Friday, December 21, 2012

Table of Contents

I just wanted to inclucde this because I don't remember ever saying that this book is about grief in the long haul

Table of Contents




Chapter 1
            First Five Years: Chaos and reorienting

Chapter 2
            Ten Years: Realignment and acceptance

Chapter 3
            Fifteen Years: Weariness and shutdown

Chapter 4
            Twenty Years: No one cares; holding up is hard

Chapter 5
            Twenty-Five Years: Silence and loneliness; What more is there to say and do?

Chapter 6
            Thirty Years: Back to the beginning: A renewed sense of purpose and                                     meaning

Chapter 7
            Thirty-Five Years: Continuations; don’t know what else to do; the                                                 relationship with my dead daughter

Chapter 8
            Other Loses

            On the Other Side of Grief

Some Final Notes



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook


Sandy Hook

Opens the abyss
Of grief
The need to know, understand
At the edge of a Black Hole
That eats at our soul
There is nothing we can do,
But there is a lot we can be
I know this journey, back from the edge
Let me be with you, just that
Let the grief come
      All consuming.
I will walk with you
Into the Black Hole
And you will come back whole

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Deep Blue Christmas

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.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Grief Journey

Arleah on the Grief Journey

Over the years, the requirements of my grieving have waxed and waned, but there is always some demand to acknowledge several important dates. The honoring no longer has to be long or dramatic; it just has to be addressed. The relationship I have developed with my daughter over the long haul feels peaceful and bittersweet. I keep the grief in my pocket and take it out from time to time, but it no longer rules my life. It has been a gradual process of choices that have built up over time, like a coral reef. Each individual animal—or choice, in my case—is small and insignificant, but the sum total is breathtaking, though invisible on the surface. By now there is little drama left, and less and less to say. All the building and changes are under the surface. A reef and the human spirit are both easy to shatter, but both are also resilient and tend to rebuild in changed forms. Many other losses have occurred along the way, each with its own pain and recovery. Nothing comes close to the upside-down, inside-out world that the death of my child wrought. What is breathtaking is the healing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

No Grief, No Relief: Why Grieving Is The Price of Healing (and 10 Ways to Work Through the Pain of Loss)

No Grief, No Relief:  Why Grieving Is The Price of Healing (and 10 Ways to Work Through the Pain of Loss)
The loss of a loved one is terrible, and it can be tempting to do anything in your power to avoid the pain. However, says Arleah Shechtman, you must choose to feel and face your grief. Only then will you truly begin to heal.

Kalispell, MT (October 2012)—If you’ve ever lost someone you deeply loved, you know the truth: our culture doesn’t believe in grief.  Sure, people will come to the funeral, give awkward hugs, and send flowers, but let a few weeks pass and you’re expected to “move on” and to get (or at least act) “back to normal.”  For this reason—and because it’s so painful to face the full brunt of our loss—many of us lock our grief away.  We distract ourselves with work, numb ourselves with drugs (prescribed or otherwise), or maybe just trudge through the day in a dull state of stoicism.
It’s understandable.  Grief sucks.  No one wants to acknowledge—and certainly not feel firsthand—the raw, primal, out-of-control emotions that come along with great loss. But psychotherapist and executive coach Arleah Shechtman says that without grief there can be no healing.
“My fifteen-year-old daughter Sharon died nearly 35 years ago of a drug overdose, and in the decades since I have learned that grief is an ongoing, never-ending process,” says Shechtman, author of the new book My Beloved Child: My journey since the death of my daughter (Fifth Wave Leadership Publications, 2012, ISBN: 978-1-4750469-9-1, $13.95). “And I’ve also discovered that you have to make the choice to grieve—not just at the beginning but again and again as the years go by. Unfortunately, society discourages us from making that choice.”
Grieving is messy, nonlinear, and unpredictable.  In a society that values “bucking up,” moving on, bringing order out of chaos and finding salvation through hard work, this is downright inconvenient.  Plus, as Shechtman has discovered from counseling patients, people are afraid if they fully experience the crushing pain of loss,  they’ll be totally swamped with unmanageable feelings for the rest of their lives.
“Grief can be delayed through various tactics, but it can’t be denied altogether,” Shechtman warns. “However, exerting that much control over your emotions, thoughts, and body is very stressful and will impact your physical health. Even more dire is the emotional and spiritual stagnation that a suppression of grief causes. When you choose not to grieve, you will be unable to rebuild a meaningful, fulfilling, and loving life—which I promise is possible, even though you will never ‘complete’ the grieving process.”
Shechtman’s book describes in brutal and powerful detail what it’s like to make the choice to grieve—over and over again. Each chapter describes her experiences during a given five-year time block, ranging from the first five years to thirty-five years after the loss. The book is interspersed with her raw, moving, and beautiful poems, which played a large role in her healing process. And while it’s written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, its lessons will be invaluable to anyone who has experienced a loss.
Here, Shectman offers advice on how to view and handle grief, and insight as to how facing it can ultimately help you to heal:

Don’t squelch your grief. It’s okay if you make other people uncomfortable. Grieving isn’t something we learn. It’s instinctive and primal, and expressing it isn’t something that you can plan, script, or tone down—nor should you attempt to. The emotions you are feeling go beyond words, concepts, or thoughts. And only by fully expressing them can you begin to heal.

“Cry, scream, and allow yourself to ride the waves you’re feeling,” urges Shechtman. “I remember wailing, keening, and crying many times after losing Sharon. Years after her death, I found myself screaming and jumping up and down in anger while visiting her grave. All of these behaviors transgress the boundaries of ‘polite’ and even ‘acceptable’ behavior, but believe me, they are necessary—and society’s unwritten rules about the expression of grief are unhealthy and wrong. Trust your process.”

Grief comes in waves. Let them happen. They will pass. These waves, which surface at unpredictable times, are relatively short in duration but may be very intense. When you ride the waves to the crest and express whatever is there, the wave will ebb, and you will be able to go on living for awhile. And over time, the waves of grief happen further apart and are less intense and devastating. Realize, though, that if you ignore your feelings, you will never experience “normal,” because your intense emotions will always be trying to escape.   The magic of having your feelings is that there is a beginning middle and an end, and then you can go on to something else.  Not having them is like having a sour stomach; they lay there never quite resolving themselves.

“Many bereaved individuals are afraid of being stuck forever in the throes of intense grief if they allow themselves to feel it even once,” shares Shechtman. “I promise, that is not the case. I found that my most intense bouts of grief were relatively short—less than ten minutes.

“I also find that after each period of intense grief, it helps to do something mundane and normal,” she adds. “For instance, my husband and I went to Burger King for a meal after Sharon’s emotionally exhausting funeral. Those few moments allowed me to regroup enough to go on, and that incident was the beginning of a pattern that still works for me.”

Don’t expect to ever “get over it.” It’s true that the way you feel and express grief will change over time, but you will never reach a point where you say to yourself, “I’m finished grieving.” You’ve crossed over an invisible force field, and there is no way to return to the way things were before. In fact, believing that you should eventually finish the grieving process is like expecting an amputee to stop missing her arm.

“This truth is contrary to what our society says grief should be like,” Shechtman points out. “That is, a relatively brief period of mourning is allowed—or rather, tolerated—and then the bereaved individual is expected to move on and not bother others with expressions of grief again. I’m here to tell you that this expectation is totally unrealistic. But even though it sounds like a paradox, making the difficult choice to let grief—in its many manifestations—be a part of your life also means that you will experience growth, healing, and appreciation for the world and relationships around you.”

Don’t listen when people try to silence you with a Valium or prayer. The expression of grief is often deeply uncomfortable for others to witness. And after weathering the initial shock of losing a loved one, as Shechtman has pointed out, others want the bereaved to “move on,” to adopt a stoic attitude, or to medicate themselves—anything to avoid being reminded of and upset by fears they themselves don’t dare to contemplate.

“I found out in no uncertain terms that the world doesn’t sanction grief when the minister at my daughter’s grave side told me, ‘Okay, it’s over, now buck up and deal with it,’” Shechtman recalls. “Nevertheless, I grieved loudly and often for at least the first year, upsetting many folks who wanted me to shut up and take some pills. Please know that I’m not against medication or prayer in general—only when they’re used to prematurely and falsely stop the grieving process.”

