How to Help Someone in Mourning

Simple gestures of kindness can mean so much at a time of grief. Today we share a post from “Kirschner’s Korner” as a helpful reminder.

Kirschner's Korner

When a friend or family member loses a loved one, the tragedy presents a powerful opportunity for you to serve as an important source of emotional support. But what exactly should you do? Should you text, email, call, or visit? How often should you make contact? What should you say? Will it be uncomfortable? Will it help? How do you know if your friend or family member wants to hear from you? The purpose of this article is to answer these questions based on my own experience losing a parent, provide comfort to people in a similar situation, and suggest tips to be a good friend or family member to a grieving loved one.

loss

What Happened?
After my father passed away, I felt both heartened and disappointed by the reactions of my close friends and family. In addition to mourning, I wrestled with the confusion I felt over my experiences…

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Knowing the Way (an original song by Jazelle)

Knowing the Way (Music & Lyrics copyright©2004 Jazelle Lieske*)

Let your heart guide you

For your soul knows the way

Though your feet may stumble and falter

Your spirit will show you the way.

Let your intuition guide you

And you will never lose your way

Though your fears may challenge your perceptions

Your courage will show you the way.

Let your dreams guide you

For you’ve always known the way

Though your mind may question your intentions

Your truth will show you the way.

We all walk in shadow sometimes

We all can feel so alone

We all need to be surrounded by love

To feel like we’re coming home

And know that we really belong.

Let your heart guide you

For your soul knows the way

Though your feet may stumble and falter

Your spirit will show you the way

Your spirit will light up your way

Your spirit is knowing the way.

-Singing Luna

*Slide show photographs by Kárpáti Gábor/morguefile.com

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Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes

This chapel has a skylight for the central garden. (Photo:©Skyfeather Studio)

This chapel has a skylight, tiled walkways, plants and a mosaic fountain.
(Photo:©Skyfeather Studio)

I arrive at the Chapel of the Chimes just as the sun is beginning to set across the bay over the city of San Francisco. Stepping inside the wooden entry doors my footsteps echo on the marble steps leading me upward into a series of small chapels. The scent of vintage wood, salt and cool stone drifts in the air as I hurry along hoping to get some photographs before the fading daylight leaves the building in darkness. I navigate through a labyrinth of narrow hallways which open into garden atriums, slip by mosaic fountains graced by serene statuary and pass under several arched gothic-style doorways until I realize I am quite disoriented.

The hillside where the Chapel of the Chimes is located was was originally a trolley car station. It was transformed into a chapel to be used for funeral services in 1902. Julia Morgan, the first licensed female architect in California was one of the architects who contributed to redesigning the building. In 1926 she was hired to create an expansion of the structure and her design, influenced by Romanesque, Gothic and Spanish-Moorish styles captures a classic beauty. The floor-to-ceiling niches in the chapels with their glass-front shelves hold funerary urns, many of which are shaped like books. This part of the building is like a light-filled garden library complete with ferns, a reflecting pool and an inviting wicker chair. I imagine what stories the “books” in this unusual library would tell. I also think about how comforting it must be for the families to come and visit their loved ones in such a peaceful and beautiful resting place.

It is easy to get lost in The Chapel of the Chimes. They do provide maps if you make a stop at the front office.

It is easy to get lost in in the meandering rooms and hallways.

The sudden silence in the building wakes me from my reverie telling me that I must certainly be the last visitor. In the waning light I find a stairway leading downward and reach the front doors just as they are being locked up for the night. The quiet stillness I have emerged from is in dramatic contrast to the urban life in motion around me. I walk down the street toward a crowded café, thinking about how each day we live out the stories of our lives often unaware of the sunset and the quiet night that is settling in around us.

