Category Archives: Hope for Bereaved

More Gratitude Than Grief

Although it’s hard to believe, three years ago today – Memorial Day 2014 – was my mom’s last day on earth. The last time the sun would set with life in her body. Of course, I miss her and think of her every single day. But I’ve also never felt closer to her. Although technically it has been three years since I’ve seen her or heard her voice, that’s really only true on some levels, for I see and hear her in my dreams from time to time, and her voice only grows stronger in my heart and mind. It’s actually quite astonishing.

Each time the earth returns to the place in its orbit around the sun where it was when my mom passed away, my body knows. It’s like traveling through a familiar belt of stardust. She died after lilac season and just as the irises were blooming. She didn’t live to see the roses in her garden bloom, but we did, and we were grateful she took the time to plant and nurture them with the same loving attention she gave to us.

Today, I am remembering but not feeling grief-stricken. More than anything else, I feel grateful for having a mother who was so warm and kind to everyone and who loved me so much. For having a mother who loves me so much and seems to have found a way to get through to me even though she no longer has a body that breathes and walks and loves and laughs and makes music here on earth.

One day last summer, I was sitting on a bench at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (where I feel her spirit strongly) feeling sad, and I heard her voice in my mind: Let it go. Let it go because it’s hurting you. You’re so wonderful. Now I can see you more completely and wish I could show you how beautiful you are – the amazing light that you are…because then you’d never be sad again.

I am so grateful for that voice that arises in my heart and speaks in my mind as if my heart and mind are one end of a cosmic telephone. That voice has been growing in me and helping me to heal and grow in ways I never could have imagined during the first, anguishing year without her.

My mother loved me so much, despite our differences. When she was alive, I was always giving her push-back because we saw the world so differently. Three years after she passed away, all I connect with now is her spiritual essence, which shone through more strongly as her body became weaker, and I gave up my role in the mother-daughter dance we had been doing my whole life and related to her as one spirit to another. I held her as she cried because she was nearing the end and was afraid her organs would eventually burst, and she was also afraid of upsetting my dad, who was not ready to let her go. I listened to her and assured her that what she was experiencing was normal (which I knew from my hospice experience and research) and that she and we would be okay. Although we loved her and would miss her, it was okay for her to move on. She liked it when I was with her and wanted me to be there as much as possible, and I’m so glad I had my priorities straight and took time off from work to be with her in her time of need, even though I had no idea how long it would go on. When my intuition told me I should take the day off from work to be with my mother or to care for myself so I could be stronger and more rested to care for her, I didn’t hesitate to call in sick. I am so grateful I did that. I knew it was time I could never get back and do over.

Three years ago tonight, when my dad was leaving the hospice house, he told her to hang on until morning, when he’d return. She was the one who took care of everyone, and she was hanging on for our sake. So I told him he needed to say goodbye and give her permission to go. Through some grace, I was able to get through to him, and he told her that he loves her, and it’s okay for her to let go. And a few hours later, she did, in the middle of the night with the adult child she worried about most sitting by her side.

May 27, 2014 was the first morning of my life I woke up motherless. It didn’t make sense that the sun could even rise.

When I reflect on May 2014, I think of being closer to my mom than I’d ever been and making her my priority. I remember keeping vases of fresh lilacs around her and dropping the role I’d played all my life to be truly present to her. I remember filling her hospice room with love and music and conversation around her bed with her bridesmaid from so many years ago who serendipitously found her just in time after not being in touch for decades and shared memories I otherwise would not have known about my mom during her early twenties. I remember doing everything I possibly could do to help my mom let go, even though I didn’t want to lose her.

May 2015 was actually even harder because I had gone a full year without her, and the realization hit hard that she wasn’t returning. I was also in so much emotional pain from grieving other losses that occurred throughout that year that I couldn’t imagine ever feeling good again. She was the one I would pick up the phone and call when I needed moral support, and she wasn’t there. The pain felt enormous, and I was weak from all that grief.

For the past year and a half, at the end of every month I reflect in my day planner on what dreams and goals came true, what lessons I learned, what I need to rant about, and what I’m grateful for. This month – May 2017 – there is not enough space for me to write about what I’ve learned and feel grateful for! To feel as whole, intact, and radiant as I do now is like a miracle.

Time is a healer, but healing is a choice, and how far you go is up to you. Every moment – and in some moments more than others – there is a choice between healing and habit. My experience has taught me that healing begins with mindfulness and an intention to feel good. When you pay attention to what’s going on inside of you, instead of fleeing from it or fixating on external stimulation of any kind, you become aware. When you are conscious of something, you can heal it – even if it really hurts and feels enormous, and you feel powerless against it. Over the past three years, I have learned that pain that big – grief that penetrates all the way down into your bones – isn’t as big as it seems because who you really are is SO MUCH BIGGER! I still feel sad or weak from time to time, but it arises along with a witnessing presence that allows the energy to be felt and expressed. Instead of identifying with the sadness, I allow it with the tender, loving presence a mother would give to a hurting child and realize it’s just a passing storm. The witnessing, unconditionally loving presence that I identify with is much bigger than the emotions – big enough to absorb them in what feels like a ginormous hug. It’s similar to how it feels to be on the seashore: uplifted and part of a rhythm and energy that is much larger than your small, separate self.

