TELLING YOUR GRIEF STORY: Personal Growth through Expressions of Love
The Important Process and Therapeutic Benefits Of Sharing Your Unique Grief Story TRANSCRIPTION GUIDE
By Lori A. Russell-Chapin, Ph.D. And Douglas C. Smith, M.Div., M.A., M.S.
INTRODUCTION The following video and transcription guide can be a rich resource for anyone who would like to learn more about healthy grief interventions. It is intended both for professionals who are assisting others on their grief journey, and for those who are embarking on their own personal journey. The accompanying video consists of an interview between two counseling professionals who are familiar with the processes of grief and loss, and frequently work with grieving clients. The full contents of the video are transcribed in this guide, and each interviewer response is numbered. The transcription guide makes it easy to find the topic of interest within the transcription. For example, if you are looking for “Grief and Loss Beliefs” then you would locate the transcription phrases starting with number 13 to find where discussion of this topic begins. I believe you will find this guide to be a useful complement to the video.
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TRANSCRIPTION GUIDE GRIEF AND LOSS BELIEFS …. (Scripts 13 – 32) Normalize grief reactions. Most life issues are related to loss. Loss is universal. Loss is cumulative. Learn a grief skill set. ANEMNESIS- bringing the best of the past into the present …. (Scripts 33 – 37) Reliving it as if it were now. OUR LOSSES DON’T TAKE AWAY FROM WHO WE ARE …. (Scripts 42 – 52) They add to who we are. WISDOM EVOLVES FROM CONFLICT …. (Script 54) Maturity is born in crisis. THE IMPORTANCE OF LOSS IS …. (Script 55) Somehow making meaning of that loss. SURPRISES OF GRIEF …. (Scripts 56 – 59) Grief can be seductive. Grief needs to be taken in small segments. Every person grieves differently. BY TELLING OUR GRIEF STORY …. (Scripts 61 – 62) Our loved one becomes present. EVERYONE HAS EXPERIENCED LOSS …. (Script 62) Telling our stories and opening up helps us to connect with others. DISTRACTORS FROM GRIEF …. (Script 63) Excessiveness/Overdoing Bodily Complaints WE OFTEN LISTEN TO OTHERS’ STORIES …. (Scripts 64 – 67) Instead of telling or writing our own. WHEN WE ADMIT TO OURSELVES THAT WE ARE WOUNDED …. (Script 68) The inner counselor appears.
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FINDING PERSONAL MEANING IN LOSS …. (Scripts 74 – 83) Discover ways to honor your loved one Values Photo albums Writing Helping others Be real OUR LIVES WILL NEVER GO BACK TO “NORMAL” …. (Scripts 85 – 86) Create a new normal. Reintegrate the best of the past and the best of the now. BUILD OUR LIVES ON REALITY …. (Scripts 88 – 90) Authentic Trustworthy Congruent Empathic NOT EVERYBODY …. (Scripts 91 – 95) Is on the same part of the grief journey. METHODS OF STORYTELLING …. (Script 96) Be aware of the person in pain and the internal counselor. 300 WORD SHORT STORY …. (Scripts 96 – 98) The person that’s died An empty room A child A mysterious person A wolf A holy place PARAPHRASE IMPORTANT WORKS …. (Scripts 100 – 103) Movies Quotes Doodle Paint
PUBLISH YOUR OWN STORY …. (Scripts 104 – 109)
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dougcsmith.com [email protected]
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT …. (Scripts 111 – 122) Let others help. Normalize the grief reaction. Honor your loved one in a personal way. Develop gratitude boxes. TAKE THE “GRIEF PLUNGE” …. (Script 125) Tell your story and begin to heal. It’s okay to feel moments of happiness. THERE ARE WONDERFUL MESSAGES IN OUR PAIN. …. (Script 131) CONTINUE TO GROW NO MATTER WHAT LIFE HAS GIVEN. …. (Script 132) LOSS AND LOVE ARE TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN. …. (Script 133)
Available Books – Douglas C. Smith Caregiving: Being a Wounded Healer The Tao of Grieving
Available Books – Lori A. Russell-Chapin Writing Your Grief Story: A Healing Journey of Loss and Love Seasons of Growth: A Meditative Guide of Universal Truths for Those Who Help Others
1) Dr. Lori: Well I want to thank everybody for joining Doug and me. We’re very
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excited about doing a video or DVD, and we’re going to talk about telling your grief story. So, Doug Smith, it’s so nice to see you and it’s lovely to have you here. 2) Doug: It’s good to be back with you, Dr. Lori. 3) Dr. Lori: Thank you. 4) Doug: I’m enjoying this already. 5) Dr. Lori: Good, me too. I said we could talk forever, so we’ve got to stay focused. But, I guess Doug what I’d like to do is introduce ourselves first, and then tell the audience a little bit about the importance of how we tell our grief story. So I’ll start: my name is Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin. I work full time at Bradley University. Bradley lets me consult about eight hours a week, and that’s when I come back here to Chapin & Russell Associates, where I do private practice work. There are about twelve other clinicians, and then I get to work with my husband, Dr. Ted Chapin. So it’s a real nice place to work, both Bradley and Chapin & Russell Associates. And I also thought, Doug, I would share with the audience how I met you. 6) Doug: Okay, yes. 7) Dr. Lori: I don’t know if you remember this, but you were my student. And, Doug was an Episcopalian minister, and decided to come back and get a master’s in Counseling. And you were a wonderful student, Doug. I loved having you in class because you were so curious and so much fun to have in class. So, you were my master’s student; and you did a thesis Doug, on death with dignity. Do you remember that? 8) Doug: Oh yeah, I remember it. I remember a lot about being in school with you, and I enjoyed all your enthusiasm and your teaching and everything. It’s wonderful getting to work with you again. 9) Dr. Lori: Isn’t that fun again Doug, after all these years? I think you graduated in 1991. 10) Doug: Yes. 11) Dr. Lori: That’s wonderful. So it has - a few years have happened, since then. So why don’t you introduce yourself. 12) Doug: Okay… Doug Smith. I now do speaking and consulting full time. In a couple of areas: loss and grief and spiritual care for the sick, the dying and the grieving. Before that I was in hospice, ten years in hospice, and eight years in patient care before being demoted into administration, where I spent the last two. And I have really enjoyed - I don’t know if that’s the right word - but I have really gotten a lot of meaning and some good stuff has come from working with the grieving and the
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dying. And, so I’m excited about doing this. 13) Dr. Lori: That’s wonderful. Well, I know we’ll talk more about some books that we’ve all written. But I just think, when you were my student Doug, that that was the beginning of my journey on this. And I remember being home in Wyoming with my Mother and she asked to read your thesis, and that started us. I mean, that was the beginning, even though my Mother lived like twelve more years; the beginning of our really letting my Mother die with dignity. So I mean, I don’t know if I ever thanked you for that, but it was a really neat thing my Mom and I could do. So that was the beginning of our journey, and here we are today. 14) Doug: Thank you. Okay, and it’s your Mom that was the subject of your book. 15) Dr. Lori: Of my book, yes. It was kind of … 16) Doug: Why don’t you tell us something about your book and what you’ve learned in writing it? 17)
Dr. Lori: Okay. Well, the book that I wrote is called Writing Your Grief Story. And it really didn’t start out helping other people write their grief story; but it was a - I just - after she died, I was stuck; I was in trouble. And I was on sabbatical and I just thought, “I’ve got to write.” And so I just started writing, and we’ll talk a little bit more about this later, but I would just write every day; nothing grammatically correct, I’d just write. And the more I wrote, the better I felt. And then I found myself – it was too intense, so I had to take breaks. And so, I – in fact, I stopped writing for about five months. And I kind of tricked myself into believing I was done with that grief stuff, you know? And then, another time, the kids and Ted and I were in Greece doing a workshop. And I was sitting and watching this beautiful ocean, and I just sobbed; and I thought, “I’m not even started!” And so I started writing again. And the more I wrote, I realized - and I had let several people read it - and the more I wrote, I realized, you know, people need to know how to do this. So I started researching, and kind of got this book, and it’s called Writing Your Grief Story.
18) Doug: Mm hmm. And you were reviewing in the process; you were not only reviewing your relationship with your Mom, but also the feelings and the thoughts related to her not being here. 19) Dr. Lori: The feelings and the thoughts, and for me Doug, I think one of the biggest things was how crazy the times were. Everything seemed a bit crazy. Things that would never happen suddenly seemed… they were just abnormal. And so one of the things I realized is that people need to be able to normalize their grief reactions – that what we’re going through is normal for this very abnormal situation. That, I absolutely found. Do you agree with that? 20) Doug: Oh yeah. I agree very much with it. We want to – I mean each of our situations is certainly unique, but we’re going through a journey that everybody…
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21) Dr. Lori: … gets to go on, yeah! 22) Doug: … goes through… yeah… if not now, later. We can go through it many times… but also just processing that. I found that almost all counseling is related to loss somehow. 23) Dr. Lori: Me too! I absolutely agree with that. In fact I think that’s the underlying foundation that we need to help people. 24) Doug: And if we learn to somehow put names to those feelings, identify them, look at them, examine them, and just bring them out through the writing. 25) Dr. Lori: Well, so Doug, that’s one of the other things I have found: that loss is truly universal. I also believe that loss is cumulative. If we don’t deal with this loss we get to, you know, let it snowball and deal with another loss. But I’m convinced that if we get the opportunity to love someone, or something, then we’d better understand that we’re going to have to lose that same thing or person. So I’m convinced that love and loss are different sides of the same coin; and that we’re ill equipped to deal with our losses. Most of us just haven’t given enough time or effort to it; or we don’t want to talk about it because it’s not fun to talk about. And so I think that’s the purpose of our DVD, Doug; which is helping people understand how essential it is that we gather a grief skill set, that we have something to draw upon when things get really rough. 26) Doug: Right. And the more attached to somebody, the greater the grief is going to be. 27) Dr. Lori: Yes. The intensity is going to be huge. 28) Doug: And the bigger the hole is when they’re gone. Yes, yeah. 29) Dr. Lori: Well, and here’s the other thing I found too, when you talked about the hole. I think that, what I’ve found, and we’re going to talk more about telling your story, but every word that I wrote I usually cried; and it seemed that every tear that I shed, I felt the hole getting a little smaller. And so to me, I think this grief work is just essential to our well-being. 30) Doug: Yeah. Yeah. It’s also a kind of way – at least, I am reading your book, and in listening to you tell what you’ve accomplished there – it’s also kind of a way of almost continuing the life of your Mom. 31) Dr. Lori: Oh, absolutely. 32) Doug: And you realize that even though that hole has been created, that part of filling that back in is realizing that she’s still with you.
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Dr. Lori: Oh, absolutely. Well you taught me this… You were at our house one night and we were talking about the… well you gave me this word: anamnesis. And it’s a Greek word. You’re going to have to help fill in this piece. But as I did some research on it I found that anamnesis meant, bringing the best of our past into our present. And then, when really began to really work with that I realized that two things can happen. Number one, that there are things in our past that we may not want to bring into our present; and by saying goodbye to them – that was healing. But the things that I loved about my Mother, or I loved about my Father, or my children, or my dog… there were some of those things that I could bring into my present. And so, they really aren’t gone.
34) Doug: Right. The word actually means, re-experiencing, re-living it, as if it were now. And so that’s the way that your Mom is with you now, because you will always have those memories, which you can bring back. And your writing has done that. 35) Dr. Lori: Yeah, with writing, or my actions. Or another one I did – I probably should have worn it today, but I actually have on a piece of my Mother’s – one of my Mother’s diamonds on. But I took one of her rings and I made it into a slide. I wear it, and every time I wear it I think, “Ooh. I remember when I saw my Mother with that.” You know? The other thing I did is, I took some of her sterling flatware and made it into jewelry for my sisters-in-law and my sister, and it’s that same thing. I have these great memories; and it’s like, she’s always with me. You know, and I think there are so many things, Doug, that we can do, to help people learn how to have this grief skill set, and to help them tell their stories. Because that’s the one thing I believe, and I think you said this too - but everybody has a story to tell. Everybody has one. And I think it’s essential to our well-being and growth that we tell our story. 36) Doug: Yeah. It’s part of our identity. It’s who we are. Yeah. 37) Dr. Lori: It is! And I think when we hide it, or we don’t tell it because we’re not supposed to talk about grief and loss, that it moves into kind of that shadow part of our life, and it hurts us. It really hurts us. 38) Doug: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. 39) Dr. Lori: So it sounds like we’ve got our work cut out for us today, Doug. 40) Doug: Mm hmm. Yes. 41)
Dr. Lori: Well let me move on to a question I’d like to ask you. I know that you’ve written several books. One of them is called Being a Wounded Healer; and another one is called The Tao of Grieving. And I guess I’m just curious Doug… when you wrote these, what were your goals? What were you trying to achieve?
42) Doug: The more losses I accumulate in my life, the more I realized there was kind
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of a part of me that I needed to take ownership of. And it was not something that was being taken away from me; but it was almost a way of enhancing who I am. And one of my favorite quotes, it’s a quote by Pema Chodron; and she says: “Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion.” 43) Dr. Lori: Oh, I love it. 44)
Doug: And she says, “And therefore, it’s not any good to try to get rid of your socalled negative aspects, because in that process, you’ll also get rid of your basic wonderfulness.” And to me that’s what happens in grief work; is taking ownership of that stuff, that pain and that suffering, and knowing that that is enhancing us. That pain and suffering doesn’t take away from who we are; it adds to who we are. It doesn’t take away from our lives; it adds to our lives. It doesn’t even take away from what we can do for others; it can add to what we can do for others. And I think that that’s part of that mystery of growing through grief. And so, with the first book, Being a Wounded Healer; I wanted to process some losses that I had, relative to my Dad’s death, my brother’s death, and my daughter’s death - and then also losing my ordination. So, I wanted to somehow put all that stuff together, and figure out “What can I learn from it? What can I learn from it?” And that was the reason behind that book; and then I thought I had solved everything…
45) Dr. Lori: I’m done! I’m done with this grief stuff! 46) Doug: Yeah. But then along came the death of my second child, Marin. And I thought… 47) Dr. Lori: I’m just getting started. 48)
Doug: We’ve always got these losses. They’re going to always be with us. And so I wanted to write The Tao of Grieving; not only as a survival manual for myself but also to offer it to others as a possibility of, “How do we equip ourselves?” “How do we grow through this stuff?” and also, “How do we prepare ourselves for our eventual losses?”
