I Did Not Know What To Say Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Sympathy’

Virtual Book Tour – Interview with Chelsea Hanson, Author of the Sympathy Matters Collection

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on May 23, 2011

Thank you for joining us on our Virtual Book Tour.

Today we Welcome Chelsea Hanson, the author of the Sympathy Matters Collection. Chelsea’s interview offers many insights and practical suggestions on how to assist a grieving loved one.

Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences with grief and the healing process in the comment section below.

1. What inspired you to write the Sympathy Matters Collection?

The Sympathy Matters Collection started as a simple poem of comfort. When my mother, Donna, passed away unexpectedly right before Christmas in 1996, I knew that my family and the holidays would never be the same. To help with my grief, I wrote a poem, Hello from Heaven, to express what I thought my mother would want to say to us after she arrived in heaven.

Over time, I would enclose the poem in sympathy gifts for others. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and after many requests, I decided to publicly share this message, so I published my first gift book, Hello from Heaven.

As time passed, I was inspired to create more gift books to comfort others in their time of need, including Forever in My Heart, Merry  Christmas from Heaven Above, If Only I Knew and Choose Hope.

The collection of gift books from http://www.Sympathymatters.com has comforted people across the country and has been used by grief support groups, hospice and funeral home professionals.

But the gift books were just the beginning. As I continued to recognize the need for support at time of loss, With Sympathy Gifts and Keepsakes was founded. This is a site that provides gifts to express your sympathy with care as well as provide keepsakes to honor your precious loved one.

2. Is there any one thing that your family or friends did for you that assisted you through the grieving process? (i.e. a special card someone sent you, a favorite place they took you, listened when you needed support, etc.)

Just this last Christmas, my mother-in-law, LaVon, sent me a floral holiday bouquet that said, “Thinking about you at this time of the year,” to express her care. My mother, Donna, passed away over 14 years ago right before Christmas. Thus, it meant so much that LaVon acknowledged the anniversary of my mother’s death and provided support at Christmas time, which is typically a difficult time of the year for those who have lost someone.

As evidenced by this example, grieving people still need messages of sympathy for years to come after a death, especially on holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. You are not reminding them of their loss when you send a card or do something extra on these days. Instead, you are offering comfort and support that may still be needed. Remember, you can express your support at anytime to the bereaved.

It is also important to acknowledge the anniversary of the death. This is a hard day for anyone who is grieving, so your extra support on this day can be helpful. Communicate that you remember the date by calling, sending flowers, writing a note or what feels right to you.

3. Our website focuses on providing tips to friends and family members on how to support a loved one through the grieving process. What would be your top three suggestions on how to positively support a loved one that is grieving?

1. Reminisce. Continue to reminisce with your friend about his or her loved one’s life. Sharing fond memories is a wonderful way to provide comfort. Remember, talking about the deceased will not hurt or upset the person grieving. In fact, it is just the opposite, your friend will appreciate that you are talking about their loved one. Please know that it is okay to talk about someone who passed away, and it is helpful to use the deceased’s name in conversations.

2. Be yourself. Speak in a way and behave in a way that is natural for you. Continue the same relationship you had before: close friend, acquaintance, friendly neighbor, or work buddy. Offer help only if you are able to follow through, and in a way that makes sense in your life. Can you drive the carpool? Offer to drop off a meal? Mow the lawn once a week without even knocking on the door? Take the kids on a play date for the afternoon?

3. Learn about and understand grief. To understand what you friend is going through, do your best to learn about grieving. Everyone grieves differently, and there is no timetable on grief. By having an understanding of the process, you will have more compassion and be able to support your friend. Being a friend to the grieving will not always be easy. Your friend has changed and will continue to change as he or she journeys through grief. Your gift of support, however, will always be remembered and cherished by your friend.

4. You have a series of books (Hello from Heaven, Forever in My Heart, Merry Christmas from Heaven Above, If Only I Knew, and Choose Hope), do you suggest that readers read them in a certain order or do they individually stand alone.

Each book provides a separate message of healing and comfort to those traveling through grief.
Hello from Heaven can be given at any time during the healing process, but it is particularly helpful at time of loss.
Merry Christmas from Heaven Above can be used for the first Christmas after loss or any subsequent Christmas.
Forever in My Heart is especially beneficial on the first anniversary of loss, but can be given at other times during the grief journey too.
If Only I Knew is an inspirational book that reminds us to cherish our loved ones each and every day.
Choose Hope is for families who have been affected by cancer, and provides words of hope and encouragement when facing cancer.

5. What is one thing you would like your readers to take away from your books?
The main theme in my writing is that your loved one is always loving you, watching you and guiding you from heaven. The book excerpts below illustrate this message:

“Though my life is over, I am closer to you now than I was ever before.
There are rocky roads ahead of you and many hills to climb,
but together we can do it taking one day at a time.”

