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Grief: Should We Measure Whether We Are “Doing Better”?

If there was a time I was stuck in my grief, it was the fall of 2013. In my frustration over lack of progress in multiple areas of my life, I berated myself with unkind thoughts.

I toiled with several simultaneous issues – career, illness, relationships, professional envy. If my self-esteem had been a liquid, it could have been measured in a test tube.


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The project to clean out my parents’ home slowed even further as a deafening voice in my head reminded me how long Dad and Mom had been dead. Seven years. Four years.

I wrote in my journal, “Is the house holding me back?”

Have you ever looked at your grief, gauged the progression and come up short?

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Our 1st Valentine’s Secret Power

Blinding light streamed through the curtains and hit my canopy bed. I buried my face under the covers for as long as possible, but couldn’t escape. I cracked open my eyes. What was that on the dresser?

A stuffed leopard. A container of chocolates. My eyes widened. Now I was ready to get up.

broken heart love sad

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I’ve received several Valentine’s Day gifts over the years, but is the gifts my daddy left for me to see first thing in the morning that I remember best. He was my first Valentine. He also was the one who prepared me for all the other Valentine’s or would-be Valentine’s that followed.

You might have a Valentine’s sweetheart this Feb. 14th. Or you may be widowed. Or unmarried. I’ve heard Valentine’s referred sarcastically as Singles Awareness Day. I’ve never lost a spouse – that is singularly different – but I’ve spent many Valentine’s Days alone.

I felt unwanted. Awkward. And maybe a little angry. Angry at all the hand-holding, kissing couples. All the pink and red hearts on cards. Angry at the married people who were 100 million miles away from understanding the challenges of being single. And the strengths.

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This Life/Job/Relationship – Coincidence?

Do you think life is a set of coincidences? Or do you believe a master engineer is guiding your life? I must say I believe the latter. Why?

I keep bumping into people and opportunities that fit into my life and into my dreams. Sure, I’ve got to put my horse in the race, but I can’t make a lot of these things happen. The meetings may be years in the making, but suddenly there it is, and I’m awestruck.ToniBioPic7.jpg

I could provide numerous examples of this, but today I want to point out one that’s led me to a new position. I’ve been named senior staff writer at The Wonder Report, I will be reporting stories and also writing a monthly column on family and relationships with an emphasis on navigating grief.

Time travel with me. We’re going back two years. It’s early 2017. I just received my first manuscript rejection. My baby. My book. The big publishing company didn’t want to look at it. Didn’t say why. I was devastated, and then, right about Valentine’s Day, I got very sick. I thought I’d eaten something disagreeable. Or caught a fleeting virus.

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4 Tips to Manage Grief & Its Triggers

Under the bowels of the dressing room sink, I discovered a half-completed painting, a sort of portrait of an unfinished life

It wasn’t the last evidence I’d find of a life interrupted. Nor the last grief trigger to cross my path.Puzzles

I found Mom’s half-done crossword puzzles. Her hand-drawn plans for a circular driveway that was never poured. Dad’s sippy cup, half full, the day of his death. A harmonica he’d hoped to learn to play. I mourned for their loss of various pursuits. For their unfinished business.

I preserved the evidence – these things that triggered considerable sadness for me – like a detective at a crime scene. The things served as evidence of a robbery – the snatching away of two lives. Their fingerprints were all over them.

How can we cope with these land mines, these triggers, and handle the disposition of belongings? How can we hope to achieve a measure of healing while being showered with overwhelming emotion?

crime scene do not cross signage

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After eight years of slow but progressive work on cleaning out my parents’ home and grieving their loss, I saw four ways that helped me move to a happier place during the onslaught of grief triggers.

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