For this post, I dedicate my song “Beside Me Always” to Sandra Callahan. Click the blue link to play audio:

BESIDE ME ALWAYS Acoustic-2/1/16 Copyright 2015 by Unger

I know that i will still exist

Every day, I take a walk on this path to clear my mind and relish the breeze.

Every day, I take a walk on this path to clear my mind and relish the breeze.

She’s gone . . .

I whispered those words, hoping they would stick and force my disbelief to scatter like leaves in the wind. Throughout my day, I kept wondering where she was; death was such a mystery for me.

I could still remember her wise and loving voice. I reminded myself that she lived far away from me and the time where we actually met was so brief. My loss was minuscule compared to how her family felt. Yet, she had made such an impact on me. And I knew it was that way for many other friends in her life, too.

I prayed that perhaps if I listened carefully she might communicate with me somehow. I closed my eyes and longed to hear her sweet wisdom permeate the silence.

Trees against sky

In 2010, I joined the world of blogging. I had no real expectations of what it meant to be a blogger as I poured out my heartfelt feelings into cyberspace.

It was probably about two years later when I had the urge to explore and read other blogs. The topic that I used for my search was grief.

I found a blog about a mother in South Africa whose only daughter was dying from a horrible disease. Another blog was about a wife in Australia coping as her husband declined from Parkinson’s. And then there was a blog written by a woman named Sandra who was terminally ill; I discovered her because she left such caring comments on the other two blogs. 

Despite these sad topics, getting to know these very real women and reading about their lives touched me. I found a new kind of family and felt close to them.

Sandra had congestive heart failure and had already outlived her doctor’s expectations. Her words always touched and inspired me. She had a way of celebrating life that was contagious.

Unlike my other two blogging friends (Tersia in South Africa and Julie in Australia), Sandra lived in the United States. I was in California and she was in Georgia.

When Sandra mentioned she was coming out to California for a vacation in Yosemite, I grabbed the opportunity to meet my blogger friend. Yosemite was such a beautiful place to visit and only a seven-hour drive from where I lived in Los Angeles.

The Callahans will meet youOur time together in Yosemite was very brief, but special. It gave me a beautiful opportunity to put a face and voice to her sensitive words.

During the trip, Sandra was not well because the altitude affected her heart. We ate a few meals together and I looked forward to playing my guitar for her. But each time we planned to meet, she had to cancel and rest. 

On the last night, she came into an Internet room late at night (where I was) to check for messages. No one else was in the room but us – so I asked her if I could grab my guitar and play for her and Chris.

I was nervous but excited. The crackling fireplace and sparkling Christmas tree made a beautiful stage for me.

I started out by playing a familiar song – I chose an outdoorsy one by John Denver. The acoustics in the room were lovely and my voice felt open and light. When I finished, Sandra said, “Now I want to hear an original song of yours!”

I thought for a moment and then chose my song “Beside Me Always.”

The room was quiet except for light pops in the fireplace. My voice floated and I felt so connected to my lyrics that I almost cried. I strummed the last chord and waited as it rang softly for several seconds.

Then Sandra imparted words that would stay with me forever. Those words are in blue toward the end of this story.

The experience that night gave me a lot of insight about where I wanted to go with my music. I had much more confidence to sing my own lyrics from my heart after that.

This is the room where I played my guitar and sang late at night.

This is the room where I played my guitar and sang late at night.

After our lovely meeting at Yosemite in 2013, Sandra and Chris invited me to visit them in Georgia. Even though I seriously considered it, I was not able to push myself to plan the trip. My youngest son was graduating high school, my dry eyes were bothering me and my impending divorce after a long marriage had me very stressed.

When I was finally ready to make the trip, Sandra felt it would be best for me to come when the weather was cooler in the fall. Then she asked me to wait until after Christmas, in January.

I sent her a private message saying that I was willing to come and simply hold her hand anytime she gave the word – but she didn’t reply. I understood because she had significantly declined  before the holidays.

On her very last blog post two weeks ago, Sandra seemed aware that death was coming closer. Breathing was difficult and she was tethered to an oxygen tank.

I felt a pang in my heart when she wrote: “A friend living in another state whom I wanted so much to come visit was not able to due to my serious health change.”

I realized that was her way of saying goodbye to me.

Judy & SandraI learned so much from Sandra. She found the love of her life after many years of great disappointment. Her husband, Chris adored her.

Everything she wrote on her blog was meaningful. She expressed how grateful she was to know that she would leave this earth surrounded by deep love. I was told that Chris held her as she took her last breath.

Beside Me Always front cover idea 2

Even though in 2010 I knew little of what to expect from blogging, later on I began to look forward to every comment I received from my blogging friends. Because they read my innermost thoughts, they actually knew me in ways my family did not.

I could always count on Sandra to find the essence of my story and impart loving words back to me. Her words always caused me to grin and warmed my soul. From her, I learned how important it was to write caring comments to others – it was a human connection that could truly make a difference.

One of her very last comments to me was this one:

“Judy, I remember the change in your whole being when you stopped playing someone else’s music and started playing your own. I felt it run through my body and touch my heart and soul.

As always your words comfort me. My concern is how those I love are going to handle my leaving. You know Chris and how close we are. Just a couple of hours ago he told me I can’t leave him. I keep hoping he will reach a point of release, but I don’t think that is going to happen until he has to.

You are a remarkable woman and friend. Meeting you was a moment in time that I treasure and I am still hoping to see you again. I cannot think of anything more uplifting than listening to you play, sing and tell your story. To think that you traveled all the way to Yosemite to visit with us is amazing. And then to have you give such a personal and private concert, it was a gift I will never forget.

You are one of the bravest people I know and I am so inspired and proud of you, my friend. I hope you have gained even half of what I have been gifted with your friendship and love.”

Sandra, Chris & Judy


Sandra’s Blog: http://thedrsays.org

Other stories on my blog about Sandra:






I plan to share more of her inspiring words on another story soon.

Sandra & Chris 2

tears are flowing

© 2016 by Judy Unger http://www.myjourneysinsight.com.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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This Is Your Song – For this post I am sharing a line of lyrics from my original song “It’s Not Forever.” Here is a link to hear my song: IT’S NOT FOREVER-1/29/16 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

I have interspersed close-ups of my original artwork throughout this post.

I have interspersed close-ups of my original artwork throughout this post (in color and black and white.)

After my son died, healing seemed unimaginable. This title speaks to me; I know that hope of healing has kept me going during dark times in my life.

I have been corresponding with a bereaved mother named Sammi since her son, AJ died three years ago. (To read our other dialogs, simply type “Sammi” in my blog’s search box.)

Sammi writes about her grief with gut-wrenching honesty. Her words are in blue. The quotations are ones she posted on her private grief site.

Rose B&W The Pain never goes away

I woke at 4:30 a.m. I do that almost every night.

I haven’t slept through the night since AJ died. I lay there, feeling nothing for a moment, staring into the darkness; then it happens. Like a brick wall falling on me, I remember and it hurts. Some days are easier and I just roll over and go back to sleep and some days are like last night when the pain cut so deep that I couldn’t stop the sob escaping or the tears that fell. Those are the nights when I have to get up completely to stop the agony exploding in my chest.

I walked out onto the porch. It was so cold and so quiet. I stood there just gazing out into the neighborhood. It was so calm, so peaceful. I looked up into the clear night sky and saw thousands of stars twinkling above. How is it possible that such peace and such beauty exist around me while such upheaval and ugliness churns inside?

rolling hills B&W

The nights and early mornings are the worst. The being reminded every, single, day, my child is dead. I dread falling asleep because I fear waking and the pain that I know is waiting. Every. Single. Day.

Tree & Fence B&W

Sammi, this is so beautifully written – it describes that horrible anguish that I remember so well. It was like living within a nightmare.

Sleep was peace until having to wake up to face what was unbearable. The statement of how the pain never goes away just wasn’t true for me. Occasionally it knocks on my door, but it has left my room. I pray it will be that way for you someday and that the sun will shine again.

Not all wounds heal

Sammi, beliefs are powerful and every person chooses what they want to believe.

