Grief, Ghosts and Other Mysteries of Life and Death

Day of the DeaddLast Thursday I did a workshop on grieving at the El Cerrito Public Library. My film, The Heart of Grieving, was screened and people shared their stories of loss. Very soon we were talking about the mystery that can surround death – things like people timing their death to accommodate the needs of their family, impulses to return to the hospital moments before someone dies, dreams of the deceased that are unusually vivid and even shared by other family members, and post-death communications with loved-ones.

My own story-reservoir of post-death communications includes a man who received a cell phone call from his newly deceased wife. She told him she was just checking in to see how he was doing. Another is about misbehaving stereo equipment that kept turning on by itself the evening following the sudden death of a mom. This electronic anomaly continued until her daughters went down to the morgue to see her body and reassure her that she had died and it was okay. Then there’s the story of the bouquet of favorite flowers delivered to the home of a woman moments after the death of her husband, without a card and, on further investigation, no record of who had placed the order.

These kinds of stories provoke wonderment and can often pull us out of our sadness and into another realm of awareness. Death is a mystery and we have no idea what is really going on. Life is not what it seems, and maybe if we just trust, we’ll be okay.

To be sure, there are different levels of grief ranging from sweet nostalgia to debilitating pain. Some of that pain is real physical pain. If the person who has died is integral to our daily life, the loss can undermine the whole fabric of our existence. As a man in the Thursday workshop put it, “You are driving along on one road and suddenly you’re on a whole different road — rocky, steep and with lots of pot holes and you have no idea where you are going.” It takes time to rewire your brain to this new roadway. In the meantime there’s a lot of foggy thinking and every time you come to a situation that reminds you of your loss, the neural network in your brain hits an abyss and down you go.

Fighting the Dragon - GhostsThe mental spin we put on that pain can make our journey easier or worse.  When we think only of how impossible it will be to exist, how much we’ve lost, how bleak the future, we add to our suffering. This is a normal response. No judgment here. But when we can slip out of that future projection, move in to the present and see our life from a broader more cosmic perspective, we can ease some of our mind thrashing and experience some relief.

I had a painful bout with grief the other day not from loss due to death, but rather from loss of a relationship. It was sudden and with little warning. And the pain of it burned at my throat and ached in my heart. It was awful. I could hardly concentrate. I kept thinking about what I had done wrong and my responsibilities — a workshop that night and a client session. How could I be present and presentable when I was in so much pain?

Then as the universe in its mystery would have it, I received an email from a coach of mine inviting me to open to grief, to embrace the shadow and see what showed up. She knew nothing of my grief. It was an email to all of her tribe. Yet, I saw it and felt it as specifically for me. It was not so much what she wrote; but the synchronicity of it that blew me away. It confirmed for me that I was being looked after. The universe had my back and that whatever happened I would be fine. It was my fear, you see, that was causing much of my distress. Fear that I would make a mess of things. But I had gotten the message. Making a mess, if it happened, would be okay.

My session with my client not only went well, it was the best. If it had been a screenplay you would have said, “Yeah, right. Who writes this stuff?!” Sometimes the universe or whatever has to be heavy-handed or we just don’t get it.The love I felt took my breath away and cracked my heart wide open. The pain stopped and my mind cleared. Of course, after that, the workshop was easy. I was back in the groove.

So how does this relate to ghosts? Well, messages from the other side and all the other magic that may accompany death can be very reassuring. They remind us that life and death are more mysterious than we can possibly imagine, that the world of everyday life is a bit of an illusion, and that there is a love greater and more enduring than the love we thought we had lost. If we are patient, if we stay open and aware, the meaning of the loss and its meaning for our life will be revealed. That is the journey of spirit and the promise of grief.

If you wanted to attend my grief workshop last Thursday but just couldn’t fit it into your schedule, you have another chance. I will be presenting at St. Albans Church, 1501 Washington Ave., El Cerrito on Sunday, February 2nd from 12 noon to 1 pm. This is a short, compact program for the busy spirit. Expect time to expand and give you exactly what you need.

Wishing you mystery and magic,




WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief Transformation Coach Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps people transform their grief with a holistic approach to mind, body and spirit that heals trauma, reframes past attachments and releases limiting beliefs while uncovering a true life purpose and direction. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at

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