When I was going through marital problems in my first marriage, our couple’s counselor advised us to both do individual counseling. I had tried it once before in college when my own parents went through a divorce. I went one time, the therapist said I seemed really happy and there wasn’t a reason to continue therapy. Well, 20 plus years later I can absolutely share that there is more to a fulfilled life than just feeling the happy feels. Therapy in my 30’s taught me that I had to lean into the hard feelings, too. This was very difficult for me to achieve. I truly think it was the really hard life milestones that taught me I had no other choice but to lean in.

When my parents got divorced, being diagnosed with thyroid cancer with a newborn, a marriage breaking up & the recent loss of my mother. These times of grief taught me that I had to feel the sadness in order to move through the different stages. My hopes are that by sharing my story and the tools I reached for in my tool-box, I can help your grieving process. Remember: you must take the time and lean-in.

The loss of my mother a year ago was like no other grief I have ever experienced. My mom was my absolute best friend, and there were very few days that went by without a chat, a cry, a call….. I told my mom everything. Then I got the call we all dread. Your mom went into cardiac arrest and we don’t know if she will survive the night. Oddly enough, she had called me at midnight to share she was feeling awful. We talked for an hour. It was our last call. I didn’t need anything more. We always shared how much we loved each other and nothing was left unsaid. She did text me that I was the best daughter as she was in the hospital fighting for her life. Though her life was short at 73 years, they were filled with all of the right priorities of family first —always.

One year later, I am feeling stronger. Yet, it’s not just as a result of simply letting time pass, rather, it’s the extensive work I did to get to this place.

I have shared my personal grief tool-kit with close friends and family that have also lost someone dear and It seems to really resonate with them, creating a positive impact on how they move through their grief. Though there is not a cure for grief and grief is not linear, what you do in your first year of loss is essential.

Things for healing that cost nothing:

  • Spend time in your loved ones home. Touch their memories. Soak them in. I spent days in my mom’s home, I took what I needed to remember her favorites, our favorites. I said goodbye.
  • Read signs, immediately. I never knew about the spiritual world after death, but I’ve come to be aware of the signs as they help you stay connected to your loved one.
  • Read the book, ‘Proof Of Heaven’. It will help you understand that something does happen after life, from a very well-respected neurologist.
  • Take time for stillness. In my experience, the quiet moments are the biggest connection points you will have.
  • Go to a free grief group. Hospitals offer them. You are not alone. This a great way be surrounded by others going through the grieving process.
  • Exercise.
  • Write in a journal. This is one of the most recommended ways to stay connected to a passed loved one.
  • Talk about your loved one. Remember the things that brought them joy.
  • Wear something of theirs. I wear my mom’s wedding ring and fun shoes everyday.
  • Dedicate an area to your loved one’s favorite things. I have a jar to collect hearts and her favorite times in life framed and displayed.
  • Talk about the person around the table. For my mom’s birthday, we got her favorite cake and all shared our favorite stories and things we loved about our person.
  • Keep telling the good stories. (Here is mine. My mom was a worrier. She would call me most days and tell me to be careful and then go into some crazy story how she knew someone who….I was pumping gas, not too long ago. My mom called and said, “are you getting gas?” “Yes, I answered.” “Hang up the phone immediately”, she retorted, “you could explode from pumping gas and talking on the cell phone!” Also a good one: If a day to two went by without a call from me, she would post on Facebook, “has anyone heard from my daughter?!?”)

If you can afford to spend money on this year of healing:

  • Get a grief counselor. This is different than a therapist and is specifically dedicated to your healing from this death experience.
  • Get a clairvoyant. Mine is a MD from UCLA. She gets messages from my mom and passes them to me weekly.
  •  See a medium once a year. This allows you to communicate with your loved one on the other side. Be skeptical— I was. That was until I met with her and she shared everything my loved one was feeling, and trust me, you too, will have no room for anything else except acceptance that there is more in this world than we’ve come to know or understand.
  • Do weekly acupuncture. This helps with energy flow and feeling happy.
  • Get a blow-dry. I couldn’t do my hair for a while. I needed the pick me up. A dear friend sent someone over to dry my hair. I made it an ongoing gift to myself.
  • Buy something that makes you feel good. Shop the edit, where items are personally curated and hand-selected just for you.
  • Dedicate something to the person you love. I went big on this one, you can go small. I dedicated a vacation home to my mom- Casa Gaga. Family was everything to Gaga (my mom’s grandma alias) and I created a sanctuary where family could be uninterrupted and create beautiful memories. A garden is another beautiful thing that can be dedicated. Pick flowers that your loved one enjoyed and pick flowers that bring butterflies.
  • My mom used to love taking the kids shopping. I now get cash out of the bank for special occasions, and give it to my children to buy something Gaga would have bought for them. It helps them continue to do a tradition they loved and keeps that connection point. I do it too, sometimes.
  • My mom’s favorite flower was a sunflower. I buy myself sunflowers often and put them all around the house.

The first year is hard. It’s supposed to be. With these tools, you can help lay the groundwork for dealing with the grief head-on, preparing yourself to heal in the truest fashion. Manifest and visualize your healing, execute on these steps that resonate the most and lean-in.

Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe 

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife

A gift for yourself:
The edit

Contacts for resources:

Jenny-Viva Collission


Grief counselor:

Grief counselor:
Claire Bidwell Smith
(Not mine, but highly recommended)

Grief group through Methodist Hospital:
TIME: Tuesdays, 11:45 a.m. CENTRAL, Zoom Link: