Begin at the Beginning of the Story

 

The posts in this blog follow the pages of my book. 

After you read a post, you can click on the next article, or blog post, on the bottom right of the post.

START AT THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY!

To open this blog at the first post so that you can read the posts in order (recommended), just click on my name below:

About Dr Wendy Sarkissian

Table of Contents

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STAY CLOSE BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Of course, this book is for Karl Langheinrich.

(I never really knew love until I knew it with my Beloved.)

And

it honors the loving care

of Rose Gardener,

who kneels to dig

the soil of sorrow

and teaches that love is service.

And that service is love. Read more

It’s summer now.

Rose Gardener kneels beside the humble, rock-lined grave in the Nimbin village cemetery.

After nearly two years, her carefully planted offerings are flourishing: a pale pink Begonia shrub, a white butterfly bush (the bees love it), a vibrant, vermilion-red, self-rooting Russelia, with long, slender stems (birds and butterflies love it for its sweet nectar), and a peaches-and-cream grevillia.

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Welcome to My Reader

Almost dying was like falling from a height into a body of water. And the sting of going below stunned me into an extraordinary clarity that slowed down everything. As I sank below the living, my name and identity – where I lived, what I did, all the outer roles and circumstances I was struggling with – seemed to float like clothes on the surface above me…. nearly dying made me realize that life and death are knit together and we are stretched between them, needing both surface and depth.

—Mark Nepo

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APPRECIATIONS

Karl-Heinz Langheinrich, BA (Murdoch University), BSW (Sydney University), is the co-dreamer of this book and its guiding spirit.

To Karl, I offer a bouquet of joyful and wholehearted appreciation!

The journey of writing this book is inextricably intertwined with my journey of healing from the grief of losing Karl in 2016. It’s impossible to separate the threads of my appreciation.

I offer a huge bouquet of spring blossoms to two courageous Uki men, Rob Brims and Ben Birkett, who dove into our submerged car, risking their lives in numerous brave attempts to rescue Karl.

Deepest thanks to members of the NSW Police and NSW Ambulance Services, who rescued me from the Tweed River and helped me in numerous ways afterward, and to the casualty, radiology, social work, psychiatric, medical and nursing staff of the Tweed Memorial Hospital for caring for me so tenderly and compassionately after the crash.

My great friend, Rose Gardener, to whom this book is dedicated, held me and held me together with the tremendous blessings of listening, driving, listening, digging, concreting, listening, raking, moving, packing and unpacking, listening, coffee and breakfasts, pizza, listening, walks by the sea, sacred poetry, listening, and astute and compassionate spiritual guidance. And listening.

I bow in gratitude to my core group of supporters (my minyan) in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, who helped me in every imaginable way: Andrew (my surrogate son and wise mentor), Geoff, Wendy T, Wendy H, Kev and Lee-Anne and their family, Don, Lori, David W, Anne D, Angela, Petrea and Wendie, Andi, Clare, Colette, Carol and Don, Vanda, Jennifer, Shelagh, Dawne, Chris, Michael and Steph.

My beautiful, heartbroken sister-in-law, Christa Terry, who adores her brother, is a beacon, huge practical support, and a loving friend. My deepest gratitude to you and Ron, Christa.

I am most grateful to my nephew Duncan, who implemented his mother’s wise advice with timely crowd-funding for Karl’s funeral expenses. Many friends donated (some anonymously) to that appeal. I thank all of you again.

Raph, Lori, John, Kev, and David Mac provided invaluable strategic road safety advice and assistance that supported my successful survivor mission to raise funds and awareness to repair the road where Karl died. John W. has been a powerful emotional support in the later stages of writing this book.

I thank many wise reviewers who read all or parts of this book in draft: Lori, Andrew, Kent, Jennifer, Petrea, Becky, Wendie, Anne D, Anna, Leonie, Shelagh, Rose, Anne G, Clare, Carol, Carolyn, Noel, David D, David W, Don, Colette, Jane, Jean Margaret, Diane, Steph, Monica, and Robyn, Yollana, John, and Adele.

For practical support (from plumbing and gardening to landscaping, finding housing, chauffeuring, graphics, flag-painting, flowers, massages, house repairs and a lovely New Zealand holiday), I deeply thank these loving people: Amelia and Brisbane’s Just Earth Cafe, Bill, Christine, Andrea, Francesca, Miriam, Gordon, Robyn, Peter H, Andrew B, Ana, Anna, Yollana, Michelle, Lori and David, Hana and Louisa, Maxine, Tracy, Rose, Nathan, Madeleine, Lillian, Geoff, Klaus, Daniel, David L, Debbie and Maya, Kev, Steph, Lis, “Blokes 4 Karl”, Eddie, Becky, Brendan, Brigitta, Nathan, Kent, Petrea, Wendie, Wendy H, Kev, Lee-Anne, Dawne, Triny, Chris, Nick, Mee Kam, Michael, Paddy, Bill, Gaelle, Amelia, Alda, Pam, Leo, Angela, and Litsa.

For celebrating my departure from Australia, I will never forget the gracious arrangements and marvellous farewells and stories of Wendy T, Monica, Michael K, Geoff, Angela, Don, Peter L, Kristin, Michael A, Suzy, Patsy, Peter, Mike, and Jan.

For psychological, psychic, and spiritual support, I gratefully acknowledge Rose, Yollana, Andrew R, Michelle, James, Linda, Petrea, the Quest for Life Foundation, Angela H, Angela K, Jack, Vanda, Margaret, Noel, Grant, Natalie, Mike, David D., John, and Adele.

For legal support, I am grateful to Peter L, the other Peter L, and Michael J. For helping and empowering me in the final resolution of complicated and infuriating legal matters, I especially thank the very special Peter L. and the other equally magical and special Peter L.

I am deeply grateful to Petrea King, Founder, Quest for Life Foundation, Bundanoon, New South Wales, and the management and staff of QFL for gifting me a five-day residential healing retreat in 2016. In this regard,  also acknowledge the compassion, love and support of Wendie Batho.

For boosting my courage and activist spirits, I thank Geoff at Inner Sydney Voice, Engage2Act (Desley, Becky, Amy, Crispin, Andrew, Sally), Steph, Kev, Lori, Mee Kam, and the passionate and courageous activists of the Pang Jai fabric market and their supporters in Hong Kong.

For inspiring my activist passions, I thank the Mayor, the management, staff, and the legal advisor to Tweed Shire Council, NSW. I also think the Tweed Shire Council most sincerely for repairing a section of the Kyogle Road near Braeside Road, Uki, NSW.

I thank Cr. Katie Milne, Mayor of Tweed Shire, for her support for the Bless this Road event in September 2018.

I thank many friends, including John, Liam, Rose, Steph, Yollana, Kerrie, Jason, Jeb, Luke, Francesca, Miriam, and Armonica’s, for support for the Bless this Road event.

For assessment, editorial, and agent services, I express my warm gratitude to D. Patrick Miller of Fearless Literary, Napa, California.

***

Finally, I kneel in gratitude to Gaia, my protector. Thank you, oh, thank you, for returning my life to me.

Epilogue

I come from a tribe

of survivors who love life

more than the hardships

they’ve been dealt.  And

we have found each other

the way rivers find the sea.

—Mark Nepo, 2018, “Lifesong with Two Trumpets,” Three Intentions Weekly Reflection, 14 May.

 

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A Huge Lesson and Final Correspondence with Karl

Staying close to Karl for 20 months teaches me about the deeper purposes of maintaining contact with a loved one who has died. I continue to carry his heart in my heart.

The research I review in Chapter 5 confirms that a bereaved person will benefit enormously from maintaining continuing bonds. I am convinced that there is no substitute for the comfort, support, advice, reassurance, and guidance we can receive via this remarkable medium. Read more

Reflections on the Healing Path

As I look back over four years, my journey reveals that moving toward, encountering, and passing through the four Gateways of Wisdom along a healing path can guide a grieving person to navigate this unfamiliar territory and, ultimately, to arrive at her Reconciled Self. The four Gateways of Wisdom are Acceptance, Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Engagement. Read more

Chapter 11: Conclusions: Letting Go of My Old Life

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

−John O’Donohue, 2008, “For a New Beginning”: 14.

Maintaining continuing bonds was right for me

My journey along the path with heart teaches me that maintaining continuing bonds with Karl, my late husband, is right for me. Psychologists, grief therapists and others in bereavement studies agree. Staying connected can provide consolation, reassurance, comfort, support and, importantly, in my case, guidance. I find that the specific methods suggested by Rudolf Steiner a century ago do work, although the communication with a loved one who has died might not last forever in that form.

Expressive writing and journaling about grief (preferably as a conversation or a dialogue) can have a healing effect on the grieving person, provided those activities do not deteriorate into narcissistic behavior. A substantial benefit of the “conversations” approach discussed in this book is that we are engaging in a dialogue with our dear one — not a self-focused monologue. Read more

Actually Doing: Some Ways of Taking Action at the Engagement Gateway

SUGGESTIONS FOR TAKING ACTION:

  1. JOURNALING AND EXPRESSIVE WRITING: Could I consider doing some expressive writing about my feelings in my journal to promote new ways of thinking about my grief, my life, my future, and a potential survivor mission?
  2. DIALOGUING WITH YOUR LOVED ONE: Could I consider engaging in a dialogue with my departed loved one – as an initial experience – perhaps to keep grief and loneliness at bay – and to suggest the possibility of a survivor mission?

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Drinking the Tears of the Earth

As we heal from grief, it’s valuable to identify our personal Giveaway — which may shift and change over time. We may want to ask something like, “What are the unique gifts I can now contribute to my survivor mission?” For me, some are “old friends” that have finally resurfaced from the dark swamp of PTS and cognitive impairment: doggedness, tenacity, commitment, creativity, and, ultimately, clarity. The swamp also yielded patience, humor, acceptance, and the ability to finish what I started. A modicum of softness, humility and gentleness now infuses my activist work. Read more

Our Activism in Karl’s Name to Promote Road Safety

Looking back over four years, I can proudly celebrate the depth and breadth of our activism in Karl’s name:

  • analysis of the road conditions and numerous communications to the Tweed Shire Council, the press and the State Coroner;
  • a detailed request for a coronial inquest (investigated but ultimately refused);
  • our World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims media conference, action and video in September 2016;
  • my Victim Impact Statement in 2016;
  • Bless this Road in September 2016;
  • networking with victims and survivors;
  • and authoring three academic articles about the effects of my experience.

With Steph Vajda, I am working on a film about my activism, with the working title, Nothing but Dreams. Read more

Reflecting on Bless this Road

In planning and participating in our Bless this Road event, I believe that we achieve our aims: to educate community members about leading practices in road safety, to share our grief and pain; to express our gratitude; to build our individual and shared courage – as a community of mourners; and to celebrate our loved ones and our achievements. And to move on with our lives despite the tragedies we have experienced.

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Bless this Road Part 3: Declaration of The Matilda Way, Gift Giving and Appreciations

The Matilda Way

After our lunch, in Part 3 of Bless this Road, we proceed to name and formally proclaim open The Matilda Way: the repaired section of Kyogle Road where six people died.

Sadly, our expert road safety advisors tell us that the repairs are of poor quality, the many weaknesses of the new road design potentially creating significant new hazards. Its safety rating increased from 1 (the lowest possible rating) to only 2. For the expenditure of over a million dollars in federal funds, this is a poor showing, to be sure.

Nevertheless, we need to celebrate and move on. Read more

Bless this Road Part 1: Road Safety Workshop

At Bless this Road, our road safety workshop takes place in the small meeting room in the Uki Hall. We begin at 9:30 am with morning tea. Then we hold a hard-hitting two-hour workshop to explain – and work through – the principles of a Safe System approach to road safety. Our audience blends several grieving communities: family and friends of Karl’s, family and friends of Matilda and Cecilia Bevelander, family and friends of Uki victims, first responders and other helpers and members of the Uki community. Read more

Bless this Road

A unique approach to community education and healing road trauma

When my injury compensation case with Karl’s vehicle insurer finally settles (confirming that I cannot sue the Tweed Shire Council for negligence in road planning, maintenance and management), relationships between us thaw somewhat, leading to some awkward but improved communication.

Bless this Fire: A SUGGESTION

As I am putting the final touches to this blog, southeastern Australia is ablaze with unprecedented bushfire activity, a direct result of climate change and anthropogenic global warming. Sitting in Vancouver in front of my TV, transfixed by the horror unfolding in my adopted country, I imagine a modification of the “Bless this Road” approach that might be used as a healing model for those who have been shocked, broken, dispossessed, injured, made homeless and forever traumatized by the horror of the bushfires in Australia. I imagine “Bless this Fire” emerging as a model for healing — of individuals, families, friends — and communities. And I offer our healing model in the fervent hope that someone in Australia might take it up and develop it to suit the bushfire crisis.
 
Millions of humans are being affected by this tragedy. Billions of other precious lives have been lost. Some species may never recover. Using some of the Deep Ecology activism approaches and rituals provided in this blog and this book and combining them with the approaches in the “Bless this Road” model, we might have a model that could be taken forward for healing trauma in Australian communities affected by bushfires.

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Our Road Safety Activism Draws to a Close

At the time of this writing (January 2020), our road safety activism has drawn to a close.

In November 2017, Lori and I prepare our second annual submission to the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

In January 2018, my article about our survivor mission is published in an Australian road safety journal.

And in December 2018, I publish an article in the World Transport Journal. Read more

The First Action of Our Survivor Mission

The first action of our survivor mission is a massive stretch for me, as I am terrified of encountering or triggering new trauma. I must have known intuitively what Judith Herman wisely explains:

The survivor who elects to engage in public battle cannot afford to delude herself about the inevitability of victory. She must be secure in the knowledge that simply in her willingness to confront the perpetrator she has overcome one of the most terrible consequences of trauma. She has let him know that he cannot rule her by fear… (Herman, 2015, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence: 211).

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What Really Happened with Tweed Shire Council?

Confusion at the Engagement Gateway

As grieving people encountering unfamiliar territory when we encounter, confront and ultimately pass through the Engagement Gateway, we may be puzzled or confused by what is happening. We are likely to need support from wise helpers. We may be testing our “survivor mission” muscles and imagining that we might possibly be able to fit back into so-called “normal” life. And we may also feel weak and ineffective as we enter this frightening new realm of service to others, anxiously questioning whether we will ever be able to function “normally” again. Read more

Presenting My Victim Impact Statement to Tweed Shire Council

A polite response …

My first letter to Tweed Shire Council receives a polite and compassionate response from the General Manager, Troy Green. I have it on good authority from a local politician that he is a good person, and I am relieved that my intelligence appears to be correct. However, when I ask to make a Victim Impact Statement to their road traffic staff, and a junior manager (an engineer) takes over communication, relationships between me, my co-activists, and the municipality rapidly deteriorate.  (That’s putting it mildly.) Read more

Road Safety Activism: How We Did It

Lori, Kev and I work together for nearly three years to raise awareness about the design, management, and condition of the rural road where Karl died. We lobby for funding to repair it. Later, we lobby for better road planning generally in the Tweed Shire: a more sophisticated and up-to-date “Safe Systems” approach to road safety.

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My Re-entry into Activism

I’ve been an activist for decades. In the 1970s, I campaign for women’s rights in housing and planning. In the 1980s, I campaign for more hospital beds for Sydney’s outer suburbs. Most of my causes are feminist causes, and I am pretty strident in my younger years.

 
Habitat Forum, 1976
Western Sydney, 1983
Vancouver Pride Parade, 2019

I spend a long career planning, managing, speaking, and teaching about community engagement, always with an activist flavor. Some academics describe me as an activist masquerading as a consultant (but definitely not a “true” academic). And over the years I come to understand that the elitism of academia affects my academic career. The hard-core activists are even less sanguine, always a bit suspicious of my various identites. Still, after spending five years studying professional ethics full-time in midlife, I am pretty clear about what constitutes activism and what it is not.

What does all this speculation mean for a grieving person? In my pained state, I assume it’s nothing! Nada. All my activist and professional lives crash to an abrupt end with Karl’s death. A concussion, chronic pain, several injures, and PTS from witnessing Karl’s death severely impair my cognitive abilities for what seems like forever. So, I am astonished, six months after the crash, to find myself even considering engagement to heal my grief.

However, I soon learn that action can be strong medicine in times of trouble. Read more

Planning Consultants and Activists Together

Working together as social planning consultants, Karl and I often find ourselves awkwardly straddling the fence between consulting and activism. Karl will be trying to explain how coastal processes work — ecologically — to a group of wealthy local residents who just want more sand carted onto their precious Lady Robinson’s Beach at Botany Bay! They are rarely convinced, but he perseveres nonetheless.

Stories in a Park, Eagleby, Queensland, 2000

In one community engagement project, we combine the powerful eco-philosophy rituals of deep ecology with park planning, with dramatic results ( J. Macy et al., 2006, Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings; Sarkissian, W., 2005, “Stories in a Park: Giving Voice to the Voiceless in Eagleby, Australia,” Planning Theory and Practice 6 (1), March: 103-117).

My heart recalls a sweet memory. On a brilliant sub-tropical winter morning, Karl is facilitating the poignant “eco-milling” ritual for community members in the Eagleby Reconnecting Ceremony (2000).

Karl modifies the Deep Ecology Council of All Beings ritual to suit a park planning project in a small, disadvantaged outer Brisbane suburb. He selects and tapes music in a specific sequence designed to activate both left and right brain hemispheres.

(For a video of the “Stories in a Park” engagement processes  in Eagleby, see: https://vimeo.com/65991024)

Karl directing the eco-milling ritual, Eagleby, 2000

Reconnecting Ceremony, Eagleby

About twelve people participate in our 2000 Eagleby ritual. Karl gently guides us through every step, directing us to mill around in a big circle and stop in front of a partner. We hold hands and look into their eyes, imagining the long evolutionary journey that brought them to this human form. Karl asks us to imagine that we might be looking into the eyes of the person whose commitment could save the Earth. This is eloquent, poetic work — silently encountering and receiving another as a living, breathing, miraculous being.

Karl is transformed when he is eco-milling. He is embodying his Giveaway.

When I reread Karl’s eco-milling script, spoken nearly 16 years before his death, my heart opens to his gentle words:

Let the notion surface that this person may be the one you happen to be with when you die…. With this person, close your eyes as you stand with their hand in yours… feel the life energy in it… explore it with your fingers as if you had never encountered a human hand… as if it were the last you might ever touch(Macy et al., 2006, Thinking like a Mountain).

Karl’s philosophical views

Karl’s philosophical views are fiercely non-anthropocentric (not human-centered). He believes in the equality of all life — not the privileged position of humans at the peak of the evolutionary pyramid. In 1993, his first letter to me (before we’d even met) explains his understanding of the Gaia hypothesis: that the Earth is alive — a single organism and a living, self-regulating entity. James Lovelock and others now call it “Gaia Theory,” regarding it as a scientific theory and not a mere hypothesis, as they believe it has passed predictive tests (http://environment-ecology.com/gaia/70-gaia-hypothesis.html).

As I reflect on Karl’s Giveaway and his distinctive approaches to activism, I sense something new and essential: my road safety activism is opening me to my soul (www.wisdombridge.net).

Deep down, I know that Karl would want me to use the power of my grief to fuel action for reform.

Karl’s academic approaches to eco-milling

Karl pioneers his unique version of eco-milling (with a distinctive Romani introduction) as an undergraduate at Murdoch University with Dr Patsy Hallen in March 1995, earning a High Distinction. In assessing his project, Patsy says this to say:

Dear Karl,

Your wonderful contribution to the environmental ethics field trip was a truly beautiful tribute to the ecological self. The actual process was very moving and most memorable for each and every participant. You took a lot of trouble with the eco-milling exercise, and your care and compassion shone through that afternoon, just like the late afternoon sun, illuminating our hearts.

Love, Patsy

Environmental ethics field trip, 1994
Karl explaining Deep Ecology principles to undergraduates, Council of All Beings, Murdoch University, 1993

“You Call That a Weld!”

Skulduggery

Karl loved what he called skulduggery. He misnamed it, really. What he meant was “stirring the pot,” and whenever there was an opportunity for a pot to be stirred, I would turn around and Karl would be there.

As I came to know Karl better, I understood the “hyper focus” side of his personality. When Karl was a welding apprentice in Perth in his thirties, his teachers often admonished him for doing too good a job. “This is not supposed to be the Nobel prize in welding, Karl,” they would announce, as Karl labored to create the world’s most perfect weld. I observed that hyper-focus when he tried to design a website for our business. I kept requesting a menu or a list of pages. Instead, Karl devised a way to turn a single bouncing ball into a multi-colored “fireworks” explosion of the letters of my firm’s name. He labored for six weeks. He never finished the website, but we had an exploding bouncing ball. That behavior is consistent with ADHD symptoms. Karl was trying to focus. Ironically, when he did focus, Karl could catapult into hyper-focus. Then he really lost it. Karl could also lose focus on the strategic direction of our engagement or activism. However, in some areas, he had exceptionally high standards, particularly regarding technical matters, welding and construction. At other times, he would leave his tools outside rusting in the rain for days, and it would drive me crazy.

One of my favorite stories involves my campaign to protect residents from night-time construction noise in Glebe, our high-density Sydney neighbourhood. One summer night, in the late 1990s, I awaken to sounds of welding and grinding. That problem has destroyed my sleep for months. I borrowed a decibel meter from the professor of acoustics, and he taught me how to use it.

I fall out of bed, unpack the decibel meter and turn it on. Then, rubbing sleep from my eyes,  I carry it to the front porch and point the microphone toward the offending noise source, several streets away. The reading is 94 dB(A): more than double the acceptable level. As we sleep with open windows in summer, that is akin to a large truck passing twenty feet away at 25 miles an hour.

Karl does not wake when I leave a note by his bedside. I shuffle into my sandals, tuck the top into my pajama pants and stumble out. It’s 3 am. My hearing easily directs me to the construction site. The Broadway Shopping Centre has been under construction for years.

Several of my frustrating conversations with its management elicited acknowledgement of the illegality of night-time welding. However, its construction is running very late, and the penalty for late construction (about $35,000 a day) is significantly more than the penalty for making noise at night (about $350 a day). I know that, but somebody must defend residents’ rights. I must have sleep. I have a job, classes to teach, research to conduct, and a life to live.

I must have sleep.

Before long, guided by the welding noise, I am trudging up the ramp to the parking lot. All the welders’ cords are plugged into one central electrical box, with the men spread out like a web along the parking garage railing, each working on a separate weld. It takes only a few seconds to disconnect about a dozen cords. I just yank them out.

A blessed silence descends. I imagine my neighbors in their beds, gently falling into unaccustomed sleep. I stand there, waiting to see what will happen next. On reflection, I suppose it is a dangerous thing to do, but I am desperate. My Glebe neighbourhood basks in silence.

Under construction, February 1999
Where the welders were plugged in

Soon, the foreman comes running toward me. I hitch up my pajama pants and turn to face him. He is furious, stomping his foot to emphasize his point. This night shift ends in a couple of hours because staff and customers will be arriving. I explain my circumstances. Within minutes, two uniformed police officers march up the ramp. If they are amused, they hide it well. The foreman is pretty keyed up by this time, as I’m not bowing to his demands. I’m a long way from compliant. The welder-men huddle behind us, smoking and whispering.

I wield my decibel meter as the four of us discuss “my problem” and my alternatives.

“Madam”, says Robert, the older one, “This project will never be finished if you keep pulling out the welders’ cords.” Further, nobody in authority will ever listen to my noise readings because I have no qualifications or authorization to read decibel meters. I observe Robert turn away to hide what resembles a grin.

As I canvass my options, I glimpse the silhouette of a small, dark, scrawny figure emerge from the gloom and stagger up the ramp. Barefoot, in a stained, torn T-shirt and ragged jeans, his hair like a rat’s nest, Karl is a frightening sight. He’s forgotten his glasses and appears to have difficulty focusing. He offers me a perfunctory nod, not disclosing his identity.

I am grateful for his support, but within seconds, Karl is magnetically pulled away from me: to the railing welds on the ramp. Rolling a smoke with one hand and gesturing wildly with the other, he plods doggedly along the ramp, bending to inspect every single weld, angrily blowing smoke at each offending one. I wonder how he’s managing to see without his glasses.

Now it’s my turn to cover a smile, as I hear Karl holler at the cluster of workmen: “You call that a weld? Shame on you. This is not welding. Who are you anyway? You’re not welders! Shame! Shame!” Then Karl launches into a sophisticated and passionate discourse about the finer points of the art and science of welding, including, apparently, the most abhorrent failure of craftsmanship: weld porosity, caused by all manner of welding incompetencies.

“Bad welds are never good,” Karl exclaims, galvanizing his audience. These men need to understand their equipment, their materials and, critically, excessive turbulence, gas shielding, gas flow and contamination issues. Karl’s cornered audience cannot escape a dramatic, illustrated lecture on welding technology, professionalism, craftsmanship and health and safety standards. Wild gestures accompany his tirade. Karl amps it up so massively that I must resist the temptation to shove the decibel meter microphone under his chin. Even with the welders’ equipment unplugged, we’re now tracking at well over 94 dB(A).

“This is a public safety health and issue, can’t you see? This railing will collapse,” screams the self-appointed quality supervisor. “People will die, and it will be completely your fault.” He spins around and glares at the foreman: “Somebody should be supervising this work. It’s not welding. These are not welds. This work is complete crap. It’s shit. Shame on you. Shame on you all!”

It’s difficult to leave this dramatic scenario, but I turn back to the police to review my options. I can do it the hard way or the easy way, announces Robert, scribbling on his pad. The hard way involves a night in the Glebe Watch House. The easy way is to discuss the matter with the shopping center management in the morning. The problem with the hard way, aside from my anxiety about being inappropriately dressed, is that arrest would mean a travel ban to the United States. I have a trip booked there in a couple of months, so, reluctantly, I bid my two companions farewell and wander back to Glebe Street. As a weak dawn struggles to illuminate the dingy city streets, I search for Karl, but I can’t find him anywhere. As yelling has ceased and welding commenced, I assume he’s headed home. He’s already asleep, snoring softly when I arrive. He shuffles over to make room in the bed, mumbling something like, “Nice try, Wadie.”

The welded railing

A few months later, the shopping center is completed. Then I am grateful for the post office, cafés, and the supermarket. Slowly, scores of painful, sleepless nights fade from my memory. But this event is etched in Karl’s memory: it’s his signature activist triumph. What exactly did he achieve? I have no idea. Nevertheless, every time we visit the Broadway Shopping Centre, Karl races up the ramp, inspects every inch of railing and pronounces, dramatically, with accompanying gestures, and in the sternest tone, “You call that a weld?”

Not a weld #1
                                                       Not a weld #2

                                                           Rusted weld, December 2019

                            

Examples of Survivor Missions in Road Safety Activism

FEVR

Shortly after our crash, I begin to focus on the dangerous rural road where Karl died. I am blessed with a close friend, Dr Lori Mooren, a widely experienced road safety expert with an international reputation. As my interest in road safety grows, I discover the ground-breaking activism of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR) (http://fevr.org/). The road safety efforts of FEVR and London-based RoadPeace (www.roadpeace.org) focus on improving the justice system’s post-crash responses. FEVR member organizations (24 in 2019) emphasize the importance of sharing grief and anger about the lenient treatment of offenders and the value of learning from people who have suffered.

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Spiritual Alchemy and Sacred Activism

Survivor missions: WE HAVE much in common

Despite the vast variety of activities, initiatives, and organizations that have emerged from human responses to the experience of loss and trauma, survivor missions have many qualities in common. They exist in many forms, from concrete engagement with a particular individual to more abstract, intellectual pursuits, to dramatic social and political action and movements. And all survivor missions recognize that we have survived. Others have died, and we may have suffered much, but we are alive and, as survivors, we can bring about changes in our world. We undertake our sacred mission in the name of our loved ones. Read more

Co-destiny and the Phoenix Phenomenon

Doing good in a person’s name

As we acknowledge our loved one’s Giveaway, we may want to take action in their name, to memorialize them. That sort of action has various names.

Co-destiny AND POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH THROUGH ACTION

“Co-destiny”, a concept developed by Joseph Kasper, is the idea that if you do good in a person’s name, it adds to that person’s legacy. Co-destiny works through the psychological processes of creating meaning out of loss and reframing it in ways that promote posttraumatic growth through action (https://co-destiny.org). While Kasper originally formulated Co-destiny to help bereaved parents, I believe his process could work for any grieving person. This simple yet powerful idea helped Dr. Kasper cope with his young son’s death and to grow from that tragedy. For my purposes, I found great comfort in Kasper’s explanation that he has reframed both his and his son’s life to include the spiritual world. Read more

Why Should We Take Our Grief Out and About?

Of course, we have to take care of ourselves when we are grieving.  Amen to that.

