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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Oh, come on, not again!

Frustration, such an exhausting feeling.  We feel frustrated when we get stuck in traffic, when the line is too long, when we can't seem to get the answers we are seeking.  

The definition according to is: 1: the act of frustrating; 2a: a state or an instance of being frustrated; b: a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs; 3: something that frustrates. 

When we are grieving we sometimes feel as if we cannot handle it anymore, we feel overwhelmed as if everything is crushing in on us.  We may feel tired and drained, sapped of energy.  We might lack sleep or get plenty but still awaken as if we never shut our eyes.  We feel totally frustrated with the situation, with the death, with ourselves, with everyone around us, nothing seems to be working. 

The death itself is frustrating in that it leaves us with so much that remains unresolved, so many dreams that will no longer be fulfilled.  Grieving is hard work, it is not easy, and it demands a lot from us, it is exhausting.  Death leaves us with a deep wound, that takes time to begin to heal.  Like any wound it takes time, may reopen time and again, and eventually leaves us only with a scar.  A scar that serves as a reminder of the love we shared and had with our loved one, regardless of our relationship with them. 

I remember the frustration I felt as people around me said what they felt were healing words.  I remember wanting to scream if one more person told me to be patient, to accept what had happened, to move on.  What was all this really going to do for me, would any of this change the fact of what had happened.  If it would, trust me I would try them all, and more.  There was so much more that caused me to feel unsure of who I was, what was happening and how I was handling it.  There were times that I felt I had failed as a parent, as a mother.  Occasionally, I questioned myself, had I been there for her, did I do okay by Rachel, what could I have done differently, how could I have prevented it.  As these thoughts ran through my mind, I could feel my anxiety rise, I felt as if the walls of my home we closing in on me.  

C.S. Lewis, writes in 'A Grief Observed,' 'And grief still feels like fear.  Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense.  Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen.  It gives life a permanently provisional feeling.  It doesn't seem worth starting anything.  I can't settle down.  I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much.  Up till this I always had too little time.  Now there is nothing but time.  Almost pure time, empty successivenss.'

He speaks of being in suspense, waiting for anything, something to happen.  It is as if we hope that maybe something will come along that will take away all that has happened, erasing all the bad and hurt,  making everything new again.  

Frustration will come and go on occasion, it will show up as we watch others doing what we will no longer be able to do or enjoy with our loved one.  We will experience it when we see someone accomplishing a new first in their lives.  If like me, you lost a child, attending a wedding, learning that someone just recently became a mother, or simply watching a young adult or child graduating can be very painful; and is frustrating to say the least.  

There is a beautiful passage form 'Anna's Scrapbook - A Journal of A Sister's Love' by Susan Aitken and her daughter Sarah Aitken (who is 11 years old).  In it the author writes in journal form: 
     'February 14

     'I see empty places all over the house these days.  Everywhere I 
     look it is as if Amelia should be there.  I know everyone also feels
     like I do. Last night her empty chair at the dinner table was 
     SCREAMING at us. One by one we started to cry and had to 
     leave the table.'

The child in this scenario is feeling the same frustration as the adults around her, she feels it in the emptiness, the vacant chair.  In knowing that her sister should be sitting there with them.   She continues at the end of this entry to say, 'Empty, empty, empty, I feel empty.'

As the years go by, the frustration is less dominating, it may still appear occasionally, but it definitely is much easier than what we went through originally.  It is okay to feel frustrated, to feel as if nothing is right in the world.  We will survive, we will grow beyond our frustrations.  We will learn to handle situations and to cope with all the changes to will occur in one's life.  

So know that this too shall pass and we will live again, experience new joys, and welcome others into our lives, not as replacement to our loved ones, but as additions to our circle of friendship and love.  

So allow yourself to work through your frustrations, know that you will often find yourself frustrated.  It is okay, it is a part of the healing, of the wanting to accept, to believe that we will meet again.  To live each day fully, without fear, letting go of our frustrations.

To allow the love to be all encompassing.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What am I afraid of?

'Who turned out the light, oh, somebody quick turn it back on, I don't like being in the dark.'  'Kill it, kill it quick there's a bug over there, hurry up!'  There are so many things people are afraid of, some are afraid of snakes, others bugs, still others the dark.  There is a fear of flying, public speaking, dogs, cats, you name it there is a fear.  

When we are grieving we too experience fear.  At 15 when I lost my grandmother, I was so afraid that I would lose everyone I loved.  What if they died too?  It is not unnatural to have fears, it is an apprehension that sometimes can keep us safe, make us a little more cautious.  Phobias on the other hand are an entirely different story, and that is fodder for another blog.  

When someone we love dies, we fear that all our dreams have died with them.  We are afraid that we may never experience love like that again, how could I ever love again.  Where will I find another friend like him or her, they understood me so completely.  Am I really all alone now that both my parents have died?  What will tomorrow bring, how can I face another day.  How will I make ends meet? 

So many worries, fears and concerns coming flooding at us making us feel so insecure, so vulnerable, we just want to run and hide.  Maybe if I just retreat to my room and shut out the world, I won't have to think about it.  These fears can cause us to stop, not allowing us to function, we feel totally incapacitated.  Until finally one day we stop and face these fears, realizing that life does go on, and yes sad events will continue to happen in our lives, but we somehow find the strength to not only face our fears but move onward. 

It is amazing how fear can show up even months or years after the death of our loved one.  Within a year of Rachel's death my daughter got into a car accident, luckily no one was hurt, but what had happened to her sister came flooding at her in those first few moments of the accident.  She remembers feeling panic and a sense of fear and the sudden realization that it was because of an accident that her sister had died.  I felt for my daughter but did not fully understand her fear.  Just two years ago I was involved in a car accident, the car came at me while I was turning into a driveway.  The vehicle hit the driver side door, pinning me inside.  I heard the sounds and all I could think of was what my daughter may have gone through.  I panicked and became hysterical, two things I seldom ever do.  Now I look back and feel for the poor police and EMT's because all I kept saying over and over again was 'my daughter died this way.'  It was a sudden realization and an overwhelming fear, which led to nightmares for weeks after.

Our fears present themselves in our responses to things, if you were involved in an accident that took the life of someone you loved, you may have a hard time getting behind the wheel of a car.  If it happened on a certain street, you may avoid that street completely, even if it means going miles out of your way.  My daughter's accident took place on a major highway, and I still feel a sense of apprehension when I drive by that particular stretch of highway.  We tend to avoid whatever causes the fear, until we either face it or allow it to take control of us.  

When Rachel died, of course like so many people, my nights were haunted with what ifs and how comes, sleep was a hard commodity to come by.  When I did get some sleep my dreams would sometimes turn into nightmares.  It was these dreams that began to help me to understand what my fears were.  I had dreams of losing my keys; not being able to find my way back home.  I even had dreams of death and dying, not my own death, but of others, mainly strangers I had never met, but death just the same.  I would sometimes dream that I was all alone, not a soul could be found anywhere.  

