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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Some thoughts on dealing with loss.

I said goodbye to some things over the past few days, and it has been less than fun.

And I’ve been thinking about loss in various permutations.

The loss of something that can’t come back.

Someone asked me this week what I did when my friend died.

And I didn’t really know what to say because it’s been almost two years since I found out, and I’m still not doing so great.

I still cry. A lot. I still talk to him. I still can’t listen to music. Or not look for him in crowds.

Also: I still do a practice that Sivan, one of my best friends (and my first real yoga teacher) taught me: naming things.

It’s a way of reminding myself to come back, a way of letting all that grief be legitimate while still saying I am here.

And so I name things:

I name the things that I see.

Wood floor, white clouds, large book, blank wall, tall tree, cracked sign, orange blanket, old clock. I am here.

Moving train, yellow box, strong wind, silver clasp, dusty floor, empty corner, happy tulips. I am here.

Morning light, crinkly eyes, red mat, brown mug, hot tea, wool gloves, crisp apple, hard ground.

Hey, guess what. I’m still here.

It doesn’t stop the hurt. But it brings me back to here.

I want to let both my pain and my need for the pain to subside be equally important.

Death is about as final as things get, sure, but there are so many kinds of loss that have that similar sense of being disconnected from what was.

Disconnected. No way to get back. Like breaking up. Moving away. Being done.

Everything that has been helpful for me while being in the pain of loss has been about two kinds of acknowledgment:

Acknowledgment of the pain. This hurts so much right now. And acknowledgment that things move/flow/continue in their different ways. I am here.

Naming things helps me bring attention to everything that is still here. Even if or when those things seem trite and useless. Back to present time.

This is what helps me do just one thing.

And this is what helps me give permission for things to be the way they are. To soften resistance.

To let both my pain and my need for the pain to subside to be equally important, equally legitimate.

And then there is “I could have done X but I chose to do Y.”

This kind of loss has its own seemingly endless variations.

Sometimes it’s the loss that holds regret:

Why didn’t I choose X?

Or it’s the loss that lives on in curiosity. The unfollowed path of parallel lives:

What might have happened if I had wound up doing X instead?

Or maybe it’s that not getting something you know you didn’t want is still a form of loss.

Even though I don’t regret my choice (I’m happy I went with Y, and I know there was nothing to be gained by X) — there is still the residual sadness of having said no to something.

The thing I keep learning about loss.

I don’t really know how to put this, but it’s kind of like this:

Loss is sometimes like our monsters, in the sense that when we acknowledge that it exists, the pain can … soften.

And, despite having learned this repeatedly over thousands of experiences of loss and acknowledgment, loss and acknowledgment, loss and acknowledgment … my tendency is STILL not to acknowledge the pain.

My tendency is to do whatever I can to avoid pain. Which is funny, because I know that acknowledging the pain lessens the pain.

So there’s the paradox.

I know what needs to be done: allow the pain to be painful, give it permission to exist, remind it that it will not always be a part of me, find out what it needs.

And I know that doing this will let me step away from it enough to get closer to myself. Enough so that the pain can begin to move and flow and find its way out of my heart.

But acknowledging the existence of my pain seems like such an uncomfortable thing to do that I absolutely don’t want to.

Where I go from here.

Permission to not want to.

I don’t have to want to acknowledge my pain. It makes complete sense that I wouldn’t.

And so I remind myself that it’s natural and normal to be in avoidance.

I remind myself that this is human. This is okay.

That I don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of my comfort zone.

And that even though I don’t want to interact with my pain, I can acknowledge my pain’s existence without having to go inside of it and experience it.

I can give myself permission to not want to be in the pain. And permission to be a real live human being who has pain.

At the same time.

Slowly, slowly.

Slowly, slowly I get better.


I can drink chamomile tea without crying now. See a kid with a guitar and it’s just a kid with a guitar. I watched a film and someone was hanging from a noose and I didn’t completely fall apart.

Warm tea. Concrete step. Old movie. Sad heart. Leaky pen. Crumbly soap. Scratchy towel. Sore shoulder. Dog-eared book.

I am here.

And maybe this whole life work-process-thing of meeting myself where I am, with all my stuff and all my hurt, is — at least in part — why I’m here.

Learning that things change. Learning how they change. Rewriting patterns. Deconstruction and new creation. Taking things apart and rebuilding.

Taking everything apart. Finding the essence. Building beautiful new things from the pieces.

Comment zen for today.

This is hard, hurt-ey stuff.

People vary. Grief varies. Needs vary. Here’s how we respect each other’s pain: No advice. And no saying “my way is better than your way.”

48 Responses to Some thoughts on dealing with loss.

  1. Josiane
    Twitter: kimianak

    .-= Josiane´s last post … Middle of the night musings =-.

  2. Natalia
    Twitter: nataliapresent

    Daaamn, Havi.

    Looks like we’re going through similar kinds of pain.

    *Hugs* for both of us.

    Thanks again for reminding me to .STOP. and say to myself, “HEY! STOP for a second. (It’s cool: you can stop for a second.)”

    Even that one second helps. And I say ‘one second’ because often afterward I forget to keep at it! But that one-second break provides me with a window that lets in enough air for me to breathe a bit clearer.

    Violet sweatshirt. Damp eyelids. Achy wrist. Cold tea. Ziploc bag. 33 emails. Balls of tissues. Full stomach. Headache. Sorrow. Confusion. Brazen ring. Black nail polish.

    Just… HUGS.

    And more thanks.
    .-= Natalia´s last post … Why I write – and is writing my Thing? (How do you find your Thing?) =-.

  3. Kate T.W.
    Twitter: Kate_TW

    This is beautiful. And helpful. Sending hugs too.
    .-= Kate T.W.´s last post … On breaking unwritten rules =-.

  4. Elizabeth
    Twitter: elizabethhalt

    I am bookmarking this because there will come a day when I will really need to read it. I know what that day will be but hopefully it will not be soon. Thank you in advance.

    Sending {hugs} to you.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last post … ode to joy, volume 14 =-.

  5. Andrew Lightheart
    Twitter: alightheart

    I ‘came from’ the world of NLP where it seemed to me that it was not ok to feel sad, angry, guilty, scared… Stupid, in fact, to feel anything but ‘resourceful’.

    It seems (to me, right now) to be a kind of violence to rip feelings out. I see a sort of bravery in persistent gentleness.

    I love AND.

    I love noticing.

    I love your words, too, and the space of your words. (I want to say I love you, but that seems WAY presumptious.)

    Thank you, again, for this.

    You made me cry on the bus (damn iPhone), and I acknowledge both the need to cry and my want to not be crying in public. Again.

    *winks* *nudges shoulder*
    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last post … How to present like Hans Rosling =-.

  6. steph says:

    Thank you, Havi, for sharing this. The practice of naming things sounds really helpful for reminding myself that I’m here.

  7. Megan Lubaszka
    Twitter: toacircus

    So much love to you and your bravery, Havi. Thank you.
    .-= Megan Lubaszka´s last post … Spring Chickens are Hatching | Take Your Cameras Out =-.

  8. Sarah says:

    mmm, Thanks, Havi.
    .-= Sarah´s last post … World Before Columbus (cover) =-.

  9. Blue says:

    HUGS as well.

    Also this:


    Eartha Kitt singing “I’m Still Here,” which… well, if you don’t know the song already, you’ll know why when you hear it.
    .-= Blue´s last post … Mad Men 2.8: A Night to Remember =-.

  10. Kirsty Hall
    Twitter: kirstymhall

    That was a beautiful post, Havi, I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and the pain it’s causing you. It is hard to sit with our losses, there’s always the urge (for me anyway) to just ‘busy it away’.
    .-= Kirsty Hall´s last post … ‘52? Exhibition =-.