49) Dr. Lori: Oh, and Doug, I really agree with that; that every loss we have, helps us prepare for the bigger losses. And as you said, probably the biggest loss for each of us is our own death. But we don’t really like to talk about that. And I think the more people understand about that, and the more dignity there is to it, people aren’t quite as afraid of it. So I absolutely agree with that piece. 50) Doug: And we’re all going through it. You know, I mean, it doesn’t even have to be a death; a divorce, a job loss; a haircut is a loss experience! 51) Dr. Lori: Absolutely! Or losing my gloves…! I mean, I think this is a part of our existence. And I don’t think it matters if the loss is anticipated, or if it’s unexpected, or if it’s a tragedy, or it’s sudden. They all have their own uniqueness to it. But you’re
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right; it’s a loss. 52) Doug: There are so many messages in the world; that you know, avoid pain and suffering. “Run from it, hide from it.” “Get over it and take a pill.” And even those of us in the helping professions are told to never show our vulnerability and maintain clinical distance. And yet, we learn; all of us, everybody learns in life that our moments of greatest growth are inseparably linked with those moments of pain and suffering. 53) Dr. Lori: Absolutely. 54) Doug: And over and over again, we learn that wisdom evolves from conflict; maturity is born in crisis. And we know all of that stuff; but everybody is telling us, “Avoid it.” But telling the story, or writing the story, lets us take ownership of it. It puts words to it, gives language to our feelings, and enhances who we are. 55) Dr. Lori: Well, and we’ll talk more about this Doug, but I think one of the biggest things I learned was the importance of somehow making meaning of the loss that we have. And we’ll talk more about that; but to me, that’s the pinnacle, that’s the goal. That if we can make meaning, then what I can do is I can help myself understand it; and maybe, I can help someone else understand it. And I find that to be – and there are lots of ways we can do that – but I find that to be really important as well. 56) Doug: We’re talking about some of these things that, you know, that we both believe in. Did you find yourself getting any surprises when you were writing your story? 57)
Dr. Lori: Well, you know, and that was interesting. This process is not linear; and I had tons of surprises. And they would like, hit me in the back of the head too, and I’d go, “Whoa! That’s pretty interesting!” I think one of the biggest surprises I got, was that I can’t take the grief in long periods. That it was, there were – it was too much. And so I kind of called them grief bursts, where you just have a little bit of it. And then I could, honestly, and you used this word once today… enjoy it. There were moments where I would say, “It’s too much!” So I’d stop and try to do something else. But, and then, kind of the paradox of that is, I found though that my grief was also seductive. This was a huge surprise. I was almost afraid to not think about my losses or my Mother, because it was so comfortable. And the more I would get comfortable in my grief, the closer I felt to my Mother, so I didn’t want to leave it. And so it was almost seductive. And one day, and I wrote about this in the book – one day, Jamison, he was ten at the time; he came home, and it was around his birthday. I was supposed to make cupcakes for everybody for his birthday party, and I told him I would make it after school. He got home and the cupcakes weren’t done, and he said, “Mom what have you been doing?” And I had been sitting in a bay window - I was on sabbatical from Bradley - I’m sitting in a bay window, and the sun’s just streaming down, and it was just so much… and I’m reading a book, and then I’d cry, and then I’d read a book, and I just - four hours passed, and I didn’t get the cupcakes done.
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And Jamison turned to me and he said, “Mom” - and this is, you know, out of the mouth of a babe… he said, “Mom, I’m alive. Grandma Helen is dead. She wants you to be with me.” And I went, “Ooooh!” You know it snapped me out of that seductive place. And I thought, “He’s right.” So I knew you have to take these grief moments when you can; but you cannot get, kind of, engulfed in them, or they seduce you. 58) Doug: She’s still a part of your life, but she’s not your total life; and you can’t be always with her. 59) Dr. Lori: Exactly. And so I knew she couldn’t – and she’s not in my present all the time either, you know. So I learned that piece. I also think I learned the piece of how important it is that we allow people to grieve differently. You know, I would sometimes want to tell people something, and my family would get tired of it. “Well, my Mom did this, and…” You know, and they’d get tired of it. So that was a surprise too; that everybody kind of does this thing differently. 60) Doug: Yes. Okay, yeah. 61) Dr. Lori: So I think that was a surprise. Any surprises that you learned along the way? 62) Doug: I find that the more I’m in touch with that grief, the more I can grow as a person. And that was always surprising, because initially I felt, that with the death of my child, something was being taken away from me. And I wasn’t ready to learn that she is still here with me. And every time I tell her story, she’s present; her life is continuing when I tell her story. And that was a surprise to me, because I thought it was gone, completely gone. And then, also, what I was surprised about, and you kind of touched on this too… is that even though we’ve all had these unique journeys, that there’s something about – people really can connect with you when you open up and you talk about your own pain, because everybody’s had it. It’s as if that it’s easy to trust someone, it’s easy to be with someone who’s just like us. And who we are, are people who have had pain and suffering, and shortcoming and vulnerability. 63)
Dr. Lori: And so we can really connect on that level. Absolutely... and maybe by connecting on that level it’s easier to trust people, because you know that they’re being genuine. You know, another surprise I had was, you mentioned that when you were working with grief you became very aware of what was going on around you. But I also found that when I wasn’t working on my grief, because it was too painful, that I would overdo anything to stay away from my grief. I found myself, like exercising too much, or spending too much money. Or, I was doing a grief workshop probably a month ago, and I asked people, “What did you do over something?” And someone said, “I drank too much, I did drugs too much,” or anything in excess to get away from it. And then I would find that when I would do that, and I really wasn’t actively working on my grief, what would happen is I would have incredible dreams. Oh Doug, my dreams, and I share a lot of my dreams in the book; but my dreams were powerful, and it’s just like they were bringing me back, “Let’s deal with these
