Happy New Year

Grief and Gratitude

2020 has been a challenging year and there has been a tremendous amount of grief for all of us. Loss of so many people, illness for others, loss of jobs. There has been tremendous fear as well. So much anxiety for the virus and our families, coworkers, and neighbors.

Having done so much grief-work this year, the load does feel lighter. I can remember without tears, beautiful holiday memories, fun times filled with optimism for the future. I can enjoy the present . Enjoy what we do have to be very happy about. Relish in our smaller family.  The huge, gaping hole that was doesn’t seem quite as large this year.

There are a few strategies I have embraced. Not because I wanted to, because I had to learn new ways to cope. I start every morning with a few minutes of meditation. I enjoy the quiet, before my husband or dog rises to think of my day ahead. I read from a daily reader and contemplate the day.  To me, meditation continues with a walk outside, when I can. The 30-50 minutes of exercise outside grounds me. The angst of the morning melts away with every step.  I call it my daily dose of vitamin D. It may not be a huge hike or even a great calorie burner. It does settle my mood.

Before bed, in the evening, I do something relaxing before bed. TV or a meeting. Then I start my bedtime ritual which includes a gratitude practice. I read from a gratitude daily reader (Mark Nepo-The Book of Awakening) Then, I prioritize sleep.

On call nights and office days it means everything is shorter. I still try to get a few minutes in the day to start and end with intention and gratitude.

For the New Year, I hope to increase and improve my exercise regimen. I hope to continue to get out side more. Maybe some skiing, cross country skiing maybe downhill.  I hope to get more sailing in.  To do all this activity, I want to be in better shape. I hope some strength training will help with weight loss.

Since being diagnosed with diabetes I have had trouble managing my blood sugar, and weight has not been a huge priority. So this year I hope to improve on that area.

Peace and Love in the New Year, Sean’s Mom


This Thanksgiving has been different. It is the first Thanksgiving I have spent away from my son Ned. I had a COVID test pending due to an exposure and didn’t feel it was safe for him to come home. Luckily, the test came back negative a few days later. So, I was left to with time to reflect on some years in the past.

There was the Thanksgiving, I spent the day on the phone with Sean, unable to get him into treatment and he spent the holiday in jail. I spent the day before all day with the insurance company and couldn’t get approval for treatment in time to get him out. Then, there was the year we spent away from him as he was in treatment, only to have him get into trouble and get kicked out the very next day.

Interestingly, my favorite was year was at a treatment center that felt more like home to me. Ned, Tim and I flew out to be with Sean. We all gathered at the men’s house and had an amazing dinner with other kids and their families. What was astounded to me was the laughter. People enjoying the company of their loved ones. Most family visits I remember had tears and drama, we had just a few hours to have very tough conversations.  This time we had a joyful event to share and no hard decision talk. We could just be a family. Of course, we were all confident of the bright future our children had on the road to lasting recovery. The magical thinking that overcomes every parent when their child enters treatment, this will be the time. Surely, they have reached their bottom. They will succeed and we will all live happily after. Sometimes the dream comes true. Don’t give up hope.

Dia De Muertos

Some families have Halloween celebrations, we celebrate Day of the Dead, All Souls Day. We take advantage of that time in between where the door between earth and heaven open just a sliver, just enough to tell opur loved ones how much we miss them.

We celebrate with favorite foods and stories, tales of past celebrations, back when All Souls Day was something we read about. There were so few that I mourned, Grandparents, a cousin gone too soon. Then the death of a close friend, then my Dad, and then Sean. All within a year, three of my closest friends/family. Now it is a day for pause and remeberance.

I have become friends with many parents who have lost kids, I grieve for them too. We collectively grieve our kids on birthdays and “angel days” We talk about them. Because if you haven’t noticed, people don’t like us talking about our dead kids. The think we are stuck in our grief. There is even a name for it “Complicated Grief” stuck somewhere far from Acceptance, that final stage that announces “We are done!!” Yes that is where everyone wants us to be..moved on. When I post a photo of myself having fun, the world cheers me on.. Having fun gets more likes and comments than any post about my son or Dad or Jill. The world wants me to be happy.

I just take note, write in my journal or share with my friends of loss. They get it. You can have fun and celebrate life and enjoy all you have and still think about the one’s you’ve lost without being pulled under. You can” have it all”. The messy, sad terrible grief and the joy and laughter too. We aren’t just one or the other. Some type of a chimera of love and loss, all bound together in one being.

Celebrate your loved ones on a windy fall day, sing some songs, have a nice meal.

World Mental Health Day 10/10/20

In this chaotic world of a pandemic, a divided nation, stressors such as the economy and climate change seem to rule the headlines. What maybe isn’t so apparent is the crisis of our mental health. Mental health disorders are often hidden, silent killers and quiet dream snatchers. We don’t get the treatment we need, the insurance coverage or the empathy of our community.

I hope that the crisis of our mental health gets the attention it deserves, not just today but, in the near future, everyday. “It’s Ok to not be OK” (thank you, Demi Lovato)

How can we start.. implore our governments to support treatment and insurance coverage, and in the workplace. We are losing far to many young people to suicide and substance use. We need treatment available 24/7. We need parity with insurance. Finally, most of all we need support from our community, our workplace and our friends and family.

Advocacy can make a difference. Small voices together can create the change we need now.

For substance use, follow Recovery Advocacy Project, “Vote Recovery”. https://www.recoveryvoices.com/

Follow your local NAMI chapter and finally, write your representatives.

Kim Blake (Sean’s Mom)