Creating Your Sanctuary

Google Definition of Sanctuary- sanc·tu·ar·y
1.a place of refuge or safety.
“people automatically sought a sanctuary in time of trouble”
synonyms: refuge, haven, harbor, port in a storm, oasis, shelter, retreat, hideaway, hideout
2.a nature reserve.
“a bird sanctuary” synonyms: reserve, park, reservation, preserve

Tenet #2 of Grief Anonymous is about finding or creating a sanctuary for healing.  This tenet’s importance is to be understood on many different levels but here is what needs to be explained first in order to get started.

One aspect of a sanctuary is the definition itself.  “A place of refuge or safety” is the first definition.  I needed this badly when my husband first passed away. We were living in a foreign country that I loved but I was also twelve hours away from any of my own family members.  My home became my sanctuary.  And I dedicated a room to healing.  A place to put all my special things in my life that reminded me of what was important to me.  It included things of my husbands, art pieces my son made for me when he was little,  books and beautiful elemental stones, scented candles and turkish lights that when lit up caste a vibrant spray of color all around.  I needed this place to connect to the core of me and my experience, and a place to connect with my Higher Power, God.  What this power is for you is for you to say.  But for me it is God.

I think the problem with our mindset to grief is we think staying home is bad.  We attribute our long hours in our homes to becoming reclusive and wrong.   I have something to say about that.  The Native American peoples of this land learned to understand the nature of animals and they applied that knowledge to their understanding of healing, spirituality, and natural instinct for survival.  They studied the animals so that we may learn from them.  When we are feeling the need to stay home all we have to look to is the instinctual habits of those animals that hibernate.  Maybe instead of becoming reclusive and stigmatizing ourselves we need to embrace this time as a time or period of hibernation.  Of recuperation.  Of surrounding ourselves with those things that bring us peace and comfort~ a place of refuge or safety.  We have been tested and tried and stretched beyond our limits with this new emotion of grief and we need to understand it.  And creating and accepting a sanctuary in our lives turns this whole process into what it should mean and washes away the negative.

As in all things~ too much is not a good thing.  Allowing yourself to feel comfort in this and heal from it will give you what you need in the timing specific to you.  You set the season.  You set the pace.  Go cuddle up in your husband’s shirt or with your child’s favorite stuffed animal and stay there and breathe.  Smell them. You are not crazy.  You are not strange for wanting these sentimental gifts and belongings around you. You are right to reach for them for as long as you need them.

Lastly~ when you are ready, the second definition of sanctuary will allow you to approach you waking to the world differently too once you emerge from your hibernation and look up and out to what is new and different around you in the outside world.  Because grief stops time for us and everyone keeps moving on with their lives it will take you some time to catch up.  In doing so, allow yourself  then to find a natural reserve or park or path or forest or simple trail through your neighborhood.  Connect with the elementals in nature.  Breathe the air like a newly emerging person who is getting to experience life anew.  And draw from that Source from Tenet #1 to help you with this transition.  Go forth, yet stay connected.  It really is going to be okay.



Surviving the Grief of Miscarriage by Sofia Mir Qazi

Thank you, Sofia.  Thank you for sharing your authentic experience of miscarriage so that others who’ve experienced the same can know they are not alone and also so that we may gain a new insight and compassion to the reality of this experience. ~ Holly

It hurts when people forget your pain to have a child. When they ignore your struggle to just stay afloat let alone swim. It doesn’t say anything about you. It says alot about them. I keep forgetting. I take two steps forward and ten steps back.
I think infertility makes us invisible. To friends and family alike. Same behavior. Ignore the elephant in the room.
I have always put other’s feelings before my own. Even if it means I will suffer. Their happiness and comfort is priority. Don’t do or say anything that will make them uncomfortable. These things should not be talked about. Just accepted.
That means my feelings are once again put on the back burner. So while I am watching out for your feelings, who is watching out for mine?
Last few days have been trying to say the least. I have teared up over everything. I have literally been bombarded by baby news, people going on and on about their children. Completely ignoring who their audience is. So much more that I can’t even mention without losing it. Sometimes. Just sometimes it is just too much for the heart and I want to scream.
So I took out all my hospital things, my ultrasound pics, my hospital identity bands, my medicine schedules, my pics, my parking tabs, the baby clothes, baby books and all our dreams and lay down on the bed and cried my soul away.
But I was no longer on the bed. I was taken back to the hospital room squeezing Raheel’s hand so tight they are turning blue. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. We have done little else but DAMN wait.
*for the bloodwork
*for the ultrasounds
*for the appointments
*for the medicine
*for the doctor
*for the nurse
*for the pharmacist
*for the insurance
*for the try again
*for the YES
*for the NO
*for the try again
*for the why don’t you
*for the you should have
*for the disappointment
*for the joy
*for the try again
*for the try again
*for the try again
*for GOD to smile on us
One pregnancy in particular, we will never forget.
We had gotten the good news a day before Raheel’s birthday on August 22 and we were beside ourselves with happiness! It was supposed to be an early birthday present. The best birthday present. We hugged and thanked every single person staff at the hospital!! The doctors, nurses, embryologists, secretaries! We had our miracle. We hugged the ultrasound. We hugged and cried our hearts out. Our little peanut. OURS.
It was a dream come true. Our prayers had been answered.
But it was short lived. The dream turned into a nightmare. Just under twelve weeks later our dream was shattered. It was gone.
No heartbeat. Funny thing is, I can pinpoint the exact moment my baby’s heart stopped. I knew it in my gut. There was a few drops of fresh blood and my chest felt like all the air had gone out of it. I immediately knew. I cried out to Raheel from the bathroom. He consoled me but I knew. The doctors would only confirm what the ache in my belly was telling me. We were in shock. It was the first pregnancy and everyone had been telling us how great I looked, how my skin was glowing and I felt incredible! So how could it be gone?? Why?
I told them to do the ultrasound again. I screamed my brains out. My screams must have been heard throughout the hospital. Raheel told me I told the doctor to go to hell and I wanted a second opinion. He said I slapped his hand away. He said my sobs were unbearable. They called another doctor who said the same. After that I don’t know how I ended up in the waiting room. All I recall is crying and sitting on the hospital floor telling everyone to go screw themselves.
I smile because it is expected of me.
Everytime I hug my beautiful nieces and nephews my heart feels like it will explode. Feelings of longing and emptiness that I have to surpress because it is expected of me.
I crouch on the washroom floor and hug my traitor body. I cry in the shower.
But I smile on the outside because it is expected of me.
For those of you with children and trying for more. I can understand your hopes and dreams of growing your family.
Those of you with children and don’t want more, I can understand your family is complete. You have been blessed.
Those of you that are not in a relationship, don’t have children. I hope you find what you are looking for.
Those of you that don’t want children. That is your choice. I respect it.
Please stop telling me how to feel.
Please stop telling me how not to feel.
Please stop telling me about GOD and his will.
No one is closer to GOD than the one in agony. Trust me. I call out to him with every breath. It is his people that need to do better.
Considering how mean and ignorant people have been, the reason I have not gone completely crazy is because of Raheel. Simply put, the ONLY one that has not told me how to feel. Never once. Always encouraging me to talk about my feelings, to read more about grief and healing, to reach out to other couples about it. To help others. I can talk about it all day and not once has this amazing, wonderful, loving man wavered. The love of my life ❤
So to all the people that ignore me or tell me to get past it. I am sorry YOU are uncomfortable. Please bear with me because I am still trying to come to terms with never singing a lullabye. We are still trying to glue back the pieces of our hearts.
But sometimes. Just sometimes it hurts too much.



When We Are Angry

My husband was sick for quite a while before his second diagnosis which was in fact a terminal diagnosis of cancer.  I knew he was sick and probably he did too.  Four months before we received the diagnosis of metastatic cancer we went on a doctor visit because he felt bad.  I taped my mouth shut and sat in the doctor’s office in protest while he convinced the doctor that he was okay while he received a diagnosis of pre-diabetes.  He was gone in four months.  I have rode waves of anger over these last two years about this that finally eased into a ripple of forgiveness and understanding.  He was worried too and had been through enough scans and surgeries for years.  He was tired of it all and wanted some normalcy and peace.  It had settled into his mind that the cancer was never coming back.  I knew different.  I am angry that we only got six weeks of time with him after that final diagnosis.  I look back and think about what we would have gained from an earlier diagnosis.  What we could have shared.  How we could have been better prepared.  The things that could have been said that weren’t.  He was too sick at that point and our days were about managing his pain and suffering, not writing love letters and taking family videos and cementing our love.  I am angry.

