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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

How My Daughter's Death Taught Me
The Meaning of Life


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In that first meeting, you had suggested that I attend your weeklong workshop so that I could deal with my fear, my anger — my grief. I hesitated because I was a single parent and didn't want to leave Michel at that time. You understood and encouraged me to go to another of your lectures so that we could meet afterward.

Your second lecture was similar to your first, but this time I was looking forward to hearing you. It was the first time I heard you mention spirit guides, and my ears perked up. As a Catholic, I knew about angels, and these spirit guides you described sounded similar. They were spiritual helpmates who watched over us and kept us safe from harm. Sometimes you joked about their pushy personalities, but they were always loving and attentive to you, much like the angel that kept appearing in my dreams after Krissie's death.

These dreams always followed my nightmares of Kristen floating helplessly in the ocean, and they gave me great strength. When I told you about these dreams after we met again, you indeed thought the woman in the dream was my spirit guide. I asked why she would be with me now, and you said, "Because you never needed her as much as you do now." I agreed at once to go to your next five-day workshop.

I felt more comfortable leaving Michel. And I was aware that I hadn't fully grieved about Krissie despite my endless tears and nightmares. Now that we were on the same track with angels, I was looking forward to your workshop. This might be exactly what I needed. For months after Kristen's death, I had been living my life in a frenzy, trying hard to stay ahead of the pain that I knew lingered just below the surface. But that was a race I sensed now that I'd lose. I just didn't know when.

At your workshop there were about two dozen of us. We sat in a circle on cushions on the floor. You spoke first, introducing your assistants and encouraging us to put our everyday concerns aside so that we could be present for the next five days. You had us go around the circle and introduce ourselves, telling why we were there.

Many were coping with their own terminal illnesses or, like me, the loss of loved ones. But there were others from the health professions — doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists — who said they were mostly observing so that they could better understand grief and all its ramifications. Still others said that they weren't sure why they were there. "No specific reason. Your workshop just sounded interesting."

Elisabeth, I'll never forget feeling strangled with fear as well as having a glimmer of hope when you encouraged us one by one to come to the center of the circle, where you had placed a wooden log wrapped in a carpet next to a two-foot rubber hose. As each of us came forward, you knelt beside us and encouraged us to explore our grief, gently pushing us into painful feelings. You believed that expressing the physical side of our emotions was as important as the verbal. As we each got deeper into the agony, our frustration grew and grew, and when it got to the exploding point, you had us take the hose in our hand and begin to pound on the log.

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