Before and After


Typically we think of “before and after” in terms of weight loss results, a new haircut or a home makeover. These are usually fun and exciting and it’s interesting to see such transformations. The “before and after” that I am referring to is the person we were before the death of our loved one and the person we are now, after the loss. This type of transformation is often not one that we asked for, it can feel like it was thrust upon us without an invitation. Honestly, it is another type of loss, the loss of our familiar selves. Death changes us and navigating who we have become can be challenging. I will say that sometimes we are changed in positive ways as our perspective and outlook on life changes as well. Sometimes we may find a new purpose in life as we put back together those pieces of ourselves that have been shattered by the death of a loved one but sometimes there may be certain aspects of our personality that are unfamiliar to not only those closest to us but to ourselves. If we were once bubbly and outgoing we may now be reserved and quiet. If we were always the “go to” person for planning social events or hosting family dinners we may now prefer to stay home. It’s confusing. Acknowledging that you may not be the person you were before the death and letting people know what you need is very important and helpful to let those around you know how to be supportive.

If you need grief and loss support I offer individual counseling and support groups. I can reached at 240-298-2442 or

Really IHOP!?


Well, it has happened. Yup, I just saw the first holiday commercial of the season and it wasn’t for toys or jewelry or cars (I still don’t get that one), it was for of all things-PANCAKES! Not just plain boring pancakes but fun, holiday flavors…..geesh!

For those of us grieving, it can be an unwelcome sight to be assaulted by holiday commercials this soon. I understand that for others it is exciting to start thinking about the 2017 holiday season-the twinkly lights, holiday music, gingerbread cookies and hot cocoa. The one thing that both sets of people have in common is anticipation. Anticipation in regard to those who are grieving means that they are dreading facing the tough holiday season ahead. This signifies yet another special time of the year without their precious loved one. Oftentimes the anticipation is worse than the actual day or event. It can feel much like being on a roller coaster and sitting at the peak of a huge hill-you’re grasping the safety bar with both hands, your stomach is a little queasy and you’re waiting to take the plunge downward. There’s so much “build up” to the holidays especially and sometimes it feels like we have no way to protect ourselves emotionally during this time of the year. Although it is a very meaningful time for many of us, it brings with it intense memories of years past and this magnifies the fact that our loved one is no longer physically here.

Be gentle with yourself during this difficult time and most importantly let others know what you need. Those who are experiencing the unpredictability of grief are looking at the world through a different filter especially during the holiday season. If you or someone you know is in need of grief and loss counseling, I can help. I can be reached at 240-298-2442 or

“I’m Reading This Book Right Now…..”

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I always seem to be reading at least 2-3 books at any given time. Luckily I have the advantage of getting book recommendations on an ongoing basis from my clients, it’s always helpful to know what books have helped those whom I help. Sometimes there may be one little nugget that jumps off the page or a chapter that resonates with you and your circumstances at the moment. There are so many books written specifically about grief and loss and it’s comforting to find a book that normalizes your feelings or provides a fresh perspective. I have a bad habit of jotting down book titles here and there on little pieces of paper or in various notebooks. I made a promise to myself to collect all of those titles and organize them in a list (novel idea, haha!). I also asked friends and colleagues for their personal recommendations so I have finally finished compiling everything and have made a list (below)! If you have any to add to my “collection” please do so in the comments section.

“Healing After Loss” Martha Whitmore Hickman

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People” Harold S. Kushner

“Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart: How to Relate to Those Who Are Suffering” Kenneth  C. Haugk

“Angels in My Hair” Lorna Byrne

“Open House” Elizabeth Berg

” Eat, Pray, Love” Elizabeth Gilbert

“No More Faking Fine” Esther Fleece

“Imagine Heaven” John Burke

“Transcending Loss” Ashley Davis Bush

“To Heaven and Back” Mary Neal

“Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer”  Elizabeth W. D. Groves

“I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy” Angie Smith

“A Grace Disguised” Gerald Sitser

“Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby” Deborah L. Davis

“No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving The Suicide Of A Loved One” Carla Fine

“Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families After a Suicide” Beverly Cobain

“Living in the Shadows of the Ghosts of Your Grief” Alan Wolfelt

“Embraced by the Light” Betty Eadie

“Heaven” Randy Alcorn

“The Body Keeps the Score” Bessel van der Kolk

“The Gifts of Imperfection” Brene Brown


“No! You Don’t Have to Clean Out That Closet Yet.”

crew-59380-e1498499228874.jpgAs a grief counselor I would have to say that I talk with clients about this topic so often. It is so common for people to wrestle with the idea of what to do with their loved one’s possessions. Just thinking about even opening a drawer or closet and looking at a loved one’s clothing or having to sort through a stuffed animal collection or decide whether or not to keep a favorite, special piece of furniture is overwhelmingly sad. And even more difficult for some people is having to handle personal care items such as a comb or hairbrush, perfume or cologne or a toothbrush. In the midst of grief it is excruciating having to make decisions about what to keep, sell, donate or give away and this can evoke so much stress and anguish. Some people feel as if they are on a timeline either due to expectations and pressure from others or they truly have timelines that need to be met due to legal situations (handling an estate or preparing a house to sell for example). In the case of offers from family and friends to help sort or clean out a loved one’s things, I would advise that if you are really ready to do this then it may be comforting to have someone you trust help and share this experience. On the other hand, be aware of those who may try to pressure you or make you feel as if this is something that HAS to be done. You will know when the time is right….when you are able to look at your loved one’s possessions and think of a special memory or imagine their things bringing joy or purpose to someone else, that may be a sign for you that it’s time. One idea to get started is to just do a little at a time, start with a drawer or closet and gradually add to the task as time goes on. And if this takes you a few weeks, months or years, it’s okay!