And what concerns me about the self-care approach to healing grief is that I fear some heartbroken people might stop there and fail to take other steps. We might fail to take our pain into our community. We might even become caught in habitual, self-limiting patterns. This complete focus on the self, while necessary, is a very Western thing: it’s all about the individual. Of course, self-care gets us functioning again — as does the care of others. Read more

Chapter 10: Engagement: The Sacred Work of Sorrow

The grief we carry is part of the grief of the world.

Hold it gently. Let it be honored.

—Jack Kornfield, 2002, The Art of Forgiveness: 58.

 

Grief is the work of mature men and women.

It is our responsibility to be available to this emotion

and offer it back to our struggling world.

—Francis Weller, 2015, The Wild Edge of Sorrow and “Drinking the Tears of the Earth”.

 

When we can listen deeply and give freely, there is a natural evolution from the exploration of an inner self to the practice of care between self and other. Ultimately, the work of community is the practice of care stitching the world together.

—Mark Nepo, 2018, “We Can Find Each Other,” Three Intentions Weekly Reflection. Read more

The Gift of Attentive Loving

In the months following the crash, I seek and accept help from a wide range of professionals. Julia, my physiotherapist, boosts my confidence by pointing out infinitesimal progress that I cannot see, as I struggle with a whiplash injury. My conversations with healers provide grist for the mill of my morning conversations with Karl.

A wise practitioner, my compassionate psychologist, Michelle, quickly spots survivor guilt. Bad flashbacks are interrupting my sleep. Read more

Reconceptualizing Karl with Eyes and Heart Wide Open

Reconceptualizing Karl

Remorse fills me as I experience the power of Karl’s forgiveness. Here is a beautiful person, and I did not fully “see” him” when he was alive. I feel ashamed of my ignorant and thoughtless behavior. Those insights lead to another long conversation between us about forgiveness. I beg Karl’s forgiveness for my incompetence and insensitivity following his suicide attempt. I apologize for my criticisms of him for being lazy and disorganized, my harsh and dictatorial attitudes in my business, and for blaming him for things that weren’t his fault. Read more

Lessons of a Conscientious Mourner

To live without forgiveness is to live separated from the sacred and the most basic instincts of our heart.  To live with forgiveness is to reveal in each moment the beauty and value of life.Robyn Casarjian, 1992, Forgiveness: 236.

My learning about forgiveness accelerates during the early days of my mourning, as I read many books about loss and grief and attend two residential retreats with the Quest for Life Foundation in 2016. Slowly, painfully, I begin to understand the importance of forgiveness in resolving traumatic grief and PTS. Read more

I Am Forced to Reframe Karl’s Laziness

As people forgive, they realize that, once forgiven, it is good to forgive. The combination of being forgiven and then forgiving others makes possible genuine and healthy reconciliation.

⸺ Robert Enright, 2015, 8 Keys to Forgiveness: 121.

What was Karl’s laziness really about?

I often criticized Karl for being lazy, although I never him asked why he was sitting down to the job. Now, finally, in mid-February 2017, he decides to explain. I feel humbled and embarrassed as he explains that what I regarded as his laziness was merely exhaustion. Karl explains that his early life had severely damaged him. The sheer force of his will and his natural intelligence were not enough to overcome that limitation. He was also highly sensitive to anything that smacked of mistreatment or abuse. So, though he sincerely wanted a fair, equal, and balanced relationship with me, he felt that life owed him something. Read more

Matchmaker Karl on Disrespect for Men

Following his death, as I dive deeply into my forgiveness issues, weeping and purging, Karl says little about forgiveness. It takes several months for him to articulate the core forgiveness issues he wants to address. In late 2016, after I settle into my new accommodation in Brisbane, Karl decides it’s time to tackle some hard truths. We have sold the Nimbin property, and my dream is progressing to move to a permanent home, probably to Vancouver. Apparently, Karl feels it is time to look more closely at what he calls “our items”.

Read more

Is There Still More to Forgive?

By January 2017, I sense that Karl and I have fully forgiven each other. In the last two years of Karl’s life on Earth, we had settled into a peaceful and loving way of being together. Then, just as our path seemed to be rising to meet us, our lives were thrown into the air. Now I am sorting through that detritus. And, because I have seen unresolved anger over the death of a partner cripple the emotional life of a close friend (Heather), I want to explore deeply anything in my relationship with Karl that still needs forgiving. Read more

A Paradigm Shift and Self-Acceptance

For my part, I am experiencing a dramatic paradigm shift regarding forgiveness. Our communications turn my worldview upside-down. Here, finally, I am experiencing from Karl the openness and protestations of love I yearned for. And I know I am not imagining our communications. Only Karl would speak that way, in his distinctive German style. Read more

Appreciation and Lack of Appreciation

“We are simply asked to shift focus and to take a more gentle perception. That’s all God needs. Just one, sincere surrendered moment, when love matters more than anything, and we know that nothing else really matters at all” (Marianne Williamson, 1996, Return to Love: 62). 

I pass through all stages of forgiveness following Karl’s death.

As I prepare the half-acre Nimbin property for sale and ready myself to move to Brisbane, I sort through my files and mementos. It is a painful process, often bringing me to tears. Many times, I cry out for Karl’s forgiveness as I reflect on my lack of appreciation for his physical and administrative work. Read more

Apologies and Forgiveness

A visit from a kookaburra

Not long after Karl’s death, a kookaburra appears on the railing of the back deck. Karl had many kookaburra mates who would eat directly from his hand, so such a visit is not surprising. In fact, three kookaburras show up together nine days after Karl died. (I feel they are looking for their friend.)

The kookaburra is known for its strong, bold energy. While one of its lessons is to ‘lighten up’, to look on the bright side and to laugh at our foibles, I have found that kookaburra energy can be highly confrontational, teaching harsh lessons, challenging our assumptions about how we should think and act. I must remember to be respectful.

Respect. That is the most powerful message of the kookaburra’s proud energy. So, what am I being asked to respect and pay attention to here, I wonder?

Read more

My Initial Feelings Are Not of Forgiveness

A radical forgiveness is a complete letting go of the past, in any personal relationship, as well as in any collective drama (Marianne Williamson, 1996, Return to Love: 70).

My feelings after Karl’s death are perplexing and confusing.

They are not primarily about forgiveness.

I experience strong feelings of anger and abandonment. Why was Karl speeding on that wet, slippery, winding rural road? He knew it was a treacherous stretch of road. And why had he driven off that cliff and killed himself? Read more

Some Lessons in Forgiveness

“Now I can begin dating again!”

A few years ago, a woman I knew well told me about the funeral of her stepfather, who died in his early nineties. Her mother, then eighty, had a severe mental illness that affected her conscience: she had none. She disrespected the old man and treated him cruelly and disdainfully for many years. As the pair stood to sing a hymn in the church, the elderly mother remarked loudly to her daughter, in a bright, sparkling tone, “Isn’t this just wonderful! I am so excited! Now I can begin dating again.” Read more

Chapter 9: Forgiveness

Thank you.

I forgive you.

Will you forgive me?

I forgive myself.

I love you.

Good-bye.

—Raymond Moody and Dianne Arcangel, 2002, Life After Loss: 55.

 

The only way to heal the wounds of the past, ultimately, is to forgive them and let them go.

—Marianne Williamson, 1996, Return to Love: 75.

 

Forgiveness is such a powerful experience that it can, under the right circumstances, heal you emotionally, help the one forgiven, and even heal your relationship.

—Robert Enright, 2001, Forgiveness is a Choice: 263. Read more

Gratitude: Actually Doing

Here are some actions for “actually doing” gratitude:

  1. REFRAMING: How can I reframe potentially hurtful, threatening, and unhelpful responses – to draw boundaries to protect myself as I journey from despair to gratitude?
  2. WISE FRIENDS AND ADVISORS: How can I use my wise friends and advisors as reality checks and sources of sound advice so that I can nourish my gratitude?

Read more

A New Beginning

I enter into the new story of my new life in Vancouver on 14 May 2017.

I am following my heart and my strong desire for adult belonging. I now regard belonging as my lifetime’s work, which I must choose, rather than waiting for it to happen, as poet John O’Donohue explains.

My first act is to express my heartfelt gratitude to Becky and Eddie, who furnished and decorated my new Vancouver home. Right down to the teaspoons! They spend six weeks designing, consulting, shopping, cleaning, laundering, unpacking, hanging curtains and decorations, and setting up the little rental suite before my arrival. And, although I am effusive with my thanks, the sad reality is that nothing less would have sufficed. I am exhausted. Read more

Reflections on Our Relationship … and Celebrations

As time passes and my conversations with Karl deepen, no aspect of our relationship escapes our scrutiny (and my gratitude). I always appreciated that Karl was the ultimate Romani Gypsy tinker, and I really miss the magic and eccentricity of that blessing he brought to my life. I wrote about that in my professional blog for years (https://sarkissian.com.au/wendys-blog/posts-from-the-bush/living-with-a-gypsy/).

Karl had many artistic talents that, sadly, were not nurtured in his harsh upbringing. I dreamed that one day we could convert the shed to a studio for him so that he could paint and make things. Read more

Believing in Marigolds

Our treasure, our triumph!

When I revisit the Nimbin property with Rose Gardener in late December 2016, a great blessing greets me. The house, although sold, is still unoccupied. I can take a delightful, leisurely wander through our legacy, tearful and rejoicing at the same time. Now I can celebrate our house and farewell it with joy and some equanimity. That was impossible during the heartbreaking experience of leaving four months earlier.

The next morning, I write to Karl:

Our beautiful house makes me weep. It is so beautiful – so perfectly done. It is a miracle of design, craftsmanship, and perseverance. It will last forever! Our treasure. Absolute excellence. I hugged and touched and celebrated our home – our venture – our triumph! Read more

Dwelling in Gratitude

Every single day, for several months after Karl’s death, I notice with gratitude how things are showing up for me and how my dreams are manifesting into reality. I list my successes in my journal, as I seek to make sense of them. I bless my essential hopefulness and my improving health. I envisage my prospects: a buyer for the Nimbin property, a new place to live and help with moving and unpacking.

As the weeks and months pass, I realize that I am dwelling in gratitude. Soon, as I turn to the subject of our compatibility, I see that Karl’s innate spirituality and commitment to love bridges many differences between us. Karl gave me unbridled permission to be myself in our marriage. Read more

A Grateful Karl in Heaven

Because Karl said little about gratitude  (or so I thought) while he was alive, I am astonished to hear him speaking in a “grateful” voice after his death. “Big Karl” relishes every moment of his Earthly life and basks in the joy of knowing that he is deeply loved by his friends — and by me.

On 26 September 2016, nearly eight months after his death, he writes humbly:

Thank you so much for loving me, Wadie, and not trying to make me feel guilty. I am so touched by your love and devotion. Read more

Karl’s Simple Expressions of Gratitude

Karl had a hard life and was, by nature, private, pessimistic and suspicious. One time, when he is struggling, I suggest the practice of gratitude as an antidote to his chronic depression and recommend he try Martin Seligman’s Three Blessings gratitude exercise. Unknown to me, he does that exercise off and on for several years. Reading his journals after his death touches me because of the simplicity of the blessings he identifies. He had so little; he left so little behind in a material sense.

Read more

Reframing: Rose Gardener’s Example

My Sufi friend, Rose Gardener, has been one of my closest companions on my healing journey. And she’s a dab hand at reframing. Rose shows me how sometimes gratitude can arise from a simple reframing of an unpleasant situation like the one I recounted in the previous post.

After being released from the hospital following Karl’s death, I spend a few days in Brisbane. The day I arrive home to Nimbin, I am in an utterly stunned condition. Although everything in my life has changed in less than a week — and all my identities have disappeared — everything looks normal at our house. Karl’s sister Christa is there to meet me. She’s found an apron and is cooking dinner. Read more

“The Flow”

My mourning experience teaches me that even more beneficial than a grateful attitude is an ongoing daily state of gratitude or gratefulness, one that we don’t plan or experience temporarily.

Staying in touch with Karl helps me to stay in touch with my embodied gratitude. That constant gratitude has the quality that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990) calls “flow”: a pulsation and inner calm in our body. Read more

The Many Dimensions of Gratitude

In Chapter 4, I explored Rudolf Steiner’s views on connecting with a loved one who has died. To connect with them, we must express gratitude for their life, and our appreciation must focus on their actions. If we put ourselves in the place of that person, we can imagine exactly what they would want to experience from us: an “attitude of gratitude”. Read more

Reflecting on Heather’s Email

The end of a long friendship

Four months later, feeling stronger, I read Heather’s email and reply. I decide to end my relationship with her. A year later, grateful for the lesson about the actual state of our “close” friendship, I write her a brief email, saying I am well and asking her not to reply. We’ve had no further communication. Read more

High Lonesome

ACCEPTING WHAT IS

Vanda knows about emotional safety. She is asking me to be careful and accept “what is”.

Brené Brown would call my condition after the flood “high lonesome”: arresting, hard, and full of pain (Braving the Wilderness, 2017).

I am in a dangerously fragile state.

Angela, my spiritual director, agrees with Vanda. I have fallen from a great height.

I am reading daily reflections by Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. This passage from his book seems particularly appropriate to my fragile condition:

Each time the losses and deceptions of life teach us about impermanence, they bring us closer to the truth. When you fall from a great height, there is only one possible place to land: on the ground — the ground of  truth. And if you have the understanding that comes from spiritual practice, then falling is in no way a disaster, but the discovery of an inner refuge (Glimpse after Glimpse, 1995).

Write it down

Vanda tells me what I later read: writing forces activation of different parts of the brain.

Dr Vanda Rounsefell

Writing can help us convert raw emotions and feelings into words, thus helping us to adapt after a traumatic event. Confiding a trauma to a person reduces the arousal associated with inhibition and increases our ability to understand and integrate the experience.

my desperate email

When I call out to Karl from the depths of despair, Karl suggests: write it down. So I write a long email to anyone I think might listen. It is a howling cri de coeur. I am utterly broken and, as far as I can see, my life is over. Like Sheryl Sandberg in Option B, I feel that my present has been ripped away, and this new tragedy has torn apart all remaining my hopes for the future — including my dreams for my recovery from PTS.

Clearly, in retrospect, I have not escaped PTS. I cry:

The flood has reduced me to a desperate, fragile person. The insensitive people from the insurance company are pushing me to return immediately to Rose’s flooded house. I will not. I will never feel safe there.

I cannot function.

I am paralyzed by exhaustion and a sense of desperation, brought on by my sudden homelessness and my inability to negotiate my housing future. Having grieved for our lost home, I am now mourning the loss of my new home and all my furniture. I have also lost perhaps a hundred precious books….

I cannot make decisions.

I cannot stay in my body. Twice this week, crossing an empty city street with no traffic, I was nearly hit by a car. The parking and traffic signs everywhere terrify me: I cannot decode them. I do not know what to do.

I cannot control my crying jags.

I am overwhelmed by sadness and pessimism about my future. I am terrified of even answering the telephone.

I am shocked that I have PTS. I prayed that I would escape this.

Now — eleven months after Karl’s death, I have slipped back so far that I don’t recognize myself.

Dr Vanda’s Compassionate Advice

Time for a reality check

Communicating with Karl as my mourning deepens helps me find a blessing in every day. With Karl’s support, in my every action, however small, I seek to express appreciation for all aspects of my life and to find ways to allow those perceptions to help me flourish. I feel I am making significant progress.

Some friends gently remark that I seem “softer”, less of a “control freak”!

By the time my first mourning year comes to an end, I am getting a bit cocky. It is time for a reality check. Life has other plans for me. And a harsh one is in store for me in early January 2017. Read more

Chapter 8: Gratitude

Attending to, befriending and surrendering to grief, we are surprised to discover a profound gratitude for life.

—Miriam Greenspan, 2017, The Wisdom in Dark Emotions: 4.

Gratitude is the second Gateway of Wisdom on the healing path after Acceptance. Keeping close to one we love after they have died can help us to access and express gratitude for what we had, what was lost, and what remains. Read more

Teamwork and a Soft Landing

I love the inclusivity of my conversations with Karl. Some years before, when Vancouver-based Peter (a dear friend, lawyer and later a highly skilled judge) was trying to help me save the Nimbin property after Morag defaulted, I noticed the inclusionary quality of his language. With Peter, my problem was our problem, and we were working collaboratively to resolve it. Read more

Remembering Our Intimate Rituals

Sitting alone in my stifling Brisbane apartment, I sort and pack my belongings. I Make regular trips downstairs to recycle the detritus of my scrapbooks and photograph albums. It’s a heartbreaking enterprise but I simply cannot take them with me.

Sometimes, I skim through my journals. Leaning back for a moment in the tiny living room’s chaos, I realize how much I treasured the intimate, peaceful and quiet times I shared with Karl. Read more

Courage … and a Reverse Empty Chair?

My daily communications with Karl elicit a challenging question:

Is our connection real?

And further:

Is this whole thing just my imagination?

Some researchers compare the experience of staying connected with a loved one to a reverse “empty-chair” exercise, developed by Fritz Perls and popular with Gestalt psychologists. In this model (useful for moderating negative emotions and restructuring relationships with our departed loved ones), an empty chair faces the client, who imagines someone (or themselves) in it, and communicates to it. Continuing the conversation, the client then sits in the empty chair, this time reversing roles. Read more

The Gift of Earthly Life

Not tested, helped!

Despite my growing acceptance of miracles, sometimes, my small, chaotic life feels like a massive test of endurance. Acceptance feels a long way off. A powerful heatwave that hit Brisbane immediately after the flood is followed by weeks of dramatic thunderstorms. Finally, I move into an apartment across the street from Rose’s house. I have a four-month lease. Read more

Entitled to Miracles

ASK FOR HELP AND BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL RECEIVE IT

Although I am a slow convert to acceptance, I am finally getting the knack of it.

Karl repeatedly reminds me: Ask for the help that you need and believe that you will receive it.

A few days after the flood, he admonishes me:

Yesterday, you forgot this basic truth. When you invoked me, you did not feel it or believe it. Now, after all the great miracles that have occurred in the last few months, you must believe this basic fact: we are a team, and you will get all the help you need — and more! All you need to do now is relax and let the miracles happen. Read more

Flooded Out and Homeless

[Grief] is everything It is the fabric of selfhood, and beautifully chaotic

–Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, 2014: 104.

On the 4th of January 2017, eleven months after Karl’s death, a new challenge brings me sharply back to accepting my so-called reality. After a short Christmas holiday at the beach with Rose Gardener, I return to Brisbane to Rose’s house in Brisbane’s Vulture Street, my safe haven and my hideaway. Read more

Crossing Over

TAKING KARL’S ADVICE AT LAST

In our 23 years together, Karl’s greatest unhappiness was my reluctance to accept his advice. I did not fully trust his judgment, then for reasons I only later understand. Now I find myself in a life turned upside-down, in a completely different frame of mind. Read more

Our 22nd Wedding Anniversary Lunch

In late 2016, as our first wedding anniversary following Karl’s death approaches, I vow to be confident and accepting. I organize a celebratory lunch in Rose Gardener’s garden in Brisbane. I wear a brilliant orange dress. I present everyone with a red candle for courage.

(We’ve all had a tough year!) Read more

Aligned Intentions

On December 10, 2016,  returning from 10 glorious days in Adelaide, I report to Karl:

Adelaide feels lovely, gentle, comfortable — and easy. And Vancouver feels exciting: an adventure. So I am moving there. With you by my side, I am excited to embark on this adventure of radical trust, and I am eager to begin! I am going to have an abundant and creative new life in Canada, maybe even a life of influence. Read more

For My Lawyers, It’s Only about the Money

On the subject of my compensation lawyers, Karl’s insights in November 2016 have a prescient quality (as my lawyers stumble badly in the final settlement conference in mid-2018):

“Don’t think of your lawyers as your friends. That they are NOT. It’s only money to them. They are probably not the best lawyers for you – but now you are stuck with them.” Read more

Praise to Karl, the Philosopher

One morning, a few weeks after his death, Karl has this to say:

On one level, I am a simple soul — with simple needs and desires (like the philosopher, Immanuel Kant— not needing to travel far from my home village). My desire now is the healing of my Beloved Wadie, whom I love with all my heart. Please believe this today — and always. Read more

Accepting and Reframing Our Life Together

Sorting through our mementos, I find myself crying tears of joy, acceptance, and compassion. I begin to see how life with me had changed Karl, my soulmate. I find myself agreeing with Alan Wolfelt, who explains that the depth of grief a soulmate experiences demands a heroic response (When a Soulmate Dies, 2016).

My true partner

On 14 August 2016, I write to Karl:

Truly, I did not appreciate what a massive change you made in all aspects of your life when you became my partner…. We did the best we could — more than that! We did just excellent. We could never have afforded that house with what little we had — and I am not sad that we tried! What an adventure! And think of everything we learned — it will help to guide us into the future. You are my true partner in this adventure. Thank you!

I keep digging into the physical and emotional work of packing up a four-bedroom house and 49 years of Australian life.

At the end of July 2016, Karl comments:

I want you to touch every item with love, remembering the many exciting and challenging adventures we had together on this property. Remember that we chose this venture. Nobody made us do it. We chose to learn from it — and from each other. I don’t want either of us to feel like victims of this experience.

A few days later, I begin to crack under the pressure of the dramatic changes I am experiencing, including the incomplete application for the granny flat and my compensation case against Karl’s car insurer (requiring me to sign twenty complex legal documents).

An open and transparent channel

My cries bring a flurry of grateful and heart-opening messages from Karl:

You can be an open and transparent channel of love for all to see, as you experience these farewells to the life we shared. It enriched my soul and made me richer — and better. It was a good life, a life filled with love. I am so proud of us. I want you to feel that too — a real sense of accomplishment — of all we dreamed and shared and learned together. And how we came through it so well.

April 2014

Closing my business

Following advice from both my accountant and my surrogate son Andrew, I finally accept another harsh reality and close my consulting business (Sarkissian Associates Planners) in mid-August 2016. That feels like the most massive loss: the loss of my precious professional identity.

Nevertheless, I write to Karl:

We dreamed a big dream. I do not regret it for one second. It might have been a madcap dream, but it was our dream.

Karl responds:

You have buried your own Beloved. It will never be as hard as that. Now you can bask in love and joy.

While I sense that “basking” is still some way off, I reply:

Help me to move on, please. Please help me to love and be happy again.

Within days, a buyer for the Nimbin property appears, and I can move to Brisbane.

Visualizing a Successful House Sale

Yollana’s first visualization

With Karl’s support, I reach out for help to sell the Nimbin property. Of course, I do not own it, but I need to sell it for Anne so that I can move on. I cannot live alone on a rural property.

My first port of call is Yollana Shore, a fierce and gentle., spiritual soul half my age, who was my professional assistant and confidante for several years. Later she becomes my mentor. Yollana sends an email to hundreds of our friends, asking them to visualize a successful conclusion to the house-selling process. I imagine them lighting red candles and praying for a positive outcome in response to Yollana’s evocative entreaty. Read more

It’s Only a House

Accepting my housing situation

After I return from Canada to Nimbin in mid-2016, I stand on the back deck and weep.

I am overwhelmed by the tasks confronting me.

Karl’s guidance comforts me and helps me to accept my situation.

I write to him:

“I need to relax into the knowledge that you are here and not to turn it into an effort. So, please, please help me. And I will help myself. And I will be healed and move on.” Read more

To Lose Being Cozy with You

After Karl died, our early conversations, gently prying open my aching heart, allowed acceptance to enter, and encouraged me to ask for and accept help. And they opened up new places where grief crept in. Writing from a holiday in Vancouver on 18 May 2016, I mused, “Today I had a real insight into what a huge loss it is to lose your intimate partner. To lose being cozy — without asking or having to ask.” Read more

Accepting So Many Losses

Listening TO MY advisors: should I retire?

Listening to Karl’s advice helps me accept advice from my other advisors, many of whom are anxious about my PTS and my physical and cognitive impairments. I report to Karl on 27 April 2016 that Andrew Curthoys (my dearest friend and my surrogate son) has tentatively suggested that I retire. I had vehemently resisted that suggestion some years before.

Now, at last, I agree. Read more

Is This Really Karl Speaking?

Denial FOLLOWED BY a shock…

At first, following Karl’s death, I am not pessimistic about my harsh new reality because I do not believe what is happening to me. The shock is somewhat softened by finding that I can communicate directly with Karl. I begin writing to him on March 7, 2016, a month after his death, noting in my journal:

I am struggling with the excruciating pain of losing you. I wake up and pray that it’s only a bad dream. Read more

Chapter 7: Acceptance

Accepting her enormous (and hideously abrupt) absence from our lives is, for me, the first stage in learning to live with this brave new world that I don’t like very much.

—Lucy Hone

Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

—James Baldwin Read more

Shamed by a Good Friend Part 3

Shame in the wake of grief

Shame is like a leech: potent, dangerous, and potentially lethal to the soul. Shame can internalize problems and leave the grieving person feeling that they are the problem. Tim Lawrence, a specialist in adversity, blogs that grief and shame are “an unacceptable combination”.  And that shame in the wake of grief is “one of the most lethal, pervasive desecrations of humanity.”

Further,  he claims, “when your life’s been torn apart, the potential for humiliation is exacerbated to infinity. To add a layer of poisonous shame to your already turmoiled position is not only scary, but it’s also dangerous.” Lawrence believes that “the combination of grief and shame is the most wounding force in the lexicon of human emotion.”

RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN GRIEF AND SHAME 

In recent years, researchers have explored relationships between grief and shame, especially in cases of spousal bereavement. Mine was a good case in point, as shame often arises as a breakdown in our self-presentation as a worthy person. It warns us when we have lost or are about to lose value and acceptance in the eyes of others.

That’s how I felt with Maya.

Bereaved people who feel shame about the death of their spouse may find their symptoms exacerbated because of a history of childhood assault, emotional abuse, parental neglect, abandonment, and rejection.

Bereaved widows

I read with sadness that bereaved widows are more likely to experience traumatic (prolonged) grief if they experienced childhood adversities.

Maya would say I was one of the most confident people she knows; that I have buckets of self-esteem. But Maya hasn’t thought much about my traumatic childhood. I have. I received a tremendous amount of affirmation, acceptance, and approval from Karl in our 23 years together. So, possibly, as well as missing his love, reassurance, connection, comfort, and support, I am missing the loss of the source of confidence that held my shame at bay.

Blessedly, I have accepted that Karl is dead. But I found that my self-confidence and self-esteem, once lost, were challenging to regain, even for a confident and self-assured woman.

So, given that I am grieving, in pain, feeling shamed and deeply upset, how can I use our healing model to work through the emotional fallout from the shaming situation with Maya?

GATEWAY 1: ACCEPTANCE

As I face the Acceptance Gateway, I must accept the reality of my life. I was not always prudent with my finances. I am naïve and trusting. (Karl would say that.) And I do over-share. I am who I am. I have a reputation with Maya. I also must accept that Maya is doing what Maya does, and nobody does that better than Maya.

She’s as reliable as a thunderstorm in the tropics.

Maya’s judgment of me is always close to the surface of her sunny personality.

I also must accept that accompanying my grief is my wounded child, however much I soothe her. She’s hyper-sensitive to attack right now, a highly charged time, after the complicated legal, financial, and activist matters that occupied me for two years. I also must accept that I cannot change Maya. Her values are firmly grounded in a parental voice informed by a lexicon packed full of “shoulds”.

So, for Acceptance, I’d give myself a hesitant check. I accept what’s going on and that the best I can do right now to protect myself (and our friendship) is to exit. Stage left.

GATEWAY 2: GRATITUDE

As I approach this Gateway, I discover with some relief that I can bless what arises. I was not thrown off-balance to the point of despair by Maya’s insensitive remarks. I was annoyed and disappointed, but I extricated myself with some dignity. I quickly debriefed my experience with Stacey and reframed it as a shaming situation. I took the time to process it. My reframing, good for my mental health, made me examine the potential for complicated grief in my circumstances. I have made an appointment with a new therapist. I’m also most grateful to my astute friend, Stacey, who immediately spotted shaming behavior. I’m even thankful to Google and Google Scholar for my quick-and-dirty education in shaming and complicated grief. (Oh, and I’m trying to be ultra-diligent about my tiny investment portfolio.)

Gratitude: a hesitant check.

GATEWAY 3: FORGIVENESS

Approaching the Forgiveness Gateway, I am aware that I lack confidence in the potential for forgiveness in this situation. Maya has stung me, and my heart has hardened. I do not want to put myself in a shaming situation again, especially when I know it’s always on the cards with Maya. But then I stop to consider Maya. Poor Maya. I think my mother was a challenge. She was, but I could explain her behavior as mental illness. And a bad mental illness, at that.

Maya has a “perfect” meddlesome mother, who pestilently nags her, supervises her, and comments about the appearance, dress, housekeeping standards, and decisions of her middle-aged daughter. Maybe Maya is practicing standing up to a woman her mother’s age. Perhaps she’s trying to be the giver of advice for a change, rather than the receiver.

