Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taking Care of Yourself Is Important....

Hello there,

The grieving process can take so much out of an individual. We are so drained and consumed by the loss. It is an injury not just to one's heart and emotions, but it hurts our bodies and well-being on other physical/emotional planes. When my mom died, I stayed in bed the first day. I couldn't take phone calls.  It was so difficult to talk to people. When my dad died this last May (3 months ago) as of this writing, I was drained from the period of staying with him in the hospital for several days and having made the decision with my brothers of removing life support and then facing his death. We went to his place and "crashed out asleep". There was nothing left in me. My brothers did the same thing.

Going on afterward isn't easy either.  I had sleepless nights and did countless hours of distraction of silly things. Mind-numbing things like old TV shows or movies on the computer or a DVD. It took no energy. That was what I did. I certainly wasn't eating right. When my mom died I overate. When my dad died, I just didn't eat right-differently each day. In normal everyday life, I made somewhat of a concious effort to eat healthy, take vitamins, sleep so many hours, be physically active to some degree. It's been out the window.

It has made me feel worse.  After my dad's second wife died, he lost a lot of weight. He looked unhealthy. When a good friend of ours was killed in a violent way, his mother (usually very trim) filled out a bit. She said normally she tried to watch things, but wasn't after that. After a couple of years she got back on track, but she allowed herself some flexibility. She was too drained.

A woman I used to work with lost her father and had taken up smoking after having been smoke-free for ten years. She hated herself for it, but said it was the only comforting thing she had.

It hits people in different ways. It is very important to take care of yourself. You can look at it in different ways.  If you broke your leg or suffered a physical injury or were recovering from pneumonia, for example, you would need to rest, perhaps get physical therapy (depending on the issue) or go through a course of medical care. The key word there is "care". You need to care for yourself, as well as don't refuse help from others. If someone offers you a meal, or help with something such as fielding phone calls, taking you to an appointment, grocery shopping, doing your laundry, doing some house work, watching your kids (taking them out to a movie or something), it might not be a bad idea to take them up on it.  If you have the chore of making arrangements for the funeral or other tasks, perhaps it would be a great help to enlist the aid of  a friend or even clergy person (someone who can help that you trust) to go with you or to assist you. 

Sometimes people don't know what to do but want to help.  Sometimes I didn't know what I wanted or needed, but other times I did.  Sometimes asking someone to do your dishes or help pick out an outfit or whatever they may be good at can be a big relief.

On the physical side, don't skip meals, try to eat healthy well-rounded one meals 3 times a day. Try to go to bed and wake up at regular hours. Even if you can't do it all the time, making the effort is important. If you physically don't take care of yourself, you will feel worse.  Taking care of yourself physically can help make a big difference!  Without nuture, your injury will make your body and well-being landslide down and further much more quickly.  Also, another way to look at this is that you might want to question if your loved one would want to see you like this.  They probably wouldn't want to see you neglect yourself.

Simple things you can do to start are to take your vitamins, eat healthier regularly, try to force yourself to have a regular bedtime sleep/wake time schedule. I couldn't get the sleep/wake thing down at first, but now I'm getting better with it. Don't beat yourself up if it's not working at first. Eventually it will. Just keep trying.

This is especially a time to take care of yourself. You are important. 

Be in peace,

Mary Ellen

Monday, August 22, 2011

Remembering your Loved One in A Special Way....

Hello there,

I don't have to tell you that dealing with grief is not easy. For something positive to think about, there are many ways you can celebrate the life of your loved one.  It can help one in moving through and processing their grief in a positive way. There is no wrong time or way. You just have to be ready. When my dad died, I lit candles that I bought for the occasion, put out a cross (the symbol of his religious faith and mine, but you can use what is meaningful to you-it doesn't have to be religious), a few of his possessions that seemed to represent him. I prayed a bit. I just thought about him too. This was all done at his place a day or two after he passed away. It was a spur of the moment thing.  It felt okay at that time. I didn't have much money and was staying at his place out of state. 

