Hard Times Don't Last Forever

 

Every week of Covid has felt like its own year. Whatever was happening last week is different this week. I remember thinking early on that this would be an important time in our lives to learn a lot about ourselves, but I really couldn't have imagined just how true that would be.

I've learned about myself as a wife, and a mother, a grief counselor, and as a citizen. I've learned how to plumb the depths of my own anxiety and also my resilience. I've discovered so many new layers to every relationship in my life. I've felt afraid and humbled, and also centered and inspired.

Whether you yourself are facing recent grief and anxiety, or feeling the uncertainty of day to day life, know that you are not alone. When we are grieving we often feel like we are wandering through a thick fog. Cultivating a steady practice of any sort can help us feel grounded.

I have found meditation to be the single-most helpful tool that I’ve learned in twenty years of struggling through grief. Setting a consistent meditation practice can enable us to return to the present moment and alleviate much of the anxiety and sadness we feel swept away by.

I know it's not over, not in any sense, but I feel far enough out into the sea of this new world to be able to see the shore and reflect on what it means to swim in these uncertain waters. I have hope that everything that is breaking down right now will be rebuilt in ways that are better for all of us.

Life is impossible to predict, but I am here to support you.

Love,

Claire


Helpful Grief Resources For You

My basic advice is to always seek out support for grief because it can be very overwhelming and also lonely and isolating. Finding online support groups, reading books and connecting with others who understand what you're going through is very healing. 

Online Support: 

Modern Loss - online community for all grievers

Dougy Center - for grieving children

Compassionate Friends - for grieving parents

Motherless Daughters - for women who have lost a mom

Soaring Spirits International - for widows and widowers

Death Over Dinner - community grief and loss

The Dinner Party - community grief and loss

Holding Steady - my free weekly live calls with grief experts

Books:

On Grief and Grieving - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

It's OK That You're Not OK - Megan Devine

Bearing the Unbearable - Joanne Cacciatore

Permission to Grieve - Tom Zuba

Anxiety the Missing Stage of Grief - Claire Bidwell Smith

Movies: 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

One More Time with Feeling

Coco

Truly Madly Deeply

P.S. I Love You

Podcasts:

Where's the Grief

What's Your Grief

Grief Out Loud

Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Grief Works


tips for managing anxiety

A Few Tips for Managing Anxiety

As someone who has been through a lot of loss, I tend to get anxious about things like the coronavirus. In case you do too, I wrote up some quick tips on managing that anxiety. For starters, it’s completely normal to feel anxiety around a situation like the coronavirus outbreak. But when we get stuck in a cycle of anxious thoughts it does not do us any good. We can become overly preoccupied with trying to "figure it out." We become obsessed with thoughts surrounding disastrous outcomes and how to prepare for them. Our brains are tricking us into thinking that this kind of rumination is helpful, when really it causes more stress.

Here are a few tips to calm yourself and harness those anxious thoughts.

  1. Limit your news reading/watching. Appoint a friend or family member to update you if there is something truly important to know.
  2. When you catch yourself having obsessive thoughts make an attempt to pivot to a different subject, and remind yourself that ruminating on it will only cause you more stress.
  3. Take advantage of a meditation app to soothe your mind and steer your thoughts away from anxious ones.
  4. Choose grounding activities - taking a walk, a bath, get a massage. When we send messages to our bodies that we are calm, our brain is better able to follow suit.
  5. Each time you find yourself stuck in an anxious disaster scenario try picturing something opposite. (I like to imagine myself at my daughter's wedding twenty years from now.) Allow yourself to dwell in the positive fantasy just as intensely as you had been with the negative, fear-based thought.

 

I hope you find these helpful. You are not alone.

Love,

Claire


Does Your Partner Understand Your Grief?

We've finally made it to February after the longest January ever! And with Valentine's Day around the corner I'm thinking about how grief impacts our romantic relationships. In all the years that I've been working to support people who are moving through loss, one of the biggest issues I've encountered is how grief and loss affects our relationships. Most people do not feel that their spouse or partner truly understands what they are going through when they are grieving, and this is something that can cause unnecessary strain and stress on the relationship.

Grief and loss can can also cause us develop anxious or avoidant tendencies in our relationships, making us fearful about opening up and being truly vulnerable with the people we love.

These are normal reactions, even when they are problematic. Of course it's scary to love someone when you've experienced loss. Being compassionate with yourself in this area is vital. Finding ways to communicate with your partner about how you're feeling, and what it's like to have loss in your life, is also important.

Overall, one of the best ways I've found to ease that tension in your relationship is to find other outlets for your grief. We tend to expect our partners to be fill every role in our lives, but that's not realistic and generally just impossible. Joining a local grief group, finding an online community, or reading books about grief that make you feel validated and nurtured can help take the pressure off your partner and help you feel understood and soothed through other outlets.

If you have lost a parent and would like to do more work around this area in relation to your partner, consider singing up for my online course Supporting Your Partner Through Loss. Using the included workbook and audio presentation, you and your partner work through the material together.

Love,

Claire


Healing in the New Year

I love a new year, a fresh start, and a welcomed beginning. But new years are also tinged with sadness and nostalgia for me. Each new year marks another without my mom, my dad, and other beloved friends I have lost. Each new year reminds me that I am moving forward, while they are not. 

This realization hit me hardest the first year after my mother's death. Age eighteen, I remember sinking to the floor of a back hallway in a nightclub where I was ringing in the new year with my boyfriend. My legs literally buckled with the thought of entering into a year in which my mother had not lived. And while my grief is no longer as visceral as it was then, I always find myself reflective in the new year.

In recent past I've taken to committing to two things in order to both honor and heal my grief. I commit to better self-care (an obvious one, I know, but one that does get neglected when we are grieving) and I also commit to finding new ways to connect with and memorialize my lost loved ones. I choose ways to volunteer or create in their honor, I write them letters, and I put up fresh photos or find a piece of my mother's jewelry to wear.

Most importantly, I let it be okay that I still carry sadness. I let it be okay that my life has been forever changed by these losses. We cannot make strides, nor heal or grow, if we do not first accept the very place from which we are desiring those things. Let it be okay that you are not over your loss. Remember that two things can be true at once: you can forever hold sadness over your loss, and you can also work to create a meaningful life for yourself. 

Big love in the new year,

Claire


Telling the Story of Loss

In my work, I’ve come to understand that one of the significant reasons anxiety manifests after the death of a loved one is from not allowing ourselves to fully examine the story of our loss. Some people suppress their stories simply out of not having a natural outlet, and others do so from fear of feeling more pain. In the clinical world this is called grief avoidance, and it can be quite common and normal to want to avoid confronting the loss so directly.

But several things happen when we stifle our stories of loss. Namely we lose the opportunity to really explore that story, to unpack it, to deeply understand it, and to give it a home outside of our bodies. When we find ways to externalize the story we gain the opportunity to see the different ways in which the story we are holding onto serves us or harms us. 

The truth is that even if you are not sharing your story, you are still carrying it around inside of you. Finding ways to let it out, to look at it in the bright light of day, and to share it, helps it breathe a little. It helps us breathe too.

As a species, storytelling is one of our most ancient forms of communication. It is the way in which we have passed down lineage and preserved history. Telling stories is one of the most essential ways we learn about ourselves and our world.

Even if you do not consider yourself a natural storyteller you must recognize your innate ability to be one anyway. Think of the story you tell about how you met your significant other, or how you came to adopt your dog, or the first car you ever bought. There is always a story. And now there is the story of how you lost one of the most important people in your life.

I invite you to join Tembi Locke and myself next month for a 6-week memoir writing course, focused specifically around writing about loss. It will be a healing, cathartic, safe, and inspiring experience beginning October 5th. Spaces are filling up fast - I hope you'll join us!


A Season of Change

Hi Friends!

Summer is almost over and fall will be here soon. This change in season marks a transition for many of us - sometimes it's back to school, or a change in work temp, an end to languid summer days and the beginning of a more focused time in our lives. I've been thinking about this as my family goes through its own big transition - this month we relocated from Los Angeles, California to Charleston, South Carolina. We are excited for this change and for a different pace of life but it hasn't been without difficulty.

As we said goodbye to our friends and community in Los Angeles I was reminded of the many ways we grieve in this lifetime. Most people associate grief with death and the loss of a person, but grief takes many forms and can grow from almost any kind of transition. We can lose a job or end a relationship with a friend, say goodbye to a sweet pet, or move across the country - grief arises for all of those things.

And each time I experience fresh grief in my life I am reminded of how simple it is. I mean, grief is always layered and complicated, but the way to move through it is always the same. We simply must face it. We must steep in it and feel it and let it have its way with us. There is no way around it. The feelings of sadness and yearning and heart-wrenching angst - they are unavoidable. We must give way to them in order for them to pass.

It can feel scary to do this - to really let grief wash over you and through you, but I promise that surrendering to it is easier than fighting it. When we fight grief or try to suppress the feelings that come, it will manifest in anger, depression and anxiety. So hold tight, reach out to a friend and grab a box of tissues, and let yourself grieve. You're not the only one. You're never alone.

Love,

Claire


grief meditation claire bidwell smith

Meditation for Grief

grief meditation claire bidwell smith

Grief is an inescapable experience. Yet our first impulse to it is usually to run away from it. Facing all the painful feelings that come along with a loss can be overwhelming. Often we are experiencing this much pain for the very first time in our lives, and it's completely normal to try to do everything we can not to feel it.