Karl’s advice

I approach Karl for advice about forgiving Maya. He believed I was naïve and often overly sensitive. And he’d always appreciated Maya’s warm heart and good intentions.

“She is doing the best she can,” he advises. “Maya’s so fearful that she lacks life experience.”

I would never wish on Maya the agony I’ve experienced.

Poor dear, I will try to forgive her, warts and all.

As I pass through this Gateway, Forgiveness: I award myself a hesitant, tentative, check.

Gateway 4: Engagement

Standing in front of the Gateway of Engagement, of service to others, I know what I need to do to heal this insult. That I can easily imagine. I will write about it and speak about it. I visualize myself conducting healing workshops for shamed and grieving bereaved spouses and their partners. I will share my bewilderment and weaknesses, making myself vulnerable so that others can benefit from my bereavement experiences. Sharing my insights, fears, and my new life with others in positive ways and working to develop strategies to strengthen other grieving people’s resilience: that feels like a positive new direction in my life. And I am embracing it with all my heart.

Engagement: check!

Some simple communication guidance

The two examples I offer above suggest how we might engage with and pass through the four Gateways of Wisdom when we are shamed as grieving people. There is no right or wrong way to do this work. If there is a destination (after all these passages), it’s a gentle acknowledgment and tender acceptance of our Reconciled Self. Perhaps we should call it our Reconciling Self. For grieving — as with all of life — is a dynamic process. I am always — and forever — in the process of becoming myself.

Becoming: a hesitant check.

When I accept that my life is a process of refinement — a means of “becoming myself” — I can see blessings in all my encounters in all the realms I approach and enter via the four Gateways of Wisdom. They are evidence of my new life emerging. My newfound flexibility and resilience will become apparent to me — and to others. I will embody Karl’s most endearing qualities — flexibility, balance, and surefootedness, nimble as a cat (or a boxer) – landing safely and effortlessly after a fall. My vision of my future will be more than a dream. I will believe it.

And I will say (to the one whose opinion matters so much, and in the secret language we used with each other):

Listen, Beloved: Your Wadie is doing her items. She is facing her issues. And your Wadie is doing just great.

Reconciliation: a big check.

Shamed by a Good Friend Part 2

It’s all about shaming

Back to Maya and me. I did not grasp it immediately, but I do now. It’s all about shaming. Maya, bless her socks, is one of the most risk-averse people I have ever met. She does not “get” risk or risk-takers. Outwardly extraverted, bright, and engaging, she lives a limited and limiting, fear-based life. When she was seriously ill several years ago, I organized for a friend to send her some books and materials she had collected about her particular disease. Read more

My Failed 75th Birthday Celebration Part 2

seeking guidance from Question 6 in Chapter 9

I find valuable guidance from Question 6 at the end of Chapter 9. I feel it accurately fits my current situation:

DEEP FEELINGS:

How can I get in touch with any deep feelings of anger and abandonment I may be harboring?

How can I then find helpful ways to deal with those feelings?

The second question feels more relevant. Abandonment is a core issue for me, with roots in my painful childhood. I remember having these feelings many times before. Now they appear magnified because of the importance (to me, at least) of this “big” birthday. But, on reflection, I remember often being disappointed when people did not step up on other occasions that were important to me. This time, I have done a wise thing and left the scene of my disappointment. Read more

Shamed by a Good Friend Part 1

My second example involves engaging with and handling the recent shaming behavior of a close friend. Maya and I have been friends for nearly three decades. We have many professional interests in common. I am 25 years her senior. And, while we have had a challenging relationship over the years, we are good friends. I share my cares and sorrows with her. Read more

My Failed 75th Birthday Celebration Part 1

The process of encountering gateways and realms and formulating questions and issues may sound complicated. But, in practice, it is not. It’s a process of deepening our understanding of our grief and what our grieving self needs at any given time. Below I explain how I use this model to help me to accept two painful situations, resolve them in my mind and heart, and move on. Read more

Contemplating the Four Gateways of Wisdom

As we approach each Gateway on our path to our Reconciled Self, some necessary steps may enrich and deepen our experience:

1. FRAME OUR QUESTION OR ISSUE: It helps if we can frame our question or issue as clearly as we can. Helpful questions are ones that do not permit a “Yes” or “No” answer. So, “What is the meaning of…?” or “How could I proceed with…” are helpful questions.

“Should I euthanize my cat?” is probably not a helpful question. Read more

The Gateways of Wisdom

Gradually, Karl and I work out that our healing process involves holding a question or problem in our hearts and minds and journeying with it through the four Gateways and into the realms of Acceptance, Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Engagement to open up opportunities for healing and reconciliation. Each domain has its own Gateway of Wisdom. As we approach a Gateway, we may read (or hear) an encouraging message that relates to our specific inquiry. Or we may listen to a more generic message, designed to open us up to its wisdom. For example, approaching Gratitude, we might hear something like this: “Allow your heart to soften as you contemplate the gifts you received from your loved one.” Read more

How to Approach the Gateways of Wisdom

Part 3

These intimate interludes with our loved one naturally lead us to the Gateways of Wisdom. As we connect, we may hear our loved one’s voice in the words we are recording, and we may feel their support, comfort, and guidance. Now — with that channel open — we may begin to journey in the direction of the four Gateways to engage with issues and questions that arise in our grieving process.

The two methods go hand-in-hand: connecting with our loved one and journeying through the four Gateways into new territories.

Please be gentle in your consideration of what a Gateway is. A Gateway can also be a refuge. We may wander in wonder through a Gateway, linger there, and then move on to a new realm. Gateways are for us — they are our refuge. Generally, we should not experience them as provocative, challenging or frightening.

Over the 20 months that I write in my journal, while Karl and I cover many issues, I begin to notice that we are sharing our insights about four specific topics: acceptance, gratitude, forgiveness, and engagement. My detailed analysis of the record of our conversations reveals that most of the content of our conversations fall into those four categories.

Slowly, our healing model emerges.

What is unique about our healing model?

Our healing model is unique because it is the direct outcome of my communication with a dead person. Karl and I have two voices — as we are two beings — and we are collaborating to understand the dimensions of our journey to reconcile and heal from grief and loss. Together, we are making — and walking — a healing path. I now realize (and most researchers agree) that healing from grief and loss does not proceed in discrete or identifiable stages. We do not graduate from the shock stage and move on to denial or bargaining.

Further — from a spiritual (and not primarily a psychological) perspective — we can experience all stages co-occurring. On some days, I am accepting of my reality, grateful for my life, and eager for service to others.

On other days, it’s all about forgiveness.

Only forgiveness.

Connecting After Your Loved One Has Died

After your loved one has died (if you are with them and have enough privacy), you can try a simple ritual to establish a connection. (I used this ritual after Karl died.)

Invoke your guides’ support and ask for guidance from your own and your loved one’s Higher Selves.

Then invoke the protection of a pulse of bright blue light. Read more

Staying Connected: What to Do and How to Do It

Speak to me in the easy way you always used. Put no difference into your tone…

Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1910, “Death is Nothing at All.”

Karl’s advice on staying connected

Following his death, Karl offers lots of advice that influences the design and development of our healing model. Following Karl’s direction, I discover, was not that different from following my intuition. Marrying Steiner’s views with Karl’s guidance and adding my own insights yields our approach to staying connected, which I explain below.

Read more

The Emergence of the Reconciled Self

The Reconciled Self often emerges from the Desolate Self. In my case, desolation feels like this: hopelessness, despair, no home, no future, no work, no Beloved, no joy, no fun, no hope or generativity, no soul, no nourishment, no identity, no anchor…. In the days and weeks after Karl’s death, my life is empty, without comfort or consolation. It feels despairing and barren. I am in a state of diminishment when I am yearning for a state of growth. Read more

Chapter 6: The Reconciled Self

A FOUR-PART MODEL FOR ACHIEVING YOUR RECONCILED SELF

No matter what the hurt within us, we can seek to be reconciled…. We can find the courage to hold reconciliation and goodwill in our own heart. We can do our part toward the healing of the world.

—Jack Kornfield

The great work of self-awareness is to bring us up to the next threshold.

—Mark Nepo

When people reconcile, they come together in mutual trust following a division caused by at least one person’s unfairness…. When reconciling, both parties willingly must begin listening to one another toward the initial goal of genuinely understanding each other….

Robert Enright

To choose the path that leads to reconciliation requires that you first descend, not transcend.

Alan Wolfelt

Read more

Small Acts of Love

Anyone who is mourning can benefit equally from small, symbolic acts of love that provide get-through-the-day meaning and comfort. Before the Nimbin property sold and I moved away, I am comforted by tending Karl’s flower garden and making the repairs he would have made. Read more

My Ritual Contributions

In all cultures, rituals are gestures undertaken with emotion and intention to connect us with transpersonal energies for healing and transformation. They are a direct form of knowing, an embodied process. Rituals have the potency to mend what has been torn and to heal what has been neglected, breaking us open to a vast and more enchanted world.

They are a gentle and powerful way to sustain reminiscing and maintain support, helping us do what we cannot do alone. When we are healing from grief and loss, we can breathe new life into ritual by creating new ceremonies where we enter a deeper state to strengthen ourselves.  By using the basics of a ritual — the rhythmic use of physical forms (sound, light, color, music, incense, dance, chanting, words or power, and so on) we can embody abstract truths and help our minds to comprehend them. Read more

Models of Grief and Grieving

The medical model of grief and grieving

Sigmund Freud

When I examine the research evidence about staying connected, I discover that my friend’s grieving response aligns with a now-outdated model of grief, built on the early notions of Sigmund Freud. (Later she is to tell me that that was not really the case for her. She consciously “locked her heart” to keep unfathomable pain at bay.) Read more

Chapter 5: Is It Wise to Stay Connected to a Departed Loved One?

All historical life – all social life, all ethical life – proceeds by virtue of cooperation between the so-called living and the so-called dead. The whole of our being can be infinitely strengthened when we are not only conscious of our firm stand here in the physical world but are also filled with the inner realization of being able to say of the dead we have loved: they are with us, they are in our midst.

—Rudolf Steiner Read more

Chapter 4: The Secrets of Staying Connected

Gradually, we come to realize that the so-called dead and indeed the whole spiritual world are involved in and care deeply about every aspect of earthly life. Thereby, we come to understand the supreme importance of earthly life as the only sphere in the universe where death can be experienced. And not only death: earth is above all the place of connection, of relationship and love. Love, connection, relationship occur only on the earth. We had better take care of them. Those fruits we take to heaven.

— Rudolf Steiner Read more

What is Happening Here?

In late March 2016, when I first start recording Karl’s words in my journal, I think it must be my imagination. So I ask for the gift of discernment to distinguish whether this is the voice of my loved one or not. Rudolf Steiner offers an entirely different perspective: when we speak to the dead, what we say comes from them. And when they speak, it comes from our soul. That is a startling revelation. My soul is speaking to me through the voice of my Beloved! Read more

Poem: I Do Have This, 17 May 2017

POEM: I do have this

Driving north on Granville Street

my back to the airport

I glimpse foggy mountains

then

a voice inside

intones, repeats:

“I could have this.”

 

I could have this:

my birthright

my right

my life

my right to a new

life.

 

Inside Banyen Books

nestled in a wicker chair

by the window

reading about moral courage

(between surreptitious nibbles

of my granola bar)

I notice the kneeling woman

shelving books beside me

is barefoot.

Her white cotton dress

shimmers in the late

afternoon light.

 

In the street outside

an old man is singing

Christmas carols.

Everyone’s checking the weather

on their smartphones:

a sunny week

summer’s finally here.

about time, they say.

 

I can have this:

snatched from death

pummelled by grief

released to love again.

 

I do have this,

which may explain

my heart softening,

my hand rising gently

to reassure it.

After the Flood

An apartment across the street

Through a close friend of mine and Karl’s, Leo, a real estate agent, I find a new apartment across the street from Rose’s flooded house. Leo apologizes that it is noisy, shabby and poorly insulated. Read more

Flooded Out

Season 5: January to May 2016 Flooded Out and Marking Time II 

The bottom of Rose Gardener’s house was always susceptible to flooding, but both of us have become a bit complacent. I am in heaven living there. At night, I sit on the porch and listen to the night birds in the walled, urban garden. My neighbors are musicians, their sweet music carried on a soft summer breeze. On January 2nd, a warm summer evening, it begins to rain heavily. I am talking on the phone to Kev about our campaign to repair the Kyogle Road. Read more

On the Cusp

As my longest year draws to a close, On the cusp, awaiting rebirth, I am walking the path of my new life. I sense an intense, familiar, “cleaning-out” energy. It feels good.

I write to Karl in my journal in early December 2016:

With the big rubbish bins outside Rose’s house, I can easily recycle papers – and other stuff. I like the idea that I will soon be a woman without “attachments”. I really mean that!

I am done with schlepping my belongings back and forth.

A great sloughing off is about to happen for me.

I am eager to begin. Read more

Cozy, Familiar West End

Season 4: August 2016 to May 2017

Rose’s West End house

18 Vulture Street, West End, Brisbane

I land softly in my temporary accommodation in Rose’s West End house on Vulture Street. While the downstairs of the old Queenslander is a bit shabby, it is a safe, protected, quiet haven in a neighborhood I know inside and out. I spend many happy hours in Sol Breads, the organic bakery and café across the street.

Read more

Marking Time 1

Season 2: May and June 2016

It’s nearly three months since Karl died. Sensing I have exhausted the patience and generosity of my Australian helpers, I fly to California for a week and on to Vancouver for seven weeks, taking a break from preparing the Nimbin property for sale. Of course, we no longer own it. I am selling it for Anne, who asks only what she paid for it. I can do only one thing each day, nothing more. No professional or intellectual work. No chance of that! Read more

Chapter 3: Mourning After

Season 1: March and April 2016

It’s a month after Karl’s death and a couple of weeks after his burial and memorial. It’s still summer, a hot sub-tropical summer. I am living on our rural property in Nimbin. I am in the early mourning time, shattered by loss,  plagued by my injuries and stalled by the suddenness and violence of Karl’s death.

I have lost my bearings and can see no signposts on my path. Read more

A Near Miss and a Delicious Lunch

Despite these affirmations, my 73rd birthday the following week is a nightmare.

