Sunday, June 30, 2019

GOOD GRIEF, "Make Lists..."

                                       .Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation

     Make Lists of Things that Need to be Done

Only put off until tomorrow
what you are willing to die having left undone.
                 Pablo Picasso

     Such a simple thing to do, make lists, but a huge task at a time such as this.

However, making lists of things that need to be done gives you a purpose and keeps you focused. You may have difficulty with this at first, so rely on a friend or relative to help you until you get over the initial shock. Some people find that having something concrete to do keeps them busy, giving them some respite from the feelings of loss they are experiencing.

Some people plan their transition to death prior to the event, while others come meet it with no plans. My suggestion is to at least know the wishes of each other and the name of the funeral home you want to use, as well as their telephone number.

     I had been to several funerals in the past, but not as many as some. I never paid attention to the details. I just came, paid my respects, gave comfort, and left, not realizing all the details that were involved.

Fred’s death awakened me to the multitude of things to be done and choices to be made. Since my husband wanted to be cremated and have no viewing or other formal celebration, our details were less complicated, less expensive, and quickly taken care of. For others, it is more complicated and expensive and lists are needed to keep track of all the details. One suggestion: discuss and plan your funeral wishes and details beforehand.

     After the funeral details are completed, you move forward to the many other details that never seem to end. Financial accounts, insurance policies, joint ownership, death certificates, living expenses, debts, and many unforeseen issues arise that will need your attention. I dealt with all of this by making list…after list… after list…to keep it all together.

     Keeping a notebook with divided sections really helped. Each note identifying accounts, dates, times, phone numbers, and conversations – then tracking follow-ups, next steps and completions. Tedious work indeed! I was even complimented by my financial planner, Jason, at how organized I was.

Well, if I didn’t do it, how would it get done? I thought. I had no magic wand or genie in a bottle to grant my wishes.

However, I did not feel so well organized. I suggest that you have a list of all your financial accounts, insurance policies, deeds, owner’s certificates, and other valuables to save you time and the stress of searching for them and not knowing what resources you have.

     Funeral directors and their business managers can help greatly. Christian Oakes, the business manager at Joseph A. Ward Funeral Home in Linwood PA, had been familiar with some of my husband’s family members’ funerals, but we had never really met. However, he did remember the family name, which provided some connection and comfort. I could not have asked for a more wonderful young man to assist me in this manner.

He knew the questions I needed answers to before I asked them. The check-off list he had was so helpful and offered a variety of options for the management of funeral arrangements. He also made sure I had the right number of death certificates and who needed originals versus copies. He also said he would check with my husband’s previous employer, as he knew from experience that there had been insurance policies by the company for retirees. This was something I did not know. I put it on my check list to follow-up on, too. He also contacted me when there were any new developments. I am grateful for his care and compassion.

     Today’s funeral homes have websites that provide lists of services offered. One site I recently visited had a list of recently deceased persons with photographs. Upon clicking the photograph, you are provided with a variety of data related to this person that may include an obituary, date, time and site of the viewing and funeral, a slide presentation of memorabilia and more. Additionally, there was information on topics related to the grieving process, written by a psychologist.

     Later, check lists can become a habit and lead your path for each day. The check lists may well start by including daily “normal” tasks as well. Simple tasks that you might forget if you live alone: take out the trash, pay the bills, put the recycle bag out on the specific day, go to the grocery store and others. I did this because I was forgetful due to the stress. I needed the reminders. Also, I did this because it was quite natural for me as a “detail-oriented” person.

     Almost a year later, I no longer wrote as many lists that concerned the loss event. I completed many tasks through this journey of grief and loss that emerged and needed attention. It took many months to start checking off some things. You never know when something new will arise, but within a year you have had the practice and are prepared.

Keep the notebook with the lists of what has happened, especially with financial transactions. They will come in handy when it is Tax Day and you need to recall whether you rolled over an IRA or retirement money or took the cash. It can be your proof and avoid another headache. One extremely important item that has caused me much grief was dealing with utility companies. Save yourself a huge headache by closing out utility bills listed in your husband’s name as soon as you can to avoid an exhausting merry-go-round ride.

     Think about developing your own list for dealing with bills and finances connected with the death of a spouse:
·       what are my bills?
·       what banks do I have accounts in?
·       what stock accounts or IRAs or 401k accounts do I have (or did my spouse have)?
·       who is the beneficiary on the accounts?
·       what accounts need to have a name change?
·       whose names are the car and house titles in?
·       and what are the monthly payments if you do not own?
·       are there any insurance policies on the deceased?
·       who needs to be contacted?
·       what should I do with funeral arrangements?
·       how many death certificates do I need?
·       was my spouse a veteran?
·       does my spouse’s last employer have any outstanding policies related to him/her?
·       what are my monthly bills?
·       what are my real-estate taxes, school taxes, township taxes, car insurance, homeowners’ insurance, quarterly tax payments, life insurance payments, health insurance payments?
·       are the payments electronic or paper?
·       are payments automatically deducted from your account?
·       what are my debts?
 — just to name a few items that need your attention.

     I know that this can seem overwhelming, so I have included two sample worksheets at the end of this section to give you a starting point. One is a sample To Do List and one is for Funeral Choices. These are not all-inclusive; you may have different information to add.
Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
                                            Benjamin Franklin

     The To Do List contains names and telephone numbers of all the companies I pay bills to as well as what time of the month the bill comes. I can look at this anytime to find the contact information I need. I keep this document on my desktop computer for easy access. I could also print it out if needed. Yours may contain different information. It’s a great tool.

     The Funeral Choices document contains some, not all, of the information relating to choices you need to consider when arranging for your loved one’s funeral. I created this after the fact as I stumbled through the grieving process. Please know that the funeral home will have a more comprehensive list, along with individual cost for services.

     I also created a finances worksheet, which is not included, in order for me to understand what my finances for the year were going to be, with just one small retirement income and Social Security. I created a spreadsheet with a column of months down the left side and a list of expenses and income items across the top. Each column would add up for a yearly total. Each row would add across to the end of the expenses or the end of the income. There was a total for all expenses and incomes. This could also be done with a paper ledger. Either method will work.

Remember to enter the numbers monthly and to check the figures every six months and at the end of the year, then make any corrections needed — I did find a few errors and corrected them as I went along. These interventions worked great for me. However, it is up to you to determine what meets your individual needs. You may even be lucky enough to know and have the help of someone knowledgeable to assist you with this, whether they be a family member, a friend or professional.


·       I have everything I need for an abundant life.
·       I have clarity in knowing what tasks need to be accomplished.
·       I feel confident that I can meet the challenges presented to me at this time.


With her permission, I am serializing here nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Saturday, June 29, 2019


hat afternoon Toni was in the break room reading the day’s paper. Ruth saw her and decided that this would be a good time to grab a cup of coffee. She wanted to talk to Toni. She could mention what Bill had said and ask if her new boss would be Jim.

She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat in a seat near Toni. Toni seemed to be absorbed in a newspaper article and was unaware of Ruth’s attempt to get her attention. Ruth became impatient and decided that Toni should listen to her because what she needed to say was important. Ruth reached up and pulled at the newspaper, interrupting Toni’s reading. She gave no apology for her actions but began to complain about the poor communication in the corporation.

Toni started to set aside her newspaper but was in no mood to listen to Ruth. Toni tried to be tactful by changing the subject. She decided to ask about their favorite sports team. “Do you think the Red Cats will win their tournament this year?” Toni did not wait for a reply and returned to reading her newspaper article. She thought that Ruth would realize that she was not interested in talking at this time.

Ruth felt she had to know who would replace Toni. Her need to know and that Toni was ignoring her made her impatient. Ruth would not wait any longer for the answer. She once again pushed the newspaper aside.

This time when Toni’s attention became focused on Ruth, Ruth said, “Bill was telling everyone that Jim will become my new boss when you retire. Is this true?”

Ruth expected that Toni would give a kind explanation. Instead, Ruth was facing a very angry Toni who decided to unload the months of frustration and pent-up emotions she’d had against Ruth. Toni began by saying, “Do you have any idea how very rude you have been to me? I wanted to read today’s newspaper and you practically ripped it out of my hands. You did this not once but twice. You are so wound up with yourself! I’m surprised you paid any attention to what goes on around you. You never consider anyone’s feelings. Not only are you inconsiderate, you never have been interested in hearing the truth. The only reason I have put up with your company was to learn just how you plan

to manipulate my friends. You use everyone for your own benefit! Of course, Jim will be your new boss! You didn’t expect that you would be good enough for that position, did you?”

At first, Ruth was stunned. Then after the shock of Toni’s words dissipated, Ruth grew angry. She flew from her seat, upset the table and spilled the coffee. As she moved toward Toni she tripped on a chair leg and instead of slapping Toni across the face, which was Ruth’s plan, her forward momentum sent both women crashing into the vending machine. Its glass front shattered.

Both women ended on the floor and covered in glass. Toni appeared to be bathed in blood. At that moment, Jim entered the break room. Seeing all the blood, he reached for his cell phone and called 911. Ruth may have escaped the majority of glass cuts, but she did not escape a major blow to her career.

The paramedics arrived, and after giving first aid to Toni, they transported her to the hospital. Jim, who had been staring at Ruth and shaking his head in disbelief, finally spoke to her. “If Toni has not already told you that you are fired, I will! You have one hour to clean out your desk. Be sure to turn in your keys before you leave. Oh, by the way, I am going to urge Toni to press assault charges against you!”

Ruth was not sure if she was glad that she had not started her rumor campaign or sad to discover that Toni was never her friend. She took little time in clearing her desk. She never did believe in cluttering her work area with useless knickknacks or pictures, so her cleaning assignment was completed well within her time limit.

Before she left the building, she decided to call her parents. She was grateful that Pop answered the phone. He seemed to always know whenever she was upset. Ruth liked the fact that she was her father’s favorite little girl and she loved how he spoiled her. She was hurting and needed some comfort. Her parents always welcomed the opportunity to give her extra love. Ruth’s voice was cracking, but she managed to ask, “May I come over?”

Meanwhile, in an area of New York City, a gentleman named Donald had just received news of his parents’ major traffic accident. When he got to the hospital, he was told that both of his parents had died. He was shocked, saddened, and scared of what he would do without the love of his parents. Donald felt this was the worse day of his life.

At home he began to pack the clothing and personal items of his parents. It was emotional work, but he wanted to get his parents’ things packed and placed in the attic.

He finally boxed everything and began bringing the boxes up to the attic. Looking around for a good location to store all the boxes, he began to rearrange the items and boxes that were already in the attic. He read some of the attic box labels and saw one that had his name on the side. It does have my name on this box, Donald thought, I wonder what my parents have put into this box?

What he found turned his world upside down: several pages of official paperwork. When he began to read the documents, he discovered that he had been adopted. Anger replaced all his other emotions. “Why?” he said to the papers in his hands. “I want some answers! I’ll need to locate my birth mom. I’ll hire a good detective. That could be expensive.”

As he thought about the need for money, he thought about his parents’ house. There would be no reason to keep this New York City home, Donald decided, the house’s location would fetch a fortune, and this would be more than enough money for a detective and any future plans I might need to make.
He would find his birth mom!


With her permission, I will be serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, the material from this novel by Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through

As her editor and coach, I aided Helen through my endeavor.

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Creative Obsession

I appreciated the gift of this paperback for reviewing, and the Kindle version as well. The production values of both are exemplary: the book cover beautiful, the interior formatting clear and attractive; the well-formatted Kindle has an active Table of Contents and one can tab easily from chapter to chapter. The editing seems excellent, though the oddness of some of the sentences made me wonder whether the author had overruled a more conventionally minded editor. Probably.

