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


grief during the holidays claire bidwell smith

Coping with Grief During the Holidays

grief during the holidays claire bidwell smith
Today I want to talk about grief during the holidays. The holidays are upon us and it can be a loaded time if you are grieving—or even if it's been a long time since you've lost someone, but they were a significant person in your life. The holidays can bring up so much, like sadness and reflection and other big feelings.

I know this is a time of year when my clients want to talk about the holidays. The actual day is hard, but sometimes the whole season can be hard. Even just the anticipation of the holidays can bring on a certain feeling of anxiety and sadness. The holidays can also be very sweet, with lots of great memories associated. So this is a time when things can be confusing and big feelings can come up.

In my podcast episode below, I share my own experience on coping with the holidays and offer you actionable tips to help you cope this holiday season. In this podcast, I share:

  • My own recent experience with the holidays
  • How to be kind to yourself this holiday season
  • A list of things you can do to get through the holidays this year
  • And a way to honor your person during this holiday season

 


resilient grieving claire bidwell smith

10 Helpful Tips for Resilient Grieving

resilient grieving claire bidwell smith
Resilient grieving is the idea that we can take active measures and steps to find strength and learn coping tools in the face of loss, even when the pain seems unbearable.

An evolving field of research has recently acknowledged our capacity for resiliency, the natural human ability to face trauma and loss by finding ways to thrive, become more in tune with our lives, and create new ways to make meaning out of our experiences.

As someone who has been through my own share of grief, and who has seen hundreds of others move through the process, I know that resilient grieving isn’t for everyone. I believe there are certain personalities and circumstances that more readily lend themselves to this philosophy. But I also believe that there are tools and ideas within resilient grieving that all of us can use. More importantly, many of these techniques can reduce anxiety.

Resilient grieving is about being proactive in your grief process. It’s about letting yourself cry and mourn, but also taking a look at your coping methods and earnestly beginning to reshape your life. It’s about not letting your world fall irrevocably apart as a result of this loss. For some people this may feel out of tune with your natural grief process – some people feel that dusting themselves off and getting on with their lives means letting go of their loved one, but that’s not what resiliency is about.

There are ways to stay connected to your loved one and also begin to live a new life without them, as painful as that may initially sound. I really do believe there is a way to balance the mourning process with resilience, and that building resilience will serve to reduce your anxiety and leave you feeling less overwhelmed.

So how do we go about doing this? Here are some basic ideas about resilient grieving that you can begin to employ in your life right now.

Re-establish Routines

Returning to a regular schedule and routine, despite the changes that you have incurred, immediately soothes the brain and lets our unconscious know that we are safe again. This has a calming effect on the body and central nervous system, leading us away from some of those bodily responses that can easily trigger a panic attack.

When my mother died I took a year-long hiatus from college. I had no sense of routine – I stayed up late, traveled on a whim, did nothing predictable. At the time this felt like what I wanted – my mother was gone; nothing should be the same. But in retrospect, I think it would have perhaps been more beneficial for me to remain in school and continue as planned, while still grieving. Being unmoored like that, out in the world, increased my anxiety and my sense that there was nothing to rely upon.

Examine What is Working

Dr. Hone encourages grievers to ask themselves if their behavior is “helping or harming.” This means paying attention to the thoughts you are focusing on. Are you obsessing on feelings of guilt, continually running through a list of “what ifs”, or replaying traumatic images?

These are all normal responses to loss. It’s as though our mind wants to turn the experience over in our heads like a Rubix cube, trying to make sense of it, trying to line up the events in order to reach a different outcome. Again, this is normal and expected, but after a certain period of time we must begin to release these thoughts and move away from them.

If you find yourself continually replaying certain thoughts stop and ask yourself if they are actually helping in some way. If they are not, then it is time to let go of these thoughts. We’ll cover more strategies for “retraining” your brain in Chapter Eight.

Ask for Help

This one may seem obvious but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered who shrink from this in the face of grief. Either they assume that no one around them will be able to truly help, or they are afraid to ask for help. Letting the people around you know what you need – whether that’s household help, financial planning assistance, or simply someone to listen – can ease the burden you are carrying. I think you’ll be surprised by how ready your community is to help you once they have an understanding of how.

