Category Archives: Bereavement

Grieving the End of a Relationship

A few years ago I read a post by Zoe Hendrix, whose partner had walked away from their relationship three years after they fell in love on Married At First Sight.

Here is a quote from her post:

“Have hope, knowing that it’s not the end of the world if someone doesn’t love you anymore… it’s only the end of the world, if you don’t love YOU anymore.”

What a powerful statement! None of us should make another person responsible for our happiness. There will inevitably be times during our lives when someone disappoints, betrays or abandons us in some way, but by working on loving ourselves we can all be comforted by the knowledge that we will be able to heal and move forward.

I was devastated when my husband of almost 25 years ended our marriage and it took me many years to be able to trust someone else with my heart. That didn’t happen until I had done a lot of work to see what part I had played in the demise of our relationship. I discovered that I had given him total power over my happiness and came to realise that this was both immature and unfair. When I felt ready I did meet someone new and I went into that relationship knowing that no matter what happened in the future I would always have me.

So take heart if you are grieving the loss of a relationship and give yourself time to learn who you are and believe that you are enough on your own. It’s human nature to want someone beside us who we feel is our soul mate. Someone who has our back, is our best friend, and will be there for us no matter what. But that should be the icing on the cake and we all need to know that we have the cake already because we love ourselves enough to weather any storm.

(c) Jane Gillespie

https://www.janegillespie.com.au/counsellor.html

 

How do you talk to someone who has just been told they have cancer?

What should you do if you find out that a friend had been diagnosed with cancer?  Some people are really good at this but others feel at a loss to know what to say. Some even say things that are not helpful at all.

I can give you my point of view because I’ve had breast cancer that needed a total mastectomy and chemotherapy, a Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) that required surgery and radiotherapy and many BCCs that have had to be cut out.

As a facilitator of support groups for cancer patients for almost 20 years I’ve heard the same thing over and over again about how some responses from family and friends have felt truly horrible. Here are some things people said to me that I never found helpful. In fact they really upset me!

“Oh well, survival rates are really good today.”  This is irrelevant when someone is in shock, trying to come to terms with the news.

“I’m sure you/he/she will be all right.”  Actually you do NOT know this.

“Aren’t you lucky that you’ve got the best specialist ?”  Even if this is true, the newly diagnosed person will not be feeling lucky about anything just now. After all they’ve just been told they’ve got cancer and NO ONE would ever say this was lucky.

“The best thing you can do is be positive.”  While being positive (I prefer the word optimistic) can help with anxiety along the way there is no evidence that a positive attitude has any bearing on a cancer patient’s prognosis.

“Oh, my aunt/cousin/boss had that cancer and they’re fine now.”  This can feel very dismissive. There are many different grades and stages for every type of cancer.  You don’t know all the details of your friend’s cancer and they probably don’t either at this point.  They might like to hear about people who have survived once they’ve got over the initial shock, but probably not just now.

“This is a journey and you will get to the end of it.” Um, yeah – we will all get to the end of the journey, but you have absolutely no way of knowing how things will end for your friend.

THIS is the truth:

There are some people who are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they just disappear.  This can be fear of hurting their friend or fear of cancer itself.  (“If you can get it, I might too…”).  Many friendships have foundered because of people’s fear.

The ‘disappearing act’ is incredibly hurtful for someone who thought you were their friend and really needs your support. 

What I personally found most helpful was when people understood that I wasn’t expecting them to ‘fix it’ for me.  Some of the things empathetic people said to me that were truly helpful are:

“I don’t know what to say; I feel helpless.  Please tell me if there is anything I can do.”

“Oh, that’s horrible news.  I’m so sorry this has happened to you.”

“You’re looking pretty good today.  How do you actually feel though?”  It’s wonderful what can be done with make-up to present a prettier picture than the reality.  Simple recognition of this is really good.

And when I was undergoing treatment and felt revolting, the best thing anyone could say to me was, “You’re having a really tough time today, aren’t you?  I’m sorry – it just sucks.”

Your friend with cancer knows you can’t fix it for them. All they need is acknowledgment from you that they are going through a tough time and an offer to be there to support them in any way you can. 

Of course no one sets out to be hurtful, but it’s important to think about the impact your words might have on someone confronting a life-threatening disease. If you simply don’t have the words, sending a funny card with a loving message is sometimes enough.

No one is a mind reader, so ask them to be specific if there is something you can do for them.  If they seem to have a hard time thinking of anything, make up your own list of suggestions such as doing the washing and/or ironing for them, mowing the lawn, taking the dog for a walk, taking the kids out for the afternoon, going to the supermarket, cooking some meals or driving them to treatment and ask what would be helpful for them.  This will make it a lot easier for you to be supportive in a useful way and will help you with your feelings of helplessness.

© Jane Gillespie

CAN YOU GROW FROM GRIEF?

The world seems to be filled with pain these days. Everywhere we look there is terror, devastation and loss. In the United States it seems as though the police forces in many States are at war with people of colour, just because they aren’t white and they in turn are reacting with violence.

Elsewhere there are madmen (and women) blowing innocent people up or ramming a heavy vehicle into a crowd of revellers, gunmen opening fire on total strangers or rampaging through a group with a knife. We read newspapers, watch or listen to the news or just talk to our friends, and it’s in our faces – impossible to escape.

Provided we are feeling reasonably okay ourselves, the pain all this causes might be possible to view from a distance. We know it’s there, but if it doesn’t impact personally on us or those we love, we can mostly put it aside and be grateful that we’re safe. However, everything seems to be especially heightened now, with the spectre of COVID-19 hanging over us.

However, grief is a type of pain that no one can avoid forever, no matter how blessed our lives might be. Sooner or later, someone who is supremely important to us will die and leave us forever.

When someone very dear to us dies, the pain we experience is grief. We can’t avoid it; we can’t hide from it or run away from it, although some try. Even though we might feel like we’re drowning, ultimately we have to learn to let the waves knock us over before they dump us back on dry land.

When the worst of the pain subsides, we can be left wondering what just hit us, struggling to take a full breath. Life may seem like an endless twilight. No moon, no stars, very little light, dull and grey and nothing to make us believe that the sun will rise again.

Eventually the awful feeling of emptiness, as though there’s a hole in our very essence, does gradually lessen and it’s as though the stars do come out then the moon shines through, followed by a new day with the sun shining in the sky.

We no longer feel dreadful all day every day and there might even be some days when we forget about our grief completely. We will have more happy memories than sad thoughts about our loss and we begin to re-engage with life.

One thing it’s really important to know is that we will never be the same again. We’ve been through an extreme experience, the loss of something very precious that can never be found again in exactly the same way. We are different now and always will be but we’ve been in the crucible; we’ve survived the fire; we have come out the other side. Maybe we’re a bit wonky, with invisible and possibly some visible signs of the struggle we’ve been through, like a broken vase that’s been not very expertly mended.

Some of the cracks will always be there, especially at certain times that bring the sadness rushing back: anniversaries, birthdays, family holidays, etc. But hopefully we will also find that we have greater strength, clarity and resilience learned through the knowledge that we have survived something that in the beginning we thought might break us forever.

We will always feel sad that we can no longer do certain things with the person we’ve lost, but will always have the memories of the wonderful times we had during our shared experiences.

There is no ‘right’ length of time for people to grieve.  But for anyone who is still locked into grief, I suggest you seek help.

Talk to a grief counsellor and/or join a support group.

https://www.janegillespie.com.au/counsellor.html

Excellent resource for people with cancer

So often the emotional impact of being diagnosed with cancer is overlooked.  I’ve talked about this before but just found this excellent book produced by the National Cancer Institute in the United States: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/takingtime/takingtime.pdf.

Just about everything written in this resonated with me.  I think this publication, or something very similar written by local cancer organisations, should be made available for everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Highly recommended.

Jane Gillespie – google.com/+JANEGILLESPIEHolisticCounsellor

Flight MH370

The recent announcement that Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has crashed into the sea and that all lives have been lost has killed any remaining hope for the families and friends of the passengers and crew onboard. Our hearts must go out to everyone involved in this tragedy.

It will be almost impossible for some of those who are directly affected to let go of the need for answers. What happened? Where did the plane go down? Who is responsible? Sadly we may never have answers to any of these questions.

I personally think that the media have not behaved well; there has been an almost gleeful desire to lay the blame on the pilot and/or co-pilot. Yet how can we know exactly what happened? This finger pointing leaves the families of the pilots, who will be suffering as much grief as anyone else, with the added burden of blame and/or shame due to the theory that it was either a terrorist attack planned by one or both of the pilots or a suicide mission.

I simply cannot get my head around the idea of a terrorist attack that leaves absolutely no clue as to who perpetrated it or what point they would have been trying to make. Also, why would someone who wanted to end their own life take a planeload of innocent people with them?

While I understand the need to find someone – anyone – to blame, it serves no purpose to make accusations when there is no definitive proof. I am also well aware that the theories about the pilots could turn out to be true but I will always believe in innocent until proven guilty. Journalism should be about telling the truth, not pushing a particular unproven viewpoint.

This is an opinion piece but I am not saying that anyone has to agree with my opinion. I am saying that I don’t know the facts, whereas some journalists seem to have decided that they do know all the answers and are quite happy to vilify people who have not been proven guilty of anything.

While search efforts continue in an attempt to find some trace of the wreckage and hopefully the Black Box, the overriding need of the bereaved will be a sense of community. When people go through the same or similar tragedies, the pain can be ameliorated if it is shared with others who are experiencing or have experienced similar terrible losses.

I believe that it’s probably too early for counselling or psychological support. While not impossible, it is highly unlikely that trained professionals will have had similar experiences to these grieving people. Right now, they simply need to be able to talk and talk and talk to others who truly can understand. Sometimes this is all that is needed, but qualified counselling would be appropriate at a later date if necessary.

Whatever emotions those left behind have, whatever behaviours they exhibit, all should be deemed to be normal in these circumstances. I hope that they are given the opportunity to bond with fellow sufferers without too much interference – no matter how well meant.

© 2014 Jane Gillespie | google.com/+JANEGILLESPIEHolisticCounsellor

Update on my post cancer life

I found out today that book I was involved in putting together, “Finding Our Life Force”, has been reviewed on Stephanie Dowrick’s Universal Heart Book Club website (http://www.universalheartbookclub.com/2014/03/walter-mason-on-finding-our-life-force.html).

On checking this out and clicking on a link to my name [as you do :-)], I came across an article that was published online in 2010.  In January this year (2014) I celebrated my 20th Anniversary since being diagnosed with breast cancer so I thought it was time to update some things.  The article is below, with some amendments to make it more current:

“Jane Gillespie lives in Australia, where she worked with a cancer foundation for 14 years, has a private counselling practice and is an author.  She was not always so self-confident.  After surviving breast cancer, she fell apart.  She had professional counseling and joined a support group. She changed her life, her career, and found a new identity.   Jane tells her survivor story here.

Cancer – a Springboard

In 1994 I was a single parent caring for a disabled 16 year old, the only one of my three children still living at home. After my regular annual medical checkup, my doctor recommended that I have a routine mammogram, simply because of my age. How lucky was I! After this first ever mammogram, something suspicious was found and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This necessitated a lumpectomy and axillary clearance followed by a total mastectomy and seven months of chemotherapy.

My Breakdown

Despite surviving the onslaught of treatment, a few months after this finished I had a breakdown. I had resigned from my job because life seemed too short to be doing something I wasn’t passionate about and my energy levels were so low I had to have some time out. While I was dealing with the disease I’d kept the lid firmly on my feelings about having to face my mortality, but not having work to go to and no more regular hospital visits meant that there was now nothing else to focus on. I couldn’t hide any longer.

Crisis of Identity

Ever since my daughter was born I had believed that my role was to take care of her until she died. Now here I was facing the possibility that I could die first and I agonized over what would become of her. It didn’t matter that my oncologist told me that my prognosis was good. I was convinced that I was going to die without ever having truly lived. My life now seemed to have been a waste. Sure, I’d raised three children, one with special needs, but I couldn’t see me anywhere in the picture. Until then, my whole reason for being was based around my family. I’d always seen myself as a daughter, wife, and mother. I had no sense of identity as an individual.

Help From a New Oncologist

I sent my daughter to live with her father and stepmother and moved to Sydney. Unfortunately, you can’t run away from yourself and I was still crippled by anxiety and panic attacks. Luckily my new oncologist referred me to a psychiatrist who worked with cancer patients. This doctor explained to me that many cancer survivors feel exactly the same way; why wouldn’t I? My whole life had been shaken to its core and my current feelings of grief at the loss of the life I had always known had brought up unresolved grief from the past.

Life Force Cancer Foundation

His prescription for me was to join a support group. My oncologist is one of the Patrons of Life Force Cancer Foundation, so I joined a Life Force support group. My despair about possibly not surviving my daughter could well have become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I believe to this day that attending those meetings saved my life. I was able to work through the grief I felt at the loss of my pre-cancer life. It was immaterial that I didn’t feel that life had amounted to very much. It was all I knew and I was floundering. The other group members let me be a mess for as long as I needed to and this was the best possible medicine for me at that time.

Regaining Confidence

After I’d regained some of my physical strength, I enrolled in a course for women wanting to re-enter the workforce. At the beginning I didn’t believe that I would ever be able to function competently again. I thought that in the unlikely event that anyone would ever want to employ me, I was incapable of learning new skills. However, by the end of the course my shattered confidence was starting to come back.

Career and Family Changes


I got a job as a part-time bank teller and also began a counseling course. I graduated two years later and joined the Life Force Cancer Foundation team. For the next 14 years I co-facilitated between one and four weekly support groups in Sydney for cancer patients and survivors, as well as rural weekend retreats for survivors, patients and caregivers. A year after I left my daughter, I brought her to Sydney. She lived on her own for 17 years, supported by an organization that assists people with disabilities to live independently. However, due to her disability her health began to suffer and she was spending more time in hospital than out of it. After a mammoth struggle, I managed to get funding for her and she now lives in a group home with two other people with the same syndrome. She is extremely happy there and we both have peace of mind now, knowing she will be safe and well looked after for the rest of her life.

Writing, Counseling, Public Speaking


Writing was something I’d loved as a teenager, but I somehow let it go after marriage. In 2000 I enrolled in a novel writing course. I eventually resigned from the bank in 2002 to set up my own counseling practice, and to write the ‘Great Australian Novel’. It took me 12 years but I have now finished the first draft of my novel and am in the process of editing and rewriting. In March 2007 Journey to Me was published. This is a memoir about my experience of surviving cancer and building a new life for myself. I have also had a novella published and have written several others. Writing is my creative outlet and I believe everyone needs something that brings them this kind of pleasure.

Even though I have retired from my work running cancer support groups, I still have my private counseling practice, specializing in grief and loss.

I was spokesperson for the Life Force Cancer Foundation while I worked as a counseling group facilitator and have retained a position on the Management Committee so am still happy to act as spokesperson if the opportunity arises. I occasionally speak at conferences, seminars and service groups about how it is never too late to change your life.

Civil Marriage Celebrant


I trained to become a Civil Marriage Celebrant and was appointed by the Australian Attorney-General in September 2004. Working with my private counseling clients can sometimes be draining and sad. However my role as a marriage celebrant, connecting with happy couples while they are planning their future lives together, balances everything nicely. It is important for me to feel that I make a difference to people’s lives and I believe both my careers help me to do this.

Painting My Life’s Canvas

Last year I was diagnosed with a nasty squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) on my neck and after having this surgically removed, I underwent daily sessions of radiotherapy, five days a week for four weeks. I was astonished at how destabilizing it was when I was given this news; it took me straight back to 1994 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This showed me just how lingering the effects of PTSD can be, because it immediately brought forth almost overwhelming anxiety again. Luckily this time I had the knowledge and tools to handle this and with the help of supportive friends and my family I was fairly quickly back on an even keel. I guess the main thing was that this time I knew to ask for help, whereas 20 years ago I felt that I had to do it on my own. Cancer may not be a death sentence, but it is a life sentence. I still live with the Sword of Damocles hanging over me. My diagnosis last year is proof that there are no guarantees. I will never view cancer as a blessing in my life; more like a blunt instrument! However, it did become the springboard for me to make a fulfilling and joyful new life where I have a sense of who I am, just as Me. I love this saying by Danny Kaye: Life is a great big canvas and you should throw as much paint on it as you can.”

(c) 2014 Jane Gillespie – google.com/+JANEGILLESPIEHolisticCounsellor

Confession

In my last post I said I was “a veteran of two cancer diagnoses”.  The truth is I am really only a veteran of one diagnosis, not two.  This is because I am only just about to start on treatment for my second confrontation with cancer (and a completely different type) so I’m very much a novice again.

What has confounded me is the degree of shock I felt when told that what was thought to be Keratoacanthoma (KA) was actually squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). KA is a common skin tumour that has traditionally been regarded as benign, but some of these tumours have been seen to transform into SCC. Most KAs resolve spontaneously, but an underlying squamous cell carcinoma cannot be ruled out without removal of the tumor and microscopic evaluation. Mine did turn out to be SCC and the surgical excision could have meant that there was nothing more to worry about. However invasion by cancer in a nerve ending showed up. I am SO glad that I sought an expert opinion on what the pin-head sized spot that grew to the size of a pea in less than a week could be and had it removed immediately! Because of the nerve involvement I was referred to a radiation oncologist and radiotherapy was recommended.

I was really knocked about by this news and couldn’t make a decision until I’d given myself a chance to regroup.   It goes to show how deep the trauma went at my first diagnosis even though that was 19 years ago.  I believe I’m grieving the fact that my world has been turned upside down again and the fact that this is a very common form of skin cancer with little likelihood of there being anything to worry about down the track doesn’t make any difference at all to how I feel right now.

I feel as though I’m suffering PTSD all over again.  While I have calmed down a lot since deciding to go ahead with radiation treatment I’m still battling incredible fatigue and a decidedly fuzzy head.  I’ve misplaced my incredibly expensive Bulgari glasses (I’m sure I haven’t lost them; I just can’t find them) and a couple of days ago I did my grocery shopping only to discover when everything had been scanned at the check-out that I’d left my credit card wallet at home and didn’t have enough cash to pay for everything. Sigh…

I’m having to pay attention to everything that I used to talk about when I facilitated cancer support groups.  I’m trying to be gentle with myself and ask for help if I need it but this is much easier said than done!

Treatment starts in just over a week and will continue every day Monday to Friday for four weeks.  I’m not looking forward to it but I know that techniques have improved a lot in the past few years so it’s quite easy to only target the affected area and there’s much less likelihood of collateral damage.

So there it is – another detour on the journey of life that I would never have taken voluntarily but it’s happened and I will get through it with support from incredible friends and family.  And this time around I will let people know what I need so I won’t end up as a basket-case again, like I was last time.

© Jane Gillespie 2013  Author of  “Journey to Me”  www.yourlifecelebrated.com.au

How Counselling Works

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, anxious, alone or just not coping, counselling can support you and help you to understand how you respond or react to life’s happenings and why.

Being supported through difficult times can be a catalyst for change or help you adjust to or accept challenging circumstances.

What you can gain from counselling

• Personal Growth – a greater awareness of your thoughts, feelings and how you behave

• Moving forward – an awareness of any repeating patterns or behaviours in your life

• Sense of empowerment – learn to recognize old behaviours and do things differently

• Shared perspective – feel validated and supported in your efforts

• Structured support – gentle guidance in setting and achieving your goals

The relationship between counsellor and client

Working closely with another human being who takes the time to really listen and understand you and your concerns – without trying to ‘fix’ things for you – can be very helpful if you are going through a difficult period in your life.  The counsellor focuses on your current needs and problems in each session, working ‘in the moment’.

How often do you see a counsellor?

Clients usually come once a week for six to eight sessions.  You then reassess your needs together and may have several more appointments at less frequent intervals.  Sessions usually last for 60 minutes.

Confidentiality

It is normal for counsellors to make some notes after a session; this is to ensure progress and continuity in your treatment.  Sessions are private and confidential and any personal details or notes taken are stored under lock and key.

Details regarding your counselling may be discussed with a supervisor because it is important for all counsellors to receive supervision from another trained practitioner to ensure they are properly serving your needs.  However, your anonymity will always be preserved.

www.janegillespie.net

HAVE YOU BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER?

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a traumatic experience.  One minute you’re ‘normal’ and the next your entire life has been turned upside down.

It can be hard, even impossible, to talk to family members or friends about the roller-coaster of emotions that you have been commandeered into riding.  When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they and their family can feel shocked, disbelieving, frightened, without direction or simply numb. Talking things through in confidence with someone who understands the emotional challenges of cancer can be extremely helpful.

Speaking individually to an experienced cancer counsellor can ease the sense of isolation you may feel and help you to find ways of facing the challenges ahead.  This also applies to family members, friends and colleagues.  By talking to a counsellor they can explore their concerns and anxieties openly without needing to shield the person who is ill.

Why cancer counselling?

Research shows that counselling can be significantly useful in helping individuals and families face and meet the many challenges that a cancer diagnosis brings with it.  This has been shown to improve their quality of life.

During counselling, patients and families can learn how to cope more easily with their emotional issues. This helps them to communicate their needs better when speaking to Health professionals.

Counselling helps in easing any tension in relationships with family and friends. Optimistic but realistic outlooks replace the burden of positive expectations.  Just saying “I’m being positive” doesn’t actually mean much, although being optimistic can always help you to enjoy life more in the here and now.  However, if fears are present (and why wouldn’t they be?), then it is healthy to talk about these and get them out into the light of day.

How might you feel?

Some responses you might have to receiving a diagnosis of cancer:

  • Shock: “What??  No!”
  • Denial / Disbelief: “It’s a mistake, those aren’t MY test results.”
  • Withdrawal: “I can’t/don’t want to talk to anyone.”
  • Feeling isolated: “Nobody understands.”
  • Anger: (“*#@^!!!”)
  • Loss: “But I’ve so much more I want to do with my life.”
  • Body image issues: “Will I look like a freak?”
  • Fears associated with sexuality and intimacy:  “No one will every desire me now.”
  • Fear and uncertainty: “What’s going to happen to me?”

Anything you feel is valid and deserves to be acknowledged, not only by those around you, but also by you.

Seeking individual counselling or becoming part of a support group can help you to find this acknowledgment.

After a cancer diagnosis, you might feel as though you have no control over what is happening to you and this can be very frightening.  Uncertainty is often one of the most difficult things to deal with.  You might feel as though cancer and its treatment have taken total control of your life and this often leads to feelings of powerlessness.

Counselling allows you to take back some control over your life and provides you with some semblance of security again. It can help you to enjoy your life despite the illness.

While it can be terrifying to think about it, it is natural to want to know what is likely to happen to you so that you can plan for your future.

Sorting out your affairs so that everything is in order is often very confronting but it can also be helpful.  Even though it’s likely to be painful for you and your family to talk about dying, it can also provide an opportunity to talk about what is important to you all and develop deeper levels of intimacy with each other.  Regardless of how long the cancer patient lives, everyone benefits by being open and honest about what they value in their relationships.

Many cancer patients feel as if they have lost control of their lives.  Talking to a counsellor can help you to regain a level of control over how you cope.

http://www.janegillespie.net

Christmas – are we having fun yet?

We are brought up with the idea that Christmas is a time for grandparents, parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins to get together and enjoy each other’s company. The reality is often very different for some people.

Some are separated geographically from their families by employment or migration and it’s impossible to travel.

I got my first-ever counselling client by putting up posters round my neighbourhood with this as a banner across the top. My counselling studies had taught me that Christmas is often a time of anything but ‘fun’ for a lot of people. And that’s exactly what my client told me; he hated Christmas because he came from a dysfunctional family of origin and had co-created his own dysfunctional family. He was now on his own.

In many cases, a person’s family of origin is something that was anything but harmonious and loving and the last thing they want to do – like my first client – is put themselves under emotional stress by pretending that everything is fine (and we all know what the definition of F.I.N.E. is don’t we?).

No matter what the reason, if you are a Christmas ‘orphan’ and you haven’t managed to make a new family of choice with close friends, this time of year can be incredibly lonely.

My Christmases have always been pleasant, generously hosted almost every year by my cousin and his wife. The Christmas just past was particularly happy because their first grandchild was there for all of us to meet. However, while the advent of an addition to this particular generation was truly joyful, it was also bitter-sweet for me. I couldn’t help missing my Mum, who would have been the baby’s Great Grand Aunt. She died three years ago this Christmas and I still miss her and think about her almost every day. At first I was puzzled at my sadness because last year I was fine, but when I thought about it, it made sense that I would be aware of the hole where she used to be in our family while cuddling the newest member of our family.

While Christmas is traditionally a time for families getting together, this year I’m going to make a concerted effort to stay in touch with the remaining relatives in my small extended family and try to catch up on a regular basis. After all, relationships are what make life worthwhile and we need to nurture them more than once a year.

I hope you had a happy Christmas and if not, may you find friendship and love during 2011.

www.janegillespie.net