Sunday, August 28, 2016


Since JJ’s birthday I have been struggling with deep and extreme grief. Grief can come in all sorts of different forms and hits hard at moments when you least expect it. Some days and nights are better than others. And some hours fall upon you like a tidal wave with no warning or no obvious triggers. I have been visiting a counselor more or less weekly which has been incredibly helpful. Family (both Deckers and Buhanans) have been amazing emotional supports in helping me explore my feelings and experiences. New and old friends have been powerful to open up to with all of my loss, fears and hopes about my broken heart and broken life. One of the greatest places that I have found guidance and solace though is from absent angel and best friend Sharry.

I have been reading through Sharry’s journals which is a powerful activity that is both heart melting with amazing memories and catastrophic with those not so great times and love lost. I often told Sharry sincerely that there is only one thing that I would change about her. Her level of self confidence and self criticism. You might think that a person as beautiful, talented, bright, kind, cool and likable as Sharry would think pretty highly of herself. Unfortunately this was not the case. I often would tease her that this worked for my benefit because otherwise she would not have ended up with someone so far below her level. That truth aside, her confidence and criticism were often a source of unhappiness, anxiety and depression. And I know she is not alone in this. The top two reasons people go to the counselor for mental health reasons are anxiety and depression. Reading her journals has provided agonizing insights into those struggles and periods of darkness. It is especially difficult because the last twelve years were in all sincerity year after year the best year of my life. I don’t think this was true for Shar. And that fills my mind with regrets and remorse. I wish I would’ve done more to help her with those tough times and thoughts...I’m a freaking counselor for crying out loud! 

Thankfully Shar’s journals are full of good times, personal entries on love and gratitude. Plenty of sweet mixed in with the bitter. She wrote often of our relationship (overwhelmingly positive) being ideal and how she truly found her soul mate. She wrote of deep gratitude, love and connection she had with her family and friends. But the lesson she is teaching me now (I definitely learned more from her than she me) is to be engaged in life. I recently read her journal covering the second half of 2011 and first half of 2012. And these journal entries are some of the most consistently hopeful, positive and joyful of Shar’s entire writings. The reasons are many but the overarching theme is that of purpose, experiences and action. We were engaged in a spiritual community, went on fun trips, hikes, campouts and the biggest experience was Occupy Salt Lake City. Sharry was a passionate volunteer and activist and Occupy was an extraordinary way to channel that energy. It was done in a way that brought a voice and light to the corruption and inequality happening in our country and communities. We camped in pioneer park, spoke at rallies, led group meditations, were leaders in the “sacred space” and just had an amazing sense of community and purpose guided by a cause greater than ourselves. This is a theme that is found throughout Sharry’s journals. Periods of anxiety induced darkness broken by the light of amazing experiences and higher causes.

Right now in my life I am in the midst of the greatest darkness my life has ever and probably will ever know. I have no idea how long it will last at this all encompassing level but I need to follow Sharry’s lead and find a greater purpose. Where will I find it? I have some ideas and passions. Faith (connecting with the divine, hope for a forever with Shar and a loving community), my awesome job as a high school counselor, and being an advocate for a brighter future both environmentally and socially. So many different ways one can fill your life with purpose and light to dispel the darkness.

I wanted to close with an insightful old Buddhist parable about grief and a solution as well as a powerful video by the Christian pastor Rob Bell about using anger and negative emotions for good.

There is an old Buddhist tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and asked, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?"

Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.

She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me."

They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.

The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my my own?"

She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hotels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune.

The woman became so involved in helping others cope with their sorrows that she eventually let go of her own. She would later come to understand that it was the quest to find the magical mustard seed that drove away her suffering.

This is the path I hope to take, I need to take. And I hope and pray with all the faith and love my soul can offer that wherever Sharry is she sees herself as she truly is. A breathtakingly beautiful, huge hearted, crazy talented, agonizingly missed, amazing mama angel. #livelikeShar 

Rob Bell's really good Nooma "Store", using hard emotions for good

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