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The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief

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GRP

The Unwelcome Committee

A Grief Recovery Project Post

If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way. 

                                           ~Nichiren


A few months after losing Dan I had someone chastise me for spending so much time with other widows.  They berated me and argued that I should be spending time with “normal” non-grieving people.  I was still in a very vulnerable place, and couldn’t even find the words to tell her to f@#$ off. What the hell did she know? She’d never lost anyone. These fellow grief survivors were my new tribe of widow warriors, and there was no way I was going to let them go just because someone else thought it was morbid. She couldn’t understand that they were the lifeline I needed most.

Connecting with these other W’s became part of my GRP.  I communicated with them through chats, blogs, and other groups. One of these groups has coined the term “the unwelcome committee,” which is aptly named. What is it? It’s the group of “seasoned” W’s who reach out to new W’s. We unwelcome you to the W Club, because we wish you didn’t qualify to be here. Hell, we wish WE didn’t qualify to be here. But we extend a lifeline because we remember what it was like to feel so alone, in shock, in pain, and without anyone who truly understood. We call. We message. We blog. We show up. We enfold you into our tribe, where no explanations or apologies are ever needed, and where love and support are unconditional.


Honestly, just learning you exist is a gut punch to a lot of us. Our grief muscle memory kicks in, and we instantly flash back to the early days of our own grief storm.  I can remember being such a raw wound I couldn’t think straight.  Back then another widow reached out to me. She knew that I wouldn’t answer the phone or respond to a message, so she showed up at my front door. (For the record, we already knew each other, so this wasn’t a random stranger showing up at my house).  She’d lost both her dad and her husband in a very short time frame, just like me.  Out of all the people that tried to get through to me, Julie was the only person that was able to because my heart recognized that she KNEW and UNDERSTOOD what I was feeling. Not sure that I’d describe it as widow street cred, but she’d walked the same streets of this new hell, so I guess it could be.

So when I get the news that another woman has joined the W Club, I give myself time to deal with the tightening in my belly and my chest and allow the grief wave to crash over me.  I cry for both of us. I cry for the loves we lost. And then I brace myself to extend a hand and unwelcome her to this new reality.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

Reiki Me

A Grief Recovery Project Post

So far I’ve explored grief counseling, acupuncture, and massage therapy as part of the Grief Recovery Project. Now we’re on to Reiki as a treatment for grief recovery.

Reiki was the wildcard for me since I’d never tried it before. According to Reiki.org, Reiki is a Japanese practice based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Yep, now we’re on to Japanese voodoo magic.

I’d heard about it a few years ago from Karl and Angela Robb, Reiki Masters and fellow Parkinson’s advocates. Their research showed that Reiki could help with Parkinson’s symptoms. Color me intrigued, but I didn’t know anyone locally and had some doubts– voodoo magic and all. That changed when hospice sent a Reiki master to help Dan. I got to observe the whole thing. I don’t know what exactly happened as he was working on Dan’s energy, but I watched Dan’s breathing visibly soften and the muscles in his face relax. All without any real physical touch. Dan was already in a coma at this point, so there was no way he was influencing the results. Nikola Tesla had lots to say about energy, and he was one of the smartest people that ever lived. Don’t knock it til you try it.

So I tried it. Each session lasts about an hour. All the Reiki practitioners I’ve met are very normal (whatever that means) people, so if you’re expecting some purple robed or kimono wearing hippie you’re likely to be very disappointed. Reiki studios are a lot like a massage studio, the lights are dimmed for your relaxation and spa music may be playing for the same reason, but it’s clean and modern. Cost for a reiki session is comparable to a massage but may vary depending on the experience of the Reiki practitioner and your location. Every session I’ve had is different but I know I feel like I’ve gained ground after each one. Notice that I didn’t say I feel better, because that’s not always the case, although I never feel worse. It’s more like I skip ahead a few steps on the grief journey without actually moving. Whether that means releasing bad energy like sadness, fear, or anger, or taking on better energy, it has worked wonders for me, helping me feel more relaxed and less anxious.


Just like finding a good acupuncturist or massage therapist, get a referral to a good Reiki practitioner. I lucked out and found Kristin Harwood of In Transition Wellness here in Boise.  This is what she has to has to say about Reiki and grief recovery.

