I hope you're doing well and your time (mostly) spent at home during the pandemic is a good one. I still find it sometimes tricky that I can't move as freely as before. However, I'm always happy to spend the summers at home in Nova Scotia. Glad to see that more places can open up.
It has been a while since I wrote here. Do you also feel like the pandemic time is a weird one? Time either seems to stand still, or days rush by you?
In April, I released my short-read ebook 'From Grieving to Grateful: How to Heal a Broken Heart'. Thanks to terrific reviews, it became a bestseller on Amazon Canada for three days. (hahaha)
Always fun to see those sales metrics at work. And yes, I admit that it did feel good. (smile)
Following that, I had so many ideas about how I could help more women.
I'm working towards a new offering for grieving women. I want to reach and help more on their healing journey and create a supportive community at the same time.
Just keeping you in suspense for now, but in about two to three weeks, I'm ready to talk about it more and let you in on the secret. (smile) Stay tuned.
We all know that the journey of grief is never a linear one. You and I, we have our up and downs. Some days we breathe in joy, and some days we are just deeply sad and miss our loved one so much that our heart feels like someone is squeezing it.
Be assured that I'm not here to tell you how to grief or that you shouldn't be sad or cry. Instead, I'm here to help you find your healing journey through this messy and sometimes chaotic feeling of grief.
I leave you today with a quote from a young woman that I admire deeply.
"We were scared, but our fear was not as strong as our courage."
- Malala Yousafzai
You might be scared of your feelings sometimes. I assure you there is courage in you. And you can tease it out with love and compassion towards yourself. A good laugh with a dear friend helps too. (smile)
From my heart to yours, take good care and stay safe,
PS: Do you have questions? Just press reply, and I'm happy to answer.
Are you interested in my ebook From Grieving to Grateful? Get it on Amazon. (You can download the free Kindle App on Amazon to read it on your mobile devices or desktop).
Jacqueline Steudler, Artist, Art Therapist, Creative Grief Coach, and Lover of Nature's Beauty
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Where do you store your feelings of loss and grief?
When I lost my mother, I was not prepared for the sadness that accompanied the days, weeks, and months after my mother’s death. It felt like carrying the sadness of every loss I had ever encountered in my heart.
There was nothing holding back the tears. The lid was open and I knew I had to work through my feelings and acknowledge them to be able to heal.
I had to be open to heal into a new me without my mother’s presence but her love still deeply embedded in my heart.
What do I mean when I say the lid was open?
Think of our emotional centre as a pot and our feelings being kept in there by a lid on top of it.
As infants, our feelings move freely in and out. We cry when we are hungry. We laugh out loud when we are happy.
We react spontaneously to our feelings and no-one cares that we do so until we get older.
Then we learn to behave.
Somewhere on the way we also learn that a loss of any kind should be kept to ourselves. That it is a private affair.
Perhaps a grandparent dies and our parents don’t cry in front of us. So we don’t know if they are hurting or not.
Or we hear them cry behind closed doors. The message we get is: “Don’t show your feelings in public”.
There are many examples.
The following might resonate with you.
More losses follow and soon the pot is full.
We are told not to feel bad so we put a lid on our emotional pot to make sure these feelings don’t bother us.
The lid is pushed down by myths about grief that we hear from all kind of sources and society.
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Emotions Are Energy
Emotions can also be described as energy.
Every day life’s stress adds fire underneath that emotional pot.
We can feel the pot starting to boil over. To avoid the over-boiling we take part in activities that help us feel a release so that we can slam the lid back on.
What do we do?
One thing I used to medicate myself with, was to watch TV. I don’t mean one movie. I mean binge watching a whole series in one night and walking around like a zombie the next day.
Other energy releasing behaviours:
What is yours?
What happens when it becomes too much?
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing." — C.S. Lewis
While our life goes on, our pot gets filled with more tucked away feelings.
The fire of stress might get hotter underneath with more responsibilities of every day life.
Example: If the pot is already full and then you go to work and the other co-workers are mean to you or your boss has an unreasonable request, you might have an explosion of behaviour. I always wonder if road rage has its roots there too.
If you drop one more loss into that already overfilled pot you will probably get an over reaction. An explosion of emotions that can overwhelm you and stop you in your tracks.
You might think that this loss was nothing compared to all the other losses in your life but it was the one that burst the pot open.
All of a sudden you are not dealing with one loss anymore but with all your stored emotions as well.
At that moment, it is important to gather your support system. This can be your friends, your family, or outside help from a therapist.
While the feelings are out in the open, we want to tackle all that accumulated and unresolved grief. It is an energy that you want to acknowledge so that your healing can start.
The illusion that suffering in silence works is just that an illusion. Waiting until things resolve themselves doesn’t help us.
We have to become active.
“We are designed as processing plants and not storage tanks.” - anonymous
"Just because you feel lost doesn’t mean that you are. Sometimes you just have to relax, breathe deep, and trust the path you’re on." — Lalah Delia
Thank you for reading.
If this resonated with you in any way, please send me a comment.
I do my best to respond to every one.
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The other day I listened to CBC's program Tapestry with guest host Christa Couture.
The title of the show was Better ways to live with grief.
The heartfelt discussions were uplifting and at the same time touched me deeply.
I was glad to hear psychologist David Feldman debunking the 5 stages of grief.
If you have followed the Healing Notes for a while then you know that there are no stages and that everyone grieves in their own unique way. It can get messy.
Next up was actor and comedian Cariad Lloyd. Cariad hosts the podcast Griefcast. I have been listening to some of her episodes and they are worth listening to for sure.
Last but not least Christa Couture talked to artist and designer Emily McDowel. Emily creates empathy cards that are to the point and sometimes full of humour.
Emily gave advice on what to say and what not to say when you have a friend that is grieving. I was glad to find her cards in one of our local greeting card shops.
You can listen to this episode of Tapestry at
Let me know if this or a part of it resonates with you as well.
Wishing you a wonderful Sunday,
PS: Take a step forward and sign up for the Healing Notes that will arrive in your inbox every second Sunday.
If you want to create rituals and the many ways you can honour your loved one join the Healing Rituals online course.
Click the link to find out more at Healing Rituals.
The last month has been heartbreaking.
You remember that our cat wasn’t well in the spring. She bounced back and we thought everything was OK. We thought/hoped that she had gotten over the hump and that she would live with us for another couple of years.
A month ago, she didn’t come home from her day outside. Over the last couple of years, she always stayed very close to the house. And even closer since she didn’t feel that well.
She always heard when I started to cook supper.
Immediately, I would have company in the kitchen.
She would wait for us to sit down for our meal. I don’t know when it started but over the last couple of years, she would get a few drops of cream on a small old plate on the floor. And we all ate together. (smile)
Later, she would spend the evening on one of our laps.
This isn’t happening anymore, because a month ago she didn’t return home.
We searched everywhere. We talked to neighboors, called all the shelters and vets, put up posters, and listed her missing on the local FB group.
We are coming to terms with the fact that she will not return. That she might have followed nature's call and went into hiding to die.
Every evening our heart breaks a bit more because she isn’t around anymore to share a meal with us.
Love is a huge gift and she has touched us deeply over the last ten years.
We are grieving the loss of our little companion. The loss of our fun times together, our rituals, our connection, and her trust that she gifted us with.
Our love for her will always be a part of us.
I am humbled again by my own grief that has enveloped me. I know it will get easier but we will always miss her and love her.
Take good care,
PS: I will take a few weeks off to recharge, traveling around Nova Scotia with friends, and spend some time in my art studio. (smile)
You can always reach me by email at jacqueline(at)healingforgrievinghearts.com
I hope you are doing well on this first weekend of summer.
Yesterday, I was drawn into the news by new images of the children detained by the US government.
Some of the images and one special audio file made me cry again for the children being left in this inhuman situation.
I want to talk about my concern for the children.
I am using an example from my own life. It doesn’t come close to what these children go through right now. But will illustrate how easy a child is changed by events out of its control.
When I was nine months old my family faced a difficult financial time. My mother had to step in to provide for the family. My older brother was looked after by my grandmother living in the same house. She didn’t feel comfortable to look after a nine months old baby as well.
So my mother had to make the hard decision to send her nine months old girl to her own family that lived six hours away. (An expensive day trip at that time.)
For the first six months I lived with my godfather and his family. During that time I learned to walk and to talk. The many photos show a happy toddler with her cousins.
Then my aunt got sick and my other grandmother looked after me for another three months. She did her best but she was not at all impressed with that toddler that hadn’t learned yet to use the potty. (smile)
When I was ‘returned’ to my mother I didn’t recognize her.
You wonder perhaps, if I remember anything of that time at all?
Yes and no. Lots of my memories have been planted in me by others that told me the stories about my time away from my birth family.
After my mother had passed, I found beautiful loving letters from my aunt that she had written during that time. She talked about me and how I integrated into the family and had started to call my godfather 'Papa'. My mother had kept them all those years. I am happy to still have them.
Almost all my life I have struggled with a feeling of not knowing where I belong.
And yes, I thought out help with my difficulty to trust in intimate relationships.
You see, something was lost during that time away from my parents. It influenced some of my relationships and life decisions.
Taking children of all ages away from their parents will influence their future as well. I was in a loving environment. These children are in a unthinkable terrifying situation. Nothing has prepared them for this. How will they ever understand why they are not with their mothers and fathers.
I am grieving for the trust in others that has been taken away from the children.
I am grieving the decision makers missing empathy.
I am grieving.
Love and blessings,
Over the last two weeks we have been battling with a bad Internet connection.
I don’t know how much time you spend on the Internet to get tasks done or surfing the web for research and connect to others on social media. I realized that lots of my work involves a stable internet connection.
