Heart of Darkness: Tips for Healing an Angry Heart

6 Ways to Survive Being Alone on Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we are please to welcome guest blogger Michelle Peterson to HopeXchange, with an important topic for this time of year. What if you are alone, or feel alone, on a day set aside for love and romance? Michelle has the answer!

Michelle Peterson believes the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride. Her mission is aligned with that of RecoveryPride, which is to celebrate sobriety and those who achieve it.

Photo via Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you can see heart-shaped candies, heart balloons, Valentine’s cards, and other trinkets everywhere you go. If you are not dating anyone special or have just recently broken up, these things will serve as a reminder that you are all by your lonesome on the most romantic day of the year. Technically, you are not actually alone – 44 percent of adult American population is single. Almost half the population of the country is sailing in the same boat as you – take heart!

Instead of hiding away on Valentine’s Day, why not celebrate your singlehood this year. Here are six amazing ways to survive being single on V-Day.

  1. Put Yourself FIrst – Be Your Own Valentine

Often, you get carried away with the entire idea of romantic love and forget to love the most important person in your life – you. Especially if you’ve had a particularly tough year or are celebrating a milestone–such as a certain number of days, weeks, months, or years’ sobriety this Valentine’s Day, why not become your own Valentine and indulge in self-love. Go for a massage, treat yourself to a movie, or just curl up with a good book. Whatever you choose, do something you enjoy that will help lift your spirits!

  1. All the Single Ladies and Gentlemen – Celebrate Friendship

Valentine’s Day is the day we celebrate love – no one specified that it has to be romantic love. Get together with all your single friends and raise a toast to your relationship status. If you are not feeling like throwing a party, spend your day with your best friend. You can spend the day playing video games, watching movies, enjoying your favorite drink, or even going out for lunch or dinner. As Kelly Wheeler rightly said, “Love is temporary… but friends are forever.”

  1. Spend Some Quality Time with Your Pooch

What better day than Valentine’s Day to recognize the furry friend who’s been giving you unconditional love all year. Take your dog to the local dog park for some play time or do some Valentine’s-inspired, dog-friendly crafting. Whatever you choose to do, they’re sure to enjoy the extra attention and the quality time with your four-legged loved one will give you a boost as well.

  1. Plan an Anti-Valentine’s Movie Night

Instead of watching the sappy romantic movies on Valentine’s Day, plan a movie marathon that is totally Anti-Valentine’s. Include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in your list as this movie is set in a world where it is possible to use a memory wipe procedure to erase painful memories of your past relationships. The best movies to watch are horror flicks – if you are scared out of your mind, you will have not time or inclination to think about anyone’s single status!

  1. Pay a Visit to Your Gym

Exercising is perhaps one of the best ways to get rid of your bad mood on Valentine’s Day. When you exercise, you release endorphins that not only reduce anxiety, but also make you feel good. Check to see if there are any classes scheduled for the V-Day. Choose the one that you have always wanted to try, but didn’t think you could manage it. When you finally come out of the class, you will be a whole lot more confident and happy.

  1. Do Absolutely Nothing – Just Chill

There is no way you can avoid all the Valentine’s Day trinkets and lovey dovey couples, when you get out of home on this day. It is not necessary that you have to make any plans, you can just sit back and relax at home. Approximately 45 percent of US households subscribe to Netflix, and if you are one of them, it is time to binge-watch all the series that you’ve been missing out on.

The best and the most simple way to survive being alone on Valentine’s Day is to make yourself feel good – so go buy flowers for yourself or get yourself a nice gift. Make it a day about you!

Christmas is About a Baby

christmas-star-77979-mAs I look back over the Christmas Holiday that just passed, there was another story of grief and loss; a baby that was never born. The grand daughter of a good friend experienced a miscarriage that was followed with three months of physical complications and pain. Her emotional saga finally came to a close with a final procedure that took place the week before Christmas.

It has been a very difficult time for the family.

I thought about how many times I have seen and heard about stories just like this one in my many years of supporting families who are dealing with the grief and loss of miscarriage. The “regularity” in which it seems to happen is striking and disheartening. It could become easy to focus on this very sad reality. But then I think about all of the new babies that I have welcomed into the world this year, and years gone by, with gifts and showers and notes of congratulations.

Just like anything else, we can choose to see the tragedy the world can bring, or the hope we all long for. During the Christmas Season we tend to turn our thoughts to the joy and peace we’d like to have all year long- not just while we attend festive parties, eat our goodies and tear open gifts with family and friends.

When the tree is taken down and the gifts have all been put away the spirit and joy of Christmas can disappear as well. It can be tough to hold on throughout the year- especially if we are dealing with grief and pain. Unless we remember that Christmas is about a baby- a baby that was born to bring us a peace and hope that does not fade when the decorations are put away. Want to know more about this baby? Would you like to know a peace that does not get packed away in attic each year? Find a pastor, rabbi, priest, church or trusted friend who can tell you more.

May you find and keep the Christmas spirit throughout 2018 and beyond.

This post is run each year during the Holiday Season. May it bring you peace in the year to come.

Why Grief Can Lead To Substance Abuse, And What You Can Do About It

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster Jeff Ferris. Jeff is the founder of RehabCentersInNJ.com, New Jersey’s premiere recovery service. He is partner with a network that has helped thousands of people get back to the road of substance abuse and mental health recovery.

Over the counter pain relievers

Grief is hard for anyone to deal with, but for a mother, it can be crippling or even deadly. There is no feeling that is as devastating as losing a child.

Many people know that it’s not the way God intended it. Children outlive their parents, but few know the real pain of a mother who’s in it.

It’s sad when other people pass away, but it’s just not the same as when a woman loses the baby that she carried in her womb and loved from day one.

I write this to let you know, as a WARNING, a mother can be susceptible to drug or alcohol abuse. This isn’t a stretch of the imagination, I know. But I wanted to bring comfort and let you know the alternatives, so that when you have better days it won’t be drowned out with artificial stimuli. Instead, the better day will be a step in the right direction to make the best of your time here on Earth.

It’s logical to think you just want to turn the pain off

When you lose a child, all the dreams and plans that you had for the child are shattered within seconds.

The reality of lost dreams cuts to the core of your soul. It is so sharp and piercing that your mind fills with thoughts such as, “What can I do to just make this pain stop?”

Substances Can Work Like an on/off Emotion Switch

It’s actually quite easy for someone to turn to substances at that time, especially if they don’t have any support from others. They may not intend to abuse such substances. The initial ingestion may just be an honest attempt to dull the excruciating pain.

Unfortunately, both alcohol and drugs, even prescription drugs, can grab hold of a person quickly in terms of physical dependence. Narcotic painkillers, for example, often hook legitimate patients before they even finish their first prescription.

Imagine the temptation of a woman who loses a child in a horrific surgical process and then realizes that the very pills that the doctor prescribed her could eliminate her emotional pain. Wouldn’t she be tempted to just keep taking those pills forever?

That’s just one real-life example. That particular woman didn’t develop a substance abuse habit, but it would have been easy for her to do just that- and it wouldn’t have been her fault in the least. Grieving women who do fall into these traps deserve some understanding.

If you are someone who is suffering from this issue right now, then you deserve some love. There are supportive people in the world who understand your pain precisely, and there is a way for you to get your life back on track

Alternative: What You Really Need as a Grieving Mother

The devastation that you’re going through needs a specific kind of attention. You have to enter into two battles: one that will help you with the loss of your child, and one that will help you with the substance abuse.

Many times, people try to offer condolences, and they don’t help because they end up saying the wrong things. What you need is a group of people around you who have grieved in a similar fashion and have come through it in good spirits. I’m glad sites like this exist to help you relate and let you feel like you’re not alone. However, a page on a site can’t fulfill our need for companionship, especially in devastating times.

You need people who understand how heartbreaking it is to have a life inside of you and have it ripped away from you at any stage. For your recovery, you can use a variety of resources. A full-blown rehabilitation center will give you the highest recovery percentage, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go that route.

You could sign up for outpatient rehabilitation, 12-step programs or counseling services that address your specific needs. If you’re a private type of person, you could perhaps get one good friend who will hold you accountable for your actions, encourage you, pray for you and do beneficial activities with you while you go through the difficult stages of recovery.

Self-help is not out of the question or ineffective by any means. You can fight the battle alone, but it is always better to have at least one other person in your corner.

Other in-home things you can do to help cope is:

  1. Drink Caffeine – it’s better than narcotics
  2. Try Art Therapy – any hobby will do, something to help build creativity
  3. Prayer – Giving yourself to a higher power can bring comfort and tie you into a community of good people

You’re a unique individual with unique circumstances, so your resolution may not be the same as someone else’s. You may want to contact a referral service or an anonymous hotline so that you can get someone who can refer you to the best resource for you. No matter what you do, remember that time and faith heal all things.

If you are not on narcotics then you are ahead. Sometimes we don’t care for much psychological babble about “grieving processes.” However, counselors and strong friends and family are the best thing for anyone grieving.

Please consider getting help. Professional or not, reach out, this is your time of need and good people are there to help.

I hope all goes well with you.


Remembering Your Baby: Forever in Your Heart

Candle heart

Light a flame to remember your baby.








Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is a great time to remember and memorialize your baby. Here are some tips we share each year at this time, adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

There are countless ways to remember and honor your baby. No matter how much time has passed since your miscarriage, it is never too late to memorialize your child.

You can find comfort and healing by incorporating your baby’s memory into your life. Here are some suggestions:

–       Create a memory box. Include any mementos you may have from your baby. A positive pregnancy test, a toy, stuffed animal or outfit you bought for the baby (if you do not have one, then buy one). Anything you may have that reminds you of your pregnancy or your baby can be included, even if you just have a few things.

–     Make a donation in your baby’s name. Publicly acknowledge your child by making a charitable donation, or give something to a needy child that is the same age your child would have been now. Also consider submitting an article or poem about your baby to a newspaper or magazine.

