Season of Lights…and Loss:



For many people, this time of year is tough, and they don’t know why. Susan Apollon, intuitive psychologist and author of a new book on loss, says unprocessed grief is the culprit. She offers some practical tips for identifying the source of your grief, working through it, and maybe even finding some holiday joy. 

Yardley, PA (December 2010)—The holidays are in full swing and, despite the lights and the parties and the general air of festivity, you haven’t felt this bad in a long time. When you’re not anxious and on edge, you feel sluggish and depressed. You’re irritable with loved ones. You feel lonely and isolated. What’s more, you can’t figure out why. Sure, you haven’t had a great year—perhaps you had a business setback or your pet died or you had a falling out with a friend—but nothing terrible has happened. So what’s causing you to feel so blue?

According to intuitive psychologist Susan Apollon, the answer is simple: You’re grieving and don’t realize it.

„The holidays are filled with grief triggers,” says Apollon, author of Touched by the Extraordinary, Book Two: Healing Stories of Love, Loss & Hope (Matters of the Soul, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-9754036-9-3, $24.95, „It’s an emotional time. The songs, the sights, and the fragrances evoke memories that can connect all the way back to childhood. Even if you don’t understand why, you may find yourself in tears when you hear a certain seasonal hymn or smell latkes frying.”

So what, exactly, are you grieving? It could be any kind of loss, says Apollon—and often people don’t see these experiences for what they really are. To cite an all-too-common example, let’s say you got laid off during the past year, were unemployed for awhile, then found a new job. Okay, it may be a less-than-perfect fit, but heck, at least you’ve got a job—which is more than a lot of people can say in this economy. So there’s really nothing to be sad about, right?

Wrong, says Apollon. Job loss is precisely that—a loss. Your job is more than just a source of income; it’s linked to feelings of self-worth and makes up a big part of your identity. If you didn’t grieve it properly, the pain of that loss remains in your cells. When one of those holiday „grief triggers” hits, you find yourself feeling not just the „small” loss that’s most recently happened, but also a whole chain of older losses (both big and small) that you never worked through.

„Once you realize that your case of the 'holiday blues’ is really unprocessed grief, you can begin to consciously deal with your feelings,” she says.

Apollon wrote her latest book—a gift-sized, soft-cover book that tucks easily into a handbag or briefcase—to help readers process grief. Filled with true stories from people who have faced heartbreaking losses (children, parents, spouses, friends, and animal companions), it’s meant to spark a sense of recognition. The idea is that you assign your own meaning to the stories, and they become deeply personal conduits for catharsis and healing.

So what do you do if you’re having a blue Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa)? Apollon offers some tips and insights: 

· First, understand what loss is. Anytime you’re separated from someone or something you love, that’s loss. It doesn’t have to mean death. It can be the loss of health or youth or a family business or a dream. A big part of what you’re feeling comes from the fact that you’ve lost a part of your identity, a piece of how you see yourself. In the case of sudden loss (like an unexpected layoff or a house fire or a sudden illness), all your beliefs about the way things are „supposed to be” go out the window. You’ve lost all control, and it’s a deeply disorienting feeling. 

„Loss of any kind is a very big deal,” she asserts. „Our body, mind, and spirit all react. Of course we can’t move through it quickly, even though we often feel pressure from various camps to 'get back to normal.’ Knowing this, and giving yourself permission to feel your pain, is important. Healing is expedited when you do the best you can to express your pain, feel it, and let it go.” 

· New losses bring older losses to the surface. Everything is energy and vibrates at different levels, explains Apollon. The pain of loss is stored in your cells as a low vibrational experience. When you grieve a loss in the present moment, the vibration of this experience will bring up similar vibrational experiences from your past, often making you feel overwhelmed with grief. It is as if you have an invisible thread attached to your present loss that is also attached to those of equivalent vibrations buried in your cells.  

„That’s why, if you never gave yourself permission to grieve when your father passed away ten years ago, when your beloved dog dies, you may fall apart,” she says. „You’re grieving your pet, but you’re also grieving your father. You may actually be grieving multiple losses. When you start to feel sad, it may be helpful to ask yourself, What does this remind me of? When have I felt this way in the past? What am I learning from this?” 

· It’s „normal” to feel the way you feel. Grief wears many faces. You may feel fatigue, stomach upset, headaches, or tightness in the chest. You may lose weight (or gain it). You may have insomnia, intrusive dreams, or flashbacks. You may be numb or weepy or anxious or even panic-stricken. Just remember that all of this is normal. And if you think your loss—an early-stage miscarriage, perhaps, or a foreclosure on a home—doesn’t account for such powerful symptoms, Apollon insists it does.  

„We all grieve differently,” she says. „Your way is valid no matter what anyone says—and believe me, there are many people who will try to shut you down or hurry you up. It’s okay to have the symptoms you’re having, it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to work with a professional if you need some extra help. Taking the time and the steps to process your grief is the greatest gift you can give yourself.” 

· Honor the grief when it comes. (Yes, even during holiday festivities!) If you’re lighting the menorah or decorating the tree and you suddenly feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, give yourself permission to cry. If you’re at your company’s holiday party, excuse yourself to a more private location where you can have a good cry and regroup (or even leave if you have to). If you’d rather skip the New Year’s bash to hold your friend’s picture and cry, it’s okay. 

„No matter how you try to avoid it, your Higher Self will demand that you do the work of grief,” reflects Apollon. „Trying to escape the pain does not serve you.” 

· Learn the ABCs of healing. Many people just don’t know what to do when a wave of grief strikes full force. It can be immensely helpful to use the episodes to shift to a higher level of consciousness. Apollon teaches her clients what she calls the „ABC” technique: A is for Awareness & Acknowledgment, B is for Breath, and C is for Choice.

„Think of the ABCs as conscious grieving,” she suggests. „Crying for a while and then dwelling on your hurt and anger won’t help you heal. You need to have the intention of healing and then direct your mind and spirit down the right, productive path. The good news is that anyone can learn and practice this technique.” 

· Don’t run from your grief triggers. If you know something is going to make you cry, your first impulse may be to avoid it. If at all possible, don’t, advises Apollon. This is especially important advice for a time of year when grief triggers are as thick as snowflakes. If you’re feeling blue, you don’t have to go to the big party and feign merriment—but neither should you opt out of all holiday events and traditions because they make you feel sad. 

„Sometimes it may be good to face your grief triggers head on,” says Apollon. „It’s also good to listen to the holiday music that makes you cry, or set aside some time to look through your photo albums or write in your journal about how you’re feeling.  

„That’s why I wrote Touched by the Extraordinary, Book Two,” she adds. „Almost everyone has experienced a significant loss of some sort. And reading stories from others who’ve shared similar losses actually evokes feelings you’ve stored in yourself. It may bring on tears, but they’re healing tears.” 

· Balance your sadness with lightness, humor, and (yes) joy. This is very important, asserts Apollon. Just as you need to give yourself permission to feel grief, you also need to give yourself permission to lighten up. Spend time with a friend who makes you laugh. Indulge in your favorite meal. Buy yourself that expensive sweater you’ve been eyeing. Spend an entire Saturday drinking hot cocoa and watching your favorite sitcom on DVD. 

„You’ve got to find a way to take your mind off your sadness and make your heart sing,” says Apollon. „Otherwise, your grief can become a physiological experience, and you may become ill. Keep in mind the law of attraction, which states that like energy attracts like energy. If you wish to have positive experiences, you need to focus on something—a thought or image—that feels good. Make it a priority to do something that brings you pleasure, even if it’s not holiday-related.”  

· Seek out others for support. Let yourself bask in their love. The holidays are a time for reconnecting with the people you love. Family members gather together. Old friends (and not-so-old ones) visit or call. Greeting cards arrive in the mail almost daily. Though your heart is heavy, take advantage of these opportunities to laugh, to reminisce, and to have meaningful conversations, urges Apollon.  

„People tend to minimize their sadness when they talk to loved ones—especially if there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for that sadness,” she says. „Don’t make that mistake. If people love you, they don’t want you to put up a front. Be honest with them about how you’re feeling and allow yourself to be touched by the compassion and kindness they’ll almost certainly offer.” 

· Spend time in nature. Yes, it’s cold outside, but that’s why God made heavy coats. It’s important to take in some natural energy right now. Walk in the sunlight or play in the snow. Do some winter gardening tasks—pull weeds or plant bulbs or repair arbors and trellises—to get your hands in the earth and remind yourself that spring will come again. If you absolutely can’t get outside right now, spend some time with pets.  

„Sitting quietly with your dog or cat can be a healing experience,” says Apollon. „Animals are very grounding. Plus, they offer unconditional love and won’t care if you cry.” 

· Visualize a future of peace and joy. When you’re trapped in the throes of depression and anxiety, it can be hard to imagine that you’ll ever not feel this way again. You will be happy again, assures Apollon, and there’s a simple exercise that can help you move the process along: 

Close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and—in the moment—allow yourself to feel the peace and joy you intend to feel in the future. Do this several times a day, allowing yourself to fill up with the peaceful, joyful feelings each time. See yourself interacting with others, laughing and smiling, feeling lighter and stronger and more capable. 

„You have to imagine it to be able to create it—and, yes, you sometimes have to 'fake it until you make it,'” says Apollon. „You’re programming your body and mind and energy fields to allow good things to come into your life.” 

