Saturday, May 27, 2023

Update 2023!!

Despite her love

You might have been wondering where I have been… I had been shifting my grief tools and ideas about grief education since losing Rhett and Beverly. Then the pandemic hit…


Today I got a call at 4 am PST from the New York City Covid Testing Response Team. They were looking for my brother Jacob and I was his listed contact. They have been trying to reach him for several days and would I be able to redirect them or get a message to him. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I said, “It would be impossible.”

“You don’t speak,” this lovely voice asked kindly. The grief crashed over me, and I felt my knees buckle. I hate this wound torn open again and again. I thought it’s been fifteen years since I identified he’s body in a morgue in NYC. But of course, Jacob would be the first one to test positive for COVID out of my five siblings. He was that sibling. Bigger than life… From my experiences of death I completely believe you die like you live. The images of watching him grow shuffled through my mind and stopped at him as a sweet toddler. Yes, I’ve done so much work to not hold the last image of his body. Grief standing beside me like an old friend drew out that hazy memory of walking through that maze and seeing my beautiful brother in his decay. He was found a couple of days after his death.

“Are you for real or a scammer?,” I said, “My brother died fifteen years ago in Brooklyn and all his stuff was stolen. So, if someone is using his identity it would be fraud. These several years I been doing everything I can to stop it.” Holding back the hot tears but the empathy I felt for the human on the other side of the phone filled me with compassion. I could hear she was gobsmacked. We softly exchanged human thoughtful words. I continued, “I hope after this call you are able to debrief with someone.” Before I hung up, I was on the floor sobbing uncontrollably. Can I even go to work today? Being in public is completely out of the question today.

My parents moved my four siblings to Oregon from New Jersey when Jacob was 10. Jacob was the youngest, a twin, and created dreams of being a contemporary dancer. Directly after the death of my father and the hard pushing of some friends to live his dream, he graduated college, and at 24 he moved to New York City, Brooklyn to be precise. He was good, really good as a dancer. He was funny, sweet, bullheaded, could be a bit of an asshole, maybe my mother’s favorite thu she wouldn’t admit it, and beloved to all of us.

12 years his senior, I grew up in New Jersey, went to school in Philly, and a creative myself, I told him bluntly I felt he should stay in the PNW, grieve, be around what he knew until he was better equipped to take on such a huge adventure. There is a grit that you need in the city, and you need your wits at 100%. He had it for sure and it needed a little more polish. At nineteen he was diagnosed with Diabetes 1 and at 24 he was hiding from us the fact that he didn’t have it under control and no matter how much I told him it was obvious, he denied it. The grief from our father was so tough and I felt to take on an adventure like that you had to have a good ground. My dad was the center of the family and kept us all close. I told Jacob I loved him and only wanted the best. He called fourth the bohemian artist revolution mantra from old and parroted what others had given him for advice. Grief is nothing and art is everything. Live today! I was holding him back and I didn’t understand what it was to be a true “artist.”

Less than a year later, my family and I made a wild journey to NYC to claim his body and bring him back to Oregon. I was finishing an art degree, I had achieved an incredible opportunity and scholarship to study art and live in Cortona, Italy. Not too bad for a first-generation college kid who couldn’t read. But mainly, I wanted to go to grieve my father and submerge myself in a new culture. Most of the Italians I meet knew inherently I was running on a broken heart, and they were thoughtful and kind.

My mother’s voice was broken that morning when she called to say she wanted me home to collect my brother. I can’t imagine she had lost her beloved husband the year before and now her youngest son less than a year apart. My brother was only 24. Before I left the United States, I called Jacob and said I’ll be visiting our family in New Jersey and wanted to see him especially since I might not be in direct contact for the next few months as this was the beginning of cell phones or facebook. He agreed and never showed up. I can only guess he was in bad shape and knew I might cancel my trip even though other family members said he was great. I knew him sick, and he knew it.