I've done little personal ceremonies for the loss of pets in my life. I've painted stones and objects in memory of my mom and grandmother.  I've lit cyber-candles. Once, I wrote a letter to the editor that appeared on the one year anniversary date of my mother's death. I was stirred by an article I saw about a drug treatment using hormones that strongly contributed to the cause of my mother's death. I let all my anger into that letter. It was quite wordy and ended up needing lots of editing, but I felt so determined to write to have some control over and to fight what caused my mother to die.  It felt so good, I kind of said, "This one's for you mom!".  It did get published. Several women told me they stopped taking the drug (one should always consult a doctor or get second opinions before doing that though!) or at least questioned it with their doctors. It felt good.  Perhaps it helped prevent some other deaths.

You can contribute to a group or organization that was meaningful to your loved one, you can plant a tree, you can volunteer doing something or helping someone meaningful to your loved one. Any of these things can help. You can use any of these ideas or come up with your own. You can do it when it feels right. Even planning it can be helpful. Coming up with the ideas can be meaningful.  It may help you think of the more pleasant memories of that person and how you are helping to keep the memory, the life, the legacy of that person going.  You can do something with others or by yourself. You can do several things, a little, one thing or nothing. It's all okay.

If, perhaps, you had mixed feelings or left things on a sour note when you last saw the person, or perhaps if you didn't have the best relationship with the person it is okay to put it off if you decide to do anything. This is supposed to be helpful to you. It is important for you. When and if you are ready, you can do it in your own way. Something may come to you. It may help you move on easier or help put negativity in proper perspective. This will be discussed more.

When you are grieving, there is a lot to "digest" and it has to be done in its own time. You have to do it in your own way. Make it meaningful to you. 

I will discuss more of these types of things with you. There are enough thoughts here for you to think about, discuss or share. I hope this was helpful or meaningful.

If you have any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, questions-please share them.

May you be in peace,
Mary Ellen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How long does it take to "heal"?

Hello there,

When my mother was dying she received Hospice care and we, her survivors, had the option of receiving free-to-us bereavement counseling for the 13 months after her death. During the process of her dying and after she passed away, we were told that it takes approximately a year to heal or accept the death and go through the stages.

In future post, I will discuss what various people and experts have stated these stages are. In this post, I am addressing the fact that I don't think we really heal. Don't let this make you think it's hopeless. It's more like there is less severe pain as time goes on and we develop acceptance and coping skills.  As I like to tell people and have needed reminding myself of is that without pain from the loss of a loved one it would mean that there wasn't anything positive in our relationship with that person.

From my own experience, as well as having spoken with and observed others in the grief process, I would say that perhaps the average time it may take to reach a healthy level of acceptance to make major decisions and become more in living one's own life more fully again is perhaps that 12 month period that Hospice mentioned to me 10 years ago.  But on the other hand, there are many factors that determine that. I think it took me about those 12 months to accept my mother's death. I was actively participating in the bereavement counseling, which was extremely helpful. But, watching my father was a different story.

He refused the counseling, dated a woman who chased him and called him after reading about my mother's death in the obituary, eventually in about 4 months sold his house, moved out of state and started chasing after other women to marry. There were other odd behaviors. My brothers, other family members and I thought he had "gone crazy" and wondered if he even loved my mother. Later, he did marry a woman about a year after my mother's death. That is a whole other story for another time.

This woman got sick and passed away about 3 1/2 years later.  My father then was not only dealing with the loss of that wife, but started to feel all the pain of the loss of my mother at that time too. He had run away from dealing with the loss of my mom in every way he could.  It caught up with him.

I had a teacher in high school who had left an administrative position to teach. The story was that he had to take time off because his mother had died years before, but he didn't take the time to grieve. He didn't have the coping skills and then had to take time off to do that. He talked about this very personal thing in a creative writing class he was teaching and shared how creative writing helped in his grieving process.

