How Focusing on the Present Transforms Loss (Audio)

Soon after my life-partner’s death, I had an experience of new awareness that transformed my life. In this audio teleseminar, I share what I learned and the daily practices that support my inner peace and wellbeing.

Photo credit: © Jennifer Mathews 2015

This recording is the final seminar of the series “Taking Care of the Caregiver,” hosted by Batiyah at Reflect, Relate, Renew. The purpose is to support you in connecting to more inner peace and joy within yourself, despite challenging external circumstances and loss.

From the recording:

“I’m often asking myself on a daily basis: Where is my energy focused? Is it on loss or connection? Is it on absence or presence? It truly is for me about the awareness first, and then the choice next. And breaking that cycle of absence.”

“Loss only exists hand in hand with disconnection or absence . . . We know the loss is real, the loss itself isn’t changing. But the experience of the loss is what we can shift.”

“How can we live in the physical world, with physical challenges and physical losses, AND still experience presence, connection and alignment to the bigger part of ourselves? And to the peace and love and joy that exists when we tap into this essence of life?”

As you listen, I invite you to discover how these perspectives and simple tools can benefit your personal journey.

I would love to hear from you! Please share your insights and input. Thanks!

Self-Care Practices for Life Beyond Loss (Audio Interview)

When Alysha St. Germain asked to interview me about self-care and loss, I paused before I said yes. Self-care? Do I even practice self-care? Am I a good candidate for this topic? My answers surprised me.


After reflecting, I realized that I actually practice self-care every single day. For me the foundation of self-care comes down to one thing: Choice. What am I choosing in any moment? How am I feeling based on this choice? Do I want to choose something else or not? How does this affect my experience of loss? My experience of life?

What I Learned by Moving 3,000 Miles Away from my Mom’s Ashes

My step-father kept his mother’s ashes in the brown mailer box they came in for almost a decade. His mother Margaret expressed wanting her ashes taken to Hawaii, and instead the box lived behind his button-down shirts, in the back of the closet. My mom didn’t want that to be her.

Photo credit: Jennifer Mathews, 2007

Before her surgery, when we didn’t have a clue she had pancreatic cancer, my mom said she wanted to tell me her wishes in case she died. She hadn’t expressed this to anyone else. I asked if she could wait and tell me in 25 years? She gave me a long hug.

She said she’d like to be cremated and for her remains to be “scattered with the birds in Vermont.”

My mom loved birds. She watched them every day in her backyard and took photographs of them often. And although she lived in Western New York, Vermont had been my home at the time, the place I lived and loved for fifteen years. I was her only child. So her request made sense to me.

But I immediately knew what she meant on a deeper level. She was asking for her ashes to be set free among the trees and sky. Don’t leave me in a box. Promise me my body will fly free.

Translation: Promise me my spirit will fly free.

She died 16 weeks later.

Why I Don’t Talk about Missing my Beloved

Only months after my life-partner Kate died, a friend called me in need of support. As I listened, she matter-of-factly said that I wouldn’t understand how much she missed her ex-boyfriend. “What do you mean?” I asked her. “Well,” she said, “you don’t miss Kate.”

Photo credit: Michelle Asch (Jen & Kate at South Fork River, 2011)

What?! My beloved recently died and she thought I didn’t miss her?

What are you talking about? I thought. I think about her all the time. Of course I wish I could look into her eyes, hold her hand, hear her laugh. Doesn’t that mean I miss her?

“Of course I miss her,” I said out loud.

At first, I was caught off guard by my friend’s comment. After our conversation, I reflected on what she had said. I wondered what gave her this skewed impression of my experience.

And then I realized – to my friend’s credit – she was absolutely right. I didn’t miss Kate. At least not according to the common connotation of what it means to “miss” someone we love . . .

Choosing A New Response to Loss When A Community Elder Dies

The other day, I was paging through my college’s alumni magazine when I came across the belated news: Sister Miriam Ward had died in January 2014 at age 88. “What?” I thought. “Wow. I can’t believe it.” I had somehow expected her to live forever.

Photo credit:

Sister Miriam had been one of the elders in the Vermont community who inspired me with her fierce dedication to social justice and peace issues. As a leading voice on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, this Sister of Mercy touched thousands of people as an activist and professor over the course of her long life.

I hadn’t seen her in 10 years, maybe longer. And now she was gone.

My heart sank.

I felt that sensation I can only describe as “dropping” inside my chest, as if my emotions stepped onto an elevator from the top floor and pressed L for the lower level underground parking garage.

And as I felt my heart sink deeper, I felt my curiosity rise up . . .