If you or someone you know is struggling with this aspect of grief, I can help. Contact me at 240-298-2442 or

Support Groups??


Grief happens……As a grief and loss counselor I have seen the transformative power of being a member of a grief support group. Sometimes people think that coming to a group means that they may sit in a circle hearing the sad stories of other people, which will make them feel possibly even more sad. While some of this is true (for effective communication and logistics I do ask that we form somewhat of a circle), here are some positive things that people have told me about being part of our support group:

  • “Everyone there “gets” it.” Being with other people who understand the pain of loss brings a sense of comfort and the responsibility  and energy it takes to explain exactly how you’re feeling is eliminated.
  • “I’m not going crazy after all.” Grief has a weird way of making you feel lost, disorganized, unfocused and inadequate. Hearing that others may be experiencing similar feelings helps to normalize what you may be thinking and feeling.
  • “I can’t believe that I could laugh at a grief support group.” Yes, there are typically shared tears but shared laughter also happens. The best way that I can describe it is as a beautiful balance of two emotions that are necessary for our healing.
  • “If I don’t want to talk, I don’t have to.” Sometimes we are so paralyzed by our pain that we find it hard to speak and share. You have the freedom to just come and listen if that’s what you need.
  • “I found HOPE.” You may hear one little thing that someone else shares about their grief experience that makes a big impact on you. It’s helpful to have people in a group at all different stages of the grieving process-wherever you may be in the process, there is always something to learn and apply to your situation or some insight to be gained.

If you or someone you know would like to find out more about “Grief Happens,” contact me at or 240.298.2442. Our next group meets on Wednesday, April 26th from 6:30-8:00 pm. 

11 Things that Pet Owners Want to Share About the Loss of a Pet

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1-Pets are family members and the grief is real and painful

2-It is important to realize the impact and value that a pet adds to a person’s life

3-Pets have unique personalities and relate to us in unique ways, nothing can fill the void when they are gone

4-If someone doesn’t understand pet loss, it’s important not to minimize the pain by saying that it was “just a dog, cat etc”

5-The best way to support someone through pet loss is by acknowledging the loss with a card, call or a hug

6-Pets are there for us unconditionally through happy and sad times, never judging us

7-Many times a pet dies suddenly, making it hard to prepare for the loss

8-Making the decision to euthanize a pet due to health issues is very difficult

9-If you still have other pets, they grieve too

10-Pets become part of our daily routines, when they are no longer there it is a difficult at first to “carry on” with daily life routines

11-Pets make us feel needed, they give us a purpose and sometimes we have to find new ways to do things differently in their absence

I welcome you to add your own thoughts or insights in the comments section. If you or someone you know is experiencing the loss of a pet, my Pet Loss Support Group meets at 6:30 pm on the second Monday of each month, please register at or 240-298-2442.

The Soda Stain on the Backseat

We find many ways to keep a connection with our loved ones who are no longer with us. Sometimes we are purposeful and sometimes we may not even be aware of the things that we say or do to help us keep connected. Many people have had memory quilts or memory teddy bears made using their loved one’s clothing or they may wear a piece of jewelry or clothing that belonged to their loved one. Cooking a favorite meal, listening to a special song or watching a beloved movie are also ways to link us to those we yearn to see just one more time…. These are some of the things that may come to mind when thinking about this type of connection but what about the ways that aren’t as obvious? When talking to a friend whose husband died, she revealed that she hadn’t been able to use the last dishwasher gel pack since his death 14 months earlier. That gel pack was the remaining one from a box that she had been using while her husband was alive and when he died she felt like in some odd way it was a connection to him-a reminder of when he was full of life and vibrant. Other friends told of the bottle of Coca-Cola that they had kept in their refrigerator for the past 3 years since their daughter died. Their daughter had requested the special old-fashioned, glass bottle of Coke before she died but sadly she was never able to enjoy it. Her parents couldn’t bring themselves to throw it away so they’ve kept it in the same spot in the refrigerator all of this time and often it will catch their eye and bring a smile and happy memory. A few years ago when our 11 year old son was riding in the backseat of his grandparent’s Buick, he spilled his soda on the cloth seat. They tried to soak up as much of it as they could but couldn’t get it to completely disappear. He died a few months later and although almost five years have passed, that stain serves as a reminder of him and brings comfort to his grandparents every time they see it. Are there some “unconventional” ways that you connect with your loved one? Do you have some unique linking objects? There isn’t a right or wrong way to connect to your loved one, what may seem odd to one person may bring overwhelming comfort to another.