Unraveling Grief

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There are months that go by that I have no problem doing what needs to be done, just plugging away.  Then BAM!!!  I have a day like what I had the other day.  It just hits me…a song heard on the radio who’s words cut deep, a careless comment by someone in passing, a meme read on Facebook turn me into a grieving mess.

What do you do?  You channel that grief into something.  Even if you can’t act on your plans, make a time to do so, and I can promise that you’ll be better able to refocus on your to do list.

Make a picture that you never show anyone, so it doesn’t matter how “good” you think it is.  This is about YOU and working through your grief, whatever the loss is.

Music more your thing?  Write a song about your pain, and working to wholeness again.

Are you a shutterbug?  Think of what sort of picture would embody how you’re feeling, then make it happen.

Not willing to try to be artistic?  Write it out in a poem or journal.  (A poem is a silent song, and a journal entry could be a mute ballad.)

Talk it out with a friend or lover….someone who really GETS you.

Which of these have you done?  How well did it work?  What else have you done?

 

How Do You Recover From Grief?

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This is the first time I’ve seen the above graphic about the stages of grief, and I like it sooooo much better than the typical 5 stage process you hear and see everywhere. Those five stages seem to my mind to be overly simplistic.  They don’t account for all the nuances of life, which this covers so well.

I don’t think its straight line either.  There are times that I digress or jump around in the arc, and I’m sure the same is true for you as well.  Everyone is different, and there IS no “set time frame” for you to recover from say a death of  loved one, or ending of a marriage.

I can honestly say though, that every single stage listed above I have gone through, both following my major head injury and my second marriage.  (The first wasn’t near as bad, though there were short times for most of the stages.)  I think the reason the second recovery hit me so hard was:

  1. Something called trauma bonding…see here for more of an explanation.  It’s not just me who is trauma bonded either, but my girls don’t even realize they are.  Of course I can’t tell them anything either; I’m just teaching them to recognize abusers for what they are, and how to stand up to them.  Every time they come back from their father’s, I have to go through a transition time before they act more like the young girls they are inside.
  2. My parents are celebrating their 55th anniversary right now, with a river cruise in France.  55 YEARS.  My older brother a couple years ago celebrated his 25th anniversary with his second wife.  I haven’t even made it to 15…in either marriage.
  3. All through the marriage I was a SAHM.  Before I met her father and Miss J all I had done for work was retail, despite my BA in communications.  with 2 small girls, there was no way I could afford to go back to that and pay childcare and keep a roof over our heads.  So I decided to get an MBA before I (reluctantly) reentered the work force.  Yet no one wants a reluctant employee.  Somewhere along the line, I also decided I didn’t want to help build someone else’s dream….I wanted to build my own.  So now I needed to figure out what that was….a process I’m refining as I go.

Next time, I’ll get into ways to process grief.  Do you think the recovery process working through grief is smooth or messy?  What are your experiences?

 

 

5 Steps To Start Thinking Positively

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Easier said than done…right?  Life is full of negative people and events.  I’ve got 5 simple steps to help you start training your mind to look at things positively.

  1.  Turn off the news.  I used to depend on getting my GMA fix every morning back when Joan Lunden and Charlie Gibson were the anchors.  Then after I moved in with ex #2 and Miss J, I didn’t want her seeing the grownup stories, so I broke myself.  (Miss J’s mom had passed several months previous.)  Sometimes I would catch the late news, but the really big stories you found out via social media anyway.  Ive gotten to where I don’t want that negativity in my life.
  2. If you have a DVR, use it to cut out commercials whenever possible.  This is VERY BIG in election years.  The negativity in the campaign commercials is staggering.  As a bonus..you won’t hear the sales pitches of the commercials, as well!  If not, then hit the mute button.
  3. When faced with a situation that could drag you into negativity, stop.  Recognize the situation for what it is, then instead of dramatically bemoaning your fate, figure out how you can either fix it or look at it positively.  Theres a saying: either you’re part of the solution, or part of the problem.
  4. Try to surround yourself with other positive people whenever possible.  We always become who we surround ourselves with.
  5. When you DO have to be around someone negative, imagine yourself surrounded by a protective bubble of positive energy.  This will allow you to interact with them as needed (a coworker, etc.) yet not absorb their negative energy.

