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My Story - The Dark Ugly™
One would think from the outside that I had a charmed childhood – I had educated and cultured parents, I went to a private school, I lived in a lovely suburb of Detroit in the 1970s and 80s. But 95% of it was a sham – I grew up in a house of shame, violence, fear and pain. My parents were, shall we say, poorly equipped to raise a child, and my needs went either unnoticed, unregarded or were dismissed as “stupid.”
It all encapsulates the period of my life that I refer to as The Dark Ugly™. So I actually had loss before I knew what I was losing, for how can you lose something you have never had? I never had safety, innocence or joy the way one thinks a child should, and those demons followed me into adulthood. Having not been taught much of anything socially, I floundered for years – it’s actually a small miracle that nothing more serious happened to me (besides rape, cancer, etc.) – what did happen was bad enough. When I left for college, a few things got better, but my parents’ marriage got worse and when they divorced, I stopped talking to my mother. Her calls and letters went unanswered.
Then one late night in 1995, my phone rang. It was my uncle in New York, with whom I had never been close. Not knowing what to say, he blurted it out – “I don’t quite know how to tell you this, but your mother has passed away….” After we hung up, I dropped to my knees and let out a sound from my soul that only wounded animals make, a sound I hear in my head to this day. The floor fell away, I couldn’t feel my arms or legs and I couldn’t stop shaking for many hours. It wasn’t just the loss – I had let our relationship languish for two years, and now it was too late to fix anything. I could never get that back.
I slept no more that night – and the passage of time suddenly became leaden. What happened? Who do I ask? How do I DO this? Mom’s body was in another state and had to be flown. The will left everything to me (I’m an only child), including all the decisions, about which I had less than a clue. I did the best I could.
I was able to hold myself together for the next few weeks by mere threads – I had never felt so outside of myself. But it was impossible. I took a leave from work, I went into therapy, and promptly had a nervous breakdown. There were periods when I could not sleep because of terrifying nightmares – then I would collapse from exhaustion and sleep all day. When that didn’t work, I stared at the TV for 17 hours at a stretch. I drank a huge amount of cheap brandy. I was going to therapy twice a week – and it wasn’t helping. I had rages, hysterical crying spells and blackouts. Nobody knew what to do with me. Many folks were patient – but they also didn’t know what to say or how to help me. Most people had not lost a parent at 26. I did slowly poke back out into the world – I switched jobs, worked on managing my mother’s affairs as best I could – but my life had definitively shifted.
In the midst of the chaos, I asked a friend of mine who had just lost her mom, how long before I feel “Normal” again? I felt like all this was happening to someone else, on a distant planet. I would cling to any shred of hope she could offer. But then she said, “Well, give it a year….” A Year??!!? Oh, my god, that seemed like an eternity – I’ll never make it through this….. After three months, I did begin to emerge, but underneath, the pain remained.
A few months later, I almost lost my Dad, too, but he survived quadruple bypass very well – and the day after his surgery, I had a lightning bolt of realization hit me – Life is SHORT – what am I doing with my Life??? I knew I wanted to try my hand at my passion of acting, and the place to do that was New York. Four months later, I was there - smartest thing I ever did. I went through several career changes, got a ton of therapy, and grew myself up. I made great friends, breathed deeply from New York culture in the arts and festivals and food, and in 2008, met my future husband. The loss of my mother changed the trajectory of my life permanently, and I do not know who I would be if it hadn’t happened. It’s just that Mom and I were not meant to share it.
It took many years of unraveling of my past to understand myself better, to see clearly who I am and the trauma I come from – and to make the choice that I could not be just a walking bundle of pain. People got annoyed with me continuing to ask – how do I DO this? What’s a better way? What am I missing? I am still hurting, help me! But it has been my insistence on Getting Better that has been my salvation.
This stubbornness has been severely tested in recent years – in the period from January 2010 to August 2012, I had 12 major losses – my spiritual community and support, my Reiki teacher, all 3 of our elderly cats, my father, my childhood home and all the mess inside it, a couple of close friends who were my age, mentors, my oldest friend – opportunities, health, time – I could barely process the previous one before the phone rang again…..loss comes in many forms.
But as the dust cleared, I came to a realization – this is part of Life – and one had better figure out how to process and integrate Loss, or you can get stuck in Grief and Mourning all the rest of your days – and that is not living.
As I began to read up on how to heal, I realized that most of what we have been taught is wrong – nobody wants to talk about this – so I am talking about it and here is what I have learned:
We have been taught that there is nothing we can do – I have found that there is.
We have been taught that it “just takes time…” Well, it does, but it matters how one spends that time, in passive waiting, or in active pursuit of healing.
We have been taught that we just have to “get past it or get over it” – get OVER the sudden death of my mother??? Well, that’s pretty insulting…
And there’s so much more – NONE of it is helpful or true.
That's why I created the Ten Tall Tales of Grief & Loss™, to highlight those unhelpful things and teach you what to do instead.
That's why I wrote my book Putting Out the Fire, for those dire moments when a loss hits you between the eyes and you don't know what to do or how to feel.
That's why I created Fearless Grieving to Fearless Living, a 3-month fully online healing experience so you can feel the relief you have been craving, get your health and focus on track and know that life can still be beautiful.
Because there are active things that DO work:
Talking about it honestly is better than silence - shared pain is lessened.
Finding just the right question or idea can move mountains.
Self-Care and Compassion for yourself is essential.
Speaking your truth and being heard releases you.
I learned to reinvent myself and my Life – my journey has one massive dividing line – before the death of my mother, and after the death of my mother. It absolutely and utterly changed who I am and the path I am on. Even after all the earlier traumas and damage and all the damage to come.
But it took me many many years – not finding the truths that help, getting poor advice, letting fear get in the way, and wasting SO much time and energy trying to figure it all out. I don’t want you to have to go through that.
You are not stuck in your pain.
You are not stuck with no tools.
And you are not alone.
Let me offer you the things that I have learned and get you moving forward - To Weave This Loss into the Landscape of Your Life, so you can plant your flowers again and reinvent your New Normal.
I know it feels impossible – but I am here to tell you it is not.
Let’s do it together.
Why do I do this work?
First, I have been walking the path of survival and healing for 30+ years. I come from a dark place and have had to find, and make, my own light. I like the light SO much better! But this gives my work an authenticity and integrity because I GET IT, I’ve been there and lived it. I know what is possible and can now offer what I have learned along the way.
Second, I did not get here on my own. I have had tons of support, lessons, encouragement and motivation from teachers, counselors, friends and other healers. I have needed a lot of energy from the Universe to grow and change, and now I have the opportunity to Pay It Forward, which I consider a tremendous privilege. It’s time to give back.
Finally, I hear from many sources all sorts of negative things about other healers, Reiki practitioners, coaches and therapists ~ and it just makes me sad. I spent many years in therapy sitting across from people with whom I felt very little connection or understanding. Some had knowledge, fewer still had compassion or wisdom.
My goal is to bring the absolute best to the table for my clients and students. I view my work as sacred, and an honor.
Some Personal History Details
Claire received her BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan, the #2 psych program in the country. After meandering through the acting world in New York, and then corporate and legal work, she finally found her way back to healing pursuits, by studying Reiki at The Reiki Arts Continuum, a unique, in-depth two-year program, that no longer exists. She became a Reiki Master in 2006, and a Reiki Master Teacher through the International House of Reiki out of Australia in 2007. Her training also included certification as a Spiritual Counselor and ordination as an Interfaith Minister. She completed training as a Grief Recovery Specialist in 2013 and as a Certified Professional Coach from the International Coach Certification Academy in 2014. She continues to deepen and broaden her training in Trauma Care and healing techniques.
Claire founded Miriam's Well Healing LLC in 2006 in NYC and brought it with her to New Jersey in 2009. In 2020, her practice went totally virtual due to Covid, which now allows her to work with folks across many time zones. She prides herself on a sacred space of transformation, which her clients feel heard, can get tools that work, and have thoughtful, compassionate support. She lives with her husband and kitties, relishing her garden, walks in the woods, and all manner of The Arts and lots of sushi.
"There is a crack in everything ~ that's how the light gets in...."
- Leonard Cohen
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