Doubly Sad

 

Reading today about Mary Kennedy’s funeral reminds me about the doubled sadness of those who must deal with the grief of losing someone who takes his or her own life. So many questions and so much guilt heaped on top of an already excruciating pain. Maybe also still experiencing the stigma that our society puts on suicide- it’s selfish, cowardly, such a waste of life…

I believe that someone leaves this world on purpose for reasons that none of us can know and it helps no one to speculate or judge. I have felt pain that has brought me close enough to that place that I can know what that can feel like; despair so deep and dark that you feel like you can’t breathe.   A person who comes to that decision doesn’t do it callously or on a whim.

Who can know what happens in those final moments, when maybe she or he can’t turn back this time. The pain is too great, the hope of recovery is extinct, the perception of the burden she or he is on others is overwhelming, or maybe there is an organic physical or chemical reaction going on in the body so he or she doesn’t even know what they’re doing.

We like to think that things are simple, black and white, cut and dry. We want things to fit in neat boxes, to be easily explained and understood. Quick fixes, simple answers to problems, one nation all believing the same thing under God– easy. But it doesn’t work like that does it? Life is very complex. It’s not just one or two things that happen that cause someone to take his or her own life. It’s never that simple.

I feel great compassion for those whose grief comes from this kind of loss.  I also know how hard it is to feel like you just can’t “do it” anymore.  I wish I could tell them not to feel responsible, that it wasn’t their fault, that they did the best they could and their loved ones also did the best they could.  But they have to come to that in their own time, in their own way.We just need to make sure they still feel supported and not blamed for what happened.

I do hope that we can all be aware of how important it is to understand stress and depression and what they do to people.  People still tend to poo-poo these things or talk about them matter-of-factly but they are very serious.  With our overly busy, overly stimulating lives, depression is more common than ever. We overtax not only our bodies but our emotions and very souls.  Maybe if we are all watching a little more closely we will see when someone needs help before it gets too bad – it could just be the hope they need.

 

Information on Depression

Signs of Depression

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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.

Mother’s Day…

If you are a mother who has lost your child, I know that today is a very difficult day. I wish you all the best of memories to hopefully help to ease some of your pain. If you have other children, I hope that you can bathe in the joy of their love to help you through.

If you are someone who is feeling the loss of your mother, I also wish you the best of good memories to see you through this day.

I wanted to share this post with you as this really captures what it’s like to struggle along the road of grief and try to deal with the real world. Words are not always the answer. Sometimes quiet compassion is all that’s needed.

ofmenandmountains

Having grief in your life on this level is walking a path filled with land mines.   I think I am navigating my way through pretty well when wham!  one blows up in my face.

I’ve been told lately by a number of people that have NOT been by my side during the last 10 months that I “look better”, I  “sound better” , that I “appear to be doing better.”    I am taken aback.  Their comments are meant to encourage me I am sure.  Instead they make me want to punch them in the face.

The conundrum is that I don’t know why I feel that way.  These people obviously have only seen me in passing, they have not squatted here in the trenches with me as some others have.  I’m not sure exactly what they mean and maybe they don’t either.

But here is how I take…

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A Question of Faith

I read an article today which brought me back to something I’ve been thinking about a lot particularly in relation to grief.  I know it can be a sensitive subject for many people as it has to do with religion and personal beliefs about God and what happens when we die.

People tend to have wide-ranging and often strongly held views on this which can greatly influence their experiences with death and grief.  For many, it can be very comforting to have a strong belief that the person who has died has passed on to a beautiful, safe place where there is no more pain or sorrow.  I personally believe this is true.  However, I have found that there are many different ways in how people view and describe this post death experience, including what it’s like, who goes where and the rules you need to follow to get there.

The reason I ponder this is twofold.  One is because I am bothered by the angry divisions that are being fostered in the name of religion in our country more strongly now than ever.  It seems that we continue to try to use it as a weapon to get people to behave in certain ways as opposed to the spiritual nurturing that it should be.

