Exploring the Spiritual Face of Loss

Liz's forest offering

Liz’s forest offering

Jean Raffa, an author I admire, invited me to join a blog tour highlighting authors who write about spirituality and intuitive understanding. I encourage you to visit Jean’s blog and website where she writes about Jungian psychology, dream guidance, the feminine, and her insights. Jean’s most recent book is Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World. I’ll return to my usual story-telling format on July 8.

Jean asked me to answer four questions about my work.

1) What Am I Working On? I kept a journal during my husband Vic’s two-year illness. He and I grieved together then. A few years after his death, I began writing Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief. Now, I’m involved with preparations for a book launch on October 3. I also write articles and a weekly blog about marriage, spirituality, the initiation of grief, and creating a new life.

Leaning-into-Love-book-cover-draft-200x300Vic and I considered his illness part of our spiritual journey. We had spent forty-two years living, loving, raising a family, meditating, and searching for meaning together. After his death, I frequently dreamed of driving with my eyes closed or blindfolded. I was lost in an unknown landscape, searching for a door into my new life.

I write about what I know: love, marriage, loss, creating a meaningful life on my own, dreams, nature, ecology, and my spiritual perspective. I write and enjoy reading memoir, so I look for an engaging story.

Vic's cairn in the forest

Vic’s cairn in the forest

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Many books about grief focus on getting over it as quickly as possible. They rarely explore the meaning and deep transformation available in the experience.  For me, grief is a spiritual initiation. We don’t choose this path, but life brings loss and disappointment to everyone.  In mythology, the hero loses everything, faces isolation, enters a disorienting time of learning and testing, and returns to life with renewed strength and wisdom. A major loss leads to a similar experience if we open to grief and let it transform us.

New beginnings

New beginnings

3) How does my writing process work? I focus on the business of writing (social media, blogging, email) in the morning and creative work in the afternoon, fueled by a strong cup of green tea. I discover new material in a class where I write with others and work from sparks or prompts that lead me to new places. I’m also stimulated by a memoir group where I hear the words of serious writers. Mostly I’m inspired by life, nature, spiritual friends, and my own reading.



4) Why do I write what I do? I was compelled to write about loss and formulate a conscious path through grief. I’m interested in the wisdom of many spiritual traditions, particularly Jung, Buddhism, Greek philosophy, and mythology. Standing close to the threshold of death with someone was a life-transforming event. I knew if I didn’t run, but stayed and looked into the chasm, grief would be a source of wisdom and teach me to live a rich intentional life. I hope my experience will help others deal with loss.


For other writers on this blog tour, see Fran Kramer, Tzivia Gover, Diane Brandon, and Gwen Plano.

Therese Tappouni

Therese Tappouni

I asked Therèse Tappouni to follow me on this tour. Therese compared the death of her beloved son Michael to a cue ball slamming into the carefully formed triangle of balls that represented her family, her belief system and her relationship to her husband. Her experiences and work with Jean Houston prepared her to counsel, write, teach and speak about the human connection and the need for a new kind of understanding around grief and joy. She and her life-partner formed ISIS Institute, a place where the wounded, seeking and stressed come to create a vibrant life of intention.

Therèse is the author of six books and two CDs, (recent books are The Gifts of Grief: Finding Light in the Darkness of Loss, The Promise: Revealing the Purpose of Your Soul, which won the IPPY bronze medal for Women’s Issues, and Me and Green for children, which received a gold medal from the Indie Excellence Awards.)  She is a a licensed HeartMath™ Provider and Trainer, a board certified hypnotherapist, Somatic Intuitive Training Practitioner, counselor, teacher, poet, artist and business owner. At the ISIS Institute, and through her personal business “Wholeheart”, licensed HeartMath™ Provider, she creates workshops, one-on-one sessions, books and CDs dedicated to teaching clients to live a passionate and stress-free intentional life. To find out more about her work and explore her books and CDs, see her website and blog.

  1. Dear Elaine,

    Thank you for your blog, which is such a rich source of inspiration, not only for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, but also for those who have yet to experience this grief. Your ability to trust yourself, your body, emotions, intuitions, energy and life experiences models a deeply spiritual journey which is a harmonious blend of inner and outer realities. This is rarely seen and much needed in our world. I wish you the very best with your new book! I’ll be first in line to buy it!

    With warm blessings,

    • Thanks for thinking of me and my work, Jeanie. We all experience loss and grief in many ways. If we’re lucky, we get to practice with bite-sized losses, but we don’t get the choice. Always helps to look for a meaningful lesson–although it’s easy to forget and resist.
      You’ve been a strong model for me as a writer, a quester, and a woman in love with her partner.
      With love,

  2. Elaine your words as always are powerful and exude the essence of you. Thanks for sharing other authors works for us to peruse. And, congrats, on the book cover!


  3. Your posts are so inspiring. I think there are at least two reasons for that: You don’t resist showing raw feeling and vulnerability, but you also move beyond that to express your creativity in your writing, your art, and the friendships you create in your “earth-walk.”

    I admire your discipline in writing – morning, noon, and night. Right now I need to find a writers’ group to hone my craft and keep me accountable. More inspiration: thank you, Elaine.

    • One more thing: I have had the same dream you describe: I dreamed once “of driving with my eyes closed or blindfolded. I was lost in an unknown landscape, searching for a door into my new life.” Scary but instructive.

    • Thank you, Marian. You seem disciplined to me and you have wonderful stories to tell with wonderful images. I do try to bring together the creative with the rawness (and discomfort) of grief, so thanks for noticing my efforts. I think my resistance to grief was more difficult than the experience of it, because allowing myself to grieve and express my loss also allowed me to feel all the love that was and is still there.

      My writing classes stopped for six months. I keenly missed the opportunity to sit at a table with six others, hear a spark or prompt, and create something new in a short time. It often was inspiration for a new piece and, in the beginning, it was the inspiration for my book. We also brought in up to three double spaced pages of polished work (something we were working on, a rewrite of our last spontaneous in class work, or anything at all), read it to each other, and commented on each other’s work, so a great combination of spontaneity and polish. I’m so glad she’s teaching again. Here’s a blog I wrote about writing with Ellen: https://elainemansfield.com/2013/writing-through-the-rough-spots-healing-through-telling-our-stories/

      Interesting that we had similar dreams. I had variations on this dream so many times in the years after Vic’s death–and I did feel lost and unmoored.

  4. Thank you for reminding me of Jean Raffa. I’d written her name down and forgotten. A blog tour – how neat. I must explore these authors’ works. Cheers!

    • Hi Robin. I’ve been introduced to new writers I enjoy and I’m glad to pass them along. I’ve read women Jungian writers for many years, but now I know a few younger ones with their fresh perspective. Best to you.

  5. I, too, have walked the path of grief. I lost my 14 year old son to an accident, a close friend and an estranged adult daughter to suicide, and my mother to cancer. I was with her every step of the way after her diagnosis, which came only eight weeks before her death. We walked though her last weeks together as she came to acceptance and grieved the coming separation with us. I was at her side to the end of her journey. There was a different path through grief for each loss. Unexpected grief, such as the accident and the suicides were the hardest.

    • Dear Barbara,

      I’m sorry about your many losses. Despite some rough last years, my husband was 67 and had a full rich life with no unfinished business. We knew we were lucky ones. I can’t imagine losing a teenage son to an accident. This happened to Therese Tappouni, too, and changed her life dramatically. Perhaps you already know this. Suicide is a so hard one for those left behind and you’ve experienced it twice. I’m sure you have much to offer others who grieve–but I hope you get a rest.

      Thanks for reading my blog and taking time to write something about your experience. You remind me to be grateful and take nothing for granted,

  6. Dear Elaine,

    Thank you for your wise words about grieving being a spiritual initiation. I found them especially helpful today, when I was hit with a fresh wave of grief. It’s been nearly two years since my wife died, and I’m still amazed at how intense the painful feelings can be. Reading what you wrote about the hero in mythology losing everything but returning to life renewed gives me hope. Blessings,

    • Hi Laz,
      I’m so glad to hear this. Thanks for letting me know. From what little I know of her, I imagine your dear Helen would see grief as a spiritual initiation. Did she look at her illness from that angle, even if she had a different way of expressing it? I know Vic did.
      Grief still hits me hard some days, but it doesn’t knock me over as it used to. Every year I get a little more comfortable carrying Vic inwardly and feeling our love without his physical presence. I miss hugs, affirming eyes, and our shared life, but still feel the support of love.
      Blessings back to you, Laz, and the solace of music and poetry you love.

  7. Elaine, I love your honesty and your beautifully written insights on grief, love, and spirituality.

    I, too, feel that grief is helping me to open spiritually, and that the process is transforming.

    • Thank you, Lynne. After a few generations of trying to hide and reject grief, we’re waking up to the lessons available if we look in a different way. The Boomers keep making waves.

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