Honoring the Past and Re-imagining the Future: Menopause and Grief

Honoring the Past Re-imagining the FutureI’m so thrilled to co-facilitate a Summer Playshop, through the Creative Grief Studio, called, “Honoring the Past and Re-imaging the Future.” Beth Newman and I have collaborated to bring you a 100% online Playshop that explores our journey through menopause and the feelings of grief that we sometimes encounter as we reflect on lost opportunities and our aging bodies.

We hope you’ll join us for the live call on Thursday, August 13th, at 1:00 p.m. CT / 2:00 p.m. ET. If you can’t attend the live call, it will be recorded and you can listen at your convenience and join us for the discussions and sharing that will happen in the online classroom through August 20th.  Register today!

Does the intersection of creativity and grief sound like an area you’d like to explore further? If yes, contact me for grief coaching either in-person or online or explore the Creative Grief Studio’s offerings!

Wishing you abundant love and light as you journey with grief and life’s transitions!


Using Reiki for Working with Grief


When we are faced with a significant loss in our life we want the pain to just go away. Instead of light we often feel engulfed in darkness and unable to make even the simplest decisions. One of the great (and painful) ironies, of the dark emotion known as grief, is that ignoring it and shunning it — over the long run — only makes it grow. When we can sit with our grief and journey with it, we experience a shift that allows us to see light again and live our lives.

Reiki is not a cure all

Sometimes people ask me if Reiki will make grief go away. Unfortunately, Reiki is not a cure-all. However, it is an excellent tool for self-care whether you are a Reiki practitioner or not. By receiving Reiki we can experience deep peace that helps us to exist with our pain. For some people when they experience a Reiki session while they are grieving, they feel a sense of lightness throughout their body afterwards. Some clients have reported a feeling of openness in their chest after receiving Reiki. They say that though the grief is not gone, it seems easier to face it and move through their day.

Keep the light flowing

One client, her name is Holly, told me that the pain of her father’s death seemed to haunt her every step.* She said one day she passed by a mirror and noticed how her shoulders were slouched forward as if she were protecting her heart. After receiving a Reiki session, she said that her heart felt lighter and more open. After a series of sessions she noted that her posture had improved and she said, “There’s a spring in my step again. Reiki didn’t make the grief go away, but it seemed to bring back the light. So now I’m living with lightness and grief.” Holly felt this was a real improvement in her life and she continues to receive Reiki periodically to “keep the light flowing.”

Living in the “and” space

Lightness and grief — this is sometimes called, “living in the ‘and’ space.” This is important when working with grief because when we are so hurt by our loss we feel as if we can never love again. However, when we think of it as an “and” — that is, we love AND we grieve — or, we grieve because we love. If we didn’t love, then there would be no grief; but because we love, we grieve when there is loss. So rather than making grief go away, Reiki reopens ones heart to the love, a sense of wonder, and curiosity about this crazy, and often sad, life that we live.

You are not alone

Another aspect of grief is the profound loneliness that we often feel. Isolation from others exacerbates our grief. When we’re able to share our story with another person, we often feel a lifting of the burden that we are carrying. I encourage you to find that person to talk to. That person may not be within your family or current circle of friends and that’s ok. What’s important is to find someone who will listen and support you. Someone who will help you feel that you can open your heart to love again and journey with love AND grief.

What is your experience with grief? What have you found helpful in this journey?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


*Names are changed to protect each client’s privacy.

We live and die by the clock

Cast Away“Time rules over us without mercy. Not caring if we’re healthy or ill. Hungry or drunk. Russian, American, beings from Mars. . . . we live or we die by the clock. We never turn our back on it and we never ever allow ourselves the sin of losing track of time.” from Cast Away

Time: It is precious and fleeting.  There are people who exhort us to waste time — to kick back and have a good time.  Then there are people who pressure us to live every moment to the fullest — to seize the moment and “go for it” at every turn. Of course, there are time management experts and many, many songs that center around the passage of time.

For me, the finite aspect of our time on earth can be a real motivator. I’m a person who likes to think things through and reflect on my decisions before I leap into action. Over the years, however, I’ve noticed that sometimes I spend so much time in my reflection mode that the opportunity disappears. This has led me to adopt a favorite mantra, “Do it now.”

This can be applied in all types of situations and is not just for life’s “big” decisions. For instance, my family and I were in our backyard admiring a spring flower that blooms for only a couple of weeks.  We knew that we wanted to take a picture of it to remember its beauty and we said aloud, “We’ll do that later.” I noticed the pattern and I remembered the many photographs that are only pictures in my mind because I hesitated or thought I’d do it at another time. So instead I said, “No, let’s do it now.  There are too many photos I’ve missed because I thought I’d do it later.”

“Do it now” is also helpful for life’s bigger decisions like where to go on vacation, which job to take, and whether or not to try your hand at Tae Kwon Do or hiking the Appalachian Trail or whatever other ambitious task might be on your bucket list. There will never be a “good” or convenient time for a month on the Trail and there probably will never be the ideal economic conditions for going to Bora Bora, but if these are things that will make your life meaningful to you, then I say, “Do it now.”

Perhaps this is bad advice and the savers among us will say, “Plan, be careful, you never know.”  Well, it’s true, you never do know.  You never know when your time on this earth will cease and you never know when the opportunity in front of you now will come again. Living here and now and staying true to your highest intentions and your higher self are good guides for this life. Knowing that this moment might not happen again helps me to live from a place of gratitude and of heightened awareness. When I’m gratefully aware of the goodness in this moment, I can soften around it and choose what needs to be done now.

How do you live from a “Do it now” perspective?  Is the finite aspect of time a motivator for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Book Review: Healing through the Dark Emotions

Miriam Greenspan dark emotions quoteOne of the wonderful books that was part of studying with the Creative Grief Studio, was Miriam Greenspan’s, “Healing through the Dark Emotions.” In this book Ms. Greenspan guides us in living with our grief, fear, and despair. There is so much profundity in this book that it’s difficult to summarize it all here. However, there are two areas that I’d like to focus on: 1. That our dark emotions are a necessary part of being human. 2. When we shun the dark emotions, they have a way of bubbling up in other ways.

In our “power of positive thinking” culture there is little room for the dark part of our emotional lives. Let’s take grief as an example. When someone is living with grief over the loss of a loved one, there are so many restrictions put on their time with grief. There is almost an “Are you over that yet?” mentality as if losing someone is something that one ever gets over.  One of the things that conspires to create a timeline for our grief is workplace bereavement leave policies. Certain deaths warrant a specific period of leave according to these policies and yet rarely do these exceed four or five days.

In addition, the mental health profession has struggled with the distinction between normal bereavement and a major depressive episode in part because they can resemble each other so much and sometimes one does in fact lead to the other. The current DSM puts a short timeline of two-weeks on the grieving process after which the grief is considered complicated and can qualify as a major depressive disorder. This rush to be done with grieving and to get on with our normal lives (which are no longer normal for us because of our loss) creates a situation where one feels isolated and ashamed of the very normal emotion that they are facing — grief. Ms. Greenspan shows us in her book, how if we stay with the dark emotion, if we feel the grief and don’t automatically push it away, then we’ll come to place of wisdom and gratitude. This place is not one where grief is absent, but, rather, one where we can live with it as a truth-teller in our lives.

The second area that I’d like to explore is how when we shun despair, fear, or grief, they have a way of reappearing in our lives. When despair is dismissed, Ms. Greenspan notes that it transmutes in our lives as depression. She writes: “Depression, as I see it, is unalchemized despair. It’s what happens when despair becomes chronically stuck in the body. Depression is certainly not a medical condition in the way that heart disease is. Rather, what we call depression is a culturally acceptable concept for chronic, toxified despair.” (page 124)  She invites us to go deeper into our selves by accepting the dark but fertile aspects of ourselves, examining the depth of our lives and those who came before us, and moving in this world with knowledge about ourselves and faith in our ability to journey with despair.

Another area where we as a culture show our shunning of the dark emotions is with our fascination with violent movies. Ms. Greenspan states that those who view these movies are seeking to feel something on a deeper level. To feel the fear and despair that they have been told are not acceptable. When they view these movies they are allowed to feel these emotions through a socially acceptable form of “entertainment.”

Each section of “Healing through the Dark Emotions” includes suggestions for working with grief, fear, and despair.  (To my delight, she is a fan and practitioner of Reiki as one of the tools for this work.)   I highly recommend reading the book for its profound insights and its helpful suggestions for the healing path.  I’ll leave you with a quote that seems to summarize her approach:

“Your life exactly as it is contains just what is needed for your own journey of healing through the dark emotions. It starts with learning to listen to your heart.” (page 13)

Wishing you heart-filled conversations in your healing journey.

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Top 5 reasons to talk about your grief

When some people hear that I’m a certified creative grief coach, they ask, “Why would I want to talk about my grief?” They think that talking about it will cause them to relive the grief and get stuck there. However, the opposite usually happens and people emerge from grief coaching sessions with the ability to live their lives more fully.  If you’re looking for a reason to talk about your grief, here are the top five:

  1. Holding in your grief is bad for your health. At a minimum, it decreases your immunity and interrupts your sleep patterns.
  2. Grief keeps us from living wholeheartedly.
  3. Remembering your loss honors your past, present, and future.
  4. Talking about grief helps you to process the myriad emotions that you hold.
  5. You’ll feel better!

If you’re ready to feel better and talk about your grief, please contact me!

Book review: The Dance of Anger

The Dance of Anger cover

The reading list from my Creative Grief Coach certification course, included, “The Dance of Anger,” by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.  This book provides an honest assessment of how women express, repress, and manage their anger. Within the course, it aided us in our work as emotionally intelligent individuals and it helped us gain the skill that we need to bring to our coaching practice. For that practice, it is a helpful guide, because those who are grieving are dealing with a wide array of emotions, including, at times, anger. Also, we grieve in a community. This communal aspect of grief means that there will be multiple relationships touched by our grief journey and some of them may have patterns of anger.

Dr. Lerner presents many helpful techniques to work with anger. However, I’d like to focus on just two of them in this review. The first one is observation. This is an incredibly helpful technique in working with emotions in general.  If we can pause and observe our emotional reaction, notice that it is occurring, where it is occurring in our body, and, then, with discernment, choose what we say and do in that moment, then this helps us with our emotional health and our relationships in general.  I believe in the power of this for several reasons, including that it puts us first for a moment.  I’m saying this as a woman who has bit her tongue and held her words back more than is probably prudent.  I am not alone in this — many women do this and Dr. Lerner’s book is speaking to us — those who hold back and those who don’t. (Definitely, there are men who have this same emotional pattern, but this book focuses on women’s experiences.)  Whatever, your pattern — hold back or not — observation is a helpful first step.

Another technique or directive from this book, that I find very helpful (and it is often a trigger for anger) is our desire to change another person. This pattern of trying to fix others comes from a place of over functioning. The healthier approach, if one desires change, is to change oneself. If you’re like me, that takes your breath away. “What? Me? Change?!” Dr. Lerner presents many examples in her book of women who stopped trying to change another person in their life and changed themselves instead. This takes introspection and courage. As with the first technique it requires that we notice that we’re in a pattern of trying to change another person, then making a conscious effort not to try to do that any more, and then, finally, changing ourselves in a meaningful and healthy way. Ironically, of course, because we are in a relationship, the other person often changes as well.  Maybe not in the exact way that we would have prescribed, but as a reaction to the way we’ve changed.

If you’re looking to refine your steps in the dance of anger, I highly recommend Dr. Lerner’s book.

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Working with Grief through Reiki and Connection

Recently a client who was filled with grief said to me, while she was lying on the Reiki table, “You know I really don’t believe in this.” I reassured her that it is not necessary to believe in Reiki for it to work. I then asked her what she had heard about Reiki. She said, “That it is relaxing.” Then we had our ground for agreement: Reiki is relaxing.  I went on to say, “When we are relaxed:

  • we heal more quickly
  • think more clearly
  • act more mindfully
  • and we’re more creative.”

She nodded her head in agreement and said, “I think stress is worse for your health than eating junk food.”

This type of conversation reminds me of this quote from my Creative Grief Coaching Certification program:

Learning process of grief

When we trust and believe we are more resilient, resourceful, and creative. Furthermore, trusting and believing open us to the possibility of connecting with others.  Through connection we turn our backs on shame, which is an emotion often tied with the grieving process and can cause us to be stuck in our grief.

In the Creative Grief Coaching program we have been exploring shame. It is the topic of Brene Brown’s book, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t),” which is filled with heart-opening stories from her extensive research on shame. The stories are often very easy to relate to and heart breaking, at times, too. As we connect with each other we find that, “It isn’t just me. Other women experience the same challenges with their bodies, relationships, and money.” Through this connection we can overcome fear, blame, and shame and work creatively in our grief process.

Reiki is a wonderful tool for our lives as we work with grief and seek ways to relax and connect.  With it we can find the way to open our hearts and connect with ourselves, others, and the universe. We can heal faster, think more clearly and creatively, and act more mindfully.


My Reiki teacher, Libby Barnett, often says, when asked to explain how Reiki works, “Dunno.” She invites us to be in this space of “I don’t know,” this space of being, rather than knowing. As a Reiki teacher, I use this approach as well, but it is a dance because one wants to meet people’s minds and gently guide them to the “dunno.”

Like many others, I adore Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day. I often hear in my head these lines:

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,”

Last night, during a Reiki Session with a client, the following poem came to me.


I don’t know know how to pray,
but I do know how to beg and plead
and get down on my knees
and be . . . silent.

I don’t know what to say,
but I do know I’m here
with you
and we’ll be okay.

I don’t know how to walk,
but I do know how
to feel the earth beneath my feet
and move.

I don’t know how to cry,
but I do know how
to let go and feel.

I don’t know how to grieve,
but I do know how to
feel sad and lonely —
how to pull up the sheets over my head
and want what is not.

I don’t know how to love,
but I do know how to
light up in your presence,
hold your hand,
and listen.

I don’t know how to heal
or me.
Dunno how healing happens.
But I do know it happens.

I know I rode through darkness
and then danced with the fleeting light.

In-Training Creative Grief Coach

in-Training Creative Grief CoachI’m so excited to announce that I’ve started training to be a Creative Grief Coach. I’m studying with Kara Jones and Cath Duncan from the Creative Grief Studio.  This will be a journey for me into my own experiences with grief and help me to connect with my personal interest in miscarriage and the grief stories that women carry from that experience.

As a graduate student in Philosophy, I was a teaching assistant in a course called, “The Philosophy of Death and Dying.”  This was really a course about the Meaning of Life, which is a classic philosophical inquiry.  I’m delighted to return to studying this and delving into how our encounters with death inform how we live our lives.

I think this will work will blend beautifully with my Reiki practice and the intentions that we set in our sessions. I’ll keep you posted on how things go over the next four months and look forward to hearing about your interest in this work!