Maribeth Wilder Doerr

Shades of Healing ~ Creating a Wholehearted Life

Shades of Healing – Holding Space for Myself

My Mom, Marie Wilder May 14, 1928 - July 30, 2011

My Mom, Marie Wilder
May 14, 1928 – July 30, 2011

This is my mom, Marie. Last Saturday, May 14, would have been her 88th birthday. May 14 is also my birthday.  Fifty-seven years ago, I got to be someone’s birthday present. After two boys who were 11 1/2 and 7 1/2, my mom didn’t think a baby girl was in the picture. Then I came along, on her birthday, a week late, and she hadn’t spoken to her husband, my dad, in two weeks. He went on a bowling tournament out of town when she was 39 weeks pregnant. I probably wouldn’t have spoken to him either! On the morning of her 31st birthday, my dad dropped mom off at the hospital and went to work. He stopped by the hospital on his way home from work to see if anything had happened. That’s when he found out from his sister, the head OB nurse, that he had a daughter (he was still getting the silent treatment).

Two days later, he walked into my mom’s hospital room on his way home from work and asked my mother if I’d been circumcised yet. Reportedly, my aunt said, “Brother dear, you do know babies come in different styles, don’t you?” That’s when my mother took pity on him and started talking to him again, probably by first laughing her head off.  Such was my beginning into the world 😀

Because I had these two older wilder (yes that’s a pun on my maiden name) brothers, my mom was afraid I would turn out terribly spoiled. She asked my pediatrician about it and he told her, “Mrs. Wilder, she’s not spoiled; she’s just well loved.” And that was what my mother did best – she loved well. She was critical and judgmental but she loved well. It took someone who didn’t have her mother’s love to point this out to me. Life is amazing like that.  Six weeks before she died, my mother threw her arms around me and said, “you are the love of my life!”  She’d never said anything like that to me before.  Looking back, I’m sure she knew she was dying.  A lot of old hurts healed in that one spectacular moment, and I can still feel that hug and her breath on my neck as she said those words, as if it happened a second ago.

I miss her everyday, but especially every May 14. Out of the 52 years we had, we spent 50 birthdays together. My parents worked hard to make that happen! I tend to not quite know to do with myself on my birthday these days but it’s not a sad day either; it’s just very different. I’ll figure it out eventually!  In the meantime, I hold space for my own healing (see previous post on holding space – yes, we can hold space for ourselves too!).

bartoloThis year, I’d planned to visit my hospice patient who was just two weeks older than my mom.  I actually first met this woman at my mother’s funeral, and it just felt right to spend a few hours with her on my birthday.  She died five days before so I really felt lost which seems to bring out some ADHD in me.  Do you fellow grievers ever feel like grief gives you squirrel brain?  From the time I woke up on my birthday, I cried, I tried to read, I did some shopping – nothing was settling me down.  I tried quilting and my sewing machine was acting up so I wanted to google some help.  As I walked into my office, the picture to the right was sitting in front of my monitor.  It’s a picture of Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon.  I started to laugh immediately and I knew this was my birthday gift from one of my sons.  Bartolo pitched for the Oakland Athletics (my fave team) when I was terribly sick in 2012 & 13.  He’s a character, and watching him pitch when I was so sick was one of the few bright spots of that summer and fall.  He was traded to the Mets in 2014 and is still with them (BOOOOOOOOOO!).  A few weeks ago, Bartolo hit his first major league home run playing against the Padres in San Diego.  It was a hoot watching this 285+ lb 42-year-old pitcher lumbering around the bases; it’s just not something you see everyday and he may have set the record for slowest run around the bases.  We probably watched the clip 5 times!  (I know, we’re a bunch of boring baseball nerds.)  As goofy as this whole story sounds, it was a moodshifter for my birthday.  I laughed and laughed and will chuckle every time I see this picture.  My son got me a goofy gift that he knew I’d get a kick out of and I with that one simple thing, I let go of all the angst that was making my shoulders rise up over my ears.  I could breathe again.  And what do you know, when I got back to my sewing machine, it stopped acting up!

If there are any takeaways to this story, it’s healing is always available, even in the most unlikely of ways and even when we think we don’t need any more healing.  Being open to it and being willing to be surprised by it is one way of holding space for ourselves.   It’s hard to quiet down the squirrel chatter of a grieving mind to listen and hold that space, but when we can open our hearts enough to let in a little light (like laughing at a silly picture), healing happens.  It just does!

