What’s Your Story?

open bookBehind ever story that we share is a deeper story of significance. Often, we are cautious to tell people what’s really going on in our hearts because we are uncertain we can trust people with precious and personal information.

Our heart is fragile in many ways. We take hits from other people for our opinions and ideas. Most of the time, we can deflect criticism as differing ideas and we’re able to move forward, chalking it up to diversity – no two people are the same after all. Continue reading →

Anger Management 101

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I was angry with God. I was angry with myself and I was angry with Pam – for a while at least.

When my Dad died, I was angry with him for smoking for so many years. When my first wife died, I was angry with her for leaving me with our four children.

I had conversations with God about my situation and wondered what I had done wrong to deserve this fate. I’m just being honest. Continue reading →

Divorce Is a BIG Loss Too!

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After reading my work on loss after a death, many people have commented on the similarities in the aftermath of their divorce. “The loss feels the same in so many ways,” they observe. Yes, the transition is huge. And it’s so important to do it well for all who are involved in the process.

In death, you can no longer be with that person physically. You cannot spend time with them to continue the relationship on an emotional level, so you detach and find new emotional attachments in your life. This does not mean that you stop loving or remembering, it’s just that the relationship is not as it was when the person was living. It can’t be.

In divorce, the relationship changes because it’s different than it once was. This is due to circumstances and a difficult situation, not because someone has died and left completely. Divorce includes multiple losses in numerous secure relationships: Mom and Dad, brother and sister, Grandpa and Grandma, uncles and aunts, friendships and shared communities are all interrupted as people have to redefine their relationship with those involved in the divorce. Continue reading →

Saying Goodbye Is Hard

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I don’t like saying goodbye to my grandchildren when I leave after a visit with them. Even though I might be exhausted by the end of a weekend, as soon as I drive away from their home, I’m already missing them and thinking of the next time that I will see them.

Why? The reason is love. I am emotionally attached to them because of my love for them. And they love me too. The more time we spend together, the more we become attached. Continue reading →

Grief: sorting out tangles and untying knots

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There are some days that grief in our lives feels like a big tangled knot. We feel as though we are getting through and moving ahead and then, BOOM! – emotions blindside us suddenly and an array of emotions grip us once again. We begin again – undoing the knots that bind us tightly. Grief feels like a tightening grip sometimes.

We want to be free, but there is a process: one knot at a time. Because you only have so much energy every day, you need to untangle in methodical priority. Slowly, the tears subside and joy returns. You sleep through the night. You go back to work. You are OK. And then… something pulls you back and you have to begin the untangling again.

There seems to be more backward movement than forward motion in grief at first. And that’s really okay.

I came home for lunch one day, opened up the front door, and said, “I’m home, Pam!” I froze as I quickly realized that Pam was no longer. She had died two months earlier. I sat down and cried. I had to start untangling that difficult knot again.

It was not easy, but it was real.

You will likely have these experiences as well. And it’s really okay. It just means that you miss and love that person. Would you want it any other way?

“NO” Is Not a Bad Word

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Most people want to be kind to you following the death of your loved one or special friend. But have you ever wanted to say “NO” to a person but didn’t? Because you didn’t, it left you feeling frustrated or even angry. “They were trying to be nice,” you’d tell yourself, but their ‘kindness’ wasn’t what you needed in your heart of hearts. “No” is not a bad word when you are grieving…

“No, I don’t want to go out to a dance.”

“No, I don’t need to go to church today.”

“No, I don’t need you to come to visit with me.”

“No, I don’t need to go to your counselor.”

“No, I don’t need to hear about your own experience.”

“No, I don’t need to hear those platitudes right now.”

“No, I don’t need to talk to your friend who has gone through a similar experience.”

Most people have a harder time saying “no” than “yes”. We struggle with offending someone or feel guilty for not accepting a friend’s offer to ‘help’.

Sometimes, we will need to say “yes” – it is important to do that as well. But I have found that, in my many years of counseling people, learning to say “no” is one of the most important skills and one of the most challenging skills to learn. But you must say it in order to put a boundary around your heart – it needs to be protected in its fragile state and no one can do that but you.

So learn to say “no”. It’s really okay.

 

Walk, Run or Pump

100-0039_IMG-1024x768An important approach to grief work is exercise. There are amazing by-products from exercise that support a healthy grief journey.

Our bodies are amazingly made and work together in ways that help healing take place, given the chance.

You will likely feel weak when you are grieving, especially in the days following the death of a loved one or friend. This is a normal reaction to missing someone important in your life. You are trying to figure out the emotional detachment toward a person who is no longer present. It’s not an easy journey and affects not just your spirit but your body as well.

With proper diet, adding the nutrition that you need, a disciplined exercise regime can help you in your grief journey as well.

Research shows that exercise helps you to sort out your emotions more effectively, to think more clearly, to improve your self-regard, and to help you mix back into society more quickly. If you form this good habit forever, you will of course become physically fit in addition to all the other benefits.

When I went through the loss of my first wife, my kinesiologist-daughter told me to get out and exercise. I was shocked at the difference it made in my attitude and ability to deal with the intense grief I was feeling.

What about you? When you are going through loss and see what happens – why not try to walk, run or pump? You may be surprised at the results. No better time to start than as the calendar turns to 2015.

 

Grief Goals

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Writing down your goals is always a good thing in your grief work. It’s easy to get stopped when someone has died and left a big hole in your life. It’s difficult to move forward when you are now forced to adapt to a special person who is no longer physically present in your life.

This person could have been a big part of your dreams or you may have spent time with them planning out the next steps in your life together. Either way, you feel loss.

It’s not easy to move even one step forward when that person is not part of your short or long-term plans or dreams. In fact, these dreams, which you once had together, may have shifted with their dying. That presents yet another loss that has come as a result of death.

Before thinking too far ahead into the future, you may want to consider some of the secondary losses that have come as a result of death and ask yourself what you will do with each one.

Have my friendships changed?

Are there different tasks I need to do now?

Do I need to re-consider my finances?

What do I do with my spare time now?

Has my role changed in my family or extended family?

Will I remain in my present location or home?

Try not to become overwhelmed with these considerations but look at them one at a time, deciding what you will do first and how you will manage them as you grieve for the one who has died.

Why not write down your grief goals and work at them in an order that is priority for you? New Year’s is a good time to take inventory of your life.

A “Remember Me” Legacy

poppy-e1415731891878-1024x764One cannot help but be deeply touched by the stories that flow out of Remembrance Day. Reading the newspapers, watching the T.V., seeing pictures and stories posted on Facebook. We all remember the legacy of individuals and their contributions and sacrifices for our present freedoms.

As we age, have failing health or are in the process of dying, we take time to reminiscence. In that time, we begin the work of understanding our legacy and our symbolic immortality.

What remains of our lives after we die?

How will I be remembered?

We want to know how we have contributed to the lives of those who are closest to us.

We want to think about how our lives will continue through our children.

We want to reflect upon how we have contributed towards a wider community.

We want to know if we have lived life well and had significant relationships.

We want to reflect the possibility of reunion and after life.

We ask the deeper questions about our personal significance, how we will ultimately be remembered and if there is the possibility of transcendence.

We may not have fought in a war and died unselfishly for a bigger cause, but each of us has left something behind that is significant.

This life review is important. If you are grieving, then take some time to thank the person (even though they have died) for the contributions they made in your life. If you are involved with someone who is dying, invite that person to reflect on his or her life. Help him or her get started by sharing how they have made an impact on your own life.

This is helping to create a Remember Me legacy.