by Kellie Boyle
Many adults come to counseling telling me they are aware of the importance of exercise but fitting it into their hectic schedule of a full-time job, kids, kids’ practices and extracurricular events plus commute time is nearly impossible. Other adults can find the time; however, the thought of exercise sounds miserable and the absolute last thing they want to be doing. I’ve had a few tips for them, that I’d like to also share with you.
Don’t call it exercise. If you are telling yourself you have to make time to exercise or go to the gym, when you are someone who dreads the so-called ‘gym’ or the word ‘exercise’, this will be much harder for you. It’s like telling yourself you must eat your broccoli tonight. Call it whatever you want to call it: “Heart work” “stress relief” “power hour”, heck, you could call it “boys night” if you want. Many people cringe when they think about stepping inside of a gym or the thought of stepping on a treadmill. It’s simpler than you have imagined; you don’t have to do either to exercise. Exercise can be putting on some music in your basement and dancing while you pick up all of your kids’ toys, it can be a walk around the neighborhood with your husband after dinner, it can be throwing the Frisbee with your dog, hiking to a beautiful waterfall, or even running down the sidelines as you coach your daughter’s soccer game. Are you someone who once enjoyed contact sports? Go join a rec league basketball team or a fun kickball team. Bottom line, be creative. There are several ways you can get exercise without stepping foot inside a gym.
Work it in with chores or parenting. Ok, so your kids and spouse may think you are strange if they see you doing jumping jacks in the middle of the hallway, but if you’ve got 2 minutes, you’ve got 2 minutes. If you are picking your kid up out of the crib, do a squat before you reach in and then after with your kid in your arms. Make silly faces at them each time you do a push up as they are practicing tummy time. Play hide and go seek with your kids. And really hide and really bend and stretch to get into those close corners. Make excuses to walk up and down your stairs, whether it’s carrying one laundry load at a time, or checking in on your teenager who hasn’t come out of their room in 4 hours. Incorporating your kids into these activities can be a great way to introduce them to healthy living also. Pets are other good excuses for exercise.
No matter where you are, you can almost always think of a way to exercise. Beach? Take a walk on the beach before you reach for that 4th Corona or bring out the boogie board you haven’t used in years. Just lugging around sand and water from the shore to the sandcastle is exercise. Work trip? Take the stairs. Most hotels these days have gyms and pools. Can’t do an hour workout? Do 15 minutes at a higher intensity. Or your normal intensity. It’s better than nothing at all.
I’ve seen people who absolutely despised exercise earlier in life become much more involved in their health and fitness because they have been able to find something that they really enjoy. Dance classes, yoga, even bowling can be a form of exercise. You could even get that purple jumpsuit Jesus wears in “The Big Lebowski.” (Major bonus points from your 5-year old, not so much from your 12-year old).
To summarize, if you can find something you enjoy doing or you can find some sort of activity that gets your heart rate up, even if it is not your typical type of exercise, it will be less of a chore and challenge for you. Start small, don’t beat yourself up if you skip, and go for that gold.
What if you do a Google image search for sunrises and sunsets? After looking at hundreds of pictures what will you see? Can you actually tell the difference between a sunrise and sunset? Perhaps there is something about a sunset that makes it look different, or maybe it is something about you that you see a picture of the sun on the horizon and it seems like a sunset but maybe it is not.
We all see the world through our own lens according to how we think and feel, or what our attitude is. Maybe what we see is not what we think it is. Maybe we need to ask ourselves how our minds are shaping our perceptions.
We all need someone to challenge our assumptions sometimes, even though we may not realize it or want it. Sometimes a good friend or caring parent is there for us. Sometimes we hear from a co-worker or a neighbor.
There are times though, when we need more expert help in the process of looking within ourselves and uncovering the things that need attention. Healing within so that we can see more clearly the way ahead is hard work. It is also some of the most important and rewarding work there is. Do you need a guide on a healing journey?
by Kellie Boyle
Luck is an interesting topic. There are different beliefs about what luck is and if it really exists. What is your belief in luck? Do you believe it is something that happens? Or do you believe it is something you create? Or maybe a little bit of both?
