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…

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.

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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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.

5 in 1

I’ve been under the weather for a few days which brought on kind of a yucky mood which in turn made me revisit an “issue” that I ruminate over regarding my work choices.  It’s also why I haven’t posted for a bit.

After I struggled through that for a few hours and then moved on, it occurred to me that I had just experienced pretty much all of the “5 Stages of Grief” in one sitting. I won’t get into the specific issue I was dealing with but the process went something like this:

  1. Denial- I can’t believe this is happening again; I can’t believe I am going through this and questioning myself again and feeling bad all over again; this can’t be happening
  2. Anger– I am sooo sick of this; I feel like throwing my teacup against the wall and screaming at the top of my lungs, I am so frustrated with this; will there never be an end to this; why does this keep happening; I don’t deserve all of this
  3. Bargaining- I am a good person; I promise if you just show me the way that I will do it, whatever it takes; this is not just about me, it’s for my family too; think of all of the other people who will be impacted too
  4. Depression– I just can’t take this anymore; I keep trying and trying and getting nowhere; I’m just going to give up- there are just no answers; why bother; all I want to do is lay in my bed with the covers over my head and hope no one notices that I’m not there; what difference does it make anyway
  5. Acceptance- Ok, take a breath- it is what it is; you have been through this before and you have figured out how to get it together and move forward; you just have to put one foot in front of the other and regroup and remember what your original goals were and why you are doing this; this is not the end of the world, it just feels bad right now for some reason but it is just for this moment; it is really all right and you just need to take that first step, any step; find something positive to focus on

The “Stages” are real emotions or reactions that can occur in response to stressful situations.  They are ways that our body helps us to work through something painful and overwhelming when  the everyday more typical ways just won’t cut it.  The critical thing to remember is that they are not really stages in that they don’t happen in a neat little prescribed  sequence, one after the other, in a specific time frame never to be seen again once you’ve passed through them.

As my tiny example shows, you can experience these emotions all in 1 specific situation, working through 1 issue.  Obviously, this was not the same as a prolonged grief process. I have felt through my own grief experiences, and surely will feel again, all of these intense emotions as life brings on more major challenges.

My point is that when you hear about the “5 Stages of Grief”, don’t just accept that this is the exact way that grief occurs. There are a lot of people who refer to this model or theory when they talk about grief.  You even see it poked fun at on shows like “Family Guy” or “South Park” on tv.

Grief  is a very fluid process, moving in and out of varying intensities of different emotions.    The “Stages” Model provides some good basic information and understanding about what can happen when your are grieving but everyone’s path is different. You have a right to make your own.

Another famous death…

Hearing of Whitney Houston‘s death reminds us once again of the tragic side of fame and fortune.  She was a woman with such incredible and amazing talent, it was so heartbreaking over the years to see her waste it all away by getting caught up in the wild world of drugs, alcohol, excess, etc.  Some may brush it away as just another Hollywood celebrity gone bad, maybe even “reaping what she sowed”.

I think that those who have experienced deep grief can view it from a different perspective.  When you peel away the layers of glitz and glamour, take away all the photographers and news hounds and adoring fans, all that’s left are the grieving family and close friends, sitting around the kitchen table just like the rest of us wondering what else they could have or should have done to try to help her so she would still be here today.  They will face all the same questions and fears and heart wrenching pain.  Her mother will suffer what no parent ever wants to know- losing a child.  Her daughter will forge into her young adulthood and beyond without a mother.  Friends will gather and feel the emptiness around them.  And they will do it all under the scrutiny of the judging and hungry public eye.

When someone famous dies, we often feel a reaction- sad, upset- we may even cry and grieve the loss.  It happens all the time with these Hollywood icons.  And when you step back it all seems so strange.  I mean, we don’t even know them.  Never met them, don’t really know anything about them- the person you see is not even who he or she really is.  Why do we even care?

There are a lot of theories behind this.  I believe for one that we are all connected in some way and when you hear of someone’s death, something deep inside is touched by that.  A bigger reason though is that it calls forward associations with our own losses and sparks a reaction.  We know what those around that person are going through and we empathize.

Like it or not, we are “feeling”creatures.  We actually spend a good deal of our lives trying not to “feel” things.  I believe the saying is “That’s what separates man from the beasts”.  Feeling things can be hard but remember that without it, we wouldn’t get to have the wonderful things either, like happiness when we are with the ones we love…or joy from a beautiful song sung by a amazingly talented woman.

I leave you with this beautiful and moving tribute to Whitney…

(sorry for the obnoxious ad prior)
xc43k2_jennifer-hudson-sings-i-will-always_music

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.

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