Finding Freedom During Difficult Times

I have been thinking about writing to you for weeks now, yet I held back because I was feeling that my last few communications were too sad– and all about my grief process over the loss of my sister, Debbie.

To be honest, I worried that I may bore you or, worse, depress you. I’ve been concerned that being in this vulnerable state is not the best aspect of myself to share with all of you. And then I realized that the Wabi Sabi’ness of the situation may actually be helpful, in some way, to those of you who are grieving in your own way– facing a loss, disappointment, or difficult times.

I have been truly humbled by my experience of my sisters dying and the feelings related to her loss. And through the painful parts I have been inspired to continuously look for the beauty and imperfection of the grieving process. It is a process, and it is quite imperfect, yet I have learned that it is also rich with new discoveries and opportunities to grow.

I am forever altered by Debbie’s passing, yet I am beginning to see that the changes in me will benefit me in profound ways.  I wanted to share some of the jewels that have begun to reveal themselves in my life through this experience:

  •  True gratitude of what I have.  I have developed a deeper, more profound gratitude for every aspect of my life.  Life is precious to me in a way that I could have never imagined. Loss of someone or something dear makes what you do have so much more valuable and appreciated.
  • Setting aside time to let go of stress. Another gift has been awakening to the realities of ways I have been endangering my emotional and physical health. I thought I was leading a healthy lifestyle, and never really took into account the tremendous amount of stress I have.   Most importantly, I was not aware that I have an automatic response to stressors that is not at all healthy. I realized that I have to give myself a vacation from stress; that it is essential for healing. Recognizing this has prompted me to make some HUGE changes.  For the first time ever, I am going to take a sabbatical six week sabbatical, beginning on August 1st.  No work, no email, no decision making, no creating–just six weeks devoted to love, healing, resting, restoration. At this time in my life, I can’t even imagine what it will be like to wake up in the morning and not have a “to-do” list.  To just lie in bed and ask my soul: “How would you like to feel today?”  “Where do you want to go?” “What would you like to do and with whom?”
  • Permission to say no.  Perhaps the most surprising gift, and the one I am most reluctant to even share with you, is that being in this delicate state has given me a freedom I never knew I needed or wanted: The freedom to just say no.  In my “normal” world I get requests all day long–requests for my time, my connections, for endorsements and introductions. The list is endless.  I like to say “YES” –it’s fun to assist people and be connected—so I rarely say “no.”  Saying “YES” always came easily and because I work at such a fast pace, none of these things seem to take a lot of my time or energy. But now, with having so little energy to spare, I have found that saying no is essential.  I literally have no extra bandwidth—as I like to call it– to deal with the demands I once juggled everyday.  At the moment, I am able to power through my work day (which is super busy right now) and by the end of the day, I plop onto the couch for the rest of the night.  Allowing myself to say “no” has not only helped me find a new freedom; it also helped me discovered that I have been in denial about being a people pleaser! (Believe me, this is shocking to me.)

So, my friends, this is where I am right now.  Grateful, mildly optimistic, and in a process that everyday gets a little easier, a little better.  And, I am so looking forward to taking a big chunk of time to commune with my soul later this summer.

I would love to know if you have had a similar experience and/or how Wabi Sabi is influencing your life.  You can leave me a comment below.

Wishing you love,

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

37 Responses to Finding Freedom During Difficult Times

  1. Mary says:

    Saying yes to saying no is learning to put duality aside. In a world where light and dark coexist there is a certain freedom and putting it into practice in this modern world is a lesson in itself. Nonduality is possible with duality–choices in this mindset are like choosing which stepping stone to put your foot on as you cross a stream, hoping to keep your foot dry while also accepting that it is fine if that foot gets wet. With the energy expanded by actively paying attention, another kind of energy is generated for the peace of mind that comes through rest, play and meditation. As this happens for more of us, a bit of heaven expands. Thank you for being a proponent of this kind of living on Earth.