Many people who write to me admit this too.  They are mad that their children got addicted to drugs and died of an overdose and left them to grieve a lifetime of searing pain and regret that there might have been more that they could have done.  Parents who die who were abusive and leave their children to grieve with mixed emotions and unresolved questions of why. Wives and husbands are upset at what they found out after the fact when their spouses die~ hidden love letters, bills left unpaid, empty bottles of booze hidden in closets and under the beds, credit card statements showing up that they didn’t know about.  This is complicated grief.  When we grieve a person with unresolved issues in life.  Life is complicated.  And when life gets complicated and a loved one dies, it can leave a huge mess in that person’s wake and prolong their ability to heal.

Tonight I had a flashback to those moments.  I took my dog on a walk around our neighborhood and seemed to find myself in deep discussion with my husband.  I was telling him how I was making it on my own.  That I was pulling myself out of this. But how angry I am sometimes over what happened.  It’s the truth, irreverent as it may be.  But complicated grief is just that~ complicated.  And I know I am not alone on this from all the stories people share with me.  What happened next reminded me of why I write.  Why this all came about with Grief Anonymous. It’s the connection we still have, he and I.  I rounded my last leg of my walk and my son was playing basketball in our driveway with friends and they asked me to back the car out.  I was sad and distraught from my celestial conversation with my husband and I just went into the house and got the keys and came outside and turned on the ignition.  LOUDLY a song began to play and stopped me in my tracks.  Thank you, Jordon.  I know.  And now I remember you are still here to help.  I love you, too.




The Grief Manifesto

It makes no sense how anyone can understand an emotion that they haven’t experienced before.  And they don’t get us.  And we don’t get them as to why they don’t understand us.  Herein lies the disconnect.  Our expectations from each other are very high on both sides.  We expect them to be there for us as time goes on.  We expect them to see us through their eyes as the same people we always were, and it doesn’t work for them.  Because the truth is we are not the same and we are learning our new normal and re-defining who we are.  They see our void but they don’t feel it.  They just don’t know how to move forward and communicate with us with on the emotion of grief.  I think that is the bottom line as to why people wonder away from our lives when we are grieving the loss of a loved one.  None of this is fair and none of this seems right.

But I guess we have to see it for its truth.  There is a disconnection there that needs to reconnect in our relationships.  We need to unlearn what we have learned as a society as to how we understand dying, death, and grieving.  We have to reach across the table to help reconnect to others that do not live in or understand our world.  And we have the team advantage that they do not.  We have the knowledge and wisdom of the emotion of grief.  When we understand this, then we can reach over and be the first to offer the olive branch.  After all, we have sat in their place before, not vice-versa.   We can heal ourselves through the 10 Tenets of Grief Anonymous.  We can become a strong force for change as a group. We can find a loud enough voice to ask our medical communities, our religious and social groups, and our families and friends to understand the disconnect by educating them on what we need so that the doors of communication can open.  Most of the time I believe relationships fall away after grief simply because people don’t know what to say.  And half of what they say pisses us off! So no wonder there is a problem!!!

Western society does a terrible job of accepting grief into the mainstream of life.  It covers its eyes and ears and turns its head away.  But grief is something that is so impactful in life that it effects everyone whether they see it or not.  It is the big elephant in the room but with amazing internet capabilities we now have the ability to really find each other and network and share our true authentic experiences so that we can know we are not alone.  I am not competitive with my work in developing Grief Anonymous.  This emerging social change in the USA is too critical for that and we need all the organizations and programs and support we can get.  I am asking society to consider how important the subject of grief is for all.  All I can do is my part but I think I have a pretty good reading on the pulse of this issue and I am ready for this challenge.  I have a university education and two decades of sales and marketing experience…But to really be able to tackle these issues one must have sat on both sides of the table to truly solve these problems on a small and large scale.  I earned my degree in grief.  And my education I wish on no one.  And all I am doing is using my education to help give back what I have learned so that what was not there for me can be there for someone who might need it. Grief is something at some point we all have to learn unless we are the first to go.  And we can change the disconnect and light the way for others.

