Weaving for Those Grieving

orb weaver“How can you be a symbol of strength?” said the chief. “You are small and weak, and I didn’t even see you as I followed the great Deer.”

“Grandson,” said the spider, “look upon me. I am patient. I watch and I wait. Then all things come to me.”

“The Spider and the People,” an Osage Legend

 

Like the chief, I almost didn’t see the spider in my garden a year ago—even though it was about three inches long. This black-and-gold arachnid had spun a large circular web. I stopped in time and held my breath.

I had heard arachnids symbolize the scribing arts because they weave webs as writers weave stories. This Yellow Garden Spider is called an orb weaver. Maybe like the large round web, it was letting me know there is a big story I am being asked to craft.

Yet I knew it wasn’t time. I had lost my son less than a year earlier and still needed months, if not years, to process my grief. The creature’s message was, yes, write; yet be patient. The time will come.

Another year has gone by. I have survived all the major holidays and anniversaries. I have blogged about the tears, the connections, the dreams. I have read through all my journal entries from the time I was pregnant with Tristan, reliving every one of the thousands of moments I had recorded about his life.

Late this spring I knew it was time to begin the way orb weavers start their mandala-like webs. They cast strands into the wind so the white wisps catch on something. Several weeks ago, I cast my story strand out to my publisher. Would he like a book from me about grieving?

Patiently I waited.

A few missed calls.

Finally, his voice on the line.

Jim didn’t ask me anything. Not about readership, not about marketing, not about platform. “This book is really needed,” he said. “Get crackin’.”

Like the orb weaver’s web, the first strands of this story are haphazard. Loose connections form the beginning structure of the book—a section about Tristan’s life to provide context and emotional connection, and a section designed to assist others with the grieving process, similar in style and voice to Thriver Soup.

Yet it was incomplete, like the initial lines of a web. My friend Mim Grace suggested another section for those standing on the sidelines. How do we interact with a person who is grieving? What do we say and not say? What about the sorrow of other family members, especially children?

To complete the sacred structure, I needed a professional editor. A man who knew Tristan years ago, who had lost his own son, and who had a lifetime of writing and editing experience, stepped forward.

The pieces are falling into place, as the initial spider’s home structures form a lattice. These beginnings have to be integrated for the rest of the orb to grow around and through them.

I am ready to weave around these structures, writing and editing, improving and revising. The filaments will form, with a characteristic orb-weaver ladder in place for me to move around easily within the wholeness of this gift. I plan to be patient, watching and waiting, and remain open to ideas, as some orb spiders frequently take down their webs and recast them.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Help me make this book the best it can be. Please forward this post to those who are grieving and ask for ideas on what would make this book a valuable guide for those navigating grief. Thank you.

Sources:

http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/The-Spider-And-The-People-Osage.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argiope_aurantia

http://southernwilddesign.com/argiope-the-common-garden-spider/

http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/orb-weaver

Unsung Hero

Tara L. Robinson, author of The Ultimate Risk (Hay House, April 2017) and publisher of Whole Living Journal, recently nominated me for one of Cancer Family Care’s 2017 Unsung Hero Patient Awards. The banquet was Tuesday, May 16, in Cincinnati, OH. Here is her nomination. Thank you, Tara!

 

Heidi is truly an inspiration beyond words. Not only is she an Unsung Hero because of her own personal growth work, but also because she has been determined to help others with what she learned from her experience.

And, let me tell you, what she learned was A LOT!

When Heidi was diagnosed with a rare Stage 4 cancer, she immediately put into action all of her advanced awareness of the mind-body-spirit connection. She turned over every single stone and healing became a full time job for her. She researched, overhauled her diet, maximized the effects of sound meditation, art therapy, dream interpretation, etc. She courageously chronicled the details her journey as it unfolded on her Caring Bridge webpage where friends and family remained on the edges of their seats waiting to see what Heidi discovered next.

She never faltered in her optimistic attitude and eventually made a most difficult, life-changing decision necessary to propel her into remission.

All of us who watched Heidi’s healing trek in awe could see the strong possibility that her online accounts would one day be perfect material for a book. She did, in fact, get right to work compiling all she had learned and experienced into an extensive resource for others on the healing journey. Her book, Thriver Soup, was traditionally published and has been helping patients and families around the world ever since.

Heidi and Tara at the awards banquet

I personally have been so inspired by Heidi’s story that I wrote about her in my own book, The Ultimate Risk (Hay House, April 2017) as I recounted why she was the recipient of the first Voices of Women award. Not only was she the first recipient, but she was actually the inspiration for the creation of this award that celebrates and acknowledges “outstanding achievement in personal growth and transformation.” This is the greatest act of service, because as we change ourselves, we change the world. I saw Heidi change the world as she bravely changed herself. The VOW award was created to honor remarkable women who have “risen from the ashes,” or have simply displayed great courage in excavating their inner lives, thereby changing themselves and changing the world…Heidi is the epitome of this award.

Heidi continued to suffer the worst of life’s challenges when her son suddenly passed away. However, her spirit is not to be defeated. She once again drew on the strength and faith she had cultivated during her cancer journey to not only survive, but thrive through even this tragedy.

Heidi is definitely an Unsung Hero and deserves to be honored as such. Our world is a better place because of Heidi Bright.

It is better to have loved and lost, on Mother’s Day

… O evil day! if I were sullen / While Earth herself is adorning / This sweet May-morning; / And the children are culling / On every side / In a thousand valleys far and wide / Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm, / And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:— / I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!

“Ode on Intimations of Immortality,” Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

 

Flowers from TristanMy heart melted whenever my son Tristan brought me flowers he had culled.

When he was nearly three, he joyfully handed me discarded artificial blossoms. He asked me to smell them, so I did.

I asked, “What do they smell like to you?”

He plunged his face into the bouquet and breathed in. He looked at me with all seriousness. “Cheerios.”

For me, nothing has been more wondrous than raising my boys. Even with the exhaustion, the frustration, the terror, the powerlessness. The sorrow.

My motherhood began later in my life than for most mothers. A week after the due date, an ultrasound indicated my firstborn was twelve pounds.

Um, he wasn’t coming out naturally, even though I had a great midwife.

Sighing, I scheduled a C-section.

I had another week to wait. I was reminded of the words of Jesus when he broke bread with his disciples for the final time: This is my body which is broken down for you; This is my blood which is shared with you. Greater love has no one than this, than one lay down her life for her friends.

Or for one.

A baby boy named Tristan.

“Congratulations,” my doctor said after the surgery. “You’ve given birth to a two-month-old.” Tristan looked enormous beside the normal-sized babies.

I loved this precious new being with every breath. I held him at every opportunity. I sang to him, talked to him, read to him before we even left the hospital.

I wrote in my journal: “When I look at this baby, I don’t see a child; I see an extension of myself. I feel a bond that is stronger than death. It really hurts my soul to see him cry. I love being able to nurse him—to feed him with living water from my innermost being. To nourish and sustain him with my body. To give to him from my life’s blood, for it takes blood to make milk.

“Now I know what a mother’s love is. It has nothing to do with how the child turns out or how smart or gifted he is. All that matters is his happiness.”

When Tristan was a week old, I held him in my arms while I rocked. I cried for half an hour—a slow, silent, teary cry. I never wanted him to be hurt, so I prayed for his protection.

How prophetic. He could not find happiness for himself. He did not have the protection he needed.

It is said it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved. At the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation national conference in 2015 I spoke briefly about losing Tristan two months earlier. A woman came up to me, her eyes brimming with tears, her voice tremulous. She had lost her daughter a decade earlier to leiomyosarcoma. The pain of losing a child can come up anytime, anywhere, and produce copious tears. Time does not erase the agony. Would she trade this desolation for never having her beloved daughter? Never. No, never. I know that love and am grateful for the 19 years I shared with Tristan.

And the bond of love continues beyond the grave. It is deathless. (And as I write this, the song “We’re Walking in the Air” randomly plays on Pandora—it’s one of the songs played during Tristan’s memorial service. He is with me, even now… His essence is deathless. His presence is present. His love lingers.)

Even without this precious child still embodied to celebrate Mother’s Day with, I would be remiss to be sullen. I loved being his mother for 19 years; even in the darkest hours, I loved him with all my heart. He knew. And he still does.

So I will celebrate with my living son, my second-born, who soon will have lived longer than his older brother. He delights me with his humor, his insights, his love. He is the treasure of my life.

I have much to celebrate.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Please share this post with mothers who have lost their children. Thank you.

The ABCs of Creating Conditions for Healing

Please join me

Sunday, May 7, 1-3 pm
250 East Main Street, Batavia, OH  45103

Your Take-aways

+ Consider how to transform attitudes to support healing
+ Learn how to reconstruct behaviors and make better choices to support your body’s efforts to create health
+ Gain your own insights through a guided visualization that will involve exploring any dis-eased part of the body

Feedback:

Thanks for a most thought-provoking talk. I’ve done little else but think since we were together. Who am I? What matters most to me? What do I hope to be when I grow up? How big is my part in the scheme of things?… The talk was a wonderful thing for me.

The ABCs of healing was eye-opening and can help with my health issues.

Beautiful, heartfelt, easy. I gained an understanding of the power of healing through all modalities.

This Surprising Prescription is Free

For ye shall go out with joy, And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills shall

forest bathing
forest bathing

break forth before you into singing, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12, JPS Tanakh 1917

 

Have you ever walked into a forest and felt bathed in peace?

It’s not your imagination. It’s real.

The Japanese have a phrase for taking in the healing properties of the woods: shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.”

Studies “show that forest environments could lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, increase parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity compared with city settings.”

Dr. Johanna Budwig, a biochemist, wrote that walking through a forest can recharge our batteries.

Even simply looking out a window at green plants is healing. Post-surgical patients who could look out on trees and grass got out of the hospital sooner, had fewer complications, and took fewer pain medications than those without such views.

Other benefits include

  • Improved sleep and mood
  • Increased energy levels and ability to focus
  • Decreased anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue.

In other words, it’s not just relaxing to be in a forest. It’s healing, and here’s why: you are literally being showered with essential oils that prevent the growth of attacking organisms.

Like cancer.

Plants are busy sending out chemical signals called phytoncides that ward off insects and help fight bacterial and fungal disease. When we breathe in these phytoncides, our bodies’ immune systems create more natural killer white blood cells that go after tumors and viruses.

So maybe take your next “bath” among trees and imagine they are clapping their hands, showering their joy and healing balm upon you.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Find ways to get out into the woods, or at least get a view of plant life, as much as possible.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793346/

http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytoncide

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_bathing

http://www.hphpcentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/5000-paper-by-Qing-Li2-2.pdf

Budwig, Johanna. Flax Oil as a True Aid Against Arthritis, Heart Infarction, Cancer and Other Diseases. Apple Publishing; 3rd edition (December 1, 1994), p. 50.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/

Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgeryScience. 224:420-422.

Rending Another Veil on Resurrection Sunday

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…

Matthew 27:50-51a, New American Standard Bible

 

At the moment Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the Jewish Temple (that separated people from the Holy of Holies) was rent in two, according to one of the Christian gospels. This symbolized the end of separation between humans and the Divine.

Sometimes we have mental veils that separate us from the Divine, or from unconscious tendencies within ourselves. These curtains need to be found and dropped if we want to see ourselves more clearly.

I had a new veil to rend. My discovery of this separation began with a horrifying, potent dream this past week. I knew I needed to go back into this nightmare, using my imagination, to understand its message more clearly and possibly heal something. Healing on this level can influence the health of our bodies.

Easter felt like a perfect day to focus on resurrecting my own hidden personality aspects.

To prepare, I set up my meditation space with my journal and Vince Lasorso’s “Focused Relaxation” CD set on repeat.

Settled in my chair, I prayed for guidance. Then I imagined myself back in my dream, which was set on the lawn in front of the administration building at my alma mater. I walked up to an unknown woman who was directing some unfortunate activities. Treating her as a real person, I began asking her questions.

She didn’t answer me. She had a job to do.

Then I felt a sudden, gratifying rush of energy as something clicked—the “administration” building represented someone from my childhood who played a large role in my mental development. This person possessed a powerful sense of right and wrong, good and bad, and I had carried those imperatives forward in my own brain’s administrative functioning. I realized the unknown woman was unconsciously carrying out those dictates. This meant a part of my personality had continued, at times, to act without my awareness, expressing masculine qualities without regard for the more feminine values of compassion, love, and kindness. Those unconscious aspects needed to be made more conscious and integrated so I could make healthier choices.

With this insight, I became aware of new fears I had not known were operating in my life. Because I adopted those values as a small child, I also adopted the childish perception that if I did not follow those rules, I would be abandoned and might die. That outdated way of perceiving could now be healed.

I wrote down several possible statements about my newly owned fears and how they affected some of my choices. I settled on one that felt right—it was convoluted and difficult to remember, but it fit exactly what had been happening in my psyche.