  2. Linda says:

    Arielle! What a beautiful post. You’re amazing. Your thoughts mirror what I hear so many experiencing in our fast-paced, harried careers… where even taking a few days off feels scary. It takes such consistency and focus and passion and follow through to build a big business and be connected to so many people… that the idea of taking our foot off the pedal just feels foreign. And then life happens. And we have no other choice. And so we surrender and find ourselves in the process and everything starts to feel so much more grounded, beautiful, and filled with grace. Thank you for putting so beautifully what so many of us have been feeling. Bless you, my friend. Love you millions. xo

  3. Jenny LeBel says:

    Thank you so much Arielle for sharing. What beautiful, heartfelt words. I honor you and your grief and taking time off to just be. Deep grief has come up for me as well as for so many others and your words of wisdom will help heal multitudes. Sending you blessings of LOVE, joy, peace, clarity and healing time alone! Beautiful Debbie is right by your side, loving you every step of the way.


  4. Eleanore says:

    Arielle you summed up exactly what I’ve been going through this year so far…and the same conclusions I’ve come to, as well. And I’ve also been thinking I really need to take a sabbatical, but I have yet to have the courage. Still not sure if it’s “ok” for me to do it. What will happen if I take a break, pause, stop for awhile? It’s probably better to heed the messages and make the decision than to have the Universe make it for you. I’m encouraged by what you have shared. Thank you!

    • Arielle Ford says:

      Hi Eleanore, thanks for writing….start small…take a 1 day sabbatical and then slowly expand. You deserve it — I know you — you are a BIG GiVER, time to give back to you.
      Much love,

  5. Tamara Mark says:

    So beautifully, generously, tenderly shared and felt. Grieving is a process….I honor the beauty of you, your journey, the self-discovery that is born out of suffering , loss and rebirth. No one gets out of this life without opportunities to awaken. Some will shove and shove down these most precious opportunities because it feels scary to be so vulnerable and allow yourself to be seen in all ways. I had a spiritual teacher who once said to me,” Tamara , you’re always running away from your pain and finding a way to busy or distract yourself out of your situation. Do you know what would happen if you stayed with your pain and sat with it, let yourself feel every last feeling of it? On the other side is a JOY that can never be shaken.” It took me lots of loss and two severely autistic, nonverbal sons, to awaken the gift of going through and expressing and feeling your grief. I bow down to your courage, your beauty, your light. You are remarkable. Love You, Arielle, like a soul sister.

  6. Mary says:


    Thank you for sharing your heart with all of us. I like to believe that you have always done so (even though you may not have realized it) and Debbie certainly learned how to share her heart through your example.

    Thank you for reminding us all that it is ok and perfectly acceptable to slow down and do what we need to do to recharge and reclaim our heart and soul.

    My love goes out to you and Brian and your family.

    With gratitude and love,

  7. Dear Arielle,

    I felt sadness at Debbie’s passing and I never even met her – in person, that is. Her work changed my life. I can’t imagine having this wonderful being as a sis, and even harder to imagine is going on after her crossing.

    I sense that you take every life event and ask why it has been put into your path. As a teacher, you live, learn then teach. I can relate.

    As a clairvoyant, medium and spiritual healer, I innately understand different states of energy. My spiritually teaches me to look for deeper meanings. Those close to me sometimes wonder why I didn’t “see” an event/illness/relationship woe coming. My response is this … I chose to incarnate on this planet, where human emotions exist. If I evaded troublesome times using my gift, I might be robbed of the opportunity to learn something important and new.

    I sense the same is true for you. Thank you for opting to share your painful growth experience. This is the mark of a true and magnificent teacher.

    Sending much love you you and your loved ones,


  8. Linda Leinia Aciman says:

    Dear Arielle,
    I love your vulnerability and your honesty…thank you for sharing.
    I do trust your grief will bloom into more beauty, the kind that suffering begets.
    I hope we meet someday soon,
    Much love and a big hug.
    Debbie’s Leinia

  9. Diana Lee says:

    Often we “lightworkers” & uplifters of energy think that we need to be happy & in a good space before we can share & communicate with others. There is so much value in sharing your “human-ness” since we all experience grief & loss at some point in our journey. We should all take note that sharing from the heart, as you have done, is always beautiful regardless of the emotions that we experience. God bless you & continued healing to you & yours. Enjoy your well deserved retreat. Much love & healing light.

  10. meredith thayer says:

    I think of you more than you can imagine….I know losing Debbie
    On this phsical plane is an unfathamobil blow….and most likely grief comes in waves and sometimes like a sunami that can sweep you away……fortunately you are blessed with Bri and so many that love…care….and support you in so many ways…..this may sound corny…I miss my dad a lot and he loved and took pride in a little garden he planted each year…..ans now I do that at his grave each Spring……or take walks in his favorite places that he enjoyed walking… might be pleasurable to do some things Debbie enjoyed independently or that you enjoyed together…..taking time for yourself in August is right on time….to reflect…to regroup… indulge…and to grieve in your own way….time and space really does not separate…….with much love…..meredith

  11. Patricia says:

    Thank you for sharing Arielle, again I am someone that is going through the same process of losing my dear sister last May. My sister was someone very close to my heart not only being a sibling but played a role of my Mother in many ways. Being in another country I travelled over to be at her funeral and came back to Australia within a weeks turn around and just kept going – until the the day came when I just stopped. I had gone into an acute stage of anxiety and depression and just could not function without wanting to run out of meetings and just breaking down crying. So late November I did stop from working and have given myself time to just grieve her loss and re asses being me – I am at a very lonely stage of my life and am still searching for something to fill the gap of my beloved sister, which of course I will never find. I think maybe, just maybe, going and purchasing your book might give me some insight as to how to carry on.
    Again Arielle, thank you for sharing your loss and wish you well with your Sabbatical.

  12. Amana Nova says:

    Thank you Arielle
    Debbie’s passing touched me deeply as well. Then just a couple weeks later, my father passed and two other friends, one that was in her 80’s and another that was in his 20’s.
    It’s been a time of loss and grief, and yes your willingness to share your vulnerability is very inspiring to those of us that are facing similar challenges. As always, I am touched by your authenticity and wisdom.
    Blessings to you and your family as you go through these challenges.

  13. Laura Fields Dempsey says:

    I hope u do not mind but… A friend of my daughters kaleigh (16) just lost his mother..two days ago after a long battle with kidney failure. I spike to this young man on the day she died and truly struggled for words. I said I was sorry for his loss and that no 16 yr old deserves to feel so much pain . Ur words .. I’m sorry I’m in tears right now. Ur written words are so beautiful I felt the need to share with him . He has need acting out for a long time and I believe ur wisdom might help . Thank u for the words that did not come for me!!

  14. Moira says:

    Arielle, I am so glad to hear you are taking time just for you, nurture your soul, you so deserve it. I’m looking forward to seeing you come back, I know it will be with a bang. But for now, take very good care of yourself! HUGS to you! XOXOXO

  15. Cathy Lynn says:

    Arielle I am so glad you shared this and that you are taking time for a much needed R&R time…I too see the wisdom in this and during a recent two week trip to Bali I realized that what I needed to “do” was actually to just BE during my time there. I didn’t need to do anything but allow myself to be in the present and have the time to rest, relax, and restore my entire being. It was amazing…and the first time I have ever done that. I so look forward to you receiving the rest you deserve beginning in August!!! xxoo

  16. Nina Hanson says:

    I am taking a week’s vacation every 6 weeks. Yes, it’s a lot less money and I don’t have a partner to support me. But I take stay-cations, spend my time de-cluttering my apt., reading books that I’m interested in, resting, juicing, walking the dog and generally, going with the flow. Since I live on less, I’ve cut down on a lot of things that were actually stressing me out. I see my friends mostly during my vacations so I have down-time when I’m working.
    Good luck with your new schedule and learning how to go with the flow.

