Friday Favorite: Day 33 of 365 Days of Motivation

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”  –Joseph Campbell

Whether your dream was the picket fence and 2 kids with the mini van and the handsome husband or the urban dream of living in Manhattan with  your lawyer wife or even living off the land after marrying a cowboy–this was never part of your dream.

Husbands and wives are supposed to raise children  and grow old together until old age silently steals one away from the other. This reality is far from that dream. It isn’t what you planned, but it doesn’t have to mean a life wasted.

This life is different, and probably harder than you had ever imagined a life could be. This life might be more of a challenge than you feel you can handle. Humans are resilient–able to meet intense challenges through dedication and hard work. Using their experiences, especially the difficult ones, to come back better, stronger, and more amazing than they knew possible.

This is where you are now: You can hold on to the life you had planned–the perfect life. Or, perhaps, you can accept that life is different, and allow yourself to see the new life that is waiting just beyond the fog.

Friday Favorite: Day 23 of 365 Days of Motivation

“God never intended you to go through something and get nothing out of it. He intended that every time you go through a test, for you to come out of it with something else on your boat that you never had before, so that when you run into your next test, you will say, ‘If God did that…'”   –T.D. Jakes

Every moment, good and bad, are meant to give us some tools–tools we didn’t have before. You might not learn these tools on purpose. You might not seek out these tools. Or you might do both of those things. Either way, you will learn. You might learn compassion or strength. It might increase your faith, break it, or both, respectively and then bring you back once more. You might gain wisdom and see the world in the different light. Even if you learn nothing else other than you can make it through something you once thought impossible– you have learned something impressive.

Now, like T.D. said,  if God can help you though this–if he can bring you out the other side of this–imagine what else He can do. If you can get through this, alive and happy once again–imagine what else YOU can do.

Friday Favorite: Day 12 of 365 Days of Motivation

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

–Thomas Merton

 

When something terrible happens, we want to know why.  That question occupies your days and your nights. It’s hard to have a thought without that question taking over.

It’s hard to understand why things happen. Why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to seemingly bad people. It is a question that is beyond the scope of our understanding. Life is a series of event and memories– many storms and celebrations. One event does not, tell the whole picture. One event could never tell the whole story.

The fact is, some things will never make sense. Chances are, you will never understand why this happened. Instead, focus on doing the best you can with this particular storm. As devastating as this is, these single events are meant to shape our lives. This event might be the event that confirms your beliefs, ignites your passion, or solidifies your strength.

Losing your loved one is not the total of who you are; losing your loved one is not your legacy.  It is another piece in the puzzle of life. Let it plant something on your soul.


Friday Favorite: Day 16

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” — Bern Williams

Life can’t be lived in reverse; we can’t change history. All we can do is the best we know how with what we have been handed. It may feel like you are completely broken and you don’t know how to fix it. Though you may feel broken, you are not. You are wounded, so deeply wounded–the wounds will heal.

This is a process, a journey. Give yourself time to go through the process fully. Life will never be the same, but it will get better. One day, when you look back at the day your life was shattered, you will see how far  you have come. There will come a day when life will be good again.

Day 56: 365 Days of Motivation

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”   –Anais Nin

I think we all want to crawl into a little ball when tragedy strikes our heart; sometimes our desire outweighs our courage–at least in the beginning. Facing life after your course is suddenly, unwillingly changed is difficult. Shrinking into the smallest space we can exist somehow becomes easy.

What isn’t easy, is finding out way back to the surface. Taking steps, moving forward, being willing to face life is a challenge, maybe the most challenging task yet. Get ready, because living life again, to its fullest is even more challenging.

Perhaps life once held you hostage in a box, when courage couldn’t be found–no more. Stand tall and walk with courage. If you do, you will feel fresh air in your lungs, sun on your face and a drive to move forward.

Relentless Replay

Loss is powerful. Whether the loss is the loss of a lifestyle. Or maybe it is a spouse or a child or an aunt or a grandfather. It could be the loss of the family pet. Perhaps you are mourning the loss of a close friendship. You could even be mourning the loss of your health as you face a medical crisis. These are just some examples, the list is expansive.

All loss is different, even if it is the same type of loss, and they aren’t comparable. Many people lose their grandparents. None of our experiences are the same because my grandparents were different and I am different. Even two people who die from Alzheimer’s are not the same and their families loss is not the same. No other widow shares my exact experience either.

Even so, loss is a great equalizer. We all hurt when we lose something or someone precious. No person’s loss is greater or less relevant that someone else’s. In that sense, loss is the same–it hurts. 

It’s also true that while our experiences with grief are different, there are parts of grief, regardless of who you are or what you’ve lost, that are the same. For example, people who are grieving, tend to be rather disorganized and forgetful. This can make people feel almost crazy. Rest assured, you aren’t crazy (there is one thing you don’t have to worry about)–in fact, you are quite normal.

It is hard to do everything you need to do in order to tie up loose ends as well as remember to help kids with homework or drive the correct route home from work (we have all done it) and buy groceries. Which is probably why so many of us grieving are typically rather exhausted! There is an emotional and mental stress far more powerful than any set of exercises at depleting energy. And, a little nap probably won’t do much good. Be patient; keep working at keeping up with the routine. As you heal you will get there.

That brings us to another piece of grieving–lack of motivation. Chances are things that normally would have sent you rolling in the aisle laughing, now leaves you with only a little smirk. Or special nights out used to make you giddy with excitement now make you want to climb back in bed and just forget about it. Once again, it is normal. Keep fighting the urge. Where the smile anyway, try to get out even when you don’t feel like it. Staying inside and wrapping yourself in grief can be (ironically) comforting and facing the world very uncomfortable. If you don’t slowly start to face the world, it might turn into a habit that could be more life altering than your grief. It can take you to inwardly sad state quickly and it’s hard to turn it around.

I can deal with all of those things. The one characteristic that gets me the most is the relentless replay in my brain. This memory and that memory. Sadness and happiness. It is really hard to stay on task or sleep when your brain constantly heads back to the good times before your life fell apart.

Just like a broken record, here it comes again. It interrupts your thoughts, your music, and even dominates your conversations. It fills the space meant for dreaming. There is no escaping it. Every time it creeps in, unwelcome, and the tears flow. It’s hard to sleep through tears. It’s hard to focus through the haze of memories. It’s hard to feel rested when images constantly run through your head.

No surprises here, with these things going on, people who are grieving can be rather quick to lash out. A once patient person suddenly loses all desire to baby someone else when their own life is crumbling. Comments that never would have given you a second thought before are suddenly fighting words. Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.

These things are challenges that nearly all of us grieving feel. You may feel some or all of these. You might be feeling them but had no idea what was going on. Now that you are aware, you can take some steps.

Be patient with yourself and with others. If this is hard for you, imagine how hard it is for people watching you. See, for them, their lives have gone back to normal and all fairness, you look normal. So, when others see these characteristics of grief shining bright, they really might think you have just turned into the meanest person on earth or a sudden air- head. Grieving being what it is, you have zero desire to baby them along and open your sadness to share with the world. I understand, oh boy do I understand. And, maybe you don’t have to do all of that. Maybe you just say, “I am still struggling, I might need some time to adjust.” and leave it at that.

Here is a big one that is oh so hard to do–rest. Get yourself on a regular schedule. At night you lay awake because you can’t sleep and there is not time for naps because of kids or work and you are so tired, but when it’s time to lay down at night all you can think about is what you should have done and how things used to be…the list is endless. Try to set a regular schedule and stick to it. Even when you don’t feel like you have had enough sleep, don’t hit the snooze, get up and get moving. It will make going to sleep at night much easier. If you feel like taking a nap, talk yourself into a relaxing walk instead.

Go the gym. It feels great to run your tail off or slam a punching bag. It helps you sleep, empties some anger, and the bonus of a stronger tougher you will emerge. Believe me when I say, you won’t regret it.

Lastly, and maybe the most important, seek outside support. Find a support group or find a counselor to talk to, or both.  Be honest. If someone asks how you are doing, don’t feel obligated to give the ‘good’ or ‘doing okay’ answer. If you are having a crappy day, say it, maybe you need to just get it out. Things are so much heavier if you carry the load alone. If you share it and allow someone else to carry part of the burden, you will be surprised how much easier the rest of the day or week can be.

All of this is from either my own experience or watching others along the way. I am not an expert. It doesn’t mean everyone falls into this box or follows a certain pattern, but it gives you a great place to start. Accept where you are and work on ending the relentless replay. This grief will creep in every now and again probably forever, but it won’t be in the front of your mind day in and day out and you will be able to live again. It will feel so good!

 

 

Day 55: 365 Days of Motivation

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
                                –Richard Bach

I have said this before, and I will say it again, this isn’t the end of you. It is the end of this chapter. This may be the end of the life you were living. It probably will be the end of you that existed before this event, but this is not the end of you.

Just like the caterpillar, chances are you have locked yourself away in your own cocoon. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think we all need that time. We need time to weep uncontrollably to the depths our lungs will allow. We need to lay still, nearly lifeless–feeling nothing but the pounding in our head. Lets be honest, we are no good to anyone in that moment anyway. Like the caterpillar, there will come a time when we need to emerge.

We need to be ready to grab our new station in life and figure out our place in the world. It’s a difficult and bitter moment that we leave the safety of our broken heart to face the new world we were thrust into. It’s easy to be angry, unsteady, and even unwilling. I can’t imagine it being anything other way than challenging–a challenge we never asked for–and certainly never agreed to take, yet here it is, staring us down.

When caterpillars emerge from their cramped cocoon, it takes them a little while, but they spread their wings and fly. Decide to take that challenge right now. Take a step out of that dark space and when you feel the fresh air, spread those wings and look at the colors you bring to the world. They’re there, I promise.

It is true this is different and something you never wanted–it isn’t going to be easy. People will look at you differently than before. Living alone is harder than you ever imagined. Not being able to share those day-to-day moments with your best friend will be one of the hardest things you will ever do–do it anyway. If you are open to living again, and committed to the process of rediscovery, you will have made the full transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Possibilities are endless when you have learned to soar.

Good Grief

We, as people, have this driving need to make everything okay. When things are okay (normal routine of life) we are comfortable. However, when something goes upside down and inside out, we feel it, and we struggle. We want to make it better. The only thing harder than pushing through our own tragedies is watching someone we care about face their own challenges.

Getting to the other side isn’t easy. It hurts like hell. We feel alone. We feel lost, unable to choose a direction that might lead us on the correct path. Some of us pray. Some of us keep a brave face and hide our grief, going about our daily lives as if not much has changed. Some of us growl. Some of us go silent–us silent ones, we cause the most gossip and schemes to ‘fix’ us.

When we pray, our supporters feel better because we are reaching out to a higher power. We we go about our normal days, we seem good to the outside world. We look like we are on the right track– even though inside we are tied in knots. When we growl, people might take a step back, yet there is comfort in knowing we have some fight left in us. But those that go silent worry our family and friends the most.

Depression. That’s what swirls around the minds of those looking in. We must have depression. Sometimes, they are absolutely correct and it is important to know the signs of depression (www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-adjustment-disorder). Other times, we just need space. I tend to be one of the silent.

Here is the truth about me (and many others like me):

I am a talker by nature. I love words (just ask my husband). Usually my words are day-to-day stuff or concern for others. I want to know about you and how you are. I want to hear all the funny things your toddler did and how impossible work was this week. When I am struggling or working through an issue I am often silent.

For people who love me, this sets off the alarms. In part, panic ensues because I am the rock for many and when my foundation shakes, it rattles those who depend on me to hold them up. Those same people care what happen to me and it concerns them when I change so suddenly. Rest assured, I am okay. I won’t crumble anytime soon–this rock may roll a bit, but at the end of the day, it is steady. I don’t walk around asking for help–believe me, when I say, I know when I need help and am not afraid to ask for it when I need to.

My silence is necessary–for me. Know that I may not return your call. I might ‘forget’ a lunch date or I might genuinely forget an appointment. I probably won’t cook and clean like I should–and I might not make it to the store to buy groceries so someone else can do it. I probably will miss paying a bill. I’ll nap more than I should and I will end nearly every night with time alone in a hot bath. For me, that isn’t depression, it’s coping.

In times of trouble, I don’t have room in my head to worry about your day–I’m doing good to get through my own. My head gets so full of stuff that dentist appointments and due dates might go unnoticed. You should call before you come over because I might need to make a path through my cluttered house. No one in this family has ever been starving, so someone else can find the store and everyone needs to learn that leftovers are fabulous–get used to them. While I am in bed, chances are I am doing plenty of sleeping, but I am also running through scenarios, memories, and praying–sometimes doing those things exhausts me so much I need another nap. In the bath I read and I think and I think about what I read (I love receiving words as much as I like giving them away). I probably will growl–probably more than I should ever admit–because sometimes my sadness comes through as anger. This is grieving, not depression.

I can also tell you what I won’t do. I will not feel guilty. We all will be better off if that is clear up front. I know I am doing what I need to so that I will be healthy and whole again. When you struggle, I will allow you to growl a bit too. I have enough guilt about other things, I can’t carry guilt for this too. I won’t be the person who is pretends struggles don’t affect me; I know myself too well to be that foolish. I will not apologize for not being myself. When I go through earth-shattering changes, I am not myself for a long time and I will never be the me I was before the experience. I will be different and hopefully for the better. That is the journey.

Fortunately, most of those who care about me know these things about me. Everyone has been wonderful through the loss of my grandparents (honestly). Losing them brought grief back into my life and made me more sensitive to the things people say and do when grieving, but also how it might be perceived by those who are trying to support them through this difficult journey. I watch people on TV and on social media platforms and sometimes comments are cringe-worthy for me. As much as we want to help, many times we aren’t sure what to do.

So for those of you who are struggling, whether it be custody battles, medical crisis, divorce,  someone’s death, or loss of employment, please know that however you feel it is okay. There is a difference between being sad and being depressed. Don’t let well-intentioned people looking in convince you of your path. At the same time, if you are feeling hopeless, or if you are trapped by sadness to the point where you can’t function, or if you feel like you need to get off the couch but just can’t–seek help. There is absolutely no shame in knowing you don’t have the answers to see the way out. Start with your family physician and if you feel comfortable, seek counseling–it can be more help than you can imagine (I have done both of these things in the past).

If you want to help someone grieve, here are some things to consider. First things first, you cannot get your friend or loved one through this strugge. It is their struggle. Doing it for them or keeping them from the task at hand can do more damage than good. Be a leaning post, carry tissues with you when you see them, and listen when they want to share. As much as we want to have the right words and come up with some quick fix, often that just isn’t feasable. You are not responsible for making them whole again. You are a supporter.

With that said, look for serious signs of depression. Sometimes a depressed person cannot see how deep their struggle is. In that case, sometimes an outsider can share their concern and what they are seeing. Be their mirror.

Please understand, just because they seem sad and sleep a lot does not mean they are depressed. Silence does not equate depression either.  Chances are, as they heal they will open up–when they are ready. It might be different than when you were grieving and it might be uncomfortable for you to watch. If you were in the car with someone who managed to get lost, you wouldn’t rip the wheel from their hands. That wouldn’t be good for anyone. This is their journey–you are there for entertainment and to read the map–let them drive.

 

 

 

Day 54: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

Courage
Courage (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

 

 

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.  –Ambrose Redmoon

 

There will be few times more terrifying than this. Sometimes the fear is intense and sometimes it dies down to a low rumble, but it rarely leaves. Courage is there too, waiting for you to call it by name.

Like everything, this too has a designated time: when you say so. One day you will wake up and realize that no one lives in fear. You will call on courage and it will rise up, carrying you with it. The world doesn’t stop being scary–no, not at all–instead, know when you sit on the shoulders of courage, fear can never pull you down. You have made the choice to do what you should do, what you want to do, what you feel is right to do, knowing that life isn’t always sunshine. No matter what life is, courage will carry you through.

 

Day 53: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  

–Anais Nin
American Author

English: A Magnolia tree blossom. Français : F...
Blossom.

Not many would equate healing as a widow with beginning to blossom and I certainly don’t think this quote was written with that in mind. I can’t think of a better way to describe what happens. It doesn’t happen immediately. There is no exactly timeline that it follows. The only thing that is for sure is you will know it when you feel it.

This healing is hard and it hurts every day. It hurts so bad that it leaves us in a sort of frozen state: can’t move forward and life won’t let us go backward. As we heal, we change and develop until the point comes when you cannot grow anymore without leaving that frozen state.

Stepping out into the world again is terribly scary. The world was scary enough with a partner. You have lost the partner and life has shown you exactly how ruthless it is, so moving forward with life isn’t all that appealing–for now.

The day will come, when it will be too painful to remain inside this box and you will take the risk–when  you need to take the risk. When you do, it might feel awkward and confusing, but if you keep moving you will feel the sun on your face again. Don’t be afraid to  step into the light and blossom; the most beautiful things come after darkness.