The Duality of Grief

I am coming across some thoughts and visions about this experience with losing Jordon and the onset of my grief…my love…ongoing for him. The pain still hurts a lot.

In the beginning I was just trying to survive.  I had my eye on the prize which was surviving the first year without the father of my eleven year old son.  I got there.  I felt a “finish line completion” emotion come over me, but then I went home from the race I was so glad that I had won that I didn’t take notice to the aloneness of our home. It was still the same. The silence was deafening.  Jackson, as an eleven year old boy, who had had only 6 weeks to digest this was going to happen to us was sitting with me looking up into our big Victorian style house that I had just finished fully renovating, and said, ” This house feels too big now”.  I know he was experiencing the feeling of the Great Void.  I felt it too in those first few months of the epicenter of Grief.  Wow.  It is a feeling that cannot be fully described in words and to which no person on this planet that if you have never had this experience happen to you, then there is no way for you to understand it.  It has to be experienced to fully understand what grief feels like.  My point is, grief is a life-altering, completely enveloping, full emotion that comes to stay in our lives forever.  We have to make room for it.  It effects every other emotion we have.  Every relationship we have.  Everything.  It is a new era of our lives when we have this ushered in to our lives whether we want it or not.  Whether we believe it or not.

Grief is love.  Therein lies the duality, yet the dichotomy of Grief.  This powerful emotion of grief can also create a cataclysmic broadening of our awareness, our spirit, our Higher Power, and our knowledge and wisdom to our lives here on earth now.  The here and now is happening.  We are still living and breathing and responding and trying and scratching and clawing our way through this experience.  Many of us have very spiritual experiences of our Loved Ones passing away.  I always try to remember to Look Up.  Use Tenet 1 and Tenet 2 as your Highest Level go-tos for strength and wisdom and perseverance through the real hard days.  Acknowledge the surreal love with the pain, signs from above if you see or feel them, and enjoy the connectedness you can have to what you need to survive, heal, and thrive?   The ultimate choice would always be to be able to have this wisdom intact that we all experience through grief and just go back and have our loved one back with us.  Gratitude would abound. But we all know the truth and our lives are moving forward without them…..Like Alcoholics Anonymous is for the Alcoholic, a Spiritual Solution, so we are for Grief.  Higher Power, Finding a Sanctuary, Learning to Forgive.  It is working for me and for many others too.  I need it daily.

The Key to opening your heart to Grief that will never leave your doorstep, is to accept Grief in and give Wisdom and Knowledge a comfortable chair to sit on.  The pain and the heartache and the grief waves will be there too, but they don’t get to steal your joy, gratitude, and hope, and love. Every emotion has a place at the table of your heart with Grief. Grief is just the visitor that has come to stay. We just have to make room for it and allow the good emotions to have their say too. img_5816



Face Your Grief: Letter to Grieving Kids from my 14 Year Old Son Who Lost His Dad Two Years Ago

Grief doesn’t go away for us.  And it sure doesn’t go away for our children when they lose an important loved one in their life.  We feel a compounded grief when our children grieve.  The pain of watching them as they struggle to make their own way through grief is very difficult on us. We do our best most of the time.  Other times we do our worst when we ourselves are consumed with a big wave of grief.  Everyone has a full plate in the epicenter of grief, and children are no different.  Some stop talking.  Some act out.  Others pack it all away and do not face their loss and pain.

There just is no rule book here to go by.  All of our situations are different and to pull them all together under one plan of action just doesn’t work. One size doesn’t not fit all when it comes to grieving children.  Just like the education of a child take a village, so does helping a child through grief.  Grief Anonymous wants to be part of giving back to children.  And who better to relate to grieving children, than grieving children themselves.  Here they can come online, read stories, post comments with their parents if they want to, and not risk having to tell their story to other children who do not understand what they are going through and even become frightened over hearing their experience.  When my husband died, several children who were friends with my son had to go to counseling just from being a witness to our experience. They were terrified that they would lose their parent too. It was a big reality check for many people in our community.  The feelings that they have at school can be isolating and confusing and cause emotional turbulence in their young lives being around other children who have never felt grief and loss before.  Connecting children through the writing of stories and experiences here can maybe allow them to know they are not alone.  And they will not have to risk their friends who don’t understand finding out about it.  Teenagers are sensitive about self-image and to wear their grief out on their sleeves is very difficult when you are just trying to fit in.  We as adults remember this awkward stage we ourselves went through.  Imagine going through all of that, along with grief.  I think I have a remote idea now as I write this at how important it is that they know they are not alone.

My son woke up this morning having another hard day with lack of sleep and was struggling going to school. I gave him his laptop and said- write it out.  He wrote this and asked me to share it with you:

I realized another very important thing about dealing with grief today.  It has been the most difficult thing to process in my mind.  It’s like this advice has been said to me multiple times and I couldn’t understand it.  Whenever I feel upset about something, my mom would say, “you’re grieving your dad.”  As a kid, that’s honestly the hardest advice to take. Ever since my dad died, new good things and good opportunities came into my life, I would always have a bad side to it.  Now I know, something that has been said to me since my dad died is really true.  I never focused on the main problem and that caused me even more pain and sadness when really I could’ve had less had I dealt with my grief.”

Thanks for reading,



This was Jackson two years ago at his father’s company location for a memorial tree dedication, four months after his father passed away .  He got up in front of all his dad’s co-workers and told them how much they meant to is father, how he enjoyed hearing the stories from work,  and for that he was grateful.  I am so proud of this young man.  I see his father’s Light through him every day.




The Jordon Barker Foundation, Inc.

My husband, Jordon passed away at 2:00 am in the morning at hospice just 13 hours after he was admitted.  We did not know it was his last night with us.  We did know he was in severe pain and we were doing all we could to keep him comfortable.  My husband was 41 years old when he passed away.  Cancer stopped him abruptly in the middle of his life. He was an amazing father. His friends and connections were scattered all over the world and he was finally back in his hometown surrounded by his childhood friends, family, and loved ones. I don’t think there was a soul on the earth that he knew that didn’t like or love him. Between the time he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer till his passing was only six weeks long.  We had no idea death would take him so soon.  We thought he would live through the summer and that we still had some time as a family, but that was not to be.

We, the ones left behind, often have to whitewash our real experience of losing our loved one.  When we are asked, we skip on many of the hard details when we discuss the nature of our experience of losing them.  We do this for many reasons. To tell the real story of what transpired takes away a sense of privacy and a dignified death to talk about the unpleasant details. We sanitize the conversation to protect the one who asks so we don’t ruin their day and hear our own voices as we describe what we bared witness to. What we experience behind closed doors stays there. Or so we think.

What happens to many of us through the experience of loss is emotional trauma. The after-effects of trauma emit an energy in the human mind in the form of anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, OCD, and depression.  These are the symptoms of grief, not grief itself.

I remember being in my husband’s hospice room and having some emotional turbulence around me and out of nowhere the feeling of lack of air, light-headedness, and weakness came up without warning.  I felt my blood rushing to my face.  I was not able to talk. I heard a ringing in my ears and felt a welling up of nausea begin.  I was sitting next to my husband’s bed and I literally fell out of my chair and on to my knees unable to breathe. This is what a panic attack feels like.  I made my way to the other side of the room and crawled up on another chair and kept my head near my knees and tried to breathe.  I did the only thing I could do. Pray.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done On Earth as it is in Heaven, Give Us This Day our Daily Bread, And Forgive Us our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Have Trespassed Against Us, Lead Us Not into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil, For Thine is The Kingdom, The Power And the Glory, Forever and Ever,  Amen.

I said it in my mind and softly on my lips over and over again until I could finally stand and breathe. My spiritual mantra brought me out of my reality and slowed the energy that had overcome me.

Over time the trauma symptoms from my experience of losing my husband are still with me, but they no longer have the piercing, cutting edge to them that they once did. Other people are not so lucky.

For many of you out there, the symptoms have not slowed and they have disabled you. They have come to rule your world without your permission. Grief is alive in society within our homeless populations.   Drug addiction and alcoholism are often the result of not being able to cope with the trauma over loss.  I know thousands of people are living this life because I see it every day on my Grief Anonymous Facebook page and my closed online grief group.  Many people who have experienced loss have found themselves incapacitated from grief and trauma.  They cannot hold a job.  They have no back-up and they lose everything they have, including their own minds.