The book calls itself "an apomary." What is "an apomary"? The "Oxford Dictionary of English" doesn't list it, nor did Dr. Google. It seems to mean a collection of aphorisms. The world-traveled lawyer-author tells us that he collected some 63 such short and pointed literary items and then spent years trying to decide in what order they should be put. Because he and I share a real respect for mathematics, I'll note that there are 63 factorial = 63! = 63 x 62 x 61...x 1 = 2 x 10 to the 87th power different orderings (permutations) of 63 elements. That is 2 with 87 zeros possible orderings. The effort to order them might drive one mad, and the title's term "obsession" hints that the author realizes this himself. I understand his hyperbolic statement, "Of all the things we care about in life, we value most of all the consummate certainty of mathematical knowledge," one of the reasons I pursued a career in science, which I mention here to color my admission that much of the book I did not understand. Perhaps you will do better.

The pseudonymous author (Viator E. O'Leviter) tells us at the book's beginning that we seek, in part, interesting lives, and I agree. His travels have taken him far and wide, though others have argued that the most important truths can be learned at home, without much travel or the donning of new outfits for new settings.

When he moves away from aesthetic/philosophical issues, he seems on more solid ground, "Do what it takes to raise the odds that absolutely amazing and incredible things will happen in your life." Yes, embrace this, while making sure to contribute regularly to your 401k.

One must sift his prose to find some golden nuggets. This became a challenge. The author warns, perhaps especially in this being self-aware, "If your message is 'ahead of its time' and 'hard to understand,' then maybe you're not so smart. Maybe your art is just too weak."

"'Creative Obsession' is experimental prose," the author writes. This reader felt experimented on.

The book is available from at

Friday, June 21, 2019

GOOD GRIEF, "Fake It..."

                                       .Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation

     Fake It till You Make It

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’
                             – Eleanor Roosevelt

     You have likely heard this expression before: “Fake it till you make it.” It advises what to do when you are experiencing something that you are not very familiar with and not sure how or what is the right thing to say or do. This places you in a vulnerable position that could expose your insecurities, your lack of knowledge or skill. In most cases, your reaction is to go forward and just do the best you can — “fake it till you make it.” Repetition improves your success and builds self-confidence. As your self-confidence improves, you become less vulnerable. Eventually, you do make it.

     So, what does this have to do with grief and loss? The loss of a loved one creates a vulnerable period in your life. You are unsure of what to do. You are distracted and distressed. Often, depression is knocking on your door — if not already inside. Yet, your survival instinct kicks in, and you cling to the routines familiar to you, all the while dealing with difficult situations for which there may be no instructions. So, you fake it till you make it. This may be a trial and error process and may last for what seems like forever. Have faith and keep moving forward.

     Some may ask: “How can I do this?”

I’ll share some examples of how I did this. When I returned to work three weeks after my loss, I was distracted and bombarded with sympathy from many caring, compassionate colleagues. I felt vulnerable, lost, and raw.

Sometimes, their concern came at a good time, and I dealt well with it. Other times, their concern came at a time when I was feeling particularly sad and wanted to run away or burst out in tears — neither of which I wanted to show to others. So, I would put on a good face, take a few deep breaths, smile and continue what I was doing. I did not want to hurt those who were sharing their caring and compassion with me. This was a precious gift to receive from them.

On a good note, this did improve over time, and I became more comfortable with the process and could interact genuinely with those who cared.

     Another example is when people asked me, “How are you doing?”

At first, I wanted to yell back, “How do you think I’m doing? I just lost my husband. I feel like someone just ripped out my heart! How would you feel?”

I was at war with my own thoughts. I desperately needed compassion and caring; yet, I was tempted to lash out because I felt lost and vulnerable. I knew that if I continued to lash out at others, they would flee from me in droves — the opposite of what I needed.

So, I suppressed my feelings and choose to put on a good face and give a standard reply, “I’m doing OK.”

This doesn’t tell them much, but satisfies their question and provides relief to the one offering the caring that they have done their duty. Whew! I “faked it” by sharing only some of my feelings because I knew they cared, while I tried to protect them from the real horror of the loss I was going through. As this war was going on, I employed the “fake it till you make it” attitude. I knew it would get easier as time passed, when my feelings eased and I started to heal.

     I cannot tell you how long it will take to heal or how often you will be faking it till you make it. I am thankful for this coping method to rely on for short-term survival. However, it is not one to use indefinitely.

You must do the things you think you cannot do.
                             Eleanor Roosevelt

If you feel unable to cope with your situation, you would benefit from help from a trained professional. You need to process your feelings, deal with the vulnerability resulting from grief and loss, and allow healing to occur. When people ask me, “How are you doing?” I just say that I am sad sometimes and at other times I can be a part of the living, which becomes easier every day.

And sometimes I still cry in response. It’s all OK.

     However, even a year later, I was surprised that I reverted to the “fake it till you make it” technique when my friend and nurse colleague, June, asked me how I was doing. I skirted the issue and limited my talk to physical issues, but not what she really wanted to know: how was I feeling emotionally as related to my loss? I think my friend knew what was happening and was kind enough to let me off the hook. My interaction with June was the stimulus for writing this section of my book. My answer to her demonstrated to me that I was still faking it at times. This caused me to spend some time reflecting on how I really was doing in this healing process and to take the time to deal with whatever issues were surfacing.

For me, a one-year anniversary caused this protective strategy to resurface. I know it is only another bump in the road on the journey through grief and loss. And this too shall pass…


·       I am strong and powerful and confident that each day brings new hope and healing.
·       I trust my own inner wisdom and walk forward one step at a time on a new path.
·       I know that sharing my pain will help to heal the wounds and provide others the opportunity to care for me.


With her permission, I am serializing here nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

UNDERSTANDING SASSIE, Ch. 4, "Goldie's Escape"

Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

Buckets filled, the shelter worker headed to the Play area.  The hurricane-like wind began to blow icy blasts of water into his face.  The worker’s thoughts of the suffering dogs made him determined to ignore the weather.  He was going to concentrate on his mission and get the dogs into a warm and dry location.  All I need to do is open the play yard’s locked gate, shoo the dogs away from the entrance, and at the same time bring in the food buckets. 

The worker believed that the food buckets would be the most important part of his plan.  The food would be a perfect lure and encourage the dogs’ movement toward their crates.  As he was struggling to get the gate unlocked, while juggling the food buckets, he noticed that the dogs had already smelled the food and began to move toward the south area run.  It seemed that most of the dogs would soon be moved away from the entry gate.  That was good.  He began to believe that his plan was going to be successful. 

He was starting to breathe a sigh of relief when a sudden wind gust blew the now-unlocked entry gate wide open.  As he started to grab for the swinging gate, the food buckets fell and rolled in every direction.  The worker panicked.  He wasn’t sure whether to run after the buckets, grab one of the running dogs, or try to shut the opened gate. 

The dogs, seeing the opportunity for escape, ignored the spilled food and bolted though the opened gate.  Their tails were up, and their ears were forward as they ran toward the hills.  My mom, Goldie, moved slower than the other dogs due to her pregnancy, but she was still able to get free.    She watched the other dogs as they raced over a far hill.  She knew that running faster was not an option for her. 

Instinctively, Goldie searched for a nearby hide-away.  With her nose up, she smelled the pine trees.  She moved forward and followed the direction of the scent.  She saw her solution for an escape and disappearance.   There was a nearby forest surrounded by a golden skirt of yellow shrubbery.   She hurried into the tangled shrubbery, and her golden hair blended perfectly with the brush.   She seemed to have melted and turned invisible.

Goldie kept moving deeper into the wooded area.  She continued to move cautiously, but her nose did confirm that there was nothing to fear in this area.  She continued to search for a hole or outcrop of stone that would serve as a den.  She believed that this would provide the best safety for her and her unborn puppies.  She finally located a rocky area that contained a large group of various sized stones.  She slowly circled the area, smelling and cautiously navigating the rocks and dirt.  She detected nothing harmful. 

Satisfied with her inspection, she concluded that this could be her new home.  She moved to a hidden opening above one of the larger rocks and began to relax.  Goldie not only had found a good hiding place but would soon share this with her puppies.  She slept, and her dreams contained visions of her future family.  