When a person experiences a traumatic or stressful experience, their emotions can be stored in the body creating blocks and disrupting their natural flow of energy. If not dealt with, these emotions can build up over time and start expressing themselves in a physical, emotional or energetic way, affecting our daily lives.

Grief and acceptance operate on their own timetable and people need time to reach a place of peace and acceptance. Reiki and similar healing practices can offer a compassionate and caring approach to assist others in their return to wholeness in body, mind and spirit with grace and gentleness.

Reiki can help those who have lost a loved one, reignite their relationship with themselves and sense of purpose, helping them to regain their sense of personal power. It also helps people manage and release emotions that may feel overwhelming, such as anger, sadness, helplessness and grief. It can help strengthen a person’s resilience and ability to deal with situations and emotions which may feel overwhelming. A peaceful, compassionate environment and a respectful Reiki practitioner can create a place of quiet comfort where grief and sadness can come to rest and release as needed without words or expectations, if that’s preferred.

Have you tried Reiki as part of your grief recovery? I’d love to hear about it. 

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

After thought for friends and family: If you want to help and are looking for something different than another casserole, just like acupuncture and massage therapy, you can gift Reiki sessions to your W.  

No disrespect to casseroles or their makers. 

Surprise! Grief Hurts.

A Grief Recovery Project Post

One of the things most people don’t realize about grief is that it hurts. Physically. According to Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, muscle aches and pains, shortness of breath, feelings of emptiness in your stomach, tightness in your throat or chest, digestive problems, sensitivity to noise, heart palpitations, queasiness, nausea, headaches, increased allergy symptoms, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain, agitation, and generalized tension are all ways your body may react to losses that you encounter in life. I’m not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals for pain relief so tried other things that did help, including acupuncture and massage therapy. All stuff Dan would call Chinese voodoo magic. All stuff he ended up trying and benefitting from. Since this is a GRP post, I’ll do my best to describe them for you.

Acupuncture was something I’d heard about growing up in an Asian family but had never tried for myself. It’s an ancient Chinese discipline that uses fine needles (think as fine as a strand of hair) to clear our energy channels and help them get flowing correctly. I went for the first time to get some pain relief after a car accident a few years ago and I fell in love with my acupuncturist. She is nurturing and kind and also a researcher! Science + Chinese voodoo magic?!? Now you’re speaking my language! Each session lasts about an hour, and you’ll probably need at least three sessions to see some progress, although I felt better instantly. After needles are in you get to chill out and relax for a bit. The first visit you may leave feeling a little high or euphoric, so be sure you don’t have to go back to work. The needles are small and don’t usually hurt. If they do, let your acupuncturist know so they can switch to an even smaller needle. 

Even though the needles are very small, some people are just flat out nervous about trying them. Remember how I told you my acupuncturist also does research? Well, she did a cool research project using laser acupuncture on Dan and actually wrote about the experience. Here is a link: https://www.miridiatech.com/news/2016/04/aah-relief-from-cancer-pain/ 


Kimberly made house calls when it became too much for him to travel to her office. And on that last morning she was there with us to help bring him relief as he let go from the pain. She was holding his hand and had just put in the first needle when he left us. That’s a story for her to tell but I choose to believe it helped him make that final leap. 

Side note: none of us there that morning have ever spoken to each other about what we witnessed.  


Kimberly also recommended massage therapy as part of my Grief Recovery Project. She didn’t have to tell me twice! Think about how many times a day you touch your spouse and then imagine that gone in an instant. Sensory deprivation is a real thing. Massage therapy was helpful not just for the physical touch but also to help with circulation and pain relief. To be pampered and nurtured through massage therapy is something I’d recommend for anyone in grief recovery. If you’ve never had a massage, sign up for one right now, I’ll wait. Don’t know a massage therapist? Ask around for referrals from people you trust. Reputable therapists maintain an office, keep up with training and certifications, and (in some states) are licensed. If there are bars on the windows or no one there speaks English, you are in the wrong kind of massage place.

Have you tried acupuncture or massage therapy as part of your grief recovery project? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

P.S. Our family was blessed by people who wanted to help. One of my friends heard how acupuncture was blessing our lives and worked out a system with our acupuncturist for people to donate acupuncture visits. She explained how it helped with the pain and the hard emotions we were going through. She then posted a link and a phone number to our acupuncturist. If you have a W you’d like to help, this could be a great way to do it.

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