F*** U Grief!

There is absolutely nothing delightful about grief. It is the evil bastard child lurking from behind the scenes, ready to jump on you when you least expect it! Grief tears people apart, it ages the…

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F*** U Grief!

There is absolutely nothing delightful about grief. It is the evil bastard child lurking from behind the scenes, ready to jump on you when you least expect it! Grief tears people apart, it ages the body and forces one to grieve inwards causing so many issues that may stem from unresolved guilt, shame, anger and blame. Grief is a weapon, it is a sharp instrument ready to stab you over and over and over again. If it isn’t contained than it will run rampant with your emotions, like a snake devouring its prey.

Grief is like a cancer it grows and changes form each and every single day. Similar to a cancer growth, grief has the ability to highjack the body and weaken you until your body tires from the strain and has no where to go but to surrender to it.

Grief kills all your dreams and ambitions in a single swipe. It takes away your will to live, your purpose in life, your vocation, your plans, your everything. It builds a giant wall around you forcing you into the fetal position gasping for air. It is unpleasant and gut wrenchingly scary, like a wolf hiding in the bushes, you feel its breath against your skin but you’re too terrified to run from it.

F*** you grief for destroying so many lives, F*** you death for taking away the souls of so many beloved and kindred people. For de-bonding families and creating anxiety in those who survive in its aftermath. For those now grief stricken, disabled in their sorrows. For those who draw the curtains instead of letting the sunshine in, for those who turn to other means to numb their pain. F*** you grief you blood sucking leech.

Grief you horrid, nasty, no good foe of mine. Please be gone and let me resume living again. Please untangle yourself from me, please unchain me and set me free. I am no good to you or others in this state. Please emancipate me, please remove your filthy hands from by being. Be gone grief, F*** You and let me be……

 

 

Grief in a Couple’s World.

My observations this week have taken me into the unknown world of widowhood. In a couple’s world this planet can be very lonely for someone who has lost a spouse or partner. Instantly people are plunged from the comforts of containment and joy into a fearful abyss of tears and solitude.

In the gym this morning I was surrounded by couples who obviously were sweating together in sync whilst walking fast pace on the treadmill climbing an upward incline. However, on the decline were the frail, elderly men struggling to sustain the weight of the barbels underneath their fragile bodies. Thus, the couples working together in unison were working at a faster pace, looking out for one another, wiping down equipment for one another, sipping water together, squatting together as a team.

To highlight this issue of solidarity, people in relationships fail to recognise the importance of unity and companionship that being in partnership with someone outside of your own being offers. This other person is a representation of their world, their financial partner, their Counsellor, their best friend, their travel buddy, worst critic, sexual partner & soul mate to name only a few.

To highlight such issues let’s look at the world within a social perspective from someone who is widowed. For example: When booking any reservations the assumption is that there will be two people for dinner, or perhaps a movie for two? When holidaying you are actually penalised for booking a room for 1, it is actually more economic to book a room for 2. These are the struggles that people face everyday. We live in a biased world that caters for two.

When you are in a couples world you are able to share and vent to your partner any woes that you may have endeavoured during your day. A simple phone call to clarify an issue, to organise dinner, pick up milk or to massage your aching feet. These are all taken away when your partner dies as death also takes with it their wise council, their presence, protection, security, advice and future, yes they take with them your future plans which may include retirement, children, grandchildren, world cruises, hours in the garden, walks by the beach and tender moments of togetherness and love making. These all disappear when your partner dies leaving you with feelings of abandonment, isolation from other couples and deep sadness; a sadness that leaves you sighing under a heavy chest.

 

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Other issues may involve domesticity activity, raising children, grandchildren, financial plans and decision making. Is the house too big for one person? Is moving away going to isolate you from the people in your neighbourhood? Opening stubborn jars of jam or pickles, removing stains from tired jeans, changing the light bulbs, eating dinner alone and the list goes on and on and on.

The world of the bereaved partner is very confusing and isolating. No one can make assumptions on your behalf. The way you choose to grieve for your partner is innate and unique to you. Family members, especially adult children, mean well but their grief experience is different to yours. The empty house is a great metaphor to the emptiness you have in your heart.

