In our culture, we use grief and mourning interchangeably. There’s quite a big difference between the two! According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt at the Center for Loss and Life Transition, grief is “the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when someone we love dies.” Mourning is when “you take the grief you have on the inside and express it outside of yourself. Another way of defining mourning is grief gone public.” Many times people ask me what they can do to help with their grief. Mourning is actually something that someone can do to help process and release tough emotions. It can be something like a daily or weekly ritual or something as spontaneous as a visit to the cemetery or lighting a candle. As a grief and loss counselor, although I love my work doing individual/family counseling. I also love to introduce people to the many ways that grief can be expressed through mourning activities or experiences.
Throughout the year I offer various workshops and groups that invite people to experience different ways to mourn. Last year I held a shadowbox workshop (The Art of Creative Mourning) where people brought in photos, mementos and special possessions of their loved one and they arranged them in shadowboxes. This was a very meaningful activity as people reminisced and shared about the items they brought as they created a beautiful memorial to their loved one. I have also offered a Mindfulness for Grief and Loss program as well as Forest Therapy. This coming Friday, November 22nd I am hosting a Make and Take Greenery Workshop with the help of local designer and artist Lisa Gillespie. We will create fresh greenery arrangements to take home and use as centerpieces or as mailbox or headstone covers. My hope is that through this mourning activity, people will have an opportunity to be able to honor their loved ones as they create something that brings meaning and remembering. I believe that mourning experiences are always available to us, we just have to be open and receptive to trying different ways to connect. As an example, some people like to journal and some do not but it’s important to be curious about the different ways that you can express mourning. Watching old videos, looking at pictures, creating art, writing, telling stories, participating in a ritual or simply crying can all be ways to mourn. If you have found something that has particularly helped you mourn, please share it here if you would like. If you would like to register for the Greenery Workshop just follow the Register link on my website or contact me at 240-298-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The last day to register is this Wednesday, November 20th.
Join us on Friday, November 22nd at 6:30 pm for this special workshop. We are fortunate to have local artist and designer Lisa Gillespie here to guide us in creating a unique arrangement made from fresh local greens. You can chose to make a centerpiece or saddle style arrangement which will fit over a mailbox or headstone. Click on the Register tab for registration and payment.
I am so excited to welcome Cindy back to southern Maryland for the “Finding and Sharing Peace with Mindfulness” program on Friday, October 18th. If you’ve heard about mindfulness but you’re not sure what it is or how to start practicing it, this program is for you! Consider joining us at the Old Village Barn in Mechanicsville for an evening of serenity and learning. Just follow the Register link to reserve your space!
Here’s some info about Cindy Maxted:
Cindy Maxted has spent her life in the mind, body, spirit ﬁeld. She has over 25 years of experience working with children and families as a registered nurse in the neonatal ICU, Operating Room, and School Nursing with a degree from Georgetown University. As a certiﬁed Mindful Educator/Yoga instructor in conjunction with Johns Hopkins D-stress Baltimore, she has taught over 400 young people, teachers, and parents in Baltimore City schools. As a nurse, coach, and yoga teacher she has integrated Mindfulness throughout her career. Currently, Cindy is teaching meditation and mindfulness in schools, corporations, and both individual and group settings. Cindy has an interest in advancing the health and well-being of individuals and communities by bringing awareness, compassion, and joy to their lives. Mindfulness gives you the skills to thrive in all areas of life, even the very challenging ones.
What comes to mind when you think of summertime? Picnics, road trips, family reunions, a trip to the ocean or lake…or simply a break from normal routines. But for those grieving the loss of a loved one it can feel like the absence of their special person is magnified. Many summertime activities focus on being with family and friends and building memories. Of course everyday life is hard enough when you’re missing someone but something doesn’t feel quite right when the focus is on togetherness and fun. It’s blatantly obvious that someone is missing and that life will never be the same.
So what do you do about it? Do you cancel all future summer plans? Do you never again rent the same beach house that your family has enjoyed for the past 10 years? Do you stop attending every gathering, pool party or picnic? Well, if that’s what you need to do, do it. If you need to change things up or take a break this summer (or the next or the next…) or start new traditions at some point, do it. I am a firm believer in nurturing yourself and validating your grief. Making space for your grief is essential to your healing. It can be so tempting to isolate and avoid anything that makes us feel too sad-while there is validity in doing so sometimes, it’s also important to balance these feelings. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, I like to think of it as “making adjustments.” You’re adjusting to life without a loved one and it’s unbearable at times. Even if you’ve experienced the loss of loved ones before, each relationship was unique therefore each grief experience is unique.
Summertime may look and feel completely different for you now. Be gentle and kind with yourself, make those adjustments as you navigate unchartered territory.
A few days ago I posted about dementia on my professional Facebook page. It was evident that this is a topic that affects many people. How can it be that we grieve the loss of someone with dementia while they are still here?? I know from personal and professional experience that this is real-almost surreal. This is a very unique type of grief and loss that deserves it’s own category. Not only are people who have a loved one with dementia dealing with stressful care giving, they are trying to wrap their minds around the unpredictability and frustration that accompanies a diagnosis of dementia. Watching their person slip away before their eyes and knowing that they won’t “recover” is heart wrenching. This type of grief is experienced by care givers, friends and family twice, once as they person exists with the disease and again when they die. I wish that I had some super hopeful words of wisdom to make it all better but this is just so very difficult. One thing that is helpful is being able to appreciate the times when a moment of clarity appears and the person with dementia returns to their old self and remembers a name or memory. These are like little gifts although they may feel like a tease also. Laughter is also helpful, sometimes being able to laugh at something in the moment can alleviate some stress. What’s that old saying, “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying?” Crying has it’s place too, it can help relieve stress and force us to be in the moment. Finding a friend who will be present and listen (not try to fix it) is probably one of the most effective things you can do. If you would like to share your experience of grieving the loss of a loved one who is living with dementia, please share here. You never know, someone reading may need to hear your story…..If you would like to schedule a complimentary in person consultation with me, I can be reached at email@example.com or 240-298-2442.