Recovering Your Creative Spirit in Grief

by Brenna Fitzgerald writer, editor, coach, and host of Creative Recovery podcast

Grief is a process that may involve conflicting emotions and can often feel uncomfortable and confusing. It’s natural to want to close down, shut off, and stop this unpredictable flow, especially in a society that expects grieving to happen in a certain linear timeframe and pathologizes anything outside of that.

Brenna Fitzgerald

I recently listened to an interview with grieving expert David Kessler, author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. He talked about the desire grieving individuals may feel to make the grief smaller in some way and offered an insightful alternative perspective to this reaction. “Rather than make the grief smaller,” he said, “we need to make ourselves bigger. Grief is love, and we don’t want it to get smaller.” He calls for a transformation of the traumatic wound into the cherished wound.

Indeed, research on grief supports Kessler’s emphasize on the importance of making space for grieving in all its forms. In his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow, psychotherapist Francis Weller writes, “if we ignore the fire, our internal life feels cold and the grief in our container congeals. Offering our attention, affection, and love, on the other hand, feeds the fire, and the gradual work of transmuting grief into gold can commence.”

My own early struggles with depression and an eating disorder as a teenager offered a gateway into investigating grief. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, so consumed by my own suffering and unprocessed loss. It was not until I had undergone years of therapy in various forms from cognitive therapy to meditation and mindfulness practices to restorative yoga and creative writing that a deeper understanding of my inner world awakened. I realized that my depression and eating disorder were manifestations of stuck energy—of grief—from having experienced trauma in my early years and not having had the tools to process it. I began to realize the importance of practices, and especially practices of creative expression, to help move the complex energies stirred by my losses.

As Weller writes, “we are a menagerie of moods, emotions, thoughts, and selves. For the most part, we keep the unsavory brothers and sisters on the outskirts of town. Practice, however, invites these voices into the mix, recognizing in them an essential element in our well-being. We are asked to welcome the weak and vulnerable parts of ourselves in times of grieving….” I love his perspective and the emphasis on practice as an invitation into such a compassionate view of our grief.

It is through this lens that I created my upcoming workshop “Recovering Your Creative Spirit in Grief.” Grief can cause you to feel stuck, uninspired, and unfulfilled. This impacts your ability to express conflicting emotions in creative ways. In this workshop we will explore the feeling of being stuck and how it affects our inner life and outer expression. Through written reflection, group discussion, mind-body practices, and intuitive collage I will guide participants into a deeper understanding of their own blocks. Together we will create a safe and supportive container for each person to begin the process of shifting from stuck to unstuck. My intention is to facilitate awareness of and curiosity around the needs and desires of your creative spirit and to share tools and practices to help you sustain a nourishing and fulfilling engagement in life well beyond the workshop.

David Kessler says that “each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed.” Research on grief conducted by Robert A. Neimeyer, a psychology professor at the University of Memphis and a clinician, points to this same insight of the need for connection in healing. Great strength, resiliency, and compassion emerge when we can be present to our own self-expression and the self-expression of others, whether in the form of sharing stories around a fire or making collage on zoom.

This workshop is an opportunity for us to come together in community and offer space for one another’s stuck energy to flow in creative ways. May the practices we play with help you connect to a much larger sense of yourself and the world—a self that can hold, in love, the pain of your loss. As one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Audre Lorde, says: “These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling.” I look forward to sharing healing creative space with you at “Recovering your Creative Spirit in Grief” offered virtually through Hospicare on March 3, 2022, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. May we all exceed the limits of our own self-image and awaken to the expansive being within—our inner creator.

EVENT INFORMATION

Recovering Your Creative Spirit in Grief
March 03, 6:30 – 8:00 pm via Zoom

To participate in this event, REGISTER HERE by February 28th. 

To learn about other events offered by Hospicare & Palliative Care Services, visit the events calendar on our website.

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 2) – Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN

A Special Blog Series in Honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

This November, we are sharing a special blog series written by Hospicare staff in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Each post will feature a different member of our staff as they share why they love the work they do. In part two of this series, we feature Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN.

Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN

“My role here at Hospicare is to help patients live the rest of their lives as comfortably as possible and to help ensure their wishes are fulfilled. Providing education and suggestions for patients and their families about how best to meet that patient’s specific needs and how to manage their symptoms adequately. Every patient is different, so I like to customize my care to best fit each patient’s needs and wishes.

At Hospicare, we really try to meet people ‘where they are’ and adjust to their needs accordingly as time goes on. To help make this possible, collaboration with other members of the Hospicare team is essential. Our team is made up of social workers, bereavement specialists, our medical director, spiritual care, volunteers and so many others that help keep our patients safe and comfortable.

Death is commonly seen as a scary thing, but it doesn’t have to be. I try to make death a beautiful transition for patients and their families by doing anything I can to support them physically and emotionally during this time. I feel very blessed that patients allow me to accompany them on this journey.”

Hospicare’s Four Legged Companions

The story of Follensby and the Fig Newtons

One of our most trusted and loved volunteers crossed the Rainbow Bridge this spring. Follensby, a beautiful Golden Retriever was a frequent visitor to the Hospicare residence for the past 10 years. Follensby loved being a visitor to the Hospicare and it is with a heavy heart we say “goodbye”.

“Follensby was a sweet dog who brought a lot of smiles to patients, families and staff at Hospicare” said Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services. “His is a sweet story that highlights not only the joy that our patients and families get from volunteers, but also the joy that the volunteers get from their work as volunteers.”

Deb, Follensby’s owner, reminisces that “When we visited the Hospicare residence, once I put a bandana on him, he knew he had a job to do and that he was going somewhere special. When we were within a mile or so of the residence, he started getting excited, and when we arrived, he would stop for nothing on the way to the door.  He also knew the residents were his priority, so he would head there first. But if anyone on the way wanted him to, he loved to lean against them while he was petted.”

Deb also remembers a time years ago when they met a little boy who was visiting his mom at the residence. The little boy was eating fig newtons and asked if he could share them with Follensby. Of course, Deb said yes and they sat there for a while munching fig newtons together. It was a beautiful moment where a dog was able provide comfort to a child who was likely going through a sad and confusing time.

Follensby also kept Deb company as she sewed memory pillows and bears for our patients as part of her “Folly Bears” volunteer project. We are so thankful for her generosity and are pleased that Deb believes that it “was one of the most rewarding volunteer tasks I’ve ever done.”

Follensby’s and Deb’s visits were always a bright spot, for our patients and families but also for the Hospicare staff.  He was a bundle of joy and you couldn’t help but smile and be joyful when he was around.  We are incredibly thankful to Deb for sharing him with Hospicare all these years. 

“All of us in the development area are so sad. He was such a beautiful boy and we enjoyed it so much when he came to visit us. I have thought about him often over the past year. He brought a smile to everyone’s face whenever he made his rounds. I was happy to have a treat for him for sharing his big heart and soft furry body with all of us here. He will be missed but is now in a better place and running wild, I’m sure.”

Terry taney, Hospciare community engagement coordinator

The Nature Conservancy Reports on Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare

Swimmin’ to a Clean Water Future in the Finger Lakes

By Liz Galst, Communications Manager, New York Marketing and Communications

Phosphorous and nitrogen pollution pose a threat to the region’s water quality. Here’s what we’re doing to help—and how you can take part.

The health of the lake has a big impact on the health of our organization and our ability to deliver services.

SARA WORDEN
Hospicare Acting Director of Development and Community Relations

Welcome to our New Board Members

Hospicare is pleased to announce that three new members have joined our board of directors.  Please join us in welcoming Aloja Aierewele, Jerry Dietz, and Laurie Mante!

“Of all the ways that community members give to Hospicare, the gift of time is perhaps the most selfless,” said Executive Director Joe Sammons. “We are so grateful that Aloja, Jerry and Laurie have decided to offer their time, skills, and expertise to our organization’s mission of providing compassionate care to Cortland and Tompkins counties. Together, we are Hospicare — and we are so fortunate to welcome three new board members who demonstrate such care and commitment to the spirit and mission of Hospicare.”

Left to right: Laurie Mante, Aloja Aierewele, Jerry Dietz

Laurie Mante is the executive director of Kendal at Ithaca. She came to the Ithaca area in 2019 after spending 28 years in various leadership positions in aging services in the Albany, New York area. Laurie’s professional experience includes numerous roles with nursing homes, assisted living, and adult day services, as well as four years as the executive director of the community hospice. Laurie has a passion for quality hospice and palliative care services that are rooted in personal and professional experiences. Laurie lives in Lansing with her husband Tom and daughter Mary Kate.

Aloja Aiereweleis is a human service professional with a medical background. Trained in pastoral ministry, Aloja has worked with nonprofit organizations for 15 years to help individuals and families live stable and productive lives. He is currently the Energy Warriors program coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension. Aloja is the recipient of the Jane Y. Hartz Outstanding Human Service Worker Award, which honors a frontline worker whose dedicated efforts make a real and measurable difference in the everyday health and wellbeing of the people served.

Jerry Dietz graduated from Ithaca College in 1975.  He has owned and operated CSP Management, a real estate management firm in Ithaca, since 1990.  Prior to that, Jerry was the owner-chef of two restaurants in Ithaca, Ragmann’s and The Other Side.

Jerry has enjoyed serving on the boards of numerous local, mission-based organizations. Most recently, he served for two years as board president at the Cancer Resource Center. He also served as a board member and past board chair for the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, and served on the advisory board for the Friends of Ithaca College. He is active with the local synagogue, Temple Beth-El, where he has been the long-time house chair and is a past president.

Jerry married his wife, Margaret, in 2017.  As part of the lead-up to their wedding ceremony, they held a day of service at Hospicare in which family and friends spent a day painting and cleaning up the grounds at the residence.  Because of that event, they became aware of a Hospicare “wish list” item to have a gazebo constructed on the grounds. In 2018, with the help and generosity of family and many friends in the community, they were delighted to make that wish a reality.  In October of 2018, they dedicated the newly constructed gazebo in memory of Margaret’s mother, Mary Overslaugh, who received care at the Hospicare residence in the final three months of her life.

To view the complete list of board members, visit our website: https://www.hospicare.org/why-hospicare/about-us/meet-the-staff/

Learning to Live Inside of Loss

By Chantelle Daniel

I love books. I not only escape into them, but I learn from them, about life, cultures, love, loss. I don’t always know why I’m reading a book until after I’m done with it and even then, it can be some time before I am able to gain a full understanding of the experience.  A dear friend gave me the book, It’s OK That You’re NOT OK by Megan Devine. I liked the title, it felt like permission to be in the space that I am in, a space that is difficult to articulate, because often I still don’t believe the loss is real and I’m not OK. I didn’t read it right away, I left the book on my bedside table, letting those words seep in, like a mantra or a daily inspirational quote. “It’s OK That You’re NOT OK.” Finally, one day, I picked up the book and started to read it, realizing rather quickly that I wanted to have a pencil on hand so I could underline the passages that struck me.  I found myself underlining passage after passage, so much so, that at times I felt as though I were underlining more of the text than I was leaving blank.

I came to a line Megan wrote, “Grief is part of love. Love for life, love for self, love for others. What you are living, painful as it is, is love. And love is really hard. Excruciating at times.” I stopped. I had never heard the idea that grief could be connected to love, and yet it made complete sense.  I had always been taught that love was happy and beautiful, and yet I know from life that love has many different shades to it.  Megan explains that when someone we love dies, we continue to have the same deep feelings of affection for them.  The yearning and sorrow we experience at their absence, our grief, is a normal and natural extension of our love. I had also never heard love being described as really hard, even excruciating and yet in the context of grief, it certainly is.  That is what Megan does so well in this book, she speaks to the things I feel, but have never known how to put into words, or that I felt wrong or confused for experiencing. I admit it, I don’t know how to do grief. Megan tells me in her book that that’s OK. This book is written in a way that allows you to read at your own pace, you can jump around and find the chapters that speak to you best, read it straight through, or just have it on your bedside table reminding you that it’s OK to be where you are now.

“This book is about how to live inside of your loss. How you carry what cannot be fixed. How you survive.” That is what is so special to me about this book, Megan isn’t telling you to get over grief, she knows that isn’t how grief works.  Instead, she is helping you live with the loss, knowing you will always carry it with you, and guiding you towards finding tools to survive it. I don’t know how to survive grief yet, but I know reading books and talking about books has helped me in most other areas of my life.  Regardless of whether you have read the book cover to cover, jumped around to read certain sections, or just have the book on your nightstand; I invite you to come help us talk about the book, It’s OK That You’re NOT OK by Megan Devine on April 14th from 5:30-7:00 p.m.  Underline a passage or two that speaks to you, or simply come to be in the same space as others who are navigating grief. I look forward to connecting with you.

Staffing Update

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services has accepted the resignation of Kim De Rosa, Executive Director, effective September 23, 2020. 

Although her tenure was brief and dominated by the enormous challenges of the COVID crisis, Kim accomplished much for which we are grateful and she will be missed.    

“While executive changes are inevitable in every job sector, what will never waiver is Hospicare’s commitment to its patients and families,” said Hospicare Board of Directors president Betsy East. “The Board is confident in our exceptional senior leadership team and their ability to navigate this transition, as well as the dedicated and compassionate staff who provide extraordinary care to all who need it.”

A national search to fill the Executive Director position will commence this fall.

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services provides palliative care, hospice care and grief support to all residents of Cortland and Tompkins counties. Care is provided to patients in private homes, in nursing facilities, in hospitals, and at Hospicare’s 6-bed residence on Ithaca’s South Hill.