This is the part of grief in our society that cannot be whitewashed and sanitized.  Their story must be told and the shame and stigma must be removed.

I remember joining an online grief group on Facebook after my husband died.  I remember a woman in Florida on one particular post who had just purchased a train ticket to travel several states away to her aunt’s home for safety, shelter, and hopefully a hot meal.  She only had $5 in her pocket. She had just lost everything as a result of her husband dying.

I will never forget the moment I read that.

I have founded the Jordon Barker Foundation, Inc.  Through the foundation, we will seek to find local charities throughout the USA who can earmark funds for those who are suffering extreme hardship due to grief and loss.  I want to clarify something important. We ourselves are not a charity.  We are a foundation that will give to charities.  We will be looking for legally-registered, financially transparent charities who are local in their communities and who are established to help people who are in crisis from the loss of a loved one.  I want to do something so that people like the woman in Florida have something more than $5 in their pocket and a train ticket to their name.

Forever forward,

Holly C. Barker

CEO, Founder of the Jordon Barker Foundation, Inc.




My Son’s Advice to Other Grieving Kids about Losing His Dad Two Years Ago at the Age of 11. In His Own Words:


I woke up today not feeling up to anything. I had a bad dream and I’m stressing over my grades because they are terrible. I was walking to my bus stop and my feelings kept crawling deeper inside my head. I texted my mom and said “today is not going to be a good day,” so she let me come home.

On my understanding of how to deal with my feelings when it comes to grief there’s no way that I can make myself happy in a second. I think of it like a table with lots of food on it. You can not eat all of it at once. You have to be the smart one and sort this out. I would start off with the stuff that catches my eye first. Then I would slowly take it day by day eating the food. That’s my vision on how to deal with problems with grief over losing my dad. If I choose to eat all the food (deal with all my problems) in one day, I would feel terrible. If I choose to do it that way, none of my problems would get solved. If you don’t take it slowly and deal with all your problems, they will turn into bigger problems. In many situations this is true. No matter what the situation, you have to be your number one priority and you have to sacrifice stuff that does not have to be in your life.

A good way I like to get through my week is to not to look forward only to my Friday night, but to take every day and try to find something to enjoy about it. Take your free time and use it as fun and wisely as possible.

After my Dad died, my mom and I moved back home to be closer to family. All through 7th grade I could not stop missing Toronto, which was the city I grew up in. I spent most of my free time missing home. That is an example of problems that don’t need to be in your life. Now I realized I missed a whole school year on helping myself get better. Free time is the most important thing in going through grief. If you don’t know how to use it right, you’re getting nowhere. If you use it right I PROMISE you will improve.

Thanks for listening to my story,




Solo Parenting a Grieving Child

There is nothing I want to see less than my son suffering from losing his father to cancer.  Jordon’s cancer was diagnosed March 28, 2014 and six short weeks later he passed away on May 9th, 2014.  This was my son’s experience with loss and there is no way to fathom how that feels unless you go through it.  Children at this age don’t write too much if they are athletic and boyish and enjoying the outdoors.  But what I want to tell you is I am watching this remarkable young man of mine, now who’s 14, grow to be a man.  And I want to write out a little of his experience as to help others and so I don’t forget.

One of the most painful days I’ve experienced so far in my life was watching my son wake himself up crying.  That’s real grief there.  And it ripped my heart out.  It is seared into the memory of my mind as one of the lowest days of my life.  What I will say is that morning drives me to help him heal and for me to do my utmost for his highest good.  And one of the things I do to help him is to get out of his way and let him use his own intuition and inner knowing so he can make his way to what he needs to heal.  And just like being a grieving adult, children are all individual and different.  And they are human too. And I feel as parents we might be too quick to get them doing things they might not be ready for.  Our nature is to jump in and save our children from pain.  It’s our job to protect them and keep them safe.  But we shouldn’t protect them from their grief.  It denies them the existence of what they are authentically feeling.  They need to trust themselves enough to decide and naturally gravitate to what they need to heal.  My son dove straight into his friends.  They were his lifeline in those early days and any deviation caused extreme emotional swings for him.  As long as he was physically moving and wanting his friends around he was stable.  It wasn’t until much later on that he had any interest in anything or anyone else.  It was hard and created damage in other areas of our life, but it allowed him to move through his grief as authentically as possible and allow him to gravitate towards what he needed most to heal.  We all make our way.  We have to.  Any deviation from our authentic healing is to supplicate to another’s need and we can’t help and heal others unless we focus on our own healing first.  And thats what I gave to my son~ the latitude and wide parameters to heal himself.


They Do Watch Over Us

Our loved ones who pass on are still with us and are able to help.  During the six weeks between my husband’s diagnosis till his death, I maybe slept an hour or two at a time.  Jordon’s pain could not be kept up with and I was constantly having to change his medicine protocol so sleep really wasn’t much of an option.  Oh yes.  This is how end of days go for many of us who have loved ones pass away.  There are doctor visits and home nurses that come to see us, but its the caregivers that have full responsibility. These are the things we don’t talk about much but we need to so that others can understand why we are the way we are now just a little better.  I lost my sense of time completely during those six weeks.  It had absolutely no meaning to me and its been real tough trying to get that back even after two and a half years.  All I was focused on was the next hour of our lives- forced compartmentalization of the day for my mind.  So sleep didn’t matter anymore.  And yes, many caregivers of terminally ill people go through more than you can ever imagine.  Because unlike doctors and ministers who work with the dying, we are working with our loved ones who are dying.  Caregiving takes on a whole new meaning for those of us who go through something like this with someone we love.

For the last 2 weeks of Jordon’s life I didn’t know when I went to sleep as to whether or not he would still be alive next to me in the morning.  That experience changed me for the rest of my life.  And there are no words to describe it. BUT….Here’s my point. The days following Jordon’s passing I had an amazing peace come over me as I went to bed each night.  Somehow I would fall into a dream like sleep and not even wake up with dreams or nightmares.  Nothing. Just peace.  And to have that happen can only be explained by the comfort they can bring us afterwards.  Looking back it makes complete sense.  And to be honest, I knew it then too. Jordon was always worried about my inability to sleep.  And this was his way of caring for me.

Tonight my son had a terrible hand injury during a football game.  A heavy 200 pound offensive lineman crushed his cleat onto the top of my son’s hand leaving every coach and doctor that saw him in the ER without a doubt that he had multiple breaks. BUT… They came back into the room and told him what a tough cookie he was with big strong bones.  The X-ray showed no broken bones.  And soon after we left the hospital the swelling went waaaaay down and he felt peaceful with very little pain.

Look, I believe.  There is not room left in my mind that tells me otherwise that my husband and my son’s father is with us, watching over and protecting.  I need to remember that more often.  Thank you, Jordon.  You amazed me in your life and you continue to amaze me now.  Jackson and I love you.





Anticipatory Grief: Debra’s Story

This is a story Debra shared with me about her own experience with Anticipatory Grief.   Thank you Deb for sharing your caregiver journey with us.  We need to bring this real experience into the forefront so that we may all know what many of us really experience and that we are not alone.  We are misdiagnosed.  Not informed. And support for this type of grief is often nonexistent. Please share this with others whom you know are caregivers of very sick or terminally ill people so that they know of Grief Anonymous.  We stand with them and are here for them.  ~Holly Barker, Founder of Grief Anonymous

My husband has been ill for the last 14 years. The past 9 months or so he has been either in the hospital, Transitional care or a nursing home more than he has been home. His prognosis is grim but he is a fighter. Unless you are or have experienced it I don’t think anyone can quite understand or appreciate the work & stress involved. For the past two weeks he has been in a hospital that is an hour from our home. Two weeks before that he was in a hospital that is about an hour and a half away from home. I am not old enough to retire so I try to juggle work, home and his needs. There is something so wrong with our society that there aren’t better alternatives than nursing homes. I can’t afford to just stay home on FMLA without money coming in. I also need to keep our health insurance. My spouse also is not of retirement age but due to end stage renal disease he is able to receive disability & medicare (which we do pay for) as a secondary insurance. He has lost his eye sight & has many physical problems. He needs full-time care and I think his needs are best served being cared for at home. Some of his problems have been caused by poor care in a rehab facility & he was only there for 2 1/2 weeks. What do people do? I am at a loss. I have contacted different state agencies but so far they just say they are sorry there really isn’t anything they can offer. I suppose if you could afford to pay someone to come into your home that would be one solution but that’s not an option for us. When I saw one of the articles about anticipatory grief – I had never heard of such a thing in my life but I now have a “name” for exactly how I feel.


When I Was Poor as a Church Mouse


I just want to have a little kidding time here and throw some advice back towards all the ones who feel its necessary to give those who grieve some advice with having never experienced grief before.  99% of the advice thrown our way comes from either good intent  or fear.  People try, and we really do have to at least give them some credit.  After all, we WERE them at one time.

Anyway, I want to throw some experienced advice backacha.  And not out of bitterness, but only from good intent.  I would have loved to have known then how amazing those days were when we were poor as church mice.  My husband and I started off small but mighty.  We both had real potential in the corporate world.  But early on, we decided family was what was most important.  So I quit my job in the pharmaceutical industry and stayed home to be with my young son.  We cut back and bought a little townhouse outside the city.  I shopped at Goodwill for our clothes.  We drove one car, so I took my husband back and forth to work every day so we wouldn’t have an extra car payment.  And our family trips were to see relatives and family.  These were the very best moments of our lives, me and Jordon.  We were very much in love and planning and parenting and enjoying everything that young marriage has to offer.  It was awesome.

And so was being a mother for the first time.  Oh my goodness, it was a dream.  I never thought of having children before I met my husband because I was entirely career driven.  But this man and this baby stopped me in my tracks and I finally found my calling.  My family.  I stayed with being a stay at home mom for 2 years and then finally needed to go back to work and my son needed to see someone else’s face besides mine, so I went back.

From there our careers flourished and so did my son having all the attention and love poured out to him.  We kept climbing and we finally found ourselves at the top of our games on many, many levels.  I had built a career in pharma sales and was calling on world-renown thought leaders in medicine at prestigious teaching hospitals.  (Psychiatric medicines I might add..)  And my husband was running the Canadian operations for his company from where he had started as a CAD designer at the age of 22.  So this was us.  Happy.  Healthy.  And loving our lives.

In July of 2006, Jordon called me while I was at a business meeting in Chicago to tell me he had cancer.  And thats when our reality stopped.  And another one started. For another 8 years.  Treatments and pain, worry and depression. Anticipatory Grief. And then the phone call in 2014, you have metastatic cancer, and he passed away 6 weeks later at the age of 41.

SO….my advice to all y’all who have never jumped over this fence before is to savor those moments.  It’s not about the car.  It is about who’s along for the ride. So take opportunities to make moments and experiences memorable.

Life is about learning and growing. No one is promised a perfect ride. Everyone experiences grief unless you are the first to go. . You can have it all and lose it all.  You can also lose everything and gain much too!! It is about experiences, really good ones and bad ones.

And now we are starting Grief Anonymous.  Two years later. And so much more is to come.  Just know you are not alone.  No one is going to hold back the truth here and we will be here for you when this happens to you. Oh yea….  and we even talk about the signs we receive from above. 🙂 Notice and believe.


Enough is a powerful word.  A powerfully positive way of existence. A powerful mindset to have. It signifies what we truly need to move forward from moment to moment, from hour to hour and from day to day and into the months and years ahead.  Enough edges out lack and it’s also too full for excess. Excess runs over and looses its appreciative tangible value to us.  Enough signifies balance, stability, and peace.  Enough is the place in my mind, my heart, and my environment that I seek to live out the rest of my days.  I feel truly blessed within the light of enough.

Many people live in excess following the death of a loved one.  The void can be too much to bare and the windfalls of inheritance and insurance enables some to ease their grief through material comforts and a constant need of more sets in to soothe one’s soul.  They are emotionally seeking what they lost through the comfort of a purchase.  This is how some fall out of balance with enough.  Seeking more leaves one feeling lack.  The feeling of lack that grief brings to us ushers in unease into our minds and our actions.  If you find yourself wanting more and more~ stop and ask yourself why? Are you trying to fill a grief void within yourself that just needs and craves love, connection, and emotional stability?  Do you feel empty?  Why?  Grief causes a great void in our lives, an emptiness from the physical separation of our loved one. Many people fill this void with those things that do not serve our higher good.  We take in estate monies for example and go on shopping sprees to feel better.  We buy cars and goods to fill our hearts with some semblance of momentary happiness.  Something to take away the tears for awhile. The same goes with food, alcohol, drugs, and casual sex.  Grief causes many of us to fill this emotional and physical void with these tangibles.  And for many- the more the better.  And the more and more leads to addictions, financial ruin, health issues, and even suicide.

Others find themselves in severe lack of resources due to the death of a loved one and their void is made all the more complicated due to a hightened level of lack. These people also are the ones that are in need from us, The Collective.  We will seek to find those who have their last $5 in their pockets and are homeless from grief and loss.  We will seek out those who are in danger and those who are at their emotional ends, those who have had their rights violated and trampled on.  We will support those charities and organizations who seek to directly help those persons who are in crisis due to grief and loss.

Grief Anonymous is free to join.  Free to organize.   There will never be any obligation to purchase anything through our organization.  However, once the Grief Anonymous website is up and running we will support this endeavor with books, mementos, jewelry, items for our sanctuaries, and comfort items such prayer blankets for sale that are supported by independent business owners who’ve experienced grief and have turned their careers into successful businesses and are giving back to their communities.  10% of all sales will go to support The Jordon Barker Foundation to give back directly to those who are in their most desperate times of need. Tenet #10 is Give Back and our collective contributions will go to aiding those who need it most. Directly.IMG_5537.JPG

Complicated Grief: Rhonda O’Neill, RN

Look for Grief Anonymous to be highlighting authors and other people who are using their creative talents to give back to the community of those who are grieving.  Rhonda’s own experience with complicated grief coupled with the fact that she’s worked closely with the dying and sick makes her the perfect person in my opinion that I would want to hear about on this subject.  Thank you for allowing me to showcase your hard earned work and effort to help others by giving back with your story!!  Today her book goes on sale with Kindal!  Check her book out!

Introducing, Rhonda O’Neill:

I am a Registered Nurse, who worked in the specialty of Pediatric Intensive Care for over a decade. I witnessed death on a regular basis, but did not understand the impact of death until a decade ago when I experienced the tragic deaths of my husband and son within two years of each other.

I was diagnosed with complicated grief in 2013, five years after my son died, although I had the signs of complicated grief long before I was diagnosed.

Complicated grief is a harmful form of grief in which the griever does not process the loss of their loved one in a healthy way, and they are not able to adapt to life without their loved one. The griever remains stuck in the acute stages of grief indefinitely. Unhealthy emotions and thought patterns take hold of the griever, preventing the healing process, and affecting the griever’s ability to function in everyday life.

One out of ten grievers will experience complicated grief. There are factors that are known to increase the risk for complicated grief  – multiple losses, the loss of a spouse or child,  a traumatic death, complications surrounding the way the griever found out about the death- are just a few of the circumstances that can put the mourner at high risk for complicated grief.

I have closely followed the work of Dr. Katherine Shear at the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University. She has pioneered work on complicated grief and has developed a 16 session treatment for cg which is twice as effective for cg as traditional grief therapy. I use my medical background to help to translate the information on complicated grief for the nonmedical griever.

Complicated grief has tremendous emotional and health implications for the griever and that is why I hope to help educate the grieving population about the risks. The griever struggling with cg is at higher risk for suicide, numerous mental and physical illnesses and early death.

I was not aware of the therapy for cg when I was struggling myself. My healing came through a search for questions on the meaning of life, death and where God was amidst all of this pain.

Through my search for answers, I eventually learned how to transform my pain through emotional and spiritual growth. I discovered that the questions I had about death ultimately lead me to deeper questions about the greater meaning of life.

I have researched the philosophy, science, metaphysics and theology of death, life, God and the universe for a decade. Each piece of truth that I uncovered helped me develop a spiritual path that allowed me to transform my grief, eventually arriving on the other side, and although I would always grieve the loss of my loved ones, I was ready to begin trying to live life again. I knew through my spiritual experiences that my loved ones were safe and happy in another spiritual realm.

My hope is that my experiences and search for answers will help to spark the flame that will light the way for someone else’s journey on the path of grief. Ultimately, we each have to find our own answers and our own path to the other side of grief. But, through joined understanding and support, I believe we can help to illuminate each other’s path.



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