Yet the truth is that when we can allow ourselves to open up to the pain of loss when we can create space to feel all the emotions that arise...that is when we heal. Sometimes people are afraid that if they open that door the pain will engulf them, or that if they start crying they may never stop, but the opposite is true - it is when we can let all the emotions come forth that they will eventually begin to ease.

Meditation is a beautiful way to make space for all the thoughts and feelings that arise when we are grieving. We spend so much of our days filling in any quiet space - we watch the news, we scroll through social media, we go to work, socialize with friends, keep busy with errands and tidying our houses - it's a wonder any of us ever sit still anymore. But sitting still when we are grieving is deeply important to the process, even if it's the last thing you want to do.

I remember when I tried meditation for the first time after my parents died - it seemed so hard and scary. I had spent years filling up all of my time so that I wouldn't have to feel anything. When I finally sat still it all came rushing forth. In the beginning, I cried a lot during meditation. But that was good! I needed to cry. I needed to release all the sadness I'd been carrying around. Eventually, I stopped crying and I was able to go even deeper into my meditation practice, something that led me to the peaceful place I'm in today.

Meditation has been the single-most helpful tool that I’ve learned in twenty years of struggling through grief. I know that for many, meditation can seem intimidating but the only requirement is that you have an open mind and that you don’t put pressure on yourself to do this perfectly.

In order to help you get started, I’ve created a meditation mini-course to guide you through the beginning steps of creating space for this in your life. Use the meditations in this course as often as you feel necessary and remember that creating space for all that you are feeling is what will see you through to a more peaceful place. 

Love,

Claire

View my Meditation Mini-Course Preview


Summer Grief Support

Happy Summer, friends.

This time of year is often relaxing, but can be stressful as well. Routines are thrown off and it's easy to feel off-center. That's why I want to share some Summer Grief and Loss Support resources with you.

  • Free 7-Minute Guided Meditation
  • With concrete tools and coping strategies for panic attacks, getting a handle on anxious thoughts, and more, Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief  bridges these two emotions in a way that is deeply empathetic and eminently practical.
  • After purchasing Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief, enter your receipt information here to gain access to my 50-page workbook that goes hand in hand with each chapter and helps you apply the concepts and tools to your unique situation.
  • A Safe Place to Grieve (Self-Guided Course) is based on the process I use every day with my grief therapy clients. Now anyone anywhere can take advantage of these tools instantly.
  • My Meditation Online Course is for anyone seeking relief from the depression and anxiety that accompany grief. Cultivating a meditation practice can enable us to return to the present moment and alleviate much of the anxiety and sadness we feel swept away by when we are grieving.

I hope you will take care of your heart and mind over the next couple of months with some of these support tools. Enjoy the rest of your Summer!

Love,
Claire


Do You Wish Your Partner Understood Your Loss?

Have you ever wished that your partner understood your loss on a deeper level? Or wished that they had the understanding and tools to help you through hard moments or anniversaries?

One of the hardest parts about losing my parents has been just wanting my partner to understand this part of my life.

I've wished simply that my husband could have met my parents. I've wished that he could really understand why certain days are hard for me. I've struggled with having in-laws when I don't have my own parents. And I've struggled with feelings of security or trust within my partnerships, as a direct result of having experienced so much loss.

Parent loss at any age plays out throughout our lifetimes in a variety of ways, but most often within the dynamics of a romantic relationship. Often when I sit with groups of other women who have lost a parent I wish that my partner could be listening in. I want him to understand that I'm not the only one, that I'm not crazy for still being sad or having hard days. And I've had so many clients tell me that they have the same wish, and the same struggles in their relationships. I've even worked one on one with clients and their partners to help them better understand loss as a way of improving their own relationship.

 

Partner Support through Loss

I'm so excited to announce that I've now designed a whole course around this: Supporting Your Partner Through Loss.

If you are a woman who has lost a parent (at any age) and you wish that your partner understood your loss on a deeper level then please consider taking this course. The course is something you and your partner can do together, at your own pace, and I guarantee that you'll come out of it stronger and more connected.

We'll be talking about why losing a parent is difficult for a woman, what the long-term effects are like, why certain days or life experiences can make her feel the loss more acutely, and then tying it all together with practical tips and tools for a partner to learn so that they can help support her through it all. I know that something like this would have saved me years of angst and miscommunication in various relationships throughout my life. The course is online, inexpensive, and I swear it's relatively harmless - I even picked my own husband's brain about what he would or would not tolerate for something like this!

If you'd like to explore this opportunity, go here.

Love,
Claire