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issues.” And then the other thing that was a surprise to me was, when I wasn’t working on my grief, is that my body began to talk. I would say, “I’m fine.” You know Ted would say, “Dr. Lori, how are you?” I would say, “I’m fine, you know, I’m done.” And then my body would have certain aches or pains, that if I listened to them, it would take me back to my grief too; which I thought was really amazing, and wonderful. There’s that connection for me of mind, body, spirit. You can run as hard as you can, Doug, but it’s going to come get you! 64) Doug: For me, how I plug into what you were just saying is that my substitute addiction was, I ended up buying a lot of books and reading a lot; and that took me away. But then I would gradually find myself not hearing what I was reading, and not realizing that I needed – really, I was listening to other people’s stories and avoiding my own. 65) Dr. Lori: I know. Isn’t that easy? 66) Doug: And that’s what I had to do; I had to write my own. 67) Dr. Lori: Yeah. Isn’t it? Well it reminds me of - there’s some great cliché’s and book out - but you know, searching for the guru. I read so much material on grief and loss because I was sure that someone had the answer to my question. And then I finally realized, “No, I’m the only one that has the answer to my question.” So I think it’s that same piece, which is really important. 68)
Doug: That reminds me of one of the things that I felt in doing Being a Wounded Healer. It was that in writing my story, there were two parts of my self that I needed to get in touch with. One was the patient; one was the person that had the pain, the suffering, the anxiety and the fear. But the other aspect of my self - and this is what I think is important in encouraging others in writing their story - is that we not only want to be honest with the feelings that are inside, but we also can discover that inside we’ve also got our own counselor, our own healer, our own doctor, therapist, nurse. And what I found is that whenever I’m really honest about being the patient, honest about having the pain and the suffering, that the counselor almost spontaneously and serendipitously appears, and starts doing the healing because I’ve admitted that the wound is there.
69) Dr. Lori: Wow. So it’s that we - kind of telling the audience - that we all have our own inner advisor that is there and has wisdom, if we will just listen to it. 70) Doug: Yes. 71) Dr. Lori: Ooh, that’s very nice Doug. 72) Doug: Yeah, yeah. When we’re honest with ourselves and what’s going on inside, we’ll discover the pain but we’ll also discover other…
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73) Dr. Lori: … some of the solutions. Yeah, that’s really lovely. 74) Doug: Well, for you, we’re kind of beginning to get into that… for you, what’s most meaningful about doing grief work? 75)
Dr. Lori: I guess I’d have to go back to the term you taught me Doug, the anamnesis piece; which is, I think if I can meaning in this somehow, that it has just become so powerful for me. And so, if I – and there are so many ways that I can find meaning. For example, I hadn’t done a grief group in years, and I decided that was something I could do to honor my Mother. So I went back, and I went to an organization here in town, and asked if they needed some help with grief work. And of course, you don’t usually get people to say, “Can I help you with grief work?” And you know, “Oh we’d love that.” And what I found fascinating is I proposed a six week closed grief group, and it would be for anyone who’s lost someone in the last six months. And I got these people in this group, after we’d screened them; and they were in such intense pain, Doug. And within an hour and a half, just by our acknowledging and saying, “It’s Okay. However you feel is Okay. We’re going to give you some skills to deal with this.” There was instantaneous relief. Now, the pain didn’t stop; but they said, “Oh, you mean there are really ways to get through that?” It was so meaningful to me, that by doing this I’m honoring my Mother. But also then, I’m also teaching people these skills that we can cope with life. It was like, “Wow…” That is – it was healing. I was just giving back all that my Mother had given me. So I’m thinking, “Does it get any better than this?”
76) Doug: Yeah. That’s another way in which she’s still living with you, still continuing… 77) Dr. Lori: Absolutely! I do things - I try to teach people things like, “Are there certain values in your family? Are there certain things that you want to continue that your loved one gave you?” … Like doing a photograph album, or writing of course, or poetry, or – my Mom was huge, my Mother had a cause for everything, Doug. I swear, she always had a cause – you know, save the Girl Scout house, or save something. So I always know that when I’m doing something to make a difference, to help somebody else, that again I’m honoring her. That’s the meaning; I think that’s the meaning that I get from grief work. What’s meaningful about the grief work for you? 78) Doug: Well, for me, it’s so easy for me, and I think for anyone in this world, to meet images that people have of you – we’re so programmed in wanting to be on top of things. 79) Dr. Lori: ... be in control? 80) Doug: …be in control, be youthful, and not acknowledge that we’ve got vulnerability or imperfections. And yet, whenever I meet somebody that’s like that I say, “I don’t want to be like that. I want to be real.” And to me, grief work is getting
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in touch with what’s real. Anything that we’re given, we’re going to lose. And all of these relationships, not only when we fall in love with someone, that’s going to have to end through death, or somehow. But, it’s just a part of life; and for us to live life, or pretend as though we’re not going to age, and nobody’s going to die, and we’re going to always have our job, and always going to have… 81) Dr. Lori: ... health… 82) Doug: ... health, and everything; it just doesn’t help. And I think the more I’m in touch with my losses, the more I’m in touch with who I am, and the more ready I am for the future, the more mature I am. And people like that realness; I like it, and I think people like it in me if I’m in touch with it. 83) Dr. Lori: Yeah. Do you think Doug, that if we had that philosophy though, we’d be more in the moment? I mean if we really knew that everything we loved we’re going to lose… and I love this here, it says, “This life is not a dress rehearsal.” Would we treat people differently? Would we be more respectful? Would we be more intentional? 84) Doug: I think so. 85)
Dr. Lori: I absolutely think so. But I think we get so caught up in life, and so busy. I forget. I get, I’ll use that word again, seduced in other things; and I just forget, you know, what’s the purpose of life, I think. You know, I think, as I listen to you talk, the other thing I find meaningful about grief work, though, is that – I was talking about the grief group I had – and the big question I get, consistently, whether it’s individual or group counseling is, “ I just want this to be over; so as soon as get this grief stuff over, my life will go back to normal, right?” And I have to look at them and, you know, say, “No, your life’s never going to go back to normal.” And so it’s meaningful for me to help people, and there are two terms I like – one of them I got from a man named Alan Wolfelt, and the other one is Don Piper – but the terms I really like are… now what we have to do is reintegrate our new life, or have a new normal. And to teach people that our new normal, it won’t be the same as our old normal; I’m not even going to say it’s better, but it’s going to be different. And if we can have a different new normal; and we can reintegrate some of those lovely things from the past and bring into our present, we can have an extraordinary life. And that has been really meaningful. You know, we’re creating a different identity almost. We haven’t lost – I love what you said – we really haven’t lost those things, but we’re bringing it back into this present.
