Author: Lauren

The First Grief & Growth Notebook Class

Here’s the lowdown on the initial in-person Grief & Growth Notebook class I’m offering at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA) on Saturday, October 23, 2021 from 1:00pm – 4:00pm: The G&G Notebook class features a technique that utilizes text, drawings, photos, and other images to help participants incorporate the grief of losing a loved one into their lives. The G&G Notebook is a personal and portable work of art.  I became familiar with the process nearly two decades ago, when I worked as a counselor with adults and children who’d experienced sexual assault. I helped clients create a new narrative about themselves, their relationship with the abuser, and a healthy path forward. I applied the same process, calling it my Grief & Growth Notebook, when I needed to reframe the trauma of losing my teen son to suicide in September 2018. The term reframing refers to perspective: looking at a situation differently so the brain can focus on coping rather than rumination. The idea is to examine hopefulness in conjunction with the heartache. The intention is to provide a nurturing, supportive space for individuals to start creating the initial pages of their own G&G Notebook during this afternoon class. Some supplies will be provided; however, participants will need to bring their own sketchbook-style notebook. While the G&G Notebook class is for those who are dealing with grief and loss, it’s not a group therapy session nor a support group.  The class is offered free of charge and,…

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Succession Extra

When HBO descended upon my small resort community, putting a out a casting call far and wide for millionaire types, upscale business types, and amusement park goer types, I was ready. Sort of. It was spring 2019 in Lake Placid. I’d signed up to attend a school-based mental health summit and then I saw the flyer seeking extras for Succession. The dates overlapped. I’d toyed with responding to the call for days and then assembled my paperwork, headshot, and hit “send.” I was a dutiful audience member at the conference, visited with local colleagues I hadn’t seen in months, made the rounds at the tables with stress balls and suicide prevention literature, and then ducked out to change in the hotel bathroom into the outfit I’d been told to wear for my starring role as a “lodge staffer.” I reported for duty at a parking lot by the ski jumps, got my number, and boarded the school bus with the millionaire types and other lodge staffers. The amusement park goers were slated for another day, another bus. Once on location, I was sent to makeup to fix the eyeliner I’d expertly applied that morning. The artist twirled me around in the chair and transformed me into my role…a little blush, a comb through my hair. She’d worked on Rachel Brosnahan of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel fame. I’d worn my own white button-down and khaki pants, but I had to report to wardrobe for the boiled-wool green vest. We ate. We…

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Essays I Admire: Part Two

I told a story about meeting my husband and establishing roots in the Adirondacks for a local story slam competition. I was high from my second-place win a couple of months earlier and worked hard on the narrative about our history together. A lot of it was about how I didn’t want to live in the mountains and his sincere desire to do so…and then, how we’ve made it work, how much we’ve put into our house and property to make it an idyllic home to share with each other and those we love.  I didn’t even place. The winner, hands-down, was an English teacher from Northwood School in Lake Placid. NC’s story about having her “cancer baby” or a teratoma (look it up!!!) at 23 and talking her way into a job she wasn’t qualified for in Tanzania (she couldn’t speak a word of Swahili) wiped everyone else off the board. NC went on to win the regional story slam competition with another captivating and devastating tale of her life in Africa in December that year. Anyway… When I found this moving essay by Therese Beale, I found someone speaking the same language I’d use about the inner life of my marriage: http://talkingwriting.com/little-something-effort

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Essays I Admire: Part One

I used to write and publish frequently, mostly in regional magazines that were printed on glossy paper or in a newspaper delivered to your doorstep. I stopped around 2016 and then, trying to re-enter the freelance scene required a new set of skills. I was so rusty. Another writer in the family introduced me to Submittable. Yup, seriously rusty. Now I know about Duotrope, too. The lit-mag landscape blew up and I had no idea. It can be both overwhelming and incredibly engaging.  While grief fuels a lot of my creative nonfiction and personal essays now, there are plenty of other themes I’ve played around with over the years. When I poke around for hours online, trying to find homes for my creative work, I come across so many lyrical and deeply gratifying portraits of life and love crafted by others. Here’s a gem from the masterful Michelle Gurule in the magazine Drunk Monkeys: Gummy Bear

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Library Love

Library Love When I worked weekend shifts at school, I promoted a Saturday trip to visit local libraries and called it “LOL: Love Our Libraries.” It’s helpful if staff secure at least six students for their activities and double that if you co-lead a trip. Jeff and I got two kids to sign up, so I led the trip by myself and poor Jeff had to offer something else a little more enticing that weekend.  The reading culture at NCS is quite huge and always has been, but that particular weekend my trip was a flop. The two boarding students who came along just wanted to avoid hiking all day on Adirondack trails. They were most interested in listening to music in the van as we traveled around to each little library. LOL.  

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The Shakespeare Requirement

I started Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Notes on Grief this summer. I read the first two chapters and set it aside. I couldn’t do it. Not yet. Soon. The grief books are piling up. That’s a good thing. The landscape for talking—embracing—the topics of death, grief, loss has certainly shifted in the last thirty years. I am grateful. What I needed was a break from grief and loss, a break from kid lit for lesson planning. I needed comedy. Adult comedy. The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher fit the bill. Payne University! The blue, buck-toothed mascot!  This review by Washington Post critic Ron Charles does the book justice and includes some comments from the author:  Campus Comedy – Shakespeare Requirement The whole thing is hilarious—every single page. Laugh on.

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The Octopus

An octopus has trailed me this summer. Let me explain. 1. Lately, I’ve been inundated with an image of what it’s like to miss something so enormous, like your son’s mental health struggles in the aftermath of suicide. That image just happens to be an octopus cowboy riding an elephant. A purple octopus, no less. A lot of crisis counselors say this to survivors: “You did the best you could with the information you had at the time.”  I despise this line. It was used on me several times. The statement grates on me because it’s both accurate and annoying. Terrible and true. With time and distance, I have the ability to see my younger son’s last two years of life with much more clarity. It feels like I missed the octopus galloping and yee-hawing in the front yard. It was right there.  I have to forgive myself. And the professionals and educators in the tragic circle. Maybe that’s why the octopus took off the chaps, put aside the lasso, and stashed the cowboy hat to emerge in later weeks, in different iterations, for me to see. 2. When school let out, I picked up a box of 100 postcards of animals by 10 different artists at my local thrift store. I have a trusty pen pal (Bren!!) and have made an effort to write regularly to a student involved in a bike crash earlier in the summer. That student loves dogs (mainly the family dog, but still) and there…

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Learning & Lesson Plans

Although there’s still some summer left, I am turning my attention to the classroom. That means lesson planning. I’m in the middle of an online class with the Stern Center for Language and Learning. With that course (When Writing is Hard), the mini-workshops with Julia Torres in the spring, and the curriculum maps I worked on during the school year, things are in pretty decent shape for September. I won’t lie. I’m slowly filling in the template I created with my plans for activities and projects. Slowly is the operative word. I get sidetracked, especially when there’s so much to read. Last year’s class loved The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm. I was so pleased that her follow-up, The Third Mushroom, expands on the grief theme that only got a passing mention in Goldfish. I’m slowly building a lesson plan around this book, as well as WINK. I’m waiting to pick up Michelle Cuevas’s Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jaques Papier and The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson at my local library.       

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Out of the Darkness Walk September 19, 2021

Join me for the Out of Darkness Community Walk  on Sunday, September 19 from 11:30am – 3:00pm in Lake Placid, NY. The event is one of many initiatives by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).  I plan to sell jewelry and other art from the Adirondacks at the walk. All proceeds to benefit AFSP. I’ll also be on hand to share information about my Grief & Growth Notebook class that’s slated for October 23rd at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. That’s a free event for adults. More on that in a future post. Can’t make the event? Donate here: AFSP Donation Page

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Graduate School of Grief

I’ve always been a straight-A student. Ok, well, there was that ONE time I got a 79 on my New York State Chemistry Regents exam. I’d worked hard with my eleventh grade teacher to study for that end-of-the-year torture. He was a wonderful tutor. We were both relieved that I’d passed. Other than that, though, there’s only one other poor mark on my record. I earned a “C” in a class on religious studies in college.  Death, grief, and loss had entered my life prior to the death of my teen son, but not on the same scale. The intensity and exhaustion I felt losing my beloved boy was overpowering. I knew I needed to  study everything I could about how to get back up after that devastating and complex blow. I was drowning. I needed to practice new skills and tools so I could reach the surface and stay afloat. I also knew I had it “easy” or could be considered “lucky”: my trauma was limited to a single event, not a compilation of horrible things up to that dramatic point in my life. I have other protective factors that make my grief process ripe for resilience: a loving partner, freedom from elder and child care responsibilities, a supportive working environment, and I live in a beautiful, peaceful place.  I want to be clear, though, that I wasn’t looking to wipe away or fix my sorrow and sadness. I was searching for ways to file down the jagged edges,…

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