–       Make something for the baby such as a quilt, a painting, a cross stitch, an outfit, a piece of pottery or furniture.

–       Buy a piece of jewelry that symbolizes your baby. Your baby’s birthstone, or an engraved necklace with your baby’s name can be good choices.

–       Plant a tree or garden in memory of your baby. You may even choose a houseplant or  indoor tree. Decorate the tree at special times of the year to remember your baby.

–       Add your baby to the family tree. If you named your baby, add him or her permanently to the family by including the baby in your family tree.

–       Donate baby items that you may have bought or received to a worthy charity. You may also do this in your baby’s name.

–       Have a celebration each year on your baby’s birthday or due date.

–       Include your baby in the hospital’s Remembrance Book. Most hospitals have a remembrance book, and even if your baby did not die in a hospital, you can contact the Chaplin at your local hospital.

–       Light a candle for the baby every evening until you feel you do not need to anymore. After that, burn it once a month, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, or on special anniversaries.

Remembering your baby is a very personal thing.  There is no right or wrong way to honor your child. Taking the time to memorialize your baby will bring you closure and comfort as your move through your grief, and work toward recovery.

Be Aware: October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan declared October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Unfortunately, the President had a very personal experience with infant loss during his first marriage, when his newborn baby died just 7 hours after birth.

Many states have declared October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, but remembrance and events are seen throughout this important month.


What do this mean to you? Awareness Month is a simple way to open the door to conversations about your feelings and your baby. You may want to talk to your family, friends, your community or maybe your spouse or significant other about your child who died.

Wearing a pink and blue Pregnancy Loss Awareness Ribbon during October, or anytime, is a great way to increase awareness and honor your baby. You can buy a Pregnancy Loss Awareness Pin by visiting StockPins.com. The pins are well-made, inexpensive and arrive in a few business days.

Pregnancy Loss Awareness Ribbons can be handmade with pink and blue ribbon or purchased. The pins should be worn on the left-hand side just above your heart- where your baby already lives.

We post this information each year to share this very important event.

What I’ve Learned From Cancer

No, I don’t have cancer. But the disease has greatly impacted my life over the past year. My Mom and my best friend were both diagnosed within 2 months of each other. Then my Mom’s best friend a few months later. If that weren’t enough, a family friend lost his long battle and passed away- on Christmas Eve. I’ve been surrounded by cancer for the past year. Completely surrounded.

Looking back over the past months, I wouldn’t relive them- not even for the biggest Lotto jackpot ever. But, I have realized some important things during these grueling days…things I don’t want to forget.

Every Day is a Gift

Life can seem so random and unfair, especially when your loved ones are being attacked by a horrible disease. Watching those I care about fighting through and for every day made me realize that each one of those days is a gift. I started to feel ashamed that my husband and children and I were in perfect health and I had hardly given it a thought. I was reminded, almost daily, how fragile life can be and how ungrateful I had been for taking it all for granted. My struggles seemed to shrink next to the life and death situations I was reluctantly a part of. I have a renewed appreciation for getting up every morning- and I don’t want to waste a single day.

Say “I Love You”

Facing death- your’s or someone close to you- gives you instant clarity. You suddenly realize what and who you could lose. And you don’t want to leave anything unsaid. I felt compelled to share my deep feelings- to say, ” I love you,” as often as possible. We always feel that we’ll have time for that another day and we put off having serious or meaningful conversations with those we care about.  I found myself being more direct with the people I love, because wasting time seemed unwise and risky. Say the hard things, but also say the good things; and say them more than ever.

Your Attitude Matters

Watching how each of my loved ones are handling their horrible circumstances has been eye opening. I’ve seen almost daily bouts of doubt, fear and anger tempered by incredible hope, strength and faith. I’ve witnessed the roller coaster rides of good news and bad news and intense periods of waiting and wondering. Nothing tests your internal fortitude quite like that. And these tests reminded me that your attitude is everything. The difference between making the most of every day- and just surviving. The difference between living and just breathing. Our attitude is all wrapped up in that complicated brain or ours…and it’s the key to everything. We all hold the key to a good life.

Hold on to Your Faith

My biggest lesson in watching the people I love struggle through cancer is the ultimate importance of faith. It’s hard to get up in morning if you’ve decided their is no hope. And hope- the kind that is real, the kind that endures, comes through real faith. Not the kind that makes people dress up on Sunday and “play church.” But the kind that brings peace and defies logic. A faith you can lean on when everything around you is crumbling apart. A belief so strong, you can face death, and not be afraid.

For me, that faith is in God. The pain and grief of watching the people I care about in a fight for their lives took a toll on me. I felt some very dark days, and cried my share of tears. But through it all, I have leaned on my faith. I didn’t have a choice- I just wasn’t strong enough. Having to rely on my faith to get me through the day made it stronger. Watching my loved ones doing the same renewed it even more. I honestly don’t know how you make it through such an incredible battle without it. I don’t think I could. If you are interested in a faith like that, find a pastor, priest, rabbi or trusted “faithful” friend you can talk too. It could can change how you live…and how you die.