More importantly though, and in relation to the article that I read, are the difficulties that these ranging views and approaches can cause for those who are grieving as people try to comfort them. It can make it awkward or challenging to know how to approach someone if you aren’t sure of his or her beliefs.

I know that people are frustrated with political correctness but death is a time for sensitivity and putting your own views and needs aside no matter what.  If the phrase “it’s not about you” were ever appropriate, that is the time.  It’s so tempting to fall into the trap of saying the usual things when you see someone who is grieving- “He’s in a better place”, “There’s a reason for everything, only God can know”, etc.  Or we may feel we can ease someone’s pain if we remind him or her about God and religion.  This can be very tricky.  Unless you know the person very well and know how s/he feels, it is probably not the time to try to tell someone about faith and God and believing.

Now, I know there are people who may need and want that.  What I am saying is that you have to really take your cues from the person who you are comforting, not from your beliefs and values.  I feel that is where the mistake occurs.  In our effort to say something, we often fall back on what we would want to hear, or at least think we would want to hear.

Remember that I said that I am a believer?  Well when my baby died, someone actually said to me “I guess God must have needed another angel”.  What?  Why would you think that, even if I believed that my baby was in heaven,  I would want to believe that God took her because he wanted another angel? Telling me that my baby was now an angel didn’t help when all I wanted was for her to be in my arms.

“It was God’s will” is another popular thing to say and I have no problem telling you that one is off of my list as well.  As I have grown and matured in my faith, I do not believe that God “wills” these things.

I have heard so many stories from people of things being said and done that were meant to comfort but made them feel worse- “he’s with God now” when the widow is crying in agony “but I want him here with me”.  Or someone insisting on a formal religious funeral ceremony when it wasn’t wanted by the deceased and everyone is upset and uncomfortable and great expense is incurred that no one can afford. Or there’s an implication that because a baby wasn’t baptised that there will be a “problem” – with what?- getting into Heaven? Really?

And what about those who are not religious or do not believe in God?  As the article I read addressed, there are a lot of people who do not associate dying with anything but the end of life and do not want to hear about God or angels or heaven or anything like that.  And I believe that they deserve and need the same respect and kindness and sensitivity as everyone else.

The thing is, we are a people of all different kinds of faiths and beliefs.  We all practice our faiths and express our spirituality differently. We are not all Christians and among those who are, there are many interpretations of exactly what being one means.  We do not all believe in God – that is just the way it is.  But we do all experience grief and what matters is how we respond to that in the persons that we encounter.

Everyone who is grieving needs quiet understanding, a shoulder to lean on, someone to help with the housework and the kids and the home maintenance, friends to get them out of the house, and a listening ear for months and years to come.  It doesn’t matter who they worship or if they worship at all- grief doesn’t care.  We all love and we all lose those we love and it hurts us all the same.

Read the full article here>  Grief Beyond Belief

Hope- not just a girl’s name

When you are in the throes of early grief, you can feel like all the joy and zest for life has been sucked out of you.  You may even wonder why you should want to continue living at times.  Most of us luckily do have something in us that tells us to keep going, that it is worth it to keep moving.

I think this can come from many different places. For some it is their deep faith, for others it is from the strong love and support of family and friends.  It may rise up from reserves of a well grounded personal strength or sense of duty and being driven by knowing that we have responsibilities to others that we must see to.

I would go a bit deeper than this and say it is something more innate – a basic human tendency to have hope.  I think we are all born with it.  I think it is what keeps us going in all kinds of situations, large and small.  It inspires us to try new things, to want to be involved with other people and stay involved even when things go astray, to work to change things that need changing.

When you look at a baby or toddler, you can see the light of hope shining from them.  People love to be around babies because they are so happy and innocent reminding us of all of that potential and maybe offering some renewal of our own hope.

Hope – verb– to believe, desire, or trust

We have all seen people who have lost hope.  They no longer believe that things will get better for them.  They go through each day rotely doing what they must at work or home with never a smile or encouraging word. Sadly, some can’t even do that and they wander aimlessly or just sit staring at the tv.