I will never forget a day I had working in vocational rehab. I took a young client of mine in for an interview at Target. The client sat through a series of questions (which were pretty standard) and towards the end of the interview, the Hiring Manager asked him the question: “Do you believe in luck?”. My client answered the question with no hesitation. It’s like he had thought this exact question through before. He explained that while he believes there is situational luck; for example, finding a dollar bill on the ground, he also believes that most types of luck do not happen by chance, and went further on to explain his reasoning. Sitting there, I was amazed at how sharp his answer was and thought to myself, how would I answer that question? The Interviewer was clearly impressed with his answer as well. He went on to explain his own belief in luck and why he thought the client had a creative, positive outlook on the subject. The interviewer explained that he does not believe in luck by chance, but he believes that you put yourself into a situation to become lucky. Let me break it down a bit…
What he meant by that is working hard and taking opportunities is allowing yourself to be put in a situation where you do become lucky because of the choices you made along the way. Sitting around hoping and wishing that you will one day catch a break and get lucky is unlikely to happen if you’re not putting your best foot forward. I like this idea about “creating your own luck” because it makes you think about things you could be doing to further yourself and put yourself in a better position. Did Lebron James get lucky by being tall and athletically talented? Sure, he had it in the cards for him, but there was also a lot of hustle, blood, sweat and tears along the way that got him to the point where now one would deem him lucky.
You could argue that not everyone was dealt the best hand of cards, but then again, how can you make the best out of the cards you were dealt? A lot of what is thought of as unlucky could also be spun into a positive outlook. “I hit every red light home from work today” could be turned into “I had more time than usual today to stop and look at the clouds and blue sky around me as I drove home”.
At times, you may even have to redefine luck. Luck may be to one person having good health, whereas, to another, it may be winning the lottery. Whatever your form of luck is, think about how it could change depending on your choices. Good luck 😊
Running as My Therapy
By Kellie Boyle
“Run like the Wind Blows”. A headline I chose, as a yearbook contributor, to use when writing an article for my track team back in high school. Back then, I was much less interested in long distance running and the idea of running for pleasure or to stay healthy did not quite make sense. Sprinting and high contact sports made much more logical sense to me. I would have never believed if you told me then years later, I would become to love long distance running and actually and willingly participate for relaxation.
I first noticed the benefit of exercise and running when I took my first job out of undergrad. I was working at a day treatment center for kids with emotional and behavioral disorders. I loved my job but as most people who have worked in the mental health field know, it can definitely take a toll on you emotionally and physically. I started running two miles on the treadmill. Before that, I was never challenged or asked to run more than that, but for some reason I thought let’s make it a goal to run 3 miles. Running gave me strength and power and a feeling of sensation I never expected to get. It was so readily available. All I needed was a pair of shoes and a hair tie. I quickly saw the results and was at the gym religiously for at least 3-4 days a week. It was part of my routine, and it worked better for me as therapy then sleeping in or sitting around the house watching TV.
Not long after moving to Charlotte, NC to attend grad school, I took advantage of the warmer weather and started running outside much more frequently. There was a beautiful trail that went around a lake that was close by to my apartment. I loved that trail because I knew it was 1.5 miles long exactly. It was then that I got a call from my best friend stating a friend of hers was planning to run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. Um, a road trip to Nashville? Of course I’m in! Okay, so what turned out to be me wanting to go to Nashville for the weekend ended up me becoming a marathon junkie. I started training immediately. I was finishing up my spring semester as race time approached. I stuck to a very strict schedule of wake up at 6:00am, go to internship all day until 2pm. Go to work, go to class, and rarely got home while it was still light out. Running was fit anywhere in between and mostly long runs were saved for the weekends. People would say to me “great for you, but I don’t have time for it”. Well, I have just as much time as they did, but I made the time because it was part of my routine to stay healthy and happy. Much like eating and sleeping (which everyone makes time for), we make these priorities because we all know we need these to survive. To me, running, or some form of exercise was just as important. It releases endorphins in our brains that make us happy, it releases the stress, anger and pressure of everything we have to get done and it allows us to push that negativity out of our body. It allows us to get fresh air, doze off into space, daydream, use mindfulness to notice the beauty of nature; the sights and sounds, the sunlight and cold breeze touching our face.