86) Doug: And I want to, I guess I want to really underline that fact, that it’s a more real identity… 87) Dr. Lori: Oh, I agree Doug. 88)
Doug: My first date with my wife, Mary, we went out to dinner and I’ve got
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familio tremor; and I wanted to be very careful in what I ate there. I didn’t want to have her see my imperfections. And so, I ordered a shish kabob; thinking, you know everything’s cut up ahead of time, so I won’t have to worry about the fork and the knife, etc. But it came out on a skewer. And in my haste to remove the skewer, this piece of meat shot across the table and landed in her lap. Then, I knew I’d ruined any future possibility with her, so I talked about the fact that I had been a patient in a mental hospital… 89) Dr. Lori: Maybe that – did you think that’d help, Doug?! 90) Doug: No, what happened was, all of a sudden that “dating game” which I think is very symptomatic of many games that we play; but we try to impress people with more than who we are. And when we do get in touch with who we are - that we can build things on reality; we cannot build anything on a false front… nothing. No matter what that reality is. Even if you’re out on a date with somebody that has meat go across the table and came from a mental hospital. To me, that’s part of the meaningfulness of grief work, is becoming more real and authentic, more trustworthy, more congruent… and you also can be more empathic. 91) Dr. Lori: Absolutely… with other people and yourself. You reminded me Doug, though, of another part: this might be the surprise part. As I got more vulnerable – and I guess that’s the piece I haven’t used… this journey that we’re taking is very courageous, it’s a little bit scary, but you usually are able to connect with other people who are in the same place. But then I would share this story with other, and I realized that I scared them. But what I mean by that is, they weren’t ready, Doug; they were not ready to be that vulnerable. And so the only way they could deal with it was to be defensive. And so I think when people are on a grief journey, we have to recognize that not everybody’s in the same place that we’re on. Does that make any sense? 92) Doug: It does make sense, and it ties in with what you were saying before… that we do this a little at a time. That there are waves… 93) Dr. Lori: There’s a dance kind of. Yeah, there are waves, absolutely. 94) Doug: We need to take rests. 95) Dr. Lori: Yeah, and take care of ourselves while we’re doing it. And when people don’t treat you with, maybe the empathy you want, we can’t be afraid of that either. We have to understand that they’re in a different place, and it’s not to be judged; but they’re not ready to take the grief plunge – that’s a term I use. And so I think we have to be aware that not everybody’s on the same plain. 96)
Doug: That might lead into something else that I wanted to talk about, and that is, how people can tell their stories. I think there are, depending upon the type of loss and the type of person - one way of telling the loss is the way you have done it, which is being very honest, direct. This is what the relationship was, and this is who my
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Mom was, this is what I really gained from her, and this is how I’m processing that loss. And that’s one way that I think people can do it. And if people are telling their story, or writing their story, I think it’s important that we always keep in mind those two aspects that I talked about… one, the person in pain – and always be aware of that; but also that internal counselor that they have as well. And I make sure that I’m always in touch with both of those; and that I’m not losing myself, but that I’m gaining my total self. But for those people that, you know, that might be with many people too painful to do – I found that people can sometimes tell the story allegorically or metaphorically. And I’ve been working with this one technique called virtual dream. And depending upon what the subject is - now with grief, I have people do a short story, and I have six elements in the story. The six elements that I have are: the person that’s died, an empty room, a child, a mysterious person, a wolf, and a holy place. And I have them, as quickly as possible I have them write an approximately three hundred-word story. And then, whatever we do with dreams we can do with a short story, because most theorists say that dreams are an aspect of your self. Every element of the dream is part of you. 97) Dr. Lori: Oh, Carl Jung would love you, wouldn’t he? 98) Doug: Yeah. But every story that you create is part of you as well. So I have people identify with each of the elements. The child: how did you feel as the child in your story? How did you feel, as your lost loved one? How did you feel as the holy place? 99) Dr. Lori: And the wolf… Oh, that’s lovely. 100)Doug: Yeah, or the wolf. And so that’s a way of people - that may be telling the
story too directly, that might be too painful – but here’s a way of kind of easing into the various parts of that. And a third way that people can do this story, and this is what I did with the Tao of Grieving… was that I did it through paraphrasing. One of my favorite books is the Tao Te Ching, and so I thought, you know, “I’m going to kind of rewrite that with my words, and my feelings and relate it to grief.” And so somebody could take the book of Psalms, or the book of Proverbs, or the sayings of Jesus, or Buddha, or Mohammed - or even going to a quotation dictionary and look under grief, or healing, or love, and just reword it in your own way, with your own feeling. 101)Dr. Lori: Oh that’s wonderful. So what you’re doing is taking your own worldview and trying to put some of that into context. That’s lovely Doug. 102)Doug: Yes. And so, different ways of somehow getting in contact with… 103)Dr. Lori: … some of those feelings. Yeah. Well I don’t know if you found this to be
true, but I still find that whenever I have a giant loss and I’m still not quite ready to deal with it, what I find is that, I’ll go to a movie or I’ll read a book. And it seemed like right around the time my Mother passed away, she died, every movie that Ted took me to – and it wasn’t purposeful – had a funeral in it... or someone was dying in
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it. And I think it’s happening around us all the time, but when it happens to you, it’s suddenly like you’ve got blinders on somehow, and that’s all that you see. And I found myself, what I would do then – it was so hard to watch – but I would go home and just write about the movie. So I mean it’s the same kind of take that you’re saying. Or I’d read a book and I’d say, “That character, I identify with that character!” and I’d start writing about the character. That’s the thing I would say, Doug, if we’re telling our story, or if you choose to write it, that a couple things I would tell our audience is that… you can’t do this wrong. I kind of wish that we could give them a script exactly how to do it, but there isn’t one. And so write, not for grammar; you don’t have to write in full sentences. You can doodle. You could paint. You could take a picture that you’ve found in an old album and, as you said, write to the picture. And you can’t do this wrong. And then you just keep writing. And there would be days, one of the things I did before I stopped, was, “I’m going to write everyday, even if it’s two minutes.” And what I found was, if I just started writing – not like we were taught in school, to have an outline and all – you know if I’d just start writing, things would just come out. I would write for hours. And I can’t tell you they made much sense, but they would come out. And then what I found is that eventually I was able to give it to people I trusted, and then I’d start writing for grammar, if I wanted to. I mean I think there are things, Doug, that we can do to tell our story. So here’s my question to you… If there’s anybody in our audience who is telling their story, or they’re writing their story, and they would like to maybe get some of their work published, what would you recommend that they do? 104)Doug: Well, I’ve felt that I’ve not only grown by telling my story, but I grow in
hearing other people’s stories too. And so, I’m so convinced that this is a way of healing - telling our story - that I want to encourage it in whatever way that we can. And so that’s why we’re doing this video, is one reason. But I have a website: dougcsmith.com. And if anybody is wanting to… I would just like to be available to people, to review a manuscript, or to suggest ways of publishing through traditional publishers, or self-publishing; that if someone went to my website and got my email, I could offer some kind of advice, and if was extensive advice I’d put some kind of fee on to it. But I could at least figure out what they want to do and send them in a direction to go, if I can’t help them or whatever. But I’d like to encourage them. 105)Dr. Lori: So you could be a guide or a resource to people. 106)Doug: Yes, sure. I’d like to encourage people in telling their story, because I know what it’s done for me and I know what it’s done for you… 107)Dr. Lori: Absolutely Doug. 108)Doug: I think it’s a good thing to do. 109)Dr. Lori: Oh I think it’s essential to our growth. I absolutely do. You know, and I’d
say the same. If anybody would want to contact me, they could contact me at my email address, which is [email protected]
And they can get our book, my book – and
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your book they can get through your website though Doug – they can get my grief book; they can call, or email me at my email address, that’s probably the easiest. I know it’s available at Amazon and Baker & Taylor, but sometimes it’s easier just to call me or email me as an author. 110)Doug: Yes. Okay. 111)Dr. Lori: Any words of encouragement, Doug that you would have for people who are kind of in the midst of grieving and not sure where to start? 112)Doug: Um, I think it’s – you had mentioned earlier, this normalization. I think that, hearing other people’s stories, and realizing that we’re not - the journey is not one that you have to take alone. There are some things that you will need to do alone, but other people have not had the same loss, but have had losses, similar losses, have gone through those feelings. And it helps to hear other people’s stories to let me know I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy if I want to talk to the deceased in some way, in fact… 113)Dr. Lori: Do you do that? I do. I do it on a daily basis. 114)Doug: I do it in different ways. And whenever I do training, I encourage counselors to tell clients… it’s legal… it’s legal. And I do it different ways. With my Dad, I’d do it through dreams. Before my Dad died, he was in one in ten dreams; he’s in one in three dreams now. 115)Dr. Lori: Seriously, that’s so cool. 116)Doug: With my daughter Kristen, my first child, I’d just tell her story, and I’d feel her presence. With Marin, my second loss of a child, I have pictures of her on my desk. And my brother Dean, we were both bicyclists; and whenever I’m on my bicycle I’m with Dean. And I think people, you know, for some people it might be sitting in a chair; it might be going to a restaurant that you used to go to. Or it might be setting a table setting, keeping some of the clothes; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think we’ve - the cultural labels – we’ve said things are unhealthy. 117)Dr. Lori: “Ooh, that’s weird” yeah… 118)Doug: I mean there are other cultures that have got altars to the deceased. What’s wrong with talking to somebody? 119)Dr. Lori: Yeah, the Day of the Dead… how about the Day of the Dead? 120)Doug: Yeah, people just need to find their way. Which is the way? Maybe they don’t dream; but that doesn’t mean they don’t have another way. 121)Dr. Lori: Oh I think there are so many ways to tell our story. When you were talking, I also thought about how, during our holidays – I mean I have so much of my