So here I am, on my mom’s third angelversary, immersed in gratitude for everyone and everything that has brought me to this point, and for my mother’s love, which has never left me and continues to grow by leaps and bounds in my loving heart and – miracle of all miracles – has replaced my Inner Critic with a nurturing Inner Mother that guides me to practice tender, loving self-care every day.

The past three years have been the most challenging journey of my life, but I’ve emerged from the depths of the forest of grief. From the perspective of my larger self, I know that all is well and that the journey served a purpose. It is the most amazing grace ever to be able to say this after everything I’ve experienced in the past few years. There is hope after loss.


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The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂

What She Wanted

When my mom was alive, before any holiday or birthday she would ask me what I wanted. I almost always answered that I don’t need or want anything. My mom liked material things, and I tended to rebel against that and distinguished myself from her through my response to that question.

But it was true: I wasn’t interested in things or clothes. Never went on vacation. Didn’t watch TV. I bought the wedding dress for my first wedding off the rack at Macy’s for $70 only a week before the big day, and I just wore my favorite outfit for my second wedding. I was content where I was, with what I had. My maternal grandmother would comment that she and I were very much alike because we didn’t need fancy things. Give us the wind in the trees, and we could be content. In fact, the last time I visited my grandmother at her home before she fell and went into a nursing home for the last couple months of her life, we sat on her front steps appreciating the sight and sound of the wind in the late summer trees. I loved that, at the end of her life, she found contentment in something so simple and ordinary and that I could join her in that space.

It seemed my mom always wanted more. She loved going to the mall, even if only to look (which I totally didn’t understand because the only time you could get me into a mall was if I had a specific, unavoidable purpose). She grew up poor and was determined not to live that way as an adult. She started working right after graduating from high school and, with the exception of taking some years off to raise children, kept working until a few years before she passed away – at which point she retired from what many would consider a rather glamorous job at a performing arts venue.

She was so generous every Christmas and experienced obvious joy in giving gifts to everyone. Anytime she’d give me money for my birthday, Mother’s Day, or just because, she would tell me to make sure to get something for myself and not spend it on household bills or anyone else. She wanted me to treat myself. Occasionally I would, and more often I would intend to, but inevitably somebody would need something, and I would pass on getting something for myself because the gift was needed elsewhere.

A year or two after my mom died, I was downtown and walked past a shop that had something in the window that captured my attention. Normally, that doesn’t happen because I couldn’t be less interested in shopping. (Retail therapy is not in my self-help repertoire!) I can’t remember what the object was, but when it caught my eye, I felt sad that my mom wasn’t around to ask what I’d like for Christmas…because she was the only one who ever asked, and this time I would have had an answer. And it would have made her so happy that I had an answer!

I spent two full months this year decluttering my home completely. After getting rid of all the stuff I didn’t love or use, I focused on making my home a sanctuary aligned with my authentic Self. I looked around the house and received clear insights about what could make it feel more like I wanted it to. I had received some insurance money after my dad passed away in October and bought some things to elevate the energy of our small, 1840s rental home: a couple Japanese shoji room dividers to create closet spaces where none existed, several plants, a standing desk converter, a digital photo frame loaded with hundreds of my images – things like that. I also finally did something I had wanted to do for many years, which was to wrap some silk vines around the railings on the stairs and weave fairy lights through them. So magical! Now, everywhere I look in my house, my eyes rest on spaces and objects that are beautiful, useful, and/or intentional and that bring me joy. Everything else is gone! It’s an amazing feeling.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, there was one final thing that needed to be upgraded: my bed. The bed I had been sleeping in was tiny and uncomfortable, and when we moved everything out of my parents’ house, I claimed the bed from their guest room, which seemed like an improvement. But it, too, was small and didn’t feel quite right, and eventually I discovered it was more than 20 years old, which was at least twice as old as the bed I previously had been sleeping on. A few weeks ago, I was lying on my bed looking at my vision board hanging on the wall and was drawn to a picture of a large, comfy bed. That’s when I convinced myself to let go of the hand-me-down beds and buy a new one. And with that purchase, my home improvements felt complete.