  17. Learning how to say NO(now)gives us the energy to say YES to the things we need to (later).

    “Cancer is a diagnosis that affects everyone for a lifetime.”

    Wishing you many blessings and continued healing on your journey.

    -Michelle Colon-Johnson

  18. Marsha says:

    Dear Arielle, Thank you for sharing your intimate process of grieving and of receiving the powerful, humbling gifts of the process. Everyone is unique in this journey and your words are comforting and inspiring. Please continue to share. Much thanks.

  19. Gisele Dupuis says:

    Dear Wabi Sabi warrior!
    I am in the process of reading your wabi sabi book. I quite like your book and your approach to life. I lived in Japan for a year and know this concept well. I am sorry to hear about your loss. This is a grieving time for you! Life is full of grieving and renewal. Each death brings to us a new life and perspective. Yes the word no is essential to us women who tend to use it seldom. Through a burnout I learned this word! Once you have kids and become a single mom you sure learn to use this no word! Wishing you lots of healing. your friend in Cansda; GISELE….. xxoo

  20. susan thornton says:

    Thank you Arielle for sharing your deep feelings and that you are taking a sabbatical. It is something that I’ve also been desiring to do, but haven’t figured out how yet. Blessings to you and your family as you go through the grieving process. Kudos for being honest and taking time out!

  21. Jeannie Fenwick says:

    Thanks so much for this. My father is dying and for two weeks we have been by his side in hospital. Yet I can sense a strange calm throughout the pain. Sometimes my grief is overwhelming then I remember this is not about me it’s about my dad’s journey.

  22. thank you, Arielle, for another heart-felt and real message!
    I certainly do not think your message or obsession with your sister’s passing was in any way gloomy! Rather it spoke of your depth of soul and as Spurgeon said, “people that can experience heaven, will also experience hell.”

    Bless you and hooray for you setting apart time in August to give yourself solace to heal. But, if you can do it sooner, I hope you will! I lost my husband in ’04 and my s.o. last year and know that grieving takes time, lots of time. Why don’t you write a book about yours and Debbie’s relationship. It can be helpful to so many AND be passive income for when you give talks and grow older, ha! etc..

  23. Darien says:

    Be easy on yourself . . . a loss like this is hard on you, physically, though you know she’s in a better place and you talk to her every day. It’s just hard.
    Glad to hear you are taking time for you. But, dear one, what if you don’t have another three months to live? What are you doing for yourself – now? What does your soul want you to do now? Today. This moment?


  24. Eileen says:

    Thanks, this sums up my recent revelations and experiences, as well. We seem to be realizing the profoundly devastating effects of stress, which until recently just seemed like a catch-all word for life being too much. The loss of someone dear to us offers a new perspective and appreciation. You articulated words of my heart and they are inspiring and will help me this week make some changes that I have been reluctant to make, but must. Life is about balance, and juggling is such as art, but even jugglers need to hear the whispers of their souls. Bless you and thanks for sharing these words. Om Tat Sat.

  25. My dear Arielle,
    I deeply appreciate your revealing the needs of your authentic Self & your major decision. You are always such an extraordinary role model. Please, please carry it out.

    I didn’t. After a decade filled with a L-O-N-G series of deaths (the number is so high I can’t write it), the “unthinkable” happened: I lost my wondrous soul mate of twenty years. He was just age 51!
    And yet I powered on & on: my psychotherapy clients “need me”, not to mention aged parents for whom I was sole support. I pushed & pushed & pushed.

    And got viral pneumonia in both lungs! Three times within a year. The fourth bout (same year) was “only” one lung. Not to be melodramatic, but I was close to death several times. Finally, I found a homeopathic healer and now, 20 years later, I have excellent health, enjoy glorious personal happiness and a newly-found rising level of creativity. I call the pneumonias “my sabbatical” because they turned my life upside down, then right side up–including much spiritual development.

    Life hands us what we can grow from.

