This new life is different, it's the same, it's a million different things, and I'm okay. My hope for this post is that if someone grieving finds it they might find a tiny bit of hope that they will be okay to.
Welcome to another edition of In Tandem, the read-and-review blog series where both A.F. and I give our on-the-spot commentary as we read and team blog a book together. (You can feel free to guess which of us is the yellow owl and which of us is the... Read the rest of this postAdd a Comment
Welcome to another edition of In Tandem, the read-and-review blog series where both A.F. and I give our two cents at the same time. (You can feel free to guess which of us is the yellow owl and which of us is the purple owl...we're not telling!)... Read the rest of this postAdd a Comment
One of the things I love about mysteries is how much they vary. This mystery could be described as "cozy," because of the presence of old ladies, but the main character is an out of work child actress who really is the most reluctant of Miss... Read the rest of this postAdd a Comment
Narrative non-fiction is generally the only type of non-fiction we review here at Wonderland, 'cause we're all about the story. This novel isn't non-fiction, despite the jacket copy calling it an authentic immigrant story. Those writing historical... Read the rest of this postAdd a Comment
Author Michel Faber is tinged with enigma and exotica. His name sounds both European and British, with its allusion – probably fictictious – to the famous publishing house, Faber & Faber. The 54 year-old was born in the Netherlands but educated in Australia – and so could be regarded as one of our own, […]Add a Comment
On March 5, Marie Mutsuki Mockett and I will be reading and talking about exorcising the past (all meanings of exorcise possible) at McNally Jackson at 6 p.m.
Marie’s wonderful new book, Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye, is about death and grief and family and ghosts and so much more. She’ll read from it, and I’ll read from the working introduction to my book on the science and superstition of ancestry, and then we’ll talk about all of that and take questions and comments from you. Hope to see you there!
This image is from one of Marie’s childhood notebooks; she shared it with the Asian American Writers’ Workshop when they visited her writing studio.Add a Comment
Having recorded my dreams for over 35 years, I can refer to a number of dreams that made me aware beforehand someone was going to die. Recently, I had another one of those dreams and they are unsettling—no matter how long or well you have worked with dreams. It is a fairly common phenomenon so I have decided to share some reflections on my experience:
Take heart in that not every dream about someone dying means that person is going to die in the near future. It may be suggesting your relationship with that person is undergoing a change and will not remain the same. It may also mean that a part of you, which that person symbolizes, is dying. For example, you dream about your young 20-something neighbor dying might mean your relationship with that person is going through a death and rebirth or that the 20-something in you is dying as you see the first gray hairs in the mirror. Your gut instinct will tell you if your dream means any of these two things.
However, some dreams are literal, and one such dream could really mean the 20-something will die. Since every dream is a gift even when we would rather not get the information contained in these letters from the Unconscious; remember that a dream about someone dying was given for the reason such as to help you to prepare for the event or better appreciate the person while he or she is still alive. For example, I dreamed of my father’s and mother’s deaths long before these events happened. I even saw in a dream how my mother would die—in the arms of my father. The sadness in my heart told me these dreams where prophetic. Here is how I responded to the dreams:
When they did pass, I felt no regrets and the inner critic saying, “You should have done…” As a result my grief was clean, viewing it as a privilege to mourn and honor these two amazing people who brought me into the world.
So when I had the dream of a close friend dying, and felt in my gut that this dream indicated she might really die at some point in the future, I now focus on spending quality time with this person, doing fun things we like to do. I try to show appreciation for what she does for me. I have not told her about my dream because I think it would be pointless. Since in my dream she died of natural causes and not from a plane or car accident, there is nothing I can do to prevent her possible death other than offer the usual friend’s advice (when appropriate) about eating well, exercising and getting a good night’s rest.
In Dead Men Do Tell Tales, teen detective Ashlynn has learned to work with dreams about someone dying. In this case, she is able to see the dream as a messenger to help her police father solve a crime.
This YA paranormal mystery/romance is a page-turner all the way. Told in the present tense, the action always feels immediate. The author captures Amelia’s grief over her mother, self-doubt over her paranormal abilities, and conflicting pulls of love for both the dead Matthew and the living Kip.Add a Comment
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.
Grief by any measure can be overwhelming. The grief one experiences after the loss of a family member never more so, even if that member happens to have whiskers and furry ears.
Who knew I’d still be grieving the loss of my dog so intensely four months on? That the thinnest memory of him could unveil a mountain of yearning and loss and cause small avalanches of tears – again and again.
Penned after the loss of her beloved pet rabbit, Winston, Here in the Garden is more than an inspired cathartic exercise. It is an exquisitely crafted passage-of-time tale that allows ‘anyone who reads it (a) way back to a loved one through (their) heart and (their) memories’.
A young boy loses his special friend, a pet rabbit and wishes fervently that they were still together in his garden. Seasons slide by with the passing of time yet his yearning never diminishes. The boy’s present day feelings are sensitively juxtaposed with each new season and the past memories they reawaken of his days shared in the garden with bunny.
Stewart’s heart-felt narrative is poetic and poignant and at times a little tear-inducing. The evolution of the seasons is beautifully measured by her splendid illustrations; most notably, the stirring string of pencilled line drawings at the end leading us and the boy beautifully from grief to resignation to jubilation of better days. By the end of story and the passing of a year, the boy comes to realise that whilst not everything we hold precious and dear in life can remain with us physically, memories are forever.
Here in the Garden is ultimately a moving yet magnificent and uplifting testimony to life and that wondrous salve of all hurts, time. Older readers will need tissues. Younger ones will cherish the joy and hope hidden within just as easily as they will locate the leaf-shaped bunnies drifting throughout this book.
Highly recommended for healing and hope-seeking.
Don’t put those tissues away yet! Stick around for Part Two of Poignant Picture books when we cast a look at The Stone Lion.
Add a Comment
Fifteen-year-old Shiv doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to forgive herself for what she’s done. And she’s not sure she wants to, either. Her young brother and best friend, Declan, is dead, and she’s to blame.Add a Comment
This debut novelist describes herself as "an avid reader of just about every genre (plenty of YA, a smidge of Sci-Fi, buckets of horror, a dash of literary, even some graphic novels)." Her familiarity with both horror and literary works shines... Read the rest of this postAdd a Comment
I just lost another family member, this time very unexpectedly and in a strange, almost “was meant to happen because it makes no sense” kind of experience. There were too many bizarre variables in this loss equation. I am in the What the Heck? stage. All this loss has me looking at the different stages of grief and realizing I need to rewrite them for myself. This will also help me explain to my friends when they ask how I am doing. If you ever lost an animal or person, you will relate. (And yes, this pretty much applies to all kinds of losses). Here it goes.
Shock or “I am half in and half out.” “Half in and half out” is a really nice place to be. If you are able, you can communicate with the departed loved one. You can hear your Guides, helpers, God as if they are next to you, because you are half in. It’s not a good stage to be driving or using heavy equipment, or even utensils. It feels really good to be numb, but someone needs to remind you to eat and bathe.
Shock starts to wear off. It’s the “remembering.” You realize your animal or loved one is not here and you are searching. I hate that feeling. It feels like LOSS in capital letters. It’s a loss you can’t fix, change or do something about. You can’t put them back into their bodies, but if you could, you sure would.
This is also the “WTF?” stage. Why? Why? Why? You think about what you should have done or could have done. There’s a lot of pissed off-ness to this stage. You could probably kill an army if you weren’t so tired all the time. Hearing “it was their time” makes you want to pull heads off Barbie dolls (sorry, Barbie). The spirit of the loved one is hanging around and you may have dream or physical spirit contact, but the spirit is probably too afraid to approach seeing your incredible pissed off-ness from the Other Side. They aren’t stupid. There’s a lot of crying in this stage that comes and goes and makes you look either crazed, menopausal or unmedicated. It’s difficult to resume your every day life. Plus, gotta admit, there’s a bitterness there sometimes too–how can life around you continue when your life pretty much just stopped?
When stage three comes it’s usually good to find some kind of communication with the departed in order to get over the “the sadness” and still feel connection. You are swimming around in the grief. The healthy thing to do is just dive into it and FEEL so later on you don’t experience a loss and then all the losses you have ever had come crashing into your face at once and you feel bulldozed and catatonic. Keeping really busy helps not feel “the sadness.” Any kind of distraction helps avoid feeling “the sadness.” I’ve been there many times and there’s no way around but through it. Sadness comes along with spontaneous bursting out crying at the weirdest things like walking down the frozen aisle of Walmart, or seeing a dog bed in a commercial, or for me yesterday, realizing I don’t have to buy red lettuce anymore while shopping in the supermarket. It feels like a giant hole in your tummy–something is definitely missing, hopefully not a major organ in there. Oh by the way, this is an excellent time to watch every past episode of the Ghost Whisperer. That show is so darn comforting.
Stage Four isn’t so much a stage, but a mix-up of stages. Like after realizing I didn’t have to buy red lettuce anymore I was catapulted into the “pissed off stage” and I could visit there for awhile. Then I bounced into “the sadness.” Then back into the “pissed off-ness.” Having a creative outlet to express all the stages is also good. For example, like writing a blog post. :)
Acceptance. Like I read in a post on FB the other day, you just learn to adapt to living without the physical soul there. You might have peace. When Bun Bun my parakeet passed in February, I knew she really wanted to be with my other parakeet in spirit. She missed him so bad after he crossed over. He would pop over and visit in spirit a lot and taunt her with his freedom and wild birdness, so how could she not want to hang out in the light too? So I understood. The loss I am having now I am not there yet. When I do hit acceptance, I will have a greater understanding, I suppose. In this stage you might have even established a constant, clear connection with your departed. (I think how now when I go through big stuff it feels like Grand Central Station of spirits visiting, all checking on me. There’s lots of lights, ear ringing, messages, and thoughts. It’s kinda cool if I wasn’t so pissed and didn’t have Giant Hole Feeling.) Acceptance just means you are able to put away the dog bed or blanket, clean out the cage, put away the belongings. You have to move on with them in spirit, and you in body, but you are ready for a different kind of connection now.
I am positive in the way in the future I will experience loss again and I can look over this post and be reminded of the stages so I will get through it. The crappy part of life is loss, but if we remember that there is no true death, that we can still connect, even see them again, it helps us get through the process in one piece and with meaning. In the meantime, I am off to watch season four of Ghost Whisperer where even Melinda experiences great loss, and I will definitely avoid the frozen and leafy green aisles in Walmart, for now.
If you want to explore communication together, I am offering Animal Mediumship starting September 26th, a Friday. Enrollment is open now over HERE.
Death. Grief. Sorrow. Those aren’t words that any of us like, especially when they involve those closest to us. I don’t pretend to understand sorrow, though I have experienced it many times. I experienced it when my grandparents died. I experienced it when my own father was in a car accident, and again when my…Display Comments Add a Comment
Here is a list of 11 books that address a wide range and variety of emotions that young readers may experience when faced with serious illness, loss, grief or trauma.Add a Comment
This is an incredible exploration of grief, family and identity and the pressures of expectations that come from each. The book opens with a death, one that nobody else knows about yet, the death of Lydia Lee; middle child of Marilyn and James and sister to older brother Nathan and younger sister Hannah. Lydia’s death […]Add a Comment
In preparation for an upcoming 4-week club for kids that I'll be hosting, I created a book trailer for A Dog Called Homeless, winner of the 2013 Middle Grade Schneider Family Book Award, The Schneider Family Book Awards "honor an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."
A Dog Called Homeless is written by Sarah Lean and published by Harper Collins. I hope you enjoy it.
To this day, I can see my mom on her death bed — her frail, ill body and her turbaned head, sitting next to me as we chatted. And it was the memory that still stands out of that one vulnerable moment when I courageously told her, “I don’t want you to die.” In which she answered back very angrily, “Don’t say that. You’re upsetting me,” and the talking stopped. I never did get to discuss those feelings with her, which looking back, would have probably really eased my grief process that lasted a very long time, but she wasn’t able to. Instead, I felt shame that day for bringing up my feelings.
Whether it’s childhood beliefs, religious upbringing or acquired thoughts the “don’t feel thats” aren’t about you. You’ve hit a nerve with your expression of pain, that someone else doesn’t want to see or maybe isn’t ready to see.
Many “new age” beliefs tout only feeling positive thoughts to attract positive experiences, but where then, do the negative thoughts go? I know where they go.
I had learned the “don’t feel thats” early on in my life way before that day with my mom. It was safer not to feel, so a stomach or a head ache would have to express it for me instead. I was the queen of repression until I was fourteen years old and the wave of tears couldn’t be held back, erupting, when I saw my beagle dog brother collapse on the floor from kidney disease. But don’t worry, after that, I neatly put all those emotional ducks back in a row inside of me again and it wasn’t until early adulthood they reemerged as panic attacks. Those waves of ducks turned into full-blown hurricanes at that point who wanted freedom.
Now, I am not an advocate for getting stuck in emotional states and living there. My beloved grandmother loved to live in resentment. If you slighted her, you were crossed off her list for most of eternity. But from my own experience lately, I’ve noticed that traumatic experiences do have leftover symptoms. Those stubborn feelings can’t be neatly packed away, and they reemerge at odd times like a bad case of hiccups. Thought you were over that big loss but here you are standing in Aisle 3 in Walmart crying over the frozen pancakes because they remind you of family morning breakfasts that are now gone. These wounds are still in there like little annoying paper cuts that poke and prod and they hold messages of what you need now.
I’ll be honest, I still hate emotions. I’d rather hang out in my analytic brain where there’s set order. But if I want to feel good and balanced, I need to “FEEL THAT.” Those emotions and expression may come out as petty, selfish, messy, or socially incorrect, but that’s not my problem to solve, as long as I’m not hurting anyone else. They are MINE to experience and to get to know so I CAN get to the other side. The alternative is that panic attack or the stomach ache that grows into something much, much louder, which is very possible, what my mom experienced.
She got summoned for jury duty and never came back . . . well, it felt like that for a while at least. I got called in for jury selection on the morning of September 18 and wasn’t released until the afternoon of October 3rd. Would you believe I was juror 46 out of 51 and I still ended up sitting as an alternate for the trial? I think by the time they got to me, they were desperate.
And what a trial. 1st degree murder. I won’t go into the details because honestly, the people involved don’t need any more publicity. AND the sooner this event fades from my own memory the better. Let’s just say I know more about deciphering blood splatter evidence than your average citizen. For all you fans of trigonometry, this is your field!
So, I’m back going through the motions of my normal routine, thirteen dollars a day richer, with the thanks of the county, worn out and weepy, trying to catch up on the mountains of grading that piled up unattended while I was attending to my civic duty.
You see, substitute teachers teach, they don’t grade, so tests, reports and assignments waited patiently for me to get back and NOW THEY ALL NEED TO GET DONE. Yikes! 112 hours got sucked out of my life; it’s already two weeks later, and still I haven’t figured out how to squeeze them back in.
Photo © Aleksandar RadovanovicAdd a Comment
So many of us are grieving the death of someone close to us.
Grief comes in waves, receding, then roaring back to engulf us and batter us till we feel the tide might take us out and we will never return. It's not wrong to grieve. When recounting the scene of Jesus approaching the burial site of his good friend Lazarus, John tells us simply, "Jesus wept" (11:35). Jesus wept. It's the shortest verse in the Bible and it needs no explanation. I'm thinking today of my family and the family of John Wilbanks. I'm thinking of Rodney Wilbanks and his sister and brothers. I'm thinking of my daughter, Brooke Haworth, for whom the loss has hit hard. My mom, whose grief is a weight pressing down on her.
I am thinking of my close friend, Sima Taylor, her wonderful brother, Mohammad Mojdehi, whom she was so close to. I'm thinking of her daughter and her husband, Peter.
I am thinking of my own brother who died too early, and whose death brings daily grief to me.
I am thinking of Shannon Hitchcock and all the friends of Cynthia Chapman Willis, who recently succumbed to lung cancer.
God knows your grief and he cares about you.
This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you (2 Kings 20:5).
You have kept record of my days of wandering. You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them (David, writing in anguish. Psalm 56:8, Contemporary English Version).
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain (Revelation 21:4).
Some of our friends who didn't know the one we grieve don't know how to handle the new, sorrowful version of us. If you are one of our friends, here is what you should say: "I'm sorry." or "I'm so very sorry." or "I'm sorry and I am thinking and praying for you." You can even say, "I don't know what to say."
Send a card to your friend's home. Write some version of the words above. Send flowers to the funeral home, if you are moved to do so. If not, that's okay, but the very least you can do is send a card. Your friend is in a very hard place right now, and though a card seems an impossibly frail comfort, it actually lends a great deal of comfort.
If you live near your friend, bring a meal or two over. Make cookies or banana bread or muffins--breakfast and easy snack items are generally overlooked but would be welcomed by the family.
If you can alleviate your friend of certain chores, do so. Can you pick up the kids? Take them to practice? Mow the lawn? Babysit while your friend conducts death errands?
Kids are in pain, too. Offer comfort to them as well.
Hug your friend.
If you have sweet or funny anecdotes about the person they're grieving, share those stories. They mean so much. Hand write the story even if you've told them, and send it to them in the mail. They will keep it forever.
Let your friend talk about that person when they need to. If they suddenly need a topic change, allow it. Don't be hurt. Grief works in swells; your friend needs to talk but also to be free to escape the swell. Let them.
Acknowledging your friend's pain tells them that you care about them; their pain is valid; you care that they are in pain; the person they are grieving for was valuable. I encourage you to not be afraid of your friend who is hurting. If you don't know what to say or do, I hope you find the words above helpful. Your friend is in an extremely vulnerable place right now. Rise above your discomfort and help them; however, a few things can actually hurt your friend, so be wise, choose your words and actions carefully:
Do not avoid your friend. Their sorrow makes you uncomfortable; your avoidance makes them feel that you do not care about them; you don't think their grief is important; you don't recognize the value of the person they grieve.
Do not offer platitudes. "It was God's timing," "You can still talk to him; he's watching you from heaven!" "He's in a better place now." These are throwaway lines. They have no power and they do not help.
Do not interrogate your friend on the details of the death. If your friend doesn't mention the cause of death, you don't need that information. When or if your friend wants to share that with you they will.
Do not mention and then launch into your own grief story. Your friend is suffering NOW. Be selfless and pay attention to their grief. This is not the time for you to claim your crown of grief. This is your friend's time. Let them have it.
I hope anyone grieving has found some words of comfort in this post. And if you are a friend of someone grieving, I really do hope you've found this post helpful. Many people don't know what to do when their friend suffers a loss; the best thing you can do is to be there in simple, quiet ways.