Tag: loss

Turning Grief into Art By Madeline Sharples

Turning Grief into Art By Madeline Sharples

Madeline Sharples suffered an unthinkable loss, but her grief was not the end of the story. Not by a long shot.


by Madeline Sharples


I was 59 years old when my son, suffering with bipolar disorder, took his own life. Following an aftermath filled with guilt and grief, I made the decision to come out of that experience alive, whole, and productive. Instead of doing the expected: getting a divorce, having a breakdown or an affair with a beautiful younger man, becoming an alcoholic, or going into years of therapy, I chose to live and take care of myself as a woman, writer, wife, and mother.

The Essential Truth I Discovered

The truth is I was able to survive this tragedy. Even though the effects of my son’s death have never left my heart and thoughts, this tragic event provided some wonderful gifts.

  • Paul left a little black suitcase filled with the music he composed, played, and recorded. Listening to Paul’s music is like having him playing here at home. And even though it still makes me well up, it provides an inspiration for my writing work.
  • I became much stronger by sheer will. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I was obsessively persistent in dealing with my grief and becoming a productive person again.
  • I also became physically stronger. Exercise keeps me sane and healthy physically and mentally. And the payoffs have been terrific. My body is trim, I have an athlete’s heart rate, I have a lot of energy, I don’t have aches and pains, and I don’t have osteoporosis.
  • My marriage survived by a combination of my drive to deal with the pain, suffering, and loss, and my husband, Bob’s willingness to wait until I got better. We realized early on that our grieving processes were different, so we were patient, we gave each other a lot of space, and we respected each other. A big plus is we don’t worry about the small stuff anymore. A loss as great as ours put what’s important into perspective. Most important, we are still very much in love and best friends. I can see that love in Bob’s face. His eyes and whole face soften when he looks at me, exuding love from every pore. This love has been the glue that has kept us together—glue stronger than the trauma of Paul’s death. We’re together in it for the long haul—richer, poorer, sickness, health, and a son’s death. We celebrated forty-six years last May.
  • I created a wonderful relationship with our surviving son and his wife. I now have a terrific bond with Ben. We spend time together. We support each other’s work—I’m even helping him with his scriptwriting. And that he and Marissa chose to have their wedding in our family home meant so much to me. That created a very special bond between us and provided a very happy memory to supplant the bad memories of the past years.
  • Of course none of these gifts can replace what my family and I have lost—our beloved son Paul. However, discovering the gifts that followed such a tragedy has enabled me to move on and still keep Paul’s memory alive in my heart.
griefWhat Led to My Discovery of These Truths 

First, I went back to work. I wrote grant proposals and led capital campaigns for non profits for awhile, and then I went back to the full-time job I had retired from several years earlier—as a technical writer and editor and proposal manager for a large aerospace company. This job provided the routine and socialization I needed—getting up at the same time every morning, dragging myself to the gym first thing, dressing in business attire, putting on make-up and doing my hair, and interacting with groups of people on the job every day. I thought about my work almost twenty-four/seven, leaving me no energy or time to wallow.

However, I still had enough time to hone my creative-writing skills. Instead of taking creative detours into drawing and painting, sewing, quilting, and needlepoint as I had done in the past, I went back to writing, a love I discovered in high school and college.

How These Truths Unfolded

I took writing classes and workshops, I got into the journaling habit, and I began writing poetry to keep my son’s memory alive. I created a memoir about living with my son’s illness and surviving his suicide, called Leaving the Hall Light OnThrough this process I found that writing became my therapy and a way of healing.

In a writing workshop just four months after Paul died I found that poems came spontaneously out of my pen. Since then I’ve honed my skills by participating in workshops and poetry groups, resulting in many of my poems being published.

Both poetry and journaling are still my companions and my saviors—things I can turn to any time, any place. I can put my grief and tears on the page. After a loss such as mine, writing has become a healing balm.

I also moved on to a career I’ve always wanted to have. Paul’s death has given me the gift of a new career and mission in life. I created a book with the goal of helping others who have experienced a loss like mine, I have a new writing career as a web journalist, I’m busy writing a novel, and I discovered my mission for the rest of my life: to work to erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide. If my writing helps attain that mission, it will all be worth it.