Those words above are true for some individuals – I’ve known people who died carrying heavy grief. But for me, I’ve chosen another path. It wasn’t one that I searched for – it just came to me after many years of suffering. I wouldn’t ever say that “time heals.” But for me, healing came and I am thankful for that.

Trees w. Lichen B&W

I dreamt of AJ last night. I didn’t recognize where I was – it looked like here and yet it wasn’t. He came up to me and he was beautiful, smiling that smile he always had on his face. He looked radiant. He was accompanied by a young woman who had beautiful, flowing brown hair and a bubbly personality with an infectious laugh. As in past dreams, he never spoke or came close. The woman spoke to me. I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember how happy AJ seemed. This woman was always touching him and he never dropped her hand. She kept referring to me as “Mom.”

I remember getting up to leave and looking back and they were gone. I kept walking out into the outside world, I heard others but didn’t see anyone else. I took a step off a porch and had the feeling of floating downward until I finally landed, waking up. He seemed so happy, so content, so at peace.

Garden Path 2 B&W

Sammi, I see something beautiful in your interpretation of this sweet dream. How inspiring that you saw AJ at peace! Perhaps this can help you feel more peaceful?

AJ never had a chance to get married or have children and initially I felt sadness as you described your dream. But as I read further, your description was so uplifting.

To me, this signifies a powerful message of healing sent to you from AJ.

Tree & FenceOn my story of IT’S NOT FOREVER – PART 3, I wrote about how Sammi had emergency surgery and almost died. During that time, she felt that her son was with her. When she awoke from surgery, she felt quite different and her heavy grief had been lifted.

In the month that followed, some of that lightness stayed with her. She wrote the following entry below:

My mind is in such turmoil lately. My thoughts have been all over the place. I go from memory to memory at lightening speed, unable to put thoughts down. Interspersed among the memories is anger; the anger that I will live with for the rest of my life, no matter what I do. It is the anger that comes with unanswered questions. It finds a corner of my mind and digs in.

rolling hills

It has become very comfortable with my stalker grief. They make plans with each other and attack together at the drop of a hat. Sometimes it is when I wake at night just to turn over. My days have been gentler, more often than not, but I have yet to make it through an entire day without pain.

I knew life was filled with transitions; I was prepared to go through many of them.

I just didn’t know that I would be one of the people who would live out the rest of their days in pain every day.

Garden Path 2

Sammi, living without pain is unimaginable when you are in it. But I am certain that one day you will live without this level of pain.

Your stalker and your anger will retreat – you are actually much stronger than you realize. Don’t let them trick you into submission. They will leave when it is time for them to go. You will celebrate your survival just as I did.

Your experience during your surgery was a gift – a glimpse into the future. It was real and it is waiting for you.

Never give up hope.

Trees w. Lichen

© 2016 by Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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A week ago, I participated in another wonderful home recital/seminar held by my new coach, Hannah Anders. I enjoyed participating and received helpful feedback from the other singers who were there. I also loved hearing the different musical styles and beautiful voices of her other students.

The song that I shared on that day was “Set You Free.” The following night, I performed it at Kulak’s Woodshed and had a lot more power in my voice than usual. I attribute that to the confidence I’ve gained working with Hannah. With courage, I’ve shared that performance on the video above.

Below is a link to a recording of my introduction to “Set You Free” at the recital/seminar:  

Introduction to my song “Set You Free” performance 1-24-16


For me songwriting is mystical and magical. I was trying to decide which song to play today. I chose my song “Set You Free.”

 I didn’t write songs for thirty years; I played the guitar when I was 15 and then I stopped when I got married at the age of 21. I was very unhappily married and was taking care of my sick parents. I wanted to write a song, but I didn’t know if I could thirty years later; at the time, I was 52 years old.

First, I wrote a song for my son who died (in 1992) and then I wrote this one “Set You Free.”

My father was really sick and he suffered a lot before he died. I wrote this song a year before he died; I thought he was going to die that weekend.

 But the meaning for this song was that I ended up setting myself free.

After my father died, I asked my husband for a divorce. I had no idea when I wrote the lyrics, “I long for you to hold me” – it wasn’t just about my dad. There was a lot more to it . . .