Allow yourself to feel anger. It doesn’t make you a bad person. When Shechtman insists on the importance of expressing your grief, she means anger, too. This is often an especially thorny emotion to process because it involves the need to place blame, which can sometimes fall on the dead person and/or on the bereaved. These expressions of anger are seen as inappropriate and elicit protests such as, “It’s not fair,” “The dead aren’t here to defend themselves,” “They didn’t die on purpose,” “You’re being selfish,” etc.

 “Nevertheless, it’s crucial to articulate your anger, which is one of those extreme feelings that needs to be let out in order for healing to take place,” Shechtman asserts. “I felt really guilty after screaming my anger while visiting Sharon’s grave, but that catharsis needed to happen. And, of course, while I felt anger that I had lost her, I didn’t and still don’t hold any type of grudge against my daughter.

“Remember, at its worst, not expressing anger can lead to bitterness and cynicism,” she adds. “And at its least, it still creates a distance between you, the dead, and the living that is unbridgeable, because you can’t be safe and intimate at the same time.”

Visit the gravesite as often as you need to.  Gravesites, shrines and other meaningful locations are critical to the grieving process. Just as funerals help us say a final good-bye and make the loss real, gravesites give us a physical place to remember, grieve and recover.  If your loved one was cremated and the ashes scattered, you may want to create a memory garden or perhaps a “shrine” in your home with the person’s photo, a memento that reminds you of her, and perhaps a candle or religious symbol.

“Before Sharon’s death, I remember being very critical of funerals, cemeteries, and mourners,” shares Shechtman. “I thought it was all a lot of fuss about nothing. And I guess it is—for those who have not faced a death in the family. It is not really possible to convey bereavement, or the importance of tangible ceremonies and rituals, to the non-bereaved.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As Shechtman has acknowledged, it’s all too easy to sink into a private, quiet, internal place that feels safe. The false bargain you’re making with yourself is, If I don’t think about her or talk about her, then she won’t be so gone. Asking for and accepting help is another conscious choice you will need to make.  And the support of other people really does make a difference, says Shechtman: while she isn’t conventionally religious, she says she felt a persistent sense of being ‘held up’ by all the prayers, good wishes, and positive vibes sent her way.

 “I also learned to proactively build a circle of individuals who could and would help when I needed extra support,” she recalls.  “This happened after my husband told me that while he loved me dearly and understood my pain, he couldn’t listen any more, right then. I gradually developed a list of about ten people I trusted and whom I could call, one by one, to see if they were up for my grief at that moment. Invariably, someone was always there with comfort and solace.”

Loving in the midst of grief may feel like a risk.  It is. Take it anyway. After experiencing loss, it’s natural to want to do anything and everything in your power to avoid feeling such bitter pain again. You may want to wall yourself off from life, love, and relationships of all sorts. However strong the temptation is, though, please don’t make this mistake. Despite the guilt, anguish, and self-doubt you may feel, make the choice to risk loving again.

“In the years and decades after Sharon’s death, I was fortunate enough to have friends and loved ones who called me out on the fact that I was shutting myself away,” Shechtman shares. “Yes, these accusations caused conflict. But I’m glad I chose to engage these people, because the anxiety that accompanies fear of loss is still a much better alternative to the bitter loneliness of isolation. When you disengage, you doom yourself to emotional, physical, and spiritual shutdown.

“Best—and most surprising—of all was the aftermath of choosing to love again,” she reveals. “Consciously choosing to lift my eyes, to see joy and possibilities, to build relationships, and to live instead of dying with my child have resulted in some of the happiest years of my life. And because I have been in both places—isolation and community—the contrast is startling.”

Allow new values and priorities to emerge, even if they don’t reflect the “old” you. As you begin to move on and heal from your loss, you will view, experience, and interact with the world in a different way. Shechtman remembers not understanding why she couldn’t be “like everyone else.” She eventually realized that the trouble she had relating to many others stemmed from a clash of values.

“I kept getting pushback for being too harsh or too blunt,” she explains. “I no longer had any tolerance for political correctness, and I considered my relationships to be more precious. I found myself more open with people I cared about, as well as more confrontational and demanding, since I didn’t want to leave anything unsaid or undone ever again. Essentially, I was choosing my values of growth and honesty over comfort. I decided that perfection was no longer a goal; being honest and authentic was.”

Do something meaningful to memorialize your lost loved one. We have all heard of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But according to Shechtman, the progression doesn’t end there. The sixth stage of grief is called “in memoriam.” It’s the need to do something creative, useful, and meaningful as a result of an event that once seemed (and might still seem) meaningless, needless, and/or absurd. For example, you might create a foundation or support group.

“Personally, my book—My Beloved Child—was a product of this stage of grief,” says Shechtman. “It was a way for me to try to put the pieces of my life and my experiences back together in a way that made sense to me, helped others, and honored Sharon. But long, long before its publication I wrote poetry to help me process this loss, and those poems are included in the book.” (NOTE: See attached tipsheet.)

Stay open to the possibility of joy. It will come. While it may be difficult to believe or understand immediately following the loss of a loved one, there is a silver lining to grief. Keeping current with sorrow (i.e., allowing yourself to grieve naturally and whenever you need to) gives you new depths of appreciation for life, joy in small delights, and a richness in relationships you may not have known was possible.

“The biggest surprise I’ve had after Sharon’s death is that my grieving has opened me up to all that is beautiful and wonderful about this world,” Shechtman says. “My appreciation for others and their struggles is greater, and I stop to smell the roses more often—something I call ‘living from the gut.’ This is the ‘payoff’ for choosing to allow yourself to grieve: After experiencing the lowest of lows, your soul and your psyche can also stretch to experience greater highs because the psyche stretches in all directions, much like a balloon.”

            “While I cannot give you a lesson plan for grieving, I can share my own experiences and assure you that there can still be hope, healing, and happiness in your life,” Shechtman concludes. “I know it will be painful, but I hope you will make the choice to fully and naturally grieve the loss of those you love. It might comfort you to realize that the life you build from this point on wouldn’t have been possible without the love you felt—and still feel—for your loved one. In a very real way, he or she is still a vital part of who you are.”

# # #

About the Author:
Arleah Shechtman, M.S.W., A.C.S.W., is the author of My Beloved Child: My journey since the death of my daughter. She is a recognized expert on the impact of the death of a child, on marriages, families, and individual survivors. For over thirty years, she has helped parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended family grieve the loss of children, and guided them on their journeys of recovery. In addition, she has consulted with healthcare professionals whose practices involve working with clients who have lost children through illnesses, accidents, suicide, and acts of crime.

Arleah began her own journey of recovery thirty-four years ago, after the death of her fifteen-year-old daughter. She has transformed her own tragedy into a personal and professional mission to create places and resources where those struggling with the death of a child can find solace, support, and understanding of their irreparable loss.

About the Book: My Beloved Child: My journey since the death of my daughter (Fifth Wave Leadership Publications, 2012, ISBN: 978-1-4750469-9-1, $13.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, the Amazon Kindle Store, and at

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Primal Nature of Grief

 --> The Primal Nature of Grief

It has been my experience that grief comes in succeeding waves. When I could ride the wave to the crest and express whatever was there, the wave ebbed, and in between the waves I could live for a while. Surprisingly, the intense bouts were relatively short. I don’t think they ever lasted even ten minutes. I learned this important lesson because I happened to be in primal therapy at the time of Sharon’s death. The core thrust of this therapy is deep grief; it was permitted and encouraged. Even so, my expressions were very primitive, because the loss of a child is, well, primal. Primal feelings are wordless, with the intensity of a race car driver’s focus, and almost that loud, like a Formula One car. The wailing and keening has a quality that goes below any thoughts or concepts, more like a wolf howling, that communicates everything without any words. It was a surprise to me that after the grief bout I usually found words and concepts to use with my clients as they struggled to express their feelings. That was a bonus I never expected. People—clients and friends—have often asked me what is to be gained by crying or screaming or any overt expression of distress. Part of the answer is that there develops a continuity and context for all the mysterious stuff we feel and do. Out of the feelings come the answers to the whys. 

This paragraph may seem arbitrary and senseless for today, a bright sunny beautiful day in the mountains.  Thus is the nature of tragedy, it comes out of the blue and the beauty of the day doesn't stop it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

On Being A Sattellite.

