... a voice for those who mourn the loss of a soul mate
"He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began." - Leo Tolstoy

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas is bittersweet when you are mourning

You cherish the Christmases past and mourn the Christmases never to be and you miss with all your heart your soul mate who is no longer physically with you.
I had a couple of invitations to celebrate today with friends today but I chose to stay home. I can relive old memories and smile, or I can cry if I need to.
I can read, watch TV, sip some wine, and just be.
No pressures. No false smiles.
I am lucky and blessed because I have friends and family who understand what I need to do to get through today.
Maybe on future Christmases, I will do it differently. But this year, as in years past, I choose this.
And it's OK.
Do what you need to do this year to celebrate, to remember, to care for yourself.
And know that whatever you choose is okay.
Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Walk In My Shoes

Grief is not something you “get over.” It becomes a part of who you are.  It finds that hole in your heart and molds itself into the shape of the one you have lost. And it stays tender.  It becomes a painful part of who you are.  Those who want to help need to know that and understand that they cannot heal your heart.  They can only walk beside you, giving you a solid hand to reach for when you stumble on the often unstable ground of your grief.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Dream visits

Have you experienced dream visits from your soul mate?
Do you feel it was real?
Many have reported this phenomenon. I know I have many times and it's very comforting.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Filling the Hole

This is a time of year when the loneliness of loss is magnified by nonstop celebrations, events that always before involved two and now fall to one. This is especially the time to reach out to the one left behind.  Offer to shop with them. Invite them to a Holiday concert or dinner.  Or simply ask them to share a quiet evening at home with a favorite Holiday movie accompanied by hot chocolate and Christmas cookies.  They may refuse, but don’t stop trying.  One day you will ask at just the right time.


Friday, December 11, 2015

This is why grief is so hard

This is why grief is so hard. It is all-pervasive. We mourn all the little everyday, wonderful, precious moments of our days with our soul mate.
One of the first things I remember feeling sad about was that John no longer prepared our morning coffee. Every night, before we went to bed, John would set up the coffee-maker for us. He would grind the beans and fill the water reserrvoir. All I had to do in the morning (I was usually the first one up) was push the On button.
After John passed, I made the coffee but the coffee wasn't the same. There was no John-love in it. It was just coffee.
And that was just one thing that changed. John and I were joined at the hip, as some would say. But we liked it that way. It was our life and we loved our life.
Life without John will go on but it will be forever different.
And that difference is enormous.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Touch Me

I once asked a friend what she missed most after her husband died.  Her answer surprised me.  “Touch,” she said. “I miss being touched.”  The sadness and isolation in her voice were palpable and I wanted to cry for her.  Instead, I reached out and enfolded her in a deep, heart hug.

How often, I thought, do we wrap ourselves in a lonely bubble, its outer perimeter ever rebounding off the bubbles of those around us?  We can clearly see the grieving or lonely or needful person beside us and yet it is so very easy to just bounce away without reaching out to make a very human connection. And the need is there. Oh how ever present is our need to be touched.  For the person who is grieving, that sympathetic touch and a genuine question of “How are you doing, how are you REALLY doing?” may be all that is needed to unleash a flood of tears.  Unshed, they have kept a heart bound and aching but your simple, honestly caring question opened the floodgates.

Serving as both shield and mask, our skin is so much more than a simple barrier.  It protects all that we have inside, shielding our delicate inner body and masking so much of our vulnerable psychic selves that we choose to hide. But, no matter how tough we try to be, its thousands of nerve endings still connect us to the outside.  Through touch, we can stir fiery demons, soothe their painful fires, or just simply connect with another human being. Research has shown that touch is perhaps the most essential of our five senses and can affect our wellbeing, regardless of age.  It is a proven fact that babies need human contact to thrive and elderly people who receive even the smallest touches are often noticeably healthier than those who do not.  Even snuggling with a beloved cat or dog can satisfy that need for contact and help us feel accepted and whole. I’m not saying we need to run around mauling each other or even engaging in huge full-body hugs with every person we meet.  But a gentle pat on the arm or a compassionate hug to connect human to human goes miles toward reassuring others that they are not alone on this planet.

My friend Joy tells a story of working with premature babies.  One in particular has stayed with her for years.  Born very early, he had been confined to an incubator for the first months of his little life, had been fed via feeding tube.  He always seemed to be tense, cranky and restless. Finally the day came when Joy was asked to give him his first bottle feeding. She carefully swaddled the squirming, mewling infant in a soft blanket, picked him up and cuddled him.  It was his first human contact.  Before she could even start to feed him the bottle, he relaxed and quieted, closing his eyes in blissful contentment. Just that one touch, that’s all it took.


In a marriage, every day is filled with those small connections that come in the form of a brief hug or a kiss, a touch on the arm, a warm and loving body in bed beside you or a myriad of other small unconscious moments of reaching out. Take that person away and it is as though there is suddenly a void there each time you reach out to connect.  The hand you instinctively reach to hold is gone.  Where there was once a familiar aura drawing you like a magnet, there is a void and that side of your energy seems to fray away into empty space.  It is as though you have forgotten to eat for far too long and realize there is an emptiness permeating your very being.  Your skin is starving. You may attribute the feeling to grief and that may well be a huge part of it, but your body, your psyche is craving the smallest hug or gentle touch on the arm. It needs connection. It needs to feel the food of touch.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Grief and the holiday

Holidays without our soul mates are hard. For me, all the friendship and happiness makes me miss John more, not less. The first few years after John passed I preferred spending the holidays alone rather than with anyone. It actually made it easier.
Slowly, I have learned to keep John in my heart and carry him forward with me as I now celebrate with friends and family.
Do whatever feels right for you this Thanksgiving Day. Speak your loved one's name. Share memories. Be thankful for the time you had together. Look for signs that they are still with you.
And remember to take care of yourself. This is your grief, your life, your loved one. It's okay to put yourself first and to do this day whatever way you choose.
Much love to you this day.



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The First Holiday Alone



To me, every holiday the first year that my soul mate missed was hard. The first holiday without my soul mate was Thanksgiving, 8 years ago. I woke up that first Thanksgiving morning and wandered through the empty house expecting at any moment to smell stuffing because that was always the first thing Jerry prepared. Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday to celebrate because it always involved family, friends, and lots of good food. And nothing made him happier than having a boisterous group of special people together in our home crowding around the kitchen with a big turkey roasting in the oven. The man could cook!  

  
Don’t spend the first holidays at home alone. Accept an invitation and show up. If you don't get an invitation to dinner, invite someone to go out and eat with you. I’ve learned not to try and re-create those celebrations from the past but to plan and make new memories. Now my family group usually eats Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant but the table is still filled by happy lively people. We drink a toast to our missing loved ones and tell lots of stories and say their names because the sound of their names on our lips remind us of the love we shared. And I don’t have to eat turkey.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Grieving Beau

In late September, I started finding feathers – one every day for the first few days and then not quite that often but still they came to me when I least expected to see them.  At first they were real feathers from common birds, nothing especially unusual, just feathers.  And then a more permanent form, including a lovely sculpted pewter feather that spoke to my heart and begged to be mine.  The day the first feather appeared, I was leaving a Life in the Afterlife conference and had been talking with my friends Betts and Joy about signs we receive from the other side.  Feathers are a very common sign so I knew at some level that the feathers were a message.  I just did not know who was sending them or why. 

I do now.

You see, the first feather I noticed came to me shortly after our precious cat Beau’s first “birthday” as a member of our family. I picked it up and saved it, putting it near my computer monitor where I could reflect on its meaning every day.  Well, Beau, being the great hunter he was in his mind, decided that feather and the two that followed must be a bird in some form and so tried to eat them all. I salvaged those wet, bedraggled feathers and put them away in my desk drawer. Subsequent feathers were saved from his natural predatory instincts in like manner.  I really did not give it a second thought and in time the appearance of fresh feathers dwindled.

In early November, Joy, Betts and I celebrated my birthday with a lovely lunch outside on the patio at T. Cooks, an elegant restaurant in central Phoenix.  Toward the end of our meal as we talked animatedly, Betts was waving a French fry in the air as she finished a comment when suddenly, a good-sized bird swooped across the table and snatched that fry right out of her hand.  Amazed at its bravado, I attached no particular significance to the mock attack. 

I do now.

And then, the unthinkable happened.  Sweet, innocent Beau decided somewhere in his kitty brain that it would be a good idea to go on a real adventure.  In a moment of distraction on my part, he slipped outside and was gone without my even realizing it.  I spent a fruitless day searching every corner of our house for him.  But he was gone.  We posted flyers.  I registered his photo with every rescue website that would allow it.  His microchip company notified all the vets and rescue groups in the area.  We sent an email blast to every house in the neighborhood.  I visited the pound shelters and the Humane Society and posted his face there.  Always the message was the same, “This beautiful cat is lost and he is loved.  If you see him, please, please help him come home.”

In a final act of desperation, I contacted a gifted pet intuitive, Debbie Johnstone, who felt very strongly that our Beau was still in this world and hiding. The sense was that he was more interested in the experience and adventure he was having than he was frightened.  We searched and we called and we sent him messages on how to find his way home.  Nothing worked.  I think now that perhaps it was never meant to.  Two days after we reached him psychically, a neighbor from a block away called.  He had found a very small paw and remnants of fur from what appeared to be a white cat. I was so sure our Beau was safe that I could not believe it could be him. Still, I contacted Debbie to reassure me that he was still alive. But that was not meant to be.

All the signs Debbie saw told her he had transitioned from this life to the next.  And, finally, the significance of the feathers came to me.  You see, Beau told Debbie he saw a huge bird just before he left this plane.  I believe he was taken from us by a great horned owl that has haunted our neighborhood in recent months.  We had heard him and seen him and now he had taken my Beau from me.  I think the feathers may have been sent to me to prepare me for what was coming and for how Beau would leave us. The very day he died, I saw yet another feathery reminder in a magazine – lovely white feather shaped Christmas ornaments with their tips dipped in gold (and yes, I WILL find and buy them).  What a perfect reminder of this pure white boy who, with his young, playful spirit, brought us such joy in his short life.  Yes, the feathers may signify the owl that took his life, but remember angels have feathery wings too.  Perhaps the feathers I have found were from angels trying to send me a measure of peace in advance of my grief.

I think it is important for me to remember that “our” place was my office where I write and where I have been struggling to find direction in the writing I have been doing for From Grief to Peace. Beau was very much a part of what I do here and I can feel his presence here now as I write about him.  I think perhaps he came into my life and left it far too soon in part to help me understand the grief my friends know after losing their soul mates. I cannot compare the grief I am feeling today to theirs.  Each of us must experience grief in our own way.  And I know some losses are greater than others.  That does not make the grief I feel on losing Beau any more or less.  It is just different. And it is mine.  I find myself wrapped in feelings of guilt (could I have done anything differently to change the outcome?), utter sadness (oh God, I hope he did not suffer!) and anger (I briefly wished I could kill that owl), but most of all, there is the pain of knowing I will never again cuddle a warm, purring Beau or laugh at his silly antics.

I know my friends have gone through similar but probably more intense feelings and this loss helps me understand their pain, their continued mourning. Losing my Beau has finally helped me clarify what I am doing with From Grief to Peace.  I now see my role so much more clearly.  I have never lost a soul mate.  But in knowing this loss, I believe I can become a voice for those close friends and family who desperately want to relate to and help a loved one who has lost a soul mate, to help them find their way to peace.

When Beau first came to us, he was the tiniest of kittens, small enough to fit in one hand. And he was the purest, most trusting soul.  His pure white color made me want to name him after an angel, but Norm convinced me otherwise.  And Beau he became. He taught me to love more deeply, to allow myself to be vulnerable and to know that there is more than just this one life on this plane of existence.  Those feathers and the message they sent over the months confirmed that.  The slightly bedraggled (as though Beau had been at it) one that appeared this morning did too. I feel strongly that my Beau sent it to me to tell me that he is in a place where he will always be happy and young at heart. Perhaps he was always meant to be an angel after all.




Thursday, November 19, 2015

Welcome

Welcome to our community.
It is sad that we are all here because it means we have lost someone very dear to us.
Someone who meant the whole world to us.
But I hope you can find comfort knowing that you are not alone and that others are traveling a road similar to yours. It is our hope that by sharing our experiences we can offer each other hope and a way to find our own road to peace.

We invite you to comment on these blog posts.
We also invite you to join our Facebook community.
These are the principles upon which we are building this community.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

First Day, Last Day

As I reflect on the tragedy that happened this week in Paris, I keep coming back to the fact that each of the people who died, victim and terrorist alike, was loved by someone at some point in their life. Some of them were probably also soulmates to someone who will now be left mourning that horrible, senseless loss. In an instant, that love on this plane was snuffed out.  The love will not die with death, but what remains will be a much lonelier form of love.

For those of us who remain, one major lesson to learn from these losses is that although today may be the first day of the rest of your life, it could just as easily be the last of yours or of someone you love.  Reminding ourselves to forgive more, to play more, and to tell those we love how much we respect and admire them helps us keep our relationships clean before we are thrown into that final separation.

Perhaps our purpose in life is to live the days we are given as fully and joyfully as we can so that when we are gone, people will remember us as someone who embodied love and enriched their lives. I am sure that looks a little different for each of us and is not always easy especially when we are consumed by grief, but in our hearts, we know when we are living to that purpose and when we are not.  The times we are not are the times we begin to “should” on ourselves or demand impossible levels of perfection from ourselves and others.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Precious photographs

I cherish all the pictures I have of John, and of us and the life we shared. Of course, I wish we had taken more now that they are all I have left. More photos, more video. Sometimes, I wish I could crawl inside the photos and videos and be there with him again.
I remember a friend telling me [after John had been gone only 8 months] that I had too many pictures of him around. Her husband in the meantime was alive and well and puttering in the garage at the time so I think she should have kept her mouth shut and I politely told her so.
This past week someone I know only casually said after death we should not "make a shrine" to our loved ones. Again, spoken by someone who truly has no idea what she is talking about.
I refuse to allow others to dictate how I choose to honor and cherish John's place in my life, then and now.
I encourage you to do whatever feels good and right for you. Your heart will guide you.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Whisper of Hope

When you have lost your soul mate, you may think that you are completely alone and that no one can understand that fathomless, dark emptiness your soul mate's death has left in your heart.  Know that you are not alone.  Others also know that devastation of the heart and are there to shine a light on the path through your grief.


Friday, November 6, 2015

What is a soul mate?

Soul mate is an overused and, I think, a highly misunderstood term. It can mean many things to many people but at its core is truly only one thing - that one person who is "home" to your soul, the one you travel this life with knowing he or she always has your back, who is your soft place to land. Losing that person to death is one of the most devastating things that can happen.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Soft Place to Fall

When I realize the depth of grief my friends Joy and Betts (and other precious friends and family) live with every day, my heart cries out to help, to mend what hurts, but no amount of compassion will ever let me know the path they walk day after day, year after year.  That’s the hard part of seeing someone I care so much about suffering. I can see the pain, but I can never fully understand, even if I suffer a similar loss.  Each person’s grief is unique and each person must experience it in their own way, in their own time.  Some grieve silently.  Some loudly and publicly.  Some move on quickly. Some never do. No one way is right or wrong.  It just is.  All I can do is be there with open arms and open heart to give my grieving friends a soft place to fall when the grief becomes too much to bear and accept them as they are in that moment.


Friday, October 30, 2015

It's your road

After I lost my soul mate, my best friend, my Love, I found everyone had an opinion about how I should grieve. I read a lot in those first few months. Most of the books on grief seemed to give me timelines - when I should take off my wedding ring, when I should get rid of John's clothes, when I should start to date again. Many friends had opinions too and for some reason had no problem telling me what they thought I should be doing.
You know what? They were all wrong.
There is no timeline. There are no "shoulds". Just as your love and relationship was personal and unique, so it your grief and the feelings you have about the loss. Don't let anyone force their ideas on you. This is your path. Feel no guilt by saying "No, I am doing this my way."



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Meet Me Here

Grief and loss inevitably draw an outpouring of love and concern but not everyone knows how to help. All too often, rather than do something wrong, concerned friends choose to do nothing. It is a choice that can leave you lonelier than ever. On this gentle Sunday morning, perhaps these thoughts will help you tell them what you need.

I know you want
To help
But only I can
Shed these tears.

I know you want
To soothe
But only I can
Know this broken heart.

I know you hurt
For me, for you.
Let me be okay
With the grief.

Meet me where I am,
Help me with …
… a kind word
… a gentle touch
… a fond memory
… your open heart.

                                                                  ~ Cathy Marley

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dream visits

Many people who have lost their mates to death report seeing their loved one in a dream and that it felt so real that they thought it was actually a visit.
Has that ever happened to you?
What do you believe?
It's good to see more people talking about this.


Friday, October 16, 2015

What to say

Remember what Thumper's mother told him in the movie Bambi? That if you can't say anything nice, it's best not to say anything at all? Some people who think they are helping those who mourn might do well to remember that.
Do you really believe that saying "You need to move on" is going to make us slap our head and say "You're right. Why didn't I think of that?"
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just be there, give a hug, or sit with in silence. In truth, you can't fix this hurt.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Words

[from Joy]
There are some words that are supposed to be associated with grief.
Survivor
Closure
Support
I hate them all.
I looked them up in the dictionary just to be sure I understood them properly.
A survivor is “somebody who shows a great will to live or a great determination to overcome difficulties and carry on”.
Closure signifies an “ending”, a “finishing”.
And finally, support. Something to “prop” you up, “buoy” you up, “sustain” you.
Those definitions were not written to describe grief reactions. Not to me. Not by a long shot.
Even after five years there are still some days where I do not feel like I want to carry on. And I know I will never be "finished" grieving. And there is nothing that props me up and sustains me.
This grief can at times still be all consuming.
And sometimes, I really don't care. I think the extent to which I don’t care frightens some people so I find myself not being totally honest when I am asked how I am or how I am feeling.
I remember early on someone thought they were being understanding and acknowledged that it’s something you have to take “day by day”.
When I answered sometimes it’s really “hour by hour”, I could instantly see the change in her face. She didn’t want to hear that.
"Well, it takes time," she said. And moved on to talk to someone else, someone not quite so upsetting.
So I learned to not be so honest with my words.
But each day is still a reminder of being alive without John.
This man who was an absolute part of me as much as my heart or my arm or my head is not here anymore.
It’s as if I have had a body part amputated and the stump hangs there, bleeding still. And I experience phantom pain in the missing piece. So many times a day I start to tell him something or I find myself thinking I need to relate a story to him that I know he will enjoy and then the cold reality hits me that I can’t do that. There will be no more shared stories, no more inside jokes, no more anything.
My mate is gone. My soul mate is no longer here for me to hug and love and take care of and share with and just sit and be with.
No more.
No more.
But I put on my "brave" face and go forward each day.
And some call me a survivor. 
I call me a ghost.
And somewhere in the middle, perhaps, is the reality.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Always.....


This is so true. Sometimes, the cats will hit the laundry room door just right and for a second my heart thinks that John has come home from work. Just for a second, the world is right again.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Waves of grief

                                                                                                      © Cathy Marley

Losing the love of your life can be one of the most solitary, lonely experiences you will ever know. While you may be surrounded by caring people who want to help you through your grief, at the end of the day, you are still alone.  Your grief is unique to you.  No one else will ever experience a grief quite like yours.  You and the one you have lost were unique in the history of the world.  How can anyone expect your grief to be anything but equally unique?
But still, you do not have to grieve alone.  There are those out here who do understand.  They have each experienced their own unique grief.  And they can help you find your way in an unfamiliar solitary existence.
In many ways, grief can be like the changing faces of the ocean.  In the early days, you may feel it is akin to a tidal wave sweeping in and engulfing you. You are tossed, helpless, in the waves, unable to breathe, to control your direction.  Your only choice is to allow the turmoil to take you where it may.  In its aftermath, thrown gasping on the shore of your life, you see only destruction and chaos wherever you look.  But over time, you begin to rebuild, much like those communities that have lost all to the mighty wave. You will never be quite the same again, but in many ways, you will be stronger.  And you will never forget.
Eventually, your life will begin to take on the ocean’s gentler rhythms.  You will be able to see a larger view to the blue horizon and perhaps understand a greater purpose for yourself as you come to terms with the new existence your loss has forced upon you.  The ocean’s beauty and majesty reassert themselves and your life goes on, one gentle wave after the other.  Oh, there will be times when the waves become stormy and your grief will threaten to overwhelm you once again, but storms do not last forever.  The sun comes out, black clouds grow white and blue skies do return.  Treasure those days of sun.  They are your respite from the sadness you have known.  Allow yourself to wade in the gentle waves the ocean sends you that day.  The soothing feel of the water on your feet, the sand beneath your toes, the breeze caressing your skin and ruffling your hair are all the stuff of healing.
                                                          © Cathy Marley