SYF lyrics 1

Set You Free 2nd verse

1st C SYF A

1st C SYF B

SYF Lyrics 53rd v SYF

4th v SYF

SYF lyrics 8

SYF lyrics 9

To somewhere unknown
5th v SYF B

SYF lyrics 11

2nd C SYF B

Below is a recent acoustic recording of my song:

Set You Free Acoustic 1/23/16 Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger

More links to other stories about this song:

Story behind SET YOU FREE-PART 1

Story behind SET YOU FREE-PART 2

© 2016 by Judy Unger http://www.myjourneysinsight.com.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Last week, I went for a walk at a nearby Japanese Garden with my childhood buddy, Joni. We’ve been friends for so many years. It lifted my spirits and I enjoyed taking a few pictures so I could add them to my blog.

Last week, I went for a walk at a nearby Japanese Garden with my childhood buddy, Joni. It lifted my spirits and I enjoyed taking a few pictures to add to this story.

For two months, I’d been following a Paleo diet that I hoped would ease my dry eye pain. A woman in my dry eye support group had a complete reversal of her dry eye symptoms two months after following this diet.

Changing my ingrained eating habits was monumental for me; I gave up coffee, artificial sweetener, dairy, soy (and all legumes) and most grains. I didn’t necessarily count on it curing my eye condition, but anticipated that I’d have more energy and feel better.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d feel worse. Two months after making this change, my dry eye pain increased. I was struggling to stay positive and determined to stay on my healthy path in spite of this challenge.

I made an appointment to see my dry eye doctor; it had been over a year. She had no new ideas for me. Her only recommendation was that I try for a second time a remedy that hadn’t helped me the first time. I gave Doxycycline another chance with a lower dose and once again I suffered from unpleasant side effects. For over a week, I was off-balance and suffered from muscle pain in my legs and thighs. Needless to say, I was very discouraged.

The worst thing was that whenever my eyes hurt, I had little interest in singing. The place where I normally recorded vocals was unavailable to me for several months already. I was no longer working with the man who had arranged my songs for the last six years. And my assistant had also quit.

Being with my dear friend, Joni – definitely lifted my spirits last week!

Being with my dear friend, Joni – definitely lifted my spirits last week.

There was a sense of finality now with my “former” arranger. For months, I was in limbo and wondered if things could be resolved. It took courage for me to call him, but I felt that the beginning of the New Year was a good time to discuss a way for us to work together again. Unfortunately, we reached an impasse that neither one of us wanted to cross. Clearly, it was over.

Now the music I had worked on with him for almost six years held too many memories and whatever magic was once there, had evaporated. I was angry and found myself unable to listen to any of my former song arrangements that had once given me so much pleasure. And for the first time since my journey began – I felt like I needed to step away from my music.

But then I decided this was a time for me to find my own comfort. My guitar had always been my companion and now it was just the two of us. Perhaps this was exactly where I needed to be right now. I could rediscover musical joy from within. I purchased a new digital recorder and loved the bright and clear sound.

For several months I had been recording myself at home. Those acoustic recordings were terrific practice and a wonderful way for me to improve my performing ability, too.

Click the blue links to hear my most recent acoustic recording:

Hang On Acoustic 1/31/16 Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger


The title for this post of “One Day, Your Pain Will Go Away” is a line of lyrics from my song “Hang On.” That song has been on my mind a lot lately, for many reasons.

I’ve struggled with pain in my life before, and holding onto hope of healing has definitely kept me going. Parts 1 and 2 of this story were written during the time when my mother was dying. Part 3 was actually written when I was suffering the same side effect after taking Doxycycline a year ago!

Other links related to this story:

Story behind HANG ON-PART 1




Garden lake ducks

After recording my song “Hang On” one afternoon last week, I decided to perform it at the Monday night Kulak’s Woodshed Open Mic.

I had a very late slot, and was amazed that I was out at night to sing when it was past 10:30 p.m. I was thankful that my eyes weren’t as painful as they had been earlier in the day. My performance was fair; I stumbled in a few places but was just glad that I was able to put myself out there. Best of all, I had a very kind and receptive audience.

