Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Uncovering Grief: Sharing Wisdom April 5, 2012

By Shannon Calder

When we are forced to live in the midst of grief we find ways of coping that defy the everyday. Robert Romanyshyn (1999), psychology professor and author of The Soul in Grief writes, “Loss is a season of the soul – its winter – and, like the winter of the world, a moment whose time must have its place. I could neither hurry nor avoid these rhythms of soul any more than I could hurry or ignore those of the world” (p. 5).  Slowing down and feeling the rhythm of pain and loss forces us to sit in it like a small child in a bathtub whose water has gone cold but who cannot get out alone. Telling the story of your grief can assist you in getting through the utter devastation you feel. In this forum it has the added benefit of communing with people who understand. Romanyshyn further points out, “In this landscape there really are no maps, no markers to plot the course of grief. Here I was forced to find my own way” (p. 6).

As you may or may not know, but I am here to tell you, there is only one way to go through your grief. Your way is the way. I am here to start discussion and educate you and hopefully steer you in a few directions you may not have thought to take. Do not mistake that for your own wisdom. What fuels your healing is you. So lets focus for a second on what helps you grieve? Tell us what has worked for you. You have wisdom to help your friends, share it.

Be Well,

Shannon

Contact me at: Shannon [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com.

Resource: The Soul in Grief :Love, Death and transformation. by Robert Romanyshyn, writer, teacher and author.

Shannon Calder is a writer, psychotherapist, and survivor of grief. She has an MA in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently in a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. She works in private practice treating people suffering from a wide spectrum of symptoms. 

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Uncovering Grief: Writing the Story of Your Day March 15, 2012

By Shannon Calder

Before writing, I’d sidestepped my sorrow, not knowing how to move through it. The terrible ache, I believed, would always be there. Writing changed that.”

 – Susan Zimmerman

6:45pm – 3/12/12

5 years ago at 6:45pm my mother’s body was wheeled out of her house, the same house where I sit writing this column, in her office.

Grief clouds everything. I had an important interview to go to today, an errand at the post office, a client to see, this column to do, and a psychological assessment to write. My loss was apparent to me in all these bits of business. It gave them all great meaning. Nobody really thinks about how this is the day, the week, the month, where I still feel that I am moving through tear gas. Five years later, with eyes wet and muscles weak, much of my life, the things I do, the house I live in, has great meaning. It creates the kind of richness in my existence that does not feel man made. People may think I’m over it, past it or that I don’t grieve anymore. But everyone here knows that grief stays with you. And I believe that grief bestows meaning.

I haven’t acted out on anyone today but I know my significant other has had moments in the last few weeks where he looked at me as if I was out of my body. There are times when people ask me what is wrong and I say nothing, when I mostly want to say, ‘my mother, my favorite person, died 5 years ago.’ But if I did say that, say my truth, I would say it to everyone, all the time. I don’t say it because I don’t want it to take me over every day.

I have grieved in writing this. Story predates psychology. Write the story of your day. Today was about me sharing a story of this day with you, this is basically how it’s done. You may have feelings while doing this, indulge them, I did. I didn’t craft this into the best writing ever. I wrote what I needed to write and I feel a relief to have shared this day’s story with you.

I hope you will do the same.

The act of writing brings a structure and order to the chaos of grief. It taps into the healing power of your own unconscious. By giving voice to fears, anger, and despair, by letting go of old dreams and hope; our self-healing powers come into play. The soul knows what it needs to heal. Through writing, it will lead you where you need to go.

 – Susan Zimmerman

Be Well,

Shannon

Contact me at: Shannon [at] LifeWithoutBaby [dot] com

Resource: Writing to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and loss Through Writing by Susan Zimmerman, writer, lecturer and author.

Shannon Calder is a writer, psychotherapist, and survivor of grief. She has an MA in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently in a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. She works in private practice treating people suffering from a wide spectrum of symptoms. 


 

Uncovering Grief: How Does Grief Feel to You? March 1, 2012

By Shannon Calder

 

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.

~ William Shakespeare

What is grief?

First you have to decide that you have lost something. This is sometimes where people get stuck. A patient said to me, “I am losing my keys constantly.” Knowing this patient’s situation I asked, “What have you really lost?” This was a moment of realization for her. I saw it in the stunned way she looked at me. Her reply was “my hope.”

Sometimes loss is obvious and sometimes it is not.  Simply, you need to step out of your resistance and denial or simple unconsciousness, decide you have lost something, something you needed, something you need to grieve.

Paula D’Arcy, author of When People Grieve wrote, “Grief is the heart’s response to any deep loss.” I would argue that the most obvious home for grief is the heart but that grief is housed in our body, spirit, mind and soul. This is how someone can lose something and not be conscious of their need to grieve for it. Be mindful of your inside landscape and you will be mindful of what it needs.

For me grief feels like something inside of me is trying to drown me and the one thing that kept me from drowning is the thing I have just lost. Then, a sense of powerlessness pervades. I know that grief will not drown me literally and that I am not powerless literally however, my imagination knows what it knows.

How does grief feel to you?

I would like to suggest you not only use your words for this. Words are often where most of us feel quite comfortable and they also get us up in our brains. We’re looking for what gets us down in our gut, in our soul.

So I’m going to suggest you share your words here in the comment section but perhaps those words can describe your process of what your grief looks like, feels like, smells like, etc. You can look in magazines for pictures, on television for characters or movies that touch this deeper emotion in you, look for art work or artists, athletics, pieces of music and don’t forget pieces of music without words, those pieces that touch you in that guttural way.

If you become afraid, step out of the place you are in with these sensory triggers and breathe into a single breath of consciousness within you and do something comforting or even ritualistic like checking your email, something that gets you back into your brain. Then when you feel like working with grief again, go back to your senses.

And please, let us all know what you did and how it went.

Be Well,

Shannon

Contact me at: Shannon [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com.

Resource:

Paula D’Arcy, author of When People Grieve, is an internationally known expert in grief counseling and pulls from her personal resources of having lost her husband and daughter

 

Uncovering Grief February 16, 2012

This week, I’m very pleased to introduce a new Guest Blogger.

Shannon Calder is a psychotherapist, specializing in grief and loss. In this, her new column, she’ll be addressing some of the issues many of us are facing as we look towards a life without children. I hope you’ll find her guidance helpful.

Uncovering Grief

By Shannon Calder

“If we carry our storms like actors pretending to be brave, each swallowed tear will fill our hearts like a bag of stones.”

– Alison Asher

Grief is a sacred time, a sacred act and it is the way we honor the importance of what we lost. The amount of grief we feel is in direct proportion to the importance of the person or idea we have lost. It is an honor to grieve.

My name is Shannon and I am a psychotherapist and a survivor of grief. I phrase it that way because surviving something indicates that it is still with you, in you, but that you pulled through and gained strength and meaning from it. I am here to remind you that grief does not evaporate, but like the wind, it breezes in and then recedes, leaving you to respond in its wake. How fast it recedes and how much havoc it wreaks on your life is the result of how you respond to it. I am here to help you with that and to listen, because grief is with us no matter how long ago we lost something or someone.

I am all for moving on, moving up, moving around, being positive and letting go. Every now and then I may discuss these very ideas. However, my purpose, whether it is on this blog or in my profession, is to address where people are in the moment and to speak to who lives and breathes underneath the persona that we show the world. I think we can agree that we don’t always feel like moving on, letting go or being positive.

Frankly, I don’t think putting happy pants on everyone and sending them back out into the world does them, their spouses, or the drivers next to them any good. It leads to repressed, angry, sad, grief-filled folks running into or running over each other unconsciously.

Do not misunderstand me. In your life, away from this discussion, it is a brilliant idea to have a stiff upper lip in most situations. But in this discussion with me, or anyone else on this blog, and hopefully with the people you trust the most, invest in the emotions that come with grief and give them the attention they deserve. If you are honest with yourself and others about what you feel, they can give you what you deeply need.

This is my not so subtle call to arms to those of you who are grappling with grief. If you are having trouble deciding what you feel, figuring out if you’re grieving, then that is completely valid and we can address that. I want to encourage you to do as Alison Asher says and “soar straight into the storm,” but only do this if you have a lifeboat. I hope that this column, the resources discussed here and the exercises we try can be your lifeboat, along with the friends and family you find here on this blog and in your life. Rally your resources and bring them close to you.

Please write to me with questions and/or your stories. I will attempt to address many of them in this column.

Be well,

Shannon

Contact me at: Shannon [AT] lifewithoutbaby [DOT] com

Resource:

Alison Asher wrote Soaring into the Storm, a lovely book about anyone facing adversity. She interviewed people of all ages and backgrounds who endured tragedy and came out strong. She is an artist and a poet and she survived the loss of a child.