There are many articles out there on things that help with grief.

Many of them are quite excellent but few of them are written by someone who is actually going through grief and who has tried just about everything under the sun to help ease it. So I thought there was space here for my suggestions on what has helped me in dealing with grief brought about by the loss of my marriage,  my father, my grandparents and most of all, my brother.

I also want to talk about complex and chronic grief.

What this means is that with enough grief strung, bead by bead, upon the necklace of your soul, you can end up with  Depression that can wring you and throw you over to it’s friend, Mental Illness. Because, yes: chronic grief and complex grief can lead to mental illness.

I will write about the standard 5 stages of grief briefly here, but will move on to my own theory of how grief may be processed, and what can really help with grief.

 The 5 Stages of Grief

The 5 Stages of Grief were developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. The 5 stages of grief are well known, being:

  1. denial – you don’t believe or accept that it is happening or has happened
  2. anger – expressing anger at the person you lost or someone or something else, but feeling anger in general
  3. bargaining – the ‘what if’ statements, like, “what if I devote the rest of my life to helping people? Will you bring her back?”
  4. depression  – when you realize it’s not going to happen
  5. acceptance – when we begin to live again – not when we are okay; we may never be okay again; it’s just when we begin to live again

5 stages of griefI’ve seen this on countless websites that talk about coping with grief and things that help with grief, but I looked at those stages after my brother died and thought it was pretty off.

This is more like it:
coping with grief
(Credit: Faces & Voices of Recovery)

Grief is messy.

It’s non-linear.

It’s not some consistent process that you can pinpoint what and where exactly you can deal with grief, or when or how you cope with grief, what the exact stages are, how you know what to do or what’s coming next.

Grief is not easy, and there is no way around the fact that if you want to move through it at all, you need to put in the work.

  1. My Own Theory About Grief

    Grief is hard work. It is a hard process that one must fully engage in .

    I am quite certain at this point in time that grief is a process that will never be complete. To fully engage in it means that it becomes a part of the fabric of your life. It changes the design you weave, lends it’s light and sorrow to the threads that wrap you in your reality.

    Perhaps for some, it is also a catalyst for spiritual growth, propelling you to where you want to be on that level.

    I think that there are core areas that needs to be addressed within grief to be able to cope and move forward. Those core areas are:

    1. The Past: I think you need to spend some time processing the past with the your loved one
    2. The Present: paying attention to your body, your physical world (- your house, job, life, friends, family)
    3. The Future: develop a framework for your time, space, spiritual beliefs and practices as they relate to death and life
    4. The Connection: knit a design that works for you that encompasses the past, present and future

The Past

Boundaries with the Past

Don’t look back; you’re not going that way” is all over my house. I believe in it and I love it and I have become a much stronger, happier person for adhering to this.

dana and meriahHowever, in the case of grief, I have had to look back and mentally touch memories in order to move forward. The past affects my life today in how I choose it to affect it. Like, do I really want to focus on every heartbreaking and miserable thing that has happened to me, or do I want to focus on the things that bring me joy or that I feel have a piece in the story that I am currently writing of my life?

It’s mine to choose.

And so I choose the aspects of the past that call me, and I put the rest away.

Aspects that call me are ones that I can see a connection to my present. They are times when I made choices, or times when those I loved made choices that resulted in something that I want to learn from, or that affect who I want to become in my future.

I use the Course in Miracles as my North Star in this, my guiding light. The Course is not a religion or a practice; it’s a philosophy that helps provide understanding and framework. The thing about it is that it’s based on the reality of love – which is the absence of fear – and it is essentially a deep call to return to love.

So I use the Course in Miracles in reaching for the aspects of the past that are relevant in dealing with grief. It provides me with a platform that I can stand upon as I sift through the memories and it helps guide me towards love, away from fear, and it empowers me to forgive.

I don’t think it matters what you use so long as you use it.

You could use your religious faith, your non-faith, your star guidance, your music, art, whatever works for you.

I believe that having a tether  that will hold you to your now-space as you work through the past-space and look at/resolve the memories that apply to your future-space is important. I also think it should be something that helps you to forgive, helps you to not stay in the past-space too long, and that can help you understand the memories that you truly need to, which will help with grief.


The Present

meriah with her kidsThis is the area that is most commonly focused on, and it’s a good one! It’s where we are right now, isn’t it?!

In our present reality, we have our body, our mind, our surroundings (our dwelling, work, physical possessions), family, friends and so forth.

In dealing with grief, all aspects of our Present matter.


My body likes to walk and it likes to dance.

Dancing and walking both help me to survive all the grief. When my Grandma died, I blasted music in our yurt and danced until my legs couldn’t hold me up anymore.