Others have given up all desire for anything new or better in their lives.  They never think about trying a new activity or changing anything about how they go about their lives.  They may think they don’t deserve it, it’s too hard or uncomfortable or unattainable.  They become complacent.

And then there are those who don’t trust anyone or anything.  They know life will never get better because it’s always been that way.  There’s no point in expecting anything different.  You can only count on yourself.

People become hopeless for all kinds of reasons.  Usually, it’s not just one thing but a culmination of experiences since childhood that bring them to that point.  The more lost they are, the harder it can be to face difficult or tragic situations that arise.

When you lose someone like a spouse or child or anyone you love deeply, it truly can feel like there is no reason to believe that you will ever smile or laugh again or feel good again.  The only desire you may feel for a long time is to have that person back or to know why this had to happen to you.  And trust– well you may be gun-shy for a long time, not wanting to invest your feelings too much in anything or anyone again as you don’t want to take a chance on losing something or someone and going through this pain all over again.

You may not realize when the glimmer of hope starts to show itself again or in which way but it will if given a chance.  Every time you take a step forward from the day before, it is there urging you on.  We so often look for the huge leaps of change to show that we are “making progress”.  In grief, I have learned that it is these day-to-day small steps, forward, and backward too, that get us to where we want to go and hope leads the way.

Forget me not…

Recently I have been struggling with letting go of the past.  It seems to haunt me like a bad dream.  I repeat all of the mantras that I’ve read about living in the now, and I do stop and take time to do short meditations to try to center myself in the present.  But it just keeps creeping back in.  All of my yesterdays- and the frustrations of not being able to change them.

One dilemma that I’ve noticed with this letting-go-of-the-past thing is that as we live each moment, some of what we did or that happened in the past is bound to be apparent in what happens today.

For example, as I look around my house and see all of the things that are not done as we had planned-  the second floor bathroom that never got put in, the kitchen cabinets that desperately need replacing, the huge unfinished basement that was supposed to be a great family room but the kids are now grown- all these things are glaring reminders of that past that I am supposed to be “putting behind me” so that I can live today and be happy, you know, not live in the past.

If we had not been overwhelmed by grief and the subsequent chain of events that came in its wake, then at least some of those things would have gotten done.  So they are constant reminders of a past gone awry.

It is hard when I look at my 2 kids and think about how they have been affected by growing up in a home filled with grief and pain.  I can’t turn my mind away from the reality that it has had an impact on who they are and how they view life. Each of them was effected differently I know.

We did have good times- fun and happy things too but I must be honest and say that the struggles to grow through life in those years following my daughter’s birth and death were very, very hard and in that, asked a price of my other children that I will forever regret.

Now, I can step back and look at that rationally and say that doesn’t make sense, life happens, life is not fair, I did the best I could, blah blah blah-  I know that is all true.  I really did do the best I could.  I worked very hard to give them the best, most normal, loving life that I could.  I was always honest with them about what was going on- I never hid anything from them and our family is close.  I know that there are lots of things that influence who they are, not just this particular thing.  And I know that emotions aren’t rational. That’s part of our human struggle.

I also know that there are positive things that they have gotten from this as well.  They have learned that life is not perfect.  They have learned that there is great joy and great sorrow.  They have seen their parents struggle through difficult emotional times and stick it out and work through their problems and still want to be together, that love can abide.   They’ve seen persistence, strength, endurance, commitment, faith, loyalty and trust.

I believe they have learned good things.  Things that will serve them well as they move forward in their lives.  Of course, it’s hard to know what they really think and what they will tell their kids about their childhoods.  I know that I definitely never promised them perfection.  Thank goodness!

I know that as my days go forward, I will continue to breathe and meditate and try to focus on the moment I’m in.  I will look  for the positive results of my past and try to heed my own advice on all the rest- forgive yourself, be gentle and kind to yourself, accept that you did the best you could and that you are only human, think about all of the good things that you’ve done and don’t be so hard on yourself.  Sounds good.

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