I discovered the value of service to others after the death of my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine’s death in 2003. Through my participation in national conferences and gatherings of The Compassionate Friends and The Bereaved Parents of the USA, I met many supportive individuals. They positively influenced my path after loss. About a year ago, I was faced with decisions about where to focus my energies related to unpaid service work. The demands on my time increased due to a full college teaching load and requests to do more workshop trainings in my local and regional area. I kept getting persistent nudges from the universe to assess my situation.
I engaged in my personal decision making process intuitively. Learning to trust my intuition has been empowering for me and has contributed to a change in perspective after Jeannine’s death.
My Animal Guides
I used Jaime Sams’ and David Carson’s book Medicine Cards to facilitate the decision making process. Jaime Sams is an artist and writer of Cherokee, Seneca and French descent. The Native American teachings associated with animals contained in Sams’ work, has been invaluable in heightening my awareness during the last six years of my life.
I simply pulled an animal card from the deck when the urge arose and stopped when I felt it was time. Here are the cards that spoke to me,in the order which they appeared. Excerpts of the associated teachings from the Sams and Carson book appear below the picture of each animal.
Provide for your own needs, or your well will be dry when you choose to give generously.
The teaching of raccoon medicine reminded me, from the beginning, that I needed to make a decision that would ultimately provide for my needs while simultaneously being present for the needs of others.
You are being asked to use your powers of keen, silent observation to intuit some life situation.
Gator medicine people refrain from passing judgment until they have examined all of the facts and seen all sides of any situation.
For me the teachings of owl and alligator were similar. I needed to be mindful of all aspects of my situation. I then needed to integrate them to make an objective decision .
Boundaries;it is time to define your space.
After the process of integration was complete, I had to specifically define the reality that I now wished to experience. That reality contained limits or boundaries that were consistent with my desires. Identifying those boundaries helped me clearly determine the next chapter of my life after loss. In retrospect, each card that made itself known to me contained the teaching that I needed to make a decision.
I ultimately chose to limit my service work to venues that I could travel to by automobile. In light of the current demands on my time, this was the best logical step for me.
Embracing this change did not come without challenge. I had been involved with national conferences and gatherings of The Compassionate Friends and The Bereaved Parents of the USA since 2008 and 2009 respectively. It was difficult to walk away from what was so familiar. I also projected that those outside of my family might question my decision, but in the end, I needed to trust and honor my inner voice.
“You choose the way you see yourself, don’t let others do the casting”- The Afterlife of Billy Fingers
The path that we walk after loss itself presents us with decisions about how we choose to honor our loved ones. We also make choices about which relationships to embrace or hang on to, and which relationships from which to walk away. Changes in our circumstances need to be honored. The decisions that we make to get through to the other side of grief are most often practical ones.
I will conclude with some suggestions for negotiating the challenges of decision making after loss:
- Find what works for you and let your intuition guide you.
- Write down the pros and cons of any course of action you are about to take.
- Set a deadline date to make a decision. You can always modify it if need be.
- If you are worried about the reaction of others, role-play the scenario and practice ways to assertively stand your ground.
- Realize that you can revisit any decision that you make, if circumstances dictate it.