Shirley Melis writes about dancing through grief

I feel so grateful that I got the chance to interview Shirley Melis as she participates in her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. As I'm no stranger to grief I was interested in how she deals with it and writes about it. Ultimately for both of us, we've learned to survive. Thank you, Shirley, for being here at Choices today. About Banged-Up Heart:  is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again. When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! What foll … [Read more...]

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Turning grief into art

Chanel Brenner, Alexis Rhone Fancher, and I are reading our poetry tomorrow night at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Tustin, CA. Our theme is turning grief into art. Each of us has lost a son, and each of us have turned to writing as a way to deal with our grief. There is no cure for us, however, writing can be a soothing balm. If you live in the Los Angeles area, please join us tomorrow night in Tustin. … [Read more...]

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You’re invited

On December 12 at 4 pm I'll be reading poems with two of my fellow poets, Chanel Brenner and Alexis Rhone Fancher. Our topic is Writing Healing Poetry  Turning Grief into Art.  Each of us write about the deaths of our sons. We'll be at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice CA that offers public poetry readings, free workshops, and a bookstore. It's website states: "Beyond Baroque is one of the United States' leading independent Literary | Arts Centers and public spaces dedicated to expanding the public's knowledge of poetry, literature and art through cultural events and community interaction. Founded in 1968, Beyond Baroque is based out of the original City Hall building in Venice, California. The Center offers a diverse variety of literary and arts programming including readings, workshops, new music and education." This will not be my first time reading there. When I attended writing workshops with Jack Grapes, the last class in a series was always held at Beyond Bar … [Read more...]

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Let’s stop the suicide epidemic!

Suicide Prevention Includes Caring for the Bereaved I'm so glad Franklin Cook and I found each other. He's an expert on the effects of exposure to suicide on family and friends and has been part of a groundbreaking document he discusses below. I was so deeply affected by my son's suicide I considered suicide myself. Instead I decided to be an advocate for erasing the stigma of mental illness and helping to prevent suicide*. Looking at the effects of suicide on loved ones and working to help assuage their unique kind of grief  is one way to do that. Please help me welcome Franklin Cook, my Choices guest today. He's an expert on grief after suicide. Groundbreaking Guidelines Address Grief, Trauma, Distress of Suicide Loss By Franklin Cook A historic document, Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines, was announced earlier this month at theAssociation for Death Education and Counseling conference in San Antonio and at theAmerican … [Read more...]

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Please welcome Eleanor Vincent, author of Swimming with Maya

I first met Eleanor Vincent, memoirist, essayist, and award winning author, in a writing workshop at Esalen in Big Sur California. It was in December 1999, four months after my son Paul took his life. While I was just getting my writing fingers moving again. Eleanor was already writing the first parts of her wonderful memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story. We have been friends ever since. And I am so pleased that Swimming with Maya was just re-released in paperback and eBook by my publisher, Dream of Things, this past February. Join me in welcoming Eleanor Vincent to Choices as she discusses her life since Maya died, the writing of Swimming with Maya, her writing work now, and some of her favorite books, authors, and things to do on a Sunday afternoon. MS: You have experienced one of life’s greatest tragedies. How can people who have experienced a personal tragedy find peace and meaning in daily life? EV: I think it’s different for everyone, but in general the thi … [Read more...]

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The Compassionate Friends revisited

I've written about The Compassionate Friends before but not about its wonderful services for parents and siblings. Here is some information for those out there who need help - especially during the holidays. The Compassionate Friends “Supporting Family After a Child Dies.” Through a network of more than 625 chapters with locations in all 50 states, and Washington DC and Puerto Rico, The Compassionate Friends has been supporting bereaved families after the death of a child for four decades. Each chapter, along with the supporting National Office, is committed to helping every bereaved parent, sibling, or grandparent during the natural grieving process after a child has died. Its mission is to assist families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child of any age and to provide information to help others be supportive. The National Office and its staff also provide many levels of support to our chapters, as well as individual responses to those who ca … [Read more...]

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Tree of life

Paul loved to climb -- trees, rocks, up the highest diving boards. He also loved skiing and parasailing. He was fearless. Here's a photo of him sitting comfortably up in a tree's vee. Unfortunately his favorite climbing tree at the end of our driveway in front of our house died, and in his memory we planted a coral tree on the first anniversary of his death. We can't keep up with its heavy growth. Here's Paul's tree of life on a foggy morning in Manhattan Beach. This morning while I was walking along the beach I met a woman I hadn't seen for a long time. We were at one time tennis partners way back when I played on a very cutthrout tennis team. The subject of Paul came up very quickly because her daughter is bipolar and doesn't want to recognize that she is ill -- because of the stigma of mental illness. My friend is a physician and knows the truth that bipolar is a disease just like any physical disease. If it's treated it can be controlled. And it doesn't help not … [Read more...]

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Ten birthdays

This was the 10th time we’ve gone to the cemetery to celebrate Paul's birthday, and how I’ve managed to live through all these years is a miracle. Well, I attribute my survival to how I’ve chosen to live my life since my son died: working, working out, and openly receiving and using the gift of writing that Paul’s death afforded me. And, of course I must also attribute my survival to family and friends who are always here for me. That the grief doesn’t go away in evident just by the way I feel today -- gray and wallowing in self pity like the color of the day -- yet I’m living proof that one can live through the most horrific tragedy of all. So we’re moving on – we had a nice lunch at the Farmstand, we're writing the last of the charity donation checks, and later we'll go to a movie and dinner with Ben and Marissa to ring in the new year. But, before I go, here’s a recent poem I wrote for Paul. One I've been saving for today. What I Miss Nine years didn’t erase him. He i … [Read more...]

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Friends

After Paul's death some people just left my life. And, I won't try to guess the reasons why. However, on the plus side, through these last nine years I've made some wonderful new friends and have become closer to those who remained. This poem, one of the first I wrote after Paul died, was published in "The Compassionate Friends" newsletter to accompany an article called, "I'm Not Contagious," written by one of my long-time Esalen buddies who really understands all the trappings of loss. Aftermath They came in droves at first out of concern, out of curiosity. They sent flowers, cards and sweet notes saying call anytime anytime at all. Now it is quiet. A few friends invite us out, or come by. The rest have moved on glad to have done their duty. Don’t they know I’m not contagious? My son’s death will not rub off. I’m the same person I was before. A sadder person, perhaps but needing my friends just the same. … [Read more...]

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