As I was leaving, I gave one of the wonderful Kulak’s volunteers a hug. He touched my arm and said, “I love your song’s ending – it’s so cool how it has an unresolved chord!”

Kulak's 1-12-16 3

As I walked to my car, I couldn’t suppress the memory that began to swell in my mind . . .

I was in the studio with George. I had brought guitar tracks with me for my newest song and wondered which one would work best. My song had a tentative title of: “Love Will Always Stay.”

Unfortunately, one of the tracks was cut and didn’t have the last chord. I said to George, “Oops! We can use a different one.”

But George wanted to use it. He pointed out that leaving off the last chord would be a musically perfect way to convey “hanging on.” I wasn’t sure if I wanted that, but later on I realized it was a brilliant idea on his part.

I had so many memories about working with George. That particular memory was clearly a metaphor. Despite the pang in my heart, I allowed myself to remember it with a smile.

I was beginning to acknowledge the finality so I could move on.

Lilipad 2


It was a dark and gloomy evening, the kind of weather where I’d rather be wearing sweatpants and playing guitar in my bedroom.

But there I was, driving on the freeway with raindrops splashing on my windshield. I was headed to a large coffeehouse where there was a meeting for songwriters. I had marked it on my calendar a few weeks earlier.

The flier had announced: “Music buyer in the industry will listen to your music and might even take something home in consideration for licensing and placement. Bring your best CD.”

A music library in New York had already accepted my music; I had submitted a dozen songs. But my contract wasn’t exclusive and I thought it might be helpful for me to have other options.

I was almost there and decided that maybe a rainy night was a good thing, because the turnout would be small. I arrived and ordered a hot tea; I carried it with me into a back room and found a chair.

The meeting began and the music buyer introduced herself. She talked about her lengthy experience, which was extremely impressive. My ears perked up when she said that she was actively looking for new music because she had recently formed her own library.

After half an hour of explaining how music was purchased for music libraries, she went around the room and asked everyone to introduce themselves and share one song. There were about eight songwriters and I waited for my turn.

She was extremely patient with one of the first songwriters in particular. He didn’t know the key or meter for his song and she repeatedly emphasized to him how important that was.

When she was discussing music negotiation with another songwriter, it sounded just like dealings in my art career. It was always interesting for me how many similarities there were between music and art. When I first started, I experienced some hard lessons in the art business. I used to have several agents, but had handled my art clients without a representative over the last ten years.

I still wasn’t sure which song I wanted to share. I had brought many CD’s and had narrowed down my choice to three, in both vocal and instrumental versions. I raised my hand and asked, “Do you want to hear songs with a vocal or as an instrumental?”

She said, “I want to hear them with a vocal.”

Before I knew it, it was my turn. I introduced myself and briefly explained the vision I had for my music by saying, “My songs appeal to people who are grieving.”

The music buyer said quickly, “Music for funerals or memorial websites is very limited and there’s certainly no money in that area.”

I realized that my introduction wasn’t one that would appeal to any music buyer and I regretted saying it. At that moment, I decided to share “Hang On” because I felt it was inspirational and truly carried the meaning of what I had tried to explain with my awkward introduction.

The familiar notes of my song’s arrangement filled the room. When my voice came on, my heart began pounding; was that really me?

The verses swelled to the chorus, but when the chorus started – the music buyer waved for the music to go off. I held my breath and waited to hear what she had to say.

Her voice was stern and matter-a-fact as she said, “First of all, you shouldn’t sing your songs. But most importantly, your song is dark and gloomy.”

As I listened to her expand on the depressing nature of my lyrics, I wondered if she liked the arrangement or melody.  I responded bravely, “You know, the chorus is actually uplifting.”

She replied, “Well you took far too long to get there.” Then she added, “I couldn’t sell this song to anyone! It’s one thing to talk about being down and discouraged, but you take it way too far. I suggest you rewrite your song.”

As she moved onto the next songwriter, I scratched my head for a few minutes digesting her words and wished I had chosen a more upbeat song.

Then I began thinking about some of my songs that had far more brutally honest lyrics than “Hang On.” George, my former arranger, had also disliked many of my song’s lyrics. And he never hesitated to tell me that either.