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Mother’s things, but I love to bring them out. I mean, once again, I think that’s the way we honor our people that we have lost and loved. 122)Doug: That reminds me of a holiday thing I encourage people to do, which is kind of this continuance. I have people, that first Christmas after the death, I have them think about each of the family members. Think about what you’re most thankful for having received from this person. Write it on a piece of paper, put it in a box, wrap the box, and put that present along with all the others under the tree. And then the first present that everybody opens up and shares with the rest of the family, is what they’re most thankful for having received. And it’s a way of showing that this person is still with us… 123)Dr. Lori: … still there… 124)Doug: … is still giving to us. 125)Dr. Lori: And, Doug, out of all the presents you get under the tree, which would be the most meaningful? That one. And then we’d all say, we can take the rest of these to some place else. You know, I mean, that’s amazing to me. Well, I think, you know, the piece that I would say to people in the midst of grief is that, the big thing is… take the grief plunge. I think we are so afraid of it. But if we are willing to – I loved what you said - we don’t have to do this “by yourself.” And so I think that’s the purpose of our video even. So take the grief plunge. Tell your story. You know, I’m fascinated. That’s the biggest thing, if you talk about meaning too; I sit in grief group where I listen to people talk, and I’m fascinated. Their story is fascinating. And I understand that when they tell their story, then they’re actually healing too. So I love that piece. So that’s my one word of encouragement. I think the other word of encouragement is that – I’ve had several people ask me this question: “Is it okay for me to be happy, now that I’ve lost someone that I really loved?” And what I believe is that our loved ones want us to be happy, they want us to be living in the present. And that if we really believe that, then we can do that. And it’s okay to do that. But most, many of my clients actually feel guilty… that the minute they begin to feel happy, they start to feel guilty. It’s like, “Oh, if I’m happy, then I didn’t love this person.” And I think that’s that reframe again; if you have a moment of happiness, grab on to it, enjoy it… because they would want you to do that. So, you know I think that’s it. Take the grief plunge. It’s okay, it’s scary, but if we are willing to do that, we’ll be healthier. 126)Doug: You were sharing with me a quotation earlier today, that, we both said we had similar quotations, and ... 127)Dr. Lori: … that we’d share each of our quotations, okay. 128)Doug: Who should go first? 129)Dr. Lori: I don’t care. I’ll go first.
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130)Doug: We can use this as sort of a wrap up. 131)Dr. Lori: That sounds good. One of my favorite poets is a Sufi poet named Rumi, and I think this quote can be anything anybody wants it to be, but he says, “There are messages in the early morning breeze. Do not fall back asleep.” And I think that’s what I’m talking about with grief work. You know, we’re so afraid, Doug, of it; and if the audience can glean anything from our talk today, “You don’t have to fall back asleep. There are wonderful messages in our pain.” What’s your favorite? 132)Doug: Well, when you shared that with me I was reminded of another quotation by Pema Chodron, and she said, “Our life’s work is to use whatever we have been given, to wake up.” And she says it doesn’t matter what we’ve been given: whether it’s physical deformity, wealth or poverty, beauty or ugliness, mental stability or mental instability, life in the middle of a madhouse or life in the middle of a peaceful, silent desert… “Our life’s work is whatever we have been given to wake up.” And I think that’s what we’re talking about – is somehow growing, no matter what life has given us, no matter what we’ve received as a result of life endings. 133)Dr. Lori: Well, and Doug, I think – another one of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver, and she has this lovely poem about living richly. And I’m not talking finances. But I think if we can wake up, and we can understand that loss and love are really, you know, two sides of the same coin… that we can really be alive, and even through our loved ones’ death, we can be alive. We need to wake up, and I think that’s what we’re trying to let people know. 134)Doug: I think that’s a good way of ending. 135)Dr. Lori: All right Doug. Well it’s been a pleasure. It’s been a pleasure working with
you. 136)Doug: Yes, I’ve enjoyed this. 137)Dr. Lori: I love having you here, and... 138)Doug: I feel like I’m back at school! 139)Dr. Lori: Okay! I like that too. Thank you, Doug. I appreciate that. 140)Doug: Okay… bye.
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