I walked through the blinding, stupefying grief of my brother being gone (I still do – I walked 5 miles yesterday, with him gone over 2 years now and I am still crying).

I walk and dance through them all. Yoga helps me too, as it’s literally physical meditation.

These things help me but the point is, find what helps you.

Make it physical. No matter what your physical capacity, find something that helps you with grief as you move your physical body: swimming, running, cycling, climbing, yoga, t’ai chi, taiko, martial arts, sports – whatever it is, make it a part of your life.


This is the stuff of our life and connecting with it can move us through all things.

The beauty of modern technology is that there are tools that can help us with these deeply primal pieces. Like breathing.

The breathe app: I remember one day not long after my brother died and I was teaching a class and I saw a raven outside. I connected that bird to my brother being no longer in this world. An intense, sudden grief flooded my being and I thought I would pass out from it. At that very moment, my apple watch started tapping my wrist with the reminder to breathe.

Breathe. Breathe. Breeeeeeaaaathe.

Meditation is breath connected with spirit; yoga is meditation in movement, both are completely and intimately connected with breath.

These are powerful tools to keep us grounded and help with grief when otherwise, profound depression and despair would set in. Find a tool that connects with your breath and use it. Be it an app, a reminder, yoga, meditation, kundalini, chanting: find something that reminds you to breathe and connects you with your own breath. It’s that simple and it’s that important.

Connecting with Others

This is so hard when you are in grieving.

It might be impossible to physically be around other people, but having a check-in with via an email or through therapy, a friend, family can really make a difference.


The grief emails. This came from the Mortuary that helped us when my grandparents and my brother all died within 9 months of each other.

These are truly wonderful, and free (and not a hook to get you to sign up for something, then pester you with other stuff – they really do only send you the grief emails). They vary daily from ideas and tips to quotes, nuggets of wisdom. Daily Email Affirmations (click on the link and enter your email address in the bottom right corner to subscribe to their emails).


Don’t visit a therapist just because everyone says you should.

I’ve been to many (many, many, many) therapists and I can honestly say that some of them will make a situation worse if you are not careful.

But the right one can also make a situation infinitely better.

You have to investigate your therapist and the tools she uses, her philosophy and how she approaches healing and grief. Make sure it all resonates with you.

Because few people are in the right space or frame of mind or heart  to investigate a therapist when in the agonies of grief, my advice is to do some preventative work ahead of time if at all possible – get your therapist and your relationship with a quality therapist established before you really need one.

If you can’t, that is, if your grief is already with you, then my advice is to ask your close friends or family to conduct that search and find you a therapist that they think you would like.


I can’t really be around people that much now.

The strong energy that comes off of most adults is often too much for me to handle. While I want to connect with others, I need to feel grounded, so I have had to learn to say things like, “I need to be alone now” – which I’ve never been able to clearly articulate before.

When we are grieving, we need different things. Some of us need space, and that may entail creating boundaries with others in our community. Getting what you need to help with your grief is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself.

The Connection

These are elements that help knit your past, present and future.


Fundamental in the knitting is God (Source, the Universe, whatever you want to call it: the Energy that is behind the world and that created us), and prayer is the backbone of everything else that I write about. So much so, that I realized that in the first draft of this post, I didn’t even mention it because it’s that fundamental; like, it goes without saying for me. Pray. Whatever your beliefs are or what your religion is, simply go deeper into and connect with Source.

The Senses

The senses are involved in this connection: smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight. And empathy, feeling.

Focused activation of a particular sense with an intent to heal can do more than help with grief; it can transform it into a powerful energy that will change you and your life.

Essential Oils and Grief

Essential oils help with grief as they are highly therapeutic and there is something about invoking the essence of a flower in the healing of your grief that is effective. I know how weird that sounds, but it works.

Essential oils are becoming popular and widely available which is great, but you do need to make sure that you buy 100% pure oil from a trusted source. doTerra and Young Living are great brands; there are others, just do your research to make sure you are buying a quality product because if you don’t, they just give you headaches and make you feel lousy instead of healing.

I use a lot of Young Living’s “Abundance“, “Inner Child”, and “Pan Away“, personally, but like I keep saying in this post, what I use isn’t important; the important thing is to find what works for YOU.

Candles and Healing

Perhaps it is the way they light, the flame against the air, the feeling of connection with the elements and spirit? I don’t know, but I have found candles to be highly conducive to my own healing.

Coventry Candles come with affirmations wrapped around them, and are long-burning, made of essential oils. They smell divine, and the affirmations are comforting.