  11. Leila Lloyd-Evelyn
    Twitter: LeilaLEvelyn

    Wow. Thanks for this Havi. Oh God.
    Like lots of us, I’ve had loss in my life and, even, after fifteen years, with my first significant loss, when in all honesty I was not all that distraught at the time I found myself engulfed by grief years later as the anniversary of a death of a friend’s brother arrived. They were a new friend and I did not know there brother. I found myself in another part of London crying non stop for two days – uncontrollably. And I had lived with this ‘thing’ for a long time and had felt…fine….well, not fine, but you know, really I was ok, it wasn’t the hardest thing I had experienced and it wasn’t, it wasn’t…suicide…which must be…oh goodness…just…just so hard, so hard to come to terms with.
    So I guess grief takes, well, as long as it takes, and it can be totally unexpected in its force and even in its absence. So two years of fifteen will do just fine
    I guess.
    As always tlc of all kinds for you and for all of us who dip in and out of it our sadness and grief, hope and okayness. I’m sending myself hugs, I’m sending my younger self hugs and I’m offering you hugs too if you’ll take em!
    Bless you!
    L x
    .-= Leila Lloyd-Evelyn´s last post … A brief interlude today =-.

  12. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga

    Oh, Havi, thank you for this beautiful, wise and tender post.

    Softness to wrap around you. Spaciousness for your hurt heart.

    “Taking everything apart. Finding the essence. Building beautiful new things from the pieces.”

    Yes. This is life’s flow. May it restore you to love, peace, wholeness.

    Love and love,

    .-= Hiro Boga´s last post … Meet a Fire Starter: a conversation with Danielle LaPorte =-.

  13. Sheridan
    Twitter: sheridan

    I’ve been lurking for quite some time, but it seems like in the last several months your words have been speaking to me more and more. I just wanted to say thank you.

  14. Wulfie says:

    WOW, Havi! And hugs. And more thanking you for putting into words the stuff that has no words. It’s an amazing gift that you have to do this…to root out all these impossible to think/feel/name/avoid stuckification thingies and then express them so tenderly. You are amazing. Thank you for doing what you do.
    .-= Wulfie´s last post … To Thing, or not to Thing, that is the question… =-.

  15. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Thanks, you guys. You are the loveliest. *blows kiss*

    All the comfort and sweetness much appreciated.

  16. dava says:

    Thank you. The idea of pain is on my mind. I wrote about it but not nearly so beautifully. Watching others’ pain is the thing that torments me right now. I will try naming things. Or possibly acknowledging the fact that it is my own pain I am avoiding by worrying about someone else’s.

  17. Lindsay says:

    Sometimes I think it is both the most blessed and the most horrible of facts that things always change. . .

    {Hugs}. . .

  18. Ryan
    Twitter: ryanhurd

    this really touched me… and gave me a concrete practice to try. thank you for your bravery!
    .-= Ryan´s last post … New Ebook: A Dreamer’s Guide to Sleep Paralysis =-.

  19. Judy
    Twitter: Crazybasenji

    One of life’s little symmetries. I read this post after I’ve started thinking about how in a few weeks it will be a year since my little girl dog died and I want to write about how funny she was and how funny her dad, “The Old Guy” was, and it still makes me cry that she’s gone, and he’s gone, too. But I still have my Puppy, and sometimes I can laugh at how much he’s like all his no-longer-here relatives.

    Thanks, Havi.
    .-= Judy´s last post … Confessions of a chocaholic… =-.

  20. Heather says:

    One of my regrets, that’s been on my mind lately – I wonder why that is? It probably means something, but I have no idea what – was being unable to be present for a friend’s pain.

    Some time ago, I was out having coffee with a friend I see only a couple times a year, or so. She told me of a major emotional pain in her life, with tears in her eyes. I squirmed in my seat and changed the subject.