It has been a frustrating time to say the least. The only solution we have left is to sign up for better internet speed. So on Tuesday, this will be taken care of.
Next to the frustration, I realized how much I have become dependent on the online work-flow.
Not having that possibility all the time at my finger tips was also a good thing. For instance I didn’t miss social media at all.
Yes, I do like that I can reach more people at far away places through Facebook. Yes, I do like that I can help people that have lost a loved one by being their online sounding board or pointing them to an online resource.
What I don’t like on social media is the noise of news I wasn’t looking for and the sometimes unfiltered expression of opinions.
What happened in the last two weeks instead?
I spent more time with friends and family. And more time in my studio creating new collages. The one above is one of my new creations. (Just having fun with my home-made marbling paper and collaging.)
When we get back on Tuesday, to being fully connected again, I would like to keep my online time restricted.
Have you ever imposed an Internet or social media detox?
What were your experiences?
Do you think that not being online would help your grieving process?
Or do you feel that being connected online to other grievers is so helpful that you wouldn’t want to miss it.
Wishing you two weeks of new personal connections on and off line. (smile)
Spring at last in Nova Scotia.
If you are not in these parts at home you might wonder why I declare spring only now.
Spring starts for me when the first leaves come out on a particular tree in our backyard.
Today, it happened.
The first leaves are out. They are small and fragile. The lush green is so wonderful to see - again.
A sunny warm day brought me out into the garden to tackle all kinds of weed. It is a hands-on job on my knees. It is not always comfortable to hunker down like that but the smell.
The smell of the fresh earth and the green gras just make my heart sing.
I was reminded again how important it is to dig in the earth. To take in the smells, and letting long forgotten memories pass me by while doing my work.
I felt tired afterwards but also rewarded and happy.
Did you know that multiple studies have shown how playing in the dirt can have a drastic impact on our mental health?
Here is a great short article by Alanna Ketler
So get out there if you feel a bit down. If you don’t have a garden yourself go to a public garden and put your hands into the soil.
Take off your shoes and walk the ground.
Have fun playing and getting dirty. (smile)
Take good care,
It has been two weeks of emotional stress. A good friend was so kind to bring me a plant as a late birthday gift.
What we both didn't realize or knew was that it can be a fatal idea to bring a lily into a household with pets.
Our cat got sick. First we didn't realize how serious it was. She vomited. She had the shakes. And then she stopped eating.
That was the moment I took her to the vet. When I told the doctor about all the symptoms she immediately asked: Do you have any lilies in your household?
The answer was unfortunately yes.
The blood and kidney levels had to be checked. The results were bad. I had to bring our cat to the emergency clinic. And she had to stay there for two days on IV fluids to flush out the toxins.
Then she came home and every night we had to put her back on the drip to get 150 ml under her skin. (Not a pleasant experience for all of us.)
Our cat is now much better and soon we can stop the regular IV drip. She does eat normal again and is enjoying the outside.
Why do I tell you this story?
The anticipatory grief was sometimes overwhelming. Blaming myself that I didn't know about the harm lilies can cause didn't help either.
I was reminded how fast a life can be lost. How fast a situation can change. That I can't keep everyone safe.
It also made me realize again what matters to me most. It is the ones that I love.
If you know what I mean go and give your loved ones a hug.
Tell them that you love them.
And keep lilies away from pets.
Take good care,
PS: Do you know how many poisonous house plants there are? Here is an impressive list.
Resilience has been on my mind lately again.
Psychologically resilience is defined as
an individual’s ability to adapt to stress and adversity.
Some of the factors that make someone resilient are:
This does not mean that you just have to think positively and everything will fall into place.
Resilience is much more than that.
After a tragedy, like an illness that changes a career one might be very realistic and deal with the new situation by adjusting her possibilities.
Another person might go on and pursue a dream they didn’t think was worth taking seriously before the tragic event.
A third will find new meaning because they believe that there is a better future.
Resilient people don’t walk between the raindrops; they have scars to show for their experience. They struggle — but keep functioning anyway. Resilience is not the ability to escape unharmed.
Quote by Hara Estroff Marano
And the following quote in regards to grief sums it up quite well.
If one has always met life’s problems with strength and assurance, it is reasonable to assume that he [she] will meet this experience the same way. One who has been easily distressed by circumstances may be so disturbed by the encounter with death that he [she] will need guidance and special help.
- Edgar N. Jackson
We forme resilience over a lifetime.
In reality we have considerable capacity for strength, although we might not always be aware of it. Feelings of loss and grief can overshadow our ability of resilience.
That is where a helping hand of a friend or a therapist comes in. She will remind you of your resilience, your strength and your abilities. He will help you overcome the sadness that overshadows them.
Sometimes you need others to show you your strength that you have built over a life time.
Take good care,
Jacqueline Steudler is an Art Therapist and Grief Recovery Specialist®.