Have you tried any of these suggestions?  What was the result?

 

Finding The Gratitude

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How many times have you given your kids a chance to do something nice, like stay up to watch a favored show on a Friday night, only to have them turn into terrors when its time for bed?  Every time, you end up SWEARING that THIS is the LAST time they are going to do it, then letting them have another chance.  (You think that maybe they’ll be so tired they just go to sleep.  Problem is, they’re soo overtired they get out of control.)  Yup….happens to me most Friday nights…especially when they will be going to their father’s the next day.  (As I type this, one is in their bunk bed reading and the other is in my bed.)  Night’s like tonight make me lose sight (until after they go to sleep) of the great things they do every day.  Here are some of the gems…

Miss M informed me she had gathered her skirt into a ponytail behind her so that when she was outside playing with the neighbor kids on their scooter, so the skirt wouldn’t get caught in the wheels.

Miss J choosing to fix the laundry sorter next to the washer all by herself as it was coming apart.

Miss M reading almost all of Fox in Socks by herself (she’s just 2 weeks into first grade, and she did this over the summer).

Miss J taking it upon herself to pick up all the spilled beads up in the playroom…TWICE…without being asked to.

Back a few years ago, when their father and I started living in separate houses, Miss M gave me back a sorcerer Mickey Mouse doll I had given her years before that, so I would have someone to cuddle at night.

Miss J, in a rare moment, deciding she wanted Mommy cuddle time.  (She’s 9 now, but the tween years are starting early I think.)

Needless to say, I love them both “to the moon and back”.  My gratitude for them is easy to find when I think of these or other things they do.  I would love to hear some of your comments of things your kids do too!

 

5 Ways To Make Gratitude A Part Of Your Life

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Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside.  No matter what’s going on outside of us, there’s always something to be grateful for.                           Barry Neil Kaufman

That may seem kind of Pollyanna -ish.  As I said in an earlier post, the more you look for the positive in life, the more you see.  But how do you actively, practically do that?  Here are a few ideas.

One thing I have done in the past was to have a gratitude jar for every family member, and every night we would write something we were grateful for that day on a slip of paper.  It could be something as silly as they were grateful for their new shoes, or something like they were grateful for their sister helping them, or that I got my paper finished early.  Then, after these slips of paper filled the jar, they would be able to look through it when they felt sad.

The next time you have something negative happening, ask yourself “What is a possible positive side effect of this?”  This is a difficult one to do very often in the moment, but being able to step back and find something is often all it takes to pull the stress and strain out of the situation.  It also allows you to be grateful for the circumstance.

People who make a practice of giving back in some way, whether its working in a soup kitchen, volunteering at a shelter, volunteering at a boys and girls club, etc. are often more gratitude filled.  Giving back to those you can help in order to lift them up brings so many rewards.  Those you help are grateful for the help, and your life is enriched through giving.  Its really a win-win.

Put little reminders around your home.  I have a small sign I bought that says “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”  It sits next to my dining room table on top of a cabinet; I can see it from over here in the living room on the couch.

Try to do at least one random act of kindness daily.  Give that harried mom in the store an encouraging smile and comment.  Hold the door for someone with their hands full.  If you can, buy the person behind you their cup of coffee.  Give up your seat on the bus or subway.  Drop off a donation at a homeless or animal shelter.  The same effect happens as for those who give back.

Who Do You Choose?

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Do you find yourself purposely shrinking what you feel or who you are, just to fit in?  Are you allowing other people’s opinions of who and what you should be make you suffer and different than who you truly are?

Trying to be liked and cared for is all well and good, until it changes you.  Thats what happened to me.  Have you ever heard the story of how to prevent a frog from jumping out of the pot its being cooked in?  You ever so gradually turn up the temperature of the water, so that it doesn’t realize its too hot until its too late.