Overall, your world will change as you discover different ways of coping with the loss. You may start to mingle with a different group of friends, you may decide to down size the family home, become a volunteer, spend more time with family or invest in activities that you enjoy (i.e. Art/Sport etc). The world can be a very scary place for you at the beginning and you may fantasise about being with your loved one (this is normal) but you soon realise that the void must be filled, you begin to fill the void whilst all along having your loved one right there tucked away in your heart, they are never to far away in your mind and in your being.

All in all, there are continuous challenges for the grieving partner. Anniversaries and significant events can rock your world again and throw you back 10 steps. There is no linear process here. If isolation is an issue become familiar with what is available to you in your area, 24/7 helpline numbers, support groups, church support etc.

You will discover your rhythm again as time permits, you will have bad days and good days. You will get angry and frustrated and you will find laughter again. These are all part of the grief journey you find yourself in. You will evolve and offer others solace during their grief. You will grow whilst letting go of the training wheels.

(For those of you feeling ‘stuck’ in your grief please seek advice from your GP or healthcare practitioner. Complicated Grief is real and can disable you from living life again).

 

Artwork credit: http://www.jennilowe.com

Grief Relief – Janice Butera

 

Any one who has ever lost someone will tell you that in the beginning there is no relief from their grief. Every day tasks of survival like eating and sleeping are compromised. The body reacts in a way that it shuts down and feelings of numbness and disbelief are prominent and every day occurrences.

The mind is over shadowed with brain fog and feelings of despair and sorrow. The task of thinking and completing a simple chore can be very overwhelming and create more anxiety and angst. Simply going to the supermarket to buy bread and milk can be an obstacle challenge as you try to avoid making eye contact with people in fear they may ask how your day has been or worst case scenario you bump into someone you know.

Weekends and night times can be the loneliest time for those who grieve. As the world prepares to sleep your mind is racing and the isolation and burden of grief plagues you. It is in the silence where you feel the most sorrow! Some nights you may re-live the death in your nightmares and falling asleep can terrify you. This is your brain trying to make sense of a sense-less death – It too shall pass.

For some of us going back to the workforce can be a relief from your grief. The distraction of work can  occupy your time and mind with mundane ‘non grief’ tasks. Thus, many people are forced to early into the work force due to financial stressors. This too can burden us as we feel that society is not accommodating to our grief and employers are neglectful in their role in supporting us. Having someone you can confide in at work can be useful or using your sick leave as ‘mental health’ days can alleviate the burden of facing others when you are not ready too.

Friendly invites from friends, peers and loved ones can also create great stress. Grievers feel a need to ‘hibernate’ to help self-regulate their emotions. The fear of having to eat dinner with people and interact outside of your comfort zone is very daunting. The reality is our taste buds are in hiatus and the taste of food is irreverent for us right now. People mean well but declining a friendly invite is a way of reminding the ones who love us that we are too vulnerable right now.

Resuming life after death has bestowed us is not like picking up a favorite book and simply reading on from where we last left. The book of life has now had a few pages torn right from it, it has altered and the chapter now has a different ending.

The only relief from grief one may experience is re-visiting memories of better days in your mind’s eye. There is no magic potion that will change your circumstances other than acceptance and feeling the pain. Death mimics that moment in life when you discover that Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are not real. That feeling in your gut when you realise that a joyous moment has forever been taken away from you. Grief is horrible, it reveals you and becomes part of your being.

Whether you are at the beginning, in the midst or ‘re-adjusting’ after loss remind yourself that the missing part of your jigsaw puzzle will present itself in due time. Someday you may awake and feel that the relief you were seeking was the fact that your loved one did exist and you are now the ‘custodian’ of their memory. This reminder that your duty of care now is keeping them alive within you may enable you to live a fuller and holistic life as a result. You are fortunate to have the power of choice and may your ‘grief relief’ be in knowing that you play a pivotal role in maintaining a relationship with your loved one through your very own existence . Only YOU can dictate what feels right for you; You are the keeper of your loved one’s memory.

This Grieving Is Never Leaving

 

When death bestows you your life becomes that moment. You become immobilised and time stops forever. Time is non-existent; you are paralysed and forever soaked in a wet shroud stained with tears. There is no on/off button to cease the pain you feel, it remains there in the pit of your stomach, in the core of your heart, it just sits there with no place to go.