· Stay open to holiday miracles. Touched by the Extraordinary, Book Two makes it clear: Miracles do happen. We receive messages from loved ones who’ve passed on. Angels guide and comfort us. Signs and synchronicities bring hope that the Universe is not a cold and random place. And according to Apollon, spiritual occasions like holidays allow us to step outside the box we live in most of the time and allow miracles in. 

„Paradoxical as it sounds, grief and holidays are a lot alike,” she reflects. „They both help us detach from trivial things and focus on what’s important, what’s real. Open your mind and heart this year and see what happens.” 

In a way, says Apollon, the holiday blues can be a gift. When you recognize these feelings for what they are, you can dig deep and figure out what’s blocking the peace and joy you deserve to experience.

„Loss brings with it many gifts,” she says. „It forces you to find inner resources we didn’t know we had. It makes you stronger and more resilient. It opens you up to love. But none of that can happen if you don’t face your grief head on and consciously work through it. Once you do, you’ll generally find that life has a richness and a color to it that you never imagined.”

The ABCs of Healing

By Susan Apollon, author of Touched by the Extraordinary, Book Two: Healing Stories of Love, Loss & Hope (Matters of the Soul, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-9754036-9-3, $24.95,

· A is for AWARENESS and ACKNOWLEDGMENT. Become aware of your thoughts and images at the „head” level that do not feel good at the heart or belly level. Here, you’re „Facing” what makes you feel bad. 

Put your hand on your heart or belly and ask yourself, Am I feeling good (or okay) or not good at this moment? If your answer is „not good,” put the same hand on your forehead and ask yourself, What is my thought, picture, or image that makes me not feel good? 

Now, take time to Acknowledge or „Embrace” the picture or thought. Give yourself permission to really feel the pain associated with your thought or image stored deep within you. Kick, scream, or cry it out—for a few moments, or more, if needed, but not too much more, if possible. 

· B is for BREATH and BREATHING OUT YOUR PAIN. Learn to use the Gift of Breath and then use your ability to shift yourself energetically to a higher level of well-being. Take three deep breaths. As you breathe in, visualize yourself breathing in the colorful and magnificent energy of the Universe or God. (Yes, actually give it a color so you can „see” it more readily.)  

See and feel this powerful healing energy entering and filling every part of your body with amazing warm, relaxing energy. (Apollon calls this the See/Feel method). You may feel so relaxed, warm, and heavy and, at the same time, so light that you are aware of your body energetically shifting to a higher level of vibration. 

· C is for CHOICE and CHOOSING THOUGHTS AND IMAGES THAT FEEL GOOD or BETTER. Here’s where you „Replace” your negative energetic thoughts with those that are positive. You choose thoughts and images that lighten your vibrations and enable you to allow in those experiences you have viewed as your intentions, hopes, and dreams. Every moment is about choice. Be conscious of how you are feeling, moment by moment, and choose to focus on anything and everything that brings you relief and feels better or good, including your kids, pets, loved ones, or your favorite funny video. 

About the Author:
As a psychologist and an author, Susan Apollon empowers and heals the body, mind, and soul; as an educator, she informs; as a speaker, she inspires and touches the heart. 

For more than twenty-five years, Susan has been in private practice in Yardley, PA, evaluating and counseling adults, families, and children who are dealing with difficult life situations similar to what she has personally experienced, researched, and written about, including cancer, other health issues, trauma, and grief.  

She is an avid researcher of Mind, Consciousness, Intuition, Energy, Prayer, and Healing and brings this expertise to her three published books—Touched by the Extraordinary, Book Two: Healing Stories of Love, Loss & Hope; Touched by the Extraordinary: An Intuitive Psychologist Shares Insights, Lessons, and True Stories of Spirit and Love to Transform and Heal the Soul; and Intuition Is Easy and Fun: The Art and Practice of Developing Your Natural-Born Gift of Intuition (co-authored with Yanni Maniates)—as well as to her audio books, online course, CDs, and MP3s. Susan’s work is scientifically based and enhanced by her ability to trust her own intuitive wisdom.  

Susan comes from a family of physicians, which includes her husband, father, brothers, aunt and uncles, daughter, and cousins. Healing and medicine are a part of her lineage. 

She integrates the gifts and challenges of having lived more than sixty-five years with the joy and satisfaction of being married for more than forty-four years to her husband, Warren, a practicing orthodontist, along with the role of being mom to her two adult children, Rebecca, an Emergency Medicine physician, and her son, David, a Management Consultant. 

About the Book:

Touched by the Extraordinary, Book Two: Healing Stories of Love, Loss & Hope (Matters of the Soul, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-9754036-9-3, $24.95, is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.

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