Grief Can Be Treasured At The Same Time That We Celebrate Life

Self-Care Tip #283 – Find the treasure in your grief while celebrating life.

Today is my daughter’s sixth birthday.  If ever there was a person who doubled the love she received, it is this chid.  She is all passion.  Yes, both ways, but that isn’t to judge.  Just, there is so little I can offer in words to describe her power of self.

They're asleep!

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Tonight, we pushed two twin beds together so she and I could sleep beside each other.  Her sister slept nearby on another twin bed.  Her brother set his bed up in the closet.  (I know.)

If I wasn’t so tired, old and broke, I might be made vulnerable by times like this to having more kids.  Since that’s not going to change, these chubs are what we will stick with.  Happily.

My mind is turned toward God by this girl.  I somehow arrive in the moment praying when with her, perhaps for strength and patience or for humility and gratitude.  I learn from her.

Mommy, when I’m scared I talk to Jesus.

Often in times like this, I think of my niece, dead now six years, and how her parents and we wanted what was, what was stripped.  Still grieving and still living the life with us and in us, our braided thoughts and emotions easily lose their flow.

But today I have this clarity.  My niece is gone now six years and ten days.  Today my daughter is six years old.  Today I am sleeping with my three children.  Today I know that this is precious but this is not all we want.  We want what comes after our living years.  We want to let loose to Love the grief and the life; to untangle.  Not more.  Not less.  But we want.  We want what we have, now, although still in the unknown dimension of our forever.

In psychiatry, we are alert to grief that warps the ability to engage in life.  Grief that mars the connections of survivors.  Grief that becomes pathology, brain disease and a medical condition.  This grief disables and, for example, in the case of my daughter’s birthday today, would dissolve my ability to feel pleasure.

It is difficult to gain access to treatment as many of these survivors have ill opinions about medical care.  Such as; fearing medications will mute their connection with the deceased; mute their grief, or in other words, tribute/offering to the deceased; take away the personal punishment for surviving…

Questions:

  • What do you say to these weeping lives?  How can we de-stigmatize medical care for them?
  • How have you been able to treasure your grief and the life with you and in you?

What Comes To Me From Others Is a Gift

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Self-Care Tip #246 – Take care of yourself and expect that what comes from others is a gift.

Do you ever ask,

Why does drama follow me?!

It is just darn hard taking care of ourselves (including taking psychotropic medication.)  Much of the rest of the world has difficulty with it too.  Despite our best efforts to go towards what is friendly, we might decide that choosing the company of un-self-cared-for loved ones is more friendly to ourselves than cutting them off.  That is our choice.  If we want them in our lives, we are not able to just take the bits that are friendly.

Some of us are more dramatically affected by this than others.  Wonder about why that is.  I’m wondering if it has to do with our different perspectives of who will take care of us.

Feeling like someone else is going to take care of Me is a trap.  Expecting someone else to find us for love, to expect leadership, to follow without accounting for our steps, to decide without knowing we decided, thinking someone else decided for us – these are traps.

Drama-icon

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What do we expect other people to be for us?  We will interpret the drama we encounter differently when we are our own leader.  If we take care of ourselves and if we come in a state of readiness then we can offer more of these gifts and visa versa.  Gifts are free and as free of agenda as our flawed selves can give.

We embrace our emotional self, our thinking self, our judgmental self, our sensory self, embrace and live ourselves up most fully, and we are most friendly when we do it with the freedom our lives were designed for.

Drama will always come up as long as we think that someone is worth being in our lives.  We will remember that we chose them and can choose quantity of time, the volume, the reception and the degree of connection.  We can choose freely what we will do or not do with them and live and die surrounded inside of ourselves and outside of ourselves by the connections we fought hard for.

Questions:  Why do you think drama is in your life from the perspective of self-care?  Since you’ve been more in tune to being a friend to yourself, has anything happened to the drama in your life?  Please tell me your story.

Pain Doesn’t Define Life’s Potential

Close-jen-grieve

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Self-Care Tip #196 – When you are hurting, remember the pain doesn’t define life’s potential.  Be a friend to yourself.

Yesterday we talked about giving and getting bad news without fear.  This was received in a spectrum of ways by you, ranging from – no way is bad news something not to be scared of, to, bad news might be something we could face knowing we might find something good in the end.  No one slammed the hammer down, dinging red at bad news equals good all around – except my dogs who don’t listen anyway and are pretty much always happy.

Jjen was brave, saying,

I would have to also agree that in some cases bad news can bring family members, or even friends together that have been estranged. This has personally happened to me. Kind of a bittersweet thing; good in result of something bad and mending a broken relationship.

“Good comes out of bad.”  Not everyone agrees and I don’t blame them.  Some bad things are better left alone to rot and stink out of our lives entirely.  It even sounds patronizing when someone is hurting to say this.  This kind of discovery should be made by the parties involved, without the rest of us holding scripted cue cards for them.

It is also something that is received easier from another who has been in, or is in their own catastrophe(s), losses, abuse or grief – say Jesus for starters.  I could hear this from Him without wanting to vomit all over the place.  He’s been there, hurt bad, and has been blessed through and by it in ways I will be learning about even after Time unhinges.

When my nine year-old adored niece suddenly died, I didn’t see that.  It’s taken almost six years to see anything good come “from” this unbelievable loss we grieve every moment.  The bad doesn’t disappear for me, but as Jjen said, it is not a qualifier for the rest of life’s potential.

Question:  What has come “from” the bad in your life – more bad or what?  Please tell us your story.

Goodbyes Are A Way To Connect

15th century adaptation of a T and O map. This...

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Self-Care Tip #184 – Respond to your goodbyes deliberately to be friendly to yourself.

One of the Regional Centers that I work at is closing their telemedicine clinic.  This means I’ve said goodbye to many beloved patients and their families, whom I’ve worked with since round 2003 I think.  Saying goodbye to people we respect and enjoy is not as casual as we stylin’ people make it look.

Two days ago I said goodbye to my girlfriend of around five-plus years and her family.  Moving far far away makes the flat world feel lumpy and luminous.  I now have all her leftover food and knock-offs she didn’t want to haul across the lengthening world to remind me that she is gone.

Watching parents and/or grandparents age is also an exercise in saying goodbye.  My parents have a hard time making it over to visit on week-ends for all the funerals they go to.  Their calendar sends over that whispering voice that they are growing old.  “Look,” it says.  “See me.  I am aging.  Time is connecting and taking me with it.” Even so, their essence holds its own, apart from Time.  That makes me feel more comfortable.  When that whisper gets louder I may respond differently, I can’t know until then.  But for now, this is good.

“Goodbye” is something that begs a response.  “Oh yes!  Goodbye!  See you later.”  I even say, “See you later” to people I know I have less than one percent chance of running into again.  The word calls to me and I respond.  The word implies a disconnection, but even so, beckons us to connect.  It spreads us over the space of our time shared and into the future apart.  Peanut butter and jelly, it sandwiches us up with the one who says “Goodbye” when we say back, “Until then.”

Today with these people and remembering all the ones I won’t get to see before my contract ends, I feel the pull to respond.  My response can be something deliberate.  It is another bit of something I get to choose.  I hope it will connect me.

Question:  How have you responded to the goodbye’s in your life?  How has it been a connecting force for you?  Please tell me your story.

When You Are Hurting – Suffering Just Is

Daughters of a father who was trapped in a col...

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My dad, excellent in his suffering, has shown how to lose, how to spend the time it takes to grieve it and enjoy the rest that makes life worth living.  My dad should have a medal in suffering. If I knew where to get them I’d send word.

Some of his suffering, he played a causal part in, but who cares.  It doesn’t have a qualifying relationship to “deserving” empathy and the spiritual nod.  Those come because of Love, not our performance.

None of us are foreigners to suffering others, ourselves, cause, accident, defined and ignominious explanations.  For reason and for lack of reason we suffer.  No, the etiology of suffering isn’t why we care about its abuse.  Sure we hope not to repeat mistakes that lead to suffering and that makes it’s etiology worth reflection, but not as
a qualifier to caring.

So no.

Between one grief and another, between this fault and that fault, the loss “Is.”  It just Is.  That’s Dad’s presence I’m talking about.

In a culture counting and studying our wrongs and our rights for the purpose of squeezing currency out of it, we need presence.  Presence allows for all the rest.  The healing.  The forgiveness.  The grieving.  The hope that remains.  Presence allows for us to continue valued.

Presence allows us to live for what is still worth living for.

After writing blog-post “When You Are Hurting, Remember Why You Want To Live, And Live For That,” I heard from someone suffering via his fabulous on-line monthly journal “Psyche’s Flashlight.”  He said,

I read this after a recent stint in the hospital, and I can’t tell you how much it resonates with me. This is what saved my life.

