This blog is chronological order. Click on the links or orange bars to read more.

Also see Blog for: June-July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November - February 2011 | March - June 2011 | July - October 2011 | November 2011 - June 2012 | July - December 2012 | January 2013 - June 2013 | June 21 2013 - December 2015 | January 2016 - Present

Continued from previous blog (June 2013 - December 2015)

  • January 3, 2016: "Distraction can be just as good as peace - when you don't have it [peace.]." Cory Scott Whittier said this when referring to the loss of her son in the HBO documentary Semi-Serious. I don't think this is quite true - it is not "as good." But it does help. Read more.
  • January 4, 2016: The smell of loss. Click to open.
    In a NYT essay The Smell of Loss, by Julie Myerson writes about the loss of her beloved mother-in-law, Helen. About a year after Helen died, Myerson smells the definite and overpowering scent of her Helen's perfume. No one else can smell it. It ends suddenly. She has the same experience on a number of occasions, even five years after the death.

    The author says she does not believe in ghosts, but is fascinated by "the gulf between what humans are capable of imagining and what may actually be there." In her quest to understand this weird experience, she contacts several experts.

    The academic Sylvia Hart Wright tells her that "when you smell your mother-in-law’s perfume, her spirit is visiting you in some fashion, trying to communicate to you her continuing closeness and support."

    A neuroscientist Jay Gottfriend explains that what she is describing "is known in his business as “phantosmia” or “phantom smells.” The sense of smell, he says, is our most ancient, primal sense and has “intimate and direct control over emotional and behavioral states. This is especially true for personal, meaningful memories that tend to get stamped into our brains very robustly,” he explains. “Thus it is possible that a seemingly random trigger or thought — perhaps even outside your conscious awareness — has triggered some aspect of your mother-in-law memory.” In some ways, he says, “it is true that your mother-in-law is ‘visiting’ you, to the extent that your memory of her is strong, and that the vividness of her perfume makes it seem like she is there.”

    A psychiatrist Florian Ruths says :“A sensory experience without an appropriate stimulus,” he explains, “is called a hallucination,” and these are “not unusual in grief reactions.” He says that she has I“been given a wonderful sensory memory cue that brings back your beloved mother-in-law in such an immediate and emotionally charged manner.” Maybe, he writes, “it is a very wise trick of your brain of maintaining such a fond memory of her, and an emotional connection to her.”

    I've never had this experience, but Patrick did. I talk more about this phenomenon on a couple of other pages - see Signs | Stages
  • January 26, 2016: Good quote on a greeting card:
    " We do not grieve without first loving. We do not love without gaining more than we could ever lose."
  • "At some point in the future, hopefully long into the future, you will say good-bye to [your family.] You will leave them, or they will leave you. You may be able to influence how or when this happens, but you cannot change the fact that it will happen. You also cannot change the fact that whoever remains will feel great pain, will ask difficult questions, and most likely will not receive satisfactory answers." (From an article by Jason Tanz about a videogame, That Dragon, Cancer at
  • August 1, 2016: Response to "everything happens for a reason"
    I have never felt everything happens for a reason - I don't think reason or fairness have anything to do with what happens. A fellow widow who remarried shared this:

       "Do you now feel like everything happens for a reason?
       No, and this is probably my least favorite question. It actually makes
       my skin crawl whenever somebody asks this one. It’s as though they are
       saying, maybe your husband died so that you could meet this new man and
       live happily ever after. Here’s the thing. And let me say this as
       carefully as possible. I was living happily ever after before. I loved
       Craig. We were going to spend the rest of our lives together, have
       babies, and eventually sit on our rockers on the front porch, muttering
       about the kids these days. Then he died. In a horrible, tragic, unlucky
       collision. Wrong place at just the wrong moment. I don’t believe it was
       for a reason or his time to go or any of those things. Then, in a
       terrible and miserable time of my life, I was lucky enough to find a
       wonderful man who made me laugh and listened patiently to all my crazy
       ranting. From this I have surmised that sometimes bad things just
       happen. For no reason. And there is nothing you can do about it. Just
       because something good eventually follows does not mean that one leads
       to the other. The line of thought that my first husband’s death was
       simply for the sake of my new relationship is a very dangerous line of
       thought – one that diminishes my first husband’s life and our
       relationship. Something I’d never be down with."

