From Grief to Growth: A Choose Your Own Ending Adventure

Gathering Music: Come Into This Place by William Schulz and Betsy Pusey

  Come into this place of peace, and let its silence heal your spirit.

  Come into this place of memory, and let its history heal your soul.

  Come into this place of peace, and let its vision change your heart.


Wishing for Safety in Disasters

Living on the Gulf Coast of Texas,I began to wonder where one could find safety. It reminded me of when we dealt with Hurricane Alicia to Ike in south Texas with no electricity for days on end and food and water ran low to the point  of hunger. We finally made peace with planning what we could and then sheltering in place. (By the way, I truly experienced all of these choices):

Disasters Here, Disasters There, Oh Disasters Everywhere!

Where can I go to escape hurricanes likeIke?

Drive way out west or up the turnpike?

If I head to the west will there be an earthquake?

Will my car and my family become afraid and then shake?

Or should I go up toward Kansas, or just head north?

And let a tornado whip us back and forth?

Where ere I go there are no safe places.

So let’s just stay home with hope on our faces.


Welcoming Words 

A Child’s View — Tadpoles, Hospitals, and Teddy Bears

The Terrible Tadpole Tail

As an elementary school teacher, I tried to make learning fun and interesting. I obtained a frog habitat and found a local source for tadpoles. The students were cited to check on it each day as they arrived.

One Saturday I worked in my class to catch up on some paperwork, and gleefully noticed one had made the transition into a frog. I knew the kiddoes would be thrilled.

When Monday came, I eagerly went to my class after morning duty with a sense of anticipation. But as I walked in, I immediately checked on our new frog—only to find it missing!

Right about then my aide opened the door and informed me she had found a frog in our room and put it outside. She sounded so pleased with her action. It seems the frog had somehow pushed its way out by raising the lid a bit, and the teaching assistant didn’t realize it was our tadpole who magically had escaped.

Needless to say, the class and I were devastated. So I had to come up with a Plan B in a hurry!

We wrote and drew about The Frog That Left in an effort to put a positive spin on the day’s mishap. The children brainstormed about how it pushed the lid, then wrote about its adventures on the table, and how it liked the playground for its new home. Some even drew a map of a possible path the ex-tadpole probably took on its way outside. One made a funny face of how it felt when it made its wild escape from the tadpole pond. One even said the tadpoles tail was lost as he escaped the lid and the others rushed to look for it.

I saw no reason to tall them the frog had some help making it to the school yard. Their imagination created much more interesting adventures.

From this I learned to look for the blessing when life seems to betray you.

A Child’s View of Sickness and Death in a Hospital

Then another day life reminded me that a little child shall lead us.

We were visiting my best friend Ann in the hospital. Things didn’t look good. It showed in all our eyes.

Then we heard the elevator ding and a cherubic voice flowing down the hallway. A good friend and her face year old daughter had come to visit our patient.

After a short visit with Ann, her mom sat on the bed to chat, leaving the child a bit at loose ends. She and I took a walk back and forth in the hospital hallway. At one point some orderlies wheeled a gurney into the hall, leaving it there while they attended to other tasks.

As is usual in a hospital, we passed the time with small talk. I knew the strange smells and excessive quiet might be overpowering to her, and tried to carry on with normal chitchat. Then she seemed to wake up to the moment, noticing an empty bed in the room they had just left.

She said, “I hope no one  died in that empty bed. I hope it’s just ready to help someone new.” I assured her it was, while musing myself about what might have ju8st happened before we arrived.

But even a young child knows people sometimes do die, and I knew she had already experienced losses in her short life.

Fortunately we both had several weeks of processing time before hospice was indicated. By then, she was involved elsewhere i her life, and the time put a bit of distance between her and Ann’s passing.

This sweet gal helped me see the reality coming even before I was ready to face it, reminding me that children are often attuned to feelings and realities even sooner than adults. We can learn from our children to pay attention to the moment instead of the wall we all build to help us avoid impending realities.

I will always cherish the chance to see my friend’s coming transition through the eyes of this lovely child.

The Teddy Bears are all on Fire!

2 bus loads of students where I taught had only what they brought to school that day. I was used to seeing them daily to smile, hug, etc. They were my friends.

