The age of realization

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The age of consent, the age of mortality, the age of majority, the age of deceit.

The age of realization. When you realize what is happening around you. What perils occur daily that you cannot ignore.

Is there an age that we suddenly see things differently, we become more aware of events around us.

Children are very self centered, as they need be, they are learning for the very first time, some with little guidance on the ways of the world. Don’t point, use an inside voice, say please and thank you, we don’t hit or bite. No running in the hallways or with scissors. Look both ways before crossing, don’t talk to strangers unless they’re in uniform. So on and so on…

As we grow and age certain things may happen to affect our judgment, faith or trust whether we have good support on how to navigate the hard waters of adolescence is unfortunately left up to luck. Were you lucky enough to have parents that cared, that noticed, that taught right from wrong, that disciplined, that loved.

I have reached an age were I notice mostly other peoples hurt because of a death. A loss. Grief. Tragedy.

However, I am not positive that it is because of my age, it could be my circumstance or perhaps even my psychological  hurt. Maybe I have an overly empathetic heart and over sympathetic mind. Whereas many it seems in todays world go through the growth of maturity but yet stay self centered or have been taught to look out only for number one; themselves. Don’t worry about others seems to be the way of America.

On my FB dealing with grief page people randomly contact me after having lost someone and as painful as it is to hear their stories I am happy to talk to them, to listen to them to console them. Not because it makes either of us feels better, I am often left in tears after a conversation with someone who lost their husband in a truck accident, their nephew by suicide, their son to an overdose, their mother to cancer, it goes on and on. The one constant is the need to be heard, to be felt. To tell the world we are in pain, that this terrible thing that happened is not fair and we don’t know how to deal with it. It is such a unique human reaction,  the one we have to death and loss or tragedy.

The stages of grief have been attempted to be explained by many doctors or physiologists, Khubler Ross has the most commonly know five stages of grief, which are accurate in that you do feel at some point, denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance, some more than others and some much longer than others but that is why we say all losses are different.

The hardest for me at the moment is suicide. Trying to understand why someone can feel so lost, alone, or even hated that they would rather be dead. That they cant understand or know what them taking their own life will do to those around them who love them.

Mostly I am heartbroken at the amount of teenage suicide that happens in todays world.

Globally 160 000 teens annually take their own life, suicide rates in males aged 15-19 rose between 1979 and 1996. Suicide is dominating the country (USA) so badly that it has bumped up to the third leading cause of death in youth aged ten to twenty-four.

This terrifies me, not only because I work with kids who will soon become teenagers that I hopefully can help or pay attention to but also because I have three of my own, one of whom used to yell that he wanted to kill himself whenever he was angry and is almost a teen. My fear is that with such strong emotion as a child, it will lead to emotions so strong the ability to cope will be lost. I am scared.

When I was 15 I took about 10 Tylenols hoping it would kill me, I made myself throw up after 20 minutes because I realized I didn’t really want to give up yet. I look back and remember feeling so lost and alone. My parents were divorcing, I had no real friends but a few acquaintances, I was teased at school constantly, people writing on my locker or screaming names at me like whore or slut. The worst was being called to the principals office and was told to cover up- I was wearing a tank top with slacks? He said my teacher also a male was concerned the boys in class were distracted by me. I hated going to school. I hated being at home, with no parents or family around to care. The point is, is that most 13, 14, 15 year olds go through a hard adjustment and unfortunately today combined with social media and online bullying as well as the highest rates of mental issues to deal with, ADD, ADHD, OCD, Bipolar, anxiety kids have a lot on their plates and we as a society need to recognize and fund more resources for them. We need to teach compassion, mindfulness and techniques to cope with stress if we taught in school lessons on empathy and the importance of helping others instead of pushing our kids to compete with each other to be the best perhaps we can stop this epidemic. As we grow we see the world differently, we realize the people from high school don’t matter and as an adult the only other time I felt so desolate that I wanted to die was when my daughter was born blue with multiple congenital issues. I bargained with ‘god’ or whomever had the power, to take me instead, in the days leading up to her death. But the reason I never considered taking my own life after she died was because it would have left my other two children without their mother and that alone forced me to keep going in those dark days. Today I just want to help others to know they are not alone. Which is why I talk to grievers online, why I started my grief blog and FB page. When I searched for someone to talk to about grief back in 2012 I found nothing. Today there are so many sites, blogs, pages when you Google for help with grief and I am grateful there is so much now and that I can be of help, hopefully, to those that stumble upon my page or blog in their dark days.