Madeline Sharples’ Bio 

During her 30-year professional career, Madeline Sharples worked as a technical writer/editor and proposal manager in the aerospace business and wrote grant proposals in the nonprofit arena. She started to fulfill her dream to work as a creative writer in the last few years. Her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicidewas released in a hardback edition in 2011 and re-released in paperback and eBook editions by Dream of Things in 2012.

She also co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994), co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1, 2, and 3, and wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Her poems appear online and in print magazines, recently in the Story Circle Network True Words series, the 2016 Porter Gulch Review, and the Yellow Chair Review’s 2016 ITWOW (In the Words of Womyn) anthology.

Madeline’s articles appear regularly at the Naturally Savvy website. She also posts at her blog, Choices and is currently writing a novel. In addition, she produced a CD of her son’s music called Paul Sharples at the Piano, as a fundraiser to help erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide. It was released on the fifthteenth anniversary of his death in September 2014. 

Madeline studied journalism in high school, wrote for the high school newspaper, studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin, and received a B.A. degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles.


To purchase CD:
For more information, visit
If you would like to participate in the Voices of Wisdom Series, please contact Dorothy via email.  Guest Post Guidelines. 
The Silence of Morning by D.H.Hickman – A Book Review

The Silence of Morning by D.H.Hickman – A Book Review

The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time UndoneSilence of Morning  is a powerful memoir of one mother’s struggle to come to terms with the sudden death of her son.  Filled with wisdom and insight, Hickman’s  writings can only be described as a  prayer, one that comes straight from the center of her broken heart.

The author dives fearlessly into the void created by her loss and does battle with herself, external reality, and all that is unseen. She knows instinctively, even if not consciously during the process, that she is not only searching for answers and some kind of palatable acceptance of her loss, but for the meaning of life itself.  She is searching for the voice of her soul.

HIckman’s philosophical  writing style does not belie the pain beneath her words, but it does keep  the book from being voyeuristic or maudlin. In every word she honors the memory of her son.  As she recounts the days before and after Matt’s death, she does not do so in tedious detail, but in poetic reflection, and the deep questioning that is her style. She writes with a heart that is strong and courageous, even when it is broken wide open.

Each question the author asks of herself, of the Universe, of Life Itself, the reader needs and wants answered as well. We wrestle along with Hickman as she travels through heartbreak, anger, frustration, sorrow, longing, and the ever-present search for understanding.  She wants a reason to keep on going, to find meaning and purpose in life again.

The Silence of Morning offers a glimpse into the transformative process.

Hickman givesSilence of Morning us a glimpse into the transformative process. Unspoken in the loss of her son, was the loss of life as she knew it. One can never return to a life of innocence before loss. When the unexpected happens, when loss occurs suddenly, no matter what the preamble, we are in some manner traumatized. Something has occurred that our reasoning minds cannot understand. As we grieve we struggle to understand that which cannot be understood, and as such it becomes a spiritual matter. Hickman knew instinctively, before she knew consciously,  that she would have to follow the transformative path if she were to come through her loss and still find meaning and purpose in her life.

The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone ultimately offers readers not only an opportunity to explore their own losses but to do so in the context of transformation. It is hard work. It requires that we ask the hard questions and seek the unexpected answers. Daisy takes her readers on this journey. It is a powerful gift to those who long to articulate the depth of their pain and to find meaning in it. If you have experienced a dark night of the soul, if you have experienced loss or trauma, and even if you haven’t, The Silence of Morning offers you an opportunity to wrestle with the hard questions that we all must ask if we are to live a life worth living.


Connect with the author:

Silence of Morning
Daisy Hickman, author of The Silence of Morning, A Memoir of Time Undone At home in The Sunny Room Studio

Facebook: The Sunny Room Studio Page

Website: The Sunny Room Studio

Twitter: @MySunnyStudio


LEAVING THE HALL LIGHTS ON, by Madeline Sharples

THE DANGEROUS OLD WOMAN, Audio Serioes by Dr. Clarissa PInkola Estés


A Father’s Day Gift for the UnFathered

A Father’s Day Gift for the UnFathered

Father's DayFather’s Day is a day, created by a culture whose moral, ethical and spiritual foundation is a times questionable, and yet we are sucked in by it. How many of us are feeling guilt today because we don’t feel a generosity of spirit towards our fathers? Or, sad because our fathers were taken from us too soon? Or, a hole in our hearts because we did not have a father? Not everyone has a Hallmark Father’s Day. I would guess most do not, and yet, we feel somehow that there is something wrong with us when we experience negative feelings on this contrived holiday.

My father died fifteen years ago, but our relationship never got off the ground. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t experience discomfort from the lack of love in my early life. This emptiness, however, has been a gift to me. It has driven me deeper and deeper over the years into an exploration of the inner life; to a richer understanding of psychological and spiritual growth. I have more compassion for those in pain than I might otherwise have had, and a powerful desire to walk with those who suffer through their pain and toward the light.

Our discomfort in life is our signal to take a deeper look inside of ourselves. When we feel the nudge of anxiety, fear, sorrow, or depression, it is our cue that something needs attention. Although we are not meant to dwell in our discomfort, I do believe it is a useful tool for opening our wounds to the light of truth, and in doing so heal the past so that we might live more fully in the present. Our journey in life is to learn from our pain and discomfort and to set it free, in order to create space in our hearts for something better.

I have no real reason to feel sorry for myself because my father was emotionally absent. I know that now. If you feel uncomfortable with Father’s Day, and the memory or thoughts around your relationship with your father, be compassionate with yourself. Use your discomfort as an opportunity to go deeper, to grow in your understanding and acceptance of what was, and most importantly to find the real you, the ember of truth and wholeness that lives within you still. Each of us carries an ember within us of love and truth. It may be buried beneath years of hurt and despair, many of us have built walls a mile thick around it in an effort to protect ourselves from the pain, but it is still there. It will always be there. It is just waiting for us to remove the debris that covers it and blow on it gently until it erupts into a flame.

Replace your pain today with a prayer of gratitude because even in the midst of pain and sorrow there is eternal hope. It is our birthright.

Mothers Letting Go

Mothers Letting Go

Mother's Day

“The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.”  Erich Fromm

Many of us are in the phase of “letting go” of our role as mothers. The hardest part is often where allowing our children to be independent and make their own decisions conflicts with our need to protect, guide and love; when our children cut the strings and pull away. We feel the loss acutely, and yet, that is our job. We must set them free to make their own mistakes just as we have made our own.

We must never forget, however, that they will always need the love and acceptance of a mother’s love. When we set the example of unconditional love they will grow a mother within themselves that carries them far beyond the length of our years and our presence in their lives. Holding them loosely in our hearts through the years of growing independence gives them a safe haven in a storm when they need it while allowing them to grow into the adults we long for them to become.

When our children no longer needs us, we must grieve and let them go. Still, we must never forget that our role as mother never ends. We need never stop sharing our mother love. We only need turn our attention elsewhere. Children needing love spill out of every crack and crevice throughout the world. If we look carefully, we will see the unloved child in the cashier at the grocery store, the grumpy mailman that always messes up our mail, the young woman whose husband abuses her, the little boy acting up in church, and in face after face of those we encounter briefly or every day. The wounded children of the world need the love of a mother to grow strong and whole. If your heart is full of mother’s love and your children no longer seem to need it, let it spill over on the world around you.

Download your copy of my book, Finding Hope today, as my gift to you. (Offer expires at midnight tonight. 5-10-15.  I think you’ll find a little extra strength, guidance and hope between the pages that may just take you through the hard moments of “letting go” to a new place of acceptance and outward of expression of mother’s love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I Honor You Robin Williams

I Honor You Robin Williams

What Dreams May Come


ComCreativity yearns and churns,

Stretches and aches, bogged down

by the relentless nagging, driven

by the ardent and fierce tingles

of sinuous standings.


Almost unbidden, in a moment

of neglect, it erupts and breaks free

bursting forth in weightlessness,

Sucking in the  lifeblood of release

to dance wildly across a kaleidoscopic

field of endless imaginings.

Robin Williams


Until, abruptly, without warning,

the vat of endless energy lies empty,

spent, gone, leaving only a repugnant

void where boundless possibility

once lived.


A vacuum remains. A deafening

silence. Nothingness. The pot is

stirred. Nothing. Then Despair and

the churning begins. The questions.

The doubts. The push of the whys,

the hows, the wherefores, the if onlys,

bathed in the foaming, frothing, noxious

weight of self-incrimination, the debris field

of stunning incompletion.


Actor Robin Williams in a scene fr. the motion picture "Good Morning Vietnam."Creativity. It yearns and bends and burns.

Endlessly. Until…it doesn’t and then

the weight of it kills.

RIP Robin Williams


I cannot yet rejoice for the gifts left behind by the creative genius of Robin Williams. There were so many, but in this moment they pale in comparison to my deep, almost familial awareness of, and sorrow for, the pain he must have suffered. I know that kind of pain, some version of it at least, though I could never claim to know what must have driven him in the end to give up. I do know that you take it until you can’t anymore.

DoubtfireGiftedness is a blessing and a curse. Who hasn’t recognized the underbelly of a leaning, a talent, the dark side of our greatest joy. I suspect the more gifted one is, the darker the shadow. One cannot always walk in the light. One cannot always handle and direct such power with grace and wisdom. Sometimes it is bigger than the one who is holding it.

Depression. It kills. It maims and destroys. It’s not an upper middle class flu to be satisfied by a prescription of antidepressants. It is dark and virulent. It is insatiable in its desire to lay its victim beneath a blanket of darkness, leaving behind no windows, no reason, no answers.

Intelligence cannot hold sway over depression. Altered perspective cannot turn its head. Intentional action will never be a guaranteed win. It is not within the power of the victim to slay this demon, as it is often too big, too overpowering, too debilitating to manage. Alone.

Alone. The worst part of carrying this beast. It renders one entirely without connection, without resources, without guidance. No matter how enormous the gift, the intelligence, the creativity, the joy and desire to live. Sometimes it wins. Sometimes only death brings release and relief. Blissful silence. Perfect peace. An answer at last.

Today I cry for my loss, our loss.  I cry for the toll this still too often unmanageable disease has wrought on some of the most gifted among us.  It seems an uneven exchange for what they have given to us.

Coping with Loss

Coping with Loss


Losing someone we love is likely the most painful and difficult experience we face. Of course there are no easy answers but there are a few things that we can do to support the person who is grieving, even if it is us!

Grief, like most things in life is a process. Swiss Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in the study of grief and laid the groundwork for how we view it today in her book “On Death and Dying”. Kubler-Ross made note of five very clear stages that one goes through when coming to terms with the death of a loved one or their own impending death. These stages are: 1) denial 2) anger 3) bargaining 4) depression 5) acceptance. No two people go through the process at exactly the same speed or order and many times we move back and forth between the stages before we arrive at acceptance.

These stages underline the reality that grieving takes time and that it is a process of coming to terms with our loss. It’s a very painful period of time and not an easy course to navigate but with time and patience and the right support we can find ourselves coming to a place of acceptance. It’s not the we will not feel the pain, but that it will be more bearable and we will be able to go on and live out our lives.

How we grieve will depend on many things, how we have coped with stress in the past, the support system we have in place and the circumstances surrounding our loved one’s death. A sudden loss may be more difficult to come to terms with than a prolonged illness where we have likely already grieved little by little for a long time.  If we have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, these same patterns may arise again. It is important to seek outside support and support groups are readily available.


EXERCISE: When at all possible going for a long walk every day with a friend can hep you both physically and mentally. Exercise has been shown to raise the good chemicals in your body and help dissipate the bad.  Walking with a friend also provides a good opportunity for conversation.

SPEND TIME OUTSIDE: Fresh air and sunshine is also beneficial to our mood and sense of well-being.

KEEP A ROUTINE: One of the hardest things about coping with the loss of a loved one is that it shakes our sense of security. Keeping a routine will provide an foundation for the healing process.

JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP: A support group is very helpful, particularly if you don’t have family and friends near by. A good place to look for a support group is through your local Hospice organization.

CRY: Crying is healthy, particularly when we are suffering a loss. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, let the tears flow.

MAKE AN EFFORT TO SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS: Respect your need or desire to be alone, but do spend some time each week outside of the home with friends.

©Dorothy Sander 2013





GRIEFNET.ORG – An internet community of persons dealing with grief, death, and major loss.