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Priceless is what remains after a loved one dies

Priceless is what remains after a loved one dies

GUEST COLUMN: VICKI WOODYARD

Vicki is a spiritual teacher and writer who lives in Atlanta, GA

We have all watched the Mastercard ads where narrow slices of life are branded as “priceless.” What I’ve come to learn from those whom I’ve loved, and have died, is that what is truly Priceless is an essence that animates each of us — and which I still know in those whom I’ve “lost.”

When was the last time you looked at the truth of your being and rejoiced? Most of us look at ourselves with jaundiced, weary eyes — and look at bonded-teeth and hair-weaves with envy and a sense that we will never look “perfect.”

I remember when my young daughter was dying of cancer. She lost all of her hair to chemo at age four.

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Eliot Spitzer’s press conference confession and penitence

Eliot Spitzer’s press conference confession and penitence

Little did the New York governor know at the time but another Democrat with presidential ambitions, John Edwards, would later make this moment of public shame seem quaint

BY PAUL KAIHLA — It fits the spiritual season we’re in — the last week of Lent — that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer made a public contrition a few hours ago for cheating on his wife (woman, left) with prostitutes.


Ego-eviscerating confessions like this usually take place in private between a sinner and his or her rabbi or priest, not the national press corps: I apologize first, and most importantly, to my family. I apologize to the public, to whom I promised better.

To elaborate James Carville’s words on CNN a few moments ago, we’re here not to judge but to advance the causes of forgiveness, redemption and transformation — and that’s not just because Spitzer was listed as Client No. 9 . . .

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DEALING WITH LOSS: A Personal Note

A Scandinavian tradition on Christmas Eve is to illuminate the graves — and spirits — of departed loved ones with candles (left). We dedicate this series to those who have recently suffered the loss of a loved one — especially during the holiday season.

When others around you are in a partying mood, it’s the most glaring time to take a loss.

We share the following guidance for dealing with loss from first-hand experience, not from a distance. We felt called because of the striking synchronicity of so many recent deaths in the friends-and-family network of Soul’s Code itself.

The penultimate loss is a death in your immediate household — a being who lives with you, or whom you have lived with.

But these steps can also help those who are feeling down after a break-up, divorce, job loss — or even literally losing part of yourself due to surgery, illness or an accident.

We begin this series on a personal note . . .

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DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 1

DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 1

Taking Care of No. 1

Processing loss draws down an enormous chunk of your psyche’s bandwidth. The death of a loved one is exhausting. You keep asking yourself what’s wrong with your because you’re staggering around as if you’ve been hit by a truck.

Your energy anatomy is metabolizing the loss. Other forms of loss — betrayal, abandonment, down-sizing, divorce or even losing a part of yourself because of surgery – can come close to death in the energetic drain they exert.

This is the time to ground yourself in a single truth . . .

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kubler-ross

DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 3

A Whirlpool of Emotions

After the death of a loved one, every funeral home in America will give you a psychological tip-sheet that cites the five stages of grief. It’s cribbed from the 1969 book, On Death and Dying, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-born psychiatrist who almost died as an infant (she was a two-pound triplet). Kubler-Ross’ five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

That paradigm can also apply to losses like break-ups and lay-offs. Or, say, loss of freedom faced by white-collar criminals like media baron Conrad Black (left) who have been sentenced to federal penitentiary (Black is still stuck in the denial and bargaining stages).

Forty years later, Kubler-Ross is a little too linear. Here is our take on the stages of grief, based on collective first-hand experience.

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DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 4

DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 4

What to Say to Someone Who has just Lost a Loved One

Woody Allen’s aphorism that “80 percent of success is simply showing up” is the cardinal rule when helping out someone who has just had a parent or loved one die on them.

If you want to be an anchor for a friend or lover who is in that place — first thing, show up! For the funeral. Or if someone’s had surgery, or been in an accident — at the hospital. If you can’t visit in person, do flowers, cards, tributes, or phone calls.

How do you know the right thing to say? Here, people fall into two distinct camps:

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DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 5

DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 5

Loss, Trauma and Somatic Therapy

On the opening page of Love in the Time of Cholera, Nobel-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez set down one of literary fiction’s most arresting images of death: He writes that a character who commits suicide “had escaped the torments of memory.”

The flip-side is that when the person who dies is one of our own, their death — however it happens — logs a new memory of torment for we who remain living. Peter Levine, a biophysicist who became a renowned psychologist and author, goes further. Any death, divorce, or loss is not just a physiological trauma but a physiological trauma to your nervous system.

“Because traumatic events often involve encounters with death, they evoke extraordinary responses,” writes Levine. “The very structure of trauma, including hyper-arousal, dissociation. and freezing, is based on the evolution of predator/prey survival behaviors. The symptoms of trauma are the result of a highly-activated, incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time. By enabling this frozen response to thaw, then complete, trauma can be healed.”

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DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 6

DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 6

How to Take a Leap of Faith

After the immediate shock of death or a life-loss, expressing your emotions and sharing your story of the loss helps to discharge some of the trauma. But if you cling to the story of that loss for years, the narrative itself has become a self-reinforcing source of trauma. You’ve used the story to form a pain identity.

Eckhart Tolle‘s rare lecture, Living the Liberated Life and Dealing with the Pain Body, is both a brilliant exposition on this phenomenon — and an induction into an meditative and expansive state. It’s encapsulated in his great line about loss: “The winds of grace blow through that hole.”

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DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 7

Why People Can’t Get Over a Lost Love

“You had me at cathexis,” is a line of real-life dialogue from one of our own nine love-lives. It’s also a pun on the signature line in the movie, Jerry Maguire. If break-ups are the most common form of loss around us today, then the term cathexis is the first key to un-locking their pain.

It goes way back to Sigmund Freud but it was Dr. M. Scott Peck who made it meaningful to the masses in his cross-over, blockbuster, The Road Less Traveled:

We must be attracted toward, invested in and committed to an object outside of ourselves, beyond the boundaries of self . . . Once cathected, the object is invested with our energy as if it were a part of ourselves, and this relationship between us and the invested object is called cathexis.

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DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 9

DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 9

No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga

Latina superstar Gloria Estefan knows a thing or two about pain and loss. In 1990, her tour bus was crushed by a truck — and smashed several of her vertebrea. Doctors fused them with titanium rods but told the salsa queen that she’d end up in a wheelchair.

“Because I had studied psychology, I understand the stages,” Estefan later said. “You have to go through the depression, the crying. Then, at a certain point, I pulled myself up and said, ‘Okay, no more’. “

The life-lesson from Estefan’s trauma and miraculous recovery showed up in the refrain and title of her 1993 hit, No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga, perhaps the greatest cha-cha track in recording history. The words are a Spanish proverb which means, There is no bad out of which some good will come.

Can you find a way to hold the depression you are feeling from your loss as an internal energy that is poised to flip to the positive pole?

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