Sitting In Softness

There is a softness in the air today that speaks of rain. As the clouds come lower and almost merge with the earth there is a quiet surrender. Nothing can live without the rain. We are utterly dependent on it and yet helpless to provide it for ourselves.

When it is plentiful we take it for granted and use it with abandon. We bathe in it, swim in it, water our plants and lawns with it, wash our cars, and often waste it.

We always think we’ll have enough, until we don’t. When times of drought come we panic. We scan the skies and pin our hopes on every grey cloud, no matter how small. We feel as dry and thirsty as the earth that sits parched beneath our feet. We long for rain, need it desperately and yet cannot will it or curse it into being. Rain does not fall on a human schedule.

Love is like this, too. When we have it we use it with abandon, assuming it will always be there. We delight in the warm embraces and drink deeply from our lover’s lips. We grow close and snuggle away from the cold of life. The two lives grow together, each bringing safety and joy to the other. Yet with time, it is easy to grow lazy and forget to nurture the love in our lives. Which is a pity, because one day it will be gone. Then we’ll yearn for it, dream of it, but be unable to force it back into being.

Love and rain are gifts from God that we should never take for granted. When the softness descends and the rain comes, treasure it and use its wetness as a reminder to tell the people you love in your life that you treasure them, too.

 

Lessons from a Snow Day

I woke yesterday morning to what I thought was the sound of a black bear cleaning out my garbage can but when I pulled back the drapes in my bedroom to take a look, what I saw took my breath away. ­­­­Snow had fallen overnight and already there was an accumulation of several inches. It was one of those beautiful snows that coats every leaf, branch and wire in dazzling white and transforms cars and roadways into mere accessories in a Mother Nature painting.

No one expected this storm. Least of all the National Weather Service that first predicted a 40% chance of precipitation and then changed their forecast to less than an inch of accumulation (probably after some forecaster took a smoke break and realized it was already snowing outside). By the time it ended, we had 9 and ½ inches.

The bank closed early and the grocery was a mob scene of people buying milk, bread, sleds, and propane. The storm caught everyone off guard and threw most of us into survival mode. Some people really enjoy survival mode. They’re the ones who show up at the grocery with a loaded pistol in the front seat in case some mother of six gets to the milk before they do.

As for me, I needed this snow. My to-do list was longer than my arm and I only had two out of the twenty odd presents I plan to give for Christmas wrapped and under the tree. I was in a near panic over the things left undone. What is it about the holidays that makes time seem so short and the life requirements greater than usual. No wonder some people just take a two week cruise. The frenzy is unbelievable.

This unexpected snowstorm gave us all permission to STOP. It kept us from doing much of anything or going anywhere. All the activities were cancelled, no one could make it out anyway. As the snow collected on top of the fence and rose to 4, 5, 6, 8 and then 9 inches I plugged in my Christmas tree and just sat still. The world had grown so quiet that I could hear the gentle rise and fall of my little dog Pip’s breath as he snuggled beside me. (He gave up on going anywhere when the snow drifts were taller than he was).

A holy silence fell upon us all just when we needed it the most. Just when we were all about to forget that God is the reason for the season, the wild winds of the Spirit blew up a snowstorm, the biggest in years, and pushed the pause button in our hearts.

Reflecting on all this by the warmth of a fire, I have come to think that God’s message that arrived all wrapped in white is this: I don’t need you to do anything, I just want you to be still and lay your heart against mine. Your heart, beating against mine, is the reason for the season sweet child of mine.

Reaching Out for New Life

This story was written by a very passionate and vibrant woman who is in the Widows Recovery System program. I hope you enjoy her metaphorical insights about grieving your love and the way the new life within you wants to be set free.

