Grief Forward

A year ago, I was a happy person. I had a wonderful life, and was putting the final touches on a book about practices that contribute to happiness. But then in January of 2022, my world collapsed around me. The sudden loss of my dearly loved husband James, the most amazing person I’ve ever known, catapulted me into a degree of pain that only those who have suffered such a loss truly understand. When he passed away, I found myself on an unexpected journey of grief, struggles, stress, and anxiety like I’d never experienced before. I was as far from happiness as it is possible to get. Helping me along this difficult path were people who cared, and I am eternally grateful for them. I’m also grateful for writing about the twelve practice earlier, for they are also coping strategies that can help us through hard times. This year I have often felt barely alive, and the ability to take a breath, to take just one step, and to take just one day, one moment at a time, was all that was possible, and all that kept me going.

For those who grieve, I will share some quotes that have helped me below. Some of them are spiritual in nature, for spirituality is one of the practices. However you see God, I believe He is a presence and source of strength that is always there for you.

From “the Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz:
“God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say ‘I love you, God,’ is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, ‘Thank you, God,’ is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now. Whatever life takes away from you, let it go.”

But when the present frankly sucks in every possible way, the truth is that we don’t want to stay in that moment. To me, the awful present felt like it stretched into a very bleak future as far as I could see. It’s a very tough place to be. It is human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. When confronted with pain of this magnitude, nothing is more desirable than the sweetness of oblivion. I sought it in the nothingness of sleep, in watching a lot of mind-numbing television, and frequently in a tequila bottle paired with my favorite comfort food – BBQ potato chips. I had no wish at all to increase awareness, the foundational skill of happiness. In fact, I craved nothing so much as the exact opposite. I wanted only to numb the terrible pain of grief, and to avoid as much as possible all of the many problems and complications that avalanched down upon me. To stop thinking, to stop feeling, even to stop being. I knew this wasn’t really living, and certainly not in a way that expressed love for God. But I didn’t know how to make my way back to life.

Into this void, came a quote from the movie “First Reformed” – “Courage is the solution to despair.”

Courage is the way to move forward through grief. With courage we are brave enough to tell others what we need, to seek out resources that help, and to keep trying to learn how to live. With courage we are brave enough to feel the pain so that in time we can once again live fully. Courage is not easy, but it is the only way forward.

In “C.S. Lewis Onstage: the Most Reluctant Convert,” he says: ”For they (art and music) are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” Joy can be found in beauty, nature, art and music, learning, and travel to new places. Know that joy can still exist, and have the courage to look for it. God wants us to live, to not only survive but to thrive. He wants us to be happy. And there is no doubt at all that our loved ones want that for us too.

Prayers from the daily devotional “Amazing Grace” (given to me by my friend and neighbor Marcia, whose loving kindness has supported me every step of the way):
“God, teach me to have the courage to act in the world as you wish me to. Help me find a way to push through the challenges that arise in my path, and show me how to overcome evil with love and compassion. Help me to stand tall against fear and stay in the light.” – p. 346
“Dear God, I ask today for a bold new vision for my life. I ask for the strength and wisdom to be a better person to all those I come in contact with. I ask for the courage to step out of my comfort zone and expand my capacity for joy.” – p. 347

First and always, be kind. If you have lost someone you love, you have been gravely wounded. If you are grieving, be especially kind to yourself as you heal, and be aware of what you can handle and what you can’t yet. But also have the courage to move forward when you are ready. Grief changes everything. The world becomes a different place, and we become different people after being touched by grief. But good can still exist, and we can be part of it. For everyone, wherever you are, whatever you are facing, I hope the practices of positive shift help you as they have helped me. Learn more about them at Positive Shift Happens: the Excerpt. May we both keep moving forward toward peace and healing with courage.

Grief Awareness Week is December 2nd – 8

I seek to create order from the chaos of complex information. Join me at the Daily PlanIt to gain insights, inspiration, and information to increase skills for a better life. I unlock the power of teaching reading with phonics in the pursuit of literacy at In my spare time I explore books and movies, often choosing titles available on both screen and page.

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