These dreams let me know that I was afraid of losing everyone that was important in my life.  It was the reoccurring theme of losing, getting lost, being alone that gave me a glimpse as to what was scaring me.  If you have dreams begin to notice if there is a common thread in them, it can be your subconscious mind telling you what is happening with you.  I was fortunate to have a counselor and when I would have my dreams I was able to talk about them, helping me decipher them.  Write them down, talk about them with a trusted friend or family member, sometimes just voicing these dreams and nightmares, makes them less frightening.  

When all these fears come at us, it is important to remember that there are still people in your life that love you, care for you and are ready to help in anyway they can.  Reach out to them.  It may be hard at first to fully open ourselves up to others be it family, friends, support groups or counseling, but we need to let ourselves trust. 

In the book 'in times of grieving' by Robert M. Hamma there is a beautiful prayer that addresses fear.

I Am Afraid

Lord, I am afraid.
I feel lost, abandoned, alone.
I want to shut out the world,
to hide away in some safe place.
But there is nowhere to go
that this fear does not follow.
When I try to summon up my courage,
there is nothing there.
Only this impulse to hide. 
'Perfect love casts out fear,' you said.
Only your love is perfect, Lord,
mine is weak and fragile.
Open my heart to receive your love.
Touch me gently, carefully, with your comfort.
Help me to allow others to console me,
by their words, their presence, their touch.
Let your perfect love cast this fear out of 
my heart.

Allow love to help banish the fear, the love of those around you, the love you shared with your loved one, the love that can sustain and strengthen you.  Fear is natural, but like any obstacle it to can be overcome.  Allow love to light those dark corners of fear and learn to live again, let yourself begin to heal.  Know that you are loved, cherished and important to others.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I am so mad!!!

Recent news in our area has left many people angry, especially when innocent lives are taken because of someone else's irrational behavior.  Anger is a very strong emotion and can leave those who feel its wrath and us feeling drained, confused and often filled with regrets. 

When death has robbed us of someone we love, after the shock has warn off, we may feel angry.  We may be angry at the deceased for leaving us, after all they promised it would be forever.  We may be angry at someone who we may feel is to blame some how.  If suicide claimed our loved one we may be angry at not only them, but ourselves for not recognizing the signs.  Many have blamed God or some higher power.  Anger is a very real emotion after the death of someone we love. 

Once the initial shock has warn off, and the pain starts, all too often so does the bitterness and anger.  Yet anger is a very normal response to loss of any kind.  Our relationship with the deceased can cause the anger to be even more intense, but this is natural.  In grief, anger is just one of the many stages if you will that we go through during the grieving process.  It is also one that allows us to move closer to healing. 

When Rachel died and after the shock had gone, I realized that even though I didn't blame anyone for her death, I was still angry.  I somehow managed to hide it well until one day, a total stranger called the house, asked for Rachel and I just lost it.  I went ballistic on this poor individual, who had no idea of course that Rachel had died.  To my surprise, this caring soul never hung up on me, let me vent and somehow we resolved what ever it was that needed to be taken care of.  After I hung up the phone, I realized that all the pent up anger had simply reached its boiling point and this poor woman was the one that happened to be in the path of the volcano.  It was at this juncture that I realized I was definitely not going to be able to take this ride alone, I needed to find a support group, counselor, something.  I called my physician and she got me in touch with my counselor, who helped me work through my anger and all the other confusing emotions. 

Looking back now, I realize how scary it was for not only me, but others around me.  How frustrating to have so much emotion come pouring out, with no sense of control, no way of stopping myself.  I cannot honestly say how long I felt angry, but I know it did go on for some time.  I remember one night, I had retreated to the bedroom and I just sat on the bed yelling at God, wanting to understand, wanting to know why.  Giving a voice to all my hurt and pain, and just letting all those angry tears roll down my face.  When I had finished, I felt a great sense of relief, as if I had been able to unburden myself of the heavy load I was carrying.  I do remember sleeping better that night.  

For some of you who may have recently lost a loved one, know that when you acknowledge your anger, let it boil to the surface, you allow yourself to find healing.  You can now begin to find ways to get through it.  Some people have no problem expressing it, giving it a voice.  If on the other hand, you like me, try to keep your emotions in check, when it finally rears its ugly head, we are blown away by it.  

In the book, 'In Times of Grieving' by Robert M. Hamma, there is a beautiful prayer that speaks to our anger.  

Why God?

Why God? Why now?

There was so much to live for,
so much ahead of us, so many dreams.
Now they are all gone.

Do you hear me God?
Do you know how angry I am?
My heart is broken, my hands are bleeding.

My anger is a sharp-edged stone,
but I am clutching it tightly,
it's all I have right now.

Will you give me something else to hold on to?

As I typed this, I felt that pulling of my heart and how I remember my own anger, how I was mad at Rachel for not pulling over when she felt tired.  How I was angry, because she had so much to live for, she had plans and dreams.  How so unfair that we could no longer see her, hear her voice or touch her.   How I would not be able to she her married some day, hold her children or be able to tell her how proud of her we were.  All these thoughts once left me feeling so bitter, so angry.  Now, even though it still hurts to know that I will not experience new firsts with Rachel, it does not provoke anger, simply a longing and an emptiness. 

Anger is not easy, and often it is misdirected and some poor family member, friend or as in my case, a total stranger feels the sting of it.  I hope that you will find a compassionate person who will allow you to vent, to scream, to throw something if you need to, or to punch that pillow as hard as you can.  There are many ways to help you through you anger, some people have found that writing the anger on paper was helpful.  Writing a letter not to be mailed, but simply to vent your feelings, addressing what you feel is the cause of the death, etc.  For some is it breaking and smashing something, I read it somewhere that if you have yard sale dishes in your basement or garage, grab some and have fun breaking them.  (I would recommend this be done outdoors.)  There are so many creative ways to help people vent their anger.  

Like I have said before, and any good book or website on grief will tell you, find what works best for you.  Do what feels right, what makes you feel better.  If you find that you are afraid that your anger and emotions are out of control, seek the advice and help of your physician or a counselor.  Find a support group, preferably a group who has suffered the same type of loss as you.  There are widow/widowers groups, groups for parents, siblings, children, for those who lost a love one to suicide, homicide or illness.  Your physician, local church or hospitals may have a list of local organizations and support groups.  You can also find many on line, that may have chapters in your area.  

It is important to realize that anger is very much a part of our grieving.  Once it is recognized and acknowledged, we can begin to allow ourselves to start healing.  

And remember that the pain and anger of grief is all because we loved them so much.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I feel so empty!

"The ache of grief is always there, but the emptiness will lift one day. Their life to us the greatest gift, and only by living can it be repaid.” -- Jill Pendley


So true, that we always feel the grief, but what a comfort to know that the emptiness will someday leave us.  We often hear people saying that 'you will get over it someday, you will move on, it will be a memory soon.'  How so very wrong these comments are.  Today I was speaking to someone who lost her brother 45 years ago.  Her brother was 18 at the time and she told me it was the most difficult time in their lives, they felt as if they were all going crazy.  It was so hard to understand and deal with.  She told me that her mother never truly got over the death of her child.  She was never quite the same after his death.  This had been a woman who had lost her parents, lost her husband, and even siblings, but said that nothing compared to the death of ones child.  


I have heard this same sentiment from other mothers who have lost a child, whether in infancy or adulthood, the ache and pain is so intense.  I know for some people this may be hard to understand or even fathom a grief so intense.  Yet I have met so many people in the last four years who have had reactions to the death of a loved one that they never expected to have.  Much has to do with our personal relationship to the individual, and what this person truly represented in our lives.  


A friend is having a difficult time with the death of his father, the initial shock has worn off, and now the reality that his father is not coming back, is hitting home very hard.  The death of our loved one has a major impact on our lives.  It can change our entire outlook, makes us more sensitive to others, or more cynical.  


Of course, how our loved one died, also has bearing on how we respond to the death.  There is a couple who several years ago had a daughter who had been murdered, they said it took years to forgive.  More recently a young man in our area was murdered and his father will not rest until the perpetrator is apprehended and made to pay for his crime.  If they died due to natural causes we accept it so much more differently than that of a violent death.  This in no way is meant to diminish death of any kind, loss is loss, and each has its own pain and suffering; and our own personal grief is the worst.  


If you ever have an opportunity to speak to others who have dealt or are dealing with the death of a loved one, you will learn so much about how they coped, what they did to ease the pain, and what maybe helpful to you during such a difficult time.  We may find someone who can help us smile again, find a way to pick up the pieces, and return to work, school or whatever routine made up your day before their death .  


We must allow ourselves to cry, to scream, to do whatever we need to do to deal with our new reality.  Believe me when I say it has not easy, but I know that I am able to laugh again, to talk about Rachel without breaking down in tears and so much more that I would never have dreamed possible only a few short years ago.    It doesn't mean I don't have my moments, but I have learned to control them a lot more. 


So wherever you are in the grieving process, allow yourself to stay there as long as you need, do not let anyone tell you otherwise.  There are no set time frames for coping with the death of a loved one.  There are only guidelines and or estimates, but only you yourself knows what you need to do and how long it will take, and what you are feeling.  


So remember: 'We all at certain times in our lives find ourselves broken.  True strength is found in picking up the pieces. -- Jill Pendley

So know that some day you will not feel the emptiness you are currently feeling, and remember to always remember that 'gift' that was your loved one.  It is only when we begin to live again, that we repay all the love that they gave us.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Why does it hurt so much?

News always invokes some sort of reaction.  If someone tells you they are engaged you are excited for them and can't wait to see the engagement ring.  While someone else can't believe their marriage is ending in divorce.  Someone tells you they are expecting a baby, you are thrilled for them, unless of course it is your sixteen year old.  You are proud of the person who just found out they got a promotion, unless you were the one passed up for it.  Someone can't wait to move into their new home; in your joy you buy them a housewarming gift.  While someone else just learned that the home they have lived in for years is being foreclosed.  

Circumstances and events in our lives have an overwhelming effect on all of us.  We feel happy, sad, anxious, excited, afraid, adventurous, unsure, confident, etc., etc.  We want to shout for joy or run screaming in anger.  Life is made of all of this and more, we sometimes want to run head long into life, and at other times, just want to get off the ride. When I lost my daughter I wanted to hit the rewind button.  Not stop, not fast forward, just rewind.  

Today I watched as someone learned something about their parent's child hood and upbringing; not only did they want to hit rewind, but erase as well.  My heart went out to this person as they were told that at a tender age this parent had been orphaned and left to fend for themselves.  Their whole life came slamming into them, hitting them broadside, they had for so many years believed that this parent had been cared for, never realizing that they had lived on the streets.  The parent had died several years ago, and all the pain of their death and what had been missing, came flooding out as tears rolled down their face.  Realizing that this parent gave so much more than they had ever received.  

Some of us had wonderful childhoods, loving parents and never wanted for anything, except for that one toy.  But yet for so many others there is pain, sad memories and simply survival.  It is also our childhood that dictates how we perceive the world and all the good and bad that happens around us and to us.  I was blessed with a great childhood, my brothers and I knew we were loved, and we loved being together as a family.  Yet I have relatives and friends who were not so fortunate, their lives were tumultuous and fraught with fear.   

In an earlier post, I mentioned the stages of grief, one of which is 'shock.'  Shock is generally what occurs after the initial blow, we are stunned.  Everything appears to be dream like, we seem to be moving in a state of animation.  It also allows us to do, to plan, to prepare and to move through the hours, days and in some cases even weeks.  With any devastating news we receive are emotions can range from anger, to disbelief, to numbness.  We feel as if all life has been drained from us and our minds have taken a sabbatical.  We keep hoping to just wake up and find it has all been a very bad dream.  

Shock leaves us feeling lost and confused.  Whether you are dealing with the death of a loved one, finding out that someone you love is getting divorced, or any other disturbing news. Your body seems to shut down, and your feelings leave you spinning in circles.  I remember just sitting alone late at night those first few days, trying to absorb all that had happened, trying so hard to wrap my head and heart around the fact that my daughter was gone.  Wanting the nightmare to just go away.  I remember being stoic, keeping myself composed, being strong, doing what was necessary.  It was as if I was moving in extreme slow motion.  I would cry and the abruptly stop crying.  The hardest thing was actually sharing what I was feeling, I didn't know where to begin or how to explain what I was feeling or not feeling.  It was all so surreal.  It was as if I was watching a black and white movie with no sound.  Shock definitely has its purpose.   If nothing else, it allowed me to do what was needed during those first few days.  

But like anything else in life, be it euphoria, or numbness, it to wears off, leaving us feeling let down, in pain.  We suddenly realize this wasn't a dream, something truly happened and we begin to really hurt, to ache deep down inside.  For me that initial pain was so profound, everything began to hurt, it was as if I had been hit by a Mack truck, every inch of me was in pain.  I had never known a body could hurt so much without actually suffering physical damage.  My doctor explained that deep sadness (depression) truly hurts and it manifests itself in a multitude of ways, effecting individuals in different ways.  

The key is to allow yourself to feel, to share, to cry or even punch something (a pillow preferably) and let yourself express your feelings.  You need to vent, let yourself vent, you need to cry, let yourself cry, do what ever feels good and allows you to release everything that is pent up inside you.  Also find someone who can be there for you, who will let you express your emotions and feelings, and who will not try to give you advice, but simply listen and sit with you, holding you if need be.  

The following is a beautiful poem by Joyce Rupp, titled: 'Experiencing Loss'

     All-Embracing Love,
     your circle of strength
     is around me.