-Singing Luna 2/8/2014

Learn more about the Chapel of the Chimes on Loren Rhoads blog “Cemetery Travel”:

http://cemeterytravel.com/2012/04/18/cemetery-of-the-week-56-chapel-of-the-chimes/

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After the End…There is Hope

"We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it in the full" -Marcel Proust (Photo©Skyfeather Studio)

“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it in the full”  -Marcel Proust
(Photo: ©Skyfeather Studio)

In the newly released documentary film “After the End- A Journey Through Loss to Hope”(2013), director Andrew Morgan and producer Michael Ross embark on a journey that will take them across the country interviewing those who have lost loved ones. They ask thought provoking questions which delve into how we respond to loss and how we can find hope and strength in the time following. The film documents six people and their stories and also draws on the insights of a grief counselor, a therapist and an educator. Included is archival footage of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross where she offers the advice,“Crying is healthy and relieves you of a lot of pain”.

The film begins with the director Andrew Morgan sharing his story of losing his father in an accident when they were both bicycling together. He expresses that his loss initially made him feel that the world is less safe, that life itself feels heavier and nothing seems innocent anymore. A father relates that after losing his daughter he experienced shock every morning to wake to the realization that she was gone. A mother expresses her inability to at first accept the reality of her loss followed by her struggle to overcome repeatedly reviewing the details surrounding her daughter’s death in her mind. Another grieving father describes his sorrow as “pain unlike anything else I have ever experienced”.

The stories themselves can be painful to hear but it is also healing to have these familiar thoughts and feelings voiced and affirmed. We witness how the creative process emerges from grief when Andrew Morgan mounts his bicycle again to ride in his father’s memory. We see examples of how love and connection carry us forward, not necessarily away from grief but through it in a way that integrates it lovingly into our hearts.

-Singing Luna 1/11/2014

For more information about the film “After the End”:

http://aftertheendmovie.com

To read Molly Bice Jackson’s blog of how she is coping with losing her 2 year old:

http://www.hopesmilingbrightly.com

To view the documentary for free on Hulu:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/528115

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Memorial Quilts: A Patchwork of Memories

Assembling a memory quilt is not only a creative outlet for the maker, as a gift it is the symbol of warmth, shelter and security. (Photo courtesy of SDRandCo)

Assembling a memory quilt is not only a creative outlet for the maker, as a gift it is the symbol of warmth, shelter and security. (Photo courtesy of SDRandCo)

A few years ago I was invited to be present at the hospital for a friend’s passing. As I sat with his family in the final hours a hospice nurse arrived with a beautiful handmade quilt. She explained to us that it was a gift made by volunteers to comfort those in transition. The nurse gently lay the blanket over my dying friend as his girlfriend lovingly slipped underneath to lay beside him. When he passed away it was one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful moments of my life, to have the honor of witnessing their deep devotion shared in one last embrace beneath the beautiful colors of love.

Quilts have been a traditional form of women’s artistic expression for hundred’s of years. They have also served a utilitarian purpose, giving warmth, comfort, security and in some cases shelter to those in need. They have been created as an expression of grief and they have also been given as a source of comfort to the bereaved.

The memorial quilt idea gained national attention in America during the AIDS crisis of  the 1980’s. The NAMES project invited grieving families to create a memorial panel for their loved ones beginning in 1987. As the losses grew so did the quilt which has 48,000 panels to date.

There are now many organizations that make and distribute quilts for a variety of causes. Quilts are given to families who have lost loved ones in war, for those grieving miscarried babies, for those who are mourning loved one’s that have taken their own lives. Project Linus, a national organization, accepts donations of handmade quilts as well as knitted blankets to be given to children recovering from illness, trauma or who are otherwise in need.

There is a current trend to have quilts made from the fabric of a loved one’s clothing as a memorial keepsake. Searching “memorial quilt” will bring up resources of quilters around the US who will provide this service for a fee.

The quilting tradition began as a utilitarian necessity but gradually gave voice to generations of women who had none. They poured their lives, histories, births and losses into beautifully assembled bits of fabric and thread. Their’s was a voice of sorrow, joy and love. That voice is still singing, calling us to remember and be comforted.