Excerpt from Hello from Heaven

“Let your faith be strong, for I’m home where I belong.
Please don’t be unhappy because I’m not in your sight.
I’m by your side every morning, noon and night”

Excerpt from Forever in My Heart

6. What do you want our readers to know about you and your books?My purpose is simple:

To ensure that the bereaved receive the sympathy and comfort they need in a caring and helpful manner. When you are not sure of what to say or do at time of loss, the Sympathy Matters collection can help you. Whatever book you may choose to give, be assured that you will express your sympathy thoughtfully and provide great comfort to the recipient.

My long term vision: Working together with grief support groups and educators, we can teach society more about loss, dying and grief. By increasing society’s knowledge and comfort level surrounding death, dying can become accepted as a normal part of life, just like being born. In turn, our world will become better equipped to support and interact with people that are grieving.

7. Do you plan to write any additional books in the future?

Yes, I am currently working on a pet loss book, entitled “Wags and Whiskers from Heaven.” The purpose of the book is to provide sympathy and comfort to pet owners who have lost a beloved pet. I recently lost three long-time family members (pets Owen, Emma and Fiver). Thus, this book is to honor them and to help others who have lost a four-legged family member.

About Chelsea Hanson
Author Chelsea Hanson has the special gift of finding the right words when they are needed most. Her reassuring words provide hope that you too will be able to journey through grief and find a new appreciation of life. For information on Chelsea’s books, please visit: www.SympathyMatters.com 

As an entrepreneur, Chelsea is passionate about providing grief support. She is the founder of With Sympathy Gifts and Keepsakes, which was developed to help you express your sympathy remember your loved with a special keepsake or simply find additional support from those who have been there. For more information, please visit: www.WithSympathyGifts.com or www.Facebook.com/WithSympathyGifts.

Advertisements

Posted in Grief Support & Holidays, Loss of a Mother, Loss of a Parent, Virtual Book Tour, What to do for someone that is grieving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Virtual Book Tour – – Interview with Pat Nowak – Author of the ABC’s of Widowhood

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on January 22, 2011

Thank you for joining us on our Virtual Book Tour. 

Today we Welcome Pat Nowak, the author of “The ABC’s of Widowhood”. Pat’s interview offers many insights and practical suggestions on how to assist a widow heal after the loss of her spouse.

Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences with grief and the healing process in the comment section below.

“The ABC’s of Widowhoodis featured on our Helpful Books page under Loss of a Spouse.

And now our interview with Pat Nowak:

1. What inspired you to write the book The ABC’s of Widowhood?

When my husband was killed walking across the street I was at a loss to find anything that was helpful to read. I was facing emotional upheaval as well as financial problems. Many books that I picked up addressed one or the other; not both. Additionally, a woman experiencing grief needs to have something succinct to read as her attention span is often very limited. My inspiration for the book came from wanting to help all of those women who would experience the death of a spouse and find themselves in the same predicament.

2. How did losing your husband change your life?

After the devastation of losing my husband and eighteen days later our home in a fire, I made the mistake of trying to do too much too soon and insisted on becoming the rock for my children to rely on. Instead of taking care of myself I did not want them to sufferThe ABC's of Widowhood so I overextended; sleeping very little and working non-stop. I learned that I am no good to anyone if I did not stop and listen to my needs. I have since learned the importance of taking time for myself.

I also learned that a woman MUST learn to be financially savvy for her survival. Even today too many women are not vigilant about finances. This spells disaster when there is a death; I learned the hard way but it need not happen.

3. How is the death of a spouse different from divorce?

Death and divorce are similar from an emotional standpoint as you grieve for a spouse that is no longer in the picture. Death, however, is final and many women, after a period of time, begin a new journey and achieve a complete life change. A divorce often means that compromise is necessary as you navigate through childcare, financial and living arrangements that will continue on for years. It is often difficult for a woman to move on after a divorce but in both cases there is a world of new opportunity if a woman listens to her heart and pushes aside the hurt. Once that happens, many women discover happiness that helps them regain their self-confidence and uncovers a wealth of prospects.

4. Is there any one thing that your family or friends did for you that assisted you through the grieving process?

My family and friends did not desert me. Often after a death or divorce female friends, who are still married, might feel that you are a competitor and couples begin to drift away. This is hurtful to the person grieving. The support my friends showed me during that time helped me through those times when I was overwhelmed.

5. Our website focuses on providing tips to friends and family members on how to support a loved one through the grieving process. What would be your suggestions on how friends and family can support a loved one that has lost a spouse?

Family and friends can make the difference in the life of someone who is grieving. Call, stop by and make it a point to be engaged with someone who has lost a loved one. Show up unexpectedly with a cup of coffee and just be there to listen.

6. What do you wish your family or friends had done differently after you lost your husband?

My friends often were over vigilant not wanting me to feel the hurt. Unfortunately everyone has to go through the grief process in their own way and time. Occasionally I had to push back in order to make my own decisions; right or wrong.

7. What are your top three suggestions to help people move forward in the grieving process after the loss of a spouse?

The first thing anyone dealing with grief needs is an attitude adjustment. It is necessary to revitalize and embrace a newfound self-confidence. Even though the prospect of striking out on a path, chosen only by you, is continually daunting you must make it a point to try new things daily. By getting out of the same routine you will see amazing activities and events just waiting to happen. As your self-esteem soars you will know that it is now up to you to plan for your happiness. When you embrace the new changes you are free to let go of the past and proceed easily on to your future.

The next is balance and that has to come from within. Mental and financial balance is essential if you are to meet the challenges of facing life. You need to learn, earn and stop the yearning for balance to work. Learning from professionals what you need to go forward can solve problems easily. An accountant, attorney, and financial experts can help you with any necessary decisions for your future well-being.

Your mental balance may take a bit longer to achieve. When you spend so much time with a significant other your personalities become fused. The slow and rigorous ritual of becoming whole again will take many tears, embracing family and friends for a support system and taking small steps back into life.

The last need is courage; the inner strength that allows you to wake up each morning and get out of bed, even with tears streaming from your eyes. It is the firm determination to get going when all you would like to do is crawl in a hole. Courage will be tested each day as you relearn to live as one in a society meant for two but it is also the tenacity that will make you succeed.

8. What is one thing you would like your readers to take away from your book?

It is a simple and sobering fact. Most are unprepared for death, divorce or a debilitating illness, yet this need not happen. Being prepared is the one thing all women can do early in their relationship to insure that plans for their financial destiny and emotional well-being are taken care of.

Additionally, after the death of a spouse there are many assets you will acquire on your life journey. You have the opportunity to choose the way you want to live, the activities that will excite you and the numerous avenues for exploration. Every day will be a new test of strength, fortitude and determination but most who lose a spouse can find their way if they embrace the changes with clarity and hopefulness.

9. What would you like our readers to know about you and your book?

My personal goal after healing was to write a book that everyone who loses a spouse could read before or after the death to help them through the transition. The ABC’s of Widowhood is my voice of experience and my new beginning to share what I discovered along the way. I realized the most important lesson is that all women must have faith to know that they have the free will to pursue a vision of freedom and spiritual awakening…and the journey can be astonishing if you let it.

10. Have you written any other books? Do you plan to write any other books in the future?

At the present time I am thinking about writing a book on generational assistance for women; condensing what I know with assistance from others.

About Pat Nowak

People who become suddenly single, whether through divorce or widowhood, can rely on Pat Nowak for comfort and assistance. A nationally renowned speaker and author, Pat Nowak is a life coach on overcoming the emotional trauma of divorce and widowhood, an expert in handling financial affairs, and a motivator to change your life one day at a time.

Connect to Pat Nowak, the author of The ABCs of Widowhood, at http://www.abcsofwidowhood.com. Books are available at http://www.amazon.com

Grief Support Resources: http://www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/grief_support_groups.html

Posted in Loss of a Spouse, Virtual Book Tour | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Don’t Miss Our Monthly Newsletter

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on January 20, 2011

Don’t miss our monthly newsletter featuring tips, articles and inspirational stories on how to assist a loved one through the journey of restoring balance in their life after a loss.

January 2011 – Featured Article:

 The Art of the Inspirational Adventure
Helping your Love One Find Fun & Adventure in the Grieving Process
by Lori Pederson, Founder I Did Not Know What To Say

To read more, Click on the link below to sign up for our Monthly Newsletter: http://www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/mailinglist.html

Our Newsletter includes tips, articles and inspirational stories on how to assist your friends and family members through the journey of restoring balance in their life after the death of a love one.

Plus You will receive my FREE Special Report, “Twenty-Five Supportive Things You Can Do For Someone That Has Lost a Loved One ~ Plus Ten Thoughtful Gift Ideas”

Posted in Grief Resources - Newsletter, Inspiration, What to do for someone that is grieving | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Virtual Book Tour – Interview with Catherine Greenleaf – Author of Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on January 15, 2011

Thank you for joining us on our Virtual Book Tour.

Today we Welcome Catherine Greenleaf, the author of “Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide”. Catherine’s interview offers many insights and practical suggestions on how to assist a loved one that is a suicide loss survivor.

Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences with grief and the healing process in the comment section below.

“Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide” is featured on our Helpful Books page under Healing after a Suicide.

And now our interview with Catherine Greenleaf:

1. What inspired you to write the book Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide?

I wrote the book I wished I’d had when I was first going through suicide grief. My first suicide loss was in 1980. While there were many books written about suicide during the 1980s and 1990s, I found most of them to be published by academics writing for a professional audience of psychiatrists. I was yearning for a book in plain English I could understand, written by a suicide loss survivor like myself, so I could read about how to get through the grief. I wrote my book so survivors could identify the stages, or passages, of suicide grief and know they were not going crazy. I also wanted the book to help survivors know that things do get better and it is possible to hold that special person in your heart and still live a happy life. I finally published my book in 2006 – it took many years to write!

2. How did losing your friend to suicide change your life?

I was so young back then. I was in my mid-20s and I had never really experienced a sudden death before. I was devastated. He was one of my closest friends, and more like a brother to me than a friend. I felt like I had totally failed him as a human being, that I should have done something to somehow stop him. I can remember every night after coming home from work lying down in the bathroom on the cold tile floor and just weeping and sobbing. This went on for months. I ate a lot. I gained weight. I didn’t really take very good care of myself. I didn’t reach out for help. I just kept it all inside and didn’t talk to anybody. But you know, back then, Healing the Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicidethere weren’t really any support groups or therapists specializing in suicide loss. Things are a lot different today.

3. How does the death of a loved one by suicide differ from other losses?

Suicide is sudden and violent. It gives you no opportunity for closure. Your loved one is there one minute and gone the next. There’s no chance to even say good-bye. The self-inflicted violence of suicide is appalling, and often family and friends are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, whether they witnessed the suicide or not. Just the news alone sometimes is enough to cause PTSD. Suicide is also considered a form of complicated disenfranchised grief, because there is so much shame and stigma attached to it, and society in general just does not offer support to grieving families. The irony of suicide grief is we are the ones who must reach out and ask for the help at a time when we are most in need of help from the community. I am happy to say that is finally beginning to change.

4. Is there any one thing that your family or friends did for you that assisted you through the grieving process?

I have to say I am very fortunate that I have incredibly wonderful friends. After the suicide, I had several friends encouraging me to take care of myself and seek help. One of my friends drove me home from work after I got the news of the suicide by telephone. I was so shell-shocked I don’t even remember it, but apparently she drove me home and cooked me dinner! My friends are good listeners. They will let me rant and rave and they will just sit there and offer support. I should add here, however, that some friends will be unable to offer support and may even disappear from your life. This happened to me. Not everyone is cut out to handle the pervading stigma around suicide. It’s another loss, to be sure, but it does happen. Stick with the people who can support you and validate your loss.

5. Our website focuses on providing tips to friends and family members on how to support a loved one through the grieving process. What would be your suggestions on how friends and family can support a loved that is grieving due to suicide?

Be a “first responder.” Since suicide loss survivors are very likely to pull down the shades and hide inside the house, you be the one who rings the doorbell or makes the phone call and offers unconditional love and support. You have to understand that suicide in the family makes you feel like the whole world thinks there is something abnormal about your family. That is not true, of course. Suicide can happen in any family. But you feel the heavy weight of shame nonetheless. The best things you could say would be: “I am so sorry,” and “Is there anything I can do?” Silence is the worst thing. So many people aren’t sure what to say, so they don’t say anything. To the suicide loss survivor, unfortunately, this could be interpreted as condemnation.

Ask them what they need. If they want to talk, then you can be a tremendous help by just listening. If they just want to sit silently and enjoy the closeness of your company, then that can be just as comforting as well. You’ll want to remember that at times they may not know their own minds. Suicide grief is a form of complicated grief because dying through violent self-infliction is extremely traumatizing to the loved ones left behind. Not only are they trying to work through the stages of suicide grief, they are also often diagnosed with PTSD and experiencing various symptoms like agitation and sleeplessness. They may also have to go on medication for anxiety and depression. There are going to be days where they have no idea what they want, so your patience will be key.

6. What do you wish your family or friends had done differently after you lost your friend by suicide?

I wish my family had talked about it. There wasn’t even a discussion to not discuss it. It was like a silent, unwritten pact to pretend nothing happened. My family didn’t mention Bob’s name for 11 years. It was like he never existed. There was so much shame and stigma and confusion, the decision was made to sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened. I think my family’s reaction is pretty typical of many families today who experience suicide loss. Unfortunately, the trauma and repressed emotions don’t go away. They are buried alive and will come out unexpectedly during another loss or crisis like divorce or illness. I would suggest family and friends urge their loved ones to get help, and start talking about it.

7. What are your top three suggestions to help people move forward in the grieving process after the loss due to suicide?

1. Be sure to find yourself a sudden loss bereavement therapist. Just any grief therapist will not do. You really need someone well-versed in the trauma of sudden, complicated grief. I can tell you Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief do not apply to suicide loss. Kubler-Ross’ created those stages of grief in the 1950s for hospice patients. Unfortunately, since that time many therapists have used a cookie-cutter approach with those stages. I have documented 12 stages, or passages, through suicide grief in my book.

2. Don’t feel guilty if you feel relief after your loved one dies by suicide. Many of us have lost loved ones with brain disorders. Living with someone with a personality disorder, schizophrenia or bi-polar can be extremely stressful. From my own experience, you kind of walk on eggshells hoping they won’t go off their meds and have an “episode.” So when they do die, it’s not that you feel relief because they’re gone, it’s because you no longer have to tiptoe around hoping not to set them off.

3. Don’t isolate. Join a suicide loss survivor support group in your area. Make friends with these people. Go out for coffee and ice cream with them when you are feeling lonely or overwhelmed. Put yourself with friends who validate your loss and encourage your recovery.

8. What is one thing you would like your readers to take away from your book?

That my book is strictly for them – for the suicide loss survivor. I don’t go on and on about what to do and what not to do to prevent the suicide of a loved one. My book does not focus on suicide prevention. There are plenty of organizations and books out there addressing that side of things. The big problem is there are not enough books addressing the needs of the loved ones left behind. That is why I wrote my book: to address the confusion, anger, hurt and despair. I want my readers to know they can survive their grief and go on to live happy lives.

9. What would you like our readers to know about you and your book?

I’ve lost three people, the first in 1980, the second in 1986 and the third in 1992. Since I had been through it three times, I naturally started to notice a pattern to my reactions, my grief and what I needed to do to get through it all. I started writing it all down and eventually my journaling turned into a book. I would suggest that any survivor keep a journal. It is a very powerful tool for healing. I tell my journal all my deepest, darkest secrets and fears.

10. Have you written any other books? Do you plan to write any other books in the future?

I just came out of the recording studio! I have created a CD of healing music and positive affirmations called Today, I Am Healing. The affirmations are designed to help restore a person’s self-esteem and self-worth after a suicide loss. I found a wonderful New Age music composer to write the music. It should be out by May of 2011.

About Catherine Greenleaf

Catherine Greenleaf is a suicide loss survivor. She travels all over the United States to share her experiences with other survivors. Her website is: http://www.healingthehurtspirit.com. You can follow her on http://www.twitter.com/todayiamhealing. You can also read her articles on suicide loss at: http://www.healingfromsuicidegrief.blogspot.com.

Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide is featured on our Helpful Books page – http://www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/helpfulbooks.html

Grief Support Resources: http://www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/grief_support_groups.html

Posted in Loss of a Friend, Suicide Survivors, Virtual Book Tour, What to do for someone that is grieving | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are You Ready for a Dazzling, Love-Filled Life?

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on January 11, 2011

What if you could feel like you’re in love EVERY DAY of your life? And what if you could dissolve any heartache, pain, or emptiness and experience the ecstasy of an open heart? 

You can. . . by learning how to Love for No Reason. 

In her extraordinary new book Love For No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love, my friend and colleague Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times bestselling author, shows you how to experience a deep and lasting state of love that doesn’t depend on another person, situation, or romantic partner.  You’ll be able to: 

  • Open your heart and become a magnet for love 
  • Enjoy more fulfilling relationships with others AND yourself 
  • Turn off your body’s stress response and turn on your body’s love response for better health and well-being 
  • Experience more success and satisfaction  
  • Help your family, community, and the world 

Marci’s onto something BIG.  I’m heartily recommending this breakthrough book to everyone, giving it two VERY enthusiastic thumbs up! 

Get it TODAY, and you’ll also receive the exclusive “Love For No Reason Gift Package” as a BONUS.  Click here: http://www.thelovebook.com 

P.S.  If Marci’s name sounds familiar. . .it should!  She’s the author of the international bestseller Happy for No Reason, six top titles in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and a teacher in the hit film The Secret.  Now, in Love for No Reason, Marci shares the most important life-changing message of all. I urge you to get a copy today! http://www.thelovebook.com

MARCI SHIMOFF books are also featured on our Helpful Books page – http://www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/helpfulbooks.html

Be sure to watch for our Upcoming Interview with MARCI SHIMOFF as part of our Virtual Book Tour!

Posted in Love | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Virtual Book Tour – Interview with Ellen Gerst – Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on December 29, 2010

Thank you for joining us on our Virtual Book Tour.

Today we Welcome Ellen Gerst, the author of “Love After Loss: Writing the Rest of Your Story”.   Ellen’s interview offers many insights and practical suggestions on how to assist a widow heal and find love again after the loss of her spouse.

Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences with grief and the healing process in the comment section below.

And now our interview with Ellen Gerst:

1. I understand you were quite young when your husband died. How did losing him at an early age change your life? 

I was 39 years old when he died, and we had been together for over half of our lives. On the fateful day that he took his own life, I lost more than my husband; I lost everything that I thought was true about life and my personal world. The laws of nature had been broken, and it took quite a while to steady my compass. This made by grief journey very complicated.