My name is Sassie.  I was one of the puppies born after Goldie’s adventuresome escape.  Although my eyes would not open until I was about two weeks old, I was able to smell my mom and feel her warmth as I nuzzled her underbelly.  It was there that I discovered a warm pleasant tasting liquid.  It was a food that filled my belly and made me sleepy.  I noticed other smells and thought about doing an exploration, but my thoughts turned into sleepy dreams. 

I slept, ate, and began to grow.  Around the time that my eyes and ears opened, I decided to investigate more of the world around me.  It was a time of fun, adventure, and learning.  Some of my dog communication lessons had already begun. My smelling skills had improved.  I had been aware of several other creatures that were just like me.  They had been pushing me as we fed, and I knew them by their scent.  These bundles of fur could be demanding and pushy.   Sometimes our feeding actions would become a little rough.   Mom would tell us this was unacceptable with a correction.  This correction would sometimes be a growl, but more often we would receive a nip or bite.   

Mom continued to teach us our dog language lessons.  My sibling and I liked to practice this knowledge on each other.  We began to bite or nip at each other and then realized that some bites hurt more than other ones.  We started to understand that the bite pressure could be controlled and that a bite did not have to hurt or puncture the skin.  This controlled bite was enough to tell others that we were unhappy with the situation.  The biting that drew blood was only used if a serious warning was needed.    We soon found that a pretend bite or an air snap would also get the message that said, “Stop!” This biting of the air was not a badly aimed bite but a first warning.  Air snaps did not hurt, but they said, “If you do not understand, I will bite you the next time.”  

Playing with my brothers was an opportunity to practice our communication skills.  If we wanted to play, we would ask each other by giving a Play Bow.  I’d lean forward and put my front elbows on the ground as my hips stayed in the air.  If my brother decided that he also wanted to play, he would respond by doing his own bow. 

It was a clear communication that any aggressive moves that we did after the bow were only play.  We could growl or jump on each other, play fight or chase and know that it was only play.  Play was a fun way to work with and test our communication skills.  

We loved to explore the world around us.  When one of us was curious, our intense investigation was never a secret.  Our body language would sometimes show us using our paws.  Our ears would be relaxed and floppy.  Our lips were also relaxed with the mouth usually closed.  Our eyes were never wide open as in fear, nor staring or squinting but probably blinking.  Our head might tilt downward toward this interesting object.  There could also be a bit of sniffing.   

I can still remember the day when I saw Mom’s dangerous anger.  I call that day “the day of the wrinkled face lesson.”  I was playing with my siblings outside the den.  When we heard Mom’s low growl, we all looked in her direction.  We had been hearing a strange noise but were too busy playing to bother to investigate.  The strange noise grew louder.  We began to smell an unknown scent.   We saw Mom’s face become extremely wrinkled and her growl became more of a threatening roar.  

I don’t know who ran the fastest into our den, but we all knew we needed to hide and that this was the safest place to go.  We were familiar with Mom’s face during any type of correction, but we had never seen this wrinkled face of anger displayed like this.  We were scared and started to move to the back of the den.   Mom’s growl was getting louder.  I was scared, but I wanted to see what my mom was doing.  I crept out to the edge of the den.  Mom had not moved but she was now showing her teeth.  Her eyes were fixed on something.  Her front legs were braced.  Her tail was up.  That’s when I noticed the hair on her back.  I had never seen hair stand up like that.  Her ears were forward, and she looked like she would launch forward at any moment.  

It was then that I saw it.  It was a furry and very large creature.  At first, I thought this strange smelly thing looked a little like me, but it was so much bigger and made such a strange sound.  Mom did not wait for the wild cat to come closer.  She lunged at the cat with such fury that only a mother who is protecting her young would do.  Her vicious attack caused the cat to turn and run.  Mom followed the fleeing cat for a few feet and then returned to the den.  As she licked each of us with calming kisses, we felt she was our hero.


With her permission, I will be serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, the material from this novel by Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through

As her editor and coach, I aided Helen through my endeavor.

Friday, June 14, 2019

GOOD GRIEF, "Take a Time-Out from Work"

                                                             .Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation

     Time is an illusion.
The more you are focused on time – past and future – the more you miss the now.
The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant.
There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.
     Eckhart Tolle

Taking time off from work is very helpful in allowing for a recovery period, as well as allowing you time for organizing and doing all the tasks that arise related to the passing of your loved one. It also gives those at work who care about you time to collect themselves to interact with you when you return.

     My suggestion to help you avoid the pressure to buck up and perform at your previous level, is to take an extended leave of absence and allow yourself time to heal. You can use family leave, saved-up vacation, or sick time. Just meet with the human resource department to work out the details. Your physician can even support you by filling out Family Leave forms. This is ideal to do, but if money is tight, you might not have the option and must return to work as usual.

     Time off from work is not for everybody. Some of you, however, may also feel the need to re-establish the normalcy of a routine and thus return to work as soon as possible. Choose wisely the course that is best for you. If you come back too soon, however, and you do not progress back to the normal performance required for your job, you may be called in and criticized about this. Don’t let this additional stressor happen to you. You will find out that your critics may tell you that you should have stayed out longer, anyway. So, be kind to yourself.

     If you must go back to work, so be it. You will need to be strong, but also let others know how they can support you. How can they support you? Here are some suggestions, and I am sure you can think of more:

*   bring you a cup of coffee or tea
*   have an extra box of tissues ready when yours is used up
*   go for a walk outside with you
*   share a joke or funny story
*   give you a hug
*   give you a hand with your job

     Also know that when you do come back to work, you may be comforting your colleagues as much and sometimes more than they are comforting you. You will find that you are welcomed by all and receive condolences and caring responses as the word gets out that you are back to work.

However, there is a time limit on some of these well-wisher’s frequency of support, as they have other priorities and life stressors too. Oh, a few, rare colleagues will continue to care and support you, knowing full well how difficult a transition you are going through — these will be your close friends or most friendly colleagues. Some will display caring for a while, then drift off into their own world of work routine, not being malicious, but just moving on with their work — they care, but have not been in your inner circle at work, and that’s OK. A few will look exclusively at the bottom line, finance and productivity, placing more stringent limits on your recovery needs. They make exceptions to your distractions, crying, and some callouts, but eventually draw a hard line. This is a fact of life in the business world.

     I thought of staying out of work longer than three weeks, but decided to go back. I told myself that I had so much to do at work. After all, I am a workaholic and have been for many years. I even had the paperwork for extended leave at my doctor’s office to be filled out, but I ended up not using them.

I told myself that I was strong and needed to live up to what my husband always said, “Cheryl, you are a tough old bird.”

Back to work I went. In one way, it was good returning to work and having something to get up for every morning to do…even though I cried on the way to work…and on the way home from work, for many weeks. At work, I had more control over the crying — most of the time. I was always tired. I did not sleep well. I refused to take any sleeping pills. I believed that “this, too, will pass.”

     I appreciated all the caring and comforting gestures very much by my friends and co-workers. The hugs felt great. The sympathetic looks and kind words helped a lot. I was amazed to find out how many of these people had their own story of grief and loss of which I was unaware. This sense of a community of caring experience comforted me.

     After four months, I was completely worn out with the stress of work and all the tasks that needed to be taken care of due to the loss of my spouse: mountains of paperwork and trying to keep track of the phone calls, faxes, and letters reflecting progress or problems related to the transition to my sole ownership. I decided to retire and move on — a very good decision.

     Experiencing a significant loss, you are going through a very difficult time. Most people can only “imagine” what it must be like. Carefully assess your needs regarding return or delayed return to work. Do ask for help, and above all - be kind to yourself. You are trying so hard to keep it all together, while grieving, managing the multitude of tasks related to the loss, holding the family together, lacking sleep, having poor concentration, and crying frequently. You may really need to take a “Time Out”.


·       I honor my need for time to heal my mind, body, and spirit.
·       I make good choices to meet my needs.
·       I choose the contents of my life and am gentle with myself.


With her permission, I am serializing here nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD