Posted on Oct 29, 2017 in General Grief

We Californians are used to fire.

We watch the news and our hearts go out to the firefighters’ seemingly impossible task of containing a fire that rages through acres of uninhabited forest.

We hold our breath when fire rips through a wooded area where homes are tucked, and we grieve for the residents.

But we who live in Northern California have yet to get our arms around the tragic firestorm that recently leveled entire communities, took lives and displaced so many.

Where we live is sacred to us, no matter how small. “Home” isn’t just a place, it is also a feeling. We always assume “home” will be there for us at the end of the day. It is a place where we relax, find comfort, and feel safe. It is our anchor. How often do we say to ourselves, “I can’t wait to get home?”

This morning I read Francis Weller’s post, “Everything is Burning.” Francis is a Northern California therapist who lives Santa Rosa – one of the communities that was engulfed in flames. He writes beautifully about the “soul-shaking” trauma that hit Sonoma and Napa counties, and he suggests how to cope with what we can’t control. Take a few minutes to allow Francis to open your heart.

Everything is Burning, by Francis Weller

Post: 10/23/2017

These last few weeks have seen radical changes in the physical and psychic landscape of Northern California. The fires that began late Sunday night, October 8th, quickly engulfed homes and dreams, woodlands and security. Many of us awoke in the middle of the night to the acrid smell of smoke, sensing that something was wrong. Only later, with the dawn light, were we able to see the extent of this disturbing truth.

The German word for trauma is “Seelenerschütterung,” which means “soul-shaking.” Clearly, our souls have been shaken by this catastrophic event. Everyone has been affected, whether we lost a loved one, a home, a beloved pet, our place of employment, a trail that we cherished or simply our sense of faith in the ordinary assurances of daily life. No one in our community has been spared the sorrows that have fallen upon us like ash. We are living in a collective field of sorrows that will take a long, long time to metabolize.

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YES, I am Over 50 and I Like and Miss Sex!

Posted on Jul 23, 2017 in General Grief, Spousal/Partner Loss

So often the bereaved can’t, or don’t, talk about what is important to them. This week’s Jane Brody NYT’s column, When a Partner Dies, Grieving the Loss of Sex, tackles one of our society’s taboo topics.

For anyone who is recently widowed – and for those of us who work with the bereaved, Brody’s column is a must read.

> Read:  When a Partner Dies, Grieving the Loss of Sex


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Experiencing the Presence of Absence

Posted on Jun 11, 2017 in General Grief

While listening to a struggling mother talk in my counseling office recently, I had a flashback to my own teen years.

My mother was strict, but she gave me a long leash. As a result, I always thought I was very independent of my family. As I drove home that evening, however, I remembered a pattern of mine that showed how connected and dependent I was to those people.

Knowing wasn’t enough

I was fortunate to be somewhat talented on the bell-curve of my small town high school student body. And each year I participated in many solo and group performances.

The memory that flashed into my consciousness was that I never performed without simultaneously scanning the crowd for my family. Never.

I knew they were there. So why wasn’t just “knowing” enough for me?

The experience of being watched vs. being seen

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Not Every Dead Person Was a Loved-One

Posted on May 14, 2017 in Fresh Grief, General Grief

What if your deceased parent was hell on wheels behind closed doors, and God’s gift to the outside world when they were alive?  What if they were consistently uncompromising, selfish, and neglectful… possibly cruel and abusive to you?

How do you cope with the death of a parent who was a hypocrite and/or a bad parent?

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Why Losing a Dog Can Be Harder than Losing a Relative

Posted on Mar 25, 2017 in Fresh Grief, General Grief, Pet Loss

I recently read an article (link below) entitled “Why Losing a Dog Can Be Harder than Losing a Relative.”

If you can’t understand the phenomenon, you likely haven’t experienced 15-18 years of sweet, eager, unconditional love from a pet. Nor have you experienced your own sweet, eager, unconditional love for your pet.

Lost and found

I have had clients who have deeply grieved the death of a spouse, but admit that losing their beloved dog was tougher experience to tolerate. It is not surprising as we aren’t often loved without expectation, i.e., without someone wanting us to look, act and think a certain way.

On the other hand, I have watched in amazement as a struggling bereaved individual comes alive and starts to rebuild their life – after getting a new pet.

Honor the loss

So if a family member, friend or co-worker is grieving the death of a pet, bite your tongue before you say “it’s just a dog, for heaven’s sake.”

Enjoy the article and the latest research on our relationship to our pets!

>read article



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Featured Book: Insomniac City, New York, Oliver and Me.

Posted on Feb 26, 2017 in General Grief, Spousal/Partner Loss

The late Oliver Sacks’s life partner, Bill Hayes, has written Insomniac City, New York, Oliver and Me. It is an incredible memoir and honors his relationship with Oliver, Oliver’s decline and death, and Bill’s love of New York City. The writing, the telling, pulls the reader into a place that is quietly special.

I suppose it’s a cliché to say you’re glad to be alive, that life is short, but to say you’re glad to be not dead requires a specific intimacy with loss that comes only with age or deep experience. One has to know not simply what dying is like, but to know death itself, in all its absoluteness.


After all, there are many ways to die — peacefully, violently, suddenly, slowly, happily, unhappily, too soon. But to be dead — one either is or isn’t.


The same cannot be said of aliveness, of which there are countless degrees. One can be alive but half-asleep or half-noticing as the years fly, no matter how fully oxygenated the blood and brain or how steadily the heart beats. Fortunately, this is a reversible condition. One can learn to be alert to the extraordinary and press pause — to memorize moments of the everyday.


I highly recommend the book – for many reasons – but it shines in its ability to remove the reader from the current political intensity. It reminds us that we can be inspired. It reminds us that the world at large doesn’t need to change who we are or how we chose to be. It reminds us to pay attention to what brings us joy.

Found on


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