No longer glowing, Karl is distraught, frustrated and exasperated. As we turn off the final stretch of the country road leading to Lismore, he tries to pass a truck on the inside lane. I am sobbing and shrieking that we are going to die. Read more

Chapter 2: Glowing Karl

In late January 2016, days before my 73rd birthday, Anne visits from Adelaide. Karl’s natural pessimism and cynicism suffered a severe shock when he met Anne years before (not unlike the effect of his meeting dearest Andrew, my surrogate son). When Anne purchases our property from the duplicitous Morag in early 2015, Karl has to reconstruct his worldview. Here, in Anne, he finds a woman who loves, respects, and cares for us, and who is willing to buy a rural property to save our skins.

On the first night of Anne’s “annual maintenance” visit, we consume all the alcohol she brought with her and everything we’ve laid in. Read more

Man Who Finishes House Dies

In Nimbin, Karl is not the depressed or distracted person he sometimes is in the city. He has landed. More than that, after decades of wandering, he has found his tribe, his people, and his community. And now, after nearly 10 years together, Karl can make a home with me. And for me.

And I am eager to progress the house building. I privately develop advance my new theory (I’d read somewhere that this was a Chinese or Indian proverb): Man who finishes house dies. I figure that if I could keep Karl busy building and landscaping our half-acre site (in other words, never finishing the house), his depression and suicidal thoughts might fade, he’ll be less drug-dependent, and he will grow into a happy “little old guy” with whom I can share my sunset years. I am on a mission: saving Karl’s life. For me, the Nimbin adventure begins as a “life-or-death” exercise.

Claire

In 2003, I identify a young architecture student working part-time in our Brisbane office as the designer of our new house, despite her reluctance. Claire always claims that she didn’t know how to do it, and I always counter that she is brilliant and, of course, she does know how to do it. We are both right: Claire is not entirely qualified and has yet to study construction, costings, and specifications. She bases her design on my brief, which, while comprehensive, was expensive to build. The local builders sneer at our sketchy, basic drawings, but I know that they promise a beautiful, functional rural house. And I am right.

Karl loved Claire and easily identified and celebrated both her talent and her courage. I never heard a critical word from him about her house design. This video from January 2005 shows the two of them inspecting the house site. You can see the comfortable way that they related to each other:

Click here

Dreaming our house is almost as joyful as actually building it and living in it. We live in the finished house for fewer than five years, but we dream it for fifteen. I develop a set of poetic design patterns that captured my intentions. They include everything from a stargazing balcony to a one-person kitchen where the cook could converse with his guests while he cooked, and they relaxed on the spacious back deck. We fail to achieve only one of our 55 patterns: a private, sacred space for Karl. I often wonder why that is.

Mark van Norman

In 2013, my dear friend, California-based architect and artist, Mark van Norman, spends 350 hours creating a scale model of our house as a 65th birthday gift for Karl. Mark has never seen the real house, so he creates his model from photographs and plans. The gigantic wallabies are the closest to scale that we can find!

This precious gift holds pride of place in our hallway and Karl is hugely impressed by it — and Mark’s generosity and skill.

Roughing it

The madcap way our Nimbin house takes shape bewilders our urban, professional friends. Once, we even put out a call for donations to finish the roof during the wettest Nimbin winter on record. Nevertheless, we quickly learn to adapt. As he is a qualified welder-boilermaker, Karl is comfortable working with other trades. And he has wily ways. When the man from the telephone company arrives to install the Internet and telephone line to our makeshift tent (the hootchie), he asks Karl if there would soon be a house there.

“Of course!” Karl exclaims.

The phone line was connected to the tent, and a house was built there eventually — it just took another 10 years.

OUR RURAL ADVENTURE

Thus begins our rural adventure. First, mostly on weekends, we live in a tent, then in a large, tent-like structure that Karl built ( “the hootchie”), later in a metal shed, and then, from about 2009, in parts of the partly built house. Like most rural folk, we lack the funds to begin building. So, like most rural folk, we start anyway. We cobble together the money we have, helped by an unexpected inheritance from an elderly aunt — and begin building our rural dream.

The hootchie

We love living in our first Nimbin home: the hootchie: a makeshift tent-like structure. Karl builds it from star pickets, flexible plumbing hose, tarpaulins and a lot of wire. It is weatherproof and flexible. I cry when we have to demolish the hootchie to make way for “progress”.

Often, on a Saturday morning (having arrived late the night before after driving for two hours from Brisbane), the laughter of kookaburras in a nearby tree wakes me in the hootchie, where I lie under my mosquito net. I find that Karl had already departed – for his café in the Village and his delights: a black coffee, the weekend newspapers, the crossword, and maybe a game of dominoes with his new friends.

I make a cup of tea on the camping stove and sit in my folding chair for hours, gazing at the silhouette of Blue Knob in the distance. I pack a briefcase full of work on Friday afternoons, but I rarely open it. I just sit there and soak up the beautiful landscape and dream of our new home. And our new rural life.

Fog in the valley, Nimbin

The beauty of winter mornings with fog in the valley makes me weep for joy!

Those weekends, for a few years before any real physical work began on the house site, are absolute bliss for both of us. Life in Nimbin is peaceful and simple. After we close the Brisbane office and sell our city apartment, we move permanently to Nimbin, trading in the hootchie for a metal shed that Karl builds. For many years, we live without a toilet or running water; then, we have a hose connected to a small rainwater tank. And a pit toilet. Or a 50-meter hike to the community toilet up the road. I like my creature comforts, and I find that part quite tricky, particularly in the rain.

The “hootchie”

The shed

Building the shed, 2005

Steph Vajda and Karl building the shed, September 2005

2006

In 2006, Lismore City Council approves our house plans, and we begin building our house. A short time later, to promote my professional work, I co-author three professional books. Sadly, the publisher (Earthscan) is taken over, and all my marketing plans collapse. We sink into debt. By 2011, although the inheritance enables us to finish most of the house, we are teetering on the edge of insolvency.

Our eco-house absorbs all our funds.

Installing windows, 2009

Chop, chop, stir, stir

I cherish a vivid recollection of Karl standing in his partly built kitchen, while I guide him to visualize the pleasures of eventually cooking there. He obediently role-plays with gestures and appropriate sounds: “Chop, chop, stir, stir.” It is a powerful statement of intent.

Eventually, Karl does spend several years delightedly chopping and stirring in his beautiful modern kitchen.

That is his greatest pleasure.

Karl selecting a pan, 2010

The completed kitchen 2016    Photo: Denny Thornborough

 

Mark van Norman’s beautiful artwork can be seen here: http://www.smallobjects.net

Drawn to Nimbin

The tiny village of Nimbin (pop. 400) had been on my radar for decades. It is a powerful spiritual center, nestled in the caldera of a sacred volcano, Wollumbin. I visited Nimbin many times since the early 1980s, attending spiritual retreats nearby. I feel a close connection to the rolling green hills and gentle landscapes of the Rainbow Region. Karl also loves that country; it reminds him of Bavaria: the old country, with its rolling hills, its patchwork of small farms and its out-of-the-way feeling. Read more

A Poetic Karl Faces Life’s Challenges

As he grew older, Karl grew more poetic.

In 2015, my Valentine’s Day card bore this inscription in his words:

LOVE

Love is a hard task, and like so many things, people misunderstand the position it has in life, often conceived as a play and a pleasure. It is, in fact, the crucial expression of our humanity. To accept the commitments we make to each other, in sickness and health, accepting the ups and downs of a long time relationship is the only path to passing the final test and preparation for the next part of our journey. Read more

Working Together and Learning to Live Together

Working together

Sadly, I could not find an academic job in 1996 with my newly minted PhD.

I learn years later (with much relief) of a plan deftly executed by some male planning academics to exclude me from Australian academic life. At the time, I am puzzled and suspicious. And desperate. I have to hang out the shingle and get back to work.

With Karl’s mental health in peril and nearly five years of full-time study taking a toll on my finances, I reluctantly return to the urban planning profession, “greening” my consulting practice the best I can.

Read more

This Strange, Enchanted Man

How can I describe this peculiar man, my Beloved?

Let’s try: tough, gentle, warm, witty, sharp, stubborn, mischievous, determined, and quirky. Karl is as cute as a button. Everyone loves his warm brown laugh, his apple cheeks, and shining hazel eyes. That twinkle!

Breakfast the day after our wedding, 18 December 1994

Read more

A Death in the Family

Karl always pitted himself against the elements — and the dominant paradigm. At the time of his great-aunt’s sudden death at 70, his only relatives, his uncle Hans and his wife (on his mother’s side) abandoned Karl, then aged ten. They had promised to take him when Hans’s mother, Anna Trapp, died. But they were poor, and no government welfare benefits accompanied the care of a relative. Perhaps not unfortunately for Karl, Uncle Hans failed to convince his wife that his wild, dirty, orphaned nephew was worth the trouble and the cost. Read more

Much in Common and Lessons in Courage

Karl and I have much in common, and sometimes not so much. As our love deepens, I come to realize that some differences do not matter, and some similarities do. Karl’s Romani heritage opened him naturally to alternative spirituality. He is a gifted healer, even at a distance. Once I rang him from Durham University in England after I had slept on a saggy dormitory bed by an open window. He sends distant healing, and my crick neck soon heals. That sort of thing happens regularly. Read more

A Near Tragedy

As it turned out, the second half of our life together was a bit short on the gentleness we dreamed of and a bit long on suffering. Karl would be the first to admit that we were often despairing, dispirited, broken, and broke. Despite our blissful and courageous beginning, our relationship was a rocky ride, smoothed by a great, trusting love.

Four years into our marriage, Karl comes precariously close to dying of despair. His childhood wounds catch up with him: multiple abandonments, leading to a loss of self-worth and a fear of failure. The smallest boy in his class, he’d learned to be tough to handle bullying in the orphanage. Later he became a skilled lightweight boxer in an Australian travelling circus. Now he is struggling (as a social work student at Sydney University) to allow his softer, gentler side to emerge. Read more

Chapter 2: Marrying at Midlife

Karl and I take the swans’ divine messages to heart and marry two years later in a soulful twilight ceremony in the Murdoch University gardens, our wedding invitation admitting that we do so with “not a little trepidation”. In the months before, Karl reflects in his journal on the qualities of a successful marriage: goodwill in the relationship and a feeling of equity, which he saw as essential for continuing love, trust, and intimacy. Read more

Our Visit to the Black Swans

As Karl is almost a Perth native and I am a newcomer, he is eager to show me around. He points out that the black swan featured in the Western Australian coat of arms and recommends a visit to the swans that lived at Lake Monger, a suburban lake surrounded by parklands. He meets my newspaper brief to the letter. His picnic includes German salami, antipasto, strong cheese, and brown bread. He brings a blanket, a cooler, and soft cushions. (For more erotic trysts in the national park, he adds a mosquito net, strung from a convenient tree.) Read more

Meeting Karl

My first meeting with Karl is at 7:30 pm at Gino’s Café in downtown Fremantle.

It is Wednesday, March 10th, 1993, a warm and bright early autumn evening. I sit nervously near the espresso machine, reading James Lovelock’s Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, holding it up nice and straight so Karl can see the cover. Read more

In the Tweed Heads Memorial Hospital

MURWILLUMBAH, NSW, 6 FEBRUARY

Hours later, I am freed from the neck brace. Hospital staff trying to be gentle have hoisted me on and off various platforms and gurneys for tests like a CT scan, a chest-x-ray, and an ultrasound. I am told I have two crushed vertebrae and soft tissue damage from the airbag and seatbelt. Otherwise fine.

I find myself deeply naked. I’ve lost everything: mobile phone, handbag, shoes, wallet, money, credit cards, driver’s license, shawl, glasses. What isn’t lost has been cut off me. Read more

Baptism: A Poem

As you enter

this dark river

leave life behind.

Release:

expectations, roles, successes

Surrender:

any capacity for doing

Discover:

only peace

in its meandering

eddies.

Bathe in love.

And when life beckons again:

ascend the bank

one painful step

after another.

No turning back.

Brave the uncertainties

of this unfamiliar

territory

with an open

countenance.

Accept, bless, forgive

and ultimately serve.

You’re cleansed now.

How to Read this Book

There are many ways to read this book.

I am confident that no living person could be more conscious than I am of the delicate condition of the grieving person. So I want to reassure you that there is no “right way” to read this book or to respond to its messages and suggestions. Please feel free to dip in and out of it as you wish. If you can read our book gently and with self-compassion and self-appreciation, hopefully, it will become a valued companion on your healing journey.

Readers who want to read a poignant love story (and its conclusion) can read Chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 3 is my personal story of my “seasons of loss”, which many readers will relate to, I am sure. A discussion of specific methods for staying connected to one who has died can be found in Chapter 4. Others may want a glimpse into what modern psychological research has to say about bereavement theory. Chapter 5 is for you. Those who wish to understand Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy and how his particular reconnecting approach can play out in a modern-day context can read Chapters 6 and Chapters 8 through 10. Read more

What’s Inside this Book

 

My grief journey has no one destination. I

will not “get over it.” The understanding

that I don’t have to be done is liberating. I

will mourn this death for the rest of my life.

–Alan Wolfelt [1]

 

This book describes my healing journey and the healing model that emerged from it. First, it tells the love story of Wendy and Karl, who partnered at midlife. Then it introduces a gentle, heartwarming and heart-healing daily ritual designed to connect us with our loved one who has died. Our healing model is in the third part of this book. I explain that guidance flowing from our new connection (with our loved one who has died) can guide our passage through four Gateways of Wisdom, offering us opportunities for addressing issues of Acceptance, Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Engagement, as we enter each new territory. Read more

What this Book is About

This book is about exploring the healing of loss, grief, and trauma in the context of the greater container of consciousness that extends beyond our limited human perspectives. It is about widening our embrace with life and seeking healing options in the highly charged atmosphere of despair and a sense of futility that often accompanies the death of a loved one. It’s also about the astonishing revelations I experience, as my husband and I confront unhealed parts of ourselves and our relationship, accept our circumstances, give thanks for our love, forgive what needs to be forgiven, and to heal aspects of our human relationship so that each of us can move on. Read more

A Social Support System for Mourning People Like Me

This is a really big thing we are doing here– bridging a “taboo” gap between life on Earth and life in Spirit. Most people would not accept that we could do this. But this is real. We are connected.

— Karl Langheinrich, 2 November 2016

These cultural interludes with friends and colleagues convince me that mourning people like me, who cannot depend on culture, tradition, or a faith community, need a social support system. And further: I am the person to work that out. I’m an educated woman who has lived in many different rural and urban communities in Canada, the US, England, South Africa, and Australia.

I have many intelligent and wise friends. And the sad truth is that none of us knows what to do after Karl’s burial and the memorial. Each of us is grieving for Karl in our own ways: a laity with no education in grief, except, perhaps, for my two Sufi friends, Rose and David. Read more

Mourning Practices in Tibetan Buddhism and Judaism

Today, reading Sogyal Rinpoche’s The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, I gain further insights. That book was one of Karl’s all-time favorites.

From a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, according to Sogyal Rinpoche, those who suffer violent or sudden death have “a particularly urgent need for help.” Our help must be offered “more strongly and with more fervor than you have ever done it before.” Read more

Pam Reflects on Mourning in an Extended Greek Family

I share this insight with a new friend, Pam, an Adelaide academic. Pam, like Alda, has a “hyphenated identity”. She is an Australian-born, second-generation Greek-Australian woman with links to a vast, extended Greek family. 

Pam explains that, like the culturally aware Vietnamese in Canada, culturally adept Australian Greeks (though not necessarily all members of the second generation) are knowledgeable about Greek customs and traditions around death. They know precisely how to memorialize the person in the months and years after their death. Pam experienced the exhumation of her paternal grandmother and the rituals related to collecting, washing, blessing, and sorting her bones. She describes the “unspoken assumptions of shared values and beliefs and assumed knowledge of religious and cultural practices (mourning practices).” Read more

Listening to Dr Alda

As I research this book, I learn that not everyone will need a structure for daily communication or a healing model to guide them through their grief. Some people (because of their cultural heritage, networks, or faith orientation) will have a built-in support system already operating in their lives. During three-plus years of imagining and writing this book, I share my need for a mourning structure with many people. And I discover something interesting. Read more

Why we need the comfort, support and guidance of connection

Wadie: what you have worked out is that death is not the final curtain — that I am accessible and that this connection we have is real…. That’s partly because of our original spiritual connection… and your healing work in the river helped, too.

Karl, 22 December 2016

The need for a social support system after the funeral

I believe that — like me — most grieving people can struggle through the tasks associated with a burial, cremation, funeral, memorial, or a celebration of life. We’ll have funeral directors, experienced friends, and knowledgeable others to help us. We may even have our loved one’s recorded wishes for guidance. It will be painful and awkward if there is no support system for these initial mourning rituals, but most of us can imagine how to do it. Some people say they want no celebration when they die. Others may want a big party or a wake, with lots of singing and story-telling. So, when I describe the need for social support systems, I’m not talking about those first, accepted, formal bereavement rituals. Read more

My Incompetent Handling of Ross’s Tragic Death

The death of a close friend and colleague in 2011 is one of my saddest experiences. After that incident, I finally accept that I inhabit a parallel universe concerning death.

My dear friend and colleague (I’ll call him Ross) died suddenly in a car crash. After the shock and sadness begin to sink in — partly because of the terrifying circumstances of his death — I fear that the collective grief of his family and friends might hamper his progress on his new spiritual journey.

Read more

Welcome to My Stay Close Blog

In this blog, I share my insights from a journey into the deepest heart of love and grief. That journey has lasted over four years and continues, although I can happily report that my life is softening, and my most acute grief is resolving.

Here I share the contents of a book that I wrote following the sudden death of my husband and soul partner, Karl Langheinrich, in February 2016.

Karl in his new hat, 2008

My intention in writing my book, Stay Close: How to Heal from Grief and Keep Connected to One Who Has Died, is to help others as I healed my own shock, grief and loss.

This book outlines a healing model that really truly works! I have shared its contents with many grieving people and have experienced profound healing by doing the exercises in the book and in this blog.

I love Karl with all my heart. Ours is a remarkable relationship. And what is even more remarkable is that our communication continues after Karl’s death.

The posts in this blog

I have blogged the whole Stay Close book, in the order of the chapters I have written. There are a total of 168 blogs.

Occasionally, I may add a later blog to reflect on the content of that blog from the perspective of a woman who considers that her grief is healing well. I am hoping that my current-time reflections will bring comfort and solace to people who are experiencing grief and loss and who may be working through the chapters of my book.

This is my personal endeavor that I am undertaking to share what I have learned. I want to shine my particular light into what to me, at times, seemed like impenetrable darkness – the darkness of loss and grief.

I want to sing my song and tell my story boldly. And I want to dream my dream that my hurts will be healed. I want to affirm that healing is possible. That it is possible for all of us who were so shattered by Karl’s sudden, violent and untimely death.

And I want to affirm that love endures. And that there is life after loss.

I pray that my story will be healing and life-affirming for others.

Like the poet Mark Nepo, who survived cancer to go on to focus on healing in his writing, I was not saved to be untouched. This experience has changed me — and for the better. Healing from loss can be a life-changing and life-enhancing experience.

Please contact me!

I’d be delighted to communicate with anyone about my blog, my book, and my journey.

Please do write to me at [email protected]

With blessings and hope,

START AT THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY!

To begin the journey, start here.

If you wish to read the whole book manuscript, please email me at:

[email protected]

and I will email a PDF to you.

Our Stay Close Blog is RSS Feed compatible! 

Our Stay Close blog is RSS compatible.
All you need to do is copy and paste the url
https://staycloseblog.net/feed/ 
 
into your favorite or choice RSS feed reader!
 

About Dr Wendy Sarkissian

Dr Wendy Sarkissian, an eminent urban planning professional, holds a PhD in professional and environmental ethics. Co-author of numerous award-winning professional books and recipient of over forty professional awards, she is a sought-after conference speaker and facilitator. For her professional resume, see www.sarkissian.com.au

Since early 2016, forced to retire by injuries sustained in the vehicle crash that killed her husband, Karl Langheinrich, Wendy has been developing approaches to healing from loss and grief, using her pioneering reconnecting approach.

That approach is described in her book: Stay Close: How to Heal from Grief and Keep Connected to One Who has Died and presented in detail in this blog, Stay Close.

STAY CLOSE BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

WELCOME TO MY READER (Post 1)

ABOUT DR WENDY SARKISSIAN (Post 1a)

STAY CLOSE BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS (Post 1b)

LINKED TABLE OF CONTENTS (Post 1c)

EXPANDED TABLE OF CONTENTS (Post 2)

DISCLAIMER (Post 3)

DEDICATION (Post 5)

PREFACE (Post 6)

WELCOME TO MY READER (Post 7)

 

MY INCOMPETENT HANDLING OF ROSS’S TRAGIC DEATH (Post 8)

WHY WE NEED THE COMFORT, SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE OF CONNECTION (Post 9)

LISTENING TO DR ALDA (Post 10)

PAM REFLECTS ON MOURNING IN AN EXTENDED GREEK FAMILY (Post 11)

MOURNING PRACTICES IN TIBETAN BUDDHISM AND JUDAISM (Post 12)

A SOCIAL SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR MOURNING PEOPLE LIKE ME (Post 13)

WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT (Post 14)

WHAT’S INSIDE THIS BOOK (Post 15)

HOW TO READ THIS BOOK (Post 16)

 

BOOK 1: BAPTISM: LIFE WITH KARL (Post 16a)

Poem “Baptism” (Post 17)

CHAPTER 1: LOSING KARL  (Post 18)

CHAPTER 2: MY LIFE WITH KARL  (Post 21)

CHAPTER 3: MY SEASONS OF LOSS  (Post 37)

Season 1: March and April 2016 Mourning After  (Post 38)

Season 2: May and June 2016 Marking Time I  (Post 39)

Season 3: June to August 2016 Leaving Our Life Behind  (Post 40)

Season 4: August 2016 to May 2017 Cozy, Familiar West End  (Post 41)

Season 5: January to May 2016 Flooded Out (Post 43)

Season 6: from 14 May 2017 Brave New Life/Soft Landing  (Post 45)

 

BOOK 2: I DO HAVE THIS: HEALING GRIEF THROUGH STAYING CONNECTED  

CHAPTER 4: THE SECRETS OF STAYING CONNECTED   (Post 47b)

CHAPTER 5: IS IT WISE TO STAY CONNECTED TO A DEPARTED LOVED ONE?  (Post 48)

CHAPTER 6: THE RECONCILED SELF: A FOUR-PART MODEL FOR ACHIEVING YOUR RECONCILED SELF  (Post 52)

PART 1: INTRODUCING THE RECONCILED SELF  (Post 53)

PART 2: STAYING CONNECTED: WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO DO IT  (Post 55)

PART 3: HOW TO APPROACH THE GATEWAYS OF WISDOM ON OUR HEALING JOURNEY  (Post 58)

CHAPTER 7: ACCEPTANCE   (Post 68)

CHAPTER 8: GRATITUDE   (Post 92)

CHAPTER 9: FORGIVENESS  (Post 113)

CHAPTER 10: ENGAGEMENT: THE SACRED WORK OF SORROW   (Post 130)

CHAPTER 11: CONCLUSIONS: LETTING GO OF MY OLD LIFE   (Post 157)

EPILOGUE   (Post 161)

APPRECIATIONS (Post 162)

Linked Table of Contents

 

 

Post No.

 

Post Name

 

Click here to reach this Post directly

00 Begin at the Beginning https://staycloseblog.net/post-00-begin-at-the-beginning/
Start at the Beginning https://staycloseblog.net/start-at-the-beginning/
1a About Wendy Sarkissian https://staycloseblog.net/post-1a-about-wendy-sarkissian/
1b Stay Close Blog Table of Contents https://staycloseblog.net/post-1b-stay-close-blog-table-of-contents/

 

1c Linked Table of Contents https://staycloseblog.net/post-1c-linked-table-of-contents/

 

2 Expanded Table of Contents https://staycloseblog.net/post-2-expanded-table-of-contents/
4

 

Disclaimer https://staycloseblog.net/post-4-disclaimer

 

5 Dedication https://staycloseblog.net/post-5-dedication/
6 Preface https://staycloseblog.net/post-6-preface/
7 Welcome to my reader https://staycloseblog.net/post-7-welcome-to-my-reader/
8 My incompetent handling of Ross’s tragic death https://staycloseblog.net/post-8-my-incompetent-handling-of-rosss-tragic-death/
9 Why we need the comfort, support and guidance of connection https://staycloseblog.net/post-9-why-we-need-comfort-support-guidance-of-connection/
10 Listening to Dr Alda https://staycloseblog.net/post-10-listening-to-dr-alda/
11 Pam reflects on mourning in an extended Greek family https://staycloseblog.net/post-11-pam-reflects-on-mourning-in-an-extended-greek-family/
12 Mourning practices in Tibetan Buddhism and Judaism https://staycloseblog.net/post-12-mourning-practices-in-tibetan-buddhism-and-judaism/
13 A social support system for people like me https://staycloseblog.net/post-13-a-social-support-system-for-people-like-me/
14 What this book is about https://staycloseblog.net/post-14-what-this-book-is-about/
15 What’s inside this book https://staycloseblog.net/post-15-whats-inside-this-book/
16 How to read this book https://staycloseblog.net/post-16-how-to-read-this-book/
16a Book 1: Baptism: Life with Karl https://staycloseblog.net/post-16a-book-1-baptism-life-with-karl/
17 Poem: Baptism https://staycloseblog.net/post-17-baptism/
   

CHAPTER 1: POSTS 18 TO 20

 
18 Chapter 1: Losing Karl https://staycloseblog.net/post-18-chapter-1-losing-karl/
19 In the Tweed Heads Memorial Hospital https://staycloseblog.net/post-19-in-the-tweed-heads-memorial-hospital/
20 A fortuitous meeting with a clairvoyant https://staycloseblog.net/post-20-a-fortuitous-meeting-with-a-clairvoyant/
   

CHAPTER 2: POSTS 21 TO 36

 
21 Chapter 2: My life with Karl https://staycloseblog.net/post-21-chapter-2-my-life-with-karl/
22 Meeting Karl https://staycloseblog.net/post-22-meeting-karl/
23 The art of sexual ecstasy https://staycloseblog.net/post-23-the-art-of-sexual-ecstasy/
24 Our visit to the black swans https://staycloseblog.net/post-24-our-visit-to-the-black-swans/
25 Marrying at midlife https://staycloseblog.net/post-25-marrying-at-midlife/
26 Why don’t you try me tonight? https://staycloseblog.net/post-26-why-dont-you-try-me-tonight/
27 A near tragedy https://staycloseblog.net/post-27-a-near-tragedy/
28a Much in common and lessons in courage https://staycloseblog.net/post-28a-much-in-common-and-lessons-in-courage/
28b A death in the family https://staycloseblog.net/post-28b-a-death-in-the-family/
29 This strange, enchanted man https://staycloseblog.net/post-29-this-strange-enchanted-man/
30 Working together and learning to live together https://staycloseblog.net/post-30-working-together-and-learning-to-live-together/
31 A poetic Karl faces life’s challenges https://staycloseblog.net/post-31-a-poetic-karl-faces-lifes-challenges/
32 Drawn to Nimbin https://staycloseblog.net/post-32-drawn-to-nimbin/
33 Man who finishes house dies https://staycloseblog.net/post-33-man-who-finishes-house-dies/
34 Dreaming, building, loving and losing the gratitude house https://staycloseblog.net/post-34-dreaming-building-loving-and-losing-the-gratitude-house/
35 Glowing Karl https://staycloseblog.net/post-35-chapter-2-glowing-karl/
36 A near miss and a delicious lunch https://staycloseblog.net/post-36-a-near-miss-and-a-delicious-lunch/
   

CHAPTER 3: POSTS 37-44

 
37 Chapter 3: My seasons of Loss https://staycloseblog.net/post-37-chapter-3-my-seasons-of-loss/
38 Mourning after https://staycloseblog.net/post-38-mourning-after/
39 Marking time 1 https://staycloseblog.net/post-39-marking-time-1/
40 Leaving our life behind https://staycloseblog.net/post-40-leaving-our-life-behind/
41 Cozy, familiar West End https://staycloseblog.net/post-41-cozy-familiar-west-end/
42 On the cusp https://staycloseblog.net/post-42-on-the-cusp/
43 Flooded out https://staycloseblog.net/post-43-flooded-out/
44 After the flood https://staycloseblog.net/post-44-after-the-flood/
   

BOOK 2: POSTS 44a TO 47a

 
44a Book 2: I do have this https://staycloseblog.net/post-44a-book-2-i-do-have-this/
45 Brave new life/soft landing https://staycloseblog.net/post-45-brave-new-life-soft-landing/
46 Poem: I do have this, 17 May 2017 https://staycloseblog.net/post-46-poem-i-do-have-this-17-may-2017/
47a What is happening here? https://staycloseblog.net/post-47a-what-is-happening-here/
   

CHAPTER 4: POST 47b

 
47b Chapter 4: The secrets of staying connected https://staycloseblog.net/post-47b-chapter-4-the-secrets-of-staying-connected/
   

CHAPTER 5: POSTS 48-51

 
48 Chapter 5: Is it wise to stay connected to a departed loved one? https://staycloseblog.net/post-48-chapter-5-is-it-wise-to-stay-connected-to-a-departed-loved-one/
49 Models of grief and grieving https://staycloseblog.net/post-49-models-of-grief-and-grieving/
50 My ritual contributions https://staycloseblog.net/post-50-my-ritual-contributions/
51 Small acts of love https://staycloseblog.net/post-51-small-acts-of-love/
   

CHAPTER 6: POSTS 52-67

 
52 Chapter 6: The Reconciled Self https://staycloseblog.net/post-52-chapter-6-the-reconciled-self/
53 The Reconciled Self and the four Gateways of Wisdom https://staycloseblog.net/post-53-the-reconciled-self-and-the-four-gateways-of-wisdom/
54 The emergence of the Reconciled Self https://staycloseblog.net/post-54-the-emergence-of-the-reconciled-self/
55 Staying connected: what to do and how to do it https://staycloseblog.net/post-55-staying-connected-what-to-do-and-how-to-do-it/
56 Connecting after your loved one has died https://staycloseblog.net/post-56-connecting-after-your-loved-one-has-died/
57 The daily conversations https://staycloseblog.net/post-57-the-daily-conversations/
58 How to approach the Gateways of Wisdom https://staycloseblog.net/post-58-how-to-approach-the-gateways-of-wisdom/
59 The Gateways of Wisdom https://staycloseblog.net/post-59-the-gateways-of-wisdom/
60 Contemplating the four Gateways of Wisdom https://staycloseblog.net/post-60-contemplating-the-four-gateways-of-wisdom/
61 Using our healing model to address a problem or issue https://staycloseblog.net/post-61-using-our-healing-model-to-address-a-problem-or-issue/
62 My failed 75th birthday celebration Part 1 https://staycloseblog.net/post-62-my-failed-75th-birthday-celebration-part-1/
63 My failed 75th birthday celebration Part 2 https://staycloseblog.net/post-63-my-failed-75th-birthday-celebration-part-2/
64 Shamed by a good friend Part 1 https://staycloseblog.net/post-64-shamed-by-a-good-friend-part-1/
65 Shamed by a good friend Part 2 https://staycloseblog.net/post-65-shamed-by-a-good-friend-part-2/
66 Shamed by a good friend Part 3 https://staycloseblog.net/post-66-shamed-by-a-good-friend-part-3/
67 Five principles for staying connected https://staycloseblog.net/post-67-five-principles-for-staying-connected/

 

   

CHAPTER 7: POSTS 68-91

 
68 Chapter 7: Acceptance https://staycloseblog.net/post-68-acceptance/
69 Is this really Karl speaking? https://staycloseblog.net/post-69-was-this-really-karl-speaking/
70 Asking Karl to help me accept my new reality https://staycloseblog.net/post-70-asking-karl-to-help-me-accept-my-new-reality/
71 Karl’s first big miracle: when time stood still https://staycloseblog.net/post-71-karls-first-big-miracle-when-time-stood-still/
72 Accepting so many losses https://staycloseblog.net/post-72-accepting-so-many-losses/
73 A journey with no destination https://staycloseblog.net/post-73-a-journey-with-no-destination/
74 To lose being cozy with you https://staycloseblog.net/post-74-to-lose-being-cosy-with-you/
75 It’s only a house: accepting my housing situation https://staycloseblog.net/post-75-its-only-a-house-accepting-my-housing-situation/
76 Visualizing a successful house sale https://staycloseblog.net/post-76-visualizing-a-successful-house-sale/
77 Accepting and reframing our lives together https://staycloseblog.net/post-77-reframing-and-accepting-our-life-together/
78 One loving soul https://staycloseblog.net/post-78-one-loving-soul/
79 Praise to Karl, the philosopher https://staycloseblog.net/post-79-praise-to-karl-the-philosopher/
80 For my lawyers, it’s all about the money https://staycloseblog.net/post-80-for-my-lawyers-its-only-about-the-money/
81 Aligned intentions https://staycloseblog.net/post-81-aligned-intentions/
82 Our wedding anniversary lunch https://staycloseblog.net/post-82-our-wedding-anniversary-lunch/
83 Crossing over https://staycloseblog.net/post-83-crossing-over/
84 Flooded out and homeless https://staycloseblog.net/post-84-flooded-out-and-homeless/
85 Entitled to miracles https://staycloseblog.net/post-85-entitled-to-miracles/
86 The gift of earthly life https://staycloseblog.net/post-86-the-gift-of-earthly-life/
87 Courage…and a reverse empty chair? https://staycloseblog.net/post-87-courage-and-a-reverse-empty-chair/
88 Remembering our intimate rituals https://staycloseblog.net/post-88-remembering-our-intimate-rituals/
89 Teamwork and a soft landing https://staycloseblog.net/post-89-teamwork-and-a-soft-landing/
90 Acceptance: a reflective pause on pathway to the Reconciled Self https://staycloseblog.net/post-90-acceptance-a-reflective-pause-on-the-pathway-to-the-reconciled-self/
91 Acceptance: actually doing https://staycloseblog.net/post-91-acceptance-actually-doing/
   

CHAPTER 8: POSTS 92-112

 
92 Chapter 8: Gratitude https://staycloseblog.net/post-92-chapter-8-gratitude/
93 In the before time: first poem for Karl https://staycloseblog.net/post-93-in-the-before-time-first-poem-for-karl/
94 Dr Vanda’s compassionate advice https://staycloseblog.net/post-94-dr-vandas-compassionate-advicel/
95 High lonesome https://staycloseblog.net/post-95-high-lonesome/
96 Heather’s response to my desperate email https://staycloseblog.net/post-96-heathers-response-to-my-desperate-email/
97 How to accept such a communication with gratitude https://staycloseblog.net/post-97-how-to-accept-such-a-communication-with-gratitude/
98 Reflecting on Heather’s email https://staycloseblog.net/post-98-reflecting-on-heathers-email/
99 The many dimensions of gratitude https://staycloseblog.net/post-99-the-many-dimensions-of-gratitude/
100 The “flow” https://staycloseblog.net/post-100-the-flow/
101 An example of gratitude: reframing Heather’s hurtful email https://staycloseblog.net/post-101-an-example-of-gratitude-reframing-heathers-hurtful-email/
102 Reframing: Rose Gardner’s example https://staycloseblog.net/post-102-reframing-rose-gardeners-example/
103 Karl’s simple expressions of gratitude https://staycloseblog.net/post-103-karls-simple-expressions-of-gratitude/
104 Karl’s blessed life https://staycloseblog.net/post-104-blessed-life/
105 A grateful Karl in heaven https://staycloseblog.net/post-105-a-grateful-karl-in-heaven/
106 Reframing failure as gratitude…and solace in small blessings https://staycloseblog.net/post-106-reframing-failure-as-gratitude-and-solace-in-small-blessings/
107 Dwelling in gratitude https://staycloseblog.net/post-107-dwelling-in-gratitude/
108 Believing in marigolds https://staycloseblog.net/post-108-believing-in-marigolds/
109 Reflections on our relationship … and celebrations https://staycloseblog.net/post-109-reflections-on-our-relationship-and-celebrations/
110 A new beginning https://staycloseblog.net/post-110-a-new-beginning/
111 A reflective pause on the pathway to the Reconciled Self https://staycloseblog.net/post-111-a-reflective-pause-on-the-pathway-to-the-reconciled-self/
112 Gratitude: Actually doing https://staycloseblog.net/post-112-gratitude-actually-doing/
   

CHAPTER 9: POSTS 113-129

 
113 Chapter 9: Forgiveness https://staycloseblog.net/post-113-chapter-9-forgiveness/
114 Some lessons in forgiveness https://staycloseblog.net/post-114-some-lessons-in-forgiveness/
115 My initial feelings are not of forgiveness https://staycloseblog.net/post-115-my-initial-feelings-are-not-of-forgiveness/
116 Apologies and forgiveness https://staycloseblog.net/post-116-apologies-and-forgiveness/
117 Appreciation and lack of appreciation https://staycloseblog.net/post-117-appreciation-and-lack-of-appreciation/
118 Feeling beloved and opening up https://staycloseblog.net/post-118-feeling-beloved-and-opening-up/
119 A paradigm shift and self-acceptance https://staycloseblog.net/post-119-a-paradigm-shift-and-self-acceptance/
120 Is there still more to forgive? https://staycloseblog.net/post-120-is-there-still-more-to-forgive/
121 Matchmaker Karl on disrespect for men https://staycloseblog.net/post-121-matchmaker-karl-on-disrespect-for-men/
122 I am forced to reframe Karl’s laziness https://staycloseblog.net/post-122-i-am-forced-to-reframe-karls-laziness/
123 Lessons of a conscientious mourner https://staycloseblog.net/post-123-lessons-of-a-conscientious-mourner/
124 Reconceptualizing Karl with eyes and heart wide open https://staycloseblog.net/post-124-reconceptualizing-karl-with-eyes-and-heart-wide-open/
125 Not blaming and keeping the door open https://staycloseblog.net/post-125-not-blaming-and-keeping-the-door-open/
126 The gift of attentive loving https://staycloseblog.net/post-126-the-gift-of-attentive-loving/
127 Forgiving others as our communication comes to a close https://staycloseblog.net/post-127-forgiving-others-as-our-communication-draws-to-a-close/
128 At the Forgiveness Gateway: a reflective pause on the pathway to the Reconciled Self https://staycloseblog.net/post-128-at-the-forgiveness-gateway-a-reflective-pause/
129 Actually doing: some ways of taking action about the guidance or direction of the Forgiveness Gateway https://staycloseblog.net/post-129-actually-doing-some-ways-of-taking-action-about-the-guidance-or-direction-of-the-forgiveness-gateway/
   

CHAPTER 10: POSTS 130-156

 
130 Chapter 10: Engagement: the sacred work of sorrow https://staycloseblog.net/post-130-chapter-10-engagement-the-sacred-work-of-sorrow/
131 Some origins of Karl’s activism https://staycloseblog.net/post-131-some-origins-of-karls-activism/
132 The benefits of self-care in grief https://staycloseblog.net/post-132-the-benefits-of-self-care-in-grief/
133 Why we should take our grief out and about https://staycloseblog.net/post-133-why-should-we-take-our-grief-out-and-about/
134 Expressive writing https://staycloseblog.net/post-134-expressive-writing/
135 Ten principles for keeping a journal of forgiveness https://staycloseblog.net/post-135-ten-principles-for-keeping-a-journal-of-forgiveness/
136 Co-destiny and the Phoenix phenomenon https://staycloseblog.net/post-136-co-destiny-and-the-phoenix-phenomenon/
137 Spiritual alchemy and sacred activism https://staycloseblog.net/post-137-spiritual-alchemy-and-sacred-activism/
138 Examples of survivor missions in road safety activism https://staycloseblog.net/post-138-examples-of-survivor-missions-in-road-safety-activism/
139a You call that a weld! https://staycloseblog.net/post-139a-you-call-that-a-weld/
139b Planning consultants and activists together https://staycloseblog.net/post-139b-planning-consultants-and-activists-together/
140 My re-entry into activism https://staycloseblog.net/post-140-my-reentry-into-activism/
41 Road safety activism: how we did it https://staycloseblog.net/post-141-road-safety-activism-how-we-did-it/
142 Presenting my Victim Impact Statement https://staycloseblog.net/post-142-presenting-my-victim-impact-statement/
143 What really happened at Tweed Shire Council? https://staycloseblog.net/post-143-what-really-happened-with-tweed-shire-council/
144 The first action of our survivor mission https://staycloseblog.net/post-144-the-first-action-of-our-survivor-mission/
145 Our road safety activism draws to a close https://staycloseblog.net/post-145-our-road-safety-activism-draws-to-a-close/
146 Bless this Road https://staycloseblog.net/post-146-bless-this-road/
147 Bless this Road part 1 https://staycloseblog.net/post-147-bless-this-road-part-1-road-safety-workshop/
148 Bless this Road part 2 https://staycloseblog.net/post-148-part-2-matildas-rainbow-lunch/
149 Bless our singer, Luke Vassella https://staycloseblog.net/post-149-bless-our-singer-luke-vassella/
150 Bless this Road part 3 https://staycloseblog.net/post-150-bless-this-road-part-3-declaration-of-the-matilda-way-gift-giving-and-appreciations/
151 Reflecting on Bless this Road https://staycloseblog.net/post-151-reflecting-on-bless-this-road/
152 Our activism in Karl’s name to promote road safety https://staycloseblog.net/post-152-our-activism-in-karls-name-to-promote-road-safety/
153 Lessons from our road safety activism https://staycloseblog.net/post-153-lessons-from-our-road-safety-activism/
154 Drinking the tears of the Earth https://staycloseblog.net/post-154-drinking-the-tears-of-the-earth/
155 Engagement: a reflective pause on the pathway to the reconciled self https://staycloseblog.net/post-155-engagement-a-reflective-pause-on-the-pathway-to-the-reconciled-self/
156 Actually doing it: some ways of taking action https://staycloseblog.net/post-156-actually-doing-some-ways-of-taking-action-about-the-guidance-or-direction-of-the-engagement-gateway/
   

CHAPTER 11: POSTS 157-160

 
157 Chapter 11: Conclusions and letting go of my old life https://staycloseblog.net/post-157-chapter-11-conclusions-letting-go-of-my-old-life/
158 Reflections on the healing path https://staycloseblog.net/post-158-reflections-on-the-healing-path/
159 Cutting the cords and letting go of my old life https://staycloseblog.net/post-159-cutting-the-cords-and-letting-go-of-my-old-life/
160 A huge lesson and final correspondence with Karl https://staycloseblog.net/post-160-a-huge-lesson-and-final-correspondence-with-karl/
   

 

 
161 Epilogue https://staycloseblog.net/post-161-epilogue/
162 Appreciations https://staycloseblog.net/post-162-appreciations/
       

 

 

Disclaimer

The material in this book is provided as a guide to personal and spiritual development for grieving people and their supporters and caregivers.

It does not contain psychological or psychiatric advice. 

This book is not intended to be a substitute for grief or trauma counseling or the advice of a qualified spiritual, mental health or wellness practitioner.

The reader should consult with their mental health professional or spiritual advisor about any matters relating to her or his mental health, grief or trauma. Read more