In love and light,

Holly C Barker, Founder of Grief Anonymous



The Riptide of Grief

I’m a coastal girl. I love the beach. Especially the North Carolina coast that I consider to be the most beautiful in the world. Because the coast has my heart. I vacationed there my whole life. And I honeymooned there and my son took his first steps there. Many of my most cherished memories come from there. Now the memories being made are vastly different because my husband is no longer with us.

Many of my analogies come from the North Carolina water currents, hurricanes, eyes of the storm, navigating the waters… Jumping in pools yelling, “I Catch Me!”

This is what we have to do when grief finds us and we begin to be pulled out to sea by a riptide. It’s a frightening feeling to lose sensible control of your emotions. To feel the pain of struggle against this unrelenting tide. Most swim and swim because that’s the intuitive thing to do. Fight it!  Deny it!  Push through!  But the answer is counter-intuitive. We must stop the struggle. We must accept this riptide is taking us where we are supposed to go and it will let us out at the other end. But we must let it take us so that we may know and learn and grow. To struggle is futile and exhausting. It moves faster than you can think. I know this feeling.  And when I stopped struggling and allowed it to take me is when my healing began.

I took these top two pictures during my last visit to the beach. I am practicing Tenet 8 of Grief Anonymous: Finding a creative outlet for my grief. Personal photography for my books I’m writing. Yay!  So beautiful. I couldn’t take a bad picture of the scenery even if I tried!!

Coming to terms with life and death

A vivid view into Anticipitory Grief. So much needs to be understood about this aspect of grief. We ride the waves of denial, shock, sadness, loss of dreams for our future, all of it. We learn compartmentalization of our days and weeks and live our futures out with touch points to the next scan or doctor visit. Our world becomes the roller coaster we all fear to ride. It throws us through it loops and jogs our minds. We know it will end and the ride will be over. Grief doesn’t begin when we step off. It begins when we step on. Let’s us give notice and honor this phase of our relationships we will all experience at some point. Let us bring awareness of its existence and tailor our approach to this sadness and disappointment differently. The root cause is not mental illness, but love.

Making Space

The prognosis is bad. The cancer is late stage. The doctor spoke in an optimistic tone in September of 2008, yet we knew what was in store. We had just celebrated our third wedding anniversary Labor Day weekend.

From where I sit at my home desk now, 8 years later, I see him lying on the hospital bed set up for his end of life hospice care. He is snoring lightly, not the way he snored beside me for the better part of 13 years. I needed earplugs. He adjusted to my elbow nudge signal to roll over so I can sleep. Come to find out that nudge really annoyed him. Hurt sometimes too. Earplugs are something I no longer need, and I’m glad to be free of them.

The confounding part is that here we are. Here he is, the pillar of my world, lays dying. Frail where strength…

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Grief Anonymous

I am more than excited to launch this organization.  It has been several years in the making for sure and it will continue to evolve and transform over the days, weeks,and years to come.  I have so much to say about this organization that there just isn’t enough time here in this one post to describe it in its entirety.  So let me just start with a few words about the  beginnings of GA. In the days to follow I will continue to add it all to this blog with a book to follow shortly. GA’s roots began to form after I transferred my writings from Caringbridge from when my husband was first diagnosed into after my husband passed away from cancer as a means to cope and to share in hopes that maybe my journey might help someone to know they are not alone in their grief.  What came to pass was a growing membership of people from around the world and right here in the USA coming to the page to connect and read someone’s shared grief experience.  From this catalyst of losing my husband, the writing has also allowed me to continue to write about the connection we all have to humanity and to a Higher Power.  Through my husband’s diagnosis and into his passing and onward through my recovery that Source of Love and Light has never left my side.  During the summer of his original cancer diagnosis in 2006, I was shown a vision of a bright, loving, beautiful light.  It was shown to me during the lowest and saddest time of my life.  I was shown and was able to feel the love God has for me, and also the pure simple love we all have for one another.  It is from this experience that the circular gold light has been created from the vision  into what is now the GA symbol.  The small circles surrounding this Light are the Tenets of Recovery.  Ten actionable concepts to follow in order to recover from grief.  These Ten Tenets are the premise and bedrock for this organization.  This group is for all to attend, no matter what your religious beliefs are or not.   No matter your ethnic origin or race.  Male or female.  Young and old. Social situation.  Grief is a collective human experience that has been in the shadows for way too long.  Now is the time for cumulative action to be taken to link us all who are on this path.  We can then be there waiting for those who will join us.  Grief Anonymous will be the light where there is darkness and bring hope to those who are bereaved and in need of fellowship, understanding, and support.

The Ten Tenets of Grief Anonymous:

  1. Belief in a higher power or consciousness
  2. Find or create a sanctuary for healing
  3. Focus on the physical fundamentals of sleep, diet, and exercise
  4. Practice baby steps and leaps of faith
  5. Acceptance of your loss
  6. Facing your fears
  7. Learning to forgive and what forgiveness really means
  8. Finding a creative outlet for your grief
  9. Embracing your new authentic self
  10. Giving back is under construction and will be ready soon!

Holly Final final small

Coming Home

Reposting tonight.  Two years ago today was Jordon’s last day.  Tomorrow, May 9th will be the anniversary of his passing.  I struggled to tell this story and now today, I am so glad I did.  It was all the affirmation I need to know that writing our story was meant to happen.

I love you, Jordon.  We miss you.  Thank you for staying connected with us. Your presence and your absence is felt daily.

I have a story to share with you today. I was somewhat doubting myself yesterday. I have a story to tell and yet I didn’t want to because I sometimes read over my writings and worry about the impression I give to people through my honesty. I have to shake off the negative vibrational energy that I feel sometimes coming at me and write out my experiences no matter whether it is accepted by others or not. These are my experiences, I do not write fiction, and today I received a peaceful, positive affirmation that I should continue on.

In the course of editing my book I realized I had not written about something important that needs to be shared. The subject matter is seeing the angels surround Jordon to take him with them before he died. Such a crucial piece should not go missing and it needs to be told, yet I have waited to write it out and now I know why. I was struggling with the words as they were not flowing as they usually do and I went to a small café for lunch to write. The words were choppy and guarded. I finished my lunch and came home to a contractor who was working on my house. He was finishing up the job and came to sit at my kitchen table with me to write up the bill. Our pleasant conversation lead to me mentioning the fact that my husband had recently passed on from cancer. That’s when it all started to make sense.

My contractor friend, who is older than me, began to tell me his story. Out of his heart poured his life of losing his wife to cancer at a young age in 1992 when his children were six and ten years old. He told me of his family situation and his struggles that even continue on to this day for him. We shared our experiences of family and of staying connected to our spouses even after they both passed on. The conversation was truly remarkable. I feel for him and his struggles as I know them well. I wish him peace in his heart and the ability to claim the life he deserves, free of anything holding him down.

Without my prompting him, midpoint in our conversation, he began to tell me about his last hour with his wife and what a beautiful experience she had. She was pale and her hair was flowing and she looked like Moses out of the Bible up on the mount receiving the Ten Commandments. She asked to sit up which he then propped her up. She said “You all won’t believe me if I tell you what I’m seeing.” After several promptings by her husband and family members in the room she finally told them. She said, “He is sooo big, and we are sooo small!” And then she passed away.

This was the very subject I was trying to write about in the café and yet struggled not feeling the acceptance surrounding me. Then to go home to sit down with a stranger and have him share his exact same experience is amazing!! The affirmation is undeniable in my book! The more and more I understand and continue to be open to my messages, the more I don’t believe in coincidence anymore. Things happen for a reason. This time it was for two people who have lived the same path helping each other through sharing and lifting each other up.

So here it is, now a chapter in my book, with the affirmation I needed to remember this is a universal, global experience that has been written about, sung about, painted on walls and canvas for centuries, and yet still talked about in the shadows as if it is fabled and doubted and not of our collective present experience. Most families have a relatable story, so here is mine.

It was 12:30pm on May 8th and Jordon was about to be transported to hospice from his hospital bed in our living room. He was gravely ill and his health was deteriorating rapidly. We didn’t know this would be his last day and he didn’t either. He was worried about the experience of hospice and I knew that. He sat up over the edge of his hospital bed and I fell to my knees to hug him. I will never forget that. I told him I wouldn’t leave him and I would take care of him. He nodded and we hugged each other. We exchanged some of our last “I love you’s.” As I slid back to my seat and just before they brought the stretcher in for him to be carried to the van I saw them. Soft lights, circles, straight lines, zigzags descended into the room. A presence was in the room surrounding Jordon and his hospital bed. It was beautiful and peaceful. At the time and due to the crisis I took note of it wondering if it was my eyes playing tricks on me.

I was in a panic as I was worried about his pain and the van ride to hospice. Over the weeks of taking Jordon back and forth to the cancer center I had learned every pothole in the road on the way there. I knew when to change lanes in the right time to keep Jordon’s pain and nausea down. I knew not to tap the brake. He felt it all and it was excruciating to him. Now he was going to be in the back of a van, strapped to a gurney with wheels with his pain medicines not working.

When the men arrived to get him, Jordon peacefully got up out of his bed and went and laid down on the stretcher. He was loaded into the van and I hopped in from the back doors to sit and be with him and hold his hand. The whole way with the stretcher giggling back and forth and the sharp turns and curves Jordon never had a pained expression or look about him. He was peaceful. I now understand why. Jordon’s body and his earthly presence were with us at hospice, but his soul left at our house with his angels. They came to spare this wonderful man, husband, and father the agony of the van ride and take him home with them.

Thank you. Thank you with utmost gratitude for your mercy and your comfort you gave to Jordon in his last hours.


2015 in review

Holly C Barker

I wanted to send out the Year In Review for my blog to those that follow me. Viewer from 137 countries and approximately 5,500 people a month came to read.  Thank you for continuing to stay with me on this journey and know above all else- LOVE CONQUERS ALL and we must do our best and utmost to LOVE ONE ANOTHER!  I am truly hopeful for 2016 to be the year of at least 2 published books!  Gotta have goals, y’all!

Love and Light to Us All,


Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 54,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Death of a Light Worker

I was shocked.  Utterly shocked.  It was out of the blue for all of us fans.  I had been listening to Prince lately.  I had played several of his memorable songs recently and was contemplating how to incorporate them into a journal because his words and talents, skills and abilities to dive deep into the human condition resonate with me so much~ not just the words of his songs~ but the music itself was a language of its own.

Prince was a Light Worker.  His gift was communication through music.  His goal was for all of us to LOVE one another.  Pay attention.  Bridge gaps.  Question and rise up against that which we know is not true and is unjust.  He changed his name.  It’s hard to download  his songs due to how corrupt the music industry is right now.  He wasn’t just standing up for himself. He was standing up for all people with gifts like his.

I so admire that in him.

He spoke of seeing Angels.  He believed in God.  He lived in gratitude.  Said his prayers.  And never asked for much.  He was a huge philanthropist. And did so anonymously.  His love and his passion came out in the form of music and he shared it with everyone.  He was a crowd swayer.  We vibed to his melody, his voice, and his instruments.  He was a part of  our younger days and remained a favorite for so many of us.

I feel a real loss though.  I think many of us do.   We danced 8th grade slow dances with our first crushes to Purple Rain.  We had posters of him. We went to his concerts and watched him turn a disastrous, rainy Super Bowl into a classic amazing show. How fitting for him to show us in the midst of discomfort and life’s uncertainties~ we can dance and sing our asses off!!  And he helped us understand how it was okay to be unique, fun, and different.

I feel I took his presence in music for granted.  Its an odd feeling.  I never really felt like this about a famous musician.  We didn’t see the sum total of what he was doing; how he was living his life, how he was helping humanity on a large and small scale.  His good actions and deeds, his purpose and life should have been more in the forefront of what gets attention these days.  He was a model human being.  I wish he would have known the magnitude of love we all had for him.  Maybe he would still be with us mesmerizing us with his guitar and his eccentric ways.

Rest in Peace, Prince.  You were a kind, soft-spoken, generous, genius, amazingly talented gift to humanity.  You deserve to be remembered wearing the highest color of divinity.