When we lose someone close, it's easy to feel unmoored. We need to find a new rhythm to our days and new ways to connect to the ones we've lost. Ashley Davis Bush wrote this book to offer you just that: small doses of comfort and hope for getting through your day when you are still heavy with grief. Each bite-sized reading offers reassurance that healing is possible, whether it's an ordinary day of living with loss or a special anniversary day. Poetic words, combined with photographic images throughout the book, help provide solace along with the perspective that love always transcends even the deepest loss.
Death doesn't end the relationship; it simply forges a new type of relationship--one based not on physical presence but on memory, spirit, and love.
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, is the internationally bestselling author of six self-help books including the classic Transcending Loss. She has appeared on the Diane Rehm Show, MSNBC, Fox News, The Iyanla Show, and countless radio programs. She earned a BA from Smith College and an MSW from Columbia University's School of Social Work. Visit Ashley online at www.ashleydavisbush.com.
Read an Excerpt
Hope and Healing for Transcending Loss
Meditations for Those Who Are Grieving
By Ashley Davis Bush, Richard Evans
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2016 Ashley Davis Bush
All rights reserved.
Light in the Darkness
* * *
I was twenty-five when I sat in my first session — my first session, that is, in which I was the therapist. With only a month of social work schooling under my belt, I was assigned to my first client, Joan.
It might have been a bewildering encounter given my inexperience, but instead it was transformative. Joan was a middle-aged woman assigned to me for grief counseling. Her beloved sister had been murdered by a handyman in their own home.
I sat with Joan through her tears and I listened. I asked questions. I listened some more. I allowed myself to be touched by her sorrow, and I provided a container for her pain. When I presented this case to my fledgling colleagues, they said, "Oh, how can you work with her? Her story is so depressing."
And yet, curiously, I felt at ease with Joan and her deep sorrow. During our first session together, there was a 'click' of recognition that I was being called to work with the bereaved. And so, for the last twenty-five years, I have done just that.
I have sat with countless widows and widowers, from young to old. I have offered tissues to bereaved parents in their inconsolable grief. I have normalized, educated, listened to, and championed grievers who felt tremendous pain and still chose life.
In fact, I became so immersed in this calling that I studied the grieving process and wrote a book about it — Transcending Loss. In the decades since its publication, the grieving process has not changed: Grief is painful and needs to be felt just as love is eternal and needs to be celebrated.
However, with the rise of the Internet, a new dawn has arrived in which grievers have many more options for sharing their grief and connecting to others. This has been an exciting development, because grievers can now bond with other grievers around the world in therapeutic ways.
In 2009, I began the Facebook forum "Transcending Loss" as a way to reach out to those who grieve. The forum featured short, daily reflections as a starting point for grievers from around the world to share their stories and comfort each other. In just a few years, the forum grew from several hundred participants to over twenty-five thousand. This book rose out of that experience. I became keenly aware that short, daily words of hope and comfort make a real difference to people on the grief journey.
As I continue to interact with grievers from around the world, I am again reminded of the universality of grief. And although each journey is unique, there are many common experiences.
As you read through the year, you will encounter recurring themes that reflect the seven essential lessons of loss:
1. Grief is a normal reaction. Grief is the natural emotional and physical response to the death of a loved one. Although our society desperately wants to avoid the messiness of deep sorrow, there is no way out except through the pain. Typical numbing techniques such as medications, alcohol, and food are only temporary distractions to dull the pain.
Letting ourselves grieve by going directly into the pain — in manageable doses over a long period of time — is healing. Avoiding the pain simply forces it to go deep into the heart, where it subtly affects emotional and physical health.
2. Grief is hard work. Grief isn't easy and it isn't pretty. It involves tears, sleepless nights, pain, sorrow, and a heartache that knocks you to your knees. It can be hard to concentrate, hard to think clearly, hard to read, and easy to forget all the details of life that everyone else seems to remember. Grievers frequently feel that they're going crazy, and they sometimes wish to die. This doesn't mean that they're actively suicidal; it just means that they're grieving.
3. Grief doesn't offer closure. Closure is an idea that we like because we want to tie up our emotional messes with a bow and put them in the back of a closet. But grief refuses to play this game. Grief tends toward healing, not closure. In other words, the funeral can be healing. Visiting a gravesite can be healing. Performing rituals, writing in journals, making pilgrimages to special sites — all of these things can be personally meaningful and healing, but they will not bring closure. Closure is relevant to business deals but not to the human heart.
4. Grief is lifelong. Although we all want quick fixes and short-term solutions, grief won't accommodate us. Many people want grief to be over in a few weeks or a few months, and certainly within a year. And yet, many grievers know that the second year is actually harder than the first. Why? Because the shock has worn off and the reality of the pain has truly sunk in.