Some helpful links:

http://www.futureofpersonalhealth.com/prevention-and-treatment/recognizing-warning-signs-and-finding-students-who-need-mental-health-support?utm_content=buffer2e031&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

https://mentalhealthscreening.org/


Suicide is an epidemic in todays society that gets ignored far too often. Here are few stories that stuck with me. I share them to honor their memory. To acknowledge their suffering.

Amanda Todd 15

Amanda_Todd_-_01

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/amanda-todd-suicide-rcmp-repeatedly-told-of-blackmailer-s-attempts-1.2427097

 

Libby Bell 14

libby bell

https://www.pedestrian.tv/news/libby-bell-adelaide-dies-by-suicide-after-cyberbullying-and-physical-abuse/

 

Amy Everett 14

Amy eliott

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/10/australian-girl-face-iconic-akubra-hat-commits-suicide-aged/

http://www.voiceonline.com/ramandeep-bains-commits-suicide-by-jumping-off-alex-fraser-bridge/   *

*I couldn’t find a photo of Ramandeep Bains but she was 25 and had only been in Canada for 5 years, she left behind a 3 year old son.


This past spring a 15 year old boy named Mitchell David Slater  called his mom to say sorry but he couldn’t take it anymore he hung up and jumped off the Alex Fraser bridge in Delta -05/26/17

The story of Mitchell broke me yesterday after his aunt recounted what happened to me. Mitchell was a smart, handsome boy. Around 900 people showed up to his funeral, he had a girlfriend for 2 years, a loving and supporting mother and aunt. A month before Mitchell jumped off the Alex Fraser bridge they went on a family vacation and all seemed fine. Mitchell is the nephew of a friend I went to high school with, I wrote this post for them.

Mitchell is the smiling boy in the middle. My heart is broken over and over when I think of the pain his mother and his aunt and the rest of his family feels. Mitchell suffered from mental health issues. Suicide phones were installed on the deck of the bridge he jumped off after his death to hopefully help anyone else that finds themselves in that position, hopefully a way out.

mitchell


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds”.

If you’d like to donate to help mental health initiatives please do so here:

 

The Canadian Mental Health association and British Columbia division

https://cmha.ca/donate/                              https://cmha.bc.ca/get-involved/donate/

 

Mental health foundation of Canada

http://mentalhealthfoundation.ca/ways-to-give/

 

The American foundation for suicide prevention

https://afsp.org/

 

Brains and behavior research center in NY NY

https://www.bbrfoundation.org/

 

Help is only a phone call away

 

suicide line

Thanks for reading and please share you never know who may need it.

Sheri

 

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The absent Birthday

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Lost:  disappeared, forfeited, mislaid, misplaced, missed, missing, strayed, vanished, wayward, abolished, annihilated, demolished, destroyed, devastated, eradicated, exterminated, obliterated, perished, ruined, wasted, wiped out, wrecked, absent, absorbed, abstracted, distracted, dreamy, engrossed, entranced, preoccupied, rapt, spellbound, taken up, adrift, astray, at sea, disoriented, off-course, off-track,   bygone, dead, extinct, forgotten, gone, lapsed, obsolete, out-of-date, past, unremembered  


 

The words above, the  many synonyms for the feeling of being lost, mentally, physically, emotionally; lost.

Not in everyday life however, not anymore. I will concede that the terrible raw heartache that follows a death does ease over time, though I will not agree that ‘time heals all’ because that is a relative saying. Relative to the events that occurred to cause your grief. But the pain does subside, the confusion and frustration do ease. The longing pops in and out unannounced and at times you feel overwhelmed again. The missing never goes away. But it does get easier.

Having said that, there will always be times throughout the year that are hard, that I/we feel lost. A moment of reflection triggered by a memory. A dream that causes confusion for a short time upon awaking, a place that reminds you of that feeling of devastation, even if for a second. It is there buried in the memory, the past.

I should/ would be in a flurry of busy today and the days leading up to tomorrow. Days leading up to a child’s birthday tend to be filled with excitement and planning. making a cake, putting up decorations, easing the enthusiasm at bedtime for the upcoming event.

Instead, a fog rolls in filled with desolation, the feeling of feeling lost settles. What to do today; nothing, says my body and mind. Do we make a huge extravagance at our loss, over and over, year after year while most secretly wonder why are they not over it…

Do we pretend it is just another day, that  would inevitably bring feelings of guilt and shame that are in themselves hard to live with just to avoid others un-comfortableness.

Should we remember in silence to avoid unease, sometimes anything can feel like too much but nothing also feels wrong.


 

Happy 6th Birthday to my angel Lily Emma Olive Hall

I miss you

I live for you

I will love you

I will remember you

 Everyday until I die

 

6

 

Thanks for reading,

Sheri

 

What 37 years on earth has taught me!

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37th bday  The morning of my 37th birthday. October 2 2017

I’ve always struggled with sleep, as a child I remember making up games in my mind to make myself fall asleep, I would sneak into my parents room and sleep on the floor, as a teen I would read until I passed out. So no surprise on this day – October 2nd – my 37th b-day I was awake at dawn. I tossed and turned desperate to fall back asleep and finally got up to enjoy the quiet of the morning before the chaos began. I poured my coffee and sat down to watch the news.

Well you know by now what I saw. My heart broke, I was in shock, not again. My husband and I have been to LV a least a dozen times in the last decade, we always are on the strip or at a concert or show. Had we been there for my b-day, which was considered, we would have been at the country music festival (we love country music) were this heinous act of  gun violence occurred. We decided not to go because we are going to be running in the Rock and Roll Marathon in LV in November, which is celebrated at the end by a concert. I am not sure we will attend. But we should not let fear win right? Except that in the USA  this year there have been 273 mass shootings (a mass shooting is defined as 4 or more people being killed) last year there was 483! read more in the link below.

http://www.abc15.com/news/data/mass-shootings-in-the-u-s-over-270-mass-shootings-have-occurred-in-2017

So is it safe to travel to the US? We recently- last spring- went to Disney land for the first time, my kids leading up to it did not want to go and I could not understand. The answer came after much interrogation, they did not want to be killed, I said why would you think that? they said everyone has guns in America. Hmmm, yes they have a point. I explained as best I could that there are police everywhere and most places have measures to prevent people bring guns in, although yes there were metal detectors at Disney land most places unfortunately allow guns in the United States, something not legal in Canada. I understood their fear. It is undeniable that America has a gun problem and the debate was proven to be over when 20 babies were killed by an automatic riffle at Sandy Hook 5 years ago and nothing was changed or fixed about their lax or non existent gun laws. It is unfortunate that a country as big and powerful as the USA is more obsessed with their sick gun culture and ‘right to bear arms’ than the right to healthcare or to walk safely in their country without the threat of gun violence.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/us/if-sandy-hook-didn-t-change-america-s-gun-laws-nothing-will-1.2454880

My kids woke up, I turned off the news and wiped my tears away. They came down the stairs singing happy b-day. Bitter sweet. I hugged them and we started our morning.

Houston Trail

Something I have learned after 37 years…

Whenever I have felt overwhelmed by grief, tragedy and heart ache I need to go outside. Walk amongst the trees in the forest and breathe.

I’ve learned that life gets so much more complex as we age, as people die around us the undeniable reality of our obvious and eventual demise can feel overwhelming

Death also gets ignored by many. Some rush through life trying to be successful, creating a fortune, for what? To be buried in a gold casket? I truly admire the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates that spend their fortune helping others, eradicating polio in Africa- a pretty noble thing to spend your time and money on in your retirement years. Or Oprah Winfrey opening a school for girls in Africa, or Facebook founder Mark Zukerburg donating 100 million to education in the US.

I’ve learned that flashy things are just that things. Things that end up in the landfill.

I’ve learned that I’d rather have enough than a feast.

I’ve learned that real people, honest people, even though honesty can be a hurtful or a hard thing to swallow at times, is much better than the fake people.

I’ve learned that no matter how many push ups or chest presses you do, your armpits and under arms will still get flabby ( and so will your knees- no amount of running will stop that ).

I’ve learned that after 35 you finally stop being so harsh on your body.