I think any natural candles are wonderful – I think it’s important to remember “natural” – if you use candles with chemicals in them or synthetic fragrance, they are liable to give you a headache, so just choose something that is natural (and it does not need to be expensive – I often buy the plain unscented candles over at Target or on Amazon).

Music and Healing

Music a ladder to heaven.

It’s the easiest way to shift your feeling and consciousness, and can be an additional asset in breath-work.

You know what you love. Tune into it.

Sound therapy is also profound – I have not engaged in it myself, but I have heard only good things about it; for someone who is auditory-centered, it seems like an effective tool to include in your grief toolbox.

Art and Healing

Art is a forum that allows your soul to express itself without your knowing.

Drawing, painting, collage, mixed-media, photography, videography, ceramics, sewing, knitting, crochet, metalwork, woodwork, you name it: it’s going to help with grief.

Even if you don’t feel like it, lean in to the art practice that you most relate to and just get started with something and it will help. Art can also help you meditate by relaxing your mind enough to allow for that inner stillness and quiet that is so healing.It gives you spiritual space.

Taste and Healing

Ayurveda is based on the connection between your body and mind (read more about it here in this article by Deepak Chopra). Taste is in integral part of this.

This is part of it: healing from grief isn’t only lighting a candle and meditating; it’s what you eat, what you taste, what you consume and bring into your body and your physical experience.

Empathy and Healing

The pain in another can make us pivot on our own.

Helping someone else is the easiest way to take steps forward.

Be there for someone else, help someone through their struggle. Volunteer, work, reach out to something or someone – it will help with your own grief in powerful ways.

The Future

The hardest grief I have ever encountered in my life is the grief from the loss of my brother.

When he left this life, I was consumed with trying to understand how I could move forward into a future that did not have him in it. I simply could not wrap my mind, my heart, around this – everything seemed to stretch on and on without him in it, I couldn’t think of how I could make it through this life without him.

I needed to know where he was, how long it would be until I could hang out with him again. I mean, I needed this. I think it was a partly a need for hope – hope is, after all,  one of the pillars of life: we all need something to look forward to, to be hopeful about. I think it was also because I needed a framework for understanding where my brother is now.

Understanding the Afterlife

This isn’t the same for everyone, I don’t think I need to expound on that. Some of you reading don’t believe that anything happens to our soul after our bodies die, some of you do. It doesn’t matter what you believe; it just matters that you find a way to have it give you peace and solace.

For me, that came through reading  Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. I am convinced that my brother sent this book my way, and also nudged the Audible version at me.

The last hour of the Audible version was far and away the most useful element in it for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough, because it described the process of dying, of heaven, of God (“Om”), the brain, this world, the next, karma and more in ways that resonated with me.

This was helpful in working through grief as it provided me with a space and context for the afterlife, and it laid a framework for my mind (my mind that grapples with, “what now?” questions).

The Law of Attraction

The law of attraction is ‘that which like unto itself is drawn.’

This provides a way into a future, as it helps with a way of framing a world and processes that help move through grief.

If you are not familiar with it at all,  Abraham-Hicks’ Ask and It is Given is a good book to start with. You could even dive into the Law of Attraction Project Planner as it is loaded with fantastic processes and exercises or this fantastic (and free) app, LOA, that also comes loaded with processes and exercises designed to have you consciously living your present and actively creating your future.

Whatever you choose, just be intentional about it. Use your grief to propel you into a greater life, which will honor the person that you have lost. Make your life to be your tribute; channel grief into productive, positive action.


On the heels of transforming your life is ‘planning.’

We all need this something to look forward to, and we also all need to stop periodically (or daily?) in life and re-evaluate where we want to go, what we want to be doing with this one precious life.

Take space in your grief to allow the quiet to unfold. The trajectory of your future may or may not change, but at the very least, this is a part of the process of determining what is the course of action that most resonates with you.

A Myriad of Ways to Help With Grief

Sometimes it feels impossible to talk about grief or even of the tools that help me get through the worst of it. It makes me angry, it makes me sad. Nothing will make it as it once was; my brother is not coming back to life, he’s gone, what’s the point?

Right. That is true.

But grief is a transformative power. If we don’t put in the work to allow grief to transform us along the positive, powerful lines we want, it will transform us in ways we don’t want. Either we use it to change ourselves, or it will use us and it can splinter us. In other words, grief, unlooked at and unresolved will remain there, ready and waiting to emerge when something else happens in life. Grief can simply accumulate in layers, becoming complex grief. In time, this can lead to mental illness.

So, figure out what you can do, how you can start.

Breathing is a good place to begin.

Some Tools I Have Found Helpful in My Journey with Grief:

* *Updated from a post published on Nov. 5, 2016

This is a post about grief.