There are different ways of coping and different things that can complicate the grieving process such as guilt, unfinished business, mixed emotions, stressed relationships with that person. These are all things that can complicate the process, but once dealt with can make a major difference in one's own personal growth and continued relationship with that person and their memory as well. When I say "continued relationship", I believe we do have a continued relationship in many ways-our perceptions of them, their actions, their memories, thoughts and feelings about them. I also still "visit" with my mom in dreams. 

We don't just "heal" up and put people behind us.  We grow from them being in our lives when they physically existed with us and within their memory living within us.  It takes time on an individual basis for each person.

Thank you for joining me.
I hope that you will share your thoughts, questions, experiences and comments here.
In Peace,
Mary Ellen

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Healthy Grieving For Atheists

Although I find comfort in belief in something spiritual beyond myself, I know that not all people believe in God in some form. Some people are agnostic, some are atheists.  They need to be able to grieve in a healthy way and it must be harder to find some others and resources to be able to do that. I came across an article today that discusses that. It is here: new group for non-believers helps atheists grieve.

No matter what you believe. It is important to be able to express and deal with the loss of a loved one in a healthy way.  Grieving is a process that one must go through to be able to move on. The loss of a loved one is a catastrophic experience to any human being. Dealing with it takes time, but also people who can understand or at least accept how you feel- to feel validated. If  someone starts preaching about their own religious beliefs to someone who doesn't believe it isn't going to help either party feel good or any better. It is important to accept and validate differences if you are grieving or trying to help someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one.

It is one of those times when people have to agree to disagree and try to give comfort about how difficult it is for that person to be dealing with the loss. 
I will explore this more in future posts.
I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, suggestions in the comment section below. We can all help each other.
Peace to all

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Creating your own Memorial/ Prayer Photo Card -high quality, low cost!

Hello there,
I wanted to share something that I did when planning the memorial service for my father last month. We weren't going through a regular funeral home because of the expense and because his cremated remains were being brought back from out of state by my brother. My father wanted things to be simple and inexpensive.

When it came to the memorial prayer cards, I looked on-line and wasn't completely happy with what I saw, or if I did do see something, the cost was astronomical. I wanted something with his picture on it, and a bit more personalized. After several days of searching and looking at Cafe.press and Zazzle on line, I didn't see any products offered that fit the bill for me.  There were some of the prayer cards on  Zazzle, but they were too lacy and flowery looking for my dad. It did start me thinking that I could create my own.

After trying to figure things out, I used a business card template turned on its side. Zazzle offers a "chubby size" card which made the card a bit bigger than the average business card template and made it about the average size of a regular prayer card.  I was able to put his photo on it and personalize it the way I wanted it.
It cost about $30.00 (US Dollars) plus a little more for shipping for 100 cards.  It was printed on both sides and came out very pleasing to this finicky customer.  This was about fifty dollars less than what I found somewhat similar on-line with photos of the person, etc.

Zazzle also offers several different types of paper, grades of paper, color, and the like. I found something that they call "indestructible" which is waterproof, creaseproof, ect.  I tested all this myself when I received the order.  Their shipping was fast also!  They have different types of shipping. I was a bit nervous about getting them on time for the service. My worry was for nothing.

If you are thinking of creating you own, you try it on Zazzle yourself or you can try my template at this link... memorial prayer card .  You can change the photos, the poem, prayer, text, etc.  I felt wonderful doing something of my own for my father.  He was the type that appreciated something that I did myself for him rather than something commercial. I liked this because it was something I was able to create, but it came out professional looking. It is also one of a kind in design, not someone else's work.  Even if this were someone else's work, I would have still had a major part in the design that I wanted to achieve.

I hope this information is helpful to you. It actually gave me a warm feeling to think that my dad may have been looking at me from above trying to do something a little extra special and personal in his memory.

Thanks for reading this and pass on the info if you know someone who is planning a service. It is difficult enough to find the strength and time to go through planning and getting a service together. It is draining.  I thought that by sharing this that it might help someone else going through this.

Blessings to you,
Mary Ellen