You may catch glimpses of your former self, perhaps a smile as you reminisce about better times. You are instantly reminded that your grief is now part of your identity. It invites itself into your dreams, it is the sugar in your morning coffee, it is in the perfume you spray or cologne you wear to cover the smell of sorrow, it is the faceless people you pass on the street, it is the demon that taunts you and reminds you of the joy that once was. Some days you feel like your grieving is never leaving.

Your grief is like the clouds in the sky that form many unusual and intangible shapes. You may look up one day and the clouds have all gone away, you feel like your old self again and you admire what you see. This former self is only a remnant of what life looks like before grief, it reminds you that there is now a crack that cannot be concealed.

You try to pack away your grief and ship it away to a far, remote destination but it always finds its way back to you. There is no one-way passage; it is a guaranteed return on a first class flight back home to you. This grieving is never leaving.

You soak yourself in a warm bath and hope to cleanse this grief from the core of your pores but it is too late now, it cannot be removed, it is forever stained onto your flesh and no cleanser can remove this grief. This grieving is never leaving.

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At night at the end of every day when you tuck yourself away be reminded that your grief is leaving you for a little while as you close your eyes and dream away. Imagine it far away on a one-way plane; visualise it on the bottom of the ocean or sitting on the highest mountaintop. Kiss it good-bye and wish it away for a little while. Now feel your loved one near, feel their heartbeat and hold their hand. Your grief cannot take away your memories from you; you are the director of this screenplay. Memories will outweigh the heaviness of your sorrows and accompany you wherever you may go. If your grief ever leaves kiss it good-bye for it will come back after a little while. Don’t be fooled by its absence as it lives deep in your heart – It doesn’t have to be forever though – My grief is leaving because I have suffered enough… I choose to ‘let it go’.

 

Poem written by: Janice Butera

The Seasons of Our Grief

The grieving process can be likened to the cycle of seasons we all endure in life. We have no control of these states and they are organic and natural just like grief and mourning. Each day we are faced with a new atmosphere, a new environment and a new dawning of the ‘unexpected’ – just like grief.

The sky and seas and the moon dictate the nature of our day/night. The unpredictability of turbulence, calmness or danger prepares us to pre-plan and brace ourselves for the unknown. We are just sitting ducks forced to abide by what nature has in store for us. This can be a great metaphor for those who grieve as our daily states change from hour to hour and we can not predict our emotions just like we can not predict nature. There is no homeostasis – Everything is unstable and forever changing. Grief offers us an imbalance and we have to try very hard to maintain and ‘regulate’ stability in our lives again.

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In comparing grief to our seasons we have days where the sunshine itself is self-soothing and  we feel enlightened by endless rays of warm, nourishing and soul satisfying glimpses of ‘joy’. This can be compared to those moments on a beautiful Spring morning where the skies are blue, flowers are in bloom and there is a sweet smell of nature in the air. We enjoy the ‘new beginnings’ of nature’s gifts and we welcome the birth of many new wonderful and delightful presents from mother nature. These moments give us a glimpse into feelings of happiness and joy – These feelings enable us to be with nature and immerse us in ‘feel good’ moments thus releasing feel good chemicals into the body. We must remember though that even if these moments are fleeting we must sit still and enjoy this beauty around us as it is important to remind ourselves that grief and joy can co-exist.

Summer days can be overwhelming as the heat of the scorching sun can burn us if we do not protect ourselves from it’s fierce rays. As a result, we are reminded of our fragility and need to ‘protect’ our wellbeing during this season just like we need to do in grief. We must apply self care just like we apply sunscreen in the warmer months. This season teaches us to keep hydrated and protected from the elements that can cause damage to us. This month can also gift us with the most awe inspiring sunrises and sunsets. Summer can gently remind us to savour the moment and encourage us to immerse ourselves into nature’s gift of the sea and sand & all that surrounds us during this season.

Autumn is a splendid season. The ever changing colours of this month gives way to the winds that come and blow away the leaves that once protected the trees that stand tall. Without the leaves the tree is left vulnerable as it’s bare soul is now on display without protection from it’s precious coat. This image of many naked, bare trees can be likened to how we feel whilst we grieve, we are stripped back to the very core of our being, we have no where to hide. We need to be patient that with time and healing we will prosper again even though our grief journey will leave us vulnerable many times over and this will happen numerous times over the course of our lives and just like deciduous leaves of a tree, we can fall apart and become fragmented at any time.

Lastly, we have the turbulence of Winter and the pitfalls of dreaded cold and stormy days/ nights. This season forces us to stay indoors and ‘hibernate’ to keep warm and ensure survival. In grief we often experience moments of hibernation where we want to hide and run away from the harsh reality of our losses. The rain itself can be a great metaphor for the tears that flow endlessly. However and in reflection, this season is necessary to ‘feed’ the Earth and enable new growth in Spring. The grieving process can not be halted, if we aim to grieve in a healthy manner than we must surrender to what our body and mind tells us. We need to ‘feed’ our bodies and minds with what ever it is that will enable us to experience grief whilst taking care of it as we would a little child.

In conclusion, the four seasons are a wonderful example of how impermanent our emotions are and how healing is a continuous cycle that has no start, middle or end. We need to experience one season at a time before we can endure another one and so forth, this is cyclic and part of our wonderful ability to re-birth ourselves after each new season.

 

Written by Janice Butera

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My Bereavement Companion

 

 

 

They Say …..

They say you have to let grief seep into your veins to truly integrate the loss. The helplessness of nothingness covers you like a black cloud on a winter’s day. Anticipating the rain is like unloading a deluge of tears from one’s eyes. The tears flow naturally like the kiss of spring on one’s cheeks. Letting them flow is much easier than wearing a mask but wearing a mask is much easier than to cry in front of you (again).

Grief taps me on the shoulders late at night; she whispers small talk in my ears alluding to happier days when I had you. Grief makes a fool of me on many occasions as we dance a tango of two steps forward, three steps back, three steps forwards, four steps back.

Such grief visits me like an unwanted friend. She knocks on my door only to greet me with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and sorrow. Some days I open the window to let her out, it’s an intrusion on my happiness. Grief often takes a seat at the dinner table and I politely remind her of the etiquette that is required. Grief is a constant reminder that death is infinite and a passage of rite to all those who walk this earth. In the midst of all this however grief still continues to show me beauty, the colours of dusk, the sound of the waves ebbing and flowing, the laughter of children, the memory of you is never afar.

To fully immerse oneself into feeling the pain of sorrowfulness is allowing and validating one’s ownership to grieve. As an act of love I allow grief to remind me of what I have lost. It’s the secondary losses and the empty chair on those special occasions that hint at the reality that life doesn’t allow for me to grieve and feel your absence, it begs for me to keep afloat.

As the days turn into months and months turn into years my grief continues to accompany me whilst traveling unfamiliar terrain. I wear heavy boots even in the sunshine but I am always relieved to remove them & let my feet feel the warmth of the sand beneath me every single day because I still have you and love you.

Grief is my educator, my facilitator, and my teacher. It’s the lessons from my grief that enable me to sit and reflect like a mirror to the moon. Some days I ponder how much life has changed since your passing, the reflection I see is a different one. As time prevails the growth around me has been substantial and the days are no longer tinged with so much unhappiness. Your death was an invitation to ‘reevaluate’ and to ‘rebuild’ a life worth living because even in death you are still very much part of me like I am part of you.

 

Written by Janice Butera.

 

Published in: GRIEVE: Stories and Poems for Grief Awareness Month 2015

Hunter Writers Centre.

Right the Wrong

This week I had a conversation with someone who offended me with his words of naivety. There is a false assumption that grief is short term and has an expiry date, thus there is  a notion that people who are actively grieving and showing such bouts of emotions after 12 months must need clinical assistance because this may be viewed as ‘unhealthy’ or ‘abnormal’. The reality however is that the sadness, despair and rumination that one may present in their grieving style may be and most oftenly present after the first 12 months. This is a necessary process of re-adjustment and re-learning to live without the deceased which can be a confusing and confronting time in one’s life. We can choose to ‘disassociate’ from our grief but that creates complications elsewhere and may manifest itself somatically in the body. Educating people on how you grieve is pivotal to your well being, you are the expert of your grief and only you know how to ‘dose’ yourself and regulate your emotions. This is your coping mechanism and we all do this very differently.

