Catching My Breath: The Spirituality of Grief

On this, the fifth Easter since I lost my precious oldest son, Elliot, in a tragic motorcycle accident, I am flooded with potent and persistent images of the present and the absent—also struggling with fresh flavors of loss.

The memory of Elliot’s transcendent junior saxophone recital in Toronto on Easter is still as palpable as it is irretrievable. Then, there are remembrances of those heavy years as a single mom, surreptitiously hiding coin-filled plastic eggs in the dark after my boys had finally gone to bed while preparing to “celebrate” with my terminally ill parents in extended care. But I smile when a flash crosses my mind’s eye of my mom’s infamous “black and white” coconut-festooned bunny cakes of Easters past.

With these memories swirling and salient, I am endlessly grateful for Fran Shelton’s book, The Spirituality of Grief: Ten Practices for Those Who Remain. I devoured it. I am a voracious seeker of input, data, and information, trying to forge a path each day through a world shrouded in grief’s messy muck. I find Fran’s book both sacred and practical on so many levels. Her fluid, insightful prose is provocative yet soothing, universal yet intimately personal—and overflowing with her gentle, knowing spirit.

Plus, I am profoundly honored that she invited me to contribute—enveloping my raw words in her comforting pages. My gratitude is soaring with a meaning that feels like spiritual caulk in the cracks of my fractured heart.

But the “ten practices” are the real differentiator here—giving me and others who encounter her book the spiritual scaffolding to crawl out of our holes every day. They simultaneously ground us and lighten the heavy satchels that we will never fully unpack.

These practices are something I can actually do that help me feel more connected—to my inner being and to all creation. Though I often consider myself a “pro griever,” I still have trouble finding that glimmer of light in the dark of day. Fran is a spiritual-direction pro, and in these chapters, you have access to her divine wisdom and grace—like having your own personal grief trainer.

Take a breath and take a look at the first practice. Breathing sounds simple enough, but starting with the basics is powerful. Working in, as well as working out. The magic of breathing is what sustains us, generates each new heartbeat—and gives us life.

Inspired by Fran’s words and guidance, here is a poem I wrote about breathing in grief:


Breathing in liquid 


finding precious 



within the chaos of 



where staccato


I erase

with each



I embrace

Sending peace and love to you on this day of rebirth and renewal. Check out Fran’s book here.

10 thoughts on “Catching My Breath: The Spirituality of Grief

  1. Thank you Elaine, for sharing your words, the image of “liquid grace,” and your thoughts about Fran’s book. Grateful.

  2. Very well said Elaine – you are a great writer and I know it helps to write your feelings to help get through tough issues. I have done it too. Thinking of you today.
    Mari Mcadoo

  3. Thanks for sharing your story with all of us. It helps you heal, and it helps others as well. I received her book but haven’t had time to start reading it just yet. Love you, my friend! Mike Shaw  broncosrbest@verizon.net469-223-6813     Gallup Strengths Maximizer / Individualization / Arranger / Connectedness / Activator

  4. Elaine, I love your beautiful poem! You seem to be able tomp right back on the horse with your writing ❤️.

    It’s so special that you are included in and contributed to Fran Shelton ‘s book which I must read.

    I am with you as to our grief journey. Grateful to not have to travel alone. I love you and let’s talk soon. Aren’t big travel plans coming up?

    xxooxx Sue

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