Nurture Your Physical Body

This is often the first thing to go out the window. When we are grieving it is common to experience a lack of appetite, lethargy, sleeplessness. Being proactive about your health during this time is vital. Healthy foods, exercise, and rest will greatly reduce your stress and anxiety levels.

Seek Positives

When we are grieving there is the tendency to look at the whole world through gloom-colored glasses. In the initial grieving process, or if you have let things stagnate for too long, we can become mired in seeing negativity everywhere.

For years I could only look at my life through the lens of having lost my parents. I saw only what I didn’t have, and all the ways in which my life was ruined as a result of their deaths. Finally I began to actively work to acknowledge the positive aspects of my life and doing this turned everything around for me.

This isn’t always an easy process – it requires diligence and focus. Sitting down and making gratitude lists, reminding yourself to bask in positive moments and experiences, and remembering that embracing life again doesn’t mean letting go of your loved one.

Distractions

The habit of dwelling on negative thoughts, or what psychologists calls rumination, can become exactly that – a habit. Actively working to break this cycle by distracting yourself with positive activities can help break this pattern. Go to the movies, take up gardening or some other hobby, beginning to socialize with people who make you feel comfortable, can have a profound effect on reducing negative cycles of thoughts that cause anxiety.

Create Rituals

Find ways that feel good to you to bring your loved one into your life. Our inner selves crave connection with our loved ones. Don’t deny this impulse. Create your own ways to continue that bond. Make their favorite meals, light a candle every night, tell stories about them, start a project in their honor or find a way to be of service for a cause that they cared about.

Connect with Others

Sometimes being around people can be difficult after a major loss. Finding the right people to share company with can make all the difference. Take a look at the people in your life and put distance between yourself and anyone that makes you uncomfortable right now.

Also, seek out people who understand what you’re going through. Join a support group, reach out to a friend who is also familiar with loss. Finding ways to feel a little less alone in your grief will be incredibly soothing.

Make Meaning

Finding ways to make meaning of the loss is invaluable to your sense of peace. This doesn’t mean making sense of why that person died now, but rather, finding ways to make their loss and your grief meaningful.

Did your loved have a cause they were passionate about? Continue the work in their honor. Has your pain made you more compassionate? Find ways to use that in ways to help others.

Accept the Loss

A lot of resilience work involves truly accepting the loss. For many of us this means simply facing our grief, opening ourselves up to the changes in our world, and working to genuinely step into the pain as a way of moving through it. This can feel incredibly frightening but doing this work is never as scary as we think it’s going to be.

*This is an excerpt from Chapter Five of my new book, Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief. To read more, order your copy here today!*


loved ones claire bidwell smith

Can Our Loved Ones See Us from the Other Side?


Finding ways to feel connected to our loved ones is a vital part of the healing process. Seeing a psychic medium is one way to feel that connection, but is it real? How does it work? And what is it like to really work with a psychic medium?

I’m excited to introduce you to my friend and favorite psychic medium, Fleur. I first met Fleur a few years ago when I was working on my book, After This. At this point, I thought I was done seeing psychic mediums. But around this time that I was working on my book, one of my best friends died. My friend Abby was 38 years old and a mom of two small kids and we had been friends for almost twenty years. Losing her was really, really hard. We met when we were both waitresses working in NYC in our twenties—and we saw each other through a lot of big, adult moments: moving to LA together,  getting married, having babies and forging our career paths. And she got breast cancer. Saying goodbye to her and watching her family say goodbye to her was one of the hardest things I’ve been through in my life. I really ached for her family and her children.

Six weeks after she died, I got an email from her husband one morning. And he said he’d gotten an email from a mom at his children’s school. She said she’d been to a big group reading with a psychic medium named Fleur—and that Abby had come through really strongly.

I was so curious about this medium, so I booked an appointment with Fleur. And the only open spot she had available was the morning after Abby’s memorial service.

In my podcast episode below, I share why my session with Medium Fleur was life-changing and we also have a deep conversation about life on the other side. Fleur answers the questions we all have about connecting with our loved ones who have passed on and so much more in this candid interview.

I hope this serves you as much as it has for me.

Love,

Claire


anxiety and grief claire bidwell smith

My Story of Anxiety and Grief

anxiety and grief claire bidwell smith
Today I want to share my own experience that you may be able to relate with. This is an excerpt from the introduction of my upcoming book, 
Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief, which will be released next week.