  • November 28, 2016: I was reading a short piece in the NYTabout a trail runner who was almost attacked by a bear. This line struck a chord: "It opened something inside of me that can never be closed." Loss creates a hole that you can't fill. But you can reinvest in life again.
  • January 1, 2017: I used to think these lyrics were true. I got lucky, and did find someone else who helped me wade through grief. I wish that for anyone who wants it....
    "After you, who would supply my sky of blue? After you, who dould I love? After you, why should I take the time to try, for who else could qualify, after you, who? ...., For without you there what could I do? I could search years, but who else could change my tears into laughter after you?"
    ~ After You, Who? by Cole Porter
  • August 14, 2017: This poem was read at a friend's Celebration of Life service, and his wife found it very comforting.

I Am Learning How to Live
By Jamey Wysocki

I am learning how to live
In a new way
Since that day
You were taken away.

I am learning how to live
With the things left unsaid
Knowing I got to say them
With every tear that I shed.

I am learning how to live
By embracing the pain
Knowing that you live on
Through the memories that remain.

I am learning how to live
Knowing I will never again see your face
And I have peace knowing
You’re in a better place.

I am learning how to live
Knowing you’re in God’s care
It gives me the strength to move on
And makes the pain much easier to bear.

December, 2017 - Searching for Immortality

From a NYT Book Review at - Also see SIGNS (Do the Departed Watch over Us?)

The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia
By Michael Shermer
320 pp. Henry Holt & Company. $30.

"In 2014, Michael Shermer [a renowned skeptic] had a bizarre experience: An old radio from Germany that he had previously tried to fix and then abandoned while in the “on” position in a desk drawer suddenly started playing a love song. But it wasn’t just any radio or any moment. The radio had belonged to the long-dead grandfather of Shermer’s fiancée, Jennifer; and the day it chose to start playing was that of their wedding. Jennifer had been feeling homesick for her family back in the German town of Köln, and at just the right moment a beloved possession of a beloved relative offered what seemed like a blessing. Songs continued to emanate from the radio for the rest of the evening. The following day, the set went quiet, never again to regain its voice.

Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and a columnist for Scientific American, recounts this incident in his latest book, “Heavens on Earth.” The discussion could have easily devolved into pseudoscientific speculation (was the radio a communication from beyond?) or, at the opposite end, an opportunity to deride anyone who might see it as such (how could anyone be silly enough to see this as anything other than timely coincidence?). Instead, the moment becomes a personal window into the book’s underlying theme: It is natural to want to read into the unexplainable and search for forces greater than ourselves — and yet, the more we want to believe, the more we need to enlist scientific inquiry on our side. Don’t dismiss outright stories that defy regular explanations, Shermer urges. Rather, “Embrace the mystery. What we do not need to do is fill in the explanatory gaps with gods or any such preternatural forces. We can’t explain everything, and it’s always O.K. to say ‘I don’t know’ and leave it at that until a natural explanation presents itself,” he writes.

Such is the central message in a wide-ranging examination of humanity’s quest for something beyond our temporary residence on Earth. Shermer begins with a simple notion: Humans are mortal, and yet it is near impossible to imagine our mortality. You cannot picture your death because you would no longer exist to experience it. This “inability to imagine our own nonexistence means that an ultimate understanding of our own mortality will forever elude us,” Shermer argues, and so we strive to subvert that mortality however we can.

At its most basic, the urge manifests in the failure to acknowledge that death is final. Even animals, Shermer notes, often refuse to give up their loved ones. Dolphins, for instance, have been known to push their dead to the surface in an apparent attempt to help them regain the ability to breathe. Aware that such efforts are bound to fail, humans resort to more spiritual means of resuscitation, often choosing to believe that while the body is dead the soul remains. And here is where religion, mankind’s primary search for immortality and the afterlife, enters the picture."

