It’s Okay — In Fact, Crucial — to Grieve

On Grief Final cover

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my daughter Christina moving out of the house to go to NYC. Her brother Patrick moved out to school the following week and her older sister Katherine moves out on Tuesday. Much to my youngest son Christopher’s horror, he now has me all alone — though Christina says he might enjoy the alone time. …I’ll keep you updated.

Change is in the air. Everywhere I look, I see and feel change. And change often involves grief.

That five-letter word.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essay's]

It’s almost worse to mention than the four-letter words kids got their mouth washed out with soap for saying when I was growing up.

I wanted to share part of the forward I wrote for the best-seller, On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, in stores now. It’s been re-released because there is never a shortage of people who are grieving.

You can grieve the death of a loved one. A friendship can be lost and you grieve. You lose a job and you grieve. A relationship breaks up, a child leaves home. It’s all loss, it’s all change. There is no one right way to grieve but it’s important to know that your way is ok.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is a legend in the work of grief and it was an honor to write this new forward.

Why? Because grief is something we all experience but rarely discuss. It comes in all kinds of ways and at all different times. I thought about it a lot these past weeks watching James Foley’s parents, Michael Brown’s parents and the Williams family begin their grieving in such a public way. Millions go through this every day. Away from the press and often away from support, solace or sensitivity.

I hope On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss helps you. It helped me. #PassItForward


Over the course of my lifetime I have come to know grief in its many forms. Not just through the deaths of family and friends, but also in the feelings of loss that come with the inevitable life changes we all endure. In my struggles to sort through the sweeping mix of emotions that come with grief, I have found myself endlessly grateful for Elisabeth Kübler- Ross’s work, and in particular for this book by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler.

[Read: How Grieving With Gratitude Change Everything]

…I grew up in a family that had lots of tragedy, but no one ever discussed it. I moved through these experiences, trying to make sense of the losses, without any guidance or framework for how to understand them. When I became an adult I realized that I was still trying to process what had happened, and I thought to myself that there must be a better way.

…When my mother died four years ago I experienced the true depths of grief. I remember thinking when I was younger that if anything ever happened to my mother I would never be able to survive. And then she died, and I had to face it; I had to really feel it. It brought me to my knees. Then my uncle died two weeks after that. And then my father died a year and a half later. I was steeped in grief.

[Read: Late-Life Depression: An Overlooked Disease]

It was an incredibly lonely experience. I felt very isolated. My world stopped while everything continued on around me. In my search for solace I found comfort in others who had gone through a death or multiple deaths. Every time I came across someone else’s story of grief I felt a little less alone. And this is exactly why this book by Kübler-Ross and Kessler is so important. When you’re grieving, sometimes your only constant companion is a book.

My children’s book about grief, What’s Heaven?, was born out of this understanding. When my grandmother died, my children had so many questions. Their questions made me realize that I was just as childlike in my understanding of grief as they were. I felt this need to address the curiosity we all have about loss in its many forms, including grieving a pet. People thought this book wouldn’t sell, and then it went on to tremendous success, proving just how thirsty our culture is for the conversation about loss and how we cope with it.

[Watch: Two-Time Plan Crash Survivor Austin Hatch Tells Maria Shriver His Inspirational Story]

…Grief has made me brave. In opening up to it, in allowing myself to really feel it, I have grown stronger. But in order to do that I needed to hear the message that it was okay and in fact crucial to grieve. In this important book, Kübler-Ross and Kessler told me that it was okay. They told all of us that it is okay.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was the mother of a movement that began to make grief a real conversation. As a culture we must collectively carry her torch. We must finish what she began. We must let out our wails in unison, reminding the world that grief is real, that it is a part of the human condition, and that we will all survive.


Copyright © 2014 by Maria Shriver. The New Foreword to On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. & David Kessler.

Does Good Win Over Evil?

james foley

I can’t stop thinking about James Foley and his extraordinary parents.

There is such savagery and brutality in the world today, and in the case of James Foley it was on full display this week when the video of his horrific murder at the hands of terrorists was released for all to see.

Gruesome. Terrifying.  I didn’t watch. The photo of James standing tall and strong before he was taken was enough for me to see. But it all has left me wondering how a person could do that to another. How scary it must have been for James. How scary the world is for us all.