This morning (Mother’s Day), I got out of bed and created a Mother’s Day altar, which I’d never done before. I clipped some lilacs from a tree in the yard and put them in a vase my mom used for lilacs she clipped from our yard when I was a child. I also placed on the altar her funeral candle and a Mother’s Day card I’d just made, along with a crystal heart and a small turtle with the words “Live with joy” on its back.

Living with joy is my Mother’s Day gift to my mom, wherever she is. Isn’t joy what mothers ultimately want for their children? It’s what I want for mine.

Two years ago, grief felt enormous, as if it penetrated all the way down into my bones. I can’t remember ever feeling sadder than I was during May two years ago when my first Mother’s Day without my mom and the anniversary of her passing were complicated by additional losses. But time really does heal. And having the energy to finally take charge of my home and make it beautiful, uplifting, and joyful was both a big deal and a milestone. It felt like stepping out of the dark forest I had been wandering in since my mom passed away.

I have to believe she would be happy for me because the journey I have been on since February is one of learning to love and value myself and ramp up the joy by creating a sanctuary to support my vision of my best self and who I want to be moving forward. In other words, it’s a process of reclaiming my life. I have created a joyful, uplifting infrastructure from which to create my future. That infrastructure includes details such as:

  • an elegant, crystal pitcher of local spring water on a small table in my bedroom (found when clearing out my parents’ home)
  • red, silk roses in a vase next to my bed
  • a bed tray for having tea and reading a nourishing book before falling asleep
  • an aromatherapy diffuser for creating a lavender-scented bedroom to facilitate sleep
  • a comfy pillow that wraps around my entire body

And that’s just the bedroom! At night, I look forward to “lavender and rose” time with lavender aromatherapy and rose tea while reading or listening to something nourishing so my last impressions of the day are positive and empowering. That’s important because they are what my unconscious mind will marinate in for the next eight hours!

None of these items would have crossed my mind back when my mom asked me for gift ideas. I didn’t think of them until I cleared my home of clutter and reflected on what would make me feel comfortable, joyful, and loved – which is exactly how she wanted me to feel and was the intention behind her gift question. As I decluttered the objects and spaces in my home, a powerful, parallel process took place inside my head that rippled into other areas of my life. The work I have done in my home this year is an act of tender, loving self-care that grows from my mother’s love, for which I have immense gratitude.

The special touches in my home feel like what you would put in place if you were expecting an honored, beloved guest. Throughout the course of decluttering and uplifting my living space, I have become my own honored guest and best friend, which is no small thing coming from someone who used to have a strong inner critic. What parent wouldn’t want that for his or her child?

So, Happy Mother’s Day to my angel mom! My light is bright again, and I think it’s the best gift I can give you because it’s what you always wanted for me.


If you’re not doing so already, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂

So Many Disguises

Although my mom is on my mind every single day, two days before Mother’s Day, I woke up thinking of my dad, whose presence I’ve felt quite a bit lately.

I’ve been staying on the Massachusetts North Shore for the past few days, and yesterday I visited Fort Sewall, a historic point of interest overlooking Marblehead Harbor. I hadn’t been to Fort Sewall in nearly three years and felt drawn there for some reason. Actually, a photographer I conversed with on the beach the previous night told me he shoots there a lot, so the seed was planted.

I entered the park a few steps in front of an elderly man who instantly reminded me of my dad. Perhaps it was something about his pace or energy. I guessed he was about the age my dad was when he died last fall. I stopped to photograph a picturesque view, walked a few more yards, then stopped to admire the view of the lighthouse across the harbor. That’s when the man approached me with a friendly greeting and started talking about how much he loves this place. He kept exclaiming, “I just love it here!” He said that he sometimes comes to this seaside park and sits on the bench for hours, and when he’s there, he doesn’t  have any thoughts in his head at all. Nothing bothers him. I replied that the richness of the sights, the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks, the refreshing breeze, and the smell of the sea take you out of your mind and your thoughts, and he agreed.

I noticed he was wearing a blue 2013 World Series jacket and wondered if the Red Sox were in the Series that year. Baseball was my dad’s great love, and the jacket reminded me of him. He was also wearing an Air Force baseball cap. We stood together in that spot for a good 45 minutes, sometimes for long moments of silence as we appreciated the fullness of the experience and all the sensory impressions. Again, he exclaimed, “I just love it here! It’s like heaven.”

He talked about how he used to go out on a boat lobster diving and spent a lot of time on the water. One thing was sure: This man was in his personal paradise, and I appreciated being there with him. His joy intensified my own.

Eventually, I told him I should get going, and he asked if I wanted to see a picture of his “pride and joy.” Then he reached into his wallet and took out a picture of a bottle of Pride furniture wax next to a bottle of Joy dishwashing detergent. Not what I expected, I laughed and appreciated his sweet sense of humor. He told me he was at an 85th birthday party, and that joke was a big hit with the older ladies. I imagined him bringing a smile to many faces with his joke and found it lovable. Somehow, it reminded me of my dad’s sweetness and sense of humor.

I said goodbye about five times before we finally headed back toward our cars. We walked together out of the park, and I paused again to take a picture. He commented about what a nice camera I have, and I explained that my dad passed away in October, and I received some money that I used to upgrade my camera for my photography business. I explained that although I’d rather my dad were still around, I am grateful for the camera.

When we were nearly at the parking area, I stopped at a railing along the road to take a couple more pictures. To our right were some steps that went into the water, and he told me you can get fresh lobster right from the boat when it pulls up there. Before parting, we both said how good it was to see each other. As those words came out of my mouth, I realized it was odd to say “see” instead of  “meet”. And yet, we both did.

I drove away thinking of my dad and feeling grateful to have interacted with someone who reminded me of him.

When I got back to where I was staying, I Googled “2013 World Series” and confirmed that the Red Sox won the championship that year. That was my dad’s favorite team. Although you could expect a 2013 World Series jacket wouldn’t be uncommon in this neck of the woods 18 miles north of Boston, it was the first one I noticed.

This morning, I woke up thinking of my interaction with the elderly man – and his Air Force hat, in particular. I couldn’t remember: Was my dad in the Air Force? I pulled up his obituary online, and sure enough: He served in the Air Force reserve. At that moment, I felt that what I experienced wasn’t just a random interaction. It was a spiritual encounter. I connected with my dad’s essence through that friendly stranger.

About a year after my mom passed away, my dad and I were sitting in his car in the driveway, and before driving to wherever we were headed, he told me about a book he was reading that referenced some unexplained occurrences family members reported following the death of a loved one, who was a famous historic figure. Although my dad was not inclined toward the supernatural, he was excited to tell me about it. It seemed he found this particular account convincing. In general, I think he really wanted to believe and seemed visibly touched when I told him about different experiences I’d had after my mom – his beloved wife of 50 years – passed away. I sensed strongly that she was trying to communicate with him, but he wasn’t picking up the cosmic telephone because he didn’t hear it ring.

Within two minutes of pulling out of the driveway, we drove past the recreational field where my dad used to coach baseball, and we saw my mom pull out of the parking lot right in front of us, in her car! I exclaimed, “That’s Mom!”” He had seen her, too. But it was something that seemed at the same time completely matter-of-fact and too unbelievable to comprehend – the kind of thing that makes you cock your head and look perplexed, but then you return to what you were doing and perhaps convince yourself you didn’t actually see what you thought you did, only to wake up in the middle of the night or in a quiet moment thinking about it and realizing that you experienced something otherworldly.

I have come to believe that our loved ones never really leave us and communicate with us through many different disguises and messengers.

There is an elderly man who is a regular patron at the library where I work. He, too, reminds me of my dad. He is from the same era, presumably has similar attitudes and values, and I have a special place in my heart for him. One day, he fell asleep at a table and really reminded me of my dad, who fell asleep all the time when he was sitting down! I feel happy when I see this man. I am glad he is in this world.

One morning, I was at work, and this man popped into my mind along with something about a hospital. Later that morning, he came in the library, and although my prior interactions with him had been limited to smiling, waving, and wishing each other a nice day, this time he stopped to talk with me. He told me that he had been in the V.A. hospital all morning and that his doctor wanted him to have an operation that he didn’t want to have and is refusing to have it until he feels he really needs it. I’d had several conversations like that with my dad!

There’s one more time in the past week when I felt my dad’s presence. I recently decided it was time to buy a new bed because the hand-me-down bed I had been sleeping in wasn’t working for me. I looked online and found a really great, eco-friendly futon mattress and a beautiful oak frame for it. It was exactly what I wanted. Very zen.

After putting the bed together and making it up with new sheets, I was so happy because the bedroom looked and felt amazing. I couldn’t wait to sleep in it that night. I was in the kitchen and wished my parents were around to see how happy I was because I was able to use some of the money I inherited from them to buy a wonderful, new bed. I imagined my mom would be thrilled that I got something nice for myself. That’s what she always wanted for me! But I imagined my dad shaking his head and grimacing at the cost. I smiled, remembering what a penny-pincher he was.

Then I felt a very strong and clear sensation, as if someone were standing right behind me, followed by a prickly sensation in my lower back, as if l was being hugged around my waist. It was so strong and clear! I sensed it was one of my parents and got the feeling it was my dad and that he showed up to say that he approves and is happy for me.

My sister and I were texting a few days ago, and she said she hadn’t received any signs or felt our dad’s presence lately. That reminded me of what I experienced in the kitchen the night before. Experiences like that have become so commonplace that I sometimes forget to share them.

I don’t know how it works, but I’m grateful that it does.


If you’re not doing so already, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