Statement in hand, I began doing the Emotional Freedom Technique (described on pg. 201 in Thriver Soup). I had to do five full rounds of tapping to get the feeling sense down from a high of ten to a three.

With the intensity greatly reduced, I decided I was ready to forgive the “administration” individual for pushing these one-sided ideas on me, and to forgive myself for sleepwalking through my entire adult life without questioning this aspect of my personality.

I pulled out my forgiveness process papers, based on the book Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping. I spent a couple hours feeling and writing my way through the 20+ steps.

Evening was descending. I re-entered my dream and this time imagined I was the woman directing the activities on the lawn. I looked out through her eyes. She appeared to have sheer curtains in front of her face. Everything beyond that white veil was indistinct. She was not really seeing what she was doing.

And then the cloth spontaneously dropped away from her face. She could suddenly see clearly, for the first time. And she was horrified by her activities. She stopped, offered assistance to the other people, and began making amends.

She had been granted sight, as I had been. The veil was rent and the separation ended. An aspect of my personality had been resurrected from the dead.

Thriver Soup Ingredient

We can’t really see the veils over our mental eyes unless we try to access them through dreams, active imagination, talking with others, writing with our non-dominant hands, or using other methods for excavating our inner lives. And we have to be ready to see these hidden aspects. Perhaps ask in prayer for the willingness to be open to seeing unconscious parts of ourselves. The simple sense of willingness might part a veil enough for us to better see.

 

How to Let Go of Fear, Sorrow, Powerlessness: MySevenChakras Podcast

He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

– Psalm 23, discussed on MySevenChakras Episode 198 with Aditya

Aditya asked Heidi Bright:

  • When did you first come to know that you had Cancer? 
  • What type of Cancer did you have?
  • How did your Cancer end up getting detected?
  • What was your initial reaction when you received your diagnoses?
  • How to go about reducing the impact of chemotherapy?

These were just some of the questions , so if you’re curious about how Heidi overcame cancer…. listen to the podcast till the end: 198: From an aggressive end stage Cancer to radical remission. It’s possible! with Heidi Bright

Alternative Practice – Holistic healing.

Action Step – Going out, doing everything I can to be healthy. I was not going silently into that dark night so I picked myself back up. I worked with that fear and sorrow and that absolute powerlessness. I continued all my healing processes.

Major Life Lesson – There is a genuine hope, and there are always options.

Life Purpose – To share my message about healing our attitudes, behaviors and being able to make major life choices that we need to.

Wisdom Round:

Best Advice – Get to a therapist. Manage my emotions in a healthy way.
Personal Habit – It’s the map of emotions, and that’s the practice of experiencing the sensations in my body without thinking about them until they leave.
Book Recommendation – Waking the Warrior Goddess by Dr. Christine Horner

Thriving Through a Dark Night of the Soul

… rendered reckless by despair, you let yourself fall backward into the arms of nothing. This—according to John of the Cross—is a blessing of the highest order.

Tell that to the mother of a dead child.

Mirabai Starr, Caravan of No Despair

 

Have you ever been rendered reckless by despair? Fallen backward into the arms of nothing? Or even lost a child?

Mirabai Starr writes about her dark night of the soul that began the day the police showed up at her doorstep. Her 14-year-old daughter had just been killed in a car accident. It happened on the very day the first copy of her published translation of St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul had arrived.

“… all the ways you have been accustomed to tasting the sacred dry up and fall away,” she writes. “All concepts of the Holy One evaporate. You are plunged into a darkness so impenetrable that you are convinced it will never lift. You may flail about for something—anything—to prop you up, but you grasp only emptiness.”

Twice I have lived through such a dark night of the soul—each time for seven years. And both times I came out on the other side a transformed person.

This is not about depression, or depressing circumstances, though those can plunge one into a dark night of the soul. It is about losing one’s sense of connection with the Divine. It is about feeling spiritually incapacitated, unable to pray or meditate. For me it began in 2009 with an end-stage cancer diagnosis, and I hit bottom six years later when my son Tristan passed away.

During those years, Tara Robinson, editor of Whole Living Journal, recognized the transformations as they were occurring. She honored those shifts in 2014—while I was still in the thrall of my dark night—by creating the Voices of Women Award for outstanding achievement in personal growth and transformation. She recognized that these hidden soul excavations often go unrecognized, even though they totally change a person.