Passion Flower Vine Message

The potted passion flower vines spend each winter in his studio, Frances’ studio, in the brightly-lit corner windows behind his easel, on top of old oil pans above the radiator. In this second winter without him, I was amazed today to see how much they have already reached out and begun to entangle each other, despite how much I had hacked them down before bringing them in two months ago in early October. He would always actively disapprove of my energetic pruning of anything in the garden, especially his beloved passion flower vines. This was one of his many endearing traits, hating to harm anything natural, even if it was beneficial in the end. We were a team that way. I tended to be more ruthless about certain things, while he was more tentative, more thoughtfully deliberate in his decision-making.

By April when we would usually start looking forward to transplanting them outside once the ground warmed up, the vines are usually a tangled but lovely mess after months of a plant’s version of “making out” through the boredom of winter. This morning I got it into my head to put some tomato stakes in the pots in an attempt to keep their hot hands off each other. Even as I am arranging this I recognize its futility. There were already some uncooperative strands resisting my hair-brained idea. Last week during her visit, my daughter had asked me if I’d ever seen a fast-motion video of growing vines in action, the amazing stretching and unfurling of tiny springs to reach out and capture the closest object.

So why bother, Marie? Don’t you see? These vines resemble you in your current state of bereavement. I find myself trying to corral these emotions of deep sadness, as if clinging to them will somehow keep him from slipping further away from me. But those tendrils of hope and survival are not to be contained. They will break free of any constraint because that is what life does. It marches on. It certainly marches on.

  1. M. R. Nov. 29, 2017

Last Chance for Holiday Help!

“After a year and a half of grief counseling and many other “survival strategies”, it wasn’t until I began my work with Donna Marie that I appreciated the benefits of a more structured and intentional approach. At the outset of each conversation it is such a comfort to be in the hands of someone who truly empathizes, listens intently, responds with such compassion, crafts strategies that are specific to my unique situation, and equally important, provides strategies that have helped others rebuild their lives. Dealing with this level of grief is hard emotional work, but her support encourages me to stay the course. I am so incredibly grateful!” Denice, PA

Today is the last day to reserve your personalized place in the Surviving the Holidays Program. The holidays are rough for widowed women but this program gives you my personal support and informative written and audio course resources that will let you process the pain safely and restore yourself with carefully chosen activities and companions.

You can enjoy the holidays with the right support. It would be my honor to support you.

Rebuilding from Loss

The second holiday season of my widowhood was much worse to live through than the first. (This is a common experience, I’ve since learned.) I was really missing my husband and feeling very alone. Just when I really needed some cheering up, a big holiday snow arrived. It was a wet, pretty snow and it clung to every branch. I drank my coffee and watched it softly coat everything it touched with white. It was beautiful and suddenly, I was overtaken with an urge to make a snowman.

My West Virginia childhood provided me with a lot of snow-play experience, so I slid on two pairs of pants and lined my winter gloves with the vinyl ones I use to clean house. The dogs were even more excited than I was, they also wanted to play in the fresh stuff. The minute the door opened they leapt into the soft piles from the porch, bypassing the steps. They ran around and around the yard and marveled at the steaming yellow trails they were leaving in the snow. I often regret that I was not born a dog. They really know how to have a good time, love well, and enjoy life.

As they ran around, a bright red cardinal perched on a branch near the fence and began singing as if God had given him a cosmic cue. This was a very neat touch and one I really appreciated. I hadn’t felt much like singing myself. (Which, if you know me, you know isn’t like me.)

It seemed as if all of nature was conspiring to help me have a good time. I pushed my hands down in the snow and formed the first ball. It took shape and I rolled it around in the yard until it grew fat with snow (I like a plump snowman, don’t’ y’all?). I plunged my hands into the snow again. I was fixated on the rapidly emerging roundness. I was so preoccupied I didn’t even notice the snow had ceased to fall and the temperature had plummeted. The cardinal chirped a warning but I barely heard it as I plunged my hands in for the third time to make the head.

