Sunday, October 4, 2015

Healing Grief, Finding Peace - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 40

On August 15th, my mom died. It has been a whirlwind of activity since her death - from planning and having her visitation, funeral, and burial; to going through her and my dad's home to get it ready to sell.

Shortly after her death, I checked out a book from the library called Healing Grief, Finding Peace - 101 Ways to Cope with the Death of Your Loved One by Dr. Louis E. LaGrand. I finally took the time today to read the book from cover to cover. There were a lot of great ideas for working through grief and honoring the memories and life of a loved one.

These are some things that I thought were interesting and relevant to what I am going through:

- Recognize that no one escapes getting into a “negative” state. It’s part of life. Yet a constant negative emotional life is unhealthy for the brain, hastens the aging process, contributes to host of degenerative diseases, and attracts more stress.
- It is healthy to look back and reminisce about your loved one, yet it is crucial that as soon as possible you spend much more time focusing on the present and directions to take for the future.
- Those who cope well and adapt to massive change have learned how to deal with the new conditions of their lives, paying more attention to the present moment. At the same time, you still build a new relationship with the person who died by learning to love in separation through memories, traditions, spirit, and in lessons learned.
- You have no power to change what happened. You have to own it as a part of your history.

Wisdom is avoiding all thoughts that weaken you. 
(Dr. Wayne Dyer)

- Will you be loss-oriented in the months and years ahead – or will you be restoration-oriented?
- Will you maintain your bitter primary focus on loss, or give more time to rebuilding? Put another way, are you going to allow the death of your loved one to define you?
- We’ve lost ourselves, are on autopilot, and long for the security of the familiar, but in reality, we ultimately have to build a new life without the many interactions that used to occur when our loved one was with us.
- Make a list of your new routines and force yourself to repeatedly make the difficult transitions.
- Redefining ourselves, that is building a new identity after the death of a loved one, is another significant task commonly forgotten in grief work.
- Grief if your response to deep love – an essential of lie. Whenever you choose to love, as we all do, you automatically choose to grieve.
- What does it mean to successfully heal from suffering the death of a loved one? The operational answer is peace of mind through radical acceptance.
- Relate to others with courtesy, respect, and humility, even as you grieve. By making an effort to relate to others this way, you’ll find yourself making repeated value-driven choices to reach this reachable goal.
- What must I do differently to reduce the pain and manage my sadness? The key word is “differently.”
- Act as you wish to be is an age-old recipe for adapting to change;

“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.”
Chinese proverb

- The emotionally resilient mourner is the person who doesn’t believe they can go down, that they must keep looking for the signs, seeing the gift, looking for the lesson. What have I learned and to whom have I given?
- Recognize how far you have come. When you review your day, credit yourself for where you are in your grief work. Every hour, every day is a victory.
- Review each day for the good things that happened.
- Re-encountering feelings of intense grief and crying, especially in the early months of your loss, is normal. Sometimes called “Grief attacks” these episodes are usually triggered unexpectedly.
- Take time out each day just for yourself. Make a list of the things that you want to do with this alone time that will ease your suffering or that will help you relax.
- Find a place where you enjoy being alone – a particular room in your home, a natural setting , etc.
- Solitude can balance the heavy stress you are under and raise your energy level. It is also an excellent opportunity to connect with your spiritual side and access the insight of your positive inner voice. Read something that will help you cope (e.g., poetry or verses).
- Use and develop your spiritual resources and spiritual practices.
- Beginning the day with a morning devotion.
- One of the tasks of grieving is to discover ways to express that eternal connection.
- Plant a memorial garden in the spring or tulip bulbs in November in honor of your loved one.
- Start a new tradition that honors your loved one on a birthday or other significant day.
- Write a history of your relationship with the deceased to be given to your children. Frequently use the qualities and talents the deceased admired in you or brought out in you. Some have also loved well by continuing to work toward reaching certain goals, knowing that the deceased would be so proud when they were attained.
- Have an annual church service in her/his memory.
- Light a candle in your home on special days as a visible inclusion of the loved one in the day.
- Service to others is the oldest, most effective, and most recommended copying strategy for mourners on the plant. The personal power-releasing factor it gives you is hope. Equally important, acts of kindness will keep you socially engaged at a time when you need it most. Sharing has always been an anxiety reducer.
- Focus on people. Believe that if your give to the world, the world gives back to you tenfold. Practice hospitality in the lives of others in the best way possible: giving them hope by your presence and commitment. Come to know the joy of committed service. Everyone wants to be acknowledged, valued, and celebrated.
- Give some items of clothing to Goodwill or other thrift store.
- Volunteer to visit someone at your local nursing home.
- Feed the birds.
- Give your full attention when speaking to family, friends, or strangers; you will be showing love for them.
- Make it a priority every day to be an influence in the lives of others by focusing on how you will make them feel good, and you will find another opportunity to reinvest in life.

“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that 
no one can sincerely try to help another 
without helping himself.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

- It is not unusual to have unfinished business with the loved one who died, especially if the death was unexpected.
- Find a quiet place where you can speak out loud to the deceased. This could be by the cemetery, the lake, any place.
- Rituals can be something you do every day, week, month, or year with the intent of honoring the loved one and knowing he or she will never be forgotten.
- A healthy way to release the constant focus on your loss is to incorporate a highlight to look forward to into your daily and/or weekly schedule.
- Jot down three things you will look forward to doing on each of the next three days. On the evening of the third day, write down three more for the next three days. These special highlights should not be the usual diversions, like painting or mowing the lawn, to keep busy, but ones that are at the top of your want list.
- Think of the things you want to accomplish that will lift you up, that you can think ahead about, and that will give encouragement.
- As you begin to accept your loss and eat well, your physical pain will lessen.
- Depression is a sign that we are emotionally depleted, with a sense that there is no place to go. Depression is our inability to give up the old for the new. And that is exactly what grieving is all about, giving up the way life used to be with our special person and adapting to a different life.
- Regular activities requiring your presence will be a factor in reducing or presenting long bouts of reactive depression. The key word in regular. Force yourself to develop outside interests, a project , or a service where you must be around people.
- Brisk walking will promote sleep, reduce depression, relieve neuromuscular hypertension, and decrease anxiety.
- Try green exercise: anything you do outside in nature: gardening, walking, or biking, where you can take your mind off the feeling of exercise as work and simply enjoy the beautify around you.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and 
you shall see that in truth you are weeping for 
that which has been your delight. 
Kahlil Gibran

- Many guilt-ridden mourners say, “I should have….” These all reinforce unnecessary guilt. We all review our relationship with our loved one and if we had a chance to do it over, would quickly change some of the things we did or did not do. That is part of the human condition. You did what you felt you had to do at the time, given the pressures and circumstances.
- With most all of the guilt generated when mourning, you did not deliberately intend to set out to inflict pain or suffering or contribute to the circumstances surrounding the death. Few people do.
- Hold on to treasured items and collect new ones.
- Symbols are often variable keepsakes that represent something other for the mourner than just their physical appearance (e.g. cardinals).
- If any object, picture, or memento that you look at brings added sadness, then put it away or get rid of it.
- One of the ways to love in separation and establish a new relationship with the deceased is to pick out some of the characteristics of your loved one or the ways he or she helped you realize a particular goal. Model his or her giving. Focus on the good qualities and use them, even further develop them, with the intention of honoring the deceased.
- Consider buying and caring for goldfish. Again, they are alive and colorful and can reduce the sense of isolation.
- Compare the clothing you presently wear and what you wore in the past that made you feel good. If necessary, purchase a new outfit or two.
- Have a room redone in the home or paint one yourself in a new uplifting color.
- If the loss has occurred close to big holidays (within 4 months or less) you may still be experiencing some degree of shock, numbness, and disbelief. If that is the case, the effect of these significant dates may be mitigated. The following year, however, after the shock and numbness have worn off, the dates may be far more difficult for you.
- Tell family and friends specifically what you can and cannot do around the holidays.
- You don’t have to follow the exact schedule or routines of the past. Consider starting a new tradition.
- Find a way to symbolically honor your deceased loved one: have the deceased’s favorite dessert or meal, say a prayer, display or give something s/he created, place a flower in a special place at the table). Be sure to include your walking program on that particular day.
- Keep things simple and focus on the values, beliefs, joy, and wisdom of the deceased.
- Saying goodbye by talking aloud to the person who has died. Say how you feel about not being there at the time of their death. Find a quiet room in your home, place a picture or other symbol of the loved one across from you, and say whatever you need to say. Explain why you were not there, why you are sorry, and that your love will always be with the person. As the person to send you a sign that they have heard you and are okay. Then stay alert for a response in the days or weeks ahead.
- Create a sacred place in one corner of a room in your home. Add a comfortable chair.
- Surround yourself with things that bring loving memories, such as pictures and mementos. These are life-giving.
- Try meditation – walking or listening to tapes.
- Use music, photo therapy, the visual arts, and writing poetry to tell stories or create symbols that have special meaning to you. Work with an expressive arts therapist if needed or look on the internet for ideas.
- Instead of watching violent shows or stressful news-related programs, create an experience that you want by selectively choosing uplifting programs on channels you have not watched before.
- Consider the gains that come due to your loss. This in no way means that you are minimizing the death of your loved one or trivializing the anguish and sorrow you are experiencing. Nonetheless, there are gains that occur which may help you find some semblance of meaning in the death of your loved one and help in adapting to your loss.
- Visiting a cemetery or memorial garden can be a help to your grief work or a hindrance. After the visit, assess how you feel. What insights have you derived from the visit, if any?
- Some people have a corner in their garden or on a nearby piece of land that they own, even a place they used to go with the loved one.
- It is not uncommon for what was important before to now become insignificant.
- Believe that love lives on. Although the physical relationship has ended, love never dies. Love and the person’s spirit are always present if you simply look into your heart or quietly sit and use the gift of your inner silence.
- Ask yourself what you are thankful for each evening.
- Creating helps bring meaning back into life.
- Whatever you create is an extension of you that can help restore interest in life.
- The sooner you can reconnect to purpose – or find a new one – you can better integrate your great loss into life.
- Consider deciding to carry on a project started by your loved one.
- To rediscover purpose, think of who or what inspired you before your great loss. Whom do you admire? Who are you thankful for? What needs to be accomplished in your community or regionally? How can you make a difference in someone else’s lie? Let your voice and actions be heard. How do you want to make something better? Purpose brings peace. Build your day around your purpose.
- Set out to intentionally look for beauty each day and incorporate it into your lifestyle.
- Identify the beauty in your thoughts and wishes. Get in touch with that which stirs the soul. Schedule time each day to focus on beauty as a coping response.
- Find and explore a new interest.
- Every week, go to someplace in your county that you have never visited. Or try learning a skill you may need in the immediate future. Look up topics you have little knowledge of on the internet. All of this stimulation will not merely help your brain; it will take the focus off the constant dwelling on your loss.

As a side note, this is Week 40 of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. The last book I read and wrote about on my blog was during May on Week 20. Unless I have a tremendous amount of spare time in the next few months (which is unlikely), I think it is realistic to start from this point and move forward rather than trying to backtrack for weeks 21-39.

1 comment:

Faith said...

I am sorry about your mother's passing. May she rest in peace and may you grow stronger and better in your own life! My mom died 14 years ago and I still think about her every day and sometimes dream about her. But in a good way not a maudlin way. Peace!