Thats how I ended up in the worse second marriage.  He turned the control and abuse on so gradually I didn’t realize it.  I had actually gotten him a t-shirt early on in our marriage that said “control freak” and had different types of controllers on it, so maybe a part of me did recognize it in him; I just didn’t think it was as bad as it was.

After a few years, lots of heartache, and couples as well as individual counseling, I decided to go back to school online for a masters degree.  I’d been a stay at home mom for several years, and I decided I needed the interaction with other adults.  If I was going to go back in the work force, I felt I needed to further my education so I could be more attractive to prospective employers.

What going back to school did for me was give me the self confidence to know that I don’t need to change the person I am, just to be someone else’s idea of what a worthy human being is.  To paraphrase Daniel Keopke, I AM worthy, and not just because some says I am.  I am a human being, therefore I matter.  My feelings matter.  My thoughts matter.  My feelings matter.  What I have to say matters.  I don’t need anyone’s approval or permission to speak my truth.  Even if it makes people uncomfortable or angry, I can and will continue to speak my truth.  Its ok to refuse to shrink.  To choose to take up space.  To choose to acknowledge and honor my feelings.  To give myself permission to do what I need to in order to get my needs met.  To choose me.

If you’re finding yourself shrinking yourself down, I am giving you the permission you need to be your true authentic self.  You will be so much happier, and have lower stress, when you are.

 

 

5 Surefire Ways To Counter Negative Thoughts

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Sometimes it seems that things keep going wrong.  Though you would like to, you don’t have time to devote to a mini meditation to reset your day.  What then?  Here are 5 ways that are proven to work:

1.  Listen to upbeat music.  A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology found that when rock or classical music was playing, people were able to recognize numbers, letters, and images faster than when it was quiet.  When you listen to your favorite music, your brain releases dopamine, which helps parts of your brain work better.

2.  Distracting yourself for a short time will decrease the intensity of your negative feelings, allowing you to more productively look at the situation.  Working on Sudoku or a crossword puzzle are good examples of ways to distract yourself.  If you work from home, take a short break to do a couple chores…but don’t let your mind dwell on the situation that brought on the negative thoughts!

3.  As silly as it sounds, rapidly repeating a word or phrase over and over for a couple minutes causes it to lose its meaning over you.  In psychology this is called “Cognitive Defusion.”  Saying it in a favored cartoon character’s voice will make it seem even sillier.

4.  Write down whatever it is thats bothering you, then do one of two things.  One way is to tear it up as small as you can and dispose of it in the trash, in running water (“washing your troubles away” so to speak) ,or however you wish to responsibly dispose of it.  Another way is to in a heatproof container set fire to the paper, burning it away.

5.  There are a myriad of issues that yoga have been proven to counter.  People who do yoga regularly have been shown to have lower levels of stress and anxiety, lowered blood pressure, and generally improved physical fitness.  Sometimes all that is needed to snap you out of a negative thought pattern is to do a few moves with the accompanying breathing.

Remember though, that changing a pattern of negative thinking is a process; it can’t happen quickly.  Remember to give yourself time to make the change, and not expect too much too quickly.

 

What Do You See?

 

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What do you see when you look around you?  It all depends on your perspective.

When you have a positive mindset, and look for the good, you’re more likely to notice a child doing something special for their parent or sister.  Or someone allowing you to change lanes in front of them.  Or a wild turkey on the side of the road.  The more you notice these things, the more of them will be there for you to notice.

Likewise, when you have a negative mindset, and look for the bad, the more you see that.  Not the mom who has given their child 5 times the latitude to act up, and put up with it, but the one time she yells that she’s had enough.  Not the nutritious healthy meal prepared, but the dirty kitchen.  Not the friendly neighbor wanting to stop and chat, but the (in your opinion) nosy neighbor trying to talk to you, keeping you from mowing the lawn and getting out of the heat.  Or of the 5 racks of clothes to put away before you leave work in 2 hours, instead of the chance to review what you have in stock to better help customers find what they need.

So I’ll ask you again…what do you see?  What do you WANT to see?