     I ask for grace to yield
     to the reality of this loss.
     I pray to surrender
     to what cannot be changed.
     I beg for deliverance 
     from the emotional drain
     and the unending sadness
     that this loss has brought me.

     Let peace return.
     Let hope begin.
     Let comfort be mine.

My prayer for you is that peace will return to your life, you will begin to find hope and that you find comfort in those around you who care for you and love you.

And remember, you hurt so much because you loved so deeply.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why, why is this happening to me?

'Why did God let this happen?'  'How can bad things happen to good people?'  'Why does only bad luck seem to follow me?'  'I'm sure there is a black cloud hanging over me.' 'If it wasn't for bad luck, I have no luck at all!'

When life seems unfair we try to find answers in the strangest places.  We look for explanations or try to blame someone or something.  A friend of mine seems to have hit a string of bad luck, it seems that everything is going wrong all of a sudden, you can hear the frustration and anxiety in their voice; they don't know where to turn next.  We have all heard the expression, 'when it rains it pours,' and that seems to be the case with my friend.  

A few months after my daughter died, I was speaking to a friend on the phone, and this individual asked me if I was angry.  Was I mad at God?  I said 'no' my daughter was the only one to blame, she was tired, fell asleep and the rest is history.  They were uncomfortable with my response, they felt I should be angry at someone or something.  

Later in the first year, I was driving my son to school and he asked me where God was when Rachel died.  Why didn't He save her?  Why did He let her die?  So many of us our plagued by these very same questions.  We want to understand why something so tragic could be allowed to happen.  I felt that God had not abandoned us, that He had been with us the entire time; crying and hurting just as we were.  That is what I still believe, that is my faith, and I know that it has been my faith that has sustained me these past four years.

For so many of us we believe that there is a higher power, and that even if we die, our souls or spirits continue to live on.  We are free, no longer encumbered by our earthly bodies.  Whatever your religious or non-religious beliefs may be, only you know what sustains you, what keeps you going day in and day out.  Whether you are a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Jehovah, Baptist or Atheist, or whatever your religious beliefs are, we all have our own interpretation of death and what happens after.  Some believe in resurrection, others reincarnation, some believe that our spirit lives on in nature, and yet others believe there is nothing after this life.  

I will speak only for my self, I know it is my faith and the belief that I will meet my daughter and all my deceased loved ones again, that has truly been my strength.  I will share this with anyone who wants to know why I have come so far after Rachel's death.  For me God has been my rock, supporting me at my weakest, carrying me when I could not take another step.  I have been able to lean on Him, and even yell at Him when I couldn't understand, and I felt as if I had hit rock bottom.  

We were in Mass (Church) the morning after Rachel died, and people were surprised to see us there.  But for my family and I, we knew that this is where we needed to be.  This is were I would be accepted even in all my brokenness.  This is were I knew that we were truly at home among not only our immediate family but our extended family as well.  Where I was being held and embraced, comforted and guided, where I could surrender everything.  

I truly understand that God is not for everyone, and for some faith is overrated, but I know in my heart that this is what made a difference in my life.  I am sharing this part of me, because so many have asked me how I have managed to go on, move forward, smile again, for me it has been through my faith, always my faith.  

So take comfort in what you believe in, whether it be God, Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha or any other Deity.  If your spirituality involves nature and the natural sciences, find your comfort there.  The important thing is to find your way through your grief, leaning on whatever guides you and strengthens you.  

Hold on to the hope!  Let the love live on!

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 
and I will give you rest."   
Matthew 11:28 

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'You've Got a Friend in me....'

Family, friends all important people in our lives.  We depend on them, call to say hello, and even feel annoyed at them at times, but most of us wouldn't trade them for anything.  They are a part of us and we are a part of them.  For the most part, we cannot pick our families, we are pretty much stuck with them, but even at their worst, we still love them.  Friends on the other hand, are chosen by us, they compliment who we are, have similar likes and dislikes, for so many of us they are mirrors of ourselves.  

When someone we love dies, these are the people we turn to, the ones that somehow helps us.  I have stated it before, my family and friends were unbelievable during those darker days.  They called, stopped by, cooked or just sat with me.  They tried to help me with my pain, and even waited patiently during my outbursts.  Yes, some annoyed me to no end, and I am sure I was quite curt with them, but bottom line, they were trying to do whatever they could to help. 

These are also the people that we sometimes take for granted.  We see them often enough and just think I do not to say I love you, or your the best, because they know, besides I'll see them tomorrow, next week and so on.  But what if there are no tomorrows, what if we don't get another chance.  We need to live each day with a sense of finality as if this is it.  

I always wonder as I go through my day, how many people really notice the clouds, the bird soaring way up high, the young mother pushing a stroller, children laughing as they head to or from school, the elderly person trying to cross the street.  So many of us are so engrossed in what we need to get done that day, that sometimes everything around us is one major blur.  

Death can really make you take notice.  Death stops us in our tracks, makes us take stock of our life.  We realize just how fleeting life is and how much we squander on a daily basis.  We throw it all away to worry, rushing and planning for the next day, that we forget to live for today.  The death of a loved one can really shake us up, especially when we look at how we have been living our lives.  How pre-occupied we can be at times.  It is akin to being splashed with a bucket of cold water, we are suddenly aware, very much aware, we look around and take it all in.  

But yet I have met so many people who even after dealing with the death of a loved one, still continue to take others in their lives for granted.  It may be a defense mechanism, away to avoid future hurt and pain, or it may simply be that they are avoiding any reminder of how uncertain our lives are.  I have spoken to so many individuals who tell me that their reactions and those of their closest relatives and friends were totally unexpected.  Some reported that their family member began to drink, others abused prescription medication, some began smoking, I have even been told that gambling and similar vices were distracting.  With these situations, the family members stated that by giving into vices, they were able to numb the pain, forget about what happened, even if it were for a short while.  

These are all ways of coping and dealing with death, separation, and loss of any kind.  It helps obscure reality making life seem more bearable.  If you or someone you love has developed dependencies on alcohol, drugs, or other substances and vices, look for help.  Remember that only when you admit that you have a problem, can you help yourself.  That is also true for your loved one, they must recognize that they have a problem in order to seek help.  

Be understanding and patient, they like you are in pain, and have been unable to find a way to release their pain and suffering, so they turn to what feels good, what makes them forget, even if temporarily.  Alcohol and prescription medications, like sleeping pills and anti-depressants are easy targets.  It is not to say that all drugs are bad, on the contrary, they can be very helpful, when used correctly.  I took a sleeping pill, and an anti-depressant, it helped me during the most difficult times.  As I began to feel hope, to feel that I might actually survive, I was weaned of these medications.  But some people cannot stop, don't want to stop.  

Be patient with yourself and others, know that it is not an easy process.  It does have it's dark days, confusing moments and elicits a sense of insecurity, but in time we begin to learn to live without our loved one, we learn to go on.  We do not forget, we allow them to live on in our hearts.  We let our family and friends know that they mean so much to us, that we need them in our lives, and that they are someone who we know we can turn to.  I hope you all have a family member or friend, in whom you can confide, who you can share your fears and insecurities, and above all who understands even when you are at your worst.  

So let your family and friends in, let them love you as only they can, and always know that they are there to make sure you are okay and when you are not they are there to carry you, until you feel strong again.  Allow yourself to grieve, to live through the pain, looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.  

So remember:

You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me

And you're miles and miles
From your nice warm bed
Just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
You've got troubles, well I've got 'em too
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you
We stick together and we see it through
You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me

Some other folks might be
A little bit smarter than I am
Bigger and stronger too
But none of them will ever love you the way I do
It's me and you
And as the years go by
Boys, our friendship will never die
You're gonna see
It's our destiny
You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me

by Randy Newman, 'You've Got a Friend in Me.' 

Life is a precious gift, open it and enjoy it and do not take any moments for granted.

Blessings! and until we meet again. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

'Better to have loved...'

Love is so many things: it makes us feel all tingly, it can makes us do things we never dreamed we would or could, it can help us overcome major obstacles, it sees beyond the surface and understands the heart.  But love also can cause pain and suffering, we can suffer from a broken heart, we can feel betrayed by it, and so on.  We can probably continue to list the pros and cons of love. 

So many people will look at love and wonder why would I want to risk all the pain, all the hurt, the rejection, why fall in love.  Yet it is love that has brought so many of us into this life.  Even if your birth was not a direct result of two people falling in love, you are still someone who was and is loved.  Whether you were raised by your biological parents, foster parents, adoptive parents or even grandparents, somewhere along the way you felt love.  At least that is my prayer for you, that love has touched you in some way.

Today as I thought about my classes and my assignments, I also thought about a comment that was made.  The question was asked if you could go back and change the outcome of your life, would you?  For the most part, the comments were mainly no.  I thought about this and I know that I would not change too much if any at all.  I have been blessed with a wonderful husband, three beautiful children, and now a terrific son-in-law and the newest joy in our lives, my grandchild.  If I could stop my daughter from dying, you bet I would try, but then I wonder what would I miss out on, would things be better or worse.  

Earlier today I read a status posting on Facebook, in the "What's on your mind? section, someone wrote simply 'Everything happens for a reason.'  Yes the statement is so very true, but it is the reason that eludes us, the whys and how comes are left blank.  It made me think even more about Rachel, and what could possibly be the reason for her untimely death.  As I pondered on this a while, I started thinking about all the things that Rachel accomplished in life and more especially what she managed to accomplish through her death.

The news of her accident, brought family and friends together as they prayed, comforted us and each other, and just stayed by our sides throughout the waiting.  After Rachel was pronounced clinically dead, her organs were donated, she had made a point in life of letting us know she wanted to be an organ donor.  Early the next morning we were told that she had made a difference in the lives of three people, helping them live healthier lives.  At her wake and funeral, she managed to bring together people of every race, creed, color, religion, etc., from various parts of the US, Canada and Europe.  I am still amazed at all that transpired over the first few days and weeks.  

Then I realized it was love that had allowed all this to happen.  Her love of people, new experiences and her caring, loving attitude to doing what she could to help others, even if it put her in harms way, had an impact on so many.  She managed to touch so many lives in so many ways, she loved fully, unconditionally, and gave of herself completely.  

So would I change anything, NO!, because I wouldn't want to miss a moment of the love.  There is a beautiful quote that I am sure you have all heard, 'better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all,' by Alfred Lord Tennyson, from his poem In Memoriam:27, 1850.  The words speak for themselves, there is no double meaning, they mean what they say and they say what they mean.  

Know that you are that much richer for having known your loved one, for having had them in your life, even for a short while.  Would any of us give anything for just a few more moments with them , of course we would.  But yet they have never really left us, they are always in our hearts, they a where ever we are.  They are the wind, the rain, a strangers smile, a warm hug, the laughter and the gentle cry of a new born baby.  Our loved ones are all around us, we just have to quiet ourselves and just listen.  We need to be still and allow ourselves to feel the love, allow it to surround us, take hold of us.  Our loved one may not be visible to our eyes, but our heart knows they are present, always with us.  

So let love be joy and happiness, promises and dreams, let it be all things to you.  If you are suffering, allow yourself to know that you hurt because of the love, and what this person meant to you, but know to that in time it is the love that will remain diminishing  the pain and suffering. You will smile again, laugh again, enjoy life's offerings, and even take pleasure in looking at the photographs and sharing the memories of your loved one, and know, fully know, that you were loved. 

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 3 R's: Rites, Rituals and Remembrances.

Back to school!  I am taking a couple of college courses to be applied to a certification.  In my first class, I am the oldest person in the room, talk about a reality check.  The other class is pretty mixed, there a individuals of varying ages.  Even though I am older than most of the other students, I am very much looking forward to these classes.  I am most interested in being able to hear the view points of those much younger than myself.

Both of these classes deal with human nature and how we respond to events in our lives.  One of my instructors today made a comment that left me thinking, she said, 'you become stronger at the broken places." (Sullivan, P.)  I began to go through a mental list of all my broken places, all those hurts in my life, and reflected back on how I had lived through and survived them.  Most if not all of us have had difficulties in our lives, we have dealt with death, financial strife, divorce, and in today's economy loss of job and even maybe your home.  It is not easy, but we manage to get through it somehow, maybe even all the better because of it.

I look at my own situation, and I realize how far I have come, even though I know there is still much ahead of me.  I have learned to be understanding of why certain people do what they do, I now have more empathy for others, I avoid passing judgment and I make an effort to look at situations/issues from different angles.  I have learned to listen not only with my ears, but with my heart as well.  I wish I could say I am always like this, but alas I am after all human, and I have my moments and days, when I need these things from others.  

This past weekend we celebrated Rachel's life, we began with a remembrance at Mass, followed by a gathering of those who wish to join us at our home.  We cooked on the grill, some brought food and dessert, others brought beverages, but most importantly, we enjoyed each others company.  We did what my daughter loved best, getting together and having a good time.   It is amazing that four years later she is still bringing people together.  

I thought about all this as I attended my second class.  In this class one of our assignments is to make our own funeral arrangements, write a detailed resume of our life, and make sure we have complete instructions for before, during and after.  Pretty morbid sounding, right!  As I drove home, I really thought about it, and I realized that a funeral and all its rites and rituals are important.  When I think back to my daughters' funeral, I take comfort in knowing that it was a beautiful reflection of her life and what she was all about.  She brought together people from near and far, regardless of who they were and what they believed in.  For some of you it may be hard to see a funeral as something beautiful, but it can be, and Rachel's was all that and more. 

If you have been to a loved ones funeral, there are probably some aspects of it that you remember; maybe a kind word, special photos or video, a particular song that they liked, or their favorite flowers, whatever it was, it meant something to you or them.  For so many of us, this is our final tribute in honor of our loved one, our chance to say good bye.  So we make it memorable, we ask certain individuals to be pall bearers, we allow others to say words of remembrance, we involve ourselves and others in the process.  

For some of you, the death of your loved one left you unable to do or plan anything and that's okay too.  Most funeral homes and services, see to it that everything is done to help honor and celebrate the life of your loved one; or you may have allowed someone else to take care of the final arrangements.  Like everything I have said, you did what was right for you, and what helped you through a difficult time.  

You may still be having a hard time coping with the death of your loved one and thinking about the wake and funeral give you no comfort.  That's okay!  Again you do what is best for you.  

Life and death are an integral part of who we are as humans and even though we feel such sadness and hurt, it is part of our being human.  It doesn't mean it makes it easier, but it does allow us to feel the love.  I was reminded today in class that if someone were to approach me and tell me it hurts so much, why do I feel such pain?  The answer is because you loved them.  All love ends in pain, but man is it worth every minute of it.  

We continue to love everyone around us, we become more appreciative of them, and learn to forgive.  Like my assignment this week, we should live as if this were our last week.  

So remember the love, know that it never dies, and live your life in celebration of all those who you miss.  Allow yourself to honor the memory of your loved one, whether is be a simple service, elaborate rite, or just a gathering of family and friends.  Let yourself continue to grow.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Through a Child's Eyes.

Out of the mouth of babes!  Children all to often say the most unexpected things, and what they generally say is right on the mark, which leaves some adults reeling.  They are a lot more perceptive than some adults give them credit for.

A mom was sharing with a group of us how her eldest son was complaining, he felt embarrassed when his mom would display signs of affection in public, he didn't even want her smiling at him if others kids were around.  Of course none of us parents are ever ready for this, we think our children will want to be hugged or kissed for ever.  So she began to remind him that he only had one mom and if she wasn't around he would really miss her and so on.  Out of the blue the youngest son piped up, saying well isn't the Blessed Mary our mother too.  She didn't know what to say, what can you say.  Kids sometimes cut you to the quick.  

When Rachel died my brother and sister-in-law knew they had to tell their children, so they called them over and began to tell them what had happened.  My nephew listened and then simply told them that he had known, he was 5 years old.  They asked him how he knew, and he said, he had heard everyone talking and even though they had not mentioned that she had died, he had taken his cues from their demeanor and put it all together.  

All too often adults try to shield children from tragic events, believing they are protecting them.  My parents, thankfully, had not felt this way and my brothers and I we kept abreast of everything that was happening around us.  To the best of their ability, they would try to answer our questions, explain what was happening, and why things were done this or that way.  To their credit, when I think of my childhood, I realize they would also listen to us, our comments, our reactions and they would take their cues from that, responding to our needs.  

Most experts will tell you to take your cue from the child, they will definitely let you know what they need.  I have learned that the simple answer is usually the best, if they need more they will continue to ask.  When it comes to dealing with the death of a loved one, involve the child as much as possible.  Allow them to be part of the planning, the rituals and answer their questions without going into too much detail.  Of course this depends on the age of the child.  If you don't tell them they will ask someone else or come up with their own explanations. 

As I watch my grandson, I am reminded of how much they learn from the people around them.  I can already see certain characteristics and how he responds to the people in his life.  The candid observation, looking for the familiar and trying to figure out those around him.  So even at a very young age babies and toddlers know who they can trust, who will let them do what they want and who they should go to when they want to feel secure and have their needs met.  

Children, like adults, need a sense of closure, they need to be allowed to say their good byes to grandparents, a parent, sibling, aunts or uncles, and so on.  It may take a while before they realize that they will not be coming home, that they can't go to grandma's, etc.  Like us, they too go through the different stages of grief.  I recently read an article about 9/11 children and how so many of them still waited for their loved one to come home for the first few years.  How everything seemed so unreal to them and how they felt as if they were the only ones going through this.  Fortunately for many of the children directly affected by the 9/11 tragedies, there was help, they were encouraged to participate in events and support groups with other children, who were dealing with the same feelings, emotions and loss.

So if you have children in your lives who may have had to deal with the death of a loved one, are currently dealing with it or may have to face the death of a family member due to illness, be open with them.  Allow them to share what they are feeling, let them know they can talk about whatever is on their minds.  If you are not comfortable doing this, find a support group for them, there are a few that can help.  Rainbows is just one that comes to mind, this is an international  grief support group for children.  For those who have lost a parent or family member in the military, TAPS also offers a children's support system. Hospice and Visiting Nurses Association, also can provide help.  Check with your child's physician, your church or local hospitals, they may have a list of what is available in your community.  You may even find helpful resources for yourself in the process.

We all suffer through the death of someone we love, we all may handle it in our own way and react differently, but we grieve.  Whether we are an adult, teenager or a child, we all experience the sorrow, the pain and uncertainty of death and it leaves us confused and frightened. 

We all need to know we are loved, we all need to know that someone cares and most importantly we need to know that love will keep us going.  

There is a beautiful quote that reminds us:

"They whom we love and lost
are no longer where they were before.
They are now wherever we are."
Author: St. John Chrystostom
Blessings! and until we meet again.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

But I want to hold on!

Letting go is one of the hardest things to do.  When we descend the stairs, we hold onto the railing until we get to the bottom, and even then we don't let go until we know we have solid footing.  When we are holding a child's hand, we don't let go until we know it is safe to do so, and even then it is with some reservations.  We hold on as if everything depended on it.  

If we all take stock of our lives, we have all had times where we have refused to let go, believing that if we just hung in there, it would all work out.  People have held on to troubled relationships, tried feverishly to help someone suffering from addiction, and stayed where they were because it was what they knew.  We hold on to the familiar; ideas, habits, ways of doing things, we stick to the same routines, it makes us feel secure, as if we have a handle on things.  If anything upsets the norm, we tighten the grip. If we let go, we risk losing what feels safe, what has us believing we are in control.  

When someone we love is dying, we definitely do not want to let go.  We cannot believe someone we love would leave us.  A few months ago I was speaking to a couple of people who were angry at their loved ones.  They could not believe that they died even after asking them not to go.  'How dare they, I wanted them to stay.'  'I wasn't ready to let go.'  I am sure any number of you have heard this before, you may have found yourself in the same shoes, definitely not ready to say good bye.  If any of you work in the medical profession, you have no doubt witnessed this more often than not.  Especially for those of you who deal with patients who are dying, you a very much aware of this.  

Years ago when I worked in the emergency room, too often I would watch as family, friends and even the medical staff would hold on to every possibility, believing that there might be something else that can be done.  Even after people were informed of the death of the loved one, they would still hold out for some sort of miracle, wanting to hold on to the hope, wanting to believe we had made a mistake.  

I remember when my dad had been diagnosed with lymphoma and how we had responded with shock and fear, after all cancer was a dreaded disease.  But as the years passed and my dad went in and out of remission, we new that we were not ready to say good bye.  Ten years ago when my dad was admitted, my brothers and I made sure we were at his beside.  When I realized that my dad might not make it, I let him know that we would be okay if he had to go. I found out later on that one of my brothers had done the exact same thing, while the other two refused to let go, believing that he would fully recover.  

When my daughter lay there unresponsive after the car accident, my mind knew that I might have to say good bye, but my heart wanted no part of it.  How could I, she was much too young.  I remember not being able to pray, but I do remember asking God to give me the strength to cope with whatever the outcome would be.  It was very hard to let go, even when they sat with us and explained that she was brain dead, we were not ready.  How could they ask us to do this, there must be something else, anything else.  I remember my mom saying that she knew Rachel would be okay, everything was going to be fine.  None of us wanted to let go.

Of course, there are times when it is okay to hold on, grasping every ounce of hope, and just believing that everything will be fine.  It is this hope that buoys us, keeping us afloat.  It is that dogged determination that helps us find a solution, seek alternative answers, and insure that our loved one is getting the best possible care.  We hold on knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

But on the flip side of this, I have also seen people hold on waiting for a loved one to show up, suffering through pain, holding on because a loved one is not ready to let them go.  When my grandfather collapsed early one morning after suffering from a major stroke, we were all told by the doctor that he would not make it.  We were told to contact family members because he would not last much longer, we would be lucky if he made it to noon time.  Family members began to arrive, getting there as soon as possible, but there was one uncle no one could seem to get a hold of.  But my grandfather hung in there, my uncle finally arrived at the hospital late that evening, walked into the hospital room and said hello.  My grandfather died a few minutes after his arrival, it was as if he waited for his son, and now with his entire family present, he could go.  

Sometimes we need to let go, we need to let our loved one know it is okay.  It does not mean we have given up hope, it doesn't mean we are quitting or giving up, it just means we will accept whatever the outcome is meant to be.  It is not easy, it does not eliminate the pain of grief, but it can and does lead to healing.  When we let go, we allow ourselves to be transformed, we allow ourselves to seek different ways of coping and we allow ourselves to change our attitudes toward what is happening.  

So it is okay to hold on tight when it is necessary, but know that there will be times when you will need to let go, when you must leg go, when letting go is the only solution.  If you do find yourself needing to hold onto something, hold onto the love.  

There is a beautiful prayer to many of you are well aware of, The Serenity Prayer, here is the full version by Reinhold Niebuhr.

The Serenity Prayer
Path God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr
So remember to 'Let Go and Let God!'

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do I Get A Second Chance?

Happy Birthday, Rachel. 

28 years ago today, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  We were overjoyed, she was everything we could hope for and so much more.  All the fears of the previous months, worrying about being good parents, would everything be okay, all disappeared with one look into our baby's face.  Would I do it all again, even knowing what the outcome would be?  Yes, yes, yes and again yes.  I would not trade a minute of knowing my daughter. 

We are not often given second chances in life, so we need to make it work the first time around.  Will we make mistakes, will we have regrets, will we wish we could take back what we said?  Most definitely, it is unfortunately a part of who we are as humans, and maybe hopefully we learn from our trials.  

Yesterday, I could not help but smile as I listened to a young mother talk about the joys of spending time with her family.  Her eyes sparkled as she shared how they truly enjoyed each others company, without the worries of day to day, while on vacation.  Life is full of these special times. when we fully appreciate the gifts of: our spouses, parents, children, brothers, or any other important people in our lives.  When life throws us a curve ball, it is these moments that help us move forward.  

It is these moments that serve as a subtle reminder that we need to enjoy every minute.  If you have had a loved one who has died, you understand this better than anyone.  You realize that life is fleeting, and each day should be lived to its fullest.  It does not mean living immorally, but rather living each moment as if it were our last.  I have a friend whose life is currently been turned upside down,  they are dealing with a disabling illness of a loved one and have had to adjust their schedules to accommodate for this unexpected event.  

Their are no rules in life, it has its own agenda, and definitely sneaks up on us when we least expected.  But is it worth living, yes most assuredly, there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for everything that has happened in my life.  Even the tragic has helped me to grow, to look at life from every angle, and to let me know that I can survive, that my faith will strengthen me and keep me going.  

It is not easy, and some days are definitely harder than others.  But we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and face yet another day with conviction, knowing that we will be okay.  Our skin may be a little tougher, and the hurting may be less acute, we may be able to keep our emotions in check, or not; but the bottom line is that we keep on going.  

Life is to be lived, to be enjoyed, and we need the make it remarkable, and we need to live it every day as if this day is the only chance we have got to make it good.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

'What's on your mind?'*

Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Skype are just a few of the social networking sites that come to mind.  Family and friends sharing their lives with each other, across the street, the state, the country and across continents.  We share news, let people know what we are doing, were we have been, how we are feeling, and what we are planning to do.  Now families out of state or overseas can know instantly what is happening and photos are shared immediately.  No more waiting for the letter to arrive with last months pictures. 

Childhood friends, classmates, colleagues are all reconnecting online, sharing their stories, catching up on their lives.  Who would have ever imagined that we would be so connected, that the phone is no longer the only way to communicate to family and friends living far away.  Brides and grooms have even 'streamed' their wedding ceremonies live for family members and friends who are unable to travel to the event.  So much can be shared with the click of a button. 

Today as I logged onto my social networking accounts, I noticed that I had a message waiting for me.  I opened the message and was informed that one of my elementary school teachers had died, and was given a brief explanation and the details for the wake and funeral.  I sat there absorbing the news and was very thankful to have been informed, I may have otherwise missed it.  

It also made me realize how often you see comments pop up saying 'RIP followed by the persons name, 'we are going to miss you' or 'have you heard' and 'oh, how so very sad.'  Just in this past week or so, I have seen at least a dozen comments referring to the death of someone.  Not to mention all the 'In memory of' and remembrances of the anniversary of a loved one's or friend's death.  

Yesterday I mentioned sharing our stories, sites like Facebook let us do just that.  They also allow us to memorialize our loved ones, and many pages have been dedicated to the life of someone who has died.  When my daughter died, her friends created a MySpace page dedicated to her memory.  On this page friends and family could share their fondest memories of Rachel, pictures they had and express what they were feeling and how it was effecting them.  Her friends incorporated the recessional song from her funeral Mass as the background music for the page.  It was a tribute to my daughter and her life.  

Even funeral homes now have interactive sites where you can read the obituary, light a candle and leave a message, allowing those far away to express their condolences.  

I read an article earlier today by Torey Lightcap, In Memoriam, And In Grieving, Digitally.  In his article, Rev. Lightcap speaks to how this digital sharing keeps the memory very much alive.  Even casual acquaintances get of sense of really knowing the person as they read through the messages and comments that are left by others.  For us, it is a way of insuring that our loved one's memory lives on, that they are remembered.  

Recently friends of ours marked the 10th anniversary of their son and brother's death, they posted photos of him as a small child and right on up until he died.  He had been a friend of my daughters and his family was considered a part of our family.  He had not been forgotten all these years later, and I still think of him often, especially when I hear the song that was played at his funeral.  It was a beautiful tribute to his life to see him remembered and knowing that his memory has definitely lived on.  

Share the story, let the memory live on, allow them to be remembered, tributes are not only for celebrities and royalty.  Tributes are for everyone that ever mattered in our life, whether they discovered the cure for some obscure illness or simply loved us in their own special way.  They were the world to us, and we want the world to know it and them.  For us, reading the comments and knowing that our loved one meant something to others is a great comfort to us in our sorrow.  Realizing that others loved them as we did, missed them as we do, and feel a sense of loss because of their death, can truly help us on this journey.  

Grief does not have to be lonely, we can share it with others, we can ask others to walk with us for a while.  When we open ourselves to others, when we share our story, we allow ourselves to begin to heal.  We are able to see the gift we were entrusted with, even if it was only for a short time, from a different point of view.  

They key is to live, to remember, to move forward and to allow the love to surround us and allow this love to continue to grow.  Like I stated in an earlier post 'Love never fails.'

Blessings! and until we meet again.

*The title is from Facebook's Home page, News Feed.

Turn the Page.

I am reading a book of short stories, and as I am reaching the end of the book, it has me thinking.  Life is a collection of short stories, that once collected make up our life.  There are chapters in our lives, everyone a distinct part, but all necessary to finish the book.  

There are chapters that are full of potential, overflowing in dreams and hopes.  There are the chapters that depict major milestones in our lives.  And there are those chapters that we wish to skim over, relating to some of our darker days.  But like any good story, we read through all the chapters, knowing that without one, the story would take on a whole new meaning.  

For some of our loved ones, the book seemed so short, but yet if we turn the chapters and read their stories, we will find that their book is complete.  All books have an ending, and all endings may not be to our liking.  How often do we wish we could alter the ending some how.  Wake up to find that there are still pages left to write, that their story is not over yet.  

In reality, even though they have died, their story is far from over.  They have left a legacy, we may not realize it at first, but if we take the time to look at who they were, what they represent and what impact they had on our lives and the lives of others; we see that their story is on-going.  

When my daughter died, family and friends made collages of Rachel's life.  The collages were arranged in chronological order, and incorporated a picture of a sunrise and a sunset.  Depicting Rachel's life span, from sunrise to sunset.  I still have the collages and occasionally I look at them, and I realize how much she accomplished, the places she had been, and how much we had done together as a family. 

As the years go by we continue to add chapters not only to our books, but also to the books of our deceased loved one.  After my daughter died, my therapist suggested I journal, at first I wasn't sure, but eventually I gave it a try.  When I had had a bad day I would write whatever came to mind, when I had a good day, I would right about my feelings and emotions.  

This may not work for all of you, but it has truly helped me, by writing down what I was thinking and feeling.  I would just begin writing whatever was on my mind.  I have not yet been able to read my journals, but when I am ready, they will be there waiting, and they will help me understand better that chapter in my life.

The most helpful part of journaling was allowing myself to write down anything and everything that came to mind.  I would just write, sometimes staining the pages with my tears, but when I finished making my entry, a sense of relief would fall over me.  I was able to sleep better, wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.  

Journaling is just one form of therapeutic venue that you can use to help ease the pain and unburden your mind.  You may find that painting is good, others find release in writing poetry, some taking up gardening, still others find a new hobby that will give them an outlet for their feelings and emotions.  Some individuals, begin by volunteering at hospitals, and other charitable organizations.  There are so many different things you can do to help you with your grief.  Find what works best for you.  

Remember to continually add chapters to your life.  Know that even though your loved one has died, their story still exists, and still continues to move us to actions.  So fill your life's book, find an outlet for your emotions and feelings, by volunteering, writing, painting, etc.

Our life is a book of blank pages, it is up to us to fill the pages.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Looking Back, Moving Forward

It is so much fun to reminisce, especially when you are spending time with family and friends.  Earlier today my family and I picked grapes, we no longer make wine, but we still have some family members who do; so we ate lunch and went right to the task.  

While we were picking the grapes, we shared our childhood memories with my son, nieces and nephew, relating our stories and how this event was a major family affair.  We talked about my dad, our grandparents, aunts and uncles and my daughter.  We remembered how we looked forward to it, even though it was tiring and seemed to take forever before we got to the home stretch.  

My daughter Rachel was on my mind as I remembered her sharing this event with friends.  The stories she shared were very compelling, because her friends volunteered to come and help out.  Even to this day they can't believe how much fun they had just trying something new.  

It is funny to think that what was a chore for us, can be a fun and exciting adventure for someone else, it all depends on the perspective.  Sometimes we need to step back and really look at something from every angle.  We need to see things in life as a new adventure, albeit sometimes challenging, but somehow worthwhile in the end. 

As we journey through our grief, we need to see our life from a new angle, stepping back to take in the whole picture.  We sometimes need to take a trip down memory lane, to bring us 'back to the future.'  As I thought about my daughter, and how she loved being with others, doing things with others, it made me realize that I was on a whole new adventure.  Even though she was my daughter and a lot younger than I, she had found a way in life to enjoy every moment to its fullest.  I realized that I needed to take my cue from her, to look beyond the mundane and see a new opportunity.

When we first suffer through the death of a loved one, we cannot see beyond the moment we are in.  We believe that we can never go on, it just seems so impossible.  Yet as we trudge along, we begin to evolve, to find ways to cope, to begin to look forward and to see the joy and laughter in our lives again.  I was with individuals yesterday who have found the new, in the uncertain, who have survived and grown even when the odds were against them.  

I was with individuals who at a very young age had lost both their parents in the same year, and who with strength and encouragement, became very successful.  Their parents are always on their minds, even after almost 20 years, especially when they see their parents reflections on their children's faces.  

We remember for ourselves, we share their stores so they will be remembered in the years to come.  We allow them to live on.  This year my husband and I were blessed with a grandchild, and my daughter has asked us to tell him about Rachel.  He is still very young of course, but will seek out Auntie Rachel's picture, when he hears her name.  It saddens me to know that he will not physically know his Auntie, but at the same time, I know she can still be a part of his life, even if it is only in the stories we share.  

It may be difficult for you to begin looking ahead, it may require taking some deep breaths to get through certain days, events or family gatherings.  You may find that some moments are bittersweet, as in the birth of my grandchild, knowing that important family members can no longer be present.  

The key is to reminisce, to begin to share their stories, to let them live on through their memory, and to always share the gift they left for you.  But like any gift we receive, we need to unwrap it, take it out, and allow the whole world to see.  Most importanlty, we must allow  the love to lead the way, to be our mantra, to know that our loved one may have died, but the love lives on.

Blessings! and until we meet again.