Yellow Flowers, Grief
Yellow Flowers from Coba Mexico

I.lost my brother to suicide when I was in my early 30s. My emotional response to his death was a deep and profound sadness – although I was not surprised when I got the call because Jim was not a happy man. And over the years, he had mentioned the possibility of ¨ending it.¨

But when it happened, I still asked the unanswerable questions: First, ¨Why?¨ And then, that age-old cry-from-the-heart, ¨What more could I have done?¨

As a long-time professional singer and songwriter, one way for me to deal with the grief was to write a song. Some people might call it ¨grief music.¨ I felt that it was a song of healing. I called it ¨Lullaby for a Deep Sleep¨ – a song about surrender and letting go of pain.  It is sometimes known as the  ¨Letting Go¨ song.

¨Lullaby (for a Deep Sleep)¨ really took shape several months after Jim´s death, when my cousin, Cathy who was like a sister to me, died of a brain hemorrhage.

A different kind of grief hit me at that time. While Jim had died alone, (he jumped off a bridge in Vancouver, Canada), Cathy, in her 40s, was surrounded by the people she loved. She died peacefully at her home in the arms of her visiting mother.

¨Lullaby for a deep sleep¨ which reflected both of these death realities, became a song that touched a lot of people who were trying to recover from their own deep sense of grief. Click here to see the music video.


Yellow Flowers, Grief
Yellow Flowers from Coba, Mexico

I have sung ¨Lullaby for a deep sleep¨ in concert many times. Because it hits a common nerve, I have often found myself talking with audience members after concerts and with friends about ways to deal with grief.

So fifteen years later, when my wonderful husband of 30 years suddenly died, I had ¨lived¨ with and talked about the process of grieving for a long time. And that may have made it easier for me to absorb the loss of my husband and soul-mate, Nicholas.

I wrote & performed a show called, Crossroads that, in part, dealt with Nicholas´s death. And again, I composed a song of personal healing called, ¨Gardens on the Hill¨
which compares the changing seasons with my changing emotions during the first year following his death. (The above link takes you to a video montage of  the song.)

People have often asked me about how I dealt with his death. ¨How did you recover enough to sing about it onstage a year later?¨ was an oft-asked question.

The 7 tips below reflect some of the things I learned about the grieving process. These words come from a very personal (not expert) take on ways to deal with grief.

Grief - beauty - Leaf from Coba
Red Leaf - Ancient city of Coba, Mexico

7 Ways To Deal With Grief

1. Talk about your loved one – a lot
I knew that people would wonder if they should bring up Nicholas´s name. They would wonder if I would burst into tears and suffer from the questions. The truth was that I yearned to talk with people about him. I felt better in doing so.

I think that in talking, we keep that person closer to us. When a person you love has recently died, there is often a feeling that they are still ¨here.¨ Perhaps just behind a veil or just barely out of sight. Talking about him/her keeps that mysterious presence –  present.

2. Take time to be alone with your lost love.
I also found that after a couple of precious hours of being out with friends that I yearned to ¨get home to Nick.¨ I talked with him a lot. I wandered through the empty apartment asking him, ¨Where are you?¨ I picked up his recently-worn clothing and stuck my nose into them – breathing deeply.

While it might sound morbid, I think that the wandering, searching, sense-related process is a natural part of letting go. People hunger for ways to stay with their lost loves. And this is a time when you can say to him/her the words that you wished you had said when they were alive. You pour out your soul, so that eventually new life can pour in  – as it will.

3. Engage In Meaningful Activity – When Nicholas died, I took over running his internet business, Red Flags Daily. This was a business that had a powerful mission to research and write the truth about major health-related issues.

Not everyone will have (or want) this kind of opportunity to keep a loved-one´s work alive. But I think that we need to feel our actions during this grieving period have real purpose – no matter what we do. For a grieving wife, that may mean looking after the children who have just lost a father. For others it could mean doing some volunteer work. The act of taking meaningful action brings purpose back in to life – when one´s life-purpose may have become quite fragile.

4. Stay Connected With Friends
Good friends are important to a person´s healing from grief, especially if they have known your loved one. Friends can also offer the solace of touch/comfort. Don´t underestimate the need for close physical comfort during grieving.  Know that your need for a hug is a necessary part of healing.

In writing about her book, ¨Hold Me Tightly,¨ Dr. Sue Johnson states: ¨We have a wired-in need for emotional contact and responsiveness from significant others. It’s a survival response…Touch is the most basic way of connecting with another human being.¨

When we lose a loved one, we have also lost the incomparable feeling of their arms wrapped around us – their loving eyes upon us. Good friends can help to lessen that sense of lost touch.

5. Celebrate his/her life – Celebration may not be a word that comes to mind when you think about grieving, but for me it was an important part of the journey.  I wrote about Nicholas´s special qualities in my journal. I told people about his acts of kindness and his special kind of love for me. I made photo-montages of our life together. I wrote several songs and a few poems. Some of these works became public, most did not.

I think that the act of being creative about a loved one´s life brings to us new realizations about both ourselves and the lost person. We can come to life anew as we ¨celebrate¨ another person after their death. And really, in grief, everything is about finding new life for ourselves. They are gone – we go on.

6. Gradually,  Delicately, Purge – Because Nicholas had been a journalist and a writer for 30 years, we had many, many boxes of files, papers and documents dating back to the beginning of his writing life. I could not look at those for several years. But gradually, over a couple of years, I began to put away some of his pictures. And I threw out files. The photo montages went behind my desk and then into a cupboard and ultimately… gone.

I think we need to keep our loved ones around us for awhile. And then there comes a time when, little by little, we need to let go of those strong connections. They can keep us from integrating the past into our present – and thus, from moving forward. And it may also be true that we keep our loved ones from moving on, in some sense, as well.

7. Let him/her go
I felt I was ready to have a new love in my life. I had grieved deeply and fully, offstage and on, for 3 years. I had put away most memorabilia from Nicholas´s life.  I felt that he was well-integrated into the fibres of my being. But I was having a very hard time making any decisions. I was a model of indecision at a time when my financial stability rested upon wise action.

I suspect that many of us who have gone through profound grief have come to that telling time when we are feeling ¨better¨ – we know that life will go on, that we will go on – but we are still stuck. And we wonder what we need to do in order to really get back into life. Perhaps it will just take time? Perhaps I will never be ¨right¨ again?

At the time when I was at the peak of frustration about my indecision, I had the good fortune to be introduced to Meribeth Dayme, a woman who practices a process called energy healing. And while I was quite skeptical about it, I agreed to have her do a session with me. After reading my energy during a phone call, she told me that Nicholas was not gone. She suggested that I perform a ritual during which I would actively release him from wherever he was stuck. Unusual words, yes. But death is a mystery. So I decided to perform my own kind of ritual.

I took down two of the three remaining pictures I had in my office, and I put them away in a box. I lit a candle and I said out loud, ¨I release you, beloved man.¨

Perhaps in doing these kinds of rituals, we release something deep inside ourselves. Perhaps Meribeth was right, he was not gone. Shortly after doing that, my life improved. I made decisions with greater ease. And life took on a new kind of flow.


For those who are interested in the music:

– Purchase Lullaby for a Deep Sleep

– Purchase Gardens on the Hill
contact me here:

If you are intrigued by the writers:

– Hold Me Tight – Dr. Sue Johnson

– Meribeth Dayme PHD (The Domino Effect & CoreSinging™)

– Development and Validity Testing of a Measure of Touch Deprivation

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