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

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.

The Natural Order

I was having lunch today with a friend who I haven’t see in quite a while and we were talking about life events that have had a major impact on who we are now. Of course, I had to talk about how much the loss of our daughter has impacted both me as an individual and our life as a family.  I found myself drifting back, as I occasionally do, to wondering what life would be like now, if that hadn’t happened.

We talked about that- about how life gives us things to live with that effect us and change us (and those we love)  in ways that we could never imagine possible and all we can do is stand there going “hmmm”.  We kind of chuckled about it which is good.  It’s good to be able to do that now and then- just step back and say “hmmm”.  I think there’s a song that says something like that- “things that make you go hmmm”.

She told me that her parents had lost a baby who was 6 months old, her sister, who had a hole in her heart.  My friend was 2 at the time so she doesn’t remember anything.  We talked a lot about that too.  The truth is it probably had a great impact on her life that she isn’t even really aware of.  She said her parents never really talked about it which would be typical for that time.  People don’t talk about it that much now but back then, it was definitely something that just got “tucked away” as she put it.  As we talked more about it, the reality that her parents’ grief would have been palpable in the environment became more evident.

People often say that a parent is not supposed to outlive their children.  It’s not the natural order of things.  To me, it’s as though nature has turned against itself- like a wrinkle in time.   When it happens to you, that wrinkle warps your whole sense of being from then on.  The change is permanent- survivable, adaptable, workable-yes…but it affects everything around you.  Like it or not, it’s a shared experience.

Unfortunately many families don’t recognize that and don’t really talk about it.  It can be really tough to know how to handle it if the other children are little or come along later.  How do you fit in grieving when you are trying to be a parent to your other children?  I know we tried very hard to give our other 2 children as “normal” a life as possible, but it’s tough when you are dealing with so many unknowns and intense emotions every day.  And now I can see that at least our older son was probably effected a lot more than I would have thought was happening at the time, if that makes sense.

The up side of this is that I am a believer in self-forgiveness and that honesty and openness brings great healing.  Life is imperfect and terrible things, like this kind of loss, can happen.  Most of us usually do the best we can so when we make mistakes or things don’t go well, we need to talk to those to whom we cause distress and tell them why we did what we did  and how we will do better.  Working together with those we love, especially through the most difficult moments, can ease that bumpy ride toward “normal”.

Risky Business

I am a “dabbler” in Etsy.  If you’ve not heard of Etsy before, it’s a wonderful site where creative people can sell their work and it has become very popular.  I have just started with them, looking to maybe try selling some beaded jewelry and baby sweaters.  They are great at what they do because they give a ton of support and “how tos”, one of these being regular email postings of helpful hints.

The “hint” that came today was incredibly well-timed and reminded me full on about what for me became my biggest and probably most  surprising challenge of intense grief– my loss of self-confidence.

After I had my daughter, I returned to my job as the Director of Family Support Services at an agency serving people with Developmental Disabilities.  I continued to work hard at my job and moved up “the ladder” taking on more responsibility, eventually becoming Executive Director of a Subsidiary Corporation.  The point here is that while at my job, in my work environment, I was for the most part my capable, strong self- full of purpose, direction, multi-tasking with the best of them. But when I left work and went into the outside world…

I remember going to my son’s soccer game and standing on the sideline feeling like I didn’t know anyone.  Suddenly, I seemed to be incapable of talking to people, even though I might have just come from running a big meeting.  I would avoid going to large gatherings because I felt like my head was as big as an elephant and everyone was staring at me.  And it wasn’t because they were thinking about what had’ happened” to me – most likely, they didn’t even know. I just felt like a zero, like I had nothing to offer. I didn’t fit  I didn’t know how to put words together anymore.

The Etsy email referred to a blog post about learning to take “mini risks”.  The author talked about picking up on little opportunities to chat with someone- complementing on a blouse or hairstyle, asking how he likes the phone he has or the book he’s reading.  This is not to say that it still won’t feel awkward or like you’re going to pass out if the person doesn’t smile back you.  When you are grieving, it’s a whole different ball game as they say, and it can take enormous strength and courage to just walk into a room, never mind actually to talk to someone.

But I like the idea of “mini risks”.  I think it can be a good way to look at it.  You can even practice ahead of time.  You can think up a couple of questions before you get to wherever you’re going and then look around and target someone and go for it.  You can always have an escape plan if it doesn’t go the way you want or it doesn’t feel good or you can only handle a small bit.  Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, get a drink or food, “see someone you know”- whatever.  With cell phones handy, you can always get a phone call!

“Mini risks” can start out in the open- in a store, on a bus, in a restaurant- no commitment.  It can be with complete strangers or acquaintances.  The main thing is to get your confidence back.  I think that’s one of the toughest blows of grief.  One day you’re in control and the next, you realize you never were.  It shakes your very foundation.  But you can get it back a bit at a time- one “mini risk” at a time.  With each step you feel a little stronger to take the next one.  And when you have “bad days” in the future, as we all do, you can remember that you did it before and you can do it again.

http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/how-to-pick-up-a-stranger-or-produce-brilliant-work/

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: