The days after someone dies….

Losing a "survivor" friend triggers a different type of grief

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My friend, Catherine Russell, captured the above photo of the white hydrangea in downtown Newburyport, MA. The image represents to me the sacredness of the grieving process.

“When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the soul laughs for what it has found.”

An old Sufi aphorism

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from my book, Cancer as a love story: Developing the mindset for living, slated to be released this fall:

My friend’s death hit me harder than expected, bringing me to some raw places of my soul that I thought I healed. Initially, there were the “life-in-review” moments: “Did I do enough to help or show I care?”

Then, there was the survivor guilt. “How come cancer took her life and I am alive?”

Moving through day three of grief, I realized I would never see my friend, Joan, again. The finality of her passing flooded me with emotions, from sadness over the loss to joy at remembering fun moments together.

Her death also reminded me of my own mortality, triggering me back to that stressful day more than five years ago when I first got diagnosed with breast cancer. All sorts of new doubts began creeping in: “Will my wellness routine work?” “Have I done enough to keep my body cancer-free?”

Upon first getting diagnosed with cancer, I took life by the reins and chose to live as fully and healthily as possible. Yet, I have not always been able to stay on track, even though I probably live healthier than 90 percent of the population. “Will that 10 percent of imperfection impact my longevity?” I wondered.

After wallowing in sorrow, fear and low vibration energies for a few days, I regrouped by reminding myself what I did in handling the grief of Joan was healthy. I believe in staying positive and practicing the popular “Law of Attraction” principles, which maintain our thoughts and feelings create our lives.

Still, I know personally, and as a transformational coach, that we don’t jump through grief (or other negative emotions, particularly those hardwired into us from earlier conditioning) to higher levels of gratitude and joy in an instant. We must feel our negative emotions in order to release them (as verified by Dr. David Hawkins in his superb book, Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender, which I continually reference in my book).

With Joan’s death, I did not do what at first might have appeared easier, and distract myself from feeling my feelings by emerging in work or other activities. No, I let the hurt and sadness flow through me and honestly articulated what I was feeling. Some people could not handle the less-than-positive side of me and disappeared. Other friends were lovingly supportive and non-judgmental.

I moved slowly and pampered myself as I was releasing these heavier emotions. At the end of the day yesterday, I swam for an hour, taking breaks to sit by the edge of the pool and just float in silence. The rippling water from the movement of my body, as I gently swayed my legs in front, gave me a sense of being hugged and rocked like a baby.

I returned home from the pool and meditated for an hour, before drifting off into one of the best night’s sleep in a long while.

This morning, when I got up and walked, I felt at peace, grateful for a new day, and expanded in and re-committed to my life purpose.

Dr. Hawkins is right: When we take the time to feel our negative emotions as they occur, and release them, we open to the higher feel-good energies like compassion, joy and love.

What better gift to give those who pass on but a deepening of our own love so we can better serve those who are alive?

In honor and respect,


If you would like to be placed on the announcement list of my book’s release, please email me at [email protected]

Originally published at

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