Therefore grief is a life long process and grief triggers may present throughout the life span of an individual. Often enough we will experience multiple bereavements and with each one another wound is re-opened. It is not uncommon (for example) for someone to experience the loss of both parents in a short duration of time (orphaned adult) or someone to have lost multiple family members to varies causes in a short period of time. We are naive to think that death will only bestow us once in a life time. Companion animal loss is also another huge area that is often not recognised in our culture. People who lose a pet have invested a lifetime in rearing their companion animal, this love equates to unconditional positive regard, the love of a pet is second to known. We must never underestimate the reaction of grief someone experiences after losing a companion pet. Many will dismiss the griever and often their sorrow is disenfranchised but the loss should be viewed and in some circumstances equated to that of a human loss. We must ‘right the wrong’ here also and educate people that this is a real bereavement and the griever may experience more complex grief  after losing a pet than what they have experienced after a human loss. Remember we all value relationships very differently and this is highly dependent on the attachment each human being invests with their loved one (both furry or not!).

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In conclusion I urge people to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and gauge themselves when confronted with other’s expectations of them. After all we must ‘right the wrong’ and remind people that grief and healing is part of the human condition.

Don’t let other peoples judgements or criticisms dismay you….. Owe your grief!

 

 

 

 

Written by Janice Butera

Dedicated in the memory of Chi Chi Bella.

 

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Online Mourning -Anonymity in an anonymous forum.

Working in the field of loss and grief gives me an opportunity to meet many people from all walks of life using the medium of a simple telephone or my online Facebook page – My Bereavement Companion ™. I created this page as a social experiment to see how receptive people were to share and grieve online with others they didn’t know. The results as per my prediction were outstanding as people from all around the world started posting on my page, writing to me personally by sharing their insights about their personal grief experiences and sharing photos of their loved ones with me and to my followers on my page; indeed and undoubtedly there is a sense of community online and I have been privileged to watching the page flourish into a caring and nurturing place to visit and mourn. What I have witnessed unfold is a community of bereft people coming together as a means of sharing their grief stories and showcasing their loved one to anyone available to ‘listen’ and recognise the pain associated with loss. Finally and at last people felt compelled to share their grief journey with others and in return felt acknowledged by people who also felt a sense of connection with them due to sharing the same common ground of loss. Thus, grieving online is a validated means of expressing grief whilst feeling a sense of camaraderie with others who have joined the same grieving club no one wants to join.

Grieving anonymously online can be a liberating and empowering experience. There is  such freedom in being able to wear your heart on your sleeve without the fear of judgement or criticism. It’s an online community of people who ‘get you’.

There is this real need for people to express their grief without the usage of verbal, spoken words but rather with the usage of a keyboard and a few clicks of a mouse. People feel more inclined to open up and express their grief by not having to speak per se with their tongue but more so with their heart. I recall being contacted by a young women who lost her child to cancer via email. I had encouraged her to call me to discuss options for counselling  but the thought of coming into the centre, sitting in front of a counsellor, and exposing herself to me emotionally was all too daunting. Thus, she found comfort in the suggestion of online counselling. This form of interaction enabled her to write about her grief without having to physically exert herself in conversation which she was not ready to do, there was more comfort sitting at home in front of her personal computer than driving to see me and talking about the death of her only child which for her was disabling and immobilising.

This expression of online mourning has become more and more an accepted form of communication between individuals who feel a sense of connection with others who seem to understand their grief even though that person may be a stranger. This phenomena of ‘online support’ is steadily on the increase and a source of comfort which I have seen soar more recently after the deaths of David Bowie and Prince. Fans of these artists, including myself, have felt like we have had no means of articulating our grief due to judgement and condemnation by others who don’t recognise our grief responses.  Forums dedicated to both artists have been a wonderful and welcoming means of expressing grief with other fans, this outpour of grief has been a comfort to many around the world and has united many people together in our grief. Family members and friends can be quick to dismiss one’s grief but there is a feeling of security online as there always is someone on the other end of the screen to ‘connect’ with. Interestingly, people are not always inclined to seek professionally support after a death and only a small portion of the community will actively seek bereavement counselling. Thus, most people feel a sense of empowerment knowing that they can seek support online in a private setting.

All in all, people need reassurance when they are grieving. They want to be re-assured that their grief is normal, validated and a healthy means of expression. If strangers are on stand by  to offer this support than this is a normal, validating and healthy means of expression. Connection and a feeling of self worth is critical during the acute stages of grief. Regardless of who is on the other end, the support that the seeker receives is second to none. It just confirms the need to be heard in a society fixated with ‘fixing’ the bereaved rather than listening and ‘companioning’.

Posting words of comfort and solace online can be a very effective tool in supporting the grieving community. Those who grieve don’t want to be treated like they must adhere to certain rules and regulations around grief. Grief is a life long process and there will always be triggers in life to re-stimulate the cycle of grief again. Being part of an online forum with others who grieve can be a useful and helpful tool for supporting other bereft individuals but by also feeling supported in return by those like you who are in mourning. It is a safe haven for many who are isolated and not ready to verbalise their grief – it’s the way of the future and a wonderful way to release and express ones self in an environment that is solely catered for those who grieve.

 

Written by Janice Butera

If you have any questions about this piece of writing or any enquiries about bereavement counselling online please contact JaniceButera@hotmail.com with subject heading ‘Grief & Loss’. 

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@ My Bereavement Companion.

 

 

 

 

 

Grief at the dinner table…

As an observer of life I often enjoy watching people interact on a daily basis getting on with living. Thus, when you are bereft and keeping your head above water these daily tasks can be overly consuming and often disabling. The soul struggles to ‘get on with life’ because the hurt is to palpable. Watching others ‘getting on’ with life becomes a hard task because it only re-enforces the sadness you have in your life.

Last night I walked into a restaurant and this was the scene I was confronted with. An elderly women sharing a meal with her mother, on the table beside them sat a young couple and moments later walked in at least 6 couples who looked to be in their mid to late 60’s. I studied each of them and I felt sadness, I felt sorrow for the woman sharing a meal with her elderly mother who was visibly frail and weak. I felt sorrow knowing that someday her daughter will no longer have the pleasure in sharing a meal with her, a mother to love and hold, a mother to mother her and offer her security and warmth.

The couple next to them looked deep in conversation and I felt sorrow for the young women and men who no longer have the opportunity to share a meal and converse intimately with their partners. Young love should be cherished and enjoyed, so many lovers are torn apart by death and separation. The loneliness that consumes those who bury their partners can be very isolating in a world full of couples.

Retirement is a time of life to enjoy and immerse oneself in the fruits of your labour. It is the time for exploring and attending to those hobbies you put off years ago. As I watched this table interact I felt sorrow for those alone at home eating a lonely meal in absence of their soul mate. I felt sad knowing that death someday should intervene and disturb their meal. Sadness that someday this table will dwindle in numbers and that one of them will ultimately be left standing alone, without choice.                                        

Thus, as I enjoyed a meal with my family I felt sorrow for those without company. I thought about the families being separated right now due to war and terrorism and the parents being separated from their children and partners being separated from their loved ones… Our families represent our existence; our identity, our life line….. The thought that someday we too shall be separated pulled at my heart string. This grief sitting at the dinner table felt overly consuming, but it is real and must be acknowledged. What we have can all be gone in the blink of an eye. Such realisation that life is fleeting should be cherished and chewed slowly. Grief also gives us the ability to appreciate the smaller things in life, the flutter of a butterfly, the formation of the clouds, the taste of dew in the fresh air. We must appreciate these simply things because those no longer here can not. In their absence we should enjoy the entree, main and desserts of life.

Grief exposes you to all your demons, it reveals you in ways you thought you could not be revealed. Grief doesn’t care if you’re sitting in a tram or taking a shower. Looking around you and admiring whats in the moment should be cultivated more. Plant those seeds and don’t be afraid of what sprouts. We can not deny death but we can take pleasure in life….


 

Written by Janice Butera

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My Bereavement Companion

 

Art Work Credit: https://billsharp.wordpress.com/category/grief-and-grieving/