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

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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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.

“I’m mad as hell…”

I’m probably dating myself here but this is from the movie Network. When the aging news anchor finds out he is being let go for a younger, sassier version he shares his frustration with the viewing public, ending with the final burst of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  He then instructs everyone in tv land to open their windows and shout it out into the world, which being a movie, lots of people proceed to do.

Imagine how freeing that might feel.  Anger is one of the “stages” in Kubler-Ross’ list of 5 that are commonly talked about and although there has been a great deal of change in view toward this stage theory, most people will still experience several of those emotions.  I think that anger is one of the most challenging for people.  Nice people don’t get angry.  You definitely don’t express it if you do feel it.  You are supposed to push it away, smile, forgive everyone.  I was brought up that it’s not “ladylike” to get mad and behave in an “impolite” manner i.e. “angry”.

But how can you not feel angry when your child or partner or best friend or other significant person was taken from you and you are left behind to try to figure out what to do?  Maybe you’re angry at the medical community who couldn’t figure out how to cure that kind of cancer or at the driver of that car who didn’t see the red light or that thing they call SIDS that took your baby away in the middle of the nite.

And then there are those unspeakable angers.  If you are a person of faith, you may find yourself wanting to scream and yell at God.  I mean, if God is so loving, how could He do this to me?  Why?  What did I do to deserve this?  I’ve tried to be good.  I’ve always tried to do the right thing-play by all the rules.  For many, this can be a very difficult and shattering experience.  If not handled well, some people may turn from their faith altogether.

The other even more disturbing anger for many is the shock of feeling angry at the person who died.  Guilt and self-recrimination can only confuse an already overwhelming situation.  Many spouses feel angry at being left with all the burdens of home, children, bills.  Parents may be angry at children who died because of irresponsible behavior like drunk driving or taking drugs.  And then there’s just being angry at them in general for leaving you and making you go through all this pain.  You may think it’s irrational but you feel it just the same.

And that is the key.  You feel it.   It is just part of the normal grief process that our psychological system has designed to help us work through this loss experience.  It is normal.  How it will show up and its intensity is different for each of us and is influenced by many things like the nature of your relationship with the person, the circumstances of the death, any experiences you had with death as a child, religious and cultural beliefs, etc.

The most important thing is that you allow yourself to feel what you feel, even the anger.  Express it in some way even if it’s only in private.  You don’t have to yell and scream either- there are lots of different ways.  Just acknowledging it and knowing that it’s ok is a good place to start.

Doing What Needs to Be Done

Today I finally went for a walk.  This is something I have been telling myself I was going to do every day for I don’t want to tell you how long.  I used to walk all the time.  It was my preferred mode of exercise and I loved getting out and getting a chance to clear my head and just breathe.

Somehow I got out of the habit and it became a chore.  I used to look forward to it; now it was just one more thing to do.  It’s funny how something that is so enjoyable and freeing one minute can feel so heavy and demanding the next.

If you are grieving, you probably know how that feels.  Even simple things can seem like complicated tasks.  Small problems become huge mountains.  As life keeps moving on all around you, you just want everything and everybody to slow down and give you a break.  Finding ways to keep up while keeping sane may feel almost impossible.  I know there were times I wasn’t so sure that I wasn’t losing my mind, running from home to job to kid stuff to other family things to home etc.

As hard as it may be to do, it’s critical that you allow yourself whatever time you need to get done what has to get done and let go of the rest.  The key is, you really have to be the one to be willing to let things go.  Maybe the house isn’t so clean or the lawn isn’t perfect or you don’t get to the gym as often or…. you fill it in.  I’m not talking about just not adding things to your “to do” list now but about taking stuff off the one you already have.  Ask for help, get off of committees, say no- all those things everyone always says to do but no one ever does.  If there was ever a time to do them, it’s now.

And just to be clear, I’m not just talking about in the first few months after you have lost someone.  That will probably happen naturally as you’re too upset or exhausted and people don’t really expect otherwise.  You need to continue to give yourself that “break” long after so you have the time and space you will need for your grief as time moves on.  You may be surprised at how quickly people will start expecting you to be back at it and you will need to set your own boundaries about what you will and won’t do.  Grieving takes a good amount of physical and emotional energy no matter how strong you are.  Give yourself the gift of time to make it a bit easier.  Remember, this is your life and your loss- you get to decide how you will handle it.

Looking “Out There”…

As I am sitting here drinking my morning tea, I am distracted by this show on the TV, the Nate Berkus Show.  It’s one of those morning shows where the host shows you how to decorate your home, cook the perfect meal, dress in style, do charitable works- the typical American morning show.

I don’t usually watch these things.  It’s on because my son, who of course has left the room, put the TV on and it landed on this channel.  I just haven’t bothered to turn it off.  Although I do find some parts interesting, especially the cooking, I am usually reminded by how obsessed we can get with “things”; how we are constantly looking for something “out there” that will make our lives better, more beautiful, happier because what we have already is not enough.  And how sad that is as any of us who has lost someone dear knows.

How many times do people look back after someone dies and wish they had spent less time working and more time talking and laughing with him or her?  And all the fretting and stress we cause ourselves about not being able to provide all these “things” for our loved ones, feeling like we are not striving hard enough or don’t care enough if we don’t.

In my worst of times, I have had to take time off from working so our income has been diminished and our home has been in disrepair. I allowed myself to fall victim to this sense of embarrassment, not wanting to let people see us not at our best, lest they think poorly of me.  I know all of the clichés that my true friends wouldn’t care but…I would not have thought that I would have let myself give in to this.  But grief attacks your self-confidence and can make you behave in ways you would not have thought possible.  At the very time I needed to invite people in, I shut people out.  In this case, due to my physical surroundings and succumbing to the societal pressures around me.

So forget the clichés and take it from the heart that people who love you don’t care if your house is a mess- they will help you clean it.  They don’t care if you look like a model- they will take you for a haircut.  They don’t care if you cook them dinner- they will cook for you.  Don’t be distracted by what you see on TV or in the magazines about who you are supposed to be.  Just be.

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