    She didn’t seem to mind, and went with the change of topic, but I have to wonder and regret what might of happened for both of us if I had been able to be present with her pain, and acknowledge it, and let it be there.

    Permission to be human and want to avoid pain, including the pain of others. Perhaps that’s exactly what I need.

  21. Mechaieh
    Twitter: zirconium

    Delurking to say… one of my favorite picture books of all time is Cynthia Rylant’s The Old Woman Who Named Things — about an old woman who names everything around her except the stray puppy she starts to feed, because she only wants to name the things that will never leave her. But then a day comes when the puppy doesn’t show up…

    (…but there’s a happy ending, even though I’m tearing up just typing this.)

    (And, while I’ve got my head poked out of my badger-hole, I should mention that I’ve been finding your shoe-throwing metaphor and VPA framework useful with some of my own coping-with-who-I-ams and what-I-wants. So, belated thanks for sharing your work and thoughts.)
    .-= Mechaieh´s last post … new poem up at Goblin Fruit! =-.

  22. Amy
    Twitter: playwithamy

    Touching post.

    I lost my boyfriend in a boating accident last year, and then lost my Mom and Grandma shortly after.

    Hugs! We are all in this together! Thank you for sharing!

    P.S. Tear Soup is a beautiful processing book.

    Love Amy
    .-= Amy´s last post … Hello world! =-.

  23. Abby C. says:

    Thank you, Havi, for being so wise. I’m sorry that you (we all) have to go through so much pain. I wish I could offer more than a hug, but a hug and sympathy are all I have. ::hugs!::

  24. Kyeli
    Twitter: kyeli

    This naming things thing.

    I needed that a huge lot.

    Thank you.
    .-= Kyeli´s last post … I didn’t use to have body issues. =-.

  25. So much loss happening here. I cried on the phone with my business lawyer today. I cried on my call with my team. The loss is making me want to run away from everything. And yet I know that staying present is the answer. It’s hard. Really, really, really, really hard.

    And learning to embrace the mystery. That’s hard too.

    Your post helped. Thank you.
    .-= Alexis Martin Neely´s last post … The Entrepreneurial Map: Three Stages of Business =-.

  26. Oliver Danni
    Twitter: choirqueer

    Hi, I’ve poked in on your blog a few times before and always find it so refreshing. I’m a friend of Pace & Kyeli and was linked to this post via Kyeli just now, and I am so grateful that you posted it. I do the naming things, too, and it’s helped me get through a lot of really stressful situations. I’d never heard of anyone else doing it before…it was just something I started doing a few years ago to help me stay present in a specific situation (walking through a shopping mall) that was triggering for me (due to past experiences in a similar situation but not because of anything actually going on in that particular mall), and when I discovered how useful it is to do it I started applying it to other situations where I might have trouble staying present and feeling safe.

    Another thing that’s helped me “keep it real” in dealing with grief is to name what happened, when I talk about it. My grandpa died a couple years ago and it was devastating to me, and even though it was hard for people to hear, I refused to say “I lost my grandpa” or “My grandpa passed away”. He didn’t get lost. He didn’t drift off somewhere. He lived his life, he got old, he died, and now he’s dead. A close friend of mine died in a bike crash last summer, and when I talk about it I say “A truck crashed into my friend’s bike and ran her over and she died”…I don’t say “There was an accident and my friend didn’t make it”. “Accident” makes it sounds like, whoops, she wet her pants or something…no, she got run over by a dump truck because the driver wasn’t looking where he was going! So for me it helps me to use the naming strategy to directly address talking about the circumstances that I’m grieving, too. I don’t know if that is helpful to you as well, but if it is, by all means, please use it. :)

  27. Julie
    Twitter: jeweleejoy

    Havi, this was beautiful and so moving. Hugs to you for all of the hard, and many thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  28. Jamey says:

    This is just the key that helped me get through my own loss, divorce from my son’s father; staying with where I am right now and not getting lost in the stories I create in my head that are not based on reality. Recognizing the deep sadness. Letting it come. Letting it go, but not thinking about it so much as feeling it. Inhale. Exhale.

    Lovely post.

  29. Jeliza
    Twitter: jelizap


    I am definitely going to try that “naming things” technique, thank you. It has been 10 years for me since my mother died, and the waves of grief come much less often now; while it still hurts, there has become a note of grace, like a silver lining, of being glad that I still *remember*.

    Sometimes the movie “Sliding Doors” acts as a catalyst to releasing pent-up grief for me in a good way, although I don’t really know why, or if it would work for anyone else.
    .-= Jeliza´s last post … Calling my fairy godmother… =-.

  30. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    So very beautiful.

    The naming of things has been helping me get through a rather difficult day. Plastic keyboard, empty soda can, silver ring, titanium ring. Grey robe, black journal, blue and gold pen. Brown spider. Clay pendant. I am here.

    I am here.

    Here is a pretty good place to be.
    .-= Kathleen Avins´s last post … When the going gets tough… =-.

  31. Liz
    Twitter: lizemmettmattox

    This has me thinking about how loss comes in so many different flavors. There are the big, huge losses that seem to come at us from out of nowhere, leaving us completely flattened. Surviving these is an amazing accomplishment.

    But I’m also thinking of the many ways in which loss accompanies our own choices. And what a different experience this is. The ‘what ifs’ and speculations about the road not taken. There have been times when I didn’t even recognize the loss until way after the fact.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. And hugs to us all- losing things hurts!
    .-= Liz´s last post … Pick your battles- and pick your stories! =-.

  32. Miriam Dyak
    Twitter: mdyak

    Havi, thank you for helping us reclaim the underground river of grief that runs through the land of all our lives. It gets buried under all the busyness, and your post just helped bring it out into the air where we can see it, name it.

    In less than two weeks I’ll turn 64, exactly twice the age I was when one of the sweetest loves of my life and lover of seven years died early on the morning of my 32nd birthday. It’s been a full rich life since then and I’m going on 25 years married to a wonderful man I would probably never have known without this loss… and yet, that deep stream of sadness runs through all the years, watering them, growing things, carrying life forward. Such a mystery. Thank you for stopping me in the middle of everything to take time to feel.

    Heart scars, white tulips, friend’s laughter, clean kitchen, calendar, sweet spring air. I am here.

  33. Ben says:

    Beautiful post.

    Four years ago, my first son was born three months early and died as my wife and I held him. Much of the time, it feels like it was a lifetime ago, but in moments like this, it feels like it was yesterday.

    I dealt with it by working. By taking care of my wife. By following creative/artistic pursuits. By planting a garden. By getting a dog. By getting a therapist. By joining a support group. And by working more.

    And in many ways, just the passage of time helped as much as anything else. But one thing that really helped me was to realize that in addition to the loss of my son, I was mourning the loss of the innocent me. The me who had never lost a child. The me who had never been crushed quite as close to the breaking point as I was. The me who had never felt like he hated the entire world.

    A long and winding road and an early-term miscarriage later, we now have a year-old little boy whom we love very much, and who requires all of our attention. But somehow, in my quiet moments when he’s asleep, I’m drawn towards subjects such as these, because, honestly, I miss who I was.

  34. Claudia says:

    Havi. Warm healing light for you. Thanks for creating a safe space to share how you face loss and grief.

    I was in recovery from co-dependency when my father took his own life. It was a heartbreaking, extraordinarily complex experience for so many reasons.

    The I Ching says “It furthers one to find a great teacher.” To that I would add, “It takes courage to be a role model.”

    I admire your bravery and commitment to taking the next, healthiest step and sharing it with the world. You are doing the important things–writing while taking care of your own needs. Or working on it. Like all the rest of us.


  35. Shannon
    Twitter: shannonholman

    Thanks Havi, and thanks Ben.
    I am in these places too.
    Sometimes I spend time with fellow sufferers of what we call the “disease of isolation.” And the funny thing is that if I feel isolated and I tell someone about it, and they say, “Me too,” then we’re not quite so isolated anymore, even though the only thing that really happened is that we acknowledged what was already there instead of trying to change anything.
    Meanwhile, though, I found out recently that a moment of great intimacy for me was a moment when somebody I loved and trusted was lying to me, so that feels like a great chasm has opened between me and the illusion of human connection. Which sucks. But then a tiny grace, as I feel connected to you fellow exiles from what Edna St. Vincent Millay says: Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.
    .-= Shannon´s last post … The Art of Non-Conformity » “I’ve Just Been So Busy Lately” =-.

  36. Kai
    Twitter: apple_kai

    Much, much love and comfort to you, Havi. <3

  37. Beth says:


    I just wanted to say that the part about the “what if” loss is helping me a lot right now. With that decision thing. Because that’s what I’m dreading, and now I have words to use to describe it, which means that I can deal with it in ways other than running unhelpfully in circles. Thank you for including it, even though it seems so small compared to other kinds of loss.

    More hugs. I believe in hugs.

  38. julekucera says:

    I never heard of the process of naming before. I’m going to do that.

    Hugs to you with your loss and for your honesty.

    Hugs to me too.

  39. meredith says:

    Thank you for writing this Havi.

    My loss was a year ago. It is not as big a loss as a lot of people’s, and I get a lot of “you should be over this” messages. Sometimes from other people, mostly from myself. That sucks. So I read your blog and I try and give myself permission. And it helps. Quite a lot. So thank you for being there.

    and hugs.

  40. Elizabeth Sheppard
    Twitter: betsyanne

    I loved the objects… I am here exercise. I think I will use that. And I loved this posting. I will Twitter it and Facebook it.

    It’s been over a year now since I found out a loved one was not ever going to be able to communicate with me again the same way.

    The hurt was terrible, terrific, terrifying.

    But the time has made it a little better. I think grief is part of being human. Your blog helped. Really!

  41. Elizabeth Sheppard
    Twitter: betsyanne

    Also: I am adding my Twitter link so we can hang out at the bar.

  42. R.M. Koske says:

    An old post, I know, but I just sent a link to a friend who’s hurting – I’m hoping it will help. Thanks for giving us more tools.

  43. Tarah
    Twitter: TarahCollins


    This was just the post that I needed to see today. Whatever challenges I am facing, I can almost always come here and find a helpful post. But this one, you have no idea. Ugh. You’re great, that’s all I can say.

    Lots of love coming your way.

  44. Char Brooks
    Twitter: Charsfirststep

    Dearest Havi:

    I know that I’ve said this over and over to you but this piece you wrote is one of the most priceless things I’ve found to help me with loss.

    There are so many parts that are absolutely brilliant. This is the one that speaks to me right now.

    “Everything that has been helpful for me while being in the pain of loss has been about two kinds of acknowledgment:

    Acknowledgment of the pain. This hurts so much right now. And acknowledgment that things move/flow/continue in their different ways. I am here.”

    It has so much to do with adaptation and change, mixing things up intentionally, etc. Not sure how it works – but I know that loss, change and adaptation are all related. Would love to hear your thoughts if you feel so inclined.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom so generously.

  45. Char Brooks
    Twitter: Charsfirststep

    When I said it has to do with mixing things up intentionally, I was referring to an early January 2011 post you wrote on Adaptation and Change just in case you wondered where I was coming from.

    Love Love Love

  46. […] mantra is geïnspireerd door Havi, Geneen, Pema, Martha et al. ← Midsomer coaching Taartjes […]

  47. Beth says:

    I wish I’d found you sooner. I wish I’d read this on the day it was posted. My birthday. I was struggling back then.

    At least I’ve found you now, though.

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