I’ve learned to appreciate when it’s quiet.

I’ve learned not to take things for granted. Even when your tired and frustrated, a tug at your sleeve for a hug, or an I love you with a smile can be amazing.

I’ve learned education can change perspective and direction.

I’ve learned that you’re never to old to make mistakes and to keep learning.

I’ve learned that kids are pretty darn smart and much more resilient and accepting than adults.

I’ve learned it is ok to let people judge you, as I have learned it really does not matter what they think. Most do not know you well enough anyway.

I’ve learned no matter how hard you give to others they wont assume they need to give back until you ask.

I’ve learned it is ok to say no.

I’ve learned it is ok to yell and get angry, and it is also ok to say sorry and accept responsibility.

I’ve learned that exercise can do more than just keep your body healthy, but your mind too.

I’ve learned too that there are more ignorant people in the world than I’d hoped as a younger person.

I’ve learned we only get one life and don’t know what comes next, so try your best to cherish it and that does not mean be happy all the time.

I’ve learned that music and dance can heal and rejuvenate the soul, but also trick the mind into feeling young again.

So, I went with my BFF to see the amazing singer, dancer, performer, the person I saw at age 10 at the first concert I had ever attended. We went to see Janet Jackson and danced and sang the night away, and I hadn’t  felt that good,  in a long time.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading,

Namaste,

Sheri

Moving on from grief; my journey to accepting acceptance

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Moving on from grief; my journey to accepting acceptance

As I walked into my house late, arriving home just before midnight after a long ten hour travel day, carrying my youngest to her bed, whose birthday happens to be the following day, a quiet stress in the back of my mind as I have nothing planned. She wakes in and out of sleep as I place her down asking to watch the Trolls movie before bed , as I shush her that its very late and to go back to sleep. I walk past Lily’s photo that sits outside what was Lily’s room but is now Hopes. I pause for a moment, as a tiny quiver of shock goes through me, why did I enjoy this trip so much? For so long, five years to be exact I cannot remember really enjoying anything, not fully, not appreciating what or where it was we were, we have gone to Hawaii twice and Mexico once since she died, I “enjoyed” those family trips, but if I am honest, I was never happy during them, not as I felt during this trip. Was it not having thought about her as much? No, that’s ridiculous, of course I thought of her, but perhaps the veil has lifted, maybe the dark clouds that I felt attached to my heart lessened their grip. She is always in my heart but during this trip it was not like it is when I am at home surrounded by her memory, her presence, our loss.

Having just returned from an incredibly satisfying family trip, one that was to be underestimated but had over returned; that was fully dreaded, line ups, fast food, adults in costume, ugh, Disneyland. But we planned to see lots of other parts of California as well. Who knew the republic that is the state of California is so beautiful; San Clemente pier, Huntington Beach, Pasadena Ranch, even LA and Anaheim were cool to drive through, which started my pondering……

Guilt approaches my thoughts, but I quickly realize, no, that is not right; I deserve a reprieve from my self-imposed guilt. I am proud for the hard treacherous journey my grief has taken me through, what I have learned, how I have changed and grown. I am happy I was able to enjoy such a memorable family trip with my still living children, to be present for the first time in….well, how long makes me sad for them, my beautiful children that are alive, the ones that have received less of their mother because she has been stuck in a whirlwind of her grief. The one that has yelled too quickly because of their interrupting, poorly timed ways, their normalness, brought noise into my grief, where I wanted so much to simply be alone in silence. I have loved them, fed them, clothes and cleaned them, yes. But the mom that used to wrestle and laugh so freely has been trapped in a broken heart. That realization alone makes me sad for them, for me. I needed my time, I cannot believe five years past in a fog, although, it was thickest the first few years, it is lifted seemingly, I think. I am sure it will roll in from time to time and I welcome it, but I am also happy to feel happy again. I am happy to have a random dance party with loud noise at no notice with my kids. If asked, I wonder what they’d say of the last five years. Probably not much, as we all know, we are all way more self centered then we see. They may not have even noticed my withdrawal, not as I felt it, or see in hindsight. I was harder on them and they loved me more.

