I hugged my dear friend one more time, and began the gloomy drive back home to Delaware. The day was dark with torrents of rain. Blurred headlights passed to my left, while the traffic lights overhead valiantly flickered through the fractured glass that had become my windshield. With my heart aching at the loss of someone dear to me, the poor visibility mirrored how I now viewed life – through a distorted lens. It seemed as if the whole world was enveloping me in tears I was determined not to shed.

A quick glance at the clock on the dashboard confirmed that I was running late for a dental appointment. Sighing, I leaned forward in my seat, straining to see the road ahead between the slaps of the windshield wipers. Just then it occurred to me that I was low on cash. Normally this wouldn’t present a problem – I would just pull into an ATM machine. But I had just opened a new bank account and didn’t know the pin number! To make matters worst, I had recently lost my credit card and was still waiting for the new one to arrive in the mail. Clearly, I was having difficulty staying organized and I was exasperated with myself.

“Dang gone it! How am I going to pay for the dental visit?” I wondered, feeling frustrated. With my spirits low, my chest tight, and my emotions on edge, I considered simply canceling the appointment. But then I thought of the dentist, and how he relied on those scheduled appointments each day. It wouldn’t have been fair to cancel on such short notice.

So I called instead to say I was running late and explained my financial dilemma. I adore my dentist, and all the ladies in the office are understanding. On this day, the receptionist was almost too kind in fact, and it was all I could do to not burst into tears while talking with her on the phone. We agreed that she would simply bill me for the appointment, and thankfully, their schedule was slow. So she cheerfully told me to drive safe, not to worry and they would see me when I arrived.

Two hours later, I maneuvered into a parking space, grabbed my umbrella, and darted from my car. As I made a quick dash through puddles, and into the medical lobby, it occurred to me that the one person I wanted to share my day with, was someone I could no longer call. They were no longer there – gone from my life.

That thought ricocheted through my brain like a pinball in an old game machine, sparking again and again in shock and pain. Ding! Ding! Ding! I rode upward in the elevator, made the short walk down the hall and opened the door to the dental office.

With a cheerful “Well there you are! You made it!” The receptionist smiled, offered me hot tea, and then escorted me directly back to the appointment chair, where the hygienist was waiting.

I struggled. I truly did. I wanted to smile and appear calm, but my heart had a different agenda. It was building…swelling from within, in emotional waves that wanted to storm their barriers and fill the office in a flood of pain.

Completely unaware, the hygienist made pleasant conversation as she laid my chair back, and began to clean my teeth. Within seconds of her touching my back molars, tears welled up in my eyes, overflowed and made their way along the sides of my face, to puddle in my ears. After a quiet moment, the hygienist softly asked, “Am I hurting you? Is that because of me?”

I attempted to shake my head. Without a word, she pulled my chair into an upright position, handed me Kleenex and waited. All it took was one look into her caring eyes, and I was gone. Her compassion unlatched the final locking code to opening the floodgates. I cried, blew my nose and snuffled in as messy a fashion as any small child.

When you are grieving, the smallest of challenges becomes paramount. Your mind seems to be somewhere else. You scrape your car, lose your keys and forget to pay a bill. You chide yourself to pay attention, even as you hear your own voice half heartedly say to someone, “I’m sorry, what were you saying?” or “I swear I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached!”

I have visions of creating a video of a person pulling up to a drive through window, and asking “Yes, for my “to go” order, I’d like to have a convenient grief that will only affect me on weekends. Please include a side of gumption that will keep me positive and refreshed, so I’m not too drained for Monday morning. Oh, and do you have any packets of hope that I can keep handy for those times when I’m feeling extra lost, lonely and the pain becomes larger than me? And of course, I’ll need that order as soon as possible, since I’m already running late for a meeting. Thank you!”

Our cyber lives can fly at the speed of light, but human emotions have not changed. Feelings haven’t conveniently sped up to keep pace with this fast food existence and bereavement is a process that does not always behave or play by the rules. There may even be times when it refuses to sit quietly in a corner during work hours. And when you box pain up for the sake of convenience, you will find that grief exacts it’s payment with a large chunk of your soul.

Grief reminds me of Peter Pan’s shadow. The day you learn of a loss is the day that shadow is sewn onto your heels. No matter where you go, or how fast you fly, it is with you. You can’t separate from it, ignore it, or outrun it. This loss is a new constant. Oh, it will morph with you through the years to come, taking on new descriptions, but make no mistake. Just as surely as you know your loved one has left your life, that awareness remains with you through all your tomorrows.

And since that fact will not change, it is necessary to become closely acquainted with your new companion. For it is only by finding a way to exist side by side with your loss, that you are able to move into the future, armed and prepared.

I’ve read many articles on the positive aspects of grief. I’ve seen it whitewashed and dressed up until I barely recognize the experience for what it is – the experience I’ve witnessed in others and felt within myself. And while there is truth in those writings, the bald fact is that grief is ugly. It is the most soul and gut wrenching expression of love that permeates and affects all levels of our being.

We feel physically ill, emotionally wrought, and mentally drained. Grief is embarrassing, inconvenient, unpredictable, and even down right sloppy. It’s an irascible child who refuses to behave. It’s an uncomfortable suit that poorly fits everyone. Overall, grief taxes our spirit, and much like a demanding child, the more you attempt to ignore it, the louder its cries will become.