Novembert 20, 2018 - article on widows and finances
Good article about managing finances, and not making major decisions too early why your brain is Jell-o.
November 20, 2018 - Thoughts on grief from Wind River movie
I'd like to tell you it gets easier. it doesn't. If there's any... comfort, it's... getting used to the pain, I suppose. Went to a grief seminar in Casper. Did you know that? I don't know why. Just wanted the bad to go away. Wanted answers... to questions that couldn't be answered. The counselor come up to me after the seminar and sat down next to me. And he said something that stuck with me. I don't know if it's what he said, or how he said it. He says, "I got some good news, and I got some bad news. Bad news is you're never gonna be the same. You're never gonna be whole, not ever again. You lost your daughter. Nothing's ever going to replace that. Now the good news is, as soon as you accept that, and you let yourself suffer... you allow yourself to visit her in your mind, and you'll remember all the love she gave you, all the joy she knew." Point is, Martin, you can't steer from the pain. If you do, you'll rob yourself... You'll rob yourself of every memory of her. Every last one. From her first step to her last smile. Kill 'em all. Just take the pain, Martin. You hear me? You take it. It's the only way you'll keep her with you. ~ From movie Wind River, Cory Lambert character
February 23, 2019 - The "Widowhood Effect"

From The Daily News, Reuters, 11/14/2013: When a husband or wife dies, the surviving spouse faces a higher risk of dying over the next few months as well, according to a new report. Previous studies have looked at the so-called widowhood effect. But it wasn't completely clear how long the effect lasts.

"The widowhood question is interesting because it is ubiquitous. At some point or the other one partner will die leaving the other and this will happen to everyone regardless of class, caste, socioeconomic status," Dr. S. V. Subramanian told Reuters Health in an email. He worked on the study at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Researchers still don't know what exactly causes the widowhood effect. "It's possible it's a grief-related mechanism, or that providing care for the sick spouse causes illness in the surviving spouse, or that, as one's spouse gets sicker, the surviving spouse stops taking care of their own health," Subramanian said.

For the new analysis, the researchers looked at data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, which surveys more than 26,000 Americans over age 50 every two years. They focused on 12,316 of the participants who were married in 1998. Subramanian and his colleagues followed those people through 2008 to determine which participants became widows or widowers, then recorded when they died.

  • There were 2,912 deaths during the study period.
  • Of those, 2,373 were among married people who left a widow or widower behind.
  • The other 539 deaths were among people who had become widows and widowers themselves.
  • Fifty of those people died within three months of losing their spouse, 26 died between three and six months later and 44 died between six and 12 months later.
  • Widows and widowers were more likely to die than people whose spouses were still living, on average.
  • The effect was strongest during the first three months after a spouse's death, when they had a 66-percent increased chance of dying.
  • Earlier research showed men were at greater risk of dying soon after a spouse than women, but the authors of this study didn't find a difference. That could be because they took into account participants' income and wealth, which may have influenced past findings, they said.

Because this study only looked at people over age 50, it isn't clear whether younger people would face the same risks after a spouse's death. But Subramanian said some evidence suggests the widowhood effect is actually stronger among younger people.

Family and friends can help a surviving spouse by being supportive and attentive, researchers said. "What insulates people from grief and stress is a good sense of support. Be around for this person," Dr. Ken Doka told Reuters Health. He is a gerontologist at the Graduate School of The College of New Rochelle in New York and a senior consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America. "Grief is extraordinarily stressful and when you're older and frailer it's harder to cope with stress," Doka, who wasn't involved in the new study, said.

The loss of a loved one might make for drastic changes in lifestyle habits. Doka advises friends and family to keep an eye on the surviving spouse to see how the person is handling those changes. "Maybe they used to go for a walk every night but now they're not doing that anymore. Maybe they're not sleeping well, or maybe not taking their medications," said Doka. It helps to be there for them and to be supportive.

Spirituality and religion may also help some people get through a crisis, he said. Doka said surviving male spouses may feel especially lonely because they don't know they need to be proactive about finding company. "One of the problems widowers often have is the lack of support and one of the reasons is that very often the wife, historically, is the keeper of the kids," said Doka. "She's the one that called the kids up and said they should come over for dinner, so it's not unusual that widowers will often say no one ever stops over any more, because they didn't realize someone else was calling and inviting them," he said.

A very good blog

A book that changed my life - literally.


Also see Blog for: June-July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November - February 2011 | March - June 2011 | July - October 2011 | November 2011 - June 2012 | July - December 2012 | January 2013 - June 2013 | June 21 2013 - December 2015 | January 2016 - Present


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