After three hours, the meeting ended. She said she would gladly listen anyone’s music and get in touch if anything interested her. On my way out, I handed her some of my CD’s and wondered if I’d ever hear from her.

I wish there was

I decided the entire experience was actually affirming for me.

Even though I was on a lonely stretch of my musical journey, I realized that I was supposed to be exactly where I was. I was simply searching for a way to put my music “out there” and reach a very specific audience of people who would appreciate what I had to say. 

I wasn’t going to tone down my lyrics because someone else found them to be too honest. I planned to continue to express the music from my heart with songs that had helped to heal me.

On my garden outing with Joni, she gave me a very meaningful bracelet as a gift. She has a matching one.

During my recent outing with Joni, she gave me a very sweet gift. She told me that I was the “best.” She has a matching bracelet that says, “friend.”

My new vocal coach, Hannah Anders, has been very gentle and encouraging. I appreciate her so much. At one of our recent lessons I couldn’t sing at all and cried for half an hour.

I like to record my voice lessons and have shared many clips with my former voice teachers on this blog in the past.

I am finding new energy with Hannah. She is helping me find my joy in singing again.

I share a recent lesson clip below:

Lesson with Hannah – 1/21/16

Your eyes show

Lilipad 1

© 2016 by Judy Unger http://www.myjourneysinsight.com.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Front Cover AS display

I share a recent acoustic recording of this song:

ALABASTER SEASHELL ACOUSTIC 11/26/15 Copyright 2015 by Unger 

In 1983, I painted seashells for a series of prints. I was able to use one of my paintings as the “Alabaster Seashell.”

My first album will be this one and is currently being mastered. I’m so excited about sharing my music soon with the world.

I take this opportunity to share more of my seashell paintings, my handwritten lyrics with photos, and a recent video performance of this song.

Below is the original 1980 song sheet for Alabaster Seashell. I called it “Untitled” and it only had 3 verses. In 2010, I finished composing my song!

The Alabaster Seashell-original sheet

Links to other stories about this song:



A link to more about my seashell paintings:


Seashells-Pink Triton Seashells - Brown Shell

Seashells with Spider Conch

AS lyrics 1 image AS lyrics 2 image AS lyrics 3 image AS lyrics 4 image AS lyrics 5 image AS lyrics 6 image

Jason, & mom at beach

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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My Shining Star new cover

Looking for light in the darkness, is a recurring theme in many of my songs. I share one of my ideas for a soon-to-be released album of mine.

In 2010, I began this blog as a way to express my feelings. I had no experience with blogging, and taught myself how to do things as I went along. Last week, I decided to try something new. I signed up for a free course that was offered through WordPress called “Blogging University 101.”

Assignments were given by email everyday. Learning new things turned out to be fun and interacting with other bloggers was stimulating for me.

One of the first assignments was to change the template or “theme” for my blog. I took the plunge and played around with a different look. The theme that I had used for five years was no longer available – so once I made the change there was no going back.

I chose a custom upgrade, which means I can now add video to my blog.

Blogging 101 image

Yesterday, I was given an assignment to comment on five new blogs.

Today, the assignment was to write more in depth about any of those comments. I’m actually going to address two of my comments.

My first comment was written after reading the poem below, which can be found at this link:  http://memorybearsbybonnie.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/when-does-grieving-end/

Love lives on

My comment:

Beautiful words! I lost my young son many years ago. I do believe the intense pain of grief isn’t forever – I am able to live with joy again. This doesn’t mean I love my son any less. For me, I think healing is a sign of love, too.

It represents what I know my son wants for me. Your poem is very thought provoking. And certainly, the last thing someone needs while grieving is judgment from others that it’s time to end!

Rosebud right

The poem I commented on addressed the pressure put upon people grieving to  “get over it.”

I do think that many people are uncomfortable with grief. A good friend or family member truly has good intentions in wishing someone’s grief could be over.

For me, grief was a personal journey and the entire process certainly held no timetable. Support, understanding and compassion were what I needed most from family and friends. To this day, my sister-in-law and brother send me a card every year on the anniversary of Jason’s birth and death. And it has been 23 years.