Friday afternoon we teachers heard the news during school—sketchy at first, then confirmed to be worse than we could ever imagine—the apartments where these students lived were caught up in a raging fire. At that time there were more than ten fire departments involved. We continued the last period of the day in shock.

Toward the end of the day, the principal rounded up some of the older students and took them to the library. Then bus time came and we teachers who were on bus duty were instructed to take each and every student from those two buses to the library too.

Parents who could be reached were being called, and the adults tried to keep some degree of calmness as the students watched a video instead of being loaded onto buses. They weren’t sure what to think, but some suspected a bus breakdown.

Too bad it wasn’t just that. There was no way of knowing which students at that very time were losing their home and all of their possessions.

Then it hit me like thunder: these little kids’ teddy bears were in flames — bringing the depth of the loss home to me. How do you tell a child their teddy bear, and other toys just burned up?

Somehow that day finally ended, but not the needs. I sent an email to a number of friends asking for help. I had a particular concern for the children who not only had no home, but no toys. Many in the community rallied to the cause and brought needed items. I helped deliver my friend Ann’s twin beds to one apartment, a TV to another along with many toys.

I can never forget the day the teddy bears were on fire.


Reading: The White Trees—a poem by Bob Smith

Sunshine Interlude: Sunshine on my Shoulder played by Stephanie Nixdorf

(May we use these moments to reflect, with deep gratitude, on nature and its healing which has been given us.)


In the 80s, before computers were everywhere, there was an interactive series of books called Choose Your Own Ending Adventure.You could read the same book many times, making different choices at select junctures in their adventure. Readers would discover that their decisions affected the outcome. Once a grief has hit, we can each choose our own ending even though we may not want the adventure. We will now explore grief, faith and high hopes.

A Date with Grief: Sad Stories with Not so Sad Endings      

We all must have our date with grief—at times it seems beyond belief.

You cannot put off or run from grief.

Be with the pain, and seek relief.

 My Grief Tearbook reflects a variety of poetry and stories. I found the process was a surprising metamorphosis from pain to growth. 

If you haven’t had it yet, you’re gonna get it. It’s kinda like the measles, only you can get this more than once.  Mourning and its trail of tears can be evoked by a variety of life losses including divorce, death, handicap, illness, disaster, or even life’s transitions and passages like reaching a certain birthday. It could even involve loss of a pet, a job, a physical ability, or even bring able to drive, etc.  

Recently the TV told me I needed to make my skin bounce back like it used to. Hmm, I can’t seem to remember or appreciate my former bounciness. However, a couple of diagnoses did give me an unwelcome opportunity to renew my subscription to reality recently. A number of you provided the hugs, help and comfort to help me move on. 

The path through pain is necessary but it does not have to be a permanent outcome. It is only a temporary but crucial   station on our journey.

There is even a Kleenex portion of my Grief Tearbook, when sadness can overtake us but hang on, better times are a coming! 

Sometimes it helps to learn about others’ experiences with grief. Than you can plug your own situations into a recovery plan. I share these poems to let you know it is OK to have feelings. So fasten your seat belts and take a journey through the grotto of the soul, a panorama from pain to peace.

Feeling Wrenched

We all have dreams, expectations; perhaps it tempts us toward exaggerations. 

When hurt, and looking for placation, I wonder where in the grotto is my mental vacation.

I wrote this Tearbook for those moments after the darkness yet before the stars come out, perchance to help in getting past the scars to see the stars. Maybe my talking thusly to myself can be like a scream of pain in a grotto—the echo returning to me from the cave may feel like I was heard.

Then after such respite I can continue on my sometimes foggy path toward an unknown dream quest, with self-nurturing skills increased, and my hurt somewhat released.

I even dedicated this Tearbook:

For the dark and weary moments of my soul, when the hard and mixed up feelings seem to roll.

I will write in the Hobbit’s lonely grotto, and healing—with real fears dealing—is this cave’s motto.

Tears don’t help, nor will they stop.

Ya know, someone said Sorrow is the rust of the soul, but activity can eventually cleanse and brighten it.

     TODAY, we will be traveling from grief to growth in the hope that you can use some of this as a road map the next time you find yourself in the grotto of grief.

We’ve all heard poems and songs of broken hearts which present two extremes: the desolation of depression, and that sparkle that sprouts from the psychiatry of friendship as new horizons as they enter our lives.

  Before we wander into the Grotto of Grief it may help to note that it can come from many causes. Cause doesn’t matter—the process seems similar in all paths of grief. Recognizing the commonality of all such experiences is important.

So, even if some of these poems may not be about your particular events, grief isn’t about only one kind of pain. It’s about a process, and the hereafter (after grief that is).

When my children were young my father-in-law’s health was failing. I had majored in psychology so I purposely planned to prepare my two sons and comfort my husband. This search for a nurturing approach was the start of my personal experiences with grief.

A few years later Hurricane Alicia gave me a refresher course. I had just moved into  a building for a private school I was starting. We saw many thousands of dollars worth of damage the first week there. At home, four cars were smashed, trees attacked every room, and both yards became a house-high monument to debris. People said it looked like a war zone! Especially when fires were lit to burn debris in the big holes in the ground where huge trees used to live. 

One of the main reasons to talk about grief is to help oneself or others when it comes to call. I know because the hurricane prepared me for the horrendous impact of a mid-life divorce. In that situation I read voraciously and learned about stages. Whatever way you feel is just right, as some days will be better, or worse, than others. 

There is no schedule or timetable for these “stages.”  My only guide for myself is to hold onto hope with full intention of healing, not just festering forever. The poems are poetic photographs of particular points in the process as my soul passed through grief’s journey.

Shock-Denial may include a last ditch attempt to stay busy, display false smiles, stare, or even choose martyrdom. We are recognizing there is a problem and sadness, yet trying to avoid and maybe even bargain with it.

Hope Dream

I chase a dream    to make it seem    that someone still loves me.

But he ere must go,    seems it must be so.    What I get doesn’t flatter me.

I shed a tear.    I wish for beer, but none of it will help.

From   my   dream   I   must   wean,   rough   realities   do   seem   mean.

Oh, to be a puppy with hope for a yelp.

Anger-Depression is the time to be with the sadness and pain, be honest, perhaps making it the worst phase, or Kleenex time! Realizing it will never be the same, yet not being able to answer the all-encompassing WHY. The danger is getting stuck here with bitterness and destructiveness to oneself or others. Be with that  pain, suffer deeply as you brush yourself off and look for a way out.


Why?     Why live or die?      Why try?

I know I need positive but I can’t find anything festive in this time of year  .  . 

Not even can recreation be restive to qualm my fear.

That I might ought to take charge of my future (no matter what that means?)

And not let myself be hurt anymore. 


How am I to know?     How is the pain to go?

Down we all slowly go (or have we been there all along?)

On and on goes the dirge, and the silent sad song.

This depression usually gets better, and the next stage of acceptance will eventually show up around the corner. 

Holding On

(the in-between stage, where one knows it is real, yet still reverberates between gnawing on the rope of moving on while at times hanging on for dear life to a past already gone and just out   of   reach.)

I’m clinging to a hope.      Acting like a dope.  

Gnawing on the rope.   .   .       Yet yearning still to cope.

Understanding-Acceptance is the gradual willingness to search for healing and the will to forgive yourself and others,     and life itself.

Giving UpThis stage lets one recognize the gravity of the sadness, yet consider that holding on to the grief forever serves no purpose. With this comes the realization that, to move on, we must first let go—just like when one swings out on a rope over water. To enter the clear water  one must let go of the rope. This is the hint of moving on with one’s life. This is when I tell myself it’s time to stay mostly in the cognitive, taking time to think things through .

Giving Up is not all bad. One thing’s for sure; it’s so very sad.

Stay Sad? Among my friends that’s not the fad. Someday my aim is to again be glad.

     Things can never be like they were. Cause ‘were’ is gone and it’s just a mere blur.  .  .  


Am I on the tracks of a solution, or just stirring up some mental pollution?

Perhaps writing and the study of philosophy would help when I’m hit with my reality?

Philosophy, religiousity, uncertainty—good materials for a faith of reality.

For real is all there is     and dreams fly away

To disappoint some else’s future day.

Yet in the sacred sanctums of my heart, with my own dreams I’ll never wholly part.

For they’re where I’m going, and where I’ve been, and my only chance for peace within.

Alas, and yet     amen.

In grief the process is the product. Moving through the stages is the key.   Yet remember there is no obligatory schedule as one moves, sometimes back and forth, along the stages. However, when people become stuck in a stage for too long, like anger or bitterness, it can color their future days or even years.

When Barbara Walters once interviewed Priscella Presley, some listeners were surprised to hear her say she still loved Elvis, but in a different way, and with clear-eyed empathy for him.

Love doesn’t always end. It can change. When life changes, good memories can still be good. They just have to be accepted for what they are—gone.

This year I had to deal with the passing of my sister, then a few months later, my brother. My only sister and my only brother.

Joe Biden recently said, “There will come a day when the thought of the one who passed will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye.”

Lately we’ve all grown weary of politics, yet I did hear two helpful quotes: Obama speaks of “the audacity of hope” and North Carolina’s motto is “While I breathe, I hope.” Life does have one thing in common with politics—not always winning. Sometimes we must compromise with life, still moving on… following the breadcrumbs of hope.

The challenges of this year made me realize that my life is a series of seasons. Although I do not pick what happens to me, I can choose my own endings to each of life’s adventures I am handed.

Bless us all in all of our seasons. Go in peace.

Sing-Along Hymn:

SONG Sheet:

 The Church In the Wildwood—UUFBR

to the tune of Little Brown Church in the Vale by William S. Pitts

Verse 1

There’s a church in the middle of the wildwood

No lovelier spot in the dale.

It stands as a beacon to our freedom

Our little brown church in the vale.


Oh come, come, come, come

Come to the church in the wildwood

Oh, come to UUFBR

A haven for liberal religion,

One that puts its faith squarely in you.

Verse 2

Oh, come to the church in the wildwood.

Where the trees and the wildflowers bloom.

Where the freedom to think is cherished,

And for reason there’s plenty of room.

Repeat Chorus

Verse 3

How sweet on a clear Sunday morning

To be where our friends gather ’round.

Everyone is welcome at our doorstep.

Here we celebrate the faith that we’ve found.

Repeat Chorus

Words adapted by Hildra Tague and Ray McLain



Faith of Our Uncertainty

Come, Faith of our Uncertainty. When life deals with us impertinently.

We’ll never know what may hail tomorrow.

So calm yourself, don’t more trouble borrow.

Think of the future. Live in the now.

Learn from the past. Go on somehow.

So we don’t know what may come—Write the script, and beat the drum!

Real faith comes from forging ahead, by faith of one’s uncertainty led.


Postlude:  High Hopes in ukulele, song, and then rousing piano.


Copyright by Hildra Tague 2016.  Obtain permission for use online or in print.


Order of Service for UUFBR August 21, 2016

Gathering Music

Come Into This Place       Fritz Auchencampp and the UU Ukuleles

Centering Moment

Chalice Lighting

Safety in Disasters and Dedication

Welcome                      Board Member

Reading: A Child’s View: Tadpoles, hospitals and Teddy Bears

Milestones                    Board Member

Reading:  The White Trees by Bob Smith

Sunshine Interlude:   Sunshine on my Shoulder piano by Stephanie Nixdorf

Affirmation: fill it in

Sermon:  A Time to Grow: A Seek Your Own Adventure

Sharing of Responsibility  Hymn    Church in the Wildwood  from song sheet

Circle of Care               Board Member

Announcements           Board Member

Hymn    This Little Light of Mine   p. 118

Closing Words:  Faith of Our Uncertainty

Postlude:  High Hopes – Feel free to sing along, greet others and even dance in the aisles as you leave.


About grantutor

Career educator in both public and private schools. Has tutored all ages. Writes about education, parenting, & seniors. Sings harmony with folk/rock group and a choir. Caregiver for spouse who dealt with Stage IV cancer. Happy person committed to nature and conservation of a green world.
This entry was posted in Poetry and Inspiration: Including Personal Growth and Self Awareness, Presentations, Sermons, and Other Public Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

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