-Singing Luna 12/22/2013

For information on the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt:

http://www.aidsquilt.org

To see U.S.A.F. veteran Michele Hoffman’s Quilts of Honor:

http://www.sew-it-seams.com/quilts_honor/quilts_honor.html

To learn more about creating quilts to donate to children in need:

http://www.projectlinus.org

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Light a Candle of Love

For one night each  December every grave in Pleasant Hill Cemetery is aglow with candlelight. (photo:©David Levison)

For one night every December each grave in Pleasant Hills Memorial Park is illuminated with the warm glow of candlelight.             (photo:©David Levison)

On December 14th, Pleasant Hills Memorial Park in Sebastopol, California will be illuminated by the light of 4,800 candles. Volunteers begin at 8am preparing, setting-up and lighting luminaria (paper bags filled with sand and a candle). By sunset each grave will be graced by the glow of candlelight, from the tidy rows of the military fallen to hundred year old moss-laced tombstones. The effect is quite extraordinary and beautiful. I have walked among the candles some years under a clear star-filled sky and other years with a magical coastal fog swirling around the glowing lights. It is a night to contemplate those who have passed and to share their stories with friends, family, and even strangers.

This annual tradition began when parents Dave and Linda Duckhorn felt inspired to do something to brighten the grave of their son Michael who was tragically killed in a vehicle accident at age 25. They asked memorial park owners Jim and Gerry Johnson if they could string some holiday lights in a tree near the grave. The conversation led to the idea of Light a Candle of Love and in 1998 with the help of only 12 volunteers they covered the grounds with 1,200 luminaria.

Current owners of Pleasant Hills Memorial Park, Jeff Lyons and Matt Hewitt continue the tradition and extend an invitation to the community to be a part of this beautiful celebration of remembrance. Volunteers and visitors can drop by throughout the day to help set up or just to enjoy the lights. During the holidays, a time of year which can be especially difficult for those who have experienced loss, the Light a Candle evening provides a supportive environment for expressing and sharing grief. It is a place to be with community or to walk in silent contemplation. It offers an opportunity to find solace and beauty in the creative spirit of love.

-Singing Luna  12/7/2013

Light a Candle of Love is an annual event held the second or third Saturday before Christmas (alternate date in case of rain). For more information and directions to the park go to:

http://www.pleasanthillsmemorialpark.com/fh/home/home.cfm?&fh_id=13317

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Death on the Table: Creative Conversation about the “D” Word

Conversation can feed our souls and refresh our spirits. Words heard and expressed can be a balm on our hearts.  (Photo: courtesy of Scott Liddell-http://www.scottliddell.com)

Conversation can feed our souls and refresh our spirits. Words heard and expressed can be a balm on our hearts.
(Photo: courtesy of Scott Liddell-http://www.scottliddell.com)

I attended my first “Death Cafe” last week. These are conversational meetings which are growing in popularity internationally. The “Death Cafe” started in England in 2011 with the idea that by talking about death one can make better choices for living to a full potential. At the cafe I attended a group of about twenty people met at a local restaurant’s community space. There were four tables and each table had a card with an intriguing question such as: “What are your thoughts about the afterlife?”, “What are your ideas about how to live life more fully?” and “What fears and concerns do you have about your own death?”. In groups of four or five the conversations started and went on for about forty-five minutes then we would move on to another table and another topic. Though the meetings are not designed as grief support or therapy, it seemed to me that the process of facing the topic full on could have a healing effect. I found the conversations to be lively, respectful, humorous, sad, supportive, creative and especially thought provoking.

Another organization inviting people to join in the conversation is “Death Over Dinner”. Their site features interactive pages to help you organize a dinner in your home by providing text for the invitations, making related reading and film viewing suggestions and giving conversation prompts.

Although the word Death carries a morose weight to it I found my evening did not feel heavy. There was a lightness in the conversations even when some of the stories that people shared were sad. Talking about this mystery that we will all face brought a sense of camaraderie, understanding and compassion to the table. Death is the common experience we will all have as living creatures. No matter our differences, it is one thing that connects us all.

-Singing Luna 11/21/2013

http://deathcafe.com

http://deathoverdinner.org/about

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