this week's refuge in grief newsletter
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Hello dear one.

The last few weeks, I've been in a rather massive trial and error period. Personally and professionally, I'm watching and shifting, experimenting, moving things around, tracking results, changing things again. I'm honing my life, making it better by degrees. It's both exhausting and necessary.

And while most of my latest experimentation comes from a good solid ground, it wasn't always that way.

When I was first widowed, to be perfectly blunt, everything sucked. Friends and strangers would make suggestions about what I should do in order to make this "better." They'd say, "take care of yourself." They'd ask, "what was good in your day?" or "have you done anything fun for yourself lately?"

As one widowed friend wrote, "doing nice things for myself, or even cleaning the house - it's just rearranging my prison cell. I can polish all I want; it's not going to change the reality."

Experimenting with what helps and what doesn't help is delicate territory, especially in early grief. No amount of trial and error is going to fix what is foundationally irreparable.

I think the big distinction is whether you're trying different things in order to solve grief, or if you're trying to find things that bring you even the slightest bit of comfort. One approach tells you you're doing it wrong, the other says you are worthy of all the love and support that can possibly be found. 

In grief, trial and error is less about making things better than it is about making things not feel worse. What you can do for yourself is notice: how do I feel after I see this person? Do I feel supported and centered, or crazy and exhausted? Are there times of day I feel calmer and more grounded? Are there certain books, or movies, or places that take the sharp edge off my mind, if only for a little while?

Micro-comparisons. Trial and error.

Looking for those things that make this worse, and heaving yourself in the opposite direction.

It's all a work in progress. If you find anything that feels less bad (in early grief) or eventually, even a little bit good (whenever that happens), aim for more of that.

This week, my readers, I wish you a whole week full of things that make life suck less. I wish you love that sidles up beside you, supporting you. Love that is fully evident, if even by small degrees.

As always, I love your questions and your comments. What things have you found that help you feel companioned, or comforted, in your grief? Remember, when you hit "reply" to this newsletter, your email comes right to me. I'd love to hear from you. 

Talk soon,


PS: Today is the last day to register for this round of the Writing Your Grief course. Writing with other grieving hearts definitely makes all of this suck less. Please join us. Register here. 


This week the first Refuge in Grief retreat happened on beautiful Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington. This retreat, and the upcoming holiday season retreat, are open only to Writing Your Grief alumni.

If you'd like to gather with a community of people who truly understand both love and loss this holiday season, be sure to join the next session of the Writing Your Grief course. Registration is open until August 30th. We'd love to have you. 

Around the web: People and resources you should know

I spend a lot of time following links, reading blogs, searching for words and images that help people in pain. I also pick up tools for those witnessing grief in those they love. When I find things that are useful, I pass them along.
Don't Say Nothing

It is devastating to hear from a loved one that they are dying. How you react to the news matters, yet most of us have no idea what to say when somebody we love shares their tragic news.
Here are 7  things to remember when a loved one reveals they are terminally ill.

read more at Modern Loss

I cannot let it go
Though I chastised those that 
Could not
This grasping for you, 
These thoughts that peck like
Persistent doves on the scattered grains
Of my memory 


     this week's blog posts at refuge in grief

Monday's post for those in pain
What Wildfires have to do with Grief

Our culture is not so good at bearing witness, which is why grief can be such a lonely, isolating experience. People on the periphery of loss have stinging eyes and raspy throats, but they forget someone’s life has gone up in smoke. They forget to look towards the center, to the source of the fire.
continue reading

Witness Wednesday
Way back when I started the blog, we held Wednesdays as a time to share the names of those we've lost, adding them to the weekly love list. I can no longer keep up with the weekly names, but that doesn't mean you can't send love. 

Please take a moment each Wednesday to send out love and support to all of those sitting with broken hearts. It doesn't change anything, but it might just help hold someone up, if even a tiny bit. 

Friday's personal grief journal post
An Unexpected Memorial

Just over a year ago now, I packed up the place where we’d lived, said goodbye to all the familiar places, touched the ground, and hit the road.As I crossed the county without him, along the same path we’d traveled several years before, an unexpected memorial:Day number 5 on the road. I’d hoped to be there by now. But the road has what the road will have.
 continue reading...
This audio book is what I wish I'd had when I was first widowed. It didn't exist, so I made it for you. If unexpected or out-of-order death has shown up in your life, please click on the link and download this audio book. It won't fix anything that can't be fixed, but it might help you hold your heart a little more gently. Give it a go. You can be listening in just a few minutes
If you’d like support inside your pain, we’ll find ways to carry your grief that are most true to you. I help people who have had a life-changing loss, illness, or injury find ways to live with their grief. If that’s you, let’s talk.
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