I’m sure my lack of success in molding the head had something to do with the fact that I could no longer feel my hands. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the ball to form an orb. The snow just fell right through my fingers instead of sticking tight. The dogs were whining, they knew it had grown cold and they were ready to go in. But I kept at it. I squeezed and squeezed the white powder inside my hands and snarled at it as it fell back to the ground. I only stopped snarling because I couldn’t feel my tongue anymore.

The dogs were now pleading for mercy from the cold so I gave up and took us all back inside. As I unbound myself from all the winter gear hot tears spilled down my face. (When your face is frozen stiff your tears feel very hot indeed.) I didn’t have a husband and I didn’t have a snowman!

I made a hot tea and tortured myself by looking out the window at my failed attempt. The cardinal returned with his spouse and some feathered friends. They seemed to be watching me as closely I was watching them. Then I realized why. Their feeder was empty. The cardinal was looking from me to the snow torso and back again. I suddenly felt a whiff of inspiration in the air.

Could I rethink the abandoned snow project? Was it possible to make something new from a loss?

Captured by the possibility of it, I filled a cup with seeds and took a knife from the drawer. I pulled on my jacket and gloves and ventured out again. I raked the top of the snow torso flat and poured the cup of seeds onto the top and before I could even get back inside the birds were on it. When I returned to my tea I realized this new feeder was in a perfect place, and at a perfect height, for me to watch the birds from my armchair by the fire.

My snowman incident was a great reminder of the great truths of life: On the coldest of days, it’s grace that gets us through it. (Grace and the willingness to think outside the old box.)

Needing to think outside of YOUR holiday box? I’ve added another day to register for the Surviving the Holidays Program.

Feeling Left Out in the Cold?

Have you experienced any of these feelings recently?

A deep feeling of sadness as signs of the holiday season arrive.
Confusion about what day it is.
A numbness in your spirit.
Difficulty concentrating.

If you’ve had one or more than one of these, join the club. The rest of the world is filled with lights and color while you feel like you’re stuck on the other side of a frozen lake. A “Blue Christmas” is what some people call it. I call it really rough.

The things that used to bring you joy might not this year. Do you ever wonder why? It’s because nothing is the same now. Your whole world has been turned upside down and you’re still trying to right yourself. Your work now is to define a new normal because that old one, the one with him in it, is gone forever.

So you have a choice here. You can embrace the change in front of you or you can ignore it, and hope it goes away. It won’t. I say that because I tried it. It didn’t work too well. Facing the change head on, however, was very freeing and gave me renewed energy for the holiday plan I needed to make so I could not only survive the season but enjoy some of it!

So, do me a big favor right now.  Take a deep breath and try to think of one thing you’ve always wanted to do at the holidays. Maybe it’s go see “A Christmas Carol” or “The Nutcracker.” Maybe you’ve wanted to  volunteer at a homeless shelter on Christmas eve or give Christmas canes to people as they leave church. Or play Secret Santa to a child in need.

When you actualize one of these things that you’ve thought about doing but never have, you’ll create a new pathway in your brain. It’s true. And you’ll reward yourself with a little dopamine and a new way to feel happy.

If you want more ideas like this, and my one-on-one support during the holiday season, then I invite you accept the mission of building a healthy holiday for yourself with the Surviving the Holidays Program. Registration ends tomorrow so if you want to participate, don’t wait!

Pick a Survival Idea

Alright. We all know Thanksgiving can be rough. Here are four survival strategies widows I have worked with have used. Pick one.

Hide out under the covers from 11-22 until 11-25
Book a 3-day cruise that leaves the day before.
Make reservations at Cracker Barrel and have the waitress give the check to your brother-in-law.
Spend the holiday with a bottle of Chardonnay

Well? Which one did you pick? I should have used number 3 but caved and went to the family party without a plan. Big mistake. BIG mistake. Everybody’s having a normal holiday but you.

You’re going to want a real plan, a set of ideas and strategies that let you remain calm and celebrate in ways that are meaningful to you. To your own self be true” is never going to be truer than now, at the holidays, as a newly solo woman.