The phone call from the New York Covid Response team set me off on a quite a journey… Grief is about actionable tools for relief.

I'll be here when you are ready...

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Losing Rhett

We lost our beloved Rhett Redbone. He gave us so much love from the first day with his wonderful crooked tooth smile. Rhett you are one of a kind and we are missing you. He had a good death but heartbreaking from Lymphoma.

I learned early one of the myths of loss: "replace the loss." "Next week we will get a new dog." After my grandfather died my parents got me a pony. After another loss another dog. Often after loss or hardship, my go to was to add another animal to my crew. At one point in my life I had 3 cats (Sashie, Smokey, & Pete), 2 large dogs (Max & Loki), 2 birds (Mister and Miss), 3 fish tanks, and pair of frogs. I love my animals and learning good husbandry skills. 

Max and Loki were wonderful friends and companions for 17 years. Without them, I'm not sure I would have made through my grief journey after my immediate families deaths. Walking and caring for them kept me going. After losing Max and Loki, I began fostering dogs because I missed them. To date, I have fostered 11 dogs and have kept three: Tess, Rhett, and Rusty. After Rhett's death I started fostering again... as to keep from getting another dog, yet, give some of the love for Rhett to someone else's something special dog.

I've taken a break from working with grievers to take a breath and work on the tools I give to others for myself. In this time of great loss and grief, self-care should include evaluating the tools you have on board to be resilient.  

Rhett was beloved by all who met him especially Tess. 
If you want to follow the adventures of Tess and her pal Rusty
Instagram @contessaleia

Thank you to Creswell Veterinarian Hospital

 for all your support, advice, and shoulder to cry on.

How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog

First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.

On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Taylor Mali

Friday, February 19, 2021

A Critical Conversation: Panels on Racial Equity and Culture

 Megan Malone and I will be facilitating a panel on Equity and Culture...

Stop by and meet these wonderful panelists!

This is your link!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

nine = one - Oregon Art Supply show for January/ February 2021

Mixed Media Collage $200


nine = one




Five artist + nine canvases = one challenge




Five local artists: 

Rebecca Mannheimer
Zoe Cohen
Ann Hamilton
Jenny Gray
Beth I. Robinson

answered the challenge of taking a grid of nine 8”x 8” panels. The goal in these unprecedented times was to create a work of art that can both stand as one whole piece and nine individual pieces at the same time. 


Every winter this group of artists exhibits work created as a response to a specific prompt. These artists meet the summer to select a set of parameters, in essence a design challenge. Part of the idea of working with strict limitations is paradoxical. Setting limitations actually allows the artists great creativity in problem solving and they grow as artists by challenging themselves in this way. It brings a sense of continuity as the works naturally relate to each other while creating camaraderie.


ONE -  Mixed media Collage $200

TWO -  Mixed media Collage $200

THREE - Mixed media Collage $200

FOUR - Mixed media Collage $200

FIVE - Mixed media Collage $200

SIX - Mixed media Collage $200

SEVEN- Mixed media Collage $200

EIGHT- Mixed media Collage $200

NINE- Mixed media Collage $200


Or for Nine = $1350

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Free 30 minute Initial Consultation for Grief Coaching

My biggest hope through my artwork and advocacy is to create more awareness on the process of grief and mourning in an avoidance culture. As a Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist, I focus on unresolved grief from death, divorce, and other losses for better reconciliation. I don't want you to hold on to your broken heart or to do it alone like I did. 

_Grief Defined:_

Grief and mourning are often confused or used interchangeably. Grief is the internal feelings of loss, while mourning is the outward expression of internal grief. Grief can arise from any change in a normal pattern and is the normal, natural and PAINFUL emotional reactions to loss or change of ANY kind. 

Some examples include:


Divorce or end of a relationship

Loss of a career

Loss of trust

Loss of faith

Loss of safety

Loss of health

Loss of a sense of self or identity

Loss from a combination of these elements

_The Problem_

For many people even though grief is normal & natural, the vast majority of what we learn in our society about dealing with loss is not normal, not natural or helpful. We learn more about how to mend a broken arm, then we do about how to support people grieving. Your feelings are normal and natural. The problem is that we have been socialized to believe that these feelings are abnormal and unnatural.

How I can help to heal your broken heart:

I facilitate online one-on-one 7 -1 1/5 hour-sessions on the Grief Recovery Method® Educational Program.

We will:

Create a safe environment in which to look at old beliefs about dealing with loss

Discover what losses have affected your life 

Develop new tools surrounding loss

Take new actions to move forward with unresolved losses while honoring your grief

The Grief Recovery Method® Educational Outreach Program is not an occasional, drop-in support group. For the safety and success of all participants, commitment and attendance is essential. 


The fee for the online one-on-one 7 -1 1/2 hours sessions is $1,000. 

                                    until the end of December - Pay what you can afford.


- Sign up for a free 30 minute Initial Consultation for grief coaching.

In this call or zoom meetup, we will be talking specifically about what you have been through, how it is impacting you, and whether we are a good fit for the Grief Recovery Method program and/or any of my art & grief workshops.

I'll be here went you are ready.


Transforming conflict and loss through creativity & collaboration 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Helping Children With Loss - Free Talk

Watching a child grieve and not know what to do is a profoundly difficult experience for parents, teachers, and caregivers. We are currently in an unprecedented time of grief, change, and resilience. On Oct 25th at 2 p.m. Pacific Standard, I will be presenting a one hour informational talk for adults on helping children with loss. There are tools for helping children develop a lifelong healthy response to loss. 

I hope you will join me to hear more. 

Email me at to register for your spot. 

Only 10 spots available.

Only 8 spots available.

Only 7 spots available.

Only 3 spots available.

Only 2 spots available

Can one recover from loss?


A detail from an 18th-century oil painting depiction of the Dance of Death


Can one recover from loss? 

Recovery means acquiring skills we should have been taught to allow us to deal with loss directly. Sadly, most of us have not been given the necessary information with which to make correct choices in response to a loss.

A year after my father, John, died my youngest brother, Jacob, died. He was a dancer, funny, handsome, and eager to start his adventure in the world. As a 24-year old dancer he was fit, strong and had grown to be fully alive in his body. As a child he tripped over his feet and now after studies in dance, he owned every part of himself. Except one.

At eighteen, he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.

I’m one of five children in a tight knit family. The loss of my father was incredibly hard on each of us and our mother. Jacob was struggling with college, type 1 diabetes, and normal living before my father’s death. Yet after, in each of us there became a deep need to “seize the day” not matter what.

He struggled with his diabetes, graduated college, and then decide to move to NY city. Taking with him so many piled up losses over the last several years: loss of health, loss of community, moving, death, a fractured family structure, loss of a sense of self, graduating again, and moving again. He avoided talking about diabetes, changes in his health or how it was progressing. These losses are hard enough as a griever, and then another level as a person with diabetes, large changes in a pattern can be really hard on the body.

Not to long after moving to NY city, he was found in his apartment dead. It is suspected his blood sugar was low causing hypoglycemia. He fell and may have hit his head. My mother, my brothers, and I went to claim his body in a NY city morgue. Looking at his lifeless body, I can tell you it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I do not regret being there as I loved him. I still love and miss him. We are left with the uncertainty of the events of his death to this day.

After that, I had a significant amount of emotional grief that I stuffed deep into myself. I had to stay strong for my mom and my siblings. I kept busy taking care of "things," and stuffed the pain and loss into the depths of my being. Not even when I was alone would I take it out and work through it. Then it became worst, a fond or beautiful memory of him would turn painful as all I could remember was that day in the morgue. I made a choice in that moment that I would look for tools and actions that would help me to celebrate, love, and remember Jacob while being able to let the grief, pain, and loss go. Even writing this, I’m remembering his smile, the curls in his hair as a little boy, his ability to make me laugh, and the way he could dance. That day in the morgue has become just a fact in his death and never overrides the memory of all the good stuff anymore.

Good tools and a series of small and thoughtful choices made by a griever can support recovery from loss. I found the Grief Recovery Method and my art practice invaluable in this process. With these tools and actions, recovery becomes the ability to feel better, to find new meaning for living, enjoying fond memories while also being able to work with ones that might not be. Most importantly, recovery is acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel sad from time to time and to talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react. Recovering from a loss is not as easy task. Taking the actions that lead to recovery will require your attention, open-mindedness, willingness, and courage.


Do you want to go deeper?

Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the Griever.

Schedule your free 15-minute mini session with me here.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

I’ll be here when you are ready.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Identifying Short – Term Energy Relieving Behaviors or STERBS


Identifying short – term energy-relieving behaviors or Sterbs

Many people in our society use what is call STERBs or “Short term energy relieving behaviors” in an attempt to cover the feelings caused by unresolved emotions from grief. Some examples of Sterbs are alcohol, food, shopping, and exercise.

Being able to identify short term energy relievers is an important part of understanding how we replace grief. Grief is the change in any normal pattern and there are approximately 40 different types of specific losses. Death only being one of them. In this current season of upheaval our former normal patterns are completely gone with things like zoom fatigue, home schooling, inequities, and loneliness filling some of the voids. It is understandable that we are grieving. These losses produce an incredible amount of emotional energy that can be exhausting. And largely, we have been socialized to deal with sad, painful, and negative emotions incorrectly, leaving us to store this energy within our bodies and minds.

As a kid have you ever hurt yourself and been offered a cookie. You might have learned that feelings can be fixed with food. But really when the cookie is eaten the feelings are different, not better, and for a moment your distracted from the incident that created a sad emotional response. This distraction tactic has not created a completion of emotional pain caused by the event. The event and the feelings attached to it are now buried in your belly with a distraction cookie and are reinforced to not be revisited. “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” “Be strong.” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” I have a stomach-ache thinking about it.

Short-term relief offered through consumption is an illusion for long term relief from pain caused by the loss. The “go to” western human coping mechanism for loss becomes to cover up, hide, or bury feelings with distractions. The consuming of these distractions becomes the habitual response to the emotional energy, rather than discovering the real source of the energy or complete the relationship affected by our loss.

Food and alcohol are obvious and typical short-term energy relieving behaviors. Yet, there are many, many other behaviors that have the same life-limiting and damaging consequences. This partial list if done for the wrong reason, can have a negative impact on grieving people:

·       Food

·       Alcohol/Drugs

·       Anger

·       Exercise

·       Fantasy (movies, TV, books, gaming, social media)

·       Isolation

·       Sex

·       Shopping (humorously called retail therapy)

·       Workaholism

    Most of these actions are not harmful in and of themselves. They become harmful when you engage in them for the wrong reason. In fact, short-term energy relievers can have the opposite effect: the shopping binge followed by remorse over the money spent. This can be further distraction from the real and original emotional event or loss.

While many short-term energy relievers are apparent, some are not. I can say I have worked with people who have come year after year to grief support groups or visit the grave site on an extremely regular basis years following a death looking for long term relief. The problem with these actions is it does not lead to a completion with the loss.

Feel free to connect with me for a 15 minute discussion to discover if you would like an opportunity to work with the Grief Recovery Method on how certain actions of your own maybe indirect ways of dealing with the feelings caused by loss.

I will be here when you are ready.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Myths about Grief - Twelve Labors of Hercules

by Hans Sebald Beham, Engraving, 1545

I got some notes wondering what working with me, art, and grief might look like. I thought I would share one of my biggest Aha's with grief. Before I begin, I want to say I am not a clinical therapist and any of the tools I bring up are for educational purposes only. You might be reading this because you are struggling with grief and I hope this gives you an idea how I work with my own and how I can work with you.

Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end or any change in a normal pattern.  It is the normal, natural and PAINFUL emotional reactions to loss or change of ANY kind. While mourning is the ability to externally express this loss. A person can experience multiple losses over the course of a lifetime, such as: a death, a move, an illness, disability and many others. This can include happy things like a marriage, graduation or new job. Largely it is a loss of some aspect of self or identity. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2002, our avoidance of grief and the conflicts it creates costs U.S. companies more than $75 billion annually.

Grief and mourning are a process and a unique journey. 

There is no quick fix. Creating a new sense of self often involves experimenting a bit. Looking at examples from art history can sharpen the inherent ability to “see” as humans while unlocking our potential for change. Linking the eye, hand, heart and head can provide discovery. While understanding the key to recovery from unresolved grief is action.

Myths about Grief - from the The Grief Recovery Method®

1.Time heals. 

Time does not heal, action within time does. People have waited 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years to feel better.

2. Grieve alone. 

Often this advice is subtly implied,“Give your mom her space” or “He just needs a few minutes alone in the other room.” A societal norm is that sad feelings should be hidden or experienced alone.

3. Be strong. 

Usually the Griever is asked to be strong for others. “You have to be strong for your... [e.g. wife]” or “Be strong for your children.” “Pull up your boot straps."

4. Don’t feel bad. 

This is usually followed by an intellectually true statement but is not helpful at all to the Griever, “Don’t feel bad, his suffering is over.” or “Don’t feel bad, at least you knew her as long as you did.”

5. Replace the loss. 

This is common with pet loss or the end of a romantic relationship. “On Tuesday we’ll get you a new dog” or “There are plenty of fish in the sea. You just have to get out there and date again.” Most likely there has been no action taken to grieve over the loss of the pet or relationship, just an attempt at not feeling the emotions attached to the loss.

6. Keep busy.

“If I just keep busy then I won’t have time to think about the loss.” Many people spend their whole lives with this mentality and never get a chance to grieve and complete what was unresolved with loss. Mostly, they are left even more tired.

None of these ideas lead us to the actions of discovering and completing the unfinished emotions that accrue in all losses.

After I learned about these myths, the images from art history of Hercules working through the the Twelve Labors came to my mind. The Twelve Labors of Hercules are: killing Lernaean Hydra, wrestling with Nemean Lion, destroying the Ceryneian Hind, killing the Erymanthian Boar, capturing the Stymphalian Birds, taking down the Cretan Bull, stealing the Mares of Diomedes, finding the Girdle of Hippolyta, releasing the Cattle of Geryon, collecting the Apples of the Hesperides, dragging Cerberus from the underworld, and the humiliation at the The Stables of Augeas. At times in my grief, I felt like I was wrestling a lion, a Hydra then only to move onto Cerberus. How about you?

by Hans Sebald Beham, Engraving, 1545

by Hans Sebald Beham, Engraving, 1545

by Hans Sebald Beham, Engraving, 1545

by Hans Sebald Beham, Engraving, 1545

by Hans Sebald Beham, Engraving, 1545

by Hans Sebald Beham, Engraving, 1545

Now, take a moment to look over the these engravings.
Draw the basic shapes noting black, white and grey also. Just a sketch.
Think about how these myths have impacted your own grief?
Write a short sentence about what you see, notice or what it evokes for you.

The Labors of Hercules
are some of the most famous tales from Greek mythology. Hercules would undertake these Labors as an act of penance for the grief he carried. As a young man, Hercules assisted King Creon of Thebes in his war with the Minyans. Later, he married Creon's daughter, Megara.
Despite being a son of Zeus, Hercules was not favoured by all of the gods & goddess. Hera, Zeus’ wife had a special hatred for her husband’s son. Hera would persecute Hercules whenever she had the chance and sent the goddess Madness to Thebes. Overtaken by Madness, Heracles kills his own children and possibly his wife. For his "crimes," Hercules is banished from Thebes, and travels to Delphi to consult with the Oracle about how to atone for his actions. The proclamation from the Oracle at Delphi was that Hercules must enter into a period of servitude with King Eurystheus, and perform any task requested hence the Twelve Labors.

We have a long tradition of the griever fighting the Lion, the Hydra, the Hind, the Boar, the Birds, the Bull, the Mares, retrieving the Girdles?, finding Apples and Cattle, and lastly dragging Cerberus back to the underworld, and even feeling humiliation, shame and isolation at the The Stables of Augeas. This myth shows the weight and labor of grief. 

I can tell you, it's never to soon or too late to recover from the pain of grief and it doesn't have to be a relentless burden. Art history, my artist practice and The Grief Recovery Method® have provided me with tools to work with my own grief and I want to share them with you.

I'll be here when you're ready.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Ring Theory: a grief tool for understanding your place in crisis, conflict or loss.

Kathe Kollwitz, In Memoriam Karl Liebnecht

The world is grieving in a huge way right now for so many different things… But let’s zero in on one big one today... Black lives and black bodies.

The black community is grieving, and they have every right to. How can you be a good support to these grievers? If you are an ally or support person, this is not about you in this moment and DO NOT turn to these grievers to make yourself feel better. Suck it up buttercup! (More resources for understanding privilege and systemic racism at the end of this post.)

After my own losses, many people wanted me or my siblings to comfort them. Just writing that just now sounds crazy! They wanted me to be strong, educate them, and be compassionate for them so they could grieve and move on. While my family and I were, well, GRIEVING. This only left us extra tired and lonely. Honestly, I was angry at people who put my mother’s grief for my father and brother behind their own.

One of the best tools any ally can understand about grief is Ring Theory. This concept was written about by psychologist Susan Silk and her friend Barry Goldman. This simple tool will help determine what part you play in the loss, conflict or crisis.

This is just the basic gest of Ring Theory:

1. Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person or people at the center of the event.

2. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In this ring, put the name of the person next closest to the event.

3. In each larger ring, put the next closest people involved in the event.

The rules are as follows:

1. Anyone in the center of the ring can say anything they want to anyone, anywhere. Kvetching, moaning, complaining, whining, cursing and fist in the air like Bender from The Breakfast Club.

2. This is KEY. Everyone else can use the above list also, but only to people in a larger ring!

3. If you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours or someone closer to the center of circle your role is to HELP, LISTEN, and COMFORT ONLY. Before you open your mouth, think is this going to provide comfort and support. If the answer is no. Let it go. People in the center need comfort and support not your advice or opinion. Things of comfort sound like: “Tell me what happened?” “Can I bring you dinner?” “How can I support you?” Then you really listen, and you commit to doing what you say you will do. You sit right in that moment with them and you hold that vessel of safety so they can take a breath, feel safe and supported. Most of the time people just want to be heard and acknowledged. By doing this their grief will begin to shift.

4.  Don’t change the subject to you and your feelings, advice or this is a bummer. Just don’t be that person. And if you do, then maybe you should admit you’re the wrong person to be here in this moment without more tools on board to help. Fair enough, own that. But if you are the only person there close your mouth, open your heart, and just LISTEN.

5.  If you are anywhere in the circle and you want to scream, cry, complain, whine, or feel the feels, totally cool. Just DO IT with someone in the bigger ring!

The whole point of this ring is to provide comfort to those inside the circle and ripple the dumping to the outside of the circle so everyone along the way is heard and can heal while finding collaborative solutions.

This is just a start for understanding privilege and systemic racism:

White Fragility – Robin Diangelo

Good Talk – Mira Jacob

So, you want to talk about race – Ijeoma Olou

Me and white supremacy – Layla F. Saad