If you truly wish to recapture the reins of control, you will need to see grief for what it is, and with your eyes wide open, accept that it has entered your life.

The second step is to “lean into your pain.” These words might as well have been spoken in a foreign language the first time I heard them, but leaning into your pain is simply to allow your pain to move naturally through your being. It’s the opposite of “choosing to have a positive day.” It’s feeling your authentic emotions for what they are, and releasing every one of those pent up tears. You may fear that if you allow yourself to cry, you will never stop…and that if you release the demons which are pressing against the inside of your chest, the pain will destroy you. In fact, just the opposite is true.

So shake your fists, kick your legs and rail at the heavens. Or grab a pillow, lie on your bed and give yourself permission to weep for what will never be. And accept that you are not super-human. You will falter for a time…crack and break open. But it’s only through this faltering and breaking that you will awaken. You will become a more expansive, compassionate being, capable of forming a partnership with that shadow on your heels.

And you will get up again. You will climb off that bed, smooth out those wrinkles and move into your tomorrow. And though it doesn’t feel possible now, I promise you will know laughter again. So when you can’t find your keys, lock yourself out of your car or you have difficulty remembering the simplest of details, please know you are normal. And if you find yourself crying… at a toll booth, in a grocery store isle, a restaurant, or even in a dentist chair, I applaud you.

Janice Ervin, 2010

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Janice Ervin

Heeding a call to the service of others, Janice Ervin volunteered in the United States Army from 1979 - 1983. During this time, she received rapid advancement to Sergeant, and was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for meritorious service. Through the years, she volunteered for a variety of assistance programs with Holy Family Catholic Church, from holiday food and gift drives, to assisting the elderly. Her favorite program selected a day several times a year, to offer children from such difficult home situations that they had never experienced a birthday celebration, an opportunity to attend ‘their’ birthday party at Watkins Park. On this day, Janice and her husband Vic would drive to the homes, pick the little ones up, and take them to Watkins park where they would enjoy a hayride, time with the animals in the petting zoo, games, open presents, sing, laugh play and eat cake. For just a little while, their daily struggles were far from their thoughts. During her employ with Sytel Corporation, she spearheaded an annual food and clothing drive to assist multiple abused mother and children programs in Washington DC. For several years, she and her husband purchased food and packed multiple lunches each night, for her to walk the streets of Washington, offering such meals to the homeless. This well intentioned project came to an abrupt albeit humorous halt when she found herself being questioned by the police on one occasion, and chased down a street, pelted with the food she attempted to offer, to one homeless woman! As a volunteer for Larkin Chase Nursing Home in Bowie, she fully enjoyed the company of those in their autumn years, by playing games, polishing nails, reading books, and more. And for the past several years, she has been a hospice and vigil service volunteer for Hospice of the Chesapeake in Prince Georges County, an incredible avenue for assisting those in need of end of life care. A life of enormous loss caused Janice to question from a young age, the validity to the roots of life’s generally accepted precepts. Having personally experienced many a dark night fueled a desire to understand the purpose of existence, its cycles and all that such theories entail. Her studies, spanning more than 25 years, include multiple facets of historic thought, such as Kaballah, Philosophy and History pared with the Universal Laws and Scientific Research in the field of Para physics. As she continued to gather knowledge through the theory of Tarot, Mediumship, Reincarnation, Altered States of Consciousness, the Dying process and the Stages of Grief, she noticed a synchronicity with regard to the cyclical nature of existence. She eventually formed a core philosophy that remains open to change, yet tried and true when applied to the larger questions of existence itself. Her life passion and experience led to a realization that a spiritual and emotional knowledge base is greatly needed during times of despair. This bridge is especially valuable to survivors moving through the questioning phase of bereavement and grief. Feeling lost and alone during the darkest nights, survivors cry out to understand ‘WHY?’ and the stripped bare response, ‘Have faith’ merely echoes, reverberating within their hollow soul. Rooted in the concept of a loving divine source, Janice’s theories have the ability to gently lead survivors through bereavement across to the other side where hope exists. These offerings initiate the birth for an expanded awareness while encouraging the survivor to continue to search for, and formulate layers to enrich their own personal truth as they confront life’s experiences moving forward. Such an enfoldment into their future translates to a larger sense of peace - for them and for others. Hopefully, these theories will reduce suffering and lend towards a more thinking aware discerning universe, motivating a shift towards a perspective rooted in compassion. Janice was the Message Board Moderator for Evidential Medium, Barb Mallon, from 2004 - 2005. Her local TV program, ‘Open Mind’ (Cable Ch#77) was nominated in 2006 for 5 awards, to include ‘Best Host’ and ‘Interesting Subject Matter’. Janice is a member of the Rhine Research Center (for scientific studies pertaining to evidence of continuation of consciousness), the Association for Community of Transformation (ACT), she supports her local American Legion as a prior duty military member, and is contributing author to the Open To Hope Foundation Internet site, www.opentohope.com. In addition, she creates Para Physic events to enhance awareness and was a contributing factor to the Open Source Science Mediumship Preliminary Trial Experiments from October 2008 - January 2009, working closely with Alex Tsakiris and evidential mediums through the United States as well as volunteer bereaved individuals throughout the world.

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