The good news is that it’s not that hard to make a plan. With my Surviving the Holidays Program, it will be fresh and fun. Plus, you’ll get the one-on-one experienced emotional support you need to use this time to create a new normal and move forward.

In our one-on-one calls, we’ll talk about ways to celebrate that are right for you and fun activities will let you make the plan that works for you. AND, I’ll be there for you with email support whenever you get stuck. You can do this, I want to help. But due to the highly personalized support that this system provides, I have a limited number of registrations available. Registration ends in a few days.

Afraid You’ll Celebrate in a Haunted House?

The loneliness and emptiness of your home at the holidays without your loved one can be overwhelming. Which of these things do you dread more?

Trying to untangle the lights.
Getting the step-ladder out to hang ornaments.
Trying to host the family party without him.
Putting on a happy face.

I have to admit, for my first couple of holidays, it was all of the above.

What I didn’t understand was how much (and how many times) I would be triggered and have an embarrassing public grief burst. Silly me, I would try to do what “we’d always done” and end up in tears, or worse yet, under the covers.

So pick one thing from the list above and figure out how you’ll do it differently this year. Every small step you make to navigate your new normal will give you more confidence and peace of mind.

If you want one-on-one emotional support and a 7 week plan that will keep you calm and provide meaningful ways to celebrate, the Surviving the Holidays Program is for you. Availability is limited due to the highly personalized nature of the program.  Click the puppy to learn more.

What’s Your Holiday Style?

Experts say that your holiday decorating style is as unique as you are! Which of these styles best describes you?

Elegant and unique
Classic traditional, all red and green
Cool and modern – blues and silver
Warm with country charm

Expressing your unique self as you decorate will be more important now than ever! But, you might not have as much energy for it this year. And that’s okay. You’ve been through a lot. Maybe it’s time for the holidays to nurture you instead the other way around.

Maybe this year you just set out a few special ornaments or maybe you ask for a few new ones as Thanksgiving gifts. (A friend of mine did this for her 2nd holiday season without her husband and said it changed how she felt for the whole holiday!)

So, if YOUR life isn’t the same, why would you expect the holidays to look the same? That’s an unrealistic expectation. (Also known as a disaster waiting to happen!)

The 7  week Surviving the Holidays Program gives you the one-on-one emotional support you need to peer into the season and develop a plan that lets you stay calm, celebrate in ways that support you where you are NOW, and have a meaningful holiday season.  Click the Santa puppy

You Can’t Buy Happiness

Do any of these match your reaction to going Christmas shopping this year?

How much wine can I have first?
It all makes me want to puke.
I can’t believe how tacky it all is.
The crowds make me crazy.

I’m not surprised if you picked more than one. I wasn’t much of a mall shopper before he died, but after his death, forget it!

But I have a friend who lives to shop. She loves it. She starts Christmas shopping at Easter (I’m not kidding.). And she gives great presents! She knows the stores and all their merchandise. You can say, “I’d like to get my sister a red sweater with a small ornament on it.” and she’ll say, “Embroidered or applique?” and then take you right to that rack. She has a built-in GPS for shopping. It’s amazing.

For the first few years I stumbled around with the present thing. I didn’t feel like baking so no one got cookies. I didn’t feel like shopping so no one got a sweater or reindeer underwear. Instead, I gave gifts to charity and sent my loved ones a card that said: “Merry Christmas, I gave a gift to (fill in charity here) in your name.”

That’s actually a tradition that I’ve kept. I make notes about new charities I see during the year and do my giving at Christmas. Everyone on my list has more than enough stuff. Of course I go through about 4 pounds of butter making cookies, too, but it took me a few years to get back to that.

What would be meaningful for you to give this year? Or should you just explain that you’ll catch back up next year and take the gift-giving year off?

The Surviving the Holidays Program will give you a plan and it will give you the one-on-one emotional support that gives you the courage to make a new plan . Because, let’s face it, the old days are never coming back.