Can you help me?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been working on this new life of mine, particularly from the “career” standpoint and have, as many do for various reasons, turned away from my previous work life seeking new passions and new directions.  It has not been easy what with juggling all the emotional turmoil that grief has offered and the guilt associated with walking away from all my years of experience and education; that sense that I should continue to give back and “use” what I know.

It has been a very interesting, frustrating, revealing, and often painful time over these years of realization that I can no longer do what I used to do.  Without getting into too much detail about my previous work and the whys and wherefores, suffice it to say that it has been shocking to me really to find that I would ever not want to do that work in my life anymore.  It was something that meant so much to me, that I invested so much time and heart into and yet here I am, walking down a path in a totally different direction.  It has been a really tough adjustment.

I know people think it’s about “burning out” because my work had to do with Human Services but that’s not really the full story.  It’s more about the toll that grief has taken on me at the same time.  I don’t regret one minute of what I did.  The people I met, both clientele and coworkers, taught me amazing things about humanity and gave me great strength to get through the most difficult times of my life. I wouldn’t change the decisions I made at the time – I did what made sense for me then.  But it did come at a cost.

As hard as all this has been to get me to where I am today, I can say that I have truly learned to just take each day as it comes.  I know that sounds like a cliché but it really is true.  Anyone who struggles with grief knows that, even years down the road, some days are good and some not so good.  I can remember sitting in my home office talking to my friend on the phone, feeling so down, and just wanting so badly not to feel that way anymore; just wanting it to be over and be launched in my new career.  Then there were days when I felt really pumped up that I had a great idea for something I wanted to do and would sit and write up all the details that I needed to accomplish to get it done. A little forward, a little back…

As I said, it’s a long road…and along that road, life keeps happening all around. Obviously, it’s different for everyone and it depends on what you’ve experienced.  The important thing, I’ve learned, is to let yourself be and not add self-criticism and guilt on top of everything else. It is what it is. You need to let yourself be free to feel what you feel and find the life that you can live with as you move forward from the loss that you have endured.

Sooo…as I have moved forward, I have been melding a few of my experiments into a direction that I feel captures where I am best suited to go now.  Being able to offer support to others in some way is still important to me.  I also feel drawn to “creative” activities as it always makes me feels a sense of hope when I make something new.  After my daughter died, I started knitting because I needed to build something new and beautiful where something had been taken away.

Thus, my new business endeavor is creating Birthstone Remembrance Jewelry made with sparkling Swarovski Crystals and Sterling Silver or Gold-Filled beads and clasps.  Initially, I will be offering these pieces for sale on Etsy and will eventually have a dedicated website for them.  The purpose behind the jewelry is for people to have something to wear as a reminder of someone they have lost or who is ill, or perhaps someone who is far away and really missed.  I found that when I lost my daughter that it was very comforting to me to have something like this that I could wear as a tangible reminder of her, even if no one else knew what it was for.

My problem is deciding on a definite name for the business.  I am considering the following:

On My Mind Jewelry

In My Heart Jewelry

Always and Forever Jewelry

Remembrance Jewelry

Remember Me Jewelry

Thinking of You Jewelry

Forever Jewelry

I would love any feedback you could give me!  Of course, if you think of anything else, that’s great too!

Wishing you peace and hope on your travels…

“Don’t be so sensitive…”

I have found that life is full of ups and downs, tosses and turns. I have always been a person of “deep feelings”. “Don’t be so sensitive” they would say.  But being sensitive is what would make me be able to be good at my job I would say.  After all, I was working with people. People who needed to be listened to, people who were facing difficult circumstances, people who were searching for answers – pretty much like everyone at some point or other in their lives.

What’s wrong with being sensitive? Feeling things?  It can be such a roller coaster ride I know but even after all of these years, I have to believe it makes you a better person.  I have fought so hard against becoming one of those people who just turns off and gives up; becomes hardened to the disappointments and struggles of life.  I’ve seen the damage that can come from having the rug pulled out from under you or having expectations for a certain kind of life and not having it come to fruition.

And I’ve worked with many of the stereotypical callous public service worker, long removed emotionally from their job. While assisting a young woman desperately needing some help for her 3 young children, I sat across the desk from a man in a city welfare office feeling his venomous barbs spewing from his road weary soul after years of people just like her coming and going from his office. It’s hard not to give in and stay true to hope and good thoughts and feeling positive and “sensitive”.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I just can’t do this anymore, I just don’t have it in me anymore”.  I just want to give up and say I’m done.  But then, there’s something in me that remembers those people I’ve seen, and those people I meet who seem so unhappy, so, well, dead inside, and I think, no- I don’t want to be like that.  I swore I would never be like that.  No matter what happens.

I can look around me and see beautiful things – I live in a beautiful place.  I force myself to look beyond the things in my house that need fixing and look at the green of the trees and feel the breeze on my face.  And I can stop and look at the faces of my 2 beautiful boys (not kids now really) and remember how incredibly lucky I am to have them and I can remind myself how the most important thing to me is that I am here for them as I know what it’s like to not have that.

I am reminded of the television show Monk, one of the few shows that we ever watched regularly.  He was a detective who had a severe problem with an Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder which also made him incredibly great at solving crimes.  His favorite response to people when they commented on his “issue” was that it was a “blessing and a curse”.  Sometimes, I feel that way.  I think being “sensitive” and feeling things so much can make me able to empathize with people really well and understand what they need.  At the same time, it can be so very exhausting to feel so much to the point of driving myself to the edge and back.

The one thing I know for sure is that I never want to become one of those people who just gives up and gives in, hardening myself; someone who stops “feeling”. Or even worse, only feels the bad things. I know I will and have changed.  I’m still adjusting to that…but for today I will keep on keeping on, soaking in all the feeling I can, emphasis on the good ones, and I hope you will too.

“Never give up, Never Surrender”    from the movie Galaxy Quest

Back and forth…

I have been “in absentia” for a while as I have been thinking a lot about where I want to go with this “blog” thing.  I started writing partly to see what would come out but also because of a desire to offer some kind of support to others who might be going through what I have already experienced.  Kind of make lemonade out of lemons, you know.

As I’ve tried to sort out what I’m to do with myself since I left my old life (aka career) behind, I kept coming back to this idea that I could or should do something with all of this grief and loss experience.  If I combine that with my “professional” experience, well, I might really be able to do something.  I really want to.

I really want to see people suffer less from this terrible grief thing and be able to find an understanding shoulder to lean on.  I want to see people start talking about death and loss like it’s a reality that we all really know about and stop acting like if we ignore it, it will go away. Maybe then when it happens to someone we know, we can reach out a hand and feel comfortable being there- not just for a month or two, but for the years it may take for a neighbor or an aunt or the lady in the office to get back on her feet again.  I want to not see anymore people be shattered and fall apart  because someone they love so dearly dies and they can’t reach out for help because they’re supposed to just be strong and get on with it.  I really want to do something to change all of this.

But as I have worked to put together a plan of how to do this in a more formal way, I keep feeling this resistance nagging at me from inside. Rationally, I know that I have learned so much emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, even physically as I’ve worked my way through my own years of grief.  I know I have a lot to share.  How can I let all of this “experience” go to waste?  Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?  A lot of people do. But then, that’s the other side of this coin.

Now, I’m not one to back away from a challenge but… I have spent pretty much all of my adult life working through grief and loss, starting when I had just turned 20 and I lost the most important man in my life.  As years went on, every time it seemed that the ground might have gotten a bit more solid, another quake came along, one loss after another.

Recently, a whole new dimension has been added to my dilemma – a good one though.

I started Acupuncture treatments as an alternative approach to deal with some physical and emotional stress issues.  I have been amazed by the results, especially since I had no preconceived ideas as to how I would feel.

The biggest thing that pertains to what I’m writing about here today, is that I have for the first time, had these brief glimpses of a possible future without grief and depression and sadness.  Please don’t think that I walk around every day hanging my head like Eeyore.  I do smile and laugh and have fun and enjoy my life.

What I mean is that I can envision moving on in that way where that deep core of sadness, that persists for so long with heavy grief, will let me breathe again and I can choose to “do” something with myself that is fun and happy. Thus, the problem with doing grief work as some kind of  formal job.

I think there are ways for me to still offer support and caring to people- like writing here, and on my Facebook page, offering the Remembrance Jewelry that I make, and who knows what else.

But I think for now, something is telling me that it is my time to be free for a while- to fly a bit and just enjoy the breeze…

To better days

Humbled once again…

Yes, once again I have been forced to face my own smallness and lack of real control in this life but it has not been a bad thing I have found.  It has made me slow down and view each day, each moment, each choice and really consider what matters to me and what I’ve been fretting about these past many months.

It has been very frustrating and depressing also but as things go in life (a lesson I have learned very well by now) you do have to just go with it and get from it what you can.  I say that now, in this moment, when I am feeling a little better, in a mood of reflection and can’t say that I have felt that right along.

Just to clarify, nothing major has happened. It’s just that I have been sick for the last 3 1/2 weeks with whatever viruses have been going around and it has been a big-time drag.  It is still not done with me and it has really put a serious crimp in my ability to accomplish anything.  It’s that kind of sick where you don’t even want to read a book or get dressed or anything.  You end up feeling like you are not even part of this planet anymore.

One of the things that seemed to happen a lot in the past as I have struggled  to wend my way through grief and create a new life for myself is that as soon as I would start something up and feel good about it, start getting some confidence like I was finally on my way to the “right thing”, something negative would happen like an illness or family problem or money crisis.  I would then feel shaken and take it as some sign that I had made the wrong decision or at least my newfound confidence would wane.

Although I have been reminded, again, that life is about ebb and flow and dealing with each day as it comes, I realize that I don’t feel that “why is this happening  to me” or “what am I doing wrong” feeling. I know now that response is just one of the natural outcomes that can occur with severe grief and trauma; that shaking of your faith in yourself and your trust in your own ability to make the right decisions.

I suspect that loss of self-confidence has a lot to do with the huge shock of fear of realizing how not in control we are of what happens in our lives- at least the important things anyway.  Nothing makes that more real than losing someone you love or some kind of painful major life change.

Coming to peace with that and figuring out how to live in that new reality is a trip for which few of us are prepared.  They don’t teach that subject in school and although prayer and religious faith can be comforting for some, it doesn’t usually give you the play-by-play to get through each difficult day. That is something that comes to each of us in our own way, through our own strength and by allowing those around us to help and support us in whatever ways we feel comfortable with.

It is not easy.  It is very much not easy. How long does it take? Well, I think anyone who’s been there will tell you that it takes a lifetime… but it does get easier.  Looking back now, that is the one thing that I would tell someone who is “new” on this path.

In the midst of all the haze and swirling thoughts and feelings that come and go, you have to start counting all of the small gains that you make and don’t set your sight on an “end game”, you know the “getting over it”.  That is never the goal because it doesn’t happen.  You can live again, smile again, laugh again, love again- it’s all just different than before. How can it not be?

It’s definitely taken me a long time to get to where I am and finally accept that I’m just not going to be the person I used to be, and it’s not just because I’m getting older!  So I will keep stepping forward each day, try not to be too hard on myself, and keep building that new life, with its new twists and turns.  I hope that you can find your strength, reach out for help if you can and will keep moving too.

Pathways

I find myself struggling today, trying to sort out what direction to take with my life right now.  And I mean right now, this moment- I have started down a path that I believe is the one I should be on, finally, after many years of searching.

I used to have a career. A very solid career.  One I studied for and worked very hard at and I’d like to think I was good at, gaining a decent level of skill and achievement.  Then it just all became too much- the job, the family, the house, the grief, the pressures of life’s ups and downs.  My boss had also recently died and I guess that was just the last straw.

Unfortunately, when my house of cards fell, my passion for my work went with it so I found myself not only trying to put my life together again physically and emotionally but needing to find a new line of work.  And a new passion.

Finding passion in the midst of grief and exhaustion is not easy.  I have tried many things looking for this new life, things that I always wanted to do or had an interest in but just couldn’t seem to make  work.  They just weren’t in my heart.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it has been to want so much to move forward but have no idea where to go.  People would say “Just get a job doing something, at least you’ll be out of the house”  or “You’ve invested so much time in ….. why not just do it anyway”.  But that just wouldn’t work for me.  I know that sounds whiny or immature but it’s deeper than that.

Coming out of grief means becoming someone different and having had my passion for my work stripped from me as a result of the complexities of my particular grief was like a double whammy.  I never expected that could happen.  I can’t count how many times I have said “if only” in my life.  I still look back and wonder “why” when I am having a day like today, when I feel like I have wasted so much time searching instead of doing.  I sometimes feel embarrassed when around other people and I have to say that I am still working out the kinks of my new path.

But in truth, it really doesn’t matter.  That is one very big lesson grief teaches.  You see, all that matters is now and what I do with it. I have to remind myself of this constantly but I know that I can only move forward if I live in today.  If I continue to dwell on all of those yesterdays where pain and sorrow overwhelmed me then I will continue to go nowhere.  If I continue to berate myself for what I haven’t done, I will continue to be of service to no one.

Now I know that sometimes today will mean sitting on the couch reading a book or watching a movie and knitting because that is all I can muster for that day and that is ok. I have to accept that as a part of the new me too.  The difference is that I don’t fight against it.  It doesn’t feel bad anymore. It just is.  And I have developed a new set of skills to deal with what comes along with each new day.