I let grievers know that the impact of grief is lifelong just as the influence of love is also lifelong. No matter how many years go by, there will be occasional days when grief bursts through with a certain rawness. There will be days, even a decade later, when sadness crosses over you like a storm cloud. And likely, every day going forward will involve some memory, some connection to missing your beloved.
5. You as a griever need to stay connected to the deceased. While some might find it odd or uncomfortable to keep talking about the deceased loved one, or find it disconcerting to see photographs of those who have passed on, it is healthy to keep the connection alive. My heart goes out to a generation or more of grievers who were told to cut ties with their deceased loved ones, to banish all remnants of them, to pretend as if they never existed. Such unwitting cruelty! Honor their birthdays and departure days. Know that their physical presence may be gone from this earth, but that they remain in relationship to you in a new way, beyond form,
6. You as a griever are changed forever. If you expect to eventually be back to your old self, you will be quite disappointed. Grief, like all major life experiences, changes a person irrevocably. Think about it for a moment. Would you expect to remain unchanged after getting an education, getting married, having a baby, getting divorced, or changing careers? Life is full of experiences that add to the compost mixture of your life, creating rich and fertile soil. Similarly, grief teaches you about life, about death, about pain, about love, and about impermanence. While some people are changed in a way that makes them bitter and shut down, it is possible to use grief as a springboard for compassion, wisdom, and openheartedness.
7. You as a griever can choose transcendence. Seeing one's grief from a larger perspective, holding pain in a larger context, allows it to be bearable and gives it meaning. Perhaps it means reaching out to others who suffer. Perhaps it means giving to a cause that will result in helping others. Grievers who choose transcendence recognize that they are not alone, that they share in the human condition, and that they are amongst all people who experience love and loss. They use their pain in a way that touches others. The pain is still there, of course, but it is transformed.
I invite you to use this book, reading it every day, as a companion, as a guide, as a hand holding yours along this path called grief. May it soothe and calm you, reminding you that you are not alone. May it provide you with hope and healing.CHAPTER 2
We often think of grief closing us down as we draw inward to heal, as we withdraw from life. But to what is grief opening you up? Are you more open to dying, more open to spiritual phenomenon? Have you opened yourself to other grievers, to experiencing love in a deeper way? Are you more open to the mysteries of the universe? Look and discover how you are becoming more open to life. If you haven't experienced this yet, this year will offer opportunities to "open." Trust the process.
Close your eyes and repeat the words, "I am open to new experiences and new feelings this year."
Recovering from grief is not a matter of "letting go" of your loved one — quite the contrary. Living with loss means that you hold on in a new way. You live every day with your loved one in your heart, woven into your soul, surrounding you with presence. And then you still choose to move forward living the life that is left to you.
Know that you hold on with love.
People will admire your strength, but usually what they mean is your ability to appear "together," to be stoic, to wear a mask that indicates, "I'm okay." What people don't realize is that real strength comes in facing the grief, falling apart, crying, and letting yourself feel. You are strong every day you choose to be alive. But let your real strength be in facing the feelings so that you can move through the process.
Say, "I am strong" as you allow yourself to grieve.
Some people are tempted to shut down their grief, put it in a box, and stuff it in the back of the closet. There is a price to pay for avoiding grief: You might get sick, both emotionally and physically. Instead, seek the balance of first letting grief in and then taking a rest from the feelings. Take grief in small doses so that the feelings are being absorbed rather than avoided. Your health depends on it.
Choose to experience your grief, even in small doses.
Memories can feel double-edged. They can be painful, sharp, highlighting your loss ... or they can remind you of wonderful times, deep love, and life lived. Be open to your many memories, a flower field of times that connect you to your loved one. Hold each memory with reverence, and let yourself savor the love.
Recall a favorite moment with your loved one.
When you lose someone you love dearly, your heart simply cracks and breaks. You will likely feel truly heartbroken, almost as if there is a deep ache in your body. Some days all you will feel is this sorrow, this agony. Let yourself feel the heartbreak. You must feel in order to heal.
How would you describe the condition of your heart?
What the caterpillar sees as death we know is a transition to the beautiful butterfly. We have that perspective. However, when it comes to our own death — or the death of our dear ones — we don't have such a clear perspective. Remember the butterfly and know that we don't have the whole picture. Breathe. Trust.
Can you open yourself to mystery?
In the old days of grief counseling, grievers were advised to cut their emotional attachment to the deceased, to forget and move on. Can you imagine? Now we understand that deep love and strong attachments never end. It's never a matter of ending a relationship. Grief is a matter of integrating a different relationship into your life, one of spirit and formlessness. Death cannot break the bonds of deep, true love.
Know that true love always transcends loss.
You may be a different person because of your loss, but you are also a different person because of your love. Think about how your life expanded by loving your dear one and receiving their love. Think about how empty life would be if you had never known them and experienced the blessing of them. Their love is still with you, woven inextricably into your soul.
Who would you be if you hadn't known your loved one?
You may frequently wonder, how am I going to survive this? How can I endure this unbearable pain and sorrow? Do not think ahead; simply draw your attention back to one moment at a time, one breath at a time, and let it expand into one day at a time. Keep your focus narrow. Day will add to day, and you will live your way into the future. But for now, only this moment.
Breathe. Focus on the in-breath, focus on the space between breaths, and focus on the out-breath.
Be gentle with yourself. The work of grief is exhausting. You may find that you are forgetful, that you cannot concentrate, and that you are fatigued easily. Grieving requires so much energy! Cut yourself some slack without judgment. Be extra kind to you.
What kind gesture can you offer yourself today?
How would your beloved want you to live your remaining days? What would they say to you about your time left on the planet? Even as you grieve, know that life is to be lived. You will find a way to embrace life, even with a hole in your heart, because that is what they would wish for you.
Choose life today in honor of your dear one.
Tears are a way to move emotion through the body. You never need to apologize for your tears. They are emotion overflowing. Let yourself cry in the shower, in the car, in your bedroom. It's far easier to let the tears flow than to try to hold them back. Release and let emotion flush through you.
Let yourself cry.
Some days will feel like "bad" days, and some days will feel like "good" days. Try not to judge the days too much. Just know that some days the grief is close to the surface and may overflow with strong emotion. Other days, the love feels stronger than the loss and you're able to smile. All of these days are part of the process.
Just let today be what it needs to be.
Find people who will not be afraid to share memories of your loved one. Be bold in asking friends, family, and colleagues, "What is your favorite memory of ____?" It is healing to remember, to revisit, and even to share a tear or two. Memories are a treasure trove, like golden nuggets that you will want to hold close to your heart.
Hold a memory close to your heart.
It often isn't discussed, but it's very common to have signs or communications with those who have left the planet. Anything is possible, from strange electrical occurrences (lights turning on or off), to animal sightings, to dream visitations, to pennies appearing out of nowhere. Accept each signal as a gift, a loving intention. Your loved one wants you to know that they are still with you, now and always.
Be open to receiving a sign from your dear one. If you long for this but it hasn't happened yet, just be open and curious.
I have heard grievers say that they didn't see color or taste food for years after a major loss. But then, at some point, color came back ... taste was possible. Smiles happened. Laughter, too. Life returned. As you learn to live with loss and integrate sorrow into your heart on a daily basis, be open to the possibility that life is still worth living.
Breathe in these words: "Life has color."
Love is a gift. Love is such an immense gift, in fact, that it transcends time, place, distance, and space ... it even transcends death. Know that the love you have given and received is now a part of you. This love permeates your soul and will illumine your experience of the world. Even as grief weighs heavy, know that love can lift you with its lightness.
Give thanks for the gift of love.
Many grievers are afraid that they're doing it "wrong." Trust in your own process ... if you need to cry, to write, to sit, to stare, let yourself be with your experience. Everyone has their own way of "doing" grief, so let yourself do what feels right and natural for you. Let grief move around you, over you, and through you.
Let your process be unique to you.
Do not expect to one day return to your old self. Grief has changed you irrevocably. You are growing into a new self, day by day. This new self may be fearful, bitter, and shut down ... or this new self may be full of increased compassion, heightened understanding, and deep love. Be open to such a transformation. Be open to letting grief break open your heart so that light comes through the cracks.
Let light shine today through the cracks of your broken heart.
Grief comes in waves — sometimes giant tsunami waves that knock you down and leave you flattened. Other times the waves are gentle lapping rhythms. But the waves keep coming, and keep receding ... eventually spacing themselves out. Once you start to ride the waves, you will feel less out of control. Expect them and be ready, knowing that the rhythms will come and go.
Ride the waves of grief today without resistance.
Your loved one is with you ... when you cry, when you laugh. Your loved one is with you ... when you hide from life, when you embrace life. Your loved one is with you ... when you think of them, when you think of something else. No matter what, your loved one is with you, always.
Know that your dear one is with you, now and forever.
After a star dies, its light continues to shine for millions of years. So it is with your loved one. Their light just keeps shining, especially through the ones who are still here. Look and you will see that their light still shines all around you ... and even shines through you.
Excerpted from Hope and Healing for Transcending Loss by Ashley Davis Bush, Richard Evans. Copyright © 2016 Ashley Davis Bush. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsLight in the Darkness,
Meditations: January 1–December 31,
Special Trigger Days,
Hope for the Future,