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A New Structure for My Life

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We think of losses as something we quickly address and then dismiss. But the more significant the loss, the more the impact it has on every area of our life: social, financial, personal, family, friendships, and our past as well as our future.

Loss asks the question, where do I go from here?

There are many books on the market that speak to that early universal pain. We can experience a multitude of emotions: shock, anger, fear, anxiety, relief, shame, guilt, etc. Our pain will gradually recede as life demands we engage again to pay the bills and feed our families. But little information is offered to help us create a new roadmap moving forward.

My newly released book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, addresses that need.

Losses are not just mourning the death of someone or some aspect of your life.

Learning to Live Again in a New World, by Marlene Anderson | focuswithmarlene.comWith all endings, a transition is required to leave one reality behind before moving to another. In that process, reflection is required, goals need redefining, and we need to answer the question, who am I now?

I knew who I was yesterday, but who am I today?

Will I be required to move, or will I need a new job that can bring in new revenue?

What resources are available for me to get the information I need?

It is a time for careful thought and clarification as we review our life moving forward.

After a certain amount of time for grief, people have assumed we are healed, and life has resumed as usual. We are left on our own to struggle with the next part of grieving which is putting the pieces back together again in a workable and meaningful fashion. Trying to find a new normal takes time and we might hurry through some important decision considerations and decisions we need to make.

As I mentioned above, major losses affect every aspect of our life – some more harshly and extensively than others. It can trigger old losses from our childhood and our relationships within social circles begin to change. We lose confidence and begin to doubt ourselves and our abilities. Depending on age and circumstances, the amount of restructuring required of our lives can be greater than we anticipated.

Grieving a loss is more than just acceptance and letting go. It is about building a new reality within all areas of our life.

We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. Learning to Live Again in a New World offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.

It is a guide to help you through the ups and downs of grieving a significant loss. And it includes a study guide at the end for use with groups.

Continue to follow my blog posts in the upcoming weeks as I share more about the exercises and methods to help you create a new norm for your life.

The Afterglow of Christmas

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“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose,

for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

-Helen Keller

Christmas: a shining star – a break from the tedious schedules we find ourselves in.

But Christmas is more than a nice diversion – a blip on the radar screen of our hectic lives.

  • For a moment in time, we escaped the drudgery, the pressures, anxiety, and uncertainties.
  • For a moment in time, we celebrated with one another and shared gifts.
  • For a moment in time, we humbly knelt before the Christ Child whose birthday we celebrate.
  • For a moment in time, we laid down our heavy burdens of doubt and fear and unanswered questions.

And now Christmas is over for another year: the torn wrappings stuffed in bags ready for the garbage pickup, bows packed away to use again next year. Families have returned home, and we collapse in an easy chair, take a deep sigh and try to relax.

We are left with an afterglow of loving moments, age-old songs that brought joy to our hearts and rituals that filled our hearts with special remembrances.

An afterglow that brings hope into our hearts – that life doesn’t have to return to the way it was before – the same grind, same routines, same stresses. It is an afterglow that maintains the magical remembrance of those extra-ordinary Christmas moments.

As I pick up the gifts I was given – love, joy and peace – I find another one waiting for me; that final gift of Christmas: hope.

Hope: the glow that began at Christmas and extends beyond.

Hope

The Afterglow of Christmas | focuswithmarlene.com

Hope takes those early tentacles of despair and hopelessness and reminds us there is a tomorrow and gives us the willpower to try one more time, or two or three or how many times it takes to reach our goals.

Hope faces the uncertainty of tomorrow and replaces it with an optimism that things will improve.

Hope allows us to stop running in circles, identify the problems we face and start looking for realistic, long term solutions.

Hope engages the spirit so we will put new plans of action in place.

Hope reminds us we are more than past efforts. We are the abilities not yet discovered or explored; the possibilities untried.

Hope reaches out and asks God to give us the strength and courage to go beyond defeat.

Perhaps, like me, you will be committed to take what we deeply enjoyed and cherished from this Christmas and apply it daily until it becomes a part of who we are.

Marlene Anderson


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Peace

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Earlier this month, the Skagit Valley Chorale gave two performances at McIntyre Hall in Mt. Vernon, WA. Joining with our 100+ singing group was a band that complemented so many of the pieces we sang.

It isn’t just the audience who enjoys our performances, but those of us who are a part of this chorale and who love the opportunity to sing under the direction of our talented and gifted director, Dr. Adam Burdick.

It is the tradition that at the end of our Christmas concerts the members of the chorale go down into the aisles of the audience to sing our closing number, “Peace, Peace.” It is a moving experience for both singers and those in attendance.

A friend of mine who came for the first time to one of our concerts told me afterwards that when we sang “Peace, Peace” in the aisles surrounding them on all sides, it was like having an “invisible blanket of peace wrapped around me.”

Peace | focuswithmarlene.com

Wow – what a tribute to the power of song and the words that were sung. It is always a moving experience for the singers as well as the audience because the words hold within them the longing we all have.

Peace. Who can totally describe or understand it? It is a tranquility of heart and soul that calms our fears and removes anxiety; it reflects freedom from conflicts and disagreements and hostilities and removes the desire for violence. It is a personal thing – yet something we share and requires sharing.

What if we could give away more of this “invisible blanket of peace” during our everyday activities rather than just a few minutes at the end of a concert? And what would it take to create this same comforting “blanket” that is offered from one heart to another?

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

-Philippians 4:6-7

I have experienced this “peace that passes all understanding” many times from an awesome God who is always there and surrounds us with His incredible love. And while I am not the creator of such peace, I can be an instrument for God’s love and peace that I pass on to another.

Perhaps with a kind word and extending a hand up we can let others know that they are not alone and that they can make it regardless of the losses and challenges that they are facing.

  • We can take a few minutes and wrap our arms around our children and tell them how much we love them even when they are naughty.
  • We can take that extra moment and listen to a friend who is struggling.
  • We can sacrifice some of our time to work with the unfortunate or simply call on a friend who is recovering in the hospital or is spending their last days in a nursing home.
  • We can share a hug as well as words of encouragement and hope.

And in the process, I believe we will also be blessed with peace and a quiet joy of thanksgiving. That we can share God’s love in so many little ways and along with it share His peace.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

The Gift of Christmas

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No matter where we are in our grief journey, or how long ago our loved one died, when holidays come, we are reminded of how special they were in our lives.

How can we possibly celebrate the holidays without them?

To help understand what it means to celebrate our loved ones, let me share a personal story.

When my husband and I moved to Washington, it was because we wanted to spend our retirement years enjoying boating in the San Juan Islands. We moved into a community where others also loved cruising, joined their yacht club and spent many happy hours with people who became good friends.

When my husband was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, without a moment’s hesitation, a friend started a list of people who would be willing to take him to his radiation treatments 5 days a week. In less than a week, that list grew to a hundred volunteers. I was overwhelmed with such love and caring. They were there for me after my husband’s death as well, helping me make that difficult transition.

A year after his death, I wanted to find a way to thank and honor both our friends and my husband. I decided to invite those friends over for a dinner celebration. As we offered toasts to him and shared humorous and meaningful stories, we laughed and cried together. It was a powerful healing time for everyone.

What I learned that night was that even in our sadness and grief we need to celebrate our loved ones, whether at holidays or special occasions of any kind. Share remembrances when appropriate. Or simply hold them in a sweet spot in your memories. It doesn’t mean you persistently bring them up in conversations but are comfortable talking about them.

The Gift of Christmas | Focuswithmarlene.com

Working with individuals going through grief, I offered similar suggestions to them. One lady who lost her husband was going on an annual cruise with friends and she wondered how she would make it without him, especially at mealtimes. I suggested she set a place for him at the table, and before they started eating, she would ask everyone to join her in a toast to her husband. She then asked them to share some of their stories of the happy times they all had together.

On her return, she told me how successful it had been and how it allowed people to share what they were feeling without fear of adding to her discomfort. Having the place setting started the conversation that ended with a celebration.

However you introduce the process, whether you have a place setting or not, what is important is that you feel comfortable talking about your loved ones and encourage the sharing of stories, especially in those early months and years. It opens the door for others to share their memories and the love they had for a friend. When you are open to discussion, you offer the opportunity for others to share as well.

Celebrating is remembering the good times.

It is recognizing and acknowledging all we are thankful for. Celebrating is showing appreciation in some way for the wonderful things we have been given. As we do, we feel less distress and more peace.

Holidays give us an opportunity to reflect on all those blessings we have received. Your loved one was one of those blessings.

Make a list of all the things you are thankful for and keep them in front of you as a reminder. Here are some of mine.

  • It is the balm that covers disappointments, shortcomings and failures. It allows us to see that problems are not the end of the world. There are solutions; we can accept what we cannot change. There are many things over which we have no control. It takes the sting out of grief and helps turn losses into comforting memories.
  • What would we do if we couldn’t plan, work and achieve? Work gives us purpose and meaning and brings satisfaction and happiness. Find ways to make boring jobs more interesting. Help others who are less fortunate. Share what you are good at with others and encourage them to discover their skills and talents.
  • Every day I choose how I respond to life. What a great gift! It is in the challenges of life that I have the opportunity to grow and become a more genuine person. I can accept, let go and look for options. I can choose to solve my problems or allow them to become obstacles in my life. I can accept my shortcomings as well as my strengths.
  • Friends, family and relationships. I am thankful for the life I shared with my husband. I am thankful for the son I lost to cancer. I am thankful for all the friends and relationships I have had and continue to have. While death has taken people I loved, God has given me new relationships; and old relationships grow in depth, meaning and love.
  • The ability to create. Every day we have the chance to create something new – a new way of doing things, a new way to use our talents and abilities. When I stop comparing myself to others, I can develop the aptitudes I have been given and help others discover and develop theirs.

May you enjoy the joy and peace that passes all understanding this Christmas.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

What We Learn from Pain

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

-Matthew 5:3 (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)

I was asked once if I thought the only way we would discover God was through pain or loss.

I’ve thought a lot about that. Surely it doesn’t take tragedies to experience God. And yet, I think it does. Maybe it’s only when we are overwhelmed, broken, and “poor in spirit” – when we cannot find the resources within ourselves – that we are ready to acknowledge our need for God.

We are physically born in pain. And perhaps that is the only way we can be born spiritually as well.

Pain wears many faces: the pain of sorrow and loss, emptiness, and disillusion; the pain of guilt and shame, rejection and abandonment. Within all forms of emotional pain, we find ourselves struggling to find the answers and resources we need to satisfy our yearning.

We search for meaning in academic institutions and the wisdom of philosophers. We believe we will be happy when we have reached a certain level of success or have acquired enough wealth. We make plans, work hard to achieve them and believe we are good people because we attend church and believe in the golden rule.

And yet, in all our searching for happiness and contentment, we are left with a sense of being incomplete. The answers we thought we wanted don’t seem to be enough. Something seems to be missing and we keep looking for it. And then a tragedy, death or loss challenges our thinking and beliefs even more.

We look for answers to all our problems in science, technology and the internet. Medical research is providing us remedies for diseases and all forms of health and medical problems. While throwing the need for God out the window, we unconsciously keep looking for a God substitute that can provide answers of the spirit and soul.

What is my pain teaching me?

Pain, like everything else, can teach us. I have found it is precisely when I am in emotional or physical pain that I am challenged to stop and reflect on what is working and what is not.  When I remain in its presence, I begin to accept my vulnerabilities, break down the protective barriers I have built and allow myself to be strengthened. It is in pain where I find the opportunity to grow, spiritually and mentally and become genuine and real.

Nobody likes pain and we try to avoid it whenever possible. Yet, without pain we would not know when something was wrong or when we have injured ourselves.

Acute pain is the body’s first line of defense against danger: move away, get help, do something.

People born without pain receptors are at high risk of physically injuring themselves. Pain is important for our survival.

We typically describe physical pain as throbbing, burning or some other one of a thousand descriptions.

But what about emotional pain?

What We Learn from Pain | FocusWithMarlene.com

How do you describe it? It is just as acute, but without physical signs of bruising or bleeding. And it usually brings out the worst in us. We become irritable, cranky and moody and lose patience and dump those feelings on anyone who happens to be around.

But, if we are willing, pain can bring out the best in us. We learn patience and develop fortitude and more effective coping skills. Our spiritual and psychological muscles are strengthened, and life takes on a deeper, more spiritual meaning.

Grief, Loss and God

We are not only challenged to come to terms with our loss but are confronted with the necessity to consider what life really means. We think happiness is all about career achievement, financial security and education.

While these things are important, they in and of themselves do not necessarily make us happy. When a loved one’s life is cut short, we recognize the importance of relationships, giving and sharing, and self-sacrifice.

When faced with pain or loss, we cry out to God for help.

There is scientific and medical evidence that prayers make a difference in healing from surgeries and injuries, regardless of whether the recipient knows they are being prayed for or not.

Prayer is an integral part of my life and I am very aware of prayers heard and answered according to God’s time frame and wisdom. And I have learned to formulate my prayers to meet the needs of the moment.

I believe we will only find the remedies we want and need when we are open to coming to God for answers to the questions we have difficulty formulating. When our well-laid plans have been destroyed and we are stripped of wealth, good intentions and well-designed lives, we find ourselves re-thinking God and our need for something beyond ourselves, our culture and technology.

This can be an enriching moment in time. Yes, it is painful and yes, if you could, you would avoid having to go through such times. But it can be a major turning point in your life.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

What is Grieving, Anyway?

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When we have lost something of great importance, our lives are forever changed.

With most unwanted changes, we make an adjustment and move on; life resumes and basically remains the same. It is when something of great significance and deep emotional attachment has been taken away, that our life becomes radically changed.

Losses are personal.

Nobody but you can determine how important a loss is. A child who has just lost a beloved pet or toy experiences sadness at a deeper level than we might think. Their attachment to that pet and toy was extremely important to them.

It is essential that we respect a child’s grief and help them through it instead of dismissing it.

What does it mean to grieve?

We know we will experience intense emotions of sorrow and sadness. Our emotions can range from despair to moments of solace, from anger to guilt, from joy in our remembrances to a blanket of depression that settles over us like a fog.

I associate the complexity of emotions to being on a roller coaster – up one minute and down another or somewhere in-between. In mourning, we give expression to our grief in some way.

I associate the complexity of emotions to being on a roller coaster - up one minute and down another or somewhere in-between. In mourning, we give expression to our grief in some way.

The greater the loss, the deeper the grief.

Working with individuals who have suffered major losses, I am humbled by the depth of grief they are working through. The typical words used to define this grief process have a different meaning to each person.

We don’t get “over it,” and, as one person indicated to me, the term “closure” has no comfort attached, either.

We will always have that empty spot in our lives, that hole in our heart, that love we no longer can give to the person we lost, that possibility or potential that will never be realized. But we can create a new reality, a new way of life that holds meaning, love and purpose once more.

Everyone grieves in their personal way that will have different time frames and different outcomes. We choose different methods to process our grief that fits who we are.

  • One person I met completed a 200+ mile walk called El Camino de Santiago in Spain walked by people as part of their healing process.
  • Others have found walking and praying a maze helpful.
  • Art therapy is extremely beneficial in the healing process, taking the broken shards of our life and turning them into a visual memory of recognition, reconciliation and celebration.

Don’t bury your loss.

When we have lost a loved one, we are usually given little time off before returning to work and are faced with working through our grief in bits and pieces. It is important to find time to grieve so our grief doesn’t become buried.

Working through a current loss often triggers old losses that were not processed, going way back into childhood. We feel the emotions attached to that earlier loss even when we are unable to put all the actual pieces of the event together in a cohesive pattern.

Find that time to grieve.

Grieving or mourning isn’t some sad time we spend feeling sorry for ourselves. It is active work that enables us to put our loss to rest. Here are some things to consider:

Grieving is:

  • Coming to terms with what has happened – making sense of it all
  • Working through the tangles of roller coaster emotions and thoughts
  • Working through the questions until you can let go and accept with or without answers
  • Finding a way to express what you are experiencing. Journaling, sharing with others, creating an art project, quiet time reflecting, writing a letter of goodbye are all some ways to help the healing process.
  • Validating your journey – give yourself permission to grieve. Emotional wounds require healing time just as physical wounds. Working through that grief is important to heal and integrate and not just contain.
  • Working through the layers of loss. There are many components that are a part of any loss that need consideration.
  • Answering the question, “Who am I after this loss? I knew who I was, but who am I now?” It is where we begin to establish that new identity and plan for tomorrow.
  • Stepping out and finding ways to make life meaningful again.

Grieving is not:

  • Feeling sorry for yourself. When we feel sorry for ourselves, we want to nurse our hurt feelings. When we are grieving, we want to share our pain so we can let go of it and heal.
  • Trying to “get over” it. Life will not be the same. Grieving is healing, integrating and replacing.
  • Doing things one particular way. We are all different. Take from the examples and suggestions offered and apply the ones that will work for you.
  • Going through predictable stages or time frame. While we may experience similar things, grief is never predictable. Each loss has its own unique necessities. There is no time limit when we “should” be better.
  • Retreating into solitude. While we need those times alone to sort things out, we also need the support of others. Retreating can at some point leave you isolated, lonely and depressed.

The lists above reflect some of the things we deal with in grief associated with the death of a loved one. However, when we lose our jobs, our financial stability, our ability to earn a living, or lose an expectation such as a marriage, or a long sought-after dream, these losses also need to be grieved.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

This Can’t Be Happening

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“This can’t be happening. There was so little warning. He had been so healthy. There was no time to prepare. I’m numb. What do I do now?”

This begins Chapter 1 in my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World.

Our first reaction of any kind to an unexpected tragedy, crisis, or loss is usually shock and disbelief. We are unprepared for the enormity of how our world has been turned upside down and inside out.

The world we knew has just ended and we struggle to accept what is happening. Denial storms into our existence as we try to wrap our brain around this loss.

Even when we are prepared for a loss that is the result of a long-term illness, it brings with it sadness and sorrow. The illness itself might have been premature and unexpected. They were too young to get sick; he was so healthy, etc. Whether we are prepared or not, grief demands its own time frame to work through the tangles of disbelief and unreality.

Losses can be messy, confusing and are rarely straightforward.

A major loss is like taking a journey into the wilderness.

You have never been there before. You search desperately for information from your past to apply to this situation. You remember going to funerals and offering condolences to friends, but this feels different.

There have been anxiety-producing unknowns and realities in the past that have taken you through hills and valleys. But these, too, don’t seem to apply in the same way with what you are currently experiencing.

We each process grief differently.

Although we learn valuable information about grief from others, each person’s journey will be unique based on their life experiences, their personalities and individual interpretation.

How one person processes their grief may be different than how you do. It is important not to compare what we are experiencing with how another is experiencing their loss.

Be compassionate with yourself; eliminate self-criticism and judgment.

Our intellect may want to make sense of what is happening, but our heart often says it makes no sense at all.

The grief journey

Grieving is an emotional and spiritual journey where we struggle to find out who we are based on what is happening. At times we may feel as though we are dying. We take in details but are indifferent to what is actually occurring around us.

Particular times of the day can trigger more or less intense pain and sorrow. As we work through our grief, we might experience hope and then hopelessness; pleasure and moments of contentment and then despair.

Intensity and duration of emotions will vary from time to time and with each person and situation.

It might seem at times as though you are on a roller-coaster ride – up one day and down the next.

As you go through this journey you may find yourself going up hills and through valleys, climbing mountain peaks and struggling through parched deserts.

As you go through this journey you may find yourself going up hills and through valleys, climbing mountain peaks and struggling through parched deserts. There may be mornings when you wake and experience the awesome wonder of God’s world and sing His praises.

But there will also be nights and mornings when you cry out, “God, where are you? I’ve reached my limit. I cannot endure anymore.”

And you struggle with thoughts of whether God real or if it is all an illusion. But then, as you read the Psalms and scriptures, you find yourself filled with peace and a knowing that God is indeed real, and He does care and is with you when you cry out to Him.

Honor your loss.

Honor your grief. Honor your journey. The process will teach you.

You have never been here before. Listen to your heart – accept your pain – reach out to others.

This is not a voyage of the head but of the heart and soul and spirit.

Any trip that takes you into the wilderness will test your perseverance, strength and courage. You haven’t chosen to go on this trek, but here you are. You may want to run away, but there is no place to run to.

The only way out is by moving through the unknown and the pain. And when you do, you begin to heal and discover an inner strength.

In that pain you will be able to reconcile and integrate your loss. In the process, you learn more about yourself. As you move forward, you will find new meaning for life. While you do not remain in the desert or the wilderness, the experience becomes an invaluable part of your life, your memories and your identity.

You are tougher and more resilient than you thought.

It’s impossible to escape pain.

Because pain is as much a part of life as joy or happiness, we cannot escape it any more than we can escape life. Pain becomes a part of the human experience and teaches us how to live life to the fullest.

Medicating your pain or denying and pushing it away will only create more pain in the long run.

As you go through this journey, you will need the help and support of others.

You may want to be alone, and at times need to be alone. Honor and respect that. But we also are social beings and we need one another. We run the risk of isolation if we shut others out.

I have been on that journey.

I have experienced the hills and valleys, the ups and downs. I have felt the pain that seemed unbearable. But the pain diminishes when we address it and walk through it.

As I walk with you on your journey through grief and loss through my blog, podcast and book, I would love to hear from you and what you are experiencing. As we share, we help one another. As our stories intertwine, we are given new coping skills and healing strategies.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

The Many Pieces to Loss

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There are many layers connected to the loss of someone you loved. It isn’t just the person we grieve; it is everything associated with the life we shared: the fun times, meals together, the friends we associated with, and the sharing of everyday life. There were times of serious discussions or debates around differences.

It was knowing that someone was there who shared your life, even when there was no conversation or when one of you was away from home for long periods of time. It is that comfortable resting spot of knowing you are not alone even when apart – that familiarity that complements and completes both lives. You planned together, fought together, and considered options for your future together. You bounced ideas off each other for almost every aspect of living.

Loss is not just the removal of someone who was important to us – it is the loss of everything in life associated with that loss.

The Many Pieces to Loss | FocusWithMarlene.com

In an article by Amelia Nierenberg in The New York Times, she writes how hard mealtimes are for widows. Another grief counselor suggests that food and cooking might be considered the “sixth stage of grief” if we still considered stages of grief.

Why?

Because so much of daily life is centered around food, whether in preparation, socializing or time spent eating together. Food becomes an overwhelming trigger of what was lost.

Grieving is more than accepting and coming to terms with what has happened.

When a loved one dies, in many ways we die, too.

Every part of life is impacted: social circles, friendships, family relationships, spiritual, finances, where we live, and careers.

Grieving is not just mourning – it is picking up the shattered pieces of what was a significant part of who we were and creating a new existence that holds meaning, purpose and substance.

As we better comprehend what learning to live again really means, we recognize that what we are experiencing is normal and natural. Bereavement groups have begun for men as well who struggle to make sense of life after the death of their spouse. They are encouraged to talk about the things that trigger that grief which also include food.

As hard as it is for widows to fix meals for themselves, it is equally as hard for males. It is encouraging to know that we are not alone in sorting through the many pieces connected to loss.

While life is never the same, it is important to know that we can find ways to make life meaningful again.

As I mention in my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, grieving is more than just recovery, it is finding ways to rebuild your life. It is developing new relationships and finding something that has meaning.

There may be things from your past that you would like to do again or things you always wanted to do.

It may be stepping out and trying something new you hadn’t even considered before. While each person’s grief is unique to them, their backgrounds and personalities, there is a commonality to all of them that in some way connects us together.

We need more than just talking about our pain and feelings to heal.

Recovery is not a step-by-step process that leads you from one place to another in an orderly, sequential fashion. It is going in and out and back and forth, working through the twists and turns of conflicting emotions and unanswerable questions.

It is leaving behind, putting fond memories in place and in the process realizing you do have the strength, fortitude and ability you didn’t know you had to move forward – you will be okay. You can make it. We will struggle with letting go of what we had, but eventually are able to close one chapter and start another.

Losses can be an opportunity to truly discover that you do have the fortitude and ability to create a new meaningful life.

As you move through this journey there will be tears and sadness and questions and fears and anxiety because you are stepping into the unknown. But there will be times when we recognize with gratitude the blessings that associated with it. It also is a time when you become emotionally, spiritually and psychologically stronger.

Marlene Anderson


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Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Discovering Ourselves in Our Losses

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My book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, will be released in the next few weeks. This series of blog posts and podcast episodes will focus on what it means to lose someone who was significant in your life, and the important work required to heal and recover.

Grieving is Hard Work!

Grieving was some of the hardest work I have ever done. When my husband died after forty-two years of marriage, I looked for resources to help me through the process. The books available at that time were either too clinical or singular in purpose, such as memoirs.

We have come a long way from those days when the focus was simply on getting people through the early days and months after a loss. It is now recognized that grieving includes the need to focus on how to rebuild your life.

Losses are Part of Life

Grieving a loss is hard work. It takes time to work through the emotions, layers, knots and tangles. | FocusWithMarlene.com

Throughout our lifetime we will experience losses. Most are small or minor; we negotiate the change and move on, such as typical life changes. We might feel sad about what we are giving up but are looking forward to what the future holds.

Significant losses, however, are different. They are often unexpected and involve leaving something of great importance behind. The death of a husband or child, for example, is monumental, and you struggle with the enormity of how drastic your life has been altered. There is little anticipation for happiness in the future.

Although I have lost both a husband and a child, my posts will primarily focus on the loss of a spouse. However, the information is applicable to any major loss.

Creating New Beginnings

Processing a loss is more than just recovery; it is redefining who you are in order to create a new beginning.