I had been crying so hard and so long that I couldn’t open my eyes properly. They were puffy, swollen up so that seeing through them was a chore. I also didn’t understand why this in particular was hitting me so hard.

I was turning 45, you see.

All I could think of was that I was reaching an age that my brother Dana never would, that I was moving by him and going beyond where he left in this progression of life.

Something about that shift knocked me out and all I could do was walk numbly around and cry uncontrollably, and I mean ugly cry, the kind that twists my face and streams from my nose and wrenches tears from my heart.

I had hearing aid issues and couldn’t talk to my therapist (we talk by phone). I didn’t know who else to go to for help. This type of grief is huge, heavy, engulfing, and my 6-month period of mourning grace has long passed. So I simply did what I usually do: I walked, and cried while I walked.

I felt a nudge to walk a new route.

I walked by a building that said, “hospice” and, with my swollen eyes still leaking relentlessly sad tears, I steadied my way in and found out about a weekly grief group.

I made a note: I was going to go, it looked good, it felt like something Dana was leading me to.

Which made me cry again, more, harder, back to the ugly kind and I went home and let it loose.

This is the thing: there is a part of me that feels that I should not still be grieving Dana. Isn’t grief supposed to be reserved for those who are truly bereft, who never knew what having a fantastic brother was all about?

For 43 years, I was the younger sister of someone who was beloved to me. I was cherished.

What I said, what I thought, had value, intrinsic value in and of itself because it came from me.

In the experience of my relationship with him, I learned what it’s like to love someone without ‘if’s”, “and’s” or “but’s”, to love knowing another’s very worst, their very best and accepting both, without conditions.

It’s about loving the essence of a spirit. 

I was so blessed to experience that.

There is a part of me that says I should count those blessings and be still – because so many people never even experience what a close sibling relationship can be, and I was so lucky to have had that for 43 years. It feels greedy to mourn.

And yet, a part of my heart was cut out. How can I not mourn it’s absence?

The grief group was a gathering of beautiful people, all races and inter-mixed-races, all ages but more old people than not. Many wrinkles, all lovely. People spoke of the pain of their loss, of loneliness. Of where they were in their re-learning of their worlds without someone who had left, be it their child, their spouse, their sibling.

It spoke to me, and I could speak too, cocooned as I was in this cradle of aloha, a space of stillness and understanding among others who also walked this plain of pain and could hold me in their heart and let me stutter through tears, breath and words.

Then an old man broke his silence.

His face was brown like the rich, warm earth, his wrinkles etching his face into a physical frame of wisdom. He expressed at length of loss and love, and then said, “don’t be scared of the dark.”

…don’t be scared of the dark

A Course in Miracles says that our belief in darkness is what prevents the light from coming in. Growing up Baha’i, I was taught that darkness is not in and of itself anything; it’s merely the absence of light. If you walk into a dark room, all you need to do is switch on the light and the darkness no longer exists.

Darkness to me with regard to grief is feeling the separation that seems to live in the realm between where Dana is now – in the next world – and where I want him to be, with me in this physical one. That grief-space, the grief-darkness-world-place is one I lean in to through prayer and meditation and I can feel the strength, power and love from my brother still.

I can feel him. I really can.

I close my eyes and reach in and I can feel that stillness of who he is now – this great, magnificent soul that I love so well, and I recognize him. Overwhelmed with the feeling of  love and connection, the grief-darkness-I-miss-you-I-want-you-back-here-Dana-dammit slips in and the feeling of closeness and of Dana leaves and I am left with only the grief-darkness.

That’s where I see the wisdom in the words, “don’t be scared of the dark.”

The dark is only the dark, it’s the absence of light. My ego is telling me it’s something it’s not, and I slip into the grief-darkness of what I have experienced only by dint of not allowing the light in. My grief – the darkness – is blocking it off.

Dana was born a year ahead of me.

I’m now 45, an age he never got to be.

I’ve physically gone beyond the person that I looked up to for so long, my fearless leader.

It feels scary to me, a forage into unknown territory, without anyone to tell me how it is, what this should be like, how it can be the best it ever has.

I am tasked in this to not be scared of the dark: to remember that I only need to turn on the light.

When we first moved to Hawaii from Fiji, Dana was 14 and I was 13.

We were too young to work in America – and we were both pretty upset about it, as Fiji had had no such “child welfare” rules. Being suddenly dependent on our (broke) parents was awful.

Dana turned 15 (the legal age to work) first, and he immediately went out and got two jobs: one at the local frozen yogurt shop, and the other as a newspaper carrier. Since no-one checked in on their carriers, he gave me that job. I did the work; he got paid and he gave me the money.

Dana was that kind of brother.

I was so grateful it’s not even funny, even with those 4am Sunday morning (in Hilo rain!) drops.