    Please visualize all of us cheering you on! Daring to do what you WANT to do. We want you to take your freedom, your absolute rest from obligations, however pressing they seem. To take the time & space to design a “new setting” for the beautiful self that you are that fits for Now. Your sabbatical may well be the most important thing you ever do.

    Mine was.

    Best wishes for your FULL restoration & renewal,
    Solange Milan

  26. Rachael says:

    Beautiful and heartfelt blog post. Thank you for sharing Arielle.

  27. Arielle says:

    Dear Solange,
    Thank you for sharing your story…..and I happy to hear you are thriving now….and thanks for cheering me on, I can feel the love and energy coming from you!
    i do believe this upcoming sabbatical will be a life changing, positive experience….if begins
    August 1st!
    Many Blessings,

  28. Sandra W says:


    Reading what you wrote took me back to when my beloved soul sister Deb died, I had the privlege of holding her hand and sitting with her the whole night prior to her death, intutively I knew it was close and I told her husband to go home and sleep, She passed 5pm the next day. I still miss her 5years on, but she is in my heart. I have had the opportunity to have a couple of Sabbaticals in my life due to ending a stressful job and taking a few months off. It truly helps you unwind and makes you realise how tight like a clock we become wound up. Being gentle with ourselves is something us women forget to do. So take the time and enjoy it. ease into the way I believe we are supposed to live, with ease and grace and not a lot of rushing.

    Blessings of love and light


  29. Thank you for sharing something that is so deep within your soul!! You are appreciated so very much!!! Debbie helped me in so many many ways and my family… I have also been going through much with my mother’s illness…she is still here and for that I am grateful as I get to go through this process of healing all wounds with her still present in my life! Forgiveness to have taken place and freedom. I relate to your statements of freedom… I have not given myself, really any, for over 10 years being the caregiver. I have come to the fact recently that if I do not I will have nothing left… So I have said, like you, I need down time, assistance and have learned to say, No!! Not easy when you are always helping others… you have done it and publicly stated it. Like the one minute mile.once it was done and in reality others could run the mile in that time..and now with you standing up and saying what healing you need and desire…others can now also do the same. I honor you in your claim to love you and your life. Thank you for sharing!! I am deeply touched. My heart fills and eyes overflow with love. Namaste.

  30. Lori Shin says:

    Dear Arielle,
    I am so glad you are taking time for you. We (Debbie’s coaching community) all miss Debbie so very much, and I’ve come to realize that grief has its own timetable and process. Like your sister taught us (integrative coaches), you have to feel to heal. She was a brilliant teacher, and still is teaching us from the non-physical world.

    Having gratitude for each day, no matter what it brings, and especially celebrating the joyful times only can bring you more joy. To see photos of you and Bri, well that makes me smile, too. The contrasts make us whole. The heart knows.

    Your sabbatical is well-deserved. So is your choosing to say “no”, and I celebrate that aspect of you that has such clear boundaries! (Do I sound like Debbie, now? 😉 )

    Loss and grief aren’t honored by this fast-paced society, on the whole. On the day we celebrated Debbie’s life in San Diego, I was also honoring my aunt (March 23 would have been her 86th birthday; she transitioned in September of 2012 and we were very close, especially since she lost her daughter in 1991 to cancer).

    I plan to allow a ritual or ceremonial way to move through grief to spring forth through me and a “soul sister” for small groups, not to counsel or fix anything (there is nothing broken, just to bring consciousness in what we make things mean in our lives), but to allow a space for movement, breath and healing. I like what Karla McLaren has to say about grief, and to allow the body to lead in the healing. (The Language of Emotions is the book by McLaren).

    May you swim in the sea of joy, and bask in the warmth of love that always surrounds you,
    Blessings and Peace, and oodles of love,

  31. Catherine says:

    Hi Arielle,

    As a witness to your tendency to say yes to a lot of things that pull on your time, I am joining your cheerleaders in affirming this powerful post. It is moving to hear how you, The Fairy Godmother of Love and Magic are juggling life’s challenges.

    Even Fairy Godmother’s need their rest.

    Once again, as you have done all along, you are leading by example. Enjoy your Sabbatical and know that many, many people are sending you love and light. Your bond with Debbie remains unbroken and that is the real magic, isn’t it?


  32. Christine Messier says:


    I read your blog over the weekend but it has taken me some time to bring myself to write. As I have previously shared, my sister passed away on January 30th (51 is too young and cancer sucks).

    I have also been struggling with trying not to compartmentalize my grief while I push forward with life and wanting to do whatever I can for others. I have commitments to my clients and I focus on my work to keep from letting my mind go silent. It’s during those quiet times that my sadness and regret are the strongest. However, I know I am honoring her life and her memory when I purposefully go silent and let my mind smile and remember all that was good.

    I know my sister would not want me to suffer in my living as I did not want her to suffer in her dying. She would find no cause for my regret and I do my best to remember this when the sad times “interrupt” my to-do list.

    I wish you confront and peaceful energy in your sabbatical.

    All my best,

  33. Lara Fernandez says:

    Dear Arielle,
    Thank you for sharing what’s real for you right now. When my mom died 6 years ago at only 62, and then a month later, I had a miscarriage, and then a month after that, the long term, delicately and meticulously handled sale of my chiropractic practice fell through, I thought I had had just about all I could take. I was burnt out and grieving so much.
    Now, I see how that pain broke my heart wide open for so many blessings. These experiences have given me an exquisite gratitude and ability now to appreciate the small things and to see life for what it is: an moment by moment opportunity to LOVE more fully. Now I see the perfection in all of it… Even if I don’t “like” it.
    I am sending you a BIG HUG right now. Enjoy your precious time for yourself. May it nourish your soul.

  34. Yanira says:


    Thank you so much for sharing your deepest feelings. My heart goes out to you as I can relate to your pain. A little over a year my cousin, who was more like a brother, committed suicide. Soon after the company I worked for downsized and I lost my financial stability. The worst part was my son spiraling into a deep depression due to an injury and my cousin’s death. It has led him to several hospitalizations and being placed in a long term treatment center for God knows how long. The strong, brave, independent, focused, successful and resilient woman that I have always been has completely crumbled. Parts of me were taken when my cousin died and now I have to put those pieces back together again. How I will do that, only God knows, but through all the pain and loss of direction I have found my faith deepening. My trust in God has strengthened and I discovered that I’m a lot stronger than I thought. Deep in my spirit I know a BIG blessing is coming. I have experienced through all the tragedies in my life that a blessing is always born and the soul evolves most through its deepest pain. My biggest discovery in all of this is realizing that I need to take my self-care to higher level. I owe that realization to the two amazing human beings God has sent to me in my darkest hour…Lara and Johnny Fernandez. Ariel, the rainbows are coming for us and we’ll be even more amazing than we were before.


  35. Gulnaz says:

    Dear Arielle,
    I truly admire your courage and optimism and hope you will have WONDERFUL vacation! Thank you for your beautiful letters and sharing your wisdom with us. I’m 24, and I learn so much from you! This letter from you has been an answer to my prayers. Two part-time jobs apart from the full-time one were taking a lot of my energy but I didn’t want to dissapoint the people for whom I once agreed to work. Now I know that I will not be selfish saying NO to overworking and saying YES to myself, my parents and friends, and especially to my soulmate who will come for sure once I’m happy and relaxed!
    Thank you!

  36. Melanie says:


    First of all….my heartfelt sympathy to you in the loss of your sister. I don’t have a sister(I have a brother) but losing someone most importantly a loving family member is so very difficult. I lost my father two years ago…..probably one of the most painful experiences I have ever been through. Unfortunately, we never had a great relationship however in the end, I knew that I needed to be there for “me” and a to let him know that I forgave him for our lost years together and that I really did love him.

    Death is a part of life as we all know and our lives are but a “moment” here on earth and so I admire you for recognizing that you need to take a “pause” and reflect on the importance of these moments. They can never ever be recaptured…..

    God bless….

    Melanie 🙂