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Transition, Grief, and Loss

Global Mourning

All of us have some special location that speaks to our hearts. A field of corn as far as the eye can see. A mountain that draws our eyes upward. A beach or seashore where we gaze toward a far-distant horizon. A valley of wildflowers. An old homestead where even the footprint of an old structure stirs warm memories.

All of us, too, have had the experience of watching a place change in a way that destroys its specialness for us. A highway comes too close; toxic waste clogs a stream; developers cut off the top of a beautiful hill; smog obscures a distant vista. Something very important is lost to us. We feel sad.

Researchers in Australia assert that this is a new type of sadness. When parts of our landscape change in detrimental ways, we lose the sense of “home” that these locations provided us previously. A name has been coined for this phenomenon: solastalgia. Solastalgia comes from the root word that means comfort: solacium and from the root word that means pain: algia. Solastalgia is the condition when we long for a natural setting that is now changed forever. As one researcher put it, this is a form of homesickness we experience even while we are still “at home.” (more…)

Ashes and Embers

A while back, right before the holiday season, a member of the national staff at AARP called to ask me to write a special column for their website. “Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas…all these special occasions are coming,” Susan said, “Since this is such a difficult time for those who have experienced loss, we would like you to write a piece that might be useful to people who are grieving.” I was happy to say yes to AARP’s request because I knew, both from my own personal experience and from the research I had done for my books Seven Choices and Tough Transitions, that the holiday season is a specific kind of challenge. All of these holidays celebrate family, togetherness, light, peace, joy, and miracle…and for those of us grieving it is the very absence of all these things that make the days especially long and the nights empty. (more…)

Stepping Out Into The Day

Inspiration and insight come, sometimes, from the strangest places.

Yesterday I was reading an article on trends in the creation of new scents in perfume. The article ended with instructions on how to wear perfume. (New instructions that I had not read before: put perfume on upper arms because that’s the part of your body you move the most, on neck so that people smell the scent when they hug you, and a big quirt down your back so that perfume lingers!)

The author instructed that spraying perfume in the room and then “stepping out into it” is definitely not the way to put perfume on. I smiled about this because it would never have crossed my mind to spray something as expensive as perfume into the room and then to try to “step into it” as a way of wearing the scent.

I suppose the discussion about “stepping out into a spray of perfume” was still resonating somewhere in my consciousness this morning when I got up. I looked outside into the spring-green tree tops around the back side of our house, saw the sunlight dappled in lovely patterns on the wood planks of the deck, and heard the birds sounding out into the breeze.

My next thought?

“I’m going to take every opportunity I have this morning to step out into the day.” Then I wondered, “What do we mean when we say step out into the day?” Is the day an envelope of beauty to step into? A bubble of light and pattern? A contained space of some sort that is filled with temperature and color and sound? (more…)

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