I wrote this book to help as many people as possible to understand what anxiety is, how it’s related to grief and the process of digging deeper to move through the feelings that are causing the anxiety.

To get a better understanding of the whole picture, how anxiety and grief work together, I’d like to share with some of my own experience with anxiety and grief:

I was fourteen when both of my parents got cancer at the same time. I was an only child, and the prospect of losing my family was something that loomed over me throughout adolescence. While my father’s prostate cancer was treated easily and he quickly went into remission, my mother’s late-stage colon cancer took us on a rollercoaster of hospitals and doctors and seemingly endless treatments.

My parents were wonderful people. They’d met and married late in life, both of them each other’s third marriages. My father was an engineer and a WWII POW. My mother was a glamorous artist living in Manhattan. She was forty and he was fifty-seven when I was born, and even though my father had three grown children from his first marriage, my mother had always wanted one of her own. I was born in 1978 in Atlanta, Georgia and for a long time our lives were good.

But by the time I headed off to college my father was in his seventies and my mother’s cancer had begun to win the five-year battle she’d been fighting. She died midway through my freshman year at a small liberal arts school in Vermont. I didn’t make it in time to be by her side during her final moments.

My mother’s death rocked me. I was absolutely floored by it. Nothing could have prepared me for it. Not the five years we’d spent helping her combat her illness, not the talks my father had with me about her potential demise, not the school guidance counselor’s sessions. The truth was I never believed she would actually die. Because: Mothers don’t die. Bad things don’t actually happen.

I now understand that these beliefs were at the root of my anxiety. When my mother’s death disproved the two things I’d so fervently held onto, the whole floor dropped out. If my mother could die, anything, absolutely anything could happen.

I took a hiatus from school and moved back home to Georgia to help my father pack up the house. I got a job as a waitress and I struggled to relate to my old friends from high school who came around to check on me. No one I knew had experienced so significant a loss. Everyone was sympathetic but nonetheless, I felt very alone in my grief.

The anxiety attacks continued to surface. I lived in fear of having them, and I navigated a constant undercurrent of panic. I worried that my father was going to die at any moment. I worried that I would die. And less concrete than those fears, I simply felt a yawing dizziness at the idea that life was completely out of my control.

I turned to alcohol to quell the anxiety, and I attached myself to a young man who had recently lost a family member and who was deep in the throes of his own grief. Together we made our way to New York City, and it was there, in a college psychology class, where I realized for the first time, that what had happened all those years ago on the road trip with my high school boyfriend: I’d had a panic attack.

Understanding this was the first step in my healing process. Recognizing that I had anxiety as a result of my mother’s death actually helped me to better face the loss and enter into my grief. Losing someone we love is so deeply painful that we often turn away from the feelings, rather than letting them course through us. But when we choose to push away difficult emotions they don’t just disappear, they simply fester beneath the surface causing anger, frustration, and anxiety.

Find out more and pre-order Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief today!

Love,

Claire


claire bidwell smith

Finding Meaning After Loss

meaning after loss claire bidwell smith
I recently turned 40 and I spent the morning sitting on my patio writing in my journal and reflecting on the last year. Birthdays are always hard for me. No matter how festive or sweet or quiet or loud, something always feels to be missing. I always feel a strange sort of embarrassment or shame or melancholy, and I know that all of this has to do with no longer having the two people who brought me into this world.

Some years are harder than others, and this morning I was thinking about why. I realized that the years in which I didn't feel melancholy were the years in which I spent my birthday in service of some kind. This realization led me to think about the bigger concept of being in service.

It was a couple of years after my father died when I found myself working in helping capacities – first at a nonprofit supporting underserved school kids, then at an organization that helped homeless people find jobs, after that in hospice, and now in private practice as a grief counselor. Every single day now I talk to people who are hurting, people who are lost, and people who feel alone. Every single day I work to step out of my way and give something of myself to the community around me.

This is the number one thing that has led me out of my grief and pain. Finding a way to feel useful and purposeful in the world, making meaning out of tragedy, and giving what I can of myself, has changed my life. If you are grieving right now, or even just in pain of some kind, I recommend spending an hour or two, or even more, doing things for other people. I promise that those couple of hours will be the ones during your week that glow with peace and love. 

There are no quick fixes to grief. It's a long process with ups and downs, but the things that I know that actually provide relief from the suffering are meditation, finding ways to be of service, and journaling.

If you’d like guidance on your grief process, my online grief program, A Safe Place to Grieve is now available in a self-guided version. Learn more here.

If you're grieving right now and you haven't tried these things, give them a shot. I promise they'll ease some of your pain. 

Love,

Claire


regret guilt grief claire bidwell smith

Dealing with Regret in Grief

regret guilt grief claire bidwell smith

 

Today I want to explore grief and regret with you. To date I have never had a client who did not experience some form of regret following the loss of a loved one. Something left unsaid, a decision made near the end that they wish they could change, or a situation unresolved. After a loss these regrets can haunt us endlessly.

For several years after my mother died I obsessed about various things I did and didn't do towards the end of her life. It had been so hard to see her sick, so scary to see her turn into someone I didn't recognize, that I often withdrew from her, something that caused me great pain in reflection.

But by far, the hardest one was the night she died. I had left college and was on my way to the hospital, seven hours away. Halfway there I stopped to see a boy I had a crush on and decided to stay the night. Some of this decision came from avoidance and denial. But a lot of it was just my teenage naiveté. Nonetheless, my father called in the middle of the night to tell me that I had not made it in time, and that she was gone. 

The remorse I carried over this ate me up for years. I couldn't believe that I had failed my mother in such selfish ways. I turned that fateful night over in my head like a Rubix cube, trying desperately to change the outcome. I cried and cried, and I wrote my dead mother endless letters telling her how sorry I was. 

Eventually, years down the road, I was able to forgive myself. After I became a counselor I saw just how many people feel regret following a loss. And I was finally able to see myself in the context of so many others: as a human being, fallible and fragile, and full of love and fear and humanity.

We cannot change our past, but we can forgive ourselves. And we can recognize that we feel this pain because we loved someone so much. And that there is endless beauty in that. 

If you find yourself consumed with regret following a loss know that working through these feelings is your path to healing and eventual peace. Find a therapist to talk through the emotions with. Write letters to your lost loved one. Forgive yourself.

You are not alone.

Love,
Claire


online grief program claire bidwell smith

A Safe Place to Grieve (Self-Guided Online Grief Program)

Dear Friends,

When my parents died twenty years ago I didn’t know where to turn for grief support. I felt so isolated from my peers, and the grief process I endured was incredibly lonely. I so wish there had been a program like the one I am now launching. And that’s exactly why I’ve created it.

I’ve been wanting to offer this to you for years. And now that dream has come true. A Safe Place to Grieve (previously called Growing and Thriving Through Loss) allows me to serve so many more individuals than I could possibly work with one-on-one. Now, anyone, anywhere, anytime can receive support, community, and guidance as they walk their path with loss.

During the live program sessions, participants also have access to our private Facebook group and direct interaction with me. This is one of the most healing parts of this opportunity for those who want to connect with others who have experienced loss and can deeply understand their what they've been through. 

Of course, the online program experience is different than talk therapy, but I use the same tools and approaches to grief work over the course of these six weeks that I use in my individual sessions.

A Safe Place to Grieve self-guided program includes:

  • Weekly videos (plus transcripts)
  • Printable weekly workbooks
  • Weekly audio meditations
  • Printable journaling workbook
  • Access to the program website
  • Private Facebook group for sharing this journey with fellow participants and receiving my support
  • Daily emails to guide you every step of the way

Throughout the course we move through the following topics in-depth, bringing healing and peace to all the different areas in which you are currently struggling.

Week One: What does it really mean to grieve? We explore the process and your own individual path.

Week Two: We dive into the deep stuff like guilt, anger, and anything left unresolved following your loss.

Week Three: All about anxiety. How it relates to your loss, how to manage it, and how to overcome it.

Week Four: What does it mean to find resilience within your grief process? We take inventory of your life and where the big shifts need to happen.

Week Five: Staying connected. The key to alleviating much of your pain is learning how to stay connected (or reconnect) with your loved one. There are more ways than you think.

Week Six: Moving forward doesn’t mean letting go. Embracing your new normal and learning how to make meaning and find purpose.  

