Angel Wings

bro wings

This will be the the sixth Christmas without our son. We have ways to symbolize and remember Brogan such as the angel wings that hang on our tree year after year but if you’ve ever lost a loved one you know that the holidays can magnify their absence. It’s not like we think of them any less on ordinary non-holiday days but the holiday season is a time for family, togetherness and reflection and because of that focus it just feels more difficult. Something that may be helpful is to think of those things that your loved one enjoyed about the holidays and incorporate them into your traditions. If they had a favorite movie, watch it in their honor. If they liked to drive around and look at Christmas lights, continue that tradition and maybe even visit the cemetery for a time of reflection afterward. If they had a favorite holiday cookie, bake them (and eat them!) in their honor. Consider donating a gift in their memory to someone in need. One of the biggest fears that many grieving people have is worrying that their loved one will be forgotten. It is possible to include your loved one in your holiday traditions and carry on their legacy and memory. Is it painful? Yes, but it can also be meaningful and purposeful. How will you remember your loved one this holiday season?

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…..”

books 1

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