“If only…” (again)

After a great luncheon workshop the other day, I got the chance to take a break and hang out with some women at a local beach bar for the afternoon.  That was really a treat as usually I spend my days with my 2 dogs and as I work from home, don’t see too many people, especially other women.  I really relish the opportunity to just let my hair down, which is a bit of a trick since my hair is very short, and relax and remember what it’s like to just “be” female.

And it was a great afternoon.  I did have this one little moment however… I really hate it when those little “moments” have to happen.  They always seem to have to creep in, just when you’re having the perfect time.  I’m lucky though that at this point I know how to handle such “moments” and can sail through them pretty well, kind of put them aside in a little holding pattern to be sorted through at a later time if necessary.

So anyway, what happened was that I was chatting with a couple of women about some events that had taken place in the last year or so and they were going back and forth about who was where when these different events occurred.  I might have chimed in once or twice.   One woman was talking about how she was on some exotic island somewhere both times this annual event took place and then this last time something happened, she was on a road trip somewhere else…

The gist of all of this is that as I’m looking at her and how successful she obviously is, the success that has allowed her and her husband to go on all of these trips,  my thoughts start wandering into that forbidden territory of “if only”. That’s “the moment” – the one that I sat there saying to myself, “oh no, this is not good.  I don’t want to go down this road”

But…there it was. “If only” that hadn’t happened and that hadn’t happened and that… I would be where she is today.  Or at least I wouldn’t be where I am.  I wouldn’t have had to reinvent myself and start over (and over).  I wouldn’t have to struggle with the constant reminders that life is unfair and painful and hard work.  I wouldn’t have cried enough tears to fill an ocean and wonder what I did to deserve this.  I would still have my career and my health would be better and we’d have some money in the bank.

Now I know this is all irrational thinking.  There are never any promises in this life.  When “the moment” passes and I get back to it later, I am able to remember all of the truth of this.  Would I rather some of these things had not happened- obviously. But they did. Why?  Who knows.

I never really thought about what to expect from life. I know this sounds odd to say, but it was quite shocking to me to experience the deaths that I did, particularly losing my dad when I young, and having a baby die- that still feels like something from a dream.

As I have wound my way down this path, I find more and more that it really is about living in “this moment”.  Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not.  Some days the past will creep in and hurt, most days we worry about what’s going to happen next.  The best thing is to try really hard to just think about right now and this day and what I am doing to make this one good.

I know that I am not protected from more pain happening to me and that worrying about it will not change that.  I also know that it has a lot to do with me and how I look at things.  And believe me, I know that some days things can look pretty crappy and that’s ok.  But another lesson I have learned on this road is that when the crappy day comes, just like “the moment” or the “if only”, I have to just let it happen.  It will pass.  It will work itself through, get itself out and I will survive it.  Whatever is in me that has brought me this far will bubble up again and push me forward again as it has all along.  Trust me, it has been a nightmare at times, but I am here and I have survived and I am determined now that I will thrive.

You can too. I swear.

Advertisements

The sky is falling…again

So it has been several weeks since my last post, since my “feeling good, flowing-in-the-breezes” post.  I was doing very well- until that Supreme Court thing happened.  Obamacare- wow.  People are really going crazy in this country.

Don’t worry- I am not going to get political here.  Actually that is the last thing I want to do.  I just find that all of this political foolishness and the frenzy of emotion that it whips up reminds me again of what grief and loss has taught me.

Let me preface this with a couple of things:

My husband is what would be termed a “political junkie”. He loves to watch the tv talk shows every nite so I am continually immersed in the goings on of our nation’s political scene.  It’s like watching a soap opera as it goes on and on, hashing the same thing over and over again for hours.  I do think it is valuable as people need to know what ‘s happening out there and we do get to see and hear first hand a lot more of what our “representative government” is up to. But it is also like being beaten over the head with a stick at times.

The second thing is that, having worked in the Human Services, non-profit sector most of my life,  I do tend to be on, dare I say it, what’s called the left side of things. I hate to use that term as I really can’t stand that we label ourselves in these camps but that’s a different discussion. I’ve never understood this whole party system idea anyway.

So when the Supreme Court upheld the so-called Obamacare, the nastiness and almost violent reactions of people just started to get to me.  The seeming lack of caring and concern for others and assumptions that those who don’t have what they need are in their circumstances because of their own doing is overwhelming to me.  I didn’t even want to look at Facebook as people were posting all kinds of crazy posters saying “if you agree that Your Freedom is being taken away then hit like…”  and all the opposite too of course.  I mean seriously people, your freedom?

What really did it for me was hearing a politician say that when we wake up tomorrow, the America you know will be completely different, it will never be the same, implying that it will be a terrible place where life will be awful, without freedom, etc.

Well, when I woke up the next day, it was beautiful outside.  The sun was shining and there were birds singing.  There was a beautiful breeze.  I had my tea, the kind I love and look forward to every morning.  My husband went to work as did my oldest son, the one that I was so incredible lucky to have since I only had a 2 out of 6 chance of having any successful pregnancies. He works really hard, takes care of himself and he’s trying to take classes on-line even though he’s had a tough time with traditional college.

Later I showered, ate, got dressed, and sat down to work on developing my jewelry business which I still have the drive and opportunity to do despite all of the ups and downs and stops and starts.  I also chatted with my other son, another miracle, who made me laugh, and listened to him play his guitar while I worked on my computer.

In the evening, as my husband drove home, he stopped at the store and picked up some food- our checkbook was low but there was enough to get what we needed.  I also talked with my sister on the phone for an hour.  So do you get where I’m going with this? The sky didn’t fall- freedom still prevails- life is still good despite all of the challenges.

When you experience heart wrenching loss, your perspective changes.  You don’t  really care so much about whether you have the latest doodad or if your kids are wearing the finest designer clothes.  Your values tend to shift, or at least become clearer.  Life shattering experiences make you see things very differently.  Granted, it’s not always easy to come out on the positive side of this change but hopefully, you can take that and move forward to use that clarity in a good way in your life.

You know how when you go to a funeral and someone says, “I wish I had spent more time with him”, “I wish had gotten to know her better”, “I wish I had appreciated him more”, I wish, I wish, I wish…

Why is it that it seems to only take a few seconds and a few well placed words be it from a politician or a media spokesperson and all of that is forgotten?  Suddenly that realization that the only things that matter are relationships and caring about other people goes out the window;  it’s every man for himself as the saying goes.

Many of us waste so much time looking outside for someone or something to blame, to keep us angry for not getting whatever it is we think we should be getting . When you experience significant loss, you can go 1 of 2 ways.  You can stay with that approach. You can keep looking for that answer, that “thing”, like in this case, that 1 issue like Obamacare that will make or break your life, or you can start to breathe in and absorb how real the day to day little things are that make up your life. I know that’s not always easy.

There will always be someone willing to tell you how bad your life is.  They may even think they’re helping you.  Step away -look and listen to the good that is there, even if it is just little, simple day-to-day things. Some days will be easier than others but it’s better than the alternative. And you will feel better for it.

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

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

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.

Another

Yes my friends, another holiday is almost here.  Even though it’s a Christian celebration, it has, just like Christmas, wound its way into our everyday world with easter egg hunts and bunnies with baskets and the potentially dreaded family gatherings.

I say dreaded because for those who are grieving, they can stir up all kinds of difficult feelings.  Someone is missing- period.  It just can’t be what it should be.  There’s no way around it.

Maybe that person used to carve the ham or make the pies or play games with the kids or… maybe she or he was supposed to be one of those kids eagerly looking for eggs or gobbling down chocolate.

I know that our holiday table has shrunk a lot.  We don’t really need that second table anymore.  My family all come to our house for Easter dinner and as I look around at my 2 boys, 2 nieces and 2 nephews, I always, always feel the mixed blessing of having them all to enjoy while feeling the sadness of my daughter’s absence and wondering how she would fit in with them all.  How would she be dressed?  How would they get along?  What would they talk about?

I also feel the memories of others who we miss so deeply – my father and Carol, my brother’s wife, and we always recall things about them while we talk.

Although it all sounds so sad, I always return to the realization and the belief that I wouldn’t change it because the fact that we had, and have, such great love for the ones who can’t be with us physically any longer is why it is so hard to be without them.  Our missing them and hurting for them is from the imprint on our souls of that great love and we are so fortunate to have it.   So when I have those few opportunities to gather with people I love a lot, I give myself time to feel the sad things I need to feel, then move on to let the “imprinting” continue.

Count your blessings…

I read something today which bothered me a little.  It talked about getting over losing your child by starting to look at the good things in your life. You know, “attitude of gratitude”, “think positive thoughts and you’ll feel better”, that kind of thing.  Well…I have a thought or two on that as I’m sure a few others out there would.  My first one being, yeah, right- it’s not quite that simple.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I truly do believe in all of that and I do practice it regularly.  I try to catch myself as often as I can when I am thinking negative things and change my thoughts around.  I read a lot of books on the subject of positive thinking and the Law of Attraction and tips and tricks on how to get my mind in the best possible place.  Let me tell you, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t do those things.

I have a notebook filled with positive quotes and inspirational sayings that I refer to regularly.  I have beautiful pictures, photos of my family, funny cards, cute doggy pictures, drawings my kids have made me over they years- all kinds of stuff hanging around my office to look at to boost me up when I need it.  And of course there’s music, although I realized that I haven’t been listening to it as much as I should- something I am changing.  Music was always a big part of my life in the past so I really want to get that back in.

Anyway,  the person who wrote this talked about counting a bunch of things you can be grateful for when you start to feel bad about your lost child.  Now she did say that moving on from this loss would be a slow process- could require you to take small steps.  But I can tell you that when I am remembering my little baby girl and feeling sad that I don’t get to talk to her about what she’s thinking about doing when she gets out of college or my heart just fell into my stomach because someone unknowingly just said to me for the umpteenth time, “You’re so lucky you don’t have a daughter. Girls are so much harder than boys” and I’m thinking okay mouth, don’t say it- “Really?? Well, you know I would have really loved to have had the chance to find out but…”

I know that the point this person was trying to make was overall a good one.  The circumstances, to me, just were a tad off.  The thing is, I don’t see the two things as mutually exclusive.  I am lucky that I am far enough along in my grief experience that I can separate my losses from other things and still see all that I have to be grateful for.  I think about them every day. I even think that when you’ve experienced loss it can make you more thankful for simple everyday things.  I just don’t see that as a way to deal with not having the daughter that was given to me then taken away.  I could come up with a list of things I’m grateful for and it still wouldn’t make up for that.

It  reminds me of a post from a fellow blogger that I read a while ago about a loss being a gift as you learn so much from it.  When people call it a gift, it sounds like something you’d really want. Well, yes, I can’t deny that I have learned a tremendous amount from these gifts that I have received.  We talked about it some and the conclusion of it all though was – these are gifts we would give back in a heartbeat.

I Would Gladly Trade My Lessons   (Namaste Consulting)

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: