Articles

  • Wedding Day a Lesson in Process of Grief

    October 24, 2014

    In 2007, my twin grandchildren’s parents died from the injuries they received in separate car crashes. The twin’s mother, our daughter, listed my husband and me as the twin’s guardians in her will. Suddenly we were GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren. The twins, one boy and one girl, came to live with us when they were […]

  • My Way of Living with Death

    October 22, 2014

    If there is one word to describe me, it would be “Mother.” When I hear “Mom” in a grocery store, I turn, ready for action. I want every one of all ages to be happy, healthy and well cared for. It is in my DNA. My son, Christopher Robin Hotchkiss, was murdered by his roommate, […]

  • Dozens of Do’s and Don’ts for the Bereaved

    October 22, 2014

    Do call a friend when you are blue. Do water the flowers and take time to smell them; work in the garden, pull out weeds. Do something positive for yourself every day. Do get enough sleep. Do exercise daily. Do remember to take time to eat. Do think positive thoughts every day. Do spend time […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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, […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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. […]

  • 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 […]

  • Personality Types and Grief: Interview with Dr. Lisa Prossor-Dodds

    August 4, 2014

    At the annual ADEC (Association of Death Education and Counseling) conference, I spoke with Dr. Lisa Prossor-Dodds about Myers Briggs personality types and the different way people grieve. Lisa describes her research as being very exciting, because as she gets deeper into it, she’s starting to see patterns emerge from the data. She says it’s […]

  • Playwright Taren Sterry Finding the Funny in Sadness

    August 4, 2014

    Taren Sterry is a comedic actress and playwright who also teaches improv, presentation coaching, public speaking and team building. She is a full time manager of Volunteer Training at Visiting Nurse Service of NY Hospice and Palliative Care. Her nationally acclaimed one-woman show, 180 Days, is about her first six months working in hospice. Visit Taren […]

  • Adolescents and Grief: Interview with Dr. Ken Doka

    August 4, 2014

    At the annual ADEC (Association of Death Education and Counseling) conference, I spoke with Dr. Ken Doka about adolescents and grief. Adolescents have different issues when it comes to grief. Ken discusses these in detail in the video below. Here are some key takeaways from the video: Adolescents are in transition, and because they’re in […]

  • Responding to Loss: Moving On, Moving Forward, Moving In

    August 2, 2014

    Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Maybe it’s time to move on…” These words are actually offered as (presumed) words of comfort to grieving people! I still shake my head at the idea that this is said by a friend or family member to someone who is hurting. Move on…to me this suggests “moving away […]

  • Tips for Coping with Traumatic Loss

    July 30, 2014

    ARLINGTON, Va. – Coping with the death of a loved one is never easy, but a sudden and traumatic loss can raise special concerns for the family members and friends left behind. Aviation tragedies, combat, homicide and other types of violent deaths can be particularly difficult. These deaths are unexpected and survivors must grapple with […]

  • Traumatic Grief: Are You At-Risk for Post-Traumatic Stress

    July 28, 2014

    Special article by Jill Harrington LaMorie, MSW, LCSW, DSW This article was first published in Volume 17 Issue 2 of TAPS Magazine. Reprinted with permission. Imagine driving down the street and crossing an intersection. You glance quickly left and right, but out of nowhere you are hit by an oncoming vehicle. The impact is painful, […]

  • Grief Down Under: Australians React to Malaysia Airlines Crash with Compassion

    July 24, 2014

    I arrived in Belgium on 9-11-01, a visitor in a foreign country during a tragically tumultuous time of loss and confusion. Last week, I awoke in Australia to another civilian disaster — the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane — with the same ingredients linking global grief and sorrow. Outcries once again echoed across […]

  • How to Live Through Intense Grief

    July 22, 2014

    Loss has been a prevalent theme intersecting with my life over the past six weeks. In this time, there have been four deaths of people whose lives have touched me warmly: my sweetheart’s precious mother; a beloved cousin; a compassionate former colleague; and, a man whose contagious smile I first remember when we were both […]

  • Life Moves Ahead: Discovering the Freedom to Go With It

    July 12, 2014

    This article was written by Charles W. Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein.  It is an excerpt from Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time. Our world and our individual lives are in the process of evolving.  It is not a question of rejecting the past but of letting the past flow into the present […]

  • The Hand-Knit Shawl, a Linking Object and Labor of Love

    July 11, 2014

    My husband was in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for weeks. Our minister came to visit him and she had two bulging gift bags. One contained a brown, hand-knit shawl for my husband and the second a blue hand-knit shawl for me. Anonymous members of the church Caring Crafters group made the shawls and the […]

  • My Sister Died and I Waited 16 Years to Deal With It

    July 7, 2014

    I never expected to make a documentary film about my family. I didn’t think of myself as someone who had a story to tell. My sister had died when I was ten years old and by that time her illness seemed pretty normal to me. Aimee was diagnosed with leukemia when I was two years […]

  • Victory Over the Pole: Learning to Let Go

    July 7, 2014

    An intimidating 30-foot pole occupied a notable spot on the challenge-learning course. The facilitator explained that we were to climb the pole. The pole was manufactured with heavy metal staples that created a “ladder”-effect. Once we reached the top of the pole, we were supposed to mount the disk that was attached at the top, […]