Fast forward 30 years and I’m living in a house that was on my carrier route.

Sometimes I feel like things are coming full circle, that some things are looping around and, with the advantage of time and experience, becoming more clear. Things aren’t as confusing as they once were.

Other things – like the “how could ~ ‘s” and the “why did ~’s” are stronger than ever.

That’s the thing about experience: it’s one thing to not understand something because you are a child, and it’s another to be an adult and have children and not understand how someone could do something like that to a child.

All of these pieces are floating in this circle of mine, along with the memories of my brother and the missing of him.

I had a dream with Dana on the evening of what would have been his 46th birthday.

In it, he explained to me something I’ve been asking him in my dreams and my prayers this entire past year: why he left.

He told me in the dream that his leaving had everything to do with choices that he made in this life. It was shown to me in my dream as a linking – with each choice forming a link, and the next choice another link, and another, and so on.

It all ended in a consequence – only I don’t want to say “consequence” because that implies something negative. That wasn’t the implication in the dream. It was simply clear to me in the dream that all choices have a result, like cause then effect.

The result in Dana’s life with his choices was that he had to leave.

Everything in the dream was so full of love and clarity and I woke up feeling deeply happy. Like I understood.

And this is the thing: if Dana were around right now,  he wouldn’t be hanging out with me. He’d be working, busy burning his candle at both ends, busy in a million ways trying to take care of everyone in his world and then some.

Busy trying to become who he needed when he was growing up.

The only way anything would ever be different is if he was still alive and I knew what I know now.

Knowing this, I’d climb into Dana’s truck for a long ride and I’d talk to him for 15 hours – just like I used to in Taiwan – and I’d reach him. I’d REACH HIM and things would change and he’d realize that he didn’t need to take care of anyone, truly, we’re okay, we’ll always be okay.

Then he’d be here, and he would be here like he was here when we were kids in Hilo.

Full circle.

The spider webs sparkled in the early morning mist.

Wave after wave of web glittered with dew, hundreds upon thousands of webs, clinging to the wild fennel and grasses that lined the walking path.

Their beauty was astonishing.

Bright, sparkling, so easily, clearly visible.

It struck me that I had walked that path a dozen times before, but had never seen a web, because there had never been dew to catch on the silk and show it’s presence.

The webs had been there all along. They hadn’t left, they hadn’t suddenly emerged either. They were always there.

I just couldn’t see them.

I am convinced this is the same as it must be with the spiritual world of those who have passed on. They are like those webs that were always there, hidden from eye only by dint of temporary visibility, but in the right conditions, become blazingly clear.


It is easier to deal with the absence of Dana’s physical presence now, because I can feel him so clearly at certain times. It’s as if the spiritual conditions that I need to have aligned come together and then BAM, it’s like he’s walking next to me as I stride forth.

It’s easier to deal with the absence of Dana’s physical presence now because he’s shown me so clearly through everything that has happened with the divorce that he’s with me, he’s helping. All of those nudges that I have felt, those little whispers in my heart and head – those are from Dana, who has a connection with the greater part of my spirit, the part that I may not be consciously aware of. He has a connection with the part that dreams in action and sees the sparkle of a spider’s web regardless of dew.

I find that the more that I lean in to the spiritual nudges and the heart whispers, the stronger the sense of them become and the more clear the world grows.

It is so clear now, the world has never held greater clarity for me, nor have I ever felt stronger.

These spider webs.

They are a great metaphor for the invisible world of the spirit, yes. But I think they are metaphors for even more.

We live this life with intention – or we let life live us.

The intention with which we live is invisible, but we feel it in our every thought and movement. It’s like those spider webs, only visible when the conditions are aligned, when the dew is on them and they sparkle.

Invisible one moment.


Seen the next.


But it was there all along.

I want to live a life that I personally create, and not feel driven by situations and circumstances. I want to feel the power of my own intention and let that unfold into a physical reality.

I want to remember that those silken strands are always there, whether or not I see them with my eyes, just as my brother is with me still.

Trigger Warning: guns, violence, death. Grief.

I am astonished at how aimless I remain, Dana.

I’ve been waking up even earlier than my usual 5 in the morning, often at even 3:30. I get my coffee, my laptop, candles lit. Meditate.

I get online, ready and raring to work, and then… I lose focus.

I see your leg and how it was ripped open in half, gouged by the bullets and then by surgery. I think of the gunshots on TV and how being shot is never really shown, you don’t ever see what it really looks like, when your beloved brother is on a fucking hospital bed, pumped with air and compressors and his leg is literally ripped open, as is his chest, and you still think he’s going to make it and you celebrate every fucking little thing, like his rectum surgery.