Although this sounds incongruous, my late husband was the most sane and rational man around. If he could commit this heart breaking act, then it was possible for anyone to reach such a crisis of faith. His death was truly a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

And so he became the wake-up call for many of our friends to take stock of their own lives. Although I disliked having to be the example, I took stock of my own life too. I knew that I had a choice to either spiral downward or use this moment as the jumping off point for a life led in gratitude for what I did have rather than bemoan what I was lacking. And, if I had to lose my husband, I was grateful that I was young enough to have many years in front of me where I could utilize the lessons I had internalized from this life changing event.

After many years of gut wrenching introspective thought and study, I was able to accept the duality of every circumstance man encounters. Consequently, I was able to look at my husband’s death as the very worst thing that happened to me, as well as the opportunity that allowed me to evolve and grow into the woman I am today.

I have chronicled my journey from grief to renewal in the Introduction of Thin Threads of Grief and Renewal, an anthology of life changing stories of which I served as co-editor.

2. What inspired you to write the book Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story?

Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story has been a continual work in progress. It actually started off as a blog (before blogs even existed!) of my Internet dating adventures.

Let me digress for a moment …

About two and a half years after my husband died, I started a relationship with a man I met on a blind date set up by mutual friends. And although it didn’t work out, I believe its greater purpose was to awaken my senses. I was so glad to feel SOMETHING – to know that my emotions had only gone on hiatus while I was healing from my loss.

At about six or seven years out, I decided I was ready to look for a new life partner. Now, I knew I was capable of having a relationship; I just had no idea how to find one! So, what did I do? I turned to the modern day matchmaker … match.com!

At first, I treated it as a science experiment. I wanted to have lots of different experiences, meet lots of different people, and mostly have some fun. As I progressed through the process, I started to hone my dating expertise and technique. Having only dated two people my entire life, I was pleasantly surprised at how well I performed this task!

With a professional background in English education, I was always drawn to writing. With every job I held and with every personal experience, I either wrote a manual or a book. Since I was so steeped in dating, I decided that I would record how to Internet date safely and successfully. And when I felt disappointed by an encounter, I would write a story about it to see if I could extract the lesson I was supposed to learn. The book continued to grow in content as I included my thoughts on the tenets of a successful relationship. I started to share it with my prospective dates who I thought had promise as a treatise on “how to date Ellen.” They welcomed reading it – after all, isn’t it easier to proceed when you have the instruction manual in hand?

After some time, I earned my coaching certification. Specializing in grief and relationships seemed an easy choice. I then revised Love After Loss to include a section that takes the reader through various coaching exercises to help him or her reach clarity about his/her situation. 

Looking for love after the death of a spouse is a bit more complicated than other types of dating. Contrary to a divorce or break-up, a marriage or partnership was not ended by choice and feelings of love and positive attachments are left intact. A widow/er must take an arduous journey towards personal renewal so he/she can find the place where welcoming new love does not feel like a negation or a dishonoring of the relationship experienced with a revered late spouse.

At the heart of the matter is that I strongly believe that if one has navigated difficult waters successfully then he/she must put a hand out to help the next person travelling along a similar road. Love After Loss is that outstretched helping hand.

You can read the first chapter of Love After Loss, “The Do-Over” on Scribd.

3.  How does losing a spouse differ from losing a parent, a sibling or another immediate family member?

Losing any close relative is devastating, so it is difficult to compare them. Moreover, since all losses are highly individual, it will affect each person differently.  That said, I do think the depth of your grief and the affect it has on your life is somewhat proportionate with the length of your spousal relationship and with how close and/or dependent you were on him/her or the family member.

Personally, I left home at age 17 when I started college. Upon graduation, I moved 3000 miles away from my parents. At most, I saw them twice a year for a couple of weeks. When my father passed away, I mourned him deeply, as well as the milestones he would be missing, especially since I was 8 months pregnant with my second child and my parents were scheduled to await the birth with us only two weeks before he died.

However, since I neither frequently saw my dad nor talked to him on the phone because he was hard of hearing, it took a long time for it to sink in that he was actually gone. And although I felt his death emotionally, my daily life was not impacted by his death.

What is tough about losing a family member is that you have a long shared history filled with memories that ‘outsiders’ can never appreciate. I think Erma Bombeck said it best.

“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”

For me, I had this same bond with my late husband because we met before we were fully formed adults. We grew up together and, as you do with family members, we shared so many firsts. And as my siblings did, he saw me evolve from a teenager to a woman to a mother. Consequently, his death was a double whammy for me – the loss of a spouse and a close family member.

So to answer your question … to me, the emotional pain of losing a spouse or another family member is pretty consistent. However when a spouse dies, the logistics and rhythm of life are disrupted more so than when a mom, dad or sibling passes.

4. Is there any one thing that your family or friends did for you that assisted you through the grieving process?   

They allowed me to progress through my grief journey at the speed that was just right for me. Moreover, I was not pressured by their expectations of what they thought I should be doing.

Family and friends remained constant without hovering. I felt their love and support and knew they would swoop in to catch me if I were to fall, but, at the same time, they allowed me the space to try out my new wings.

5.  What do you wish your family or friends had done differently after you lost your husband? 

Actually, I was very lucky. I know some widow/ers are disappointed by the reactions of friends and family, but I did not encounter that situation, except for one instance. Of course, it was partially my attitude too. I ignored, or chose to remain oblivious to, negative or hurtful words and actions. I know that before I lost my husband I, too, felt awkward and didn’t know what to say to the bereaved. I know one day when loss is experienced, each person will realize his/her inappropriate or hurtful words/actions. After my late husband’s death, I chose not to expend unnecessary energy on this type of behavior by taking offense and learned to accept that life is just a learning process for us all.

The one disappointment I did have was that my husband’s two brothers deserted us. It’s been 15 years, and I still haven’t heard from them. However, I believe this is more about them than me. I imagine they still have not done their grief work, and they believe it would be painful to interact with me and their nephews. I simply feel sorry for them. They have given up a relationship with the two people who could have brought them the closest to the memory of their brother. It’s very sad, and I’m sure they will harbor regrets at the end of their days. 

6. What suggestions do you have for widows that are looking for ways to start over and find love again? 

In order to be successful at this task, it is imperative that you finish your grief work before looking for new love. I think it’s okay to try dating before you are completely done grieving – as long as you realize it is only practice and that you are not ready to enter a fully committed relationship.

The first step in the process of starting over is to discover and get to know the new you. In Love After Loss, I refer to this person as the “New Single You.” After having experienced such a momentous event in one’s life, it is virtually impossible to have remained the same. Consequently, one must spend time in introspective and explorative thought to find out who this person is and what he/she wants in life.

Attitude and perspective are also at the top of my list for those who are looking to enter the dating scene. A couple of tips to keep in mind include:

1. Dating is supposed to be fun, not a chore. Choose that mindset for the best result!

2. It is a numbers game. The more people you meet, the better your chance of finding someone to whom you can connect. Consequently, be open to meeting different types of people and ones that you might not have considered before your loss.

3. You must keep your expectations in check. Don’t approach each date with the idea that you are going to meet “the one.” Instead, look at each encounter as simply an interaction with another human being. Even if this person is not to your liking romance-wise, EVERYONE has something to offer …. even if it is only to reinforce what you don’t want in a new relationship.

7. What are your top three suggestions to help people move forward in the grieving process after the loss of a spouse?  

1. Don’t grieve on anyone else’s timetable. Mourning is very personal, and everyone moves through the process at different speeds. However, this does not give you a “free pass” forever. You must continuously move forward, even if it is only in baby steps.

2. Make a conscious decision that you will conquer the grief issues that confront you so you can reach a place of personal renewal. I believe in order to reach a goal, you have to articulate it first; it is also imperative to know why you are moving towards it. If you don’t have good reasons why you want something, it is very easy to come up with excuses for not taking action. In truth, this true for any endeavor and not just mourning.

3. If you want to move successfully through your grief, you must have a change in perspective. While in mourning you will experience a myriad of emotions and swing from high to low – sometimes in a matter of a few minutes! Allow all these emotions to surge through your body, although do not attempt to make important decisions during this time. Think of yourself as a pendulum which swings back and forth and eventually comes to rest in the middle. After your emotional swings, you too should come to rest at the midpoint, or what I call neutral.  At neutral, you can adjust your perspective and you are able to look in all directions to decide where you want to go next. Going forward with a positive attitude and one that allows you to be grateful for the things you do have instead of bemoaning what you don’t allows you to step into the renewal phase of your life. Awakening and throwing off the dark mantle of bereavement is a rebirth of sorts and allows you to see the world with clarity and to truly know what is important in life.

8. Our website focuses on providing tips to friends and family members on how to support a loved one through the grieving process.  What would be your suggestions on how friends and family can support a widow that is beginning to write the new story of her life?

In actuality, we all live our lives in stories, and they include many different aspects, including personal, professional, educational, charitable, familial and so on. Much of Love After Loss focuses on one avenue upon which to travel – that of romance.

To provide support to a widow/er, attempt to put aside your own ego and what you think should be done or at what stage you believe your friend or family member should be. In other words … there are no set “shoulds.” What is or would be right for you is not necessarily right for the widow/er. And it is very possible he or she might make a mistake in judgment. However, as adults we must all take responsibility for our own actions. Simply because someone lost a spouse, he or she does not turn into a child – so do not treat him/her as such by telling him/her what to do.

Additionally, be a good listener; support without judgment; offer an opinion only when asked; and don’t push or nag the widow/er to step into dating – only he or she will know the right time to start this process. And, if a relationship becomes serious and you do meet the prospective mate, take into consideration the pressure this person might feel about being “graded” to see if he/she is good enough. This might lead to awkward behavior, so be generous by giving him/her a chance to prove him/herself.

Here is a link to a YouTube video that outlines 10 ways I believe that family and friends can best support a mourner.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AavjQ-dd_o0

9. What is one thing you would like your readers to take away from your book?

I think there are many lessons to be learned about how to move forward, how to date, and how to have a successful relationship. However, the underlying theme is that there is no such thing as a free lunch!

Everything worth having is hard work and usually involves some sort of risk, with opening up your heart after loss being near the top of the list. You cannot wave a magic wand and wish that your grief would dissipate by itself and that your new prince or princess will gallop up and save you. Each individual must “save” him or herself with the hard work it takes to move from grief to renewal. And once renewed, love is the greatest gift to share with another.  

10. What would you like our readers to know about you and the books you have written?

I have always written from personal experience; it is how I figure things out. And when I do figure them out, I like to share!

When I was widowed 15.5 years ago, support for young widow/ers was practically non-existent. I finally found one support group, and I began to write a newsletter for it. Every month I would write about an issue with which I was grappling. What I learned was that everyone was having similar experiences and that I just happened to be living mine aloud and sharing it with the community. Now online support abounds, and there are many opportunities to connect with others who need support.

I believe I coped well with the hand I was dealt. Despite the loss of their father, I raised two sons who are happy and successful in their own lives. And I was able to reinvent myself and to find a new love of my life.

All my books were born from my innate need to help others to gracefully and successfully travel the roads of grief to renewal. I believe my personal and professional expertise can be that helping hand to change a mourner’s perspective from darkness to light.

Ellen Gerst is a grief and relationship coach, author and speaker. Her books, born from personal experience, include: 

101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping With Grief is an easy-to-read reference guide for every day suggestions on how to deal with the practical, emotional, physical and spiritual sides of grief.

Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story includes my own story, which can be read on Scribd.com. The book is a blueprint on how to use my successful method to find and welcome new love into your life after loss. 

 

 

In Order To Be Terrific, You Need To Be Specific! contains 150 specific actions that can be implemented for terrific results in dating and relationship development.

 

 

The Other Side of the Vail: Spiritual Guidance for Everyday Living was written with Melinda Vail, an intuitive therapist. It is a simple yet fascinating book that is perfect for one who is exploring the concept of spirituality and the possibility of being able to communicate with lost loved ones.

Thin Threads of Grief and Renewal, of which I am co-editor, is a small volume of uplifting stories written by authors who have experienced great loss and who went on to find great personal renewal. It makes a thoughtful sympathy card that can be re-read when inspiration is needed to go on.

To receive your free e-book, 25 Inspirational Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief, visit Ellen’s website at http;//www.LNGerst.com. Ellen is available for individualized coaching or workshop presentations for your group. Books are available for sale at the “Book Store” on her website.

Posted in Grief Resources, Loss of a Spouse, Virtual Book Tour, What to do for someone that is grieving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Thoughtful Sympathy Gifts & Holiday Memorial Ornaments

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on November 26, 2010

Thoughtful Sympathy Gift Ideas

Special Savings for the Holidays on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout December on selected gift items.

 Be sure to visit our Thoughtful Sympathy Gifts page on our website at www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/gifts.html for special offers and discount codes!

Christian Memorial Gifts
Design Your Own Gift Baskets
Kindnotes
Memorial Gifts
Memorial Ornaments
Memorial Quilts & Throws
Memorial Trees
Military Memorial Gifts
Miscarriage/Stillbirth Memorial Gifts 
Personalized Memorial Frames
Personalized gift items
Pet Memorials
Remembrance Candles
Spa Gift Certificates
Unique Gift Items
And More…

Don’t Forget to Sign Up for our Free Monthly Newsletter !
http://www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/mailinglist.html

Our Newsletter includes tips, articles and inspirational stories on how to assist your friends and family members through the journey of restoring balance in their life after the death of a love one.
Plus
You will receive my FREE Special Report, “Twenty-Five Supportive Things You Can Do For Someone That Has Lost a Loved One ~ Plus Ten Thoughtful Gift Ideas”

Posted in Thoughtful Sympathy Gifts, What to do for someone that is grieving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pet Owners…we are looking for ideas on what friends and family can do for their friends that have lost a pet.

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on September 30, 2010

Pet Owners…we are looking for ideas on what friends and family can do for their loved ones that have lost a pet.

Please post in the Comment Section below what others have done for you or what you wish they had…

We look forward to hearing your ideas.

Lori

Posted in Loss of a Pet | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »