Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


Scouts Honor

I was obviously never a boy scout, but isn’t their motto “be prepared?”

I mentioned last week that a client I’ve known for 12 years passed away suddenly. He was only in his early 50’s. Here I am out in public, preaching about death, dying and being prepared. The loss of this special man has kept me up at night wondering about what I’ve been doing here at home- meaning my home office. Am I preaching enough right here at home?


Part of dying well, is doing what you need to do when you are living.

No one wants to think about their mortality. The younger you are, the more invincible you think you are. I’ve talked to lots of people who think they will jinx themselves if they prepare wills, etc.

Trust me. For your sake and for the sake of anyone you love, be prepared! Here is a small sampling of ideas:

Live within your means. Period. Pay off your debts and don’t get into any more. If you don’t have the cash, don’t get it.

Write down your wishes. Do you want to be buried? Cremated? Do you want your organs donated?

Do you have any special wishes for a funeral? Memorial service? None? But remember, those rituals in our society are there for those you leave behind. Sometimes it’s important for those of us who are grappling with the fact that you are gone, to go through the morbid rituals we have grown accustomed to.

If you don’t have life insurance, get it. If you do have it, make sure it’s paid up. And make sure your beneficiaries are updated.

Do you need guardians for your children? How will they be cared for if you are gone?

Does your partner or next of kin know how to access your bank accounts? Are your passwords somewhere where people can find them if needed?

It’s ok if only one of you does the day-to-day managing of your affairs. But BOTH of you, MALE AND FEMALE need to understand the situation you are in. Neither of you should ever be vulnerable to the point where you couldn’t completely take over should your partner be incapacitated unexpectedly.

Set it all up legally if you can. Wills, health proxy, power of attorney.
If not, write it down yourself.
If not, at least talk to someone about it.

I usually focus on the emotional pieces, which are also of utmost importance. So it would be remiss of me not to toss in to remember to say “I love you” often. Whether you are angry or hurt or whatever. Don’t go to bed unresolved. Don’t let even a day go by without getting re-connected to the people that are important to you.

I can promise you it really happens. It just happened to that special client of mine. One minute you are waxing your car because the weather has finally broken, and within a couple of hours you have entered the next life.

Handle your stuff. Now. While you are able. Please!


Cold Water in the Face

Life has been busy. My clients have required a little extra T.L.C. (meaning more phone calls between sessions, collaboration with parents, psychologists, addiction specialists, schedule changes, etc.), all of which I absolutely don’t mind. But it’s funny how it seems to come in waves.

Then add in repairing/painting the kitchen. You know how house projects are. Way more complicated, expensive, and time-consuming than you originally imagined. Dry wall dust everywhere. People in your house morning, afternoon, evening. All your regular up-keep is shot to hell. Feeling a bit guilty that everyone else has also turned their lives upside down to help you.

A dear friend who is depressed and struggling with so much. I’m not doing much to help.

And just normal life working, parenting, church…

You might have read last week that I had a chance to be on the radio. Slightly under five minutes of air time, but a wait of over 80 minutes to get that. There are times when my house is a circus and last week was one of them. My dad was here because it was Wednesday. Colin and Frankie were here because, well, they live here. My boyfriend’s roommate was here because he was working on the kitchen walls. My graphic artist was here because we were working on my daughter’s book. Then my client and his son arrive because, well, they had an appointment.

Are you keeping track of how many men that is? A whole house full of them. I was still on hold, thinking I would be on any second and it was an excellent chance to talk about death/dying. And let’s face it. It was a great chance to promote the book.

So my clients came into the kitchen and waited with us on hold. Any second turned into minutes. The entire hour of their session they sat and waited. I asked them if they could come back same time next week and they said, “Sure.” I told them I’d give them a freebie for all their trouble. Now I wouldn’t get away with that with just any clients. These guys? I’ve seen them (there is another son as well) since 2002. Twelve years. We’ve known each other a very long time.

Yesterday comes and again my house is a circus. Then I get a call and everything stops and spins.

My client’s son calls me, I assume to confirm their appointment. He calmly tells me that his father, barely over 50 years old, died the night before. Just out doing yard work with his boys, feels sick, starts vomiting, and falls. They call 911. They run tests. They say he has blood on his brain. He dies a few hours later.

WHAT??? I am in shock. I start sobbing. I tell him I know I’m the therapist but he is doing fantastic handling things and I am falling apart. He says quietly, “I know, it’s ok.” Thankfully, someone who loves me is here in my kitchen when I hang up. He asks, “What can I do?” I tell him exactly what he is doing. Just keep hugging me and let me cry.

I know this song and drill far too well. Yet I still get shocked. And I start second guessing myself.

I missed my last session with this guy to advance my career. I know that it’s not necessary to guilt myself but I feel terrible anyway. But then I remember my career is about helping others and I feel a little less bad. Then I talk to my artist and he reminds me that we had a great time together on hold for that hour. We laughed together and enjoyed ourselves. He said that was probably a much better way to spend an hour together than talking about problems. I feel a lot less bad now.

I’m still up most of the night. With all my lecturing and speaking and writing, did I ever think to discuss end of life issues with this particular family? I can’t remember. This is a family that has dealt with extreme loss. Did he have a will? Life insurance? What are his two sons going to do on their own? Do they know what his wishes are?

Regrets. Worry. Caring. Wondering. Caring deeply. Love. That’s what’s important. Talk about it all the time. I mean, all the time. But it still is a splash of cold water in the face. Life is fleeting. We are mortal. Try to make the most of every moment. Really!