This time last year, I was about to leave Redding because I was SO SURE you were going to make it, and because Mikey wouldn’t come and stay with me at the hospital because he “was working” and it was harvest and he was “busy.” All of this is in quotes now because who the fuck knows.

I was positive you were going to make it, Dana. I was positive you would wake up, and that it would be on Saturday, and that I’d miss being there when you woke up, but it would be ok, I’d be there for the rest of your time in ICU and would help with your rehabilitation and everything else.

I am so angry, Dana.

I am so sad. 

I’m so angry.

And I can’t stop seeing your leg in my mind’s eye and I know I need to pivot and think about something else, but it’s so, so hard when I’m full of this anger and sorrow.

If I had known then that you wouldn’t make it, I would never have left the hospital, left Redding. I would never have left because I would need to know that I had done everything I possibly could to help keep you tethered to this world.

If I had known you wouldn’t make it, I would have begged Mikey come and take care of the kids in the hotel so that I focus on you, 100%.

kids knees sitting in a circle, holding hands

I would have held your hand as long as I could have.

a man's hand on the bed, with iv lines and bandages attached

Your hardworking, warm, big hands.

Hands that have held mine for as long as I’ve been alive.

two children hold hands while facing the seaI would have grabbed on, and held.

I would have played every song that I thought might make you smile through your coma. I would have blasted our cheesy favorites and Hot Blooded and everything in between, disapproving hospital nurses be damned.

I would have joined Mom in sitting up all night with you in the hospital.

woman sitting in a chair in the waiting room, sleeping

If I had known you wouldn’t make it, I wouldn’t have made those jokes about your feet or the leg compressors, trying to make your kids less scared of what was going on with you. I would have cried and made sure that we all stayed with you, one of us, for every second of every day that we possibly could.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee

Trust in the beauty and purpose of the universe is something I’ve always believed and worked hard at aligning myself with, you know that Dana.

Even as I sit here and type this out, I remember so many times in this very room where you’d sit next to me and we’d talk about this stuff.

I’ve never been angry with God for taking you – but maybe I’m angry with you for going.

Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

man in a hospital bed, in a coma, with a ventilator

Maybe I am really angry with you for going.

Maybe I am really angry at some choices you made along the road of your life.

Angry at the trajectories that lined up.

Angry that they resulted in your leaving.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners. Now, until the day of our death, amen.

If I had known you weren’t going to make it, I would have done more, been better.

I would have been perfect.

I would have arranged the world and restructured the universe to have had things been different.

I would not have lied and told you that it would be okay – that you could go if you really wanted or needed to, that we would be all right.

the name "dana" written in sand

Because I don’t know how I’ll ever be really all right again in a world that has shifted so hard for me.

I really miss you, Dana.

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I’m Learning How to Meditate

I’m  learning how to meditate, and just writing that kind of  makes me crack up because it sounds so terribly new-agey and I am not a hippie. You aren’t going to find patchouli at my place, yo.

Meditation is something I sort of wandered into through trying to cope with the grief of my brother’s death. I got hooked because through meditation, I could remember my dreams, and so often he was in them, and they made me so happy.

Over time, I noticed that they helped me focus and what I thought was my bi-polar disorder (but was actually completely PTSD) was getting better, so, WOW. Worth it. 

And I keep trying.

First things first though: What IS Meditation?!

I’m jumping ahead of myself. I didn’t even get to what meditation is. Here’s a short video that I think does a great job of outlining what mediation is, and how to meditate:

Right? Pretty great, huh.

I really like this one on how to meditate, too:

“Monkey Mind” – totally says it all.

So, like I said at the beginning, I’ve been trying.

I’ve been trying really hard, and really consistently. Every morning, first thing after I roll out of bed (pretty much – I mean, I go to the outhouse and have a few sips of coffee, get arranged, and then go for it).

What Worked & Didn’t Work in Learning to Meditate:

I know people that love everything that didn’t work for me, and hate everything that DID. I think it’s super important to remember that this is NOT one-size-fits all. If you are not digging something, swap out and give something else a shot. Keep going till you find something that works for YOU.

This is what did and didn’t for me.


  • Headspace: an app that guides you. It didn’t work for me, too talkey and British-y.
  • Meditative music: a channel on Spotify that has “deep meditation” music, designed to really get you in a space. It didn’t work for me. I got too distracted.
  • Meditation Mini-Podcasts: also on Spotify, a free podcast by Chel Hamilton that doesn’t work for me for trying to really get in the zone, but is great to listen to if I’m driving and pissed off. It has stuff like “Tigers Don’t Struggle and Neither Should You”
  • Calm Piano Music for Meditation: on Spotify, kind of worked but not really.
  • No sounds at all: nope, didn’t work, I get too distracted.


Hemi-Sync – this weird, buzzing sound-stuff that I found on i-Tunes that is supposed to connect the spheres of your brain. So far, it’s really working for me. I don’t know what it is, but when I get my headphones on and turn that on, it’s a lot easier for my mind to not get distracted. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t at all – the monkey still goes; it’s just a lot calmer.

Kundalini Yoga:All yoga is about breathing, but kundalini yoga is intensely focused on it, more so than other types. It can help get me in a meditative state. I tune into the yoga videos on Gaia(and Gaia is awesome: captioned yoga, captioned meditation series – you can try one month for free by clicking here).

Walking: yep. Especially uphill.

Meditation Stuff

You don’t need stuff to meditate. I hope that’s crystal clear. You can be a zen-master of a meditator with absolutely nothing. This is not a case of you have to buy it to get better at it, because the only thing you really need to meditate is to be alive, and have focus.

But stuff helps!

1. Mediation Cushion:

I use my meditation cushion – I sit with my butt on it and my knees on the floor – it helps keep my back straight and my breathing aligned. I thought it was baloney before I tried it (how much can a cushion really do?!); now I’m a convert.

Which one do you get? I got mine online, from Amazon – you can see a whole bunch of meditation cushions there by clicking here.

2. Coventry Blessed Herbal Protection Candles

If you use a smelling candle that is synthetic (like, added chemicals that smell like something natural), it affects you, and not in a nice way. Either get a candle that has no scent and is made of something natural or make sure it’s scented naturally. While I love Target, I don’t buy any candles there because it feels impossible to buy something that is actually natural there – they ALL have chemicals.

For scented and natural, I haven’t found anything better than Coventry. Hands down, they smell the nicest and are the most wonderful candles, ever. Protection is my favorite, it’slinked here. I also get the unscented plain candles,linked here.


3. Kundalini Yoga:

I originally got into this type of yoga when I worked in Berkeley and was trying to quit smoking cigarettes. It was great because it focuses so much on breathing.

Well, it’s not just great for trying to quit smoking; it’s the best yoga there is, I think, for meditation. It’s all about breath work and focus.

This link to Gurmukh’s Kundalini Yoga DVD is the best Kundalini DVD that I have. I love it. I do also tune into Gaia most mornings, because they have CAPTIONED Kundalini yoga sessions on, as well as this fantastic series called “Yoga Every Day” (it’s Hatha yoga, but excellent). Link to Gaia is here.

4. i-Phone, Headphones and Timer: no link here, but these really helped me. I set my timer to vibrate – always on a set 15 minutes so I keep it short (so I’ll keep trying). I use headphones because those help me focus on the Hemi-Sync sounds.

Learning how to meditate

It’s sort of easy and really hard. It can be boring and an exercise in distraction and focus. I am constantly dealing with my “monkey mind.”

What keeps me going is how different I feel after I do it. Even if I spend most of the 15 minutes trying to keep my mind from drifting around, even if I only spend about 30 seconds truly centered, the space that I end up spending the rest of my day in is immeasurably better.

I’m not kidding. It’s amazing. I hope you try it, and I hope this helps get you going if you are interested in it.

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My brother has been gone for 4 months

I’ve developed a routine: I wake up in the morning, go and light a candle for my grandparents and for my great-aunt Ruby and place it in my shrine.

I light another for my brother, Dana, which I carry with me to the couch. I wear Dana’s warm and fuzzy jacket, cross my legs and practice meditating – breathing in and out, focusing on the light of the candle, or closing my eyes.

Either way, any way, I want to know how to do this, how to meditate, how to silence the monkey in my mind.

My brother has been gone for 4 months.

I can’t explain what it’s like to see these guys hanging out and having fun together.

It’s happiness at what they have, pain in what I’ve lost:

This bittersweet joy that they are now experiencing what I once did.

Sibling love.

As pure and true and whole as it gets.

A brother and sister who will hold each other’s backs. Best friends. The only person in the world who knew all of my secrets, who’d hang out with me and talk apps, pinterest, self-improvement books and in the next breath, call me a wimp and laugh at me (not with; at).

My back-up plan has always involved Dana – “if something bad happens, I’ll go to Dana,” – he was only barely a year older than me, but I turned to him more than I ever turned to my parents.

That’s Dana. Bright light, golden boy.

Micah picked the lemons and the mint, then made lemonade and brought out a couple of cups to his brother and sister to enjoy while they soaked

What a kid!

Micah made this, too – a home-made hummingbird feeder.

