Posts Tagged ‘Grief Loss and Bereavement’

We thank Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes for his monthly contributions to the Grief Resource Center blog.

When a mother bird nudges her baby out of the nest, is she giving up or letting go?

When a tree loses its leaves in the autumn, is it giving up or letting go?

When a caterpillar decides to enter a cocoon – its chrysalis, is it giving up or letting go?

When a flower unveils its petals after days of being a bud, is it giving up or letting go?

When a woman who has treated her brain tumor for over two years decides ‘that’s enough’ and reaches out to hospice, is she giving up or letting go?

When someone decides he needs space and distance from his family of origin for a while, perhaps years, is he giving up or letting go?

When someone who struggles with addiction finally chooses to acknowledge the addiction and accepts needing a recovering program, is he giving up or letting go?

When a grieving person chooses to share her loved one’s belongings, is she giving up or letting go?

When life looks consistently bleak, every day such a struggle, each dominated by depression and he at last notices and chooses to get help, is he giving up or letting go?

What a tension and sometimes a fine line this question of ‘giving up or letting go’. There is clearly a difference between them both in attitude and in motivation, albeit subtle at times. Many, many years ago, shortly after being released from inpatient treatment for alcoholism and attending AA, my mom shared with me a reflection regarding ‘giving up or letting go’. Through the years I’ve posted this reflection in my offices and often find myself reading it. I share it with you now because it has helped me gain perspective many times, and, because, for most of us, a very significant part of our journey of grief involves, dare I say demands, our ‘letting go’ on many different levels. There is no ‘healing’ and/or reconciling our grief in giving up, only in letting go. There can be no ‘transformation’ in giving up, only in letting go. We’ll never experience fully living again in giving up, only in letting go. Although you may not be at a place of ‘letting go’ yet, or these words might not express your experience, may this reflection cause you to take pause, if only for a moment, to reflect upon the difference between giving up and letting go in you and how both are expressed in / through you. May it serve you as well as it has served me.

Giving up implies a struggle…Letting go implies a partnership.

Giving up dreads the future…Letting go looks forward to the future.

Giving up lives out of fear…Letting go lives out of grace and trust.

Giving up is defeat…Letting go is a victory.

Giving up is unwillingly yielding to forces beyond oneself…Letting go is taking control by choosing to yield to forces beyond oneself.

Giving up believes that God and the Universe are to be feared…Letting go trusts in the goodness and love of God and the Universe.




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We welcome back Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services for Church and Chapel Funeral Homes as our guest blooger. Please enjoy Pete’s thoughts on surrendering to grief.

“You don’t heal from the loss of a loved one because time passes;

you heal because of what you do with the time”. 

– Carol Crandall


Healing doesn’t ‘just happen’ after the death of a loved one. And, quite frankly, “Time heals all wounds” is a myth ~ an illusion at best. Healing doesn’t wait on time; healing waits on our ‘welcome’ ~ our intention. Therein dwells the hard grief-work of surrender, acceptance and integration. As each person is unique, this work will be done in one’s own time, on one’s own personal journey, in one’s individual way, a step at a time. It’s only in doing this important work that eventually one can fully live again in new and changed ways. Here’s an example.

Gregory, whose wife Marie died a year and a half ago from a tragic accident, has been very active in engaging and facing his grief and assisting his teenage son in doing the same. For me, Gregory has been an inspiring example that healing can only happen when one finds the courage to move toward their grief rather than ignoring, denying or moving away from their grief. Gregory would be the first to tell you that he is not done grieving or healing, and perhaps may never be. But, as you read the e-mail below from Gregory, those of us who are grieving can take heart in knowing that authentic healing can happen if we are willing to do the hard grief-work of surrender, acceptance and integration – bit by bit, one step at a time, in our own way, choosing to fully live again. Thank you Gregory!

Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 9:21 AM
To: Undisclosed

Subject: Time to Let Go


Hello All,

It’s been over a year and a half now since Marie died.  I’ve had many ups and downs through my journey with grief.  I’ve now come to the crossroads that in order to continue my healing I need to start separating myself from Marie’s physical presence.  I treasure all the great times we had together and the wonderful memories of our life and raising Robert through the years.  But all the physical things around the house bring back too much pain.

In a moment of weakness I received a flyer for a neighborhood rummage sale last Sunday.  Marie organized the sale every year.  She loved doing it (I did not).  But Grandma offered to tend the sale so I thought why not – I’ll participate.  It’s been a whirlwind of gathering all “Marie’s stuff” together for the sale over the past 3 days.  Robert, our son, has been gathering his “little boy” toys, shirts/pants and grade school reading books as well.  We have a lot available including holiday decorations, scrapbooking, stationary, candles, kitchen items, cloths and size 8 shoes.

Stop by the one and only rummage sale I will ever do.  Our Subdivision Rummage Sale runs this Friday and Saturday 9:00 – 4:00.  Grandma will be helping out and Robert on Saturday.  Tell a friend or two as Marie had a lot of neat items.

Here’s to you Dear,


PS: Any money raised will go to Healing Hearts of Waukesha County, the grief support group that’s helping Robert and I live life again.

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We welcome back guest blogger Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services at Church and Chapel Funeral Homes. This month, Pete encourages us to welcome breaks into our lives…

There’s nothing quite like taking a walk and breathing some fresh air after being confined in enclosed places for an entire day…Or, putting your feet up, enjoying a refreshment and watching a TV program after a long physical day of doing yard work and projects needing to be completed around the house…Or, at least for me, having a cup of coffee in a quiet space, candle lit, reading a good book, without any pressure of time constraints, on the very first morning of my first day off of the weekend. I value and badly need ‘breaks’ during the course of my day – during the course of my week.

The same can be true with those of us who are in the throes of doing – being immersed in – grief work. And, it’s true, grieving takes work and effort and intentionality especially if we want to heal. Someone recently said to me regarding their grief journey, “This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.” Make no mistake about it, grieving can be intense work. It’s okay and so very necessary for us to take breaks while we grieve. We cannot dwell on our sorrow every waking moment. Taking breaks doesn’t dishonor our loved one, nor does it equate to ‘forgetting’ our loved one. It does mean our body, our mind; our spirit needs some ‘fresh air’ to renew, to rejuvenate and to perhaps gain some new perspective.

Staying busy can be a form of taking a break. We need to keep a close eye on our busy-ness though, too often it’s easy to be soooo busy that we use it as a way to run from the necessary work of grieving. We hear it often from others, ‘just keep busy’ because if we do stay busy we can keep our minds off of our pain, our hurt, our fear. And while there may be some wisdom and gift in being busy, we need to honestly ‘check-in’ with ourselves regarding the level of our busy-ness and our motivation for staying busy. We also need to be aware of our substance use and/or abuse as we walk this path of grief. Sometimes we convince ourselves the over-consumption of substances (i.e. alcohol, drugs, food, etc.) can be a healthy way to take a break from our sorrow and pain. On the contrary, although seemingly attractive and easy, they provide an illusion of taking a break, and often result in leading us down an even more painful path.

Sometimes, it may mean giving ourselves a ‘push’, a nudge to allow ourselves to take a break. But it is really necessary and important for our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing and energy to do so.  Go bowling. Be with friends who are easy to laugh with. Volunteer. Get lost in a book.  Start an art project. Watch a movie. Cook a meal for someone. Choose to do whatever a ‘break’ might look like for you – what looks to be most ‘inviting’ for you. Yep, it won’t be the same without your loved one. But, in all honesty, nothing (including you) will ever be the same without your loved one and taking a break isn’t about trying to recreate what once was. No matter the intensity of our pain and hurt, we have a responsibility to ourselves, to those that care about us, and to our loved one, to be about ‘living’ again.  Indeed, taking breaks helps us to do the necessary work of grief in a healthy way and gives us permission to live again in new and changed ways.

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Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was incredibly busy the other week, and my husband had a vacation day coming up. He offered to take my car to get an emissions test and oil change on his day off. Immediately, I had two simultaneous thoughts: one, that would be awesome, since I didn’t know when I was going to fit those things into my schedule; two, I don’t want to ruin his day off, I’ll find a way to get it done. Sensing the hesitation in my voice, he encouraged me to let him do these tasks, and I said yes.

It was a rare occasion where I actually say yes when someone wanted to help me. And it felt great. Foreign, but great.

As I look back on all the times that I have said no when someone offered to help me, I realized that most of the time I felt resentful that they didn’t help. That’s right. I said no, but still resented them—how unfair! I realized that I would rather live in gratitude than in resentment and it was a big part of why I am working on saying yes to help and assistance.

We really give people a gift when we allow them to help us. Think about a time when you assisted someone and how great it felt to know that you helped them out. And you didn’t look down on that person for needing assistance. Don’t take that feeling away from people.

We can’t worry about whether they mean it when they ask—if they didn’t mean it, they won’t ask or offer again because they now know that you will say yes! Be grateful for the assistance and soak in the good feeling of being loved and cared for. Let the other person know how much it means to you and share the gratitude with them.

This is something I encourage everyone who is grieving to practice. There are many skills you need to learn or tasks you are now responsible for since your loved one is gone. You might need emotional or moral support. Whatever it is, you don’t have to shoulder that load all by yourself. Say yes to those offers! Choose gratitude instead of resentment and see how it changes your attitude, emotions, and connections with those you love.

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We hear often about how Facebook has changed the world that we live in, and how it has negatively impacted human relationships because no one communicates in person anymore. Of all of the bad things about Facebook: bullying, emotional affairs, its addictive qualities and more, this week I am thankful for the power of the tool to connect with someone suffering a devastating loss.

I opened my Facebook account two days ago to see a cryptic post from a friend who lives in Arizona and who I haven’t seen for years, since I lived and worked there. She said “my heart hurts.” Yesterday I opened my account to find another post explaining that her best friend, her lover, her one-year-old’s father had died the day before. There were hundreds of responses and messages on her wall expressing condolences. Throughout the day she posted photos of her husband with their child, and people continued to comment. Toward the end of the day she posted information on the Celebration of Life which will take place next week.

Although I haven’t commented on her wall yet, I’ve been thinking of my friend and I will get a card into the mail shortly letting her know that I care. I struggle with this type of thing because I struggle with the public nature of Facebook. I don’t post things that are very personal, probably because I’ve never wanted everyone to know my business. But this is different. Facebook has become such a part of life, that to me it seems natural to share such a life-altering event. And it is allowing those of us who aren’t physically there, and would not be on the short list to get notified of tragedies like this to support our friend.

Is this a new way to grieve? Facebook allows people to share pictures, thoughts, memories and dare I go so far as to suggest emotions? All at a very rapid speed. Is this immediate outpouring of support and reminiscing of times gone by via the internet going to take place of human interaction and funerals? I personally don’t think so – I think there will always be physical needs of the one left behind – seeing and placing the body or ashes somewhere meaningful and the human connection that comes from a hug or holding of a hand. But what Facebook does offer is a sort of scrapbook of life, a tangible way to show the grief that one is feeling, and the love we have for one another. I think Facebook is a great tool for working through grief.

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a "low profile" sole provides a grea...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again, we welcome Pete Reinl from Church & Chapel to our blog and thank him for sharing his insights on grief and loss with our readers.

I enjoy, for the most part, running every other day as a form of exercise. There are two hills on my running route; one about midway through which seems to stretch on forever, and the other toward the end of my route which is shorter but much steeper. Sometimes, each looks insurmountable and it takes everything in me to keep running. At other times they seem to be manageable, even less challenging. I’ve noticed during the manageable times of running the hills I’m concentrating more on each individual step I’m taking verses looking to see how far I have yet to go. Then, there are those days I just simply ‘feel’ stronger verses being tired and worn out. I’ve also noticed during those manageable times that I’m aware of what is beyond the hill – in the first case a nice long decline, and in the second, the end of my run.

Sometimes in the midst of grieving, particularly early on in the journey, we become overwhelmed by our experiences and all the choices we are faced with on many different levels. Experiencing feelings we’ve heard about from others but could’ve never imagined having ourselves with such intensity and depth, such as sadness, guilt, loneliness, fear, relief, and anger, to name a few. Tears we’re afraid will never stop ~ fearing that we’ll never genuinely smile again. Weeping that comes from a place in us we never knew existed. Finding ourselves believing we’re going ‘crazy’ because we’re so scattered, forgetful, distracted, impatient, low on energy and saying things that are out of character for us. Then, there are all those choices and decisions needing to be made and people to consider. What will the holidays look like? Who will take care of the bills? Can I continue to live here? When is it okay for me to consider being in another intimate relationship? Do I want another intimate relationship? What about the laundry? Who will fix the car if it breaks down? I don’t know how to cook? Who will be my ‘go to’ person – the person I confide in? God? Faith? Who am I now? Who will I become? What purpose do I have? What about the children? Who gets what? Who are my friends? Can I, should I, continue in the bowling league? And yet even more choices! It can be – IS – daunting.

Perhaps we need to consider taking one step at a time…one day at a time…one hour at a time…sometimes, one minute at a time. Taking ‘things’ as they come ~ one at a time. Choosing to be ‘selfish’ and honoring our needs, over those of others. Perhaps we would do ourselves, and those around us, a huge favor if we tried to remain in the moment, as unpleasant and painful as that might be. Surrendering to who I am and what I need right now. It seems to me, when we look at everything all-at-once and stay in the ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ and ‘what then’ and ‘what will they think’ we become overwhelmed and ‘it all’ can become a powerful source of depression, and drain the precious little energy we have. Fully feeling what we feel right now, sharing our story with others who are safe, and making decisions that are based on our readiness, our intuition, and in our best interest, not based on a ‘should’, is part of how we heal.

Sometimes, all we have in us are small steps. Sometimes we can take larger ones. Sometimes we don’t have one step in us at all ~ and that’s okay. It’s important to take a moment, every now and then, to look back at where we’ve been on our journey of grief and give ourselves some credit verses beating ourselves up and comparing ourselves with others. And, when we’re ready, to contemplate what healing might look like in the future; how we imagine joy in our lives again. To visualize / envision who we want to become and what we want our lives to look like again ~ integrated and whole, in a new and changed way. In essence, we’re in the midst of creating a new life that will naturally and authentically honor our deceased loved ones, while honoring our True Selves, a single step at a time.


Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services

Church and Chapel Funeral Homes


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Steven Spielberg at Hollywood Walk of Fame

Image via Wikipedia

I am a huge movie fan. Most weekends, I watch at least one movie (most of the time 2-3). Unexpectedly, I watched two movies this weekend that had wonderfully honest and inspirational messages of what grief truly looks like, how it affects relationships and families, and how to move toward healing. Check them out and let me know what you think.


Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen star in this phenomonal movie about a young man’s journey with cancer. The movie portrays how this unexpected diagnosis affects all of his relationships–with his girlfriend, best friend, and parents. It was a reminder that at times the way people cope with our loss may not appear or feel supportive. However, we need to remember that they are also going through a loss as well. The myriad of emotions that these characters experience reminds us that being diagnosed with a disease does indeed immediately bring about grief.

Super 8

I did not expect this movie to be related to grief at all, but was pleasantly surprised by this J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg movie. It was set in the 1970’s or 1980’s and felt vaguely like the movie E.T. The main character’s mother dies in a tragic accident, which leaves him and his father left to not only grieve her loss but learn how to relate to each other. It was a true journey of forgiveness, connection, and learning to find new support with those who remain.

We tend to think of grief as being sad and depressing. But I think you will find that there can be quite a bit of laughter, tenderness, love, and even happiness along the way. Just like in real life.

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