Over a period of several years, my life seemed like an impossible obstacle course. I was a card carrying member of the sandwich generation. For 10 years, I was my mother’s primary caregiver and she was in and out of hospitals, emergency rooms, and even hospices, until her death in 2009. My husband’s photography business failed, thanks to the economy. My daughter went through a challenging adolescence. We had to sell our family home and in the course of seven years, moved four times. I worked at a job I didn’t love, but needed the money, and then lost that, thanks to the economy. Then my husband and I got divorced. Within just the past three years, I lost two of my closest friends, and both my beloved dogs.

I know I’m not alone in having faced difficulties — I see it happening all around me all the time. And truthfully, as challenging as these years have been, they have also been pretty miraculous. Read More →

Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, 3,300 years ago, led by Moses, a.k.a. Charlton Heston in the movie The Ten Commandments. It is the story of a heroic and daring Exodus from slavery to freedom and it is also the story of 40 years of misery and complaining and suffering. This Passover marks the fifth anniversary of my separation and eventual divorce… and somehow misery, complaining and suffering come to mind.

But neither story ends there. I know it’s a little nuts to equate the end of a marriage to the end of slavery and it’s certainly an exaggeration, but like many marriages, it started to feel like we were wandering in the desert with no hope of a promised land. We were staying together more out of stubbornness and obligation, rather than deep connection and love. We both felt trapped and needed to escape the bondage of our marriage vows. Read More →

Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true, because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad. If two people were married and…they just had a great thing, and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times.

— Louis C.K.

A few years ago, when I was in the midst of my very very difficult and horrible divorce, I did a lot of reading about divorce, loss and grief. I learned that divorce is like a death and — in some ways worse — because the pain of betrayal and hurt is so intense. When once you were partners and lovers — now you feel like enemies. And it hurts. A lot. Read More →

But listen to me
For one moment quit being sad

Hear blessings dropping their blossoms all around you.


Every morning when I wake up these days, I find I am in various states of sadness, hopelessness, despair, discontent. And every morning I have a practice of reading, writing and meditating.

This is where I find God. Okay, before you stop reading or think I’m nuts, I honestly don’t know what I mean by God. I certainly don’t mean the kind of God who’s sitting in a big throne somewhere, looking down, but I do mean something, some kind of force that is greater than myself, kind of like “let the force be with you” thing. Because, when I do let go and let God, I find answers. Daily.

Read More →

Divorce. Death. Job loss. Moving. Daughter leaving home. Empty nest. Really empty nest. Two dogs, no job. Financial insecurity. Fear.

In 2009 I went through almost the entire list of life’s most stressful events. To say I got hit by what felt like a tsunami of loss would not be an exaggeration. I was in so much pain, I could barely take a deep breath.

I was never a big crier and suddenly I found myself crying. A lot. Read More →

IMG_24741This morning I woke up at 5 a.m. from a bad dream. I was on my way to a job interview somewhere in midtown Manhattan and I ended up in Canada. Lost. No offense to Canada, but I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and dread. I was too embarrassed in the dream to call the person I was meeting, so I just quickly woke up and tried to shake off the feeling that the dream left me with.

In some ways, I do feel lost. And sometimes I feel sad and sometimes I feel depressed and sometimes life feels too hard.

Someone I actually love, my ex-husband, is on his fifth week of chemo Read More →

Recently I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a few years. She is in middle of a nasty divorce. “This is a nightmare!” she told me. They have kids, so both custody and finances are at the heart of the dispute.

My own divorce was final two years ago and in some ways it feels like a lifetime ago. Our divorce was also extremely unpleasant and I hope never to go through anything like that again in my life. I did a great deal of reading about divorce and one of the many books I read seemed to resonate the most: Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life, by Abigail Trafford. She says that for many couples, certainly not all, but for so many of us, the first two years Read More →