I realize I may not get down my newly chosen path as quickly as I’d like but at least now, I feel good about the one I’m on; ready and able to take on new challenges… with passion.

Optimism

Our boys were sitting around with us this weekend and somehow the conversation turned to the idea of “optimism”.  This is actually a difficult concept for young adults today with the constant negativity and distrust that surrounds them in the world they are to command.  Of course every generation has its struggles and disagreements with what has come before but I look at kids now and think how they are bombarded constantly with messages of how terrible everything is in the world.

We are blessed with incredible technology that allows us to do so much but now we can also know about every single horrible thing that is or could happen anywhere, anytime.  I wonder how it must feel to be excited about a future where you are constantly told you don’t look good enough, you don’t have enough stuff, you are not good enough, you can’t trust anybody, and the next Apocalypse can come at any second.  We really need to think about the messages we are sending out there…

But back to optimism.  They have their opinions of course and they tease me about my view about people being good and about how you may as well expect the best thing to happen in a situation because otherwise, you’ll just feel bad and upset all the time and it won’t help anything.  Or there’s the “make the best of whatever happens”, “don’t get upset over little things” and those kind of ideas too. They make fun of all my “touchy feely” books I read- I’m not “realistic”.  They are so young.

Random House defines optimism as:

1. a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
2. the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world.
3. the belief that goodness pervades reality.
4. the doctrine that the existing world is the best of all possible worlds.

Synonyms
1.  confidence, hopefulness, cheerfulness.
Antonyms
1, 2.  pessimism, cynicism.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2012.

It has struck me that I guess I am basically an optimist.  After all of the sadness and pain, the struggles through grief, and coping with life’s ups and downs on top of that, I somehow have come out standing up to that definition and still, mostly, working from a positive mode.

Don’t get me wrong- I am not jumping out of bed every morning feeling like a million bucks, accomplishing every goal I set out for myself.  I carry my scars and have to deal with the fact that things have not gone as I would have hoped.  Obviously.  I definitely have my bad days and say my share of “pessimistic” and “cynical” things I’m sure.  But I know that I could not have made it this far if I did not believe that “good ultimately predominates”.  I know that even in my darkest moments, I would think of my other 2 children and know how important it was for me to be here for them.  That is “goodness pervading reality”.

When my father died, I remember how excruciatingly painful that was and also thinking after all the ceremonies were over, how this was only the first of probably many times that I would experience this in my life.   And when my daughter died, it was the most awful thing I ever felt in my life, something words can’t describe.   But I also remember making a decision that I would go on and somehow survive; somehow make  the best of the life I have- it was the only choice to make.  Somehow, there was hopefulness.

So in the midst of vicious heartache, mind-numbing sadness, rote day-to-day activities and all the rest that grief brings, there is still the possibility for optimism.  It may be deeply hidden right now or starting to shine through and you don’t see it.  It’s not about running around laughing and “turning frowns upside down”.  It’s about finding the good where it is right at the moment you’re in, if that’s as far as you can go. The rest will come.

I’m no hero…

Sometimes I feel like a complete failure.  I feel like I have let the the past and all those struggles with grief get the best of me.  After all, I am no shining light, out there in the world saying “Hey, look at me – I lost my dad when I was young and my baby died and I had all these miscarriages but I wrote this great inspirational book and I built this great foundation and…” well, you get the picture.  It seems like everybody who suffers some big tragedy today writes a book or starts a charity or does some big, incredible work as a result of it.  And I have just wondered all of these years, how do they do it?

When I think about how hard it can be just to get out of bed in the morning or to try to remember to keep smiling and really act like you want to play when your other child is tugging at your sleeve even years after your baby has died and someone just said “You’re so lucky you don’t have girls!”, how do they do it?

When I think about having to get 1 child to hockey practice at 5:00 in the morning in a town an hour away, another to a ski slope 2 hours in the other direction 3 hours later, and yet another to a birthday party 2 hours after that, all in a car that’s 10 years old and you are still trying to understand how someone suddenly dies at 45 years old from a heart attack, how do they do it?

When I know the realities of grieving and the powerful grip it has on your heart and soul and all the strength it takes to rise above it, how do they do it?

Our society loves heroes.  There can be great pressure to feel like you have to be one or that you are supposed to “do” something when you have experienced something bad or traumatic.  You don’t.  All you have to do is take care of yourself, then take care of those around you who you are responsible for, like your children and your pets.  That’s it.  You don’t have to be a hero and save the world.  Just by being a whole, healthy person again who can find some meaning and hope in life you will be saving a piece of it.

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