On Being A Satellite

I think I have always been a satellite, from birth I never got to be a Shining Star.  I was a preacher’s kid and l grew up in a fishbowl.  So I was always on display as a backdrop to dad’s mission, but never dared to outshine my dad.  In those days all the good pillars of the congregation felt it was their obligation to keep my sibs and me in line. As a result I spent a lot of time being sent to my room till I could behave. And of course any PK knows you have to be a shining example, if not the star.  So I grew up learned in the ways of being my dad’s satellite, adept at deferring and subjugating myself to his stardom.  Then I grew up and married the most articulate man in the word, so I seem doomed to that status.

I realize that it has always been my choice.  So what does one do about deciding to always be a satellite?  Why would I make such a choice?   Well, it turns out that there are some real advantages to being a satellite.  It is a very safe place (one of my familiars), I have a lot of skills and maneuvers that I developed in those growing up places that keep me safe from all that abandonment and shame.  A satellite is not expected to be so good, I get to make mistakes and fail and no one is shocked or surprised.  The pay-off for me has been, much like the moon, I still get to exert great influence from my very safe orbit.  My influence is subtler, like the tides vs. sunshine, but turns out to be as important.

This is coming up now because the requirements have changed in that old safe and familiar place.  I have written this book all by myself, no ghostwriter or anyone else, just me.  Feels really good and even more scary than good.  I do not have the skills or habits to be in the spotlight and don’t have a clue how to do that.  It is also hard to give up my special place of influence as a satellite. 

Stay tuned, you will hear much more about this as I battle with myself to change that decision I made at three.        

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Resting on My Laurels

Resting on My Laurels

My mother used to say that to me anytime I did well or accomplished anything.  I’ve been waiting for years to rest on my laurels and I thought for sure that after my book was actually in print I finally could.  Alas and alack, not so now either.  There are many other phrases and statements that mean the same thing, that is just the one I heard a lot.

So, what’s wrong with “resting on my laurels”?  Probably nothing for a day or two, then it becomes a way of hiding out again.  Meaning what?  Well the writing took about eighteen months and the publishing process another six that is two years that I felt very safe and protected.  No one bothered me or said much because I was busy writing.  While the writing was hard, it was always under my control and no one could really check up on me.  That kept me insulated and safe. 

Here I am again having to deal with major change and loss, what a drag.  Now I have to get involved with marketing and distribution.  I have to face whatever people have to say about my book and I am no longer safe.

The form it takes, if I don’t own up to the change, is procrastination and implosion (I’m very good at that).  This is one of those times when the feelings get disconnected from the cause.  I have dealt with many sales people and others that struggle with this after a huge sale.  It is always a surprise and a relief to know why.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Twisted Steel

Twisted Steel

I am a twisted, mangled I-beam; I’ve been through an earthquake and a volcanic eruption.  Here I lay all twisted and broken and still I am needed to hold up the structure.  How can I?  Where is the strength that held my head up high?  Where is the boldness that let me lead others out of the storm?  Where is the soft gentleness that allowed me to comfort?  How do I untwist and make all the pockmarks go away?  Why do I want to, being so broken and destroyed?  The raw, jagged edges abrade my heart and numb my mind.  I am no longer what I was. 

Through the pain, through the darkness, with my soul split in so many pieces -something calls, something calls.  I don’t want to hear, go away, let me go down the jumbled path to my own end - someone calls, someone calls.  Who would call me back from the edge, who would want a person so wretched?

I look down and the ragged, jagged edges of the I-beam are softened by the moss where did that come from?  As I watch I see a little green fern unfurling and I hear soft voices calling my name.  I don’t want to come back, I don’t want to face the pain one more time, just let me rust away here in my safe corner.

How do I get out of this downward spiral?  No one really understands the loss of a child, my anguish is mine, but the green keeps expanding and the voices get louder, more insistent.  I have to make another choice.  It is the power of life calling me up from the dregs, my family my friends all my clients that have hung in also through their own days of flat on the ground. 

I can never repay all the richness of the gifts given me; all I can do is turn around and pass them on.  I am reaching out to you today.  Let’s build a safe place to grieve where we can heal and pass on the gifts to all those other lost, twisted, mangled souls.   

Sunday, April 15, 2012



April is always a difficult month for me. The thirteenth will be the 33ed anniversary of her death and the seventeenth of her burial.  I wonder what this year will demand of me to honor those ever-lonely two days.  I never get to know ahead of time, nor are the remembrances usually exactly on the days themselves.  Some years are harder than others.  I can feel the grief raising as I write.  There is a huge part of me that just wants to hide and not say a word to anyone.  The old messages of “Don’t be a burden”, and “This is a downer” are still strong.

Both of those messages have the ring of truth.  It is a burden to hear someone so sad and it certainly is a downer.  I am personally weary of being a bereaved parent, but that is what I am stuck with, those who care about me are stuck with that aspect of me.  Again it is the list of people I can call on this year.  Actually few seem to mind as they each have their own pain to cope with, and I can return the favor when they need.

Still, it is hard to ask for help even though that is what I do for a living, listen to people in all stages of struggle. 

This year has been one of the easy ones.  As I was thinking what to say in this blog, I was flooded with many sweet and moving memories of her, like some of the cards she made for me or bought for me, she loved me fiercely no matter how bad I was, that is a sweet memory.

On her tenth birthday we went bowling and had a “sleep” over.  What an irreplaceable memory of giggling and screeching way into the night, I don’t know if anyone got any sleep, that is a happy memory.

The way she would run up and give me a big hug, then run off to what ever she was doing. That still moves me deeply.

How do you commemorate those days after so many years?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Change Process

The Change Process

As I work with people and they start making connections many clients say, “This is great, now what do I do to change it?”  The answer is always the same; small risks in the present. “ Like what?”, they ask.  Anything that is big enough to make you nervous, but not so big as to be catastrophic if you fail.  Sometimes it is as simple as saying “No” to a request.  The key is how it feels.

You know it’s a risk if the following process ensues.  The process is a series of feelings that everyone goes through as they start to take themselves on.

The first feeling is some kind of implosion, the opposite of explosion. That means you come down very hard on yourself, beating yourself up for being stupid or something.  Many of us are very good at that.

The second set is a very strong sense that something is wrong, or that you have done something wrong.  When I’m in this stage I keep looking at my appointment because the sense is so strong, like I’ve missed an important appointment or something.

The third set of feelings is a sense of impending doom, you just know something awful is about to happen.

What these feelings are related to is the expectation of getting creamed in some old way.  If you could put a child’s words to the sequence it would be along the lines of, “Oops. Uhoh, and now I’m really gonna get it.” As nothing dreadful happens the feelings will dissipate, Then you can take another risk, but not before that sequence is complete.  That part of you we call the child has to see that he/she has lived to tell the tale.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Loss of the Familiar

Loss of the Familiar

The hardest part of all this change and loss of direction, is not to resort to the old tactics that worked so well to be successful, the strategies to get what I want (need).  Not only do they no longer work they have become counterproductive and they don’t feel right anymore.  As I grapple with these issues I often feel confused and full of despair.  Confusion means old beliefs are breaking down and the despair is because I no longer know what to do to be effective.  The hard part is to not panic and lash out, basically because I’m so scared.  As I sit with this pain, no answers are emerging; trusting that they will is an exercise in self-control.

To actually change how I react and interact with others and my environment is bringing up old hidden, buried feelings.  I don’t like this at all, it is hard to stay the course and not revert to my familiar.  Reinventing me is hard and I am furious that I have to.  It’s so unfair.  Does this sound like a two year old?  So here I am again up against another critical choice, to stay angry and miserable or find a new way.  I think I would rather just manipulate everyone and whine a lot.  Maybe I’ll join Occupy Wall Street and abdicate all responsibility.  I could, but…that brings its own misery and suffering.  What to do?  There is no blue print for this new world, how do I find my way?

Turns out to be a patchwork of back and forth, fits and starts, not always sure I’m making progress.  The change I’m seeking always involves small risks in the present, risks hard enough to be scary, but not so hard that if I fail would be catastrophic.

What keeps me hanging in?  It’s always the nag in my gut,( I have labeled a "niggle") my value of personal responsibility.  If I cave to the old stuff I feel guilt and shame, two very powerful motives.