I am grateful that the pain of grief did not last forever. I didn’t “get over grief” because it was time. I simply had the realization that I could see grief differently and healing was a beautiful way to honor what I had loved and lost. It was music and writing that gave me this insight after many years of sadness.

The feeling that my loved ones want me to heal, rather than suffer, inspired my song “In Every Smile.”

I wrote that song to tell my children that when I die someday, I want them to continue to smile. Of course it was okay for them to cry, but I hoped that laughter and love would lift them up. When I sing “In Every Smile,” I also hear my parents and Jason speaking to me with those same words.

And at the end of this post, I share a video performance of that song. It will be my first video embedded on my blog!

Feel me with love you shareMy second comment was to Dee and here’s a link to her post: http://deeincollingo.com/2016/01/09/huffpost-blogger-me/

Dee had one of her posts about grief published on the Huffington Post. But even with this great honor, she confided how she felt very vulnerable.

I read her published article; it was well written and very helpful for anyone wanting to understand more about grief.

My comment:

There is so much ignorance about grief and your beautiful article was illuminating and well written. I am so sorry for your loss, but very inspired to see what you have gone on to express in your writing. It’s been many years since my son died, and I feel him with me always. Angels are our shining light through life. Amy is proud of you.

Her reply: 

Judy, thank you so much for your comment. It made me cry as I earnestly try to embrace Amy’s continued light. I am so sorry for your loss.

Beside Me Always Cover

“Loss left me in horrific darkness. My love became the light that saved me”

In honor of Dee’s words, I decided to name my post: “Let My Light Surround You.” Those words are lyrics from my song “In Every Smile.”

For many years, I carried deep heartache and an intense physical longing to hold my beautiful child again. I grieved differently for my parents, but still longed to hear their voices and hug them again, too.

Memories were both sustaining and painful. It was almost impossible for me to accept that my child was gone forever. It was easier to accept with my parents, since I watched them suffer so much and they had lived full lives.

Light was a metaphor, which comforted me. Feeling “light” dispelled the heavy darkness. Light represented warmth, direction and most of all love.

Callig beside me always

Other stories related to this theme: 




IN EVERY SMILE ACOUSTIC-1/9/16 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger


Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

One day I’ll be gone but love cannot leave

I’ll be right there beside you, can you believe?

if you’re crying ‘cause you miss me

and feel you’ve lost your way

You know what I’d say . . .

See me in every smile

it’s okay to cry awhile

But smiling can lift you up

Feel me with love you share

in your heart I’m there

I’m not really gone when my love lives on

Remember the warmth, your heart next to mine

I’ll still be hugging you in warm sunshine

When storm clouds overtake you

and everything seems gray

You know what I’d say . . .

You might be scared and think you’re alone

Let my light surround you, the love you’ve known

From the moment I first held you until I had to go,

I hope you know

You’ll see me in every smile

it’s okay to cry awhile

But my love can lift you up

Feel me with love you share; in your heart I’m there

I’m not really gone when my love lives on

When my love lives on

© 2016 by Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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For this story, I want to share some uplifting comments that I’ve made to other people. I think these messages allow me to share so much of what I’ve learned from my personal grief journey.

The images are close-ups of my floral watercolor paintings.

To my friends in grief:

You aren’t okay and can’t expect that anymore. Your mind can’t accept it and that is why you are numb; it is actually a cushion. Grief truly is a journey. I once described it as my “ocean of tears” – I couldn’t fight the current and just floated farther and farther from where the pain began. I can honestly say that there were times when I just wanted to let myself drown.

I remember how I didn’t know what I was reading or watching. The shock of my loss seemed unbelievable. I kept reliving it over and over and had no ability to concentrate. Gradually, it moved to the side. It was still there, but not blocking everything like it did in the beginning.


The courage and energy it takes to survive the loss of someone we loved so deeply deserves to be acknowledged with more love and tenderness to your own heart. You have every reason to be angry with your family for not understanding. I do hope that someday your anger will dissipate. When I was angry and disappointed with other people, it just magnified my grief.