I’ll write a post at some point about his school pieces, but in a nutshell, he’s going to school 3 days a week now and at home for bigger projects for 2 days. We’ll see how it goes. We’re discovering that Micah’s an exceptionally gifted person, and an asynchronous developer – which means that he’s developing on-par with his age for some things (like his social skills), and through the roof with others (like his critical thinking, reading and more). We’re trying to figure him out, and in that figuring out, I think we will be testing him in a wide-range of things soon.

He’s a very interesting and unusual cookie.

We’ve been going to Blue Lake – my Mom is working on transforming Dana’s house (and also where my Grandma lived) into a grief and loss retreat.

It’s so painful to be in the spaces where Dana was, sometimes it just about knocks me over.

But those places are also where I most want to be. Not because I like pain; it’s just memories, the physical connection.

I want to hold my brother close for as long as I possibly can, never let him go.

I know it’s moot, but in replaying the last time I hung out with him, I want to go back to that moment and take Dana with me to Oregon, kidnap him if necessary. Keep him with me until the day that he was shot passes.

I want to wake up and have all of this be one really bad dream.

Did you see “The Little Prince” on Netflix?

The rose in the end, right?

I loved that. I think of that all the time now, with Dana.

Because I need to see him in everything.

He is the beauty in the sky now, the bird flexing his wings.

He is the morning mist, the song of the wind, harmony in water.

My heart still physically aches.

I simply can’t think of the reality of the rest of my life without Dana.

I can’t go there.

It hurts too much.

I’m still just walking, step by step.

One foot in front of the other.

Trying as best as I can to move forward in the light.

There’s a part of me that wants this post to be helpful in some way. Point out something that has been useful to me in this grief process.

Say something positive like, ‘these walks really help!’

And it’s true, I suppose, that the walks do help.

Walking is better than sitting inside all day.

But often I’ll be walking and I’ll come upon a place where Dana and I once stood and laughed, or a memory will flit through my head and I swear I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut, I stop, I can’t breathe, I just choke on my tears.

No fucking way I can do this.

So I find myself blocking off my emotions because the pain is just too intense, the reality is more than I can handle.

This is why I instinctively turn to meditation. 

Through that, the monkey in my mind can be silenced (with work, and boring work at that), and I can get to a space in which I simply be, without thought, pain. Just be, exist in my consciousness.

A lot of the photos on this post are for sale on my photography site, Meriah Snaps. Or  you could call it Meriahs Naps.


There isn’t a day  – and often even an hour – that goes by when I don’t think of my brother.

My brother and I, Humboldt County around 1980
My brother and I, Humboldt County around 1980

This is the thing: Dana is in alignment with the universe now.

He is with Source (- God), and Source is all Love.


If you walk into a dark room, it’s only dark as long as the light isn’t turned on. If you bring light in, there is no darkness, just as if you bring love in, hate dissipates. I don’t believe in “satan” or an actual presence of hate – I simply think that all darkness is the absence of light, and that love is the highest emotion.

I believe that love is what the universe is made from, and I believe that God is the Source of it.

This being said, my brother is with love, the highest emotion. He can’t go low; he can’t go to the lower emotions, ones in which love is absent. He can’t join me, as he once did when he was alive in physical form, in being there for me if I raged or whined. He can be there for me – and is there for me – if I join him in being present in the higher emotions.

Does that make sense?

In a nutshell, it’s that if I’m happy and full of love, he can be with me. If I’m full of anger and grief, he can’t.

Added to this, I find that I’m in a state of grace.

Holding Dana's hand when he was in his coma
Holding Dana’s hand when he was in his coma

The pain of separation from my brother is like a cocoon that surrounds me.

If I walk through this cocoon, if I stay and move through my life with that cocoon wrapped over me, I am in grace.

It keeps me close to God. In order to stay in the cocoon though, it is necessary to keep my emotions aligned. I can’t be hateful and stay in the cocoon.

But it’s really, REALLY hard to stay aligned. It’s really hard to stay centered in my heart. It’s hard to keep my tether straight. It’s hard to make my spirit the priority in my life. It’s like choosing between a party-pack of Tapatio Doritos and a bag of kale. It’s like, I know the kale is going to be good for me, I know the Tapatio Doritos do me no favors, I know how good I’ll feel after eating the bag of kale, I know the kale is an acquired taste and if I keep going, I’ll love it more than Tapatio Doritos (maybe…right?), but I’m NOT THERE YET. So I’m struggling.

I feel pinched off from Dana when I don’t have my alignment.

And that’s the unbearable part.

Dana and I, holding hands when we were kids, overlayed on an image of my hand on Dana's when he was in his coma.
Dana and I, holding hands when we were kids, overlayed on an image of my hand on Dana’s when he was in his coma.



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