As I hiked through the forest today, I was overcome with a sense of peace. The hillside rolled out in front of me and the brown, gold, yellow and red leaves covered it like a shag carpet. At first I wondered if my sense of contentment was nostalgia, remembering that shag carpet that covered our family room years ago.  But as I pondered, I realized it was more than that. 

I realize that hiking in the fall brings me a sense of peace because of the changing seasons. Spring brings the wispy green, summer the heavy canopy of shade. But fall is a season of endings. The leaves have done their summer work and are now letting go their tenacious hold on the fingers of the tree. They are singing their colors as they shower the earth. There they lie, pelted with rain, decaying with death, soon to be swallowed in the earth.

But what gives me a sense of peace is that they do not disappear. They simply morph into the stuff of which life is made. They take their nourishment and mingle it with others to empower the future of life.

Life is lived one leaf at a time. We speak words, we act. We love, we hate, we nurture and we undermine. We share and we grasp, we give and we hold on. All of these moments in our lives do not last. They finally fall into the” ground of being” and they nurture what is becoming. They empower what can be. They are not gone. They are transformed into energy for a new future.

So, I don’t think it is shag carpet that makes me smile as I shuffle through the dry leaves. I think it is the peace that comes with the hope that our lives continue to bless the future, long after we have acted or spoken.


Endings are powerful events. When relationships are ended, we are often faced with a flood of memories. When life as we have known it comes to an end, the space created seems to be invaded by thousands of memories. It is as all the pieces of our relationship to others were held behind a concrete dam. While we were still in relationship with the other, those memories were released a little at a time. But, when the relationship ended, the flood gates are opened and it is hard to control the flow.

One of the reasons this happens is that we may not want to let that relationship go.  Or at least there are parts of it that we cherish. But, our connections to important people and organizations are so important in our own self-understanding that it scares us to let it go. We may not know who we are if we are not in relationship to that person or institution. Our identity is up for grabs.

So, memories clamber over each other to get our attention. The members of our mental and emotional family were integrated as long as our relationship was a living one. But when there is a death of a relationship, the chaos scatters those stories and we don't know who we are.

So, we remember.  We are litterly trying to re-member what has been dismembered. We are trying to keep the relationship alive in our vision of ourselves. It is terribly disorienting to have important parts of our self taken away by an ending relationship. And because the relationship has been important to us, we have to put it together in a new way within our psyche/soul. Because the relationship is no longer a living presence, we need to construct a spiritual presence.

This is why it is so important for people who have had significant losses to keep telling their story--continually rehearsing what happened. They know that who they are is a collection of all the relationships they have had the the events that they have been part of. They need to integrate the experience of the ending of the relationship with their experience of the relationship. 

And that takes as long as it takes--generally longer than some around them would like. So, be a patient friend to those who need to talk. They are doing hard work of spiritual integration.


Endings bring a lot of confusing and painful feelings.  Especially when what has ended is something that someone wishes would continue.  Pain, disorientation, anger, frustration.  These are understandable and fairly easy to explain.

But, there is another feeling that sometimes surprises us.  That is the feeling of guilt.  When something we desire and value has ended, it seems important for people to attribute blame.  We need to explain it. Someone must be responsible for it.  We seem driven to find out why it happened and who is responsible for it. Someone is guility.

Sometimes that guilt is assigned to others. Others have not done what they should  and that is why we have experienced the ending. When someone dies, it is often the doctors that are blamed; or the medical system; or the person who didn't live in a way that would have prolonged their life; or some might blame God. 

But, sometimes the ending also brings a sense of guilt to those of us who suffer the agony of the ending. Sometimes we focus on ourselves and what we "could-a", "should-a", "would-a" done. The "if-onlys" chase our hearts down the corridors of our minds.  "If only I had told her to go the doctor sooner when the symptoms first appeared. If only I had been more sensitive to her needs. If only I had been attentive when she was alive at least I wouldn't feel guilty about the mistakes I made in our relationship."

It is important for those who suffer loss or those who accompany others through loss to realize that guilt is a normal and almost automatic part of the grieving process.  When something ends and there is no opportunity to retrieve that which is lost, we rehearse the past, sifting through the nuggets of memory to see if we can't create a narrative where we might discover a direct cause and effect.  

Unfortunately, there will be many loose ends and a great deal of confusion in most cases of loss.  So don't be surprised when guilt is a significant part of the way we attend to the losses of our lives. And remember that it can become a prison which locks us in the past.  


Grieving is what happens when there are endings.  When you have trusted your life to be lived in a certain way and then something happens to cause you to question whether it will continue to be lived that way, grieving begins to happen.

That is why a diagnosis is an occasion for grieving. If you have been able to be independent and self-supporting and then you are diagnosed with a disease that might compromise those self-supporting activities, you have to learn to live again in light of the new reality.

Because of this, we start acting in ways that we may not like.  We name our losses and feel the pain of fear and anxiety that comes with uncertainty.  We find ourselves getting angry at others, even those who have not had anything to do with our situation.  We get angry at others who are not threatened like we are.  We begin reminscing about days in the past when things were good. We look around for someone or something to blame and assign guilt.  

But, for us to be free to live with our disease or our altered circumstance, we need to be freed from our guilt and our pain.  Over time a forgiving spirit can emerge.  I don't think forgiveness is something that someone simply decides to do.  I think it is often a gift that comes to us when we work through our losses and when we gain strength to imagine new and different ways of being. We are resilient people and it is possible to discover new things about ourselves and new possibilities for our lives.

The emerging of new life can be terribly painful. Don't let anyone talk you out of your pain. But, find some friends to talk with about it. Shared pain can be more manageable. Explore your new new limits.  See what you can do with the new reality. It is not easy but it can be redemptive.