From the moment we found out you were coming into our lives, we felt electric: a mix of excitement, adrenalin, and a dose of fear for good measure. We dutifully began plotting the course of our lives together – starting with milestones like kindergarten, puberty, graduation, career, wedding, grandchildren, etc. Then we began making our […]

  • Accepting a New Life After a Multiple Loss

    August 19, 2014

    When I was only thirty-three years old, suddenly one day I felt my life was over and my only future was my past. Up until then, my life seemed magical, full of much love and happiness. Everything had been going according to plan. My husband Bart and I had just finished building our house in […]

  • Another School Year Begins

    August 19, 2014

    We hosted a college graduation party at our house for our nephew last weekend. My husband’s family was here, including our 95-year-old great-grandmother, all four grandparents in various levels of physical health. This made five generations gathered to hear my brother-in-law speak of his three children, who have now all graduated from college, and we […]

  • Robin Williams’ Suicide Brings Back Difficult Memories

    August 12, 2014

    The headlines scream, “Coroner: Robin Williams Death Ruled Suicide by Asphyxiation.” I suppose there’s a bit of a morbid fascination that comes from the death of a celebrity; particularly when the celebrity is young or dies in a particularly salacious way. Robin Williams’ death is one of those. He was both young and his death […]

  • Robin Williams’ Death: When Living is Hard

    August 12, 2014

    Robin Williams’ apparent death by suicide is especially hard for me to fathom. His jocular, insightful, heart-warming and spirit-lifting public presence brought much joy to my life. His creative expressions of talent and spontaneity inspired many throughout the world to bring forth their own unique artistic abilities. Robin had a profound influence on our society’s […]

  • Honoring Robin Williams

    August 11, 2014

    Experiencing sadness or grief can come from feeling that something is missing, something has been lost. When you think about someone now gone who inspired you, made a difference in your life – or, like Robin Williams, someone who made you laugh – ask what qualities of that person you can embrace. Perhaps it is […]

Open to Hope Radio

  • Jill Smolowe: Resilience In A Time of Grief

    October 16, 2014

    Within 17 months award-winning journalist and author Jill Smolowe lost her husband, sister, and mother.   Jill, a senior writer for People, desiring to help others, used her experience to write Four Funerals and a Wedding:  Resilience In A Time Of Grief. Jill then became a grief and transition coach helping clients learn how to restore […]

  • Rosalie Deer Heart: Healing Grief

    September 18, 2014

    Rosalie Deer Heart is a veteran of grief who chose to open her heart even wider to love after the sudden death of her teenage son, Mike. She is the author of eight books including Healing Grief—A Mother’s Story.

  • Gerry Cox: Grief, Religion and Culture

    September 11, 2014

    Dr. Gerry R. Cox, Ph.D., is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. He served as the Director of the Center for Death Education & Bioethics. He has over one hundred publications including seventeen books. He has served as editor of Illness, Crisis, and Loss and for The Midwest Sociologist.

  • Linda Hunt: Finding Strength and Renewal After Child Loss

    September 4, 2014

    Linda Lawrence Hunt’s 25-year-old daughter Krista was killed while volunteering with her husband in Bolivia.  She and her husband co-founded the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship.  Linda is the author of Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child.

  • Rabbi Daniel Greyber: Friends: Forgotten Mourners

    August 28, 2014

    When Rabbi Daniel Greyber ‘s best friend Jay died at age twenty-five Daniel moved on, keeping his faith, and becoming a rabbi.   After losing a second friend he lost faith and struggled to find his way back. In his book Faith Unraveled he writes of the profound pain experienced by friends.  He is the rabbi […]

  • Jon Reid: Dealing With Grief and Loss

    August 21, 2014

    Dr. Jon Reid is a Professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.  He is the president of the Association of Death Education and Counselors (ADEC) is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Fellow in Thanatology.

  • K. Paul Stroller: Writing a Posthumous Memoir

    August 14, 2014

    Dr. K. Paul Stroller, MD, started his medical career as a pediatrician and currently uses hyperbaric medicine to treat brain-injured children and adults.  He is the bereaved father of Galen who in 2007 at the age of sixteen was killed in train collision.  He is the editor of My Life After Life:  A Posthumous Memoir […]