So, after a 7.5 hour drive to Nashville, I arrived the day before race day ready to pick up my packet and walk around Music City. Little did I know this half marathon happening tomorrow would change my life forever. On race day, I woke up and it was raining. I borrowed a friend’s hat to keep the water out of my face. (I can run in anything but I hate strongly dislike running in rain with water splashing my eyeballs). I started the race solo, but ended up running into a childhood friend who happened to be doing the race, around mile 2. We completed the rest of the race together, enjoying for each of us our first half marathon, seeing the sites of downtown Nash, experiencing bands of country and rock at every mile, while catching up along the way. The thrill of crossing the finish line was so unbelievable. My favorite part of the entire race is the last sprint down to the finish line. So many spectators lined up cheering, ringing cow bells, it’s like your 15 seconds of fame each time coming down that chute. I felt so good, and proud of myself. I also earned my right to hang out and relax, eat and drink whatever I wanted the rest of the day.
I love to travel, and so shortly after crossing that finish line I said to myself “I am going to make it a goal to run a half marathon in every state”. I said this in April 2008. I told this idea to many people when asking about my first experience in Nashville. I got the impression from most of them as they just nodded their head and thought “sure” not thinking it was likely I would actually achieve the goal. And I haven’t yet, but I’m sure on my way. Never let anyone make you believe you can’t do something. Because you can. The sky is the limit. Almost 9 years later, I have now completed 2 full marathons, and 30 half marathons. Thirty-one of those races have been in the states, and one was running the Authentic Marathon in Athens, Greece. Running destinations below (in no particular order):
Hilton Head, SC
New Orleans, LA
Las Vegas, NV
Kansas City, MO
New Brunswick, NJ
Severna Park, MD
If you’ve given running a shot, and it’s not your thing, that’s ok. Find something else that gives you that life, that feeling of peacefulness and hope. I’ve heard of others getting that same thrill out of arts and crafts, scrapbook making, yoga, bike riding, kayaking, hiking, soccer, knitting, and cooking. Find your niche. Believe me, once you find it you will know. And it will be a beautiful thing.
“I wouldn’t know what to talk about.”
This is sometimes the reason people don’t go to counseling. You’re not quite sure what to say to the stranger in the room in front of you. However, something inside of you says that you need to discuss your day with someone else outside of family, friends, or co-workers. It can be awkward at first.
You essentially get invited into a room where there will be a possibility of comfortable chairs or even a couch. You then have the opportunity to tell someone you have never met before, what’s going on. It’s not like a medical exam in which you would sit on a table with crinkly paper. There are no pills or any shots. The counselor may ask you questions, sometimes on initial paperwork or in person that can be detailed and quite personal. Write down what you feel comfortable writing down, and eventually discuss things that you may not at first feel comfortable discussing. Don’t expect that every single counselor knows every detail of your life. They don’t know about you until you share about yourself.
If you’re coming into counseling to talk about not feeling great about your job, well then that’s what you talk about. Chat about not feeling great about your job and all the bits and pieces that go into that. Don’t feel like you need to discuss what was going on in your life when you were a five-year-old if you’re 45 years old and you’re simply not liking your job. However, know that if there are issues in addition to your job a qualified counselor can help you to talk through those things. A good counselor will not judge you for not wanting to talk. A good, confident, clinically trained counselor will not judge you for any of your most intimate secrets.
Counselors are people that clients can come to talk about the hard or embarrassing stuff in life. Counselors are the people trained to not shy away from topics such as the mechanics of a sexual encounter, the pain of losing someone to suicide, or the thoughts that go on in your head that you might not feel like you want to be having. There is a very broad range of wellness and illness and with it comes the ideas and activities that each of us has in our daily life. A counselor can help you sift through them. Not every session is deep and dark and tricky. Some might be for some people, while other may never have these types of discussions. People come talk to us about their jobs, their parenting, their relationships, their next awesome business idea, or about the people that are bullying them and they just don’t know what to do. People talk to us about the life choices that they are making with drugs or alcohol and they want to find out more about healthful choices they can make for their bodies that may not be as damaging.