Suffering Is.

Question:  What has helped keep you away from qualifying your suffering or that of others?  Please tell me your story.

Grieve to Be Present With Yourself

 

Maria Yakunchikova "Fear" 1893-95

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We grieve when we get sick.  And we grieve again when after getting well, we get sick again.  Then the grieving can be even more terrible because you know what’s coming.  In Pearla’s case, she didn’t know she was grieving but she knew she was sad and terrified at the same time.

I asked her if she thought that staying in bed, loosing interest, isolating, crying jags out of the blue might be related her grief about getting sick again.  She said no at first and then said, “I’m disappointed.  I thought this was over for me.”  All over, she couldn’t trust herself.

Pearla was afraid. And that fear was always there.  Now she couldn’t put it out of her mind.  “What if I have another panic attack?  I can’t take it!”  “What if,” was always on her mind.

Readers, a panic attack is more terrifying than just about any immediate experience.  If you’ve never had one, it is almost impossible to imagine the depth of terror it causes.  It is so horrible, that people even change professions because of it.  I remember a surgeon who actually went back to residency and studied a new specialty because he linked his panic to his profession.  That’s another 4 years of grueling work, readers.  That’s the kind of fear panic produces.

Pearla was not only in the throes of this fear, she was also in the throes of grief.  This is a deep sadness any of us who have lost a beloved hope can relate to.  Pearla didn’t know that was why she didn’t want to get out of bed.  All she knew is over the last 2 weeks she was loosing herself and in exchange, getting something she desperately did not want.

Somehow though, after hearing about her sadness from her own mouth, Pearla agreed.  She saw the grief and after seeing grief, she could be more present with it.  It was almost like her face materially came out from hiding.  Grief lost some hold on her.  She was a little less sad and a little less afraid.

Self-Care Tip #111 – Let yourself grieve.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  How do you grieve?  Was it worth it to you?  Please tell me your story.

Forgive to Get Friendly With Yourself

 

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Self-Care Tip #80 – Forgive.  Be a friend to yourself.

A reader wrote yesterday

Always intrigued by the possible connection between empathy and forgiveness….

Great progression of thought.  From both an anecdotal perspective and some biological considerations, David Mullen PhD and Everett L. Worthington Jr. PhD, are two of my favorites.  Other than Jesus, they have and do say it better than just about anyone.  I heard Dr. Worthington speak when still a resident-physician in psychiatry.  The story he told of his mother’s murder and how he came to forgive her murderers seared into my memory and has ever since been a reference for me in my personal life and medical practice.

The call came on New Years Day, 1996. His brother’s voice was shaky. “I have some bad news,” he said. “Mama has been murdered.”  …Their mother had been beaten to death. Rage bubbled up in him like lava. He heard himself saying, “I’d like to have that murderer alone in a room with just a baseball bat. I’d beat his brains out.”

Here’s where the empathy came in

…He tried to picture the crime scene. He imagined how a pair of youths might feel as they stood in the dark street preparing to rob the house. Perhaps they had been caught at robbery previously. They would have been keyed up. The house was dark; no car was in the driveway. No one’s home, they must have thought. Perhaps one said, “They’re at a New Year’s Eve party.“ They did not know that Worthington’s mother did not drive.  …Worthington imagined their shock when her voice came from behind. “What are you doing in here?”

“Oh, no!” one must have thought, “I’ll go to jail. She is ruining my life.” He lashed out with his crowbar, slamming his mother three times. Panicked, the youths went crazy, trashing the house, both for having their plans ruined and for the shame of having murdered.

This is part of the process that led Dr. Worthington to forgive the murder.  You can read more in his book, The Power of Forgiving.

There is an interplay, between choice and biology/non-choice.  It’s uncomfortable to think and talk about.  I can feel the hackles on the necks of my readers start to stand up just writing it and I humbly acknowledge my limitations in sharing this concept.  It is what I have tried to describe through many of my earlier blog posts.  This unlikely union between such polar concepts.

Being a Christian, I have awareness of the culture that frowns on taking bad behavior out of the church and into the laboratory.  When I think of empathy and forgiveness, I see party-hoppers moving in and out of those very places irreverently perhaps in some people’s minds.

Some other time we will broach further the idea of self-care being Christian v. scientific.

Self-Care Tip #80 – Forgive.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Does any of this resonate with you?  Please tell me your story.