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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: grief, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Grief

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…

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2. The Real Stages of Grief and Spirit Contact

5stages

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.

STAGE ONE.

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.

STAGE TWO.

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?

STAGE THREE. 

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.

sketchbook-speedy

STAGE FOUR.

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. :)

STAGE FIVE.

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.

Fairy blessings,

designingfairysig

 

 

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If you want to explore communication together, I am offering Animal Mediumship starting September 26th, a Friday. Enrollment is open now over HERE


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3. TURNING PAGES: TIN LILY by JOANN SWANSON

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 post

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4. Never Ending, by Martyn Bedford | Book Review

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.

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5. Reread #27 Umbrella Summer

Umbrella Summer. Lisa Graff. 2009. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

 I have been wanting to reread Umbrella Summer for several years now. I first reviewed it in October 2009. I remember having a good, strong connection with Annie, the heroine. Every single person in the Richards family is struggling with grief--with the loss of Jared, Annie's older brother. But it is Annie whom we come to know and love throughout the book. We see the parents handling of grief, of moving on or not moving on as the case may be. We see how they parent, if they parent, Annie. All this is seen through Annie's perspective. Annie's perspective is seen through a complex range of emotions: fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger. For example, Annie has a hard time sympathizing with her friend, Rebecca, who has lost her pet hamster. Her response to Rebecca's strong grief is understandable, but, problematic for the friendship. He was just a hamster. It's not like you lost your brother. While the book is very much about grief, it is also a very good book about friendship, about what it means to be a friend, about building new friendships and restoring broken ones.

One of my favorite friendships in Umbrella Summer is Annie's friendship with their new neighbor, Mrs. Finch. Mrs. Finch is no stranger to loss, she has also lost someone close to her, her husband. Mrs. Finch and Annie both feel their losses strongly, yet, by coming together, by being honest with one another, by sharing the best memories, the best qualities about those they have loved and lost, they realize that they are beginning to heal a little, and that is a very good thing.

I also thought it was sweet that Annie and Jared's best friend have a special connection and come together as friends to truly celebrate Jared.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Review – Perfectly Poignant Picture Books Part One – Here in the Garden

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.Here in the Garden

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.

Then one of those inexplicably perfectly timed encounters in life happens; I read Briony Stewart’s picture book, Here in the Garden.

Briony with WinstonPenned 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.

Briony Stewart 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.

UQP April 2014 Available here, now.

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.

 

 

 

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7. The Secret Hum of a Daisy Blog Tour and Giveaway


Thanks to Tracy Holczer for including us on The Secret Hum of a Daisy Blog Tour! 

Blog Tour Schedule

May 9: AuthorOf


We have something a little different for you -- a guide to planning your own book club, literacy cafe, or party centered around her debut middle grade novel. I recently had the privilege of attending Tracy's launch party and her friend threw her a beautiful, daisy-filled one. Your own event might not be as star-studded (a ton of our friendly neighborhood YA and MG authors were there) but that doesn't mean it can't be just as fun! Read on for our ideas, info about the book and author, as well as a giveaway!




About The Secret Hum of a Daisy

After the sudden death of her mother, twelve-year-old Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met in a small town she's never heard of. A town Mama left years before--with Grace in her belly and a bus ticket in her pocket--and never looked back. It doesn't take long before Grace desperately wants to leave, too.

Until she finds the first crane.

A mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on, takes Grace on a journey to find home. And it might just be closer than she thinks.

The Literacy Cafe

My good friend Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy and I are in an adult YA book club that meets every month. Sure, we get together because we love discussing books, but we also get together because we love to hang out with friends and eat delicious food. Usually we theme the menu around the book we have read. You can do that with this book, too! You would be surprised how often food helps spark discussion and recall of what happened in the book. This is part of what makes a literacy cafe such an interesting event to host and to attend.

Alyson usually does literacy cafes at schools, and to help students engage with the books they are reading and discussing, they sometimes do a writing exercise or craft activity related to the book. This helps make it not just memorable, but also creative and fun. (Note: I was planning to have photos of all the examples I was going to give, but this week just got away from me! I will add them into the post when I can get around to it.)

For resources, I have linked to websites I think might be helpful in case you want to find out more, or actually want to make my suggestion happen for yourself. If I wrote out all of the info here, this would be a very long post! 

Menu

There are lots of foods mentioned in The Secret Hum of a Daisy. Part of Grace's search for home involves some basic needs: food and shelter. (This would be a great lead-in to a discussion of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.) Here are just a few:


  • Soup (p. 119) - The Spoons Souperie is the diner in the town where Grace's mother grew up. Grace meets and gets to know various people here. Their menu has the usual: corn chowder, matzo ball, and split pea, but you can serve your favorite soup. Mine is beef and cabbage, with lots of pepper! You could also make it a potluck and have everyone bring their own soup to share. Just make sure someone brings some fresh-baked, crusty bread for dipping.
  • Brownies (p. 146) Grace and her neighbor Jo have to bake brownies in the book, but they're not allowed to eat any! You can, though. Here is a basic recipe for brownies, but you can make them how you like: out of the box, with nuts or without, cakelike or fudgy. Blondies instead? I'm an edges kind of girl, myself. Once you know why they bake brownies in the book, you can talk about the choices Grace makes and how they lead up to brownies!
  • Chocolate Toast (p. 210) I know the other one already has chocolate, but someone makes this for Grace. It has something chocolatey (Nutella? Cookie Butter Swirl? It's up to you to choose) and slices of banana on top. This is definitely a "Live to Eat" moment rather than an "Eat to Live" one. While you eat it, you might want to discuss what your favorite comfort food is. Does it remind you of a certain place where you are from, or where you felt at home? Does it remind you of a person who used to make it for you? 
Activities

Poetry and writing figure quite centrally in the story. There are lots of different things you can do depending on the interests your students/guests/group members have.
  • Snippets Guessing Game - Have everyone bring in snippets of their favorite poetry to read out loud, and see if anyone else recognizes the poem or poet.
  • Unsent Letters - Not everyone might want to share this with the group, and that's ok. Bring pens or pencils, paper, and envelopes to the event and have everyone write a short letter to someone else that they have wanted to write, but couldn't write before now. They can choose to share the letter, or keep it to themselves. They can choose to send the letter -- though it won't be unsent anymore!
  • Answer Jars - Late in the story, someone shows Grace their answer jars -- Mason or canning jars filled with bits of words and phrases. When they can't decide on something, they reach into the jars for some answers. You can recycle jars or containers and use magazines or small pieces of paper to add your own answers. 
Art and sculpture also are pivotal to the story. You don't need a lot of fancy equipment, just found objects, scratch paper, and the usual materials (scissors, Mod Podge or Gorilla glue depending on what you're working on, writing/painting utensils).

  • Origami Cranes - The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a story about grief, but it is also about hope. Grace sees origami cranes as clues in a scavenger hunt like the ones her mom used to put together for her. You can learn to fold origami cranes with some patience and some perfectly square paper. While you're folding, discuss: where do you hope your cranes would lead you? (link to instructions
  • Found Objects - Grace's mom sculpts birds out of odds and ends. Maybe birds are not your thing, but what is? What's your power animal? Collect some bits and pieces, odds and ends, things that look interesting but maybe incomplete on their own. Get some Gorilla Glue if you're gluing smooth objects like plastic or metal and sculpt your penguin, bear, meerkat, or whatever you come up with.
  • Self-Portrait - Grace isn't just searching for home, she's searching for her identity. She's trying to define the people around her, and trying to define herself now that her mother is gone. There are some great self-portrait ideas in the book. Try composing a shadow box: what would you put inside? 
  • Another Self-Portrait - Alternatively, start with a sturdy cardboard or masonite surface, then draw an outline or silhouette of your head. Now brainstorm some words that describe you... write, letter, or paste them onto the back half of your head (um, the illustration of it, not your actual head). Now go back to your stash of found objects and compose your face out of items that might fit. Glue them on, then stand back and admire your handiwork. It doesn't have to be perfect, but hopefully it's thoughtful and expressive, which is sometimes the most we can get out of life :)


I hope you enjoyed my ideas for hosting a literacy cafe or book club meeting with The Secret Hum of a Daisy. If you've read the book and would like to share more ideas, please leave a comment. Don't post any spoilers, please! I left out some of my ideas since they might give away some later plot points in the story that are better discovered by the reader on their own.

If you do host one, please take photos and share them! I'm sure Tracy would love to see them, too.




About The Author

Tracy Holczer lives in Southern California with her husband, three daughters, and two rather fluffy dogs named Buster and Molly. She has a deep love for the mountains where she grew up so she writes them into her stories.

A 2014 ABA Indies Introduce New Voices pick, her debut middle grade, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, was written in praise of both nature and family, and all that can be found if you're willing to hunt for treasure. It will be also be published by Konigskinder/Carlsen in Germany, fall 2015.

Find out more:
Follow @tracyholczer on Twitter
Blogging on the 30th of each month at http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com

Buy the book:
Autographed copies (note request on the order or they won't know it needs to be autographed!) available at Once Upon a Time in Montrose, CA

Giveaway
US only, ends May 20

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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8. Love Letters to the Dead - Review


Publication date: 1 April 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux BFYR
ISBN 10/13: 0374346674 | 9780374346676


Category: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: Contemporary, Realistic, Abuse, Grief, Epistolary
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: ARC from Publisher


Synopsis:

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.

Alethea's Review:

Part school assignment, part confessional, Love Letters to the Dead introduces the reader to Laurel, a pensive girl whose older sister May, her de facto role model and idol, is dead; her family life has shattered in the wake of tragedy. For much of the book, the reader can only guess at how May died; we get the impression that Laurel witnessed the incident. But was it murder, suicide, or an accident?

Dellaria's writing style hovers on the edges of magical realism as Laurel struggles with memories she can't or won't recall. On the surface, it's the voice of a young girl with major emotional issues trying to cope with the already baffling struggles of puberty and the social lives of high schoolers. She lives part time with her aunt so that she doesn't have to attend the school that May did. She tries on parts of May's wardrobe and personality, but cannot move forward without examining her own guilt over her sister's death. She writes to the celebrities that May held in high esteem and tells them what she cannot bring herself to tell the the parents and teachers who have tried to reach out to her (some of these people even seem to have given up). The writing exercise forces her to get to the dark heart of her sadness, and the secrets she reveals are painful both to herself and the reader.

I found this novel deeply moving and well-written. At one point I felt the story begin to unravel with so many different sub-plots tugging at the seams: Laurel's crush and his connection to the world she was trying to leave behind, her two best girl friends exploring their sexuality--sometimes with each other, and her adult family members too busy dealing with their own baggage to take much care of Laurel. Ultimately Dellaria pulls it all together, threading the stories back through each other in a pensive tale of grief and hope. This lyrical coming-of-age novel melds family drama with historical and pop culture references to create a story that is touching, melancholy, and bittersweet.

*Please note that this post contains affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here.

**I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


Find out more about the author at www.avadellaria.com and follow her on Twitter @avadellaria.

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9. Apparition, by Gail Gallant | Book Review

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.

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10. Dreaming of Someone’s Death: What Can Be Done?

Dream of Someone Dy8ing

The Knight’s Death by Antonio de Pereda

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:

The Dream Could be Symbolic

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.

When the Dream is Prophetic of a Real Death

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:

  • I made it a point to visit my parents and spend quality time with them.
  • I tried to do little and big things that meant something to them.
  • I told them I loved them and communicated other important things I needed to say.

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.


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11. Your Friend is Grieving. What Should You Say? How Do You Comfort Them?

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.

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12. Where’d she go?

courtroom_xs_25248150

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 Radovanovic

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13. Surfacing




Dear friends - I have not felt able to return to this blog for a long time, despite the many, many good wishes and messages. The first month without Andy was an agonising madness, through which I was propped up by dear friends. I tried to sort out as many practical matters as I could, though each one took hours to work up to and recover from. There are still ongoing things, because death, especially an unexpected one, is a complicated business. So I wanted to come back and say hello when my head was in a slightly better place.  

My life was centred around two things; work and my darling Andy and the greater of these was Andy. Without him, creativity has little interest for me. Art, my life long friend, has deserted me for the first time. And yet I must work and so I do. Gradually, more and more each day.




I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of you all. Without the support you gave me of your thoughts, good wishes and prayers, heart felt letters and loving gifts,  I do not think I would be here now to write this. I have had some very dark moments indeed and desperate thoughts which I would not normally have. I held that goodwill close to me, lonely as I have been and that, combined with the wonderful love of my friends, brought me through it. Little did I know when I started this blog - over seven years ago - that one day it would literally be my life line. So thank you, everyone, for being there.



All photos taken from a train, Cambridgeshire 

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14. The “Don’t Feel Thats”

Screen Shot 2013-02-09 at 8.26.15 PMI grew up with the “don’t feel thats.”

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.

where do they come from?

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.

what you need now

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.


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15. Free Books About Death & Grief for Families

As families around the country cope with the unfathomable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, Beacon Press is sharing free copies of books about grief and death.

Here’s more from the publisher: “To help families, teachers, counselors, and others who are having conversations about death and grief in the wake of this tragedy, Beacon Press is offering free copies of Talking About Death: A Dialogue between Parent and Child and Living When a Loved One Has Died both by Dr. Earl A. Grollman. We hope these resources will help everyone affected begin to heal. Simply choose one or both books and submit your shipping information by Wednesday, December 19, 2012. Books can be shipped within the US only.”

We’ve also collected a list of library books to help kids talk about the tragedy and linked to online resources for parents and caregivers.

 

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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16. What Came From the Stars (MG)

What Came From the Stars. Gary D. Schmidt. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages.

I wanted to love this one, but I'm not sure I can even say I liked it. I found the fantasy sections to be confusing, in an unnecessary way. (I think he could have written it to be more accessible and enjoyable.) YET at the same time, these sections reminded me of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. (I would have preferred to be reminded of The Hobbit!) The realistic sections were interesting. A grieving boy finds an out-of-this-world necklace that changes him in small ways--foreign ways; and since this necklace is highly sought after by evil aliens from a far away planet, bad stuff starts happening in the boy's community. This one had a handful of scenes that I really enjoyed. For example, when Tommy Pepper (our hero) is "fixing" the painting of his principal, I believe. There were a few scenes with delightful details that just worked. And some of the dialogue was great. But I had a hard time connecting with this one for the most part.

Read What Came From The Stars
  • If you're a fan of Gary D. Schmidt
  • If you enjoy children's fantasy OR science fiction
  • If you're looking for a unique book on grief and guilt

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 Comments on What Came From the Stars (MG), last added: 10/15/2012
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17. “The Sea Cat Dreams” has a Face Book Page

Muza Ulasowski, my wonderful collaborator, has created a fabulous FB page for our picture book, “The Sea Cat Dreams”! Muza’s wonderfully life like illustrations have perfectly captured  the story in a way I could never have envisaged! She has truly captured the story’s essence!  Here are some samples:

The story is about coping with life impacting change something that can happen planned [as in a house move] or completely unplanned [as with a natural disaster, accident, death etc]. Coping with change, as child/family psychologists and counselors all say, is something that has a profound impact, especially on the young. As with grief, adults are often too preoccupied with the change and its ramifications to be able to take in how the children, who are being impacted by change, are managing or not managing in the new setting/situation.

The cat in the story moves, accidently, from one environment & family on a farm, to another very different one, aboard a fishing boat.  He is then impacted further by the loss of a master he has come to love. But this is not the end. He moves through his life’s dramatic changes; firstly, by grieving, something we need to encourage each other and especially children, to do. He then reaches out to, shares with and cares for others also affected by loss, in this case, the fisherman’s widow. He gradually accepts his new life situation, not for a moment forgetting what has happened, but treasuring the wonderful memories he has.

The process of grieving must be acknowledged and the grieving child/adult be allowed to express their grief or sense of loss at the change in their lives and encouraged to do so.  Let them talk, let them share as much as they need to. Highlight the  constructive aspects, positive elements, e.g, wonderful memories of a dead friend, relative or pet. If the impacting change has involved a move – be it to a different school, to another suburb, another state, another country – encourage  the keeping of contacts where possible, assist with the making of new contacts and the sharing of the process of moving and resettling, especially any humorous incidents.

The hope in writing this book, was to help children talk about their own stories of life changing events and to recognise, that whilst change is not always pleasant, we can become stronger for it and be better able to reach out and empathise with others experiencing its many faceted impact on their own lives.

See it here: http://utales.com/books/the-sea-cat-dreams


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18. A triumphant trio of boy-friendly books

One of the truly great discoveries for me this summer has been the Swedish author Ulf Stark. Last week I couldn’t resist telling you about his bittersweet exploration of identity, Fruitloops and Dipsticks, likely to be enjoyed most by kids in their early years at secondary school or there abouts.


Today, however, I want to tell you about a trio of books that will delight slightly younger children, all of them about a young boy, Ulf, his friendships, school and family life. Each is packed with humour and acute observations about relationships, between friends and enemies, and children and adults. They share an unpatronising approach to their readers, mirroring aspects of their own lives in a honest and yet thoughtful, nearly always funny, and sometimes heartbreaking manner. They struck me as the next step up from the naughty and adorable Nicholas books by Goscinny and Sempe – perfect for slightly older kids, who still love getting in to trouble but who can also appreciate meatier issues.

When we’re first introduced to Ulf, in My friend Percy’s Magical Gym Shoes, we soon discover he is chubby and poor at sports. But when a new boy, Percy, arrives at his school, Ulf finds someone he looks up to, someone he wants to emulate; Percy seems suave and full of self assurance, powers which apparently stem from his magical gym shoes. Ulf is determined to buy Percy’s shoes from him, so he too can be cool and confident. And indeed, once Ulf has the shoes, his life does become much more exciting as he and his new best friend get into all sorts of scrapes and japes. But these adventures are not appreciated by the adults around and Ulf starts to get a bad reputation. Does Ulf want to be known as a bad boy? Does he need to be so wild to gain the respect he wishes for from his peers? Will he and Percy manage to stay friends?

In My friend Percy & The Sheik we learn that Ulf’s father is a ham radio buff, and through his hobby has made contact with a sheik (True Fact: former King Hussein of Jordan was an amateur radio hobbyist and often chatted with ‘regular’ people all around the world). The sheik promises to visit Ulf’s father but will the trip come off? Will Ulf be the laughing stock amongst his friends? This second volume sees Ulf and Percy’s friendship cemented as they deal with bullying, a first crush, and the threat that Percy’s family will have to move away.

By the time we reach My friend Percy & Buffalo Bill the boys are 10, and 3 years into their friendship. They spend one summer together on a Swedish island at Ulf’s grandparents home and it turns out to be an amazing summer, the summer you dream of as a kid, building dens, taming wild horses, fishing and swimming around the island. But at the heart of this story is Percy and Ulf’s relationship with Ulf’s heartbroken grandfather. A curmudgeonly old so-and-so, Percy gains the grandfather’s respect by standing up to him, and gradually a friendship develops that in the end will bring tears to your eyes. I haven’t read many books which focus on male friendships that manage to be laugh out loud funny and also profoundly moving.

My friend Percy’s M

3 Comments on A triumphant trio of boy-friendly books, last added: 8/8/2012
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19. Hope is the Thing with Feathers; It's Also a Verb

I'm not a huge Emily Dickinson fan, but I do like image from "Hope is the Thing with Feathers"--hope brought to life as a bird. Hope is also an action, something we, as humans, can do. Something we should do.

In graduate school, I was fortunate enough to enroll in a course titled "Positive Psychology". The first lesson: most of the historical study of psychology has been focused on finding what's wrong with a person rather than what is right. Positive psychology turns the focus to what is right with a person--protective factors and strengths one might possess, just as a physically healthy person might be able to run several miles or compete at a high level in a given sport. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses--positive psychology attempts to recognize strengths. Hope is one of those strengths.

Research studies have shown hope can help you lead a healthy, fulfilled life. Hopeful college students are more likely to obtain degrees. Hopeful public school students are more likely to score high marks and graduate at the top of their classes.  I didn't need a class to explain what I knew at the core of my being--hope can pull you through some hard times.

Hope consists of agency and pathways, the willpower and the waypower to make something happen. Hopeful people have the energy--agency--and can find ways--pathways--to make their dreams real.

Aimee's death has knocked me down, hard. Once, I hoped for a family and a long, happy life with the vibrant young woman I met in front of the post office. When Aimee was sick, that same hope pulled me through, helped me do what I could to take care of her. She lived life with hope--hope for me, for the boys, for her friends and family. I'd like to think she never gave up hope. I proud of the way we fought together, and no illness can tarnish my cherished memories.

I'm slowly building hope again--hope for my boys, our future, our family, my future... Things I never imagined putting together without Aimee. I also have hope for her legacy and memory. She spread so much hope and love, it can't help but continue.

Hope is a special kind of inoculation; it can't take away Aimee's death or her illness, but it can help with the way forward.  I know Aimee would want us all to continue with as much hope as we can muster.

9 Comments on Hope is the Thing with Feathers; It's Also a Verb, last added: 5/17/2012
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20. So what do we think? Heaven in her Arms

Hickem, Catherine. (2012). Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means for You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1-4002-0036-8.

What do we know of Mary?

 What we know of Mary’s family is that she is of the house of David; it is from her lineage Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. Given the archeological ruins of the various places thought to have been living quarters for their family, it is likely the home was a room out from which sleeping quarters (cells) branched. As Mary and her mother Anne would be busy maintaining the household, with young Mary working at her mother’s command, it is likely Anne would be nearby or in the same room during the Annunciation. Thus Mary would not have had a scandalous secret to later share with her parents but, rather, a miraculous supernatural experience, the salvific meaning of which her Holy parents would understand and possibly even witnessed.

 Mary and Joseph were betrothed, not engaged. They were already married, likely in the form of a marriage contract, but the marriage had not yet been “consummated”. This is why he was going to divorce her when he learned of the pregnancy. If it were a mere engagement, he would have broken it off without too much scandal.

 Married but not yet joined with her husband, her mother would prepare her by teaching her all that she needed to know. This is further reason to assume that Mary would be working diligently under her mother’s eye when the Annunciation took place.

 We know that her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy was kept in secret for five months, and not made known until the sixth month when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed it to Mary. We know Mary then rushed to be at her elderly cousin’s side for three months (the remaining duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), and that this rushing appeared to be in response to Elizabeth’s pregnancy (to congratulate her), not an attempt to hide Mary’s pregnancy. Note how all of this is connected to Elizabeth’s pregnancy rather than Mary’s circumstances. As Mary was married to Joseph, he likely would have been informed of the trip. Had the intent been to hide Mary, she would have remained with Elizabeth until Jesus was born, not returned to her family after the first trimester, which is just about the time that her pregnancy was visible and obvious.

 So we these misconceptions clarified, we can put Mary’s example within an even deeper context and more fully relate to her experience. We can imagine living in a faith-filled family who raises their child in strict accordance of God’s word. The extended family members may not understand, and certainly their community will not, so Mary, Anne and Joachim, and Joseph face extreme scandal as well as possible action from Jewish authorities. But they faced this together steep in conversation with God, providing a model for today’s family.

 Although sometimes scriptural interpretations are flavored with modern-day eye, overall this book will be more than just a quick read for a young mother (or new bride, or teen aspiring to overcome the challenges of American culture, or single parent losing her mind). It is a heartwarming reflection with many examples that open up conversation with God. As an experienced psychotherapist, the author’s examples are spot on and easy to relate to. We do not need to have had the same experiences to empathize, reflect, and pursue meaning; we see it around us in everyday life. As such, a reflective look upon these examples can help one overcome an impasse in their own relationship with God and also open the reader up to self-knowledge as Hi

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21. Irises (YA)

Irises. Francisco X. Stork. 2012. Scholastic. 304 pages.

From the prologue: Kate had finally agreed to pose under the willow tree.
From chapter one: Kate and her father sat in the shade of the willow tree, side by side in two wooden chairs. It was unusually hot for an April day in El Paso. 

Kate and Mary are sisters. Kate, 18, dreams of being a doctor, dreams of going away to Stanford for her college education. Mary, 16, is an artist, an artist struggling to recapture her initial joy perhaps, but a very talented, very dedicated artist nonetheless. In the first chapter of Irises, both girls receive a bit of a shock: their father, a pastor, dies. Arguably he knew the end was near for he has a great heart-to-heart with his daughter, Kate, urging her to look to her soul, mend her faith, take care of the family, etc. He tells her: "Love makes everything that is heavy light" (4). Kate, of course, not realizing the gravity of the situation, perhaps just thinking that her oh-so-strict father is just in an odd mood, quickly leaves the house and goes to study with her boyfriend, Simon. It is Mary, ever-sacrificing Mary, who is left behind to care for their Mom, who is in a vegetative state going on two years now, who discovers that her Dad has died in his sleep. While the two sisters have an aunt who lives in California, both girls know that more than likely they'll be on their own. Aunt Julia isn't exactly the most-nurturing type, after all. And Kate and Aunt Julia are like oil and water. The girls are facing at least half-a-dozen BIG, BIG decisions. And coming to agreement may not be easy...

The facts:
  • Mary and Kate have very limited funds, in part because their father's insurance is being denied; the insurance company will not make good with his insurance policy after his death.
  • Kate is having to make a decision about college; she's received a scholarship to Stanford, but taking it  will mean leaving her mother and sister behind. Is it fair to leave the care and to some extent the expense of caring for a mother in a vegetative state to a sixteen year old girl? A job that is emotionally, psychologically, financially, physically challenging for anyone.
  • Mary secretly wishes that there was a way for the family to stay together but she's afraid to disappoint Kate. 
Irises may not appeal to every reader, but, I liked it all the same. Was it too heavy or too heavy-handed? I'm not sure there is a right answer to that. Some might feel it was in-your-face with a somewhat potentially controversial (at least in some circles perhaps?) issue. The issue of when is it "right" or "ethical" to take someone off of life support. Some might feel there was too much God-talk. A few might feel there is not enough God-talk.

Irises is almost by necessity a serious-minded novel. It explores many questions while not necessarily giving ready-made answers to those questions. At least not ready-made-answers for every-single-person. What does it mean to be in a family? Who is in your family? Can you walk away from family without looking back? Is it right to ever turn your back on your family and put yourself first? What is love? How do you know you love someone? Does love always mean making sacrifices? Can you love someone and by your choices cause them hardship? Can you love someone and still love yourself more? By always putting yourself and your needs and wants first are you selfish? Is it always wrong to be selfish? What's the difference between being true to yourself and following your dreams and ambitions and being a horribly selfish self-centered person? Does being honest about how selfish yo

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22. See You At Harry's

Many people have been telling me to read this one for quite some time now, but it just never came across my desk.  I put matters into my own hands, downloaded a copy, and read it in virtually one gulp.

Fern feels a bit invisible in her busy family. They own Harry's, a casual restaurant and ice cream joint that takes up most of her parents' energy.  All of the kids are expected to pitch in, and Fern's after-school time is usually spent in a booth doing homework and trying to keep an eye on her sticky ball of energy little brother Charlie.  But things in Fern's world are beginning to shift.

First off, she is starting middle school.  Now she is going to school with big brother Holden since the high school and middle school share a building.  After a somewhat cryptic warning about bus etiquette from Holden, Fern is distressed to realize just what goes on during the bus ride.  She has always been closest to Holden, and now he wants her to pretend she doesn't know him...all for her own good.  Her big sister Sara has been teasing Holden about his J-Crew sense of style and has been egging him to address who he really is, but Fern had never considered how this might translate on the bus and at school.

Then there are her father's crazy schemes to get more business into their restaurant.  Just before school started, he had the family shoot a basic cable style commercial, and now everywhere she goes she hears little brother Charlie's tagline - "See you at Hawwy's!".  She tries to channel her best-friend Ran's zen nature and starts thinking of his mantra - all will be well.

But suddenly, all is decidedly not well.  After a tragic turn of events, Fern's busy family is broken.  At this time when she needs her parents and brother and sister more than ever, Fern finds herself feeling incredibly misunderstood and guilty. 

Jo Knowles has written a powerful story about family and self that packs a punch.  Readers will be able to see themselves in each character turn by turn for better and for worse.  The idea that families really are sets of individuals who fulfill different roles at different times is explored gracefully.  Knowles also gets the voice of the kids and the adults down perfectly.  From Holden's excitement and distance in his first relationship, to Fern's concern for Charlie to her mother's need to get away rather than argue, each character feels authentic and whole. See You At Harry's is a definite must-read for the tween set.

Just a word of warning...make sure to have some tissues handy!

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23. Sunday sadness and peapods

I don't really know why I haven't blogged lately.  The garden, housework, writing, all of that has suffered, too.  It's as if anything I wasn't being "paid" to do just wasn't important enough.  Doldrums?

Today, I stayed home from Meeting.  Allergies gave me a headache and I had a restless night coughing and blowing my nose.  I wanted to go to Barnes and Noble with Hub and look at books. 

I should have gone to Meeting.  On Friday, a family there suffered an enormous tragedy - something so sad, I don't want to share it here.  An email went out last night to ask us all to come to Meeting to hold that family in the Light.  I didn't open my email until after Meeting.

Not my peas, but pretty darn close!
The tragedy has put my "doldrums" and my aches and pains in perspective.  What right have I to put off chores that must be done?  How did I become so "special"?  So I cleaned today and dug in my weed and rabbit infested garden.  Miracles of miracles!  I even have peas.  Rabbits and too much rain cannot keep seeds from sprouting.

And I hold all those who grieve in the Light.   I wish them peace and hope. 

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24. Laurie Anderson imagines her dog’s life after death

Laurie Anderson imagined terrier’s adventures in the Tibetan Buddhist afterworld and committed them to paper in “Lolabelle in the Bardo,” a series of enormous drawings showing at the Vito Schnabel Gallery in SoHo through Saturday. Earlier in the year, Anderson talked with Amanda Stern for The Believer about the very specific kind of grief she felt when the dog, her constant physical companion, died.

She was my best friend. When you’re very physically attached to something — not so much mentally, but physically, something that is always at your knee, you know — it’s very different when they evaporate. So in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, for forty-nine days you’re in the Bardo, and it describes in a really fascinating way how you lose your senses and how your mind dissolves as you prepare for another cycle. At the end of that forty-nine-day period, you are born in another form, and, in my dog’s case, what was at the end of that forty-ninth day was my birthday. I’m kind of a believer in magic numbers, in a way. So I wanted to study that particular Bardo, and then I found that that’s only one of the many Bardos. The other Bardo that is happening is the Bardo that we’re in right now — in which we both believe we’re having a conversation in a studio by the river when, in fact, we’re not.

What attracts her to Buddhism, she said, “is probably what attracts every artist to being an artist — that it’s a godlike thing. You are the ultimate authority. There is no other ultimate authority.”

Max took this photo at the gallery yesterday.

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25. Part II – Journey of a Book – setting up, hanging in there

The set up, which I thought would only take an hour, stretched to all morning. Coordinating the set up of an exhibition this size with so many ‘exhibitors’ had Michelle Richards, the Brisbane Central Library’s exhibition coordinator, running a million directions at once, advising as to ‘how [it was something new to a lot of us], finding stands and  suggesting modes of  display, and generally guiding us all through to ‘VOILA!’ – one  fascinating and very varied exhibition!

But there was more – not just the glass cases to set up, but hanging around to do the hanging!  this was not as straightforward as it sounds. We had to somehow attach our paintings to fine dangling wires and – here’s the worst part GET THEM TO SIT $#@*# STRAIGHT!

Click to view slideshow.

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