There is no right way or wrong way to talk to a counselor. Simply be the respectful person that you are and remember that the counselor is human too. Counselors themselves have been through many life experiences and hundreds of classes that can help guide you to make the decisions that are best for you. So, when you feel like you don’t know what to talk about with a counselor simply say that. Tell the counselor you have never sat with someone like this before and that you’re not sure what to do next. This is probably not a first session ever for the counselor, in which case they can guide you to help discover what it truly is that you’re there to talk about. Try it out. You never know what you might learn.
Pay It Forward by Kellie Boyle
- One of my all-time favorite books turned into movie is Pay It Forward. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s about a young boy who is given a school assignment to come up with a plan of how to change the world. The young boy comes up with an action plan and calls it “pay it forward”. Sounds like a complicated task for an 11-year old, but it appeared that his idea had very little complexity at all. The idea was to do a good deed unasked for 3 strangers and in return ask the strangers to pay it forward to three folks they run across. Then those strangers are told the same thing, and so on and so on, so the notion spreads. I love it because the message is so simple. Doing a good deed is something anyone on this planet can do, you don’t have to have much creativity at all.Sharing kindness can have the same rapid effect that sharing rudeness and anger has. It’s like a domino effect. If it’s so easy to be angry can’t it also be so easy to be kind? If you are having trouble with the concept, think about a time a stranger or friend or family member did something for you- out of the blue, unexpected, or out of the ordinary. In a previous job, I worked at an office with the most pleasant and cheerful Receptionist. I would be going through a very stressful day, and the attitude that this receptionist exhibited- either through a nice email or phone call would literally change my mood for the rest of the day. Her cheerfulness and joy made me stop and think about how genuinely she comes across to everyone that calls in the office or greets her at her desk. It made me feel silly for all the reasons I was upset about whatever was causing me strife that day.Can you remember a time someone had that effect on you? Chances are you felt appreciated and it made you feel good about yourself. Well guess what, you can also feel good about yourself by having that same effect on others. You should try it! And I’ll even give you some ideas. Here are a list of pay it forward activities you can participate in. Remember folks, this is out of thoughtfulness and awareness. You don’t have to have lots of money or time, but you do have to have a heart. Let’s keep the task simple and light. Now more than ever, is a time where we can practice to pay it forward. There is nothing bad that can come out of this, only good.
- Bake cookies for a neighbor who happens to put up with your dog barking throughout the night.
- Keep a box of granola bars in your car and hand out to homeless people as you see them at intersections.
- When you’re at the checkout line, look up from your phone, notice something about the person in front of you and give them a compliment.
- Send a nice thank you note to school with your child to give to a teacher who has helped him throughout the year.
- Volunteer a few hours at a local soup kitchen.
- Sit next to and have lunch with that elderly man who is always at McDonalds having breakfast by himself.
- Make an extra stop on the way to work to buy your secretary her favorite coffee.
- Give someone walking through the rain your umbrella.
- Pull over on the side of the road next time you see someone stranded to see how you can help.
- Smile at a stranger and tell them you hope they have a wonderful day.
Effective Communication and Problems solving in Love and Relationships
By Julie A. Holgate, MS., LPC
It’s that time of year again where we celebrate the sometimes welcomed and sometimes dreaded Valentine’s Day. No matter which category you fall into, this can be a time of reflection on yourself and all of your relationships. There are three simple ways to evaluate your relationships by thinking about the following:
- Am I openly communicating my needs to others?
- Are my needs met and cared for by others’ close to me?
- Am I considering the needs of others in my life when I speak or act?
The questions asked above fall into a category of someone who is not only practicing good self-awareness, but behaving in a healthy assertive manner towards others. The most productive way to have a shared perspective in relationships is productive communication. Communication is not merely blurting out the first thought or feeling that you are having, because what we know is that often times the things we say are driven by emotions (e.g Anger, sadness, frustration).
Emotional communication can sometimes lead us astray. That’s why we often hear friends and family members recommend that you “sleep on it,” or “give it some time before making a decision.” The act and purpose of these statements is to give you time to calm down and not speak or act out of extreme emotion. Often times when we do this we are able to see that either our problems are not a bad as they seem, or that they are bad and we are able to communicate more effectively once we have quelled the extreme emotional reactions.
Communication in relationships allows us an awesome advantage of knowing what our partner, friend, or family is feeling and thinking. When solving any life problem, it is important that we have all the information before we are able to solve the issue most productively. Shouldn’t we give our loved ones the same courtesy as we would a math or work problem? Often times, conflicts at home are not approached with openness and honest reflection. Human nature often leads us to use our defense mechanism to protect our feelings even in situations where we can acknowledge our own wrong-doing.
Acknowledging our wrong-doing and saying we’re sorry means swallowing our pride. Let’s be honest; for even the most level-headed, self-aware people, this can be hard to do. If we are unwilling to look at ourselves and our own roles in relationships, how will we ever change? How will we ever grow?
Let your gift this Valentine’s Day be strength of character, and consideration for you own needs and the needs of those around you. Learning and practicing this skill daily can lead us towards healthier communication and more effective problem-solving in our Love and Relationships.
A couple of summers ago I was asked to be a contributor towards a college textbook for master’s level aspiring counselors. The topic I appreciated researching about for this project was Bipolar. Formally entitled Manic-Depression, Bipolar carries with it moods of all sorts for the person that is living life with it. It is marked by shifts and mixes of depression and high-energy with at times anxiety. Reality testing is a big component in that sometimes what others outside the person with bipolar see are interesting ideas and thoughts that can lead to greatness or if trending to far in a direction, disaster.
This past spring I attended a mood disorders conference at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, which excitedly was open to professionals and the general public. Dr. Kaye Jamison, a pioneer on this disorder as she herself has it, was one of the presenters. She outlined beautifully her more recent research of giftedness and geniuses among poets, actors, and musicians that have been noted as having Bipolar. Some examples of individuals that have been noted as having some form of Bipolar disorder are Hans Christian Anderson, Richard Dryfuss, Mary Lambert, Robin Williams, and Catherine Zeta-Jones we have gotten wonderful works.
Magazine: If you have Bipolar there is more research and support than ever before. BP magazine would be one place to start your journey of learning. Each addition host articles about other people’s journey throughout life with the disorder as well as share tips and suggestions about research oriented items to consider. For example it has been noted that folks with Bipolar disorder can be more sensitive to seasonal changes or the daily rise and set of the sun. This can affect medication management during different times of the year.
Book: Another resources that I thought was written in quite a humorous way but very well is the book Two Bipolar Chicks by Wendy Williamson and Honora Rose. Throughout this small manual these two women with Bipolar outline different practical things to consider from stylish types of pill cases to how to have your loved one understand what a mood shift looks like and what to do next.
Blog/Theatre: If you are someone that learns about yourself by sharing with others you may want to consider thisismybrave.org. Started by Jennifer Marshall a fabulous mom to two children, and wife extraordinaire whom blogs on bipolarmomlife.com, Jennifer knows all too well the life of bipolar and creates a national theater platform for others to take center stage and share about their journeys.
Film: At the Hopkins conference I had the pleasure of listening to and meeting Filmmakers Paul Dialo and his wife Kristina Nikola. Paul wrote the movie Touched by Fire a tale of two individuals with Bipolar that meet in a psychiatric hospital. Paul and his family fully know first hand what Bipolar is because he works diligently at keeping his own moods level with his Bipolar. He shared that while he note only listens to his doctors about staying on Lithium, he drinks a certain helpful vegetable juice, talks walks every day, and is so rigid about his bed time that he was told if either of his two children were born after 10pm then he simply shouldn’t be present for their births. He loves and trusts his wife who is one of the first people that would notice if his mood was trending in a direction he may not be aware of. From his speech I took home the concept that you should not give up hope. And that while folks with Bipolar have a flame for life it can burn very beautifully as long as it stays within the parameter of the campfire. Spouses, kids can start to notice when embers are jumping out. Dr. Kaye Jamison noted that once a brain is at the outer level that this is dangerous and residual damage can be occurring. When those embers start to jump out be careful to allow others to help you from your forest fire beginning.
Medications: So far among all the research that I have done, lithium continues to be one of the main drugs of choice for many individuals with Bipolar. It can vary in dosing, does unfortunately mean blood tests to make sure that your system is not collecting toxic levels, but can come in tablet, pill, or liquid form. This is important to discover what works best for you as the taste has been something folks have mentioned can vary and prompt food choices about post ingestion. Ask your physician about any of the uni-polar medications used for depression, because the literature to date indicates that certain ones can prompt a manic episode to begin.
Non-medication: Fisher Wallace Stimulator noninvasive electrical brain stimulation. There are mixed reviews about if this items works, but there is enough positive commentary about this machine and it can be used in the comfort of your own home, that I would want you to do your own research about and talk with your physician if this is something you feel would be appropriate for your life.
Food: I am not going to tackle this in this blog as I will be for sure talking more about this is other blogs. There is no doubt in my mind that food is fuel and the type we put into our bodies can for sure affect some of the reactions are body puts out.
Support, support, support. Did I say it enough? Overall I want you to know that you are not alone. There are tons of people with bipolar and tons of people willing to help you along your life with it. Reach out! This is not a disorder you will live well with if you isolate. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but you need to build a small tribe of trusted folks so you can teach them about your needs.
I wanted to write some things today about grief and loss to honor all of our feelings about the loss of someone close to us. Often times I have someone come into a session and say that they’ve lost someone close to them and they’re not sure how they’re supposed to be feeling.
Everyone grieves differently; there’s no one way to grieve. There’s no perfect or correct way to grieve. Your sleeping can change, your eating can be challenged in that you either want nothing or a lot more. You may not want to talk to others, or go back to your everyday life of keeping up your space or going to work. Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross developed her concept of the stages of grief which include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial is when you really feel like your whole body and your whole mind is just trying to re-create what happened so that it didn’t happen. You can’t believe that your loved one went off to work and was killed in a car accident on the way home. You can’t believe that your parent who just retired and was moving around in great health died from a sudden heart attack. You can’t believe that your child playing on her bicycle died by the end of the day because she hit her head in just the spot to cause permanent brain issues and loss of life when she fell off into the grass even while wearing her helmet.
Denial can be very strong. It is real and you completely feel to the core that the horrible story you are living must’ve happened to someone else’s family, but surely not your own. You may not want to help with the planning of the funeral because you just know it’s not possible that your family member is gone. You may not want to talk with or hear from the doctors, nurses, paramedics, or people close to you because they are saying that the person you adore is no longer breathing.
The intensity of being angry is different for each person. Don’t fear it if it’s there. There can be anger towards a spiritual being that you feel is responsible for this. There can be anger towards physicians. There can be anger towards other family members who had nothing to do with the loss. You can just plain feel mad because you’ve been hurt and there’s nothing you can do to change the trauma that occurred in your life. You CAN NOT trade your own life for theirs. The anger can be intense at the beginning, and it can stick around for quite some time. Be kind and caring towards yourself if you are feeling mad. If you are generally not an angry person then sometimes guilt can arise if you have acted in a way that is not normal for you, like saying or doing things that are hurtful towards others. This feeling is your reaction to the loss.
Bargaining is when you wish that if only you had gone to work, then the other person could’ve stayed home and you would’ve been the one killed in the accident. Bargaining can be the thought that had I not watched that television show, I would have been in bed next to them and then they couldn’t have passed away in their sleep. You want to trade back the time. Bargaining can be when you’re trying to trade your life for others and it just not possible. It’s a time of confusion.
Sadness can lead to depression. Depression is the blues times a million. It can come with a loss of the desire to be around. You can experience a change in eating and sleeping. You may just never want to go on again. You might not have the energy to want to even try to keep living. You don’t know what you’re going to do with the loneliness. You don’t want anyone else to support you, you just want to sit at the bottom of your hole like Eeyore when his tail is gone and never have anyone pull you out. Your self-care can go down in terms of showering, in terms of being present for others, in terms of being the person you were before the loss of this loved person. Depression can come with behaviors that you don’t want to have. You may start driving faster once you get in the car, because safety doesn’t matter to you. You might decide you want to spend all of your money because what’s the point of it, anyway? You may take on some more addictive behaviors such as drinking or taking drugs. Your faith and your hope have been shattered, and your every day existence makes no sense anymore. It’s OK if you start to feel like this, but get help! Don’t isolate, it will only make you feel worse. Everyone grieves differently. Some people grieve privately. Some people grieve publicly. Some people like to be alone on a hike in the woods. Others may like to be surrounded by people, but not necessarily to be comforted. The closer you were to the person, and the more sudden the death, the more likely you’re going to have a longer time healing.
If you have time to prepare, or if you were to consider the loss of a loved one developmentally appropriate such as they were 104 years old and they had a full life, then your grief might look different than if it was your 12-year-old daughter who went off to school and did not come home.
Some people, after a person’s death, take on projects to honor the loved one. Be careful not to go too fast or use all your energy because you are running away from crying. Celebrations of life are important and are a powerful way to continue to live and remember. You need your strength to keep on going. You may go on a campaign to make sure others are not lost in the same means that your person was. You might become a mentor, a sponsor, a donation organizer. Remember there is no one way to grieve. Your loved one is gone, and that is painful no matter how you choose to continue living. Honor yourself through kindness of yourself first.
We wake up every day assuming we have the next minute, assuming we have the next hour or the next day and weekend. But, our reality is that we don’t know and that our assumptive world we had was lost when our loved died. You have changed forever. Grief brings us back to mindfulness and helps us make choices when we’re going about our busy days. You don’t fully forget; it’s a wound that heals with a scar over time, but one that stays forever. You may go about your day not realizing on the calendar that your loved one is gone years after, until someone posts a memorial or a remembrance picture on Facebook in which case you find yourself in your car on the way to work or at lunch crying as if you just lost them yesterday.
All of that is well within the realm of natural human feelings. We’re meant to feel all confused and twisted up inside when we grieve.
If you find yourself in such a hole that everything about you has changed, and you don’t even know who you are or want to exist on the planet anymore, please, I would urge you to reach out. Reach out to family. Reach out to friends. Reach out counselors or spiritual leaders. Reach out to anybody that you can, even if it’s just going to the grocery store so you can have an interaction with the person you’re buying tissues from. You matter, and the people that are gone would not want you to suffer or worse.
Laughter is a part of love and the process
Finally, the one part about grief that I don’t ever hear enough about is how, for all the years if you had a great relationship with the person that has died, there can be laughter again in your life in remembering their spirit. You are not dishonoring your loved one if you laugh, if you enjoy, if you see moments that you wish you could’ve shared with them. I know this is confusing that there is nothing funny or fun about death, but you weren’t necessarily living as if this person was dying while they were alive. And, even if you were there may have been moments while this person was dying that had joy, hugs, humor, and even belly laughs involved. It’s OK to gain those moments back. My hope for you with your journey of loss would be that you learn how to heal, though I completely understand that you will never forget. You will become a new you and you will be able to have the hope and reality of a full set of emotions as all humans deserve to have. Be kind and loving towards yourself as you continue to live on after death.
One of my favorite books for real life parenting was written by Shelia McCraith entitled, Yell Less, Love More. Sheila is a mom of four boys that from time to time in order to corral her gaggle would resort to yelling. I was never fully a yeller until I started to hear, “But mom, she’s not…..” After enough rounds in the car or in the house of hearing this and I turn into Grumpy Cat. While it is not at all my children’s responsibility to begin or end my own action of my yelling moments, the concepts of the Orange Rhino mom really come into play.
Sheila mentions that you should not yell at your kids, but occasionally and rarely for your kids. So yelling at my daughters to “Stop Arguing,” in a loud guttural tone is not best but if one were about to be in real danger like the tree branch they are swinging on is about to crack, then yelling is permissible.
The reason I wanted to write about this is because I hear from moms that they are tired of the kids arguing, and that yelling is the only thing that gets them to stop. It for sure isn’t the only thing, but after enough rounds of your head ringing it’s an innate action that comes to mind and mouth. Even with decades of child development training under my belt and a round working at a preschool at Yale, I too am working on not being as my kids have called me, A Grumpy Cat.
For me it’s trying as best as I can to prepare for the moment. Have I had enough to eat or have I drunk enough water that day? Did I need a 10-minute break somewhere in my day that I never built in because I would just do 1 more thing? Did I encourage the family to stay up later last night because we were all having fun, not reminding myself that when the kids get the sleep they need they are happier in general? These are some of the questions I am in the process of answering at my own home. I would encourage you to create your own list. If you find that you are yelling more than you would like, pick up a copy of Sheila’s book and find some moments to laugh and cry with another mom who has been there.