If you want to see that 285 lb, 42-year-old first major league home run by Bartolo Colon, check it out here:



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Friday Faves – What it means to “hold space” for people, plus eight tips on how to do it well

For the last year, I’ve been a hospice volunteer.  One of these days I’ll write about what it means to me to do this work, but right now, my heart is a bit too tender to do that.  My most recent patient died this past Monday night.  She was a character, and I can only hope that my visits helped her a tiny fraction of what I felt from spending these precious last weeks of her life with her.

It’s with this hard joyful work in my heart that I introduce you to an extraordinary woman named Heather Plett.  I was taking an online mandala class with her when her mother died.  A year ago, Heather wrote an amazing article, What it means to “hold space” for people, plus eight tips on how to do it well, that was birthed out her experiences with her mother.  It seems ironic that this post is going viral now, 14 months later, but I’m so glad it is.  As a hospice volunteer, “holding space” is what we do.  But truthfully, this is a gift we can give ANYONE, not just the dying and the bereaved.  Anyone who needs someone to listen will benefit from a kind soul holding space for them . . . and Heather explains how to do just that.

Please give it a read and while you’re there, learn more about Heather and her work.

And um, hold space for me tomorrow, May 14, and I remember my mom on what would have been her 88th birthday, which also happens to be my birthday.  Thank you!

God’s blessings to all of you . . .


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WriteGrief for the Holidays

WriteGrief for the Holidays is over until November 2014.

In the meantime, try WriteGrief weekly prompts. Details here.

Announcing a new offering – Write Grief for the Holidays: Weekly prompts encouraging a self-exploration of healing and grief.

Grief can often leave us numb, and it can be hard to articulate the simplest things. You may feel that there are no words to express your feelings, that it’s all just a big knot in your throat or your heart and everything is stuck there. Writing can be an outlet for these knotted up feelings, a way of unraveling the stuck. I have often found writing to be a new way of seeing my thoughts in black and white which brings more clarity to the muddy chaos of grief.

Once a week, you’ll receive a writing prompt which you are free to use – or not. Write a lot, or write a little. Share it – or not. It’s all up to you. We will have a private Facebook group where you can share your writing if you wish. Here’s a sample prompt:

“If I could sit across the porch from God, I’d thank Him for lending me you.” ~Flavia
Prompt: If you could sit across the porch from your loved one, what would you thank him/her for? For 5 minutes, write a list of what you’d like to thank your loved one for. After 5 minutes, circle a few items on the list that really grab your attention. Then spend however long you like writing a letter to your loved one focusing on one or two of those items you circled.

Our first session will run from November 4 through December 29 – 8 prompts with a focus on the holidays. The cost for these 8 weeks is $25. You can join anytime before the end of 2013; previous prompts will be sent to you so that you receive the full 8 weeks of prompts.


If you would like to schedule a one-on-one coaching call to discuss anything that comes up during your writing, the discounted price for WriteGrief participants is $50 for a 45 minute session.


In January, WriteGrief will continue with weekly prompts available as a month-to-month-subscription. Details here!


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Choosing And . . .

I made this video for a class I’m currently taking.  The assignment was simply to tell a story.   The quality of the video was not a factor in the assignment, and as you’ll see, quality it is not 🙂 – but I do tell my story of birth, death, sorrow, joy, the holidays . . . and choosing AND.  It’s really called Wholehearted Living!

Please overlook the bad hair day and the pasty-still-sickly skin, not to mention the poor video quality.  Just listen with your heart. ♥


Mother’s Day Isn’t Always Roses and Cheesy Cards . . .

I originally wrote this article for Inner Child Magazine. I would LOVE for you to pop over there and read through the May issue. Lots of good stuff! Here on my blog, I’ve added a few personal comments to this version. . .

My Mom, Marie Wilder
May 14, 1928 – July 30, 2011

Over 46 countries honor mothers with a special day with the US as well as several other countries celebrating Mother’s Day in May. Anna Jarvis is credited with creating Mother’s Day as a national holiday in the United States. She lobbied tirelessly for years, and finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day a national holiday to be held each year on the second Sunday of May. Since then, it’s become a Hallmark delight, and why not? Mothers sacrifice a lot to raise their children. They deserve this honor, and it can be a fun way for a family to reconnect and enjoy each other.

There are times, however, when Mother’s Day is simply painful, and it’s important for the celebratory world to understand that it’s not always roses and cheesy cards for everyone.  For example . . .

  • Perhaps your mother has died
  • Perhaps your baby or child has died
  • Perhaps you have been trying to have a baby and haven’t been able to conceive
  • Perhaps your wife has died and you’re helping your children grieve for their mom
  • Perhaps someone you loved as a mother/grandmother has died
  • Perhaps you’ve never known your mom or you’re estranged from her
  • Perhaps you know someone experiencing some of these issues

From the time I lost my first baby until I had a healthy child in my arms, I went through nine Mother’s Days without any acknowledgement that I was a mom – and I most certainly was even though those babies were not here with me. Those were painful days. Now I’ve come what feels like full circle as I’m about to experience my first Mother’s Day without my mom. It’s different and yet it’s the same – everywhere I go there are huge displays of Mother’s Day cards and suggested gifts in the stores . . .

It’s a challenge when the rest of the world is celebrating something as universal as motherhood and your heart is so tender. The days leading up to Mother’s Day with all the in-your-face advertising can feel overwhelming and is such a reminder of what you’ve lost and can’t have. You may be wondering how you’re going to get through this day.

First, take a deep breath and realize that however you feel, it’s okay and you’re okay. There’s nothing wrong with you if you want to pretend this day doesn’t exist . . . or if you want to celebrate it with everything you have. There is no right or wrong way to feel; feelings just are and they don’t define you. As Bridget Pilloud reminds us, “Don’t try to make FACTS out of your feelings.”

Secondly, be aware that you do have a choice in what you do on Mother’s Day and even in how you feel. You can’t have your loved one(s) back but you do have choices for the day.

It helps to be prepared. Waking up on Mother’s Day morning wondering what to do or blindly following someone else’s plans for you will breed a lot of discomfort (and not just for you!). Spend some time, even if it’s just a few minutes, getting still and thinking about what you really want for this day. What do you hope will happen? You can’t have your mom, child, grandma, wife, other significant woman back but you can plan a day that both soothes your soul and acknowledges your feelings. You do that by getting clear on what you want for this day.

If you’re like me, you may be worried that doing what YOU want is selfish and everyone will be upset with you. Forget about pleasing the masses, and let go of that inner voice that says you HAVE TO (fill in the blank with whatever you think that is). Taking care of yourself is taking steps towards healing and this is what your family and friends ultimately want anyway.

Ask yourself if spending time with your family and friends on Mother’s Day would feel wonderful and comforting or does the thought set your teeth on edge? Perhaps your heart wants some solitude with a latte and a place to journal your thoughts. Maybe it would feel lovely to do something to celebrate your mother (or child or wife, etc) by watching her favorite movie or planting flowers either alone or with a select group of friends and family. Take a deep breath and ask your heart what would feel most nourishing.

Once you feel clear on what you want, communicate these wishes with your family and friends. This may feel daunting but remember that people aren’t mind readers, and they truly do want what’s best for you. Oftentimes they don’t quite know what to do and are waiting to take a cue from you. Make it easier for them by simply telling them what you need and want. Remember, you are the best person to decide what’s best for you.

It helps not to be defensive but loving, gentle and direct. If you feel it would be more comfortable to write a note to your family and friends conveying your wishes, then do so. There’s nothing wrong with that approach.

If you’re still unclear about what would feel right to do on Mother’s Day, here are some wonderful resources full of suggestions:

Whatever you decide to do, remember that you can change it up however you need when the day comes – or for next year and the year after. The first year tends to be the most difficult but you may find yourself in this situation of asking what you want and need in subsequent years. Be flexible and open. Whatever you decide, it’s okay.

If you know someone who is grieving on Mother’s Day, the kindest gift you can give is your heart and the ability to sit with their pain without judging or trying to take it away. Providing a compassionate community by simply listening is courageous and the perfect gift. Don’t make decisions for them or try to “fix” them; just listen with an open heart and quiet mouth. If they wish to be alone, respect that they know what’s best. A phone call acknowledging their feelings is always appropriate as well. A voice message saying, “I’m thinking about you and (the loved one’s name) today. I’m here if you need anything.” can be incredibly validating for a grieving heart.

Mother’s Day is a celebration and as much as you may not feel like celebrating, open your heart to celebrating your loved one’s life and how it’s touched yours . . . Mother’s Day will never look quite the same as it does for those who haven’t lost a mother or child, but it can still be a peaceful day when you’re willing to live it wholeheartedly which means leaning into the pain AND the joy.

Thinking of you Mom! I hope you get to cuddle with Andy, Mark, MJ, Summer Rose, and David today ♥

If this is a difficult day for you because of some of the issues I’ve mentioned, I’d love to hear how to plan to spend/spent the day. Let’s share our stories and help each other. Much love to all of our tender hearts . . .

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