Many people live through dark nights of the soul. How does one live in the midst of despair? How does one pick up the pieces and create something new and more beautiful?

I want to tell you from my heart that whatever you are going through, you can find light and joy. It is living in you, even if it is layered over by pain, rage, terror, grief, and confusion. It takes determination to find it. And for many, finding the light again is a long, slow, agonizing process. We do have a choice. We can languish or we can move toward thriving.

There are strategies we can use to help us cope and eventually transform. I gained those tools during my cancer journey and continue to use them. I will be sharing some of those tools Saturday at Cincinnati’s Victory of Light in the Sharonville Convention Center. My talk is at 3 p.m. If you cannot make it, contact me to schedule a speaking engagement.

Katherine thrives beyond mesothelioma

Editor’s note: Katherine Keys is a guest blogger this week. This is her story.

I have been fighting Mesothelioma for 10 years. When I was first diagnosed, doctors told me I had less than two years to live. I refused to believe my time was limited and instead decided to fight the cancer. I am convinced that it was my positive attitude and determination to win that have allowed me to survive against the odds.

At first I thought I had the flu. I was prescribed medication and painkillers but the pain persisted. When the pain was too much to take, I went to the ER. There I discovered I had cancer. I was 49 years old and diagnosed with Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma.

For treatment, I had my right lung and the lining of the lung removed, a major surgical procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). After several months of recovery, I began radiation treatments. I had treatments five times per week for several months. Although I had been scheduled for chemotherapy, I was relieved to learn that I didn’t have to have them.

Upon completing my treatments, I attended my regularly scheduled follow-up appointments. At first, they were monthly, then every two months, three months, six months…and now annually. My follow-up appointments typically consistent of blood tests, a PET scan, x-rays and other tests to confirm that I am still cancer-free. The doctors and staff at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, are true miracle workers and I am forever grateful to them.

I was also greatly helped by the patient advocates at MesotheliomaLawyerCenter.org. Not only did they help me obtain financial compensation which helped with my treatments and quality of life, they genuinely cared about my well-being. I am proud to call them my friends and they continue to stand by my side as I fight mesothelioma. Their website is filled with a plethora of comprehensive information surrounding mesothelioma and the trust funds that are available to certain victims.

Today, I feel blessed to be able to spend time with my family and share my story with other people living with mesothelioma. While I have been through a lot and I am still challenged by physical pain and limitations after having a lung removed, I see every day as a gift. I hope my story brings resilience and positivity to people living with mesothelioma.

How to be Fearless

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Proverbs 31:25, Christian Bible, New International Version

 

I rarely paid much attention to clothing; I was more interested in developing who I was.

Well, it finally dawned on me about 10 years ago that I needed to get a little more with the fashion program. I was sitting next to my friend Laura Dailey in a nice restaurant. She was wearing the current style. I felt silly sitting next to her in my 15-year-old dress, even though it has been my all-time favorite style, pattern, and color mix. I finally conceded that I needed to set it aside. *sigh*

Do you have a favorite outfit that’s outdated? Frustrating, isn’t it?

I needed fashion guidance after recovering from my cancer ordeals. Tracy in Houston generously bought me some beautiful, fashionable dresses when I stayed with her right after my 2009 sarcoma diagnosis. My sister Roselie clearly loved watching me try on and then wear the pretty clothes.

When Thriver Soup was published, I knew I needed professional help with my wardrobe. Amy Elliott Elberfeld, Doris Gibbons, and Patti Raggets came over and went through my clothes. Keep, donate, trash. Out went 3 big black bags of clothing. Amy also gave me a lovely silk scarf that fit my skin tones perfectly and a couple stylish necklaces. She then took me shopping for a couple of outfits.

Painful, but I felt grateful. And fearless.

So I learned that fearless and fashion can go together. Fearless about letting go of what’s no longer serving me, and welcoming what does.

Find out how to become more fearless in my 10-minute video recently posted on the FashionNotFear blog (filmed by my fearless fashionista friend Laura Dailey).

Today I might not be Heidiva the Fearless Fashionista, yet my friends helped make my wardrobe more current and suitable.

Still, my friend Mim teases me: “When I think of fashion, I think of my friend Heidi.”

And we chuckle.

Thriver Soup Ingredient

Clothing ourselves for fashion can help us fit in and feel more confident. It helps us laugh a little more heartily in the face of life’s difficulties. And then we can take our new-found fearlessness and apply it to other areas of our lives.