Monday, December 11, 2017

A Deep Blue Christmas: Dealing with Extreme Grief at the Holidays


For those who’ve recently lost someone they deeply loved, this is the season of struggles.  Here are some short tips on how to grieve when the world is trimming trees and singing carols

While it’s hard to quantify grief, to say ‘my loss trumps your loss,’ we all know there are losses that sadden and there are losses that devastate.   The first Christmas or Hanukkah after a devastating loss—really any ‘first’ without the loved one—can be almost unbearably painful. The holidays create idealized expectations that can’t possibly be met. For those experiencing extreme grief, this time of year isn’t just a let down; it’s a painful reminder of what you no longer have. I remember being so angry that first Christmas because everyone was laughing and sharing and I had to visit my child at the cemetery.

If you’re suffering from extreme grief, here are some tips on how can you survive the holidays.

Break down when you need to break down. (Yes, even in the middle of the office Christmas party.) Grief doesn’t always arrive at convenient times, but it should not be squelched. Find a bathroom or go outside, but cry and scream if you have to. 

Never fake it, “Never soldier through it. Only by “riding the waves” of grief, even when makes others uncomfortable, can you ever begin to heal.”

If you feel like going to the holiday event, go. If you don’t, don’t. “Grief ebbs and flows, and often after a period of intense crying you will feel okay for a while,” says Shechtman. “If you’re in an ‘ebb’ and think you might enjoy Candlelight service, then go. Take grief as it comes.”

Forget seasonal “obligations.” Take care of yourself first.  “If you just can’t show up for a holiday dinner, it’s okay,” says Shechtman. “If you can’t face shopping for your grandchildren, don’t. They have too much stuff anyway! Those who care about you will understand.”

When you need to, call someone on your “List of 10.” Historically, extreme loss was handled in the context of family, friends, church and community. In our current culture families are scattered and fragmented and communities and churches have been devalued. That’s why Shechtman suggests cobbling together a list of 10 people you trust who agree to be there when you need them—even at 2 am.

“After Sharon died I would call the people on my list, one by one, to see if they were up to my grief at the moment,” she says. “Grief requires comfort, a hard thing to keep asking for.”

Find a way to honor your lost loved one during the holidays.  Hang a stocking for her.  Prepare his favorite meal. Do something meaningful to bring the person’s presence into the holidays.

“These rituals help you process the loss rather than trying to squelch or deny it,” says Shechtman.

Do something that brings you pleasure or comfort.   It doesn’t have to be holiday related.  Go for a snowy hike, or visit a spa, or pet cats at the local animal shelter. The fact that you’re grieving doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life.

“This last point is the hardest to believe, but it’s true,” notes Shechtman.  “You’ll think, ‘I’ll never be happy again.’ You will.  Maybe not this Christmas or Hanukkah. Maybe not next year. But eventually, you will.

“Making the choice to grieve—and it’s one you must make again and again for the rest of your life—expands your capacity for joy and brings new richness to relationships,” she adds. “If nothing else sustains you this holiday season, hold on to this. Life will never been the same, but it will be good again.”



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Whenever There Is A Big Loss...



Whenever there is a big loss in our lives it requires certain responses, whether we like it or not.   Our freedom is simply in how we choose to handle those requirements.

The most basic choice is whether to take the risk of loving again.  Knowing that you could lose again, it is a very difficult choice.

The other big choice is weather to honor the loss by continuing to grieve.  It may actually be the same choice in different words.  But to not honor a significant loss leads to bitterness and cynicism.  Not grieving over time isolates and distances one from comfort and healing.

I had a hard time myself after Sharon died and later I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  I had trouble reconciling those two critical events in my life.  I remember the mental image I had of an internal earthquake and me sitting on the ground going through the rubble that used to be my life.  What should I keep, what should I discard?  Why even bother, it was too much to wrap my head around.  It seemed, at that time, that every time I rebuilt, some new thing hit me.  So I wallowed around in that place for a while, basically sidelining myself from reengaging with much.  That felt very safe and somewhat secure.  Then I began to feel restless and lonely, that dilemma tugged at me for months.  I went back and forth like a yo-yo, break out of my safe shell, or sit down and stay safe.  I remember the choice came quietly one day while walking in Montana.  Life is going to go on weather I do or not, so I may as well join. 

All of us have to make that choice in one form or another, many times over a lifetime.  I have to remind myself that the “ties that bind”, the invisible strands of family, friends and life  are stronger then my grief.



Friday, October 20, 2017

Poem #5


 I came in one day
&
found Sharon dead
&
I went mad.

Because you were there
&
let me have
my
madness
&
grief
I am healing.

Thank you.




Friday, October 6, 2017

At This Time...



For Las Vegas, for Puerto Rico, for Florida, for Texas, for America

There is no such thing as enough
There is nothing to say that is enough
There is no place that is safe enough

All we can do is offer our hand in the dark
They will be unaffected, keep offering
They will push us away, keep offering

When my daughter died I wondered why people weren’t helping me.  It took almost a year to realize that everyone had been helping.  It just didn’t feel like it to me.  The pain and impact is that great, and the devastation is irrevocable. 


The help is like salve on a wound, not instant healing, but every dab, or pat on the arm, adds up over time to the healing.  The scars are always there and the change is permanent.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

On Being Bereaved in a "Chirpy" Culture



“Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ seems to be our national hymn.  It will be interesting to see how that comes back after the hurricanes this summer and the massacre in Los Vegas.  But I am confident it will, as I believe the investment in the stats quo is that powerful.

In the face of that powerful edict, how does one stay true to oneself and the equally powerful need to heal/grieve?  It ain’t easy, as the saying goes.  But it is possible.  Basically we find pockets of those that are more real and authentic.  It is easier now than when Sharon died due to the Internet and social media that has happened in the 40 years since her death.  There are many sites and local groups that I had no access to.

Even so;
But grief is a walk alone. Others can be there.
But you will walk alone down your own path, at your own pace, with your sheared-off pain, your raw wounds, your denial, anger and bitter loss.
You’ll come to your own peace, hopefully…but it will be on your own, in your own time
Cathy Lamb


I would add that the walk alone sets us apart from others that I hope they never have to understand—yet the longing to belong is great and adds to the loneliness of "the walk alone".

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I Am Out of Ideas



After 20,000 clicks and likes I still haven’t heard a word from anyone.  No hurrahs, no boos, just silence. 

I don’t know who my audience is

I don’t know if I have any impact

Don’t know if it matters.

I guess it really doesn’t matter as long as the clicks and likes keep appearing.

A hundred clicks here, a hundred likes there, it all adds up.

So why do I keep writing and posting?   Because when I was newly bereaved I didn’t have the energy or any interest in engaging anyone myself.  But I really appreciate, to this day, those that kept writing even if I couldn’t respond.

So, I’m out of ideas for the moment, but they will come.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Loss Too Many



I’ve recovered from a lot
From my only daughter’s death
My son’s choosing different paths from me
Many furry friends along the way
My own parents deaths, and both my in-laws
I am the one in eight woman with breast cancer
Those are the major losses
Many paper cuts on my journey

But this one is the one
That is a loss to many
The loss of my home, my dream, my identity of me.

I can’t find the solid ground I once stood on, so proudly
I can’t find the internal resources to bounce back, this time
There seems no point in going on
My place in life is behind me
I don’t fit in this new world, actually never did fit anywhere
I see no rainbows
        No pot o’ gold
                   No happy ending
                              I’ve gotten to old.

What do I do with that grim truth?
Withdraw from the world?
Lie down and die?
No
         No
                  No
I will let all the small signs of caring, comfort and support patch me up.  I am like a crazy quilt pieced together with the “ties that bind”.  The invisible strands of family, friends and life are stronger then my grief.