I was wondering how it went today for you. I’m glad he appeared to you when you were eating. It’s very important for you to eat and that’s why he came to calm you. You must stay healthy by eating. Many grieving people develop serious health problems from grief. It might seem like it doesn’t matter, but it can be devastating on top of grief. I really care.

Rose group

I know that you can hardly imagine how you survived two years as you have. Surviving grief is a miracle. Finding joy in life again is next to impossible. But it is not impossible, because I did. Never lose hope. It is possible to see color in the world again.

I healed from grief when I released my honest feelings after years. Your anguish can be expressed – even if you do it only for yourself. Don’t stop telling the truth about the horrific abyss you are constantly living with.

Flowers 4

The lyrics you shared from the Simon and Garfunkel song “I Am a Rock” are a beautiful analogy for grief. I love how you eloquently wrote this line: “We may not be able to become a rock but we most assuredly can become an island.”

How true that is! Here are definitions for an island: isolated, detached and surrounded. What a perfectly metaphor to describe how grief shipwrecks us in a place where there is little human contact and tears cannot even be seen or heard.


I know for certain that wherever my grief has taken me, the people whom I’ve held hands with will never be forgotten. Once I was lying on the ground and I couldn’t walk another step. Then several hands reached out to pull me up. Now I am reaching to people on the ground in the same way.

I have watched you trudge forward over these three years. I cannot describe how touching it is for me to see you helping others. You tenderly reach out your hand even though you are still trembling from your own anguish.

I am certain your son is next to you, embracing you with his light and strength.

Flowers 3

To my friend whose husband has dementia:

You really are in the worst kind of limbo. You are faced with emptiness, but this is not the time where you can fill it. You’re just watching him fade away from you. Trust me, one day you will slowly fill that space, but for now you are coping with impending loss.

The worst part about your situation is that acceptance is unreachable. The progression of the disease and the fact that your needs have been supplanted makes it that way. It is temporary, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.

Anticipatory grief is as painful as the grief over someone’s death. It is real. I cannot know how it will be after he is gone, but I can tell you that for years I grieved terribly for my mother who suffered from dementia. It won’t be easy after he is gone, but you will be surprised in many ways at how much grieving you’ve already done. Sending you a hug.

Flowers 2

To my friend who is terminally ill:

If you lived near me, I’d be bringing food over and serenading you. For now, I like to imagine it.

You are not wimpy, as I see it. You are so courageous and thoughtful. As long as you are able to make decisions, it’s important that you trust in yourself. I certainly think you have a wise handle on what is happening. Pain is a horrible thing. Even temporary relief might be what you need right now. Sending love and light to you, my brave friend whom I have grown to deeply love.

Bird of Paradise closeup

It amazes me how you are struggling physically, while at the same time being completely in joy of making it through another day. What can I say? You are an inspiration to every human on this planet – most certainly, me.

Your description of what you are dealing with sounds tough. I know this is somewhat of a battle. You will leave when you are ready – but because you love life, that is such a hard choice. I pray that this current situation will let up and that your transfusion today gives you a bit of relief.

Flower Pallette cropped 2

I am selfish because I want you around a lot longer. You are so special to me. But please don’t hang on to suffer. Just the thought makes me sad.

Grief is such a lonely and personal journey. I often tell people (and myself) that our loved ones wouldn’t want us to suffer. It would comfort you greatly if you knew you could pass on and leave your family behind without them suffering from grief. What can I say? With great love – the absence is hard to fill. You are leaving a huge hole behind for so many.

Flowers 1

Every time I read what you write, it feels like I’m reading a fabulous book I wish would never end. It is what makes me appreciate you even more. Each page holds delight, and I never want to reach the last one. So I savor each page as it turns.

I think your last lines hit upon something so sweet. How often I’ve heard it said that we are truly alone when we are born and when we die. Your concept of arriving into loving arms and being sent off that way is so comforting and beautiful. Not every person is lucky to have that kind of love.

You are such a loving woman – you deserve to leave this world knowing how many people will miss you and treasure the kindness you so freely shared.

I count myself as one of them.

Flower Pallette cropped

© 2016 by Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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