It seems like every day I speak to a friend who is either racing off to the hospital to see a parent who’s ill, or a spouse, a friend, or dealing with their own illness, or divorce, or job loss. It’s not that I don’t know people whose lives are great – but the reality is that millions of us are dealing with difficult challenges. 
As Pema Chodron, the Buddhist writer says in When Things Fall Apart:
“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”
In 2009, I had my own personal “tsunami.” My 23 year marriage ended, I had no job, my mother died, my daughter moved 3,000 miles away, and I had to move, with two dogs. Life dealt me a hand that left me broken.  I felt like I was under water and couldn’t breathe.
A dear friend pointed me in the direction of Eckhart Tolle’s book, The New Earth and I read this:
“Whenever tragic loss occurs you either resist, or you yield.  Some people become bitter or deeply resentful; others become compassionate, wise and loving. Yielding means inner acceptance of what is. You are open to life. Resistance is an inner contraction, a hardening of the shell of the ego.  You are closed.  Whatever action you take in a state of resistance (which we could also call negativity) will create outer resistance and the universe will not be on your side: life will not be helpful. If the shutters are closed, the sunlight cannot come in.  When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up. If action is possible or necessary your action will be aligned with the whole and supported by creative intelligence, the unconditioned consciousness, which in a state of inner openness you become one with. Circumstances and people then become helpful, cooperative. Coincidences happen.  If no action is possible, you rest in the inner piece that comes with surrender.  You rest in God.”
This became like a mantra to me. (A long one, I know.)  I typed it up and carried it with me.  And honestly, circumstances and people didbecome helpful. 
One night at Friends In Deed in New York City, a “pragmatic, spiritual crisis center,” I attended a workshop on grief. I told myself I was willing to go anywhere for help, but it didn’t hurt that Friends In Deed was just up the block.
Here is what I learned:

Grief is the natural response to loss. Loss is a perceived change in circumstances plus a perceived change in personal identity. Grief now becomes a lifelong companion, never leaving you in the beginning, softened over time, but never leaving completely. If the person meant anything to you, the loss of them will visit you, sometimes when you least expect it.
The five stages of grief Elizabeth Kubler-Ross defined—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—are helpful, but perhaps the stages are not linear and maybe there are better models.  And what about relief?  What about guilt?  
Another model for grief is shock, disorganization, reorganization.  
There are three levels to grief – the first level is the loss of the person, the life.  The second level is the practical issues, the loss of income, a home, structure.  The third level, the constant reminders: you pick up the phone to call the person, you cook for two instead of one, you look at the chair he or she sat in.
First comes disintegration, then eventually reintegration…”the new normal.”  The spaciousness and the possibilities begin to return.  Grief is natural, like breathing.  Try to let it happen, let it run its own course.  One day you’re on the floor and then surprising yourself, you find you’re going out on a date, something unimaginable just a short time before. 
Here are some myths:  you’ll get over it.  You’ll transcend it.  There is a right way to grieve.
Truth:  Your loss will transform you.  This is the experience, and it is what it is.  Tell your friends what you need.  Let them know you can use their help.  If they ask, and you don’t know what you need, thank them for asking and ask them to maybe ask again.  Soon.
The transformation is often for the better.  Not always, but usually—especially if we find ways to get out of our own way. I gave myself to the process, and it is a process, and now I’ll avoid the word journey, but it was and continues to be.
The tried and true methods of dealing with grief and anger, though they can be effective in the short term:  drugs, drinking, eating too much, are distractions from the process. 
The good news: human beings are resilient.  We are amazingly strong.
What helps with grief?

Talking helps
Not talking helps
Being silent
Writing (in your own handwriting)

Hitting a punching bag
Sad movies
Maybe you were grieved last week when NBC cut into Olympic coverage to give a sneak peak of the new show starring Matthew Perry called “Go On.” In it, they find the humor and pathos inherent in a grief counseling group. I was lucky enough to find Friends In Deed, but there are many kinds of groups out there, one that will suit you. You may even feel most comfortable in an online community. The main thing is to take your grief seriously, as loss is a necessary part of living. It needs to be respected and not ignored (as Perry’s character finds out in the first episode) – and you need to feel that you are not alone.
The tsunami that hit me ultimately has been the greatest gift of my life.  It added depth and understanding to my life and what else would I have to share?  Tips on how to deal with curly hair?  (Not that that isn’t very important information.) 
But I am now a far more empathetic person than I was when frizzy hair was my biggest problem. 
Friends In Deed is located at 594 Broadway, Suite 706, New York City, friendsindeed.org

Sometimes, when I haven’t written in awhile, I like to look back to where I was two years ago and see how far I’ve come. (Or not.)

I have been feeling a bit blue lately and my first thought was, “Well, you’re not married anymore, so you should feel relieved and happy!  And free!”  And a part of me does feel that, but also a part of me recognizes that my ex was not the cause of my unhappiness, really no one else is responsible for my moods but me.  I am responsible for myself and therefore there is no one to blame or criticize (not even myself.) When I looked back this morning, I read this quote from Pema Chodron:

“The first noble truth says that if you are alive, if you have a heart, if you can love, if you can be compassionate, if you can realize the life energy that makes everything change, and move and grow and die, then you won’t have any resentment or resistance.  The first noble truth says simply that it’s part of being human to feel discomfort.”

So I accept that I feel some discomfort today.  And I also acknowledge how far I’ve come from two years ago and how grateful I am for everything – all the difficulties and all the accomplishments.  I won’t list them, I’ll simply say it’s been a period of reorganizing.  In a grief workshop I went to two years ago (you can look back at that blog post, which was in October 2009) the leader of the workshop talked about different periods of grief (other than the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model) – and the final stage was reorganization.  That is where it feels I am today. 

And although the country and the world is in no better shape (well, actually worse in many ways) I feel encouraged that there are some interesting people showing up, including Elizabeth Warren, who talks about truths and ideas for the economy that make sense.  My hope is that Wall Street will be held accountable for their part in the mess we’re in.  Is this dreaming?  No, I don’t think so.  I think we are slowly starting to wake up from the past thirty years of policies that have almost ruined our country – and that now we will make changes, we will get mad as hell, and I feel hopeful that the stage we are moving into as a nation is “reorganization.”  

I was supposed to go out tonight to do my volunteer work at Mama Gena’s, but then I got an invitation to go to the country this weekend and I decided I needed a night to relax and get us – as in Lucy and myself – ready to go away.  

This entire week has been rainy and I don’t do well with rain.  I’m so ready for a few beautiful spring days in the country.

This morning I read this daily reading in “The Language of Letting Go” by Melody Beattie and I liked it so much I wanted to include it in the blog.  


Ultimately, to grieve our losses means to surrender to our feelings.

So many of us have lost so much, have said so many good-byes, have been through so many changes.  We may want to hold back the tides of change, not because the change isn’t good, but because we have had so much change, so much loss.

Sometimes, when we are in the midst of pain and grief, we become shortsighted, like members of a tribe described in the movie Out of Africa. 

If you put them in prison,’ one character said, describing this tribe, ‘they die.’  

‘Why?’ asked another character.

‘Because they can’t grasp the idea that they’ll be let out one day.  They think it’s permanent, so they die.‘ 

Many of us have so much grief to get through.  Sometimes we begin to believe grief, or pain, is a permanent condition.  

The pain will stop.  Once felt and released, our feelings will bring us to a better place than where we started.  Feeling our feelings, instead of denying or minimizing them, is how we heal from our past and move forward to a better future.  Feeling our feelings is how we let go.  

It may hurt for a moment, but peace and acceptance are on the other side.  So is a new beginning.

God, help me to fully embrace and  finish my endings, so I may be ready for my new beginnings.”  

I do feel like I’ve moved through a good year and a half of extreme grief.  I’ve been reading “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert, a book about marriage, and I was finding it rather boring, until the other night at 4 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep and I got to the part about divorce and how truly painful an experience it is.  I always felt that it was the combination of things – the death of my mother, divorce, Zoe moving away, not having a job, not having a home, all of that that contributed to my feeling underwater for a good year – for spending so much time at Friends In Deed, just crying and sitting with other people who were dealing with serious life challenges.  I think that the divorce alone could have caused so much of the grief now, I have a new respect for everyone who’s gone through it and allowed themselves to grieve instead of jumping right into a new relationship.  Although I did date in those early days and I’m glad I did, even though I spent most of the dates talking about the divorce, my ex, my mother, everything truly sexy.  

So now I’m more comfortable with being on my own and dating is not high on my list of desires right now.  It’s on there and it’s moving up, but it’s not at the top of the list.

Tonight is “Friday Night Lights” one of my favorite shows on television.  I’m going to call a friend soon and hopefully talk for awhile, so that I’m not alone all night.  And then I’m going to throw together Lucy’s and my belongings (including a pair of rainboots for me) – and get ready to enjoy nature.   

I’m also trying not to worry about the next reading of the play.  What good is worrying going to do?  As my friend Sally Fisher says, “If I thought my worrying was going to help anything – or change anything, I might do it.  But it never does, so why bother?”  

So instead I will acknowledge how grateful I am for my daughter, my life, my home, my friends, my loftmate, my job, my writing partner, my director, the wonderful actors, everyone who has been incredibly helpful getting the readings together, NY, Lucy, Lola’s gentle passing, a spring that will be so incredibly green thanks to all the rain — and life.  

And the spiritual connection I have inside – that is a huge gift.  

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