[Read: Maria Shriver's essay: We're Not Helpless, An Answer to Our Violent Times]

And then there are his parents, John and Diane Foley.

I watched them on the Today Show on Friday and I was stunned.

Stunned that two people who had just lost their son in such a brutal way would be able to talk like that. With such grace, strength and dignity about compassion, love, prayer and bravery.

They also spoke about a phone call they received from Pope Francis who told them he was praying for them.

They talked of prayer. They talked of love, talked of compassion in the midst of such horror.

There are so many good people in the world.

[Watch: Two-Time Plane Crash Survivor Austin Hatch Tells Maria Shriver His Story]

Sadly the media doesn’t spend a lot of time focused on these good people who raise brave children and go about their lives promoting love and compassion.

Clearly the Pope gets attention when he talks about these values, as he should, he is the Pope after all. But there are so many brave Americans like the Foley’s who live theirs lives for good — driven by kindness, compassion and love.

I am in awe of their presence, in awe of their strength.

My eyes welled with tears when they spoke of their son and how proud they are of him. They were calm, they were intelligent, they were open, they were humanity at its best.

[Read: How Grieving With Gratitude Changed Everything]

I send my prayers to them and I pray that we can focus our minds and our hearts on the good people that are here on this earth.

Give them the spotlight.

Their light, their example, their love and their compassion are the only things that can silence the brutality that tries to creep through.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

Does good win over evil?

Watch the Foley’s because the answer is clear: Yes it does.

Yes it does.

#PassItForward


[Image via Free James Foley Facebook page]

We’re In Need of a Social Kindness Movement

kindness

My daughter Christina left yesterday for the Big Apple.

She’d left before, five years ago to go to college, but then she moved home to reconnect and work at finding her passion. It’s always been art and design so she applied for her masters in business and design, packed her bags and yesterday morning she left.

It feels different this time.

In my gut I know she’s on her way.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

I’m happy for her, but as I sat to do my morning meditation my eyes welled with tears and I felt sad, really sad. You could say ‘Snap out of it, be happy for her,’ etc. I know everything you could say but I still feel really emotional.

photoLast night my four kids and I had dinner.

We are blessed.

We laughed, told stories and ate under the California moon.

[Read: 3 Steps to Finding Gratitude in Your Life]

There they were, four young men and women with big dreams and big hearts. One moving to the Big Apple. Katherine, next month, is moving out and in with her high school friend who’s moving back from NYC. Patrick will move back to college next week and my youngest, Christopher, will start his junior year in high school. Saddly, the countdown to his leaving has begun.

It’s all natural, I know, life is predictable… and unpredictable.

We feel blessed one minute and so lonely the next. Our lives can be feel so full and then so empty. One minute we are laughing, our houses are full and the next day they can be quiet and empty.

 So goes life.

[Read: Do Justly, Love Mercifully, Walk Humbly]

This past week as I watched the outpouring of love and confusion over Robin Williams’ death. I felt that paradox. A man of such talent and laughter, a man who felt such anxiety and depression.

We never know about someone else’s life. It may look easy for them on the outside but it can be dark and lonely on the inside.

I know many people understand this. I shared a quote this week about the need for kindness because everyone is engaged in a tough battle and it was shared almost 1 million times in just a few days.

That tells me something deep and profound: We all feel joy, sadness.

[Watch: Maria Shriver Talks Special Olympics for The Hollywood Reporter's Philanthropy Issue]

We feel when someone is mean to us and when someone is kind to us. I know deep in my heart that it’s much better to feel kindness than shame. The quote I shared reminds us that every one of us is engaged in a tough battle. Some days we don’t feel it, other days we do.

Life is unpredictable so treat others as you want to be treated. With kindness.

Growing up in a large, competitive, tough, Irish Catholic family, I used to confuse kindness with weakness. As an adult, I’ve learned differently. I now understand that kindness doesn’t mean weakness. You have to be really strong to be kind.

I’m not saying it’s easy. You have to be strong and to be patient to be kind. You have to really be mindful.

[Read: Read — 5 Things to Remember When A Friend is Grieving]

Lots of people look “happy on the outside,” and who knows what’s happening inside. Their kid may have just left home and they’re sad, their mom may have just died or be sick. Their home may be in disarray.The list goes on and on.

But think how kindness makes you feel, think about yourself … then move out from there.

I’ve been thinking in these last few days of summer, with young men being shot, kids going off to college, people being senselessly killed in the Middle East, funny people dying, people crying. What we need is a social kindness movement.

Let’s start this very moment.

[Also — 7 Things I Learned the Hard Way–Life After Loss]

If we really are the strongest nation on earth, then who better to lead a kindness revolution? Join me in a kindness movement.

And if you see my girl on the streets of the Big Apple please be kind to her.

#PassItForward


[Image via Pinterest]

When You Let Love In, Do You Let It Stay?

nadine wedding

Recently I went to the wedding of my friend Nadine’s only son, Josh (she’s the one I’m standing next to in the va-va-voom dress, along with our friends Roberta and Wanda).

 The wedding — and specifically her handling of it — blew me away.

Josh has been her pride, joy and love since he was born 34 years ago. Josh was the product of Nadine’s first marriage. She moved California as a single mom many moons ago and we met while we were both working at CBS News.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

Nadine eventually got re-married to a great guy named Mike who had kids of his own. Mike was a wonderful stepfather to Josh and Nadine was a great stepmom to his kids. It was a working modern family.

Later down the road, Mike and Nadine split and each went on to marry new people. Both are really happy today in their new relationships.

What’s stunning to me, and why I tell this story, is that all of these families were present and included in Josh’s wedding.

[Read: Are You Choosing Joy? Find Out How]

Nadine and Josh’s dad, Bob, walked him down the aisle. Mike and his new wife Marsha walked down the aisle after them. Nadine’s husband Fred walked with Sandra, the wife of Josh’s dad, after them.

I hope you’re still with me.

All of his step-siblings participated in readings and toasts throughout the event. Everyone got along, laughed, cried, hugged, loved.

[Read: Save Your Brain — It's Not Too Late!]

Nadine

Josh wanted everyone who had been a part of the village that raised him to be a part of his wedding to his new wife Lauren. Lauren wanted the same with her parents Linda and Ron.

During the toasts they spoke of their love: what it meant, how it looked and how it would unfold in the years to come.

At the wedding I thought about the lessons our children teach us. About the different kinds of love we experience in these lives of ours and the ability of all of these people to come together because one young man paved the way and asked them to.

[Read: 7 Things Single Parenting Taught Me About Myself]

All the adults at this wedding acted like adults. They all led with love. Their big mixed family was breathtaking to me.

I admire Nadine so much. I admire Josh, the young man she loved with her whole heart and raised with a whole village. She let them all in. And let them all stay in.

This is a modern family — and then some. Everyone practiced love. You could see it in action. You could feel it in the air.

[Read: Maria Shriver's essay, 'How Will You Live a Life That Matters?]

So if you find yourself planning a wedding or any family get-together; take a page from Nadine, Josh, Lauren, Mike, Marsha, Fred, Bob, Sandra … You get the idea.

Let them inspire you. They inspired me.

Love heals, love conquers, love unites. Amen.

#PassItForward.

Family Matters — Here’s to Yours and Mine

Shrivers

This week President and Mrs. Obama hosted a beautiful dinner to honor the Special Olympics movement — we’re less than one year away from the World Games in the town I now call home, Los Angeles.

The White House was alive with the voices and the stories of Special Olympic athletes from all over the world.They spoke bravely of their challenges. Of being called stupid, of being told they would never amount to anything in life. And how they turned adversity into opportunity.

Families spoke of isolation, harsh judgements and then of coming together to fight for respect, acceptance, inclusion and unity.

[Read: all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' essays]

Katy Perry sang about unconditional love and you could hear the “Roar,” both internal and external, of people who had struggled only to find community and family with Special Olympics.

My mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started this program more than fifty years ago.

She had a sister, Rosemary, who had an intellectual disability. She saw her own mother, Rose Kennedy, struggle to find opportunities and friends for her.

[Watch: What Does it Mean to #RunLikeAGirl?]

My mother pushed her brother, President John F. Kennedy, to invite people with intellectual disabilities (I.D.) to the White House to be seen and accepted by those in power. She did that and more for people who felt excluded and left out.

All along the way she made sure my four brothers and I worked together to support each other in everything we each did.

So this week the four of them, Bobby, Mark, Timmy, Anthony and I were together at the White House. We were there in support of the movement our mother started, Special Olympics, which my brother Timmy runs today. We were there in gratitude to the President for shining a light on the millions of people with a I.D. and their families.

[Read: Ignite Your Spark and Never Let It Die]

We were there in support of family. Ours and those who have supported us along our way.

Healthy living requires connection. We all need people we can reach out to rely on. My brothers are an integral part of my village. They pick up the phone, they show up, they listen. They are there for me every step of the way.

My brothers are amazing men, collectively and individually. They are all fun loving, handsome, smart, kind and thoughtful. They are great fathers and wonderful husbands and uncles. They each work to make the world a better place and they treat their one and only sister with love, respect and kindness.

[Read: The Act of Listening: Part 6 of 7 Life Essentials]

I always wanted a sister growing up. I now have four wonderful sister-in-law’s. But, I gotta say, I wouldn’t trade any one of my four brothers for a sister. I wouldn’t trade being the only girl in a family of boys.

I never thought I’d say that, but it’s true. I got lucky in the brother department. I know it and I love it.

Here’s to brothers and families. #PassItForward

You’re Never Too Old to Dance — This Man Will Prove It!

dance

How often do you truly feel carefree?

I don’t know about you, but so often in life, I’ve found myself inhibited by fear of failing or judgement, worry of what others may think or what is expected of me.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

Then there are the questions our minds put out: What if I’m not good enough? Strong enough? Smart enough? Funny enough? YOUNG enough?This week, a video has been making the rounds that actually dances away those doubts.

Have you seen it? It stars a person you wouldn’t expect: an elderly gentleman with canes in both of his hands.

[Watch: Maria Shriver Reports: Girls Learn More Than Just Skills at Rosie-the-Riveter-Inspired Camp]

Moved by the music playing at an outdoor party this man abandons both of his walking sticks in order to properly dance with abandon. That moment when he throws the sticks made me want to clap.

 

Watching him dance his heart out made me smile. He made my heart smile.

He wasn’t thinking of his age, his limitations or worried about what anyone else might think. He was moved by the music and wanted to express himself. And he sure did! Instead of worrying about whether he might loose his balance without his canes, or the fact that he didn’t have a partner, he took a risk and just went for it.

[Read: 5 Steps to Survive a 'LifeQuake' — Part 2]

Life isn’t mean to be lived halfway. This week I hope you forget about what others may think and take risks. I hope you follow your heart, your head, your feet. I hope you have moments of being carefree. I hope you remember to go all out. I hope you dance!

#PassItForward


[Image via Etsy]

 

We’re Not Helpless: An Answer to Our Violent Times

love will always find a way

Not too long ago Pope Francis said indifference is one of the greatest threats to our global world.

I wrote about that a few months back and this week I have found myself coming face-to-face with it again as I’ve read and watched on TV as the violence erupts again and again in the Middle East.

Children dead. Lives cut short. The Malaysian plane crash. Hundreds of lives brutally upended. Lots of pointed fingers, lots of talk, little resolution.

[Read: Maria Shriver's: Let's Start A Prayer Summit Movement]

I don’t want to be indifferent to what is going on the world but, like many I suspect, one feels quite helpless.

What can I do for the families of the people who lost a loved one on that plane? What can I do about the violence in the Middle East? What can I do to show that I’m not indifferent? That I see, that I feel, that I care?

What do we do?

I believe we start close to home. Showing those in our families and our lives that they matter, that they are valued, seen and respected. We start in our communities reaching out to those who might be lonely or in pain.

[Read: Maria Shriver's 'We Have An Indifference Problem]

I have a ninety-one-year-old neighbor. I’ve never invited her for dinner. I’ve said hello in passing but the other day I went over to her house to talk to her. She told me about her life, the loss of her husband and her only daughter. She talked about her determination to continue living in her own home as long as possible. She told me most of her friends had died and that she was always open for companionship.

She’s coming to dinner on Monday.

[Watch: What Does This Gandhi Quote Mean to You?]

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling like I’m helpless. I know there is always something we all can do. I used to think that something always had to be big and grand or it didn’t matter.

I was wrong.

The opposite of indifference is caring. Is love. Start with caring and go from there.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Blogs]

My heart goes out to those who were touched by violence this week. The violence I saw on the news and all of the violence that happens every day that goes unreported. Reach out today to someone you care about. That’s the only way to best this indifference plague.

“Love will always find a way. Indifference will find an excuse.” #PassItForward


[Image via Pinterest]

How Will You Live a Life That Matters?

lifes work

The other day I was sitting at a friend’s house and I noticed the house across the street was being demolished.

For some reason I couldn’t take my eyes off of the scene.

As the man in the large bulldozing machine literally crushed the house I found myself thinking about the family that had once lived there. About the memories that had been made there. I found myself thinking about the fragility of life — how quickly it’s all over.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking' Essays]

Machines come in, driven by strangers, and whisk all of one place away — the materials and the memories. Then up goes a brand new house.  A brand new family moves in and it all starts over again.

It made me think about how much time I waste thinking about stupid things, about how much time I spend worrying about stuff that never happens.

When I went home that afternoon a friend sent me a plaque with a quote from the Dalai Lama. It says: there are only two days we can’t worry about: yesterday and tomorrow.

[Read: 10 Tips to Try for Tech-Free Fun This Summer]

Today is the day to live, to love, to believe.

Before we all know it, it will be over.

So this summer I’m choosing to live one day at a time. I’m choosing to spend less time fretting and worrying. I’m choosing to start and end each day in gratitude.

[Read: 6 Tips to Feel Healthy Inside and Out]

For the love in my life: the friends and family who I make memories with.

More and more I get it that we are all just passing through. I’ve been thinking about how I can make my time here matter. To me, to those I love, to those who love me.

[Read: How to Bust The 'Good Enough' Myth]

The only home no bulldozer can crush is the one we all build inside of ourselves.

That’s our life’s work.

That’s my summer work. Actually it’s my life’s work: To live a life that matters.

Pass it forward.

Happy 4th Of July! Time to Take a Break

relax
I’ve been thinking about taking a break.
Summer is officially here, and it’s our nation’s birthday.  Hopefully that means you’re getting a little time off to celebrate and spend time with loved ones.
This holiday weekend I am planning to pause, hang out with family and friends and enjoy some sunshine!
I hope you do the same. I hope you can take a break from the grind, and do a little relaxing. As I have said before, it’s important to pause now and again.
Wishing you a wonderful Independence Day.
With love,
Maria
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Image Credit: 23Frog on etsy

Go USA! Let’s Keep Our Patriotism Alive All Year Round

american flag

The country has America fever and I, for one, love it.

My kids invite friends over to watch the United States play in the World Cup and they cheer and cheer.

My youngest son has been walking around in a Team USA jersey we bought last week.

[Read all of Maria Shriver's 'I've Been Thinking Essays]

Christopher

Cities across the country are hosting massive watch parties for the matches. According to the Nielsen ratings, more than 25 million people tuned into to the U.S.’s game against Portugal— making it the most-watched soccer game in U.S. history.

With the Fourth of July just days away, stores are filled with red, white and blue American-themed decorations to celebrate our Independence Day.

Patriotism is hot.

And it should be.

[Watch: #InspireHerMind: Verizon's Viral Ad Has an Important Message For All of Us]

We live in the greatest country on earth.

I know the news talks a lot about what divides us, but everywhere I look these days we seem to celebrating who we are together.

I hope this patriotic fever continues past the World Cup and the Fourth of July.

[Read: We all Need to Unplug: Here's Why]

We are blessed here.

Americans are generous people, hopeful people, fair and hard-working people.

On this day, and every day, I’m proud to be an American and even prouder when I see the patriotism on display from my fellow countrymen and women. Go Team USA! Go America! God bless the land of the free and the brave.

Tell me your plans for the Fourth in the comments!


[Image via Etsy]