clairebidwell clairebidwell

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Claire Bidwell Smith  Grief Therapist, mother, and author of The Rules of Inheritance and After This: When Life is Over Where Do We Go? (Penguin) Based in Los Angeles.

Saturday afternoon in Sacramento.

Reading from The Rules of Inheritance last night at American River College's #summerwords2017 writing symposium, alongside poet Albert Garcia and novelist @natashiadeon. Vera and Jules were in the audience and it was the first time they got to see their mom walk out on a stage as an author. They also popped into a classroom today where I was teaching a workshop about memoir writing. I could see Vera in the back, her eyes wide as I lectured and fielded questions from the packed room of students. I go to "work" a lot, disappearing from my girls for a few days, or an afternoon, and I know they don't understand where it is I go or what I do, so it meant a lot to me to have them actually see it. My mother didn't work and so I have no real role model for how to be a working mom, no idea how to balance a career that is deeply meaningful to me with also being an intentional and loving mom. The whole thing is a constant work in progress, but I hope that when they look back on their childhoods they feel loved and supported but also proud that their mom really followed her passion.

Los Angeles 🚘 Sacramento
Road trip rest stop tree climb

Thursday afternoon. Match point. 🎾

Starting tomorrow I'll be in Sacramento for the Summer Words writing festival. If you're in the area please join us! Friday night I'll be reading with the astounding @natashiadeon. Saturday morning I'll be on a panel discussing memoir with my beloved @cparravani and Saturday afternoon I'm teaching a memoir workshop. Come out and join us! 🌟

New retreat announcement! In addition to our November retreat in Connecticut (we still have a couple spots left) we now have a retreat in January in California. These retreats are so powerful and healing, no matter how many years out you are from losing your mom. We hope you can join us! Please visit our website for more information and to register.

Yesterday, under the pier. There are a great many things I struggle with in my life. But these two creatures make me feel like I hit the jackpot.

Welcome to Sunday Mourning, a weekly series about grief.
Today is my 39th birthday and I spent the morning sitting on my patio writing in my journal and reflecting on the last year. Birthdays are always hard for me. No matter how festive or sweet or quiet or loud, something always feels to be missing. I always feel a strange sort of embarrassment or shame or melancholy and I know that all of this has to do with not having the two people who brought me into this world.

Some years are harder than others and this morning I was thinking about why. I realized that the years in which I didn't feel melancholy were the years in which I spent my birthday in service of some kind. This realization led me to thinking about the bigger concept of being in service. It was a couple of years after my father died when I found myself working in helping capacities - working with underserved school kids, then with the homeless, after that in hospice, and now in private practice as a grief counselor. Every single day I talk to people who are hurting, people who are lost, and people who feel alone. Every single day I work to step out of my way and give something of myself to the people I talk to.
This is the number one thing that has led me out of my grief and pain. Finding a way to feel useful and purposeful in the world, making meaning out of tragedy, and giving what I can of myself, has changed my life. If you are grieving right now, or even just in pain of some kind, I recommend spending an hour or two, or even more, doing things for other people. I promise that those couple of hours will be the ones during your week that glow with peace and love.
There are no quick fixes to grief. It's a long process with ups and downs, but the two things that I know that actually provide relief from the suffering are meditation and finding ways to be of service. If you're grieving right now and you haven't tried these things, give them a shot. I promise they'll ease some of your pain.
Tell me about your experience of loss in the comments below. And tag someone you know who is grieving and let them know you are thinking about them. #sundaymourningseries

This is 39. 🌟

For @redstringpromise. She's always asking me what the girls carry in their tiny purses. Well, here you go. ❀️

Friday afternoon. If you've read The Rules of Inheritance you know that thresher sharks are an auspicious creature in my world. 🌟

Mother's Day with my beautiful girls. Love to all the moms out there, living and in spirit. πŸ’›

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