As I worked with grief and loss groups, individuals wanted more than just talking about their loss – they wanted information on how to move forward. I started creating worksheets for them that reflected where they were in their journey and information and exercises to take them beyond. They found these extremely helpful and it became the genesis of my book.

My book is divided into four sections:

Part I – An Unwanted Journey, addresses those early days, weeks and months when we feel the acute pain from our loss.

Part II – Letting Go: Closing the Door, focuses on letting go so we can put our loss to rest and begin focusing on taking that next step.

Part III – From One Reality to Another: Redefining Yourself, addresses the question, “Who am I now?

Part IV – A New Beginning, suggests the many ways we can start a new chapter in our life.

The two Appendixes give in-depth information on dealing with difficult grief emotions and the critical need for support systems.

Each chapter begins with a vignette which addresses the thoughts and feelings we experience, and a Reflection and Personal Application worksheet that offers clinical information and exercises.

As we work through our grief we begin to heal and recover. We will struggle with hanging on to what we had before we can let go. Eventually, we can close one chapter of life so another can begin.

Healing does not mean we forget or no longer remember; it neither diminishes nor eliminates our losses.

But it does mean we make conscious choices to move forward, so our lives are no longer dominated by grief. We not only heal but find a new song and dance for our lives as well.

If you or someone you know are currently going through a loss, I encourage you to follow my blog and podcast. When my book is released, it will have a hard copy version, an e-book version and an audio book available. I will let you know when it has been released.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

A Goal-Setting Checklist

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Click here to listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene podcast.

In this series, we’ve been talking about goal setting. Get caught up here:

Part 1: Why You Should Create a Formal Goal Plan

Part 2: 9 Basic Components of a Goal 

Part 3: Goal-Setting Case Study 

Once you have used goal setting you will never live without it. It simply becomes a way of life. By writing down the steps in a formalized fashion in the beginning, it soon becomes second nature.

Here are some things to remember:

Does your goal adequately reflect what you want to accomplish?

For example, you might want to become financially secure and choose an occupation that has the best potential for making lots of money. However, if your goal doesn’t reflect who you are, your personality, your talents, passions, etc., your goal will soon create high stress and great dissatisfaction. If you like working with people but choose to be an accountant who works with books, the conflict will soon deplete you.

Sometimes we have to let go of an old reality to create a new one.

Ask yourself some blunt and pointed questions.

  • Are you really satisfied with things as they are?
  • What would you rather be doing?

Ask for constructive input.

Ask good and loyal friends who are not afraid to tell you some uncomfortable truths.

If you are making a major life change, brainstorm as many options as possible.

Evaluate them carefully as to their potential outcomes.

Find people who are willing to mentor you.

Successful people within their field are usually honored to be asked for advice. Mentors are people we can trust, who will be honest, give constructive input, help clarify thinking, and perhaps reveal hidden obstacles. While we are responsible for the final choices we make, mentors can give us a heads up in the process.

Consider carefully the risks and obstacles involved in reaching your goal.

  • What additional information will you need before getting started?
  • What hidden costs, risks, time constraints, etc. will this involve?
  • Is your goal important enough to match these costs and risks? Start small.

Your goals need to be realistic and obtainable.

If you have always wanted to become an astronaut, but are now 55, you will find that goal unrealistic and difficult to obtain. Work on goals you can accomplish. Combine some of your interests and passions into workable goals. We can’t have everything. Pick the ones that are the most important to you.

When you have done your homework, construct your goal statement to reflect exactly what you want to have happen.

It is easy to get discouraged even with a well written goal plan. Plans are always harder in real life. What we say to ourselves can be a great stumbling block. Belief in ourselves and our abilities is strengthened as we work through our obstacles.

Repeat positive affirmations every day that counteract discouragement.

A Goal-Setting Checklist | FocusWithMarlene.com

  • Affirmations include such statements as:
  • I can do this
  • I am accomplishing my goal
  • I can overcome any problem or obstacle because I believe in my ability to succeed in my goals.

Include God in your plans.

When I ask for guidance and include God in all my planning, I am able to find a way to overcome obstacles and appreciate the unexpected blessings along the way.

Goals motivate and energize us.

Not all goals are elaborate or huge. We are making mini goals every day; we just don’t realize it.

When we know what is involved, can plan for obstacles, and have a workable plan of action, our efforts are turned into positive action and a positive return.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.