I hope to have the chance to share this program experience with you. I promise it won’t be scary or overwhelming. I’ve walked this path myself and I’ve walked it alongside so many others. There is another side to grief. Let me help you get there.

Sign up here to be the first to know when the next session is open for registration.

Love,
Claire


birthdays holidays anniversaries loved ones claire bidwell smith

Honoring Holidays, Anniversaries & Birthdays for Loved Ones


There are so many difficult dates after you lose someone you love. Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays - there seems to be one around every bend, and each one brings on its own set of emotions. In the twenty years since my parents died I've experienced a multitude of reactions to these dates and some years are more painful than others. I can never be quite sure which dates will hold big emotions for me, and which ones will float under the surface quietly. But what I do know is that it helps me to do something to honor my parents on the dates that hold intense feelings for me.

For my father's ten year death anniversary I took a private flight lesson in a tiny Cessna. My father had been a pilot in the war and flying was a great love of his. For me, piloting this little airplane over the coast of Los Angeles ten years after his death, helped me feel closer to him than I had in years. I knew he would have loved the way my heart pounded as we ascended into the clouds and that he would have been proud of all the strength and resilience I'd found in the years since he'd been gone.

And after my daughters were born I began a ritual of making a cake with them each year on my mother's birthday. We use my mom's old mixer and measuring cups and spoons, and as we bake I tell them stories about how I used to bake with her. The whole act invokes her presence, not just for me, but for my daughters who never knew her in real life. After we're done we even light candles and sing to her, and hearing my mother's name on the lips of my daughters' never fails to fill my heart.

There are so many ways to ritualize and honor our passed loved ones. When we find ways to do so it creates healing and a sense of connection that is otherwise missing. Cook something they loved or make a reservation at their favorite restaurant. Plant flowers or indulge in a hobby they enjoyed. Watch their old favorite movie, gather friends or family for a meal and to share memories, or simply light a candle by their photo and say hello. (Check out Allison Gilbert's book Passed and Present for even more ideas.)

Additionally, I offer a self-guided online grief program: A Safe Place to Grieve. The program is based on the process I use every day with my grief therapy clients. You are guided through six sections using my meditations and videos, workbook, journal, emails and more.

Our hearts yearn to stay connected to the people we have lost. Honor that yearning, honor your relationship, and honor the love that you will always have for them.

Love,
Claire


kids grief claire bidwell smith

How to Help Kids with Grief and Loss

kids grief claire bidwell smith

Today I want to talk about kids and grief. Our children will inevitably experience loss. Sometimes it is directly – the loss of a friend or family member, and sometimes it is peripheral – witnessing a classmate lose someone or becoming aware of a national tragedy. Death is a complicated concept for children to comprehend. They feel it on a visceral, emotional level, but they are not quite able to understand it on a cognitive level.

When we experience loss as adults we not only feel it deeply, but we take in the big picture in such a way that it makes the pain even sharper. Often children cannot even comprehend that they will truly never see the deceased person again. They are not able to foresee all that their lives will look like as a result of the loss, and cannot imagine the important milestones and life moments a deceased person will miss. Instead, children and adolescents are very much in the moment. What does it look like right now to have the person gone? What does it feel like in this moment?

The best thing you can do is meet them exactly where they are. Talking about the loss with them in very simple and direct terms is helpful. Taking time to answer their questions, even if sometimes you have to say, "I don't know" as a response is important. Use clear language and allow them the time to come and go from their own thoughts. Simply providing space for them to process it in whatever way they do is vital. Giving them permission to feel everything they feel and providing a non-judgemental space in which they can explore their thoughts will benefit them greatly.

Lastly, teaching them about ritual or helping them find ways to memorialize the person is incredibly helpful. Check out Allison Gilbert’s Passed and Present for creative ideas on memorializing objects belonging to loved ones.

And here is a list of some of my favorite children’s books that really help open up conversation and understanding around death:

The Elephant in the Room

Meet Me at the Moon

What's Heaven?

Where are you?

Lifetimes

The Invisible String

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf

I know it can be intimidating to talk with your kids about grief. For some it can open up your own grief in ways you’re not ready to confront. For others it can be scary to not have all the answers. But again, simply providing space for them to process their own thoughts and fears provides enormous healing.

Love,

Claire