My heart now an ache for the time that has past, five years in a child’s life is huge, and the physical, emotional and mental growth that happens. I cannot go back; I can cherish specific moments of course, but am happy to feel other enlightening emotions again. Happy to be the present mother they deserve. I still miss and love my child that died five years ago, but my acceptance of her death has come with the revelation that I cannot change the past, nor need to dwell in its circumstances. But do need to focus on what we had and still have. This by no means that she will be forgotten just remembered differently, without the pain of guilt and remorse; but with love for the luck of having had her for a moment, along with the life lessons she has taught.

It brought me to a conclusion, if only for myself. We are all aware, some mildly, some very familiar with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief. At some point in raw grief after a loss, we want answers we want to understand what is happening; at times we are so lost we want to know if and when it will end. So Ross’s theory of five stages is where we inevitably find ourselves reading about. At first I agreed with them whole heartedly, it makes sense for grief to have a timeframe of stages, all of which also make sense in completing in order to “move on”, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance but what comes with these stages is not a time frame put on them by Kubler-Ross herself but by society, Somewhere, over time, since her now famous book called ‘On Death and Dying’ was published in 1969, society has given the grieving about a year to get through their stages of grief, a few months to mull in each one. This is where I completely disagree with societies standards on grieving, seeing as it has taken me a five full years to get to acceptance, one could say each stage deserves a full year to fully live in and become aware of the stage your are at. For example the first year I was trapped in denial not even aware I was, because it was the shock that took quite a while to wear off, then a denial that I could not really comprehend that this had happened to me, to her, to us. I honestly did not believe it for a very, very long time, combined with the night terrors caused by the PTSD I suffered, it felt like a dream at times, with me not being able to wake up. Then the anger came, but it came at a time when a lot of people thought I should have been done grieving, after a year. And yes, I was angry, at everyone and anyone that dare mention her name, or their grief! The bargaining came in different forms around year three, begging for bad things to not happen, hadn’t I gone through enough? I would do more to help others if only my living children would be left alone. As depression sets in due to the length of time that has passed, you feel confused, others wonder what’s’ wrong because it has been so long, although in reality, is four years that long? So you begin, again, searching for answers, or help, or ways to move forward because you have spent time in the other stages you are ready to deal with this depression, and not that long ago, as I said earlier, the trip I just took with my family was the first I really enjoyed, felt at peace and allowed myself to be happy. Had I reached acceptance? And if I had why did I feel bad about it? Did I assume I would grieve forever? Yes. Was I prepared to grieve forever? Yes. Often when the tears came less frequently just that fact made me sad, like the further away her life moved, the less I felt her in my heart, but that is not true. I can take as many moments I want to remember her and should be thankful the whirlwind does not just snatch me up as it used to, but it is a process of constant awareness, as well as, allowing myself to still grieve if I felt the need, but also to feel happy with what we have and where we are at, without guilt. Everyone’s journey is different but I think if we can all collectively agree that each stage deserves a year and not to expect someone to feel normal until year five the burden of grief will be lessened on the grievers. But also to so mention it is not limited to this time frame, I have met parents that did not feel “normal” until year seven and ten, what I am trying to say is that the notion that grief lasts a year is ridiculous, the notion that it never ends is also silly though, I once believed it would never end, and I still have moments of intense sadness, clearly not as frequent or uncontrollable but today five years later and I am able to laugh freely without shame, enjoy moments without guilt. I am not saying yours will only last five years, everyone’s journey is different and some grief may only last a couple years. All I know is that back in those first six months when I attended bereavement meetings a blubbering mess barely able to string coherent words together, the common sentiment to me from those that had multiple years, some decades behind them and their grief, they said, ‘it does get better’ and I was so comforted by that phrase. And the fact that they saw my pain and came up to me to tell me it gets better in hopes of lessening my pain. I appreciated those words, as I hope you appreciate mine now. It does get better, in your own time at your own pace.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste,

Sheri

Ps, I would love some feedback, I started out intending to write a completely different post about my vacation without my fourth child but in following my heart and letting my fingers type, I am surprised at the conclusion and turn it took. If you have a similar experience with grief or writing or any other feedback on my conclusion please comment below. Thanks – much love.

It is ok to be sad

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I feel you rolling your eyes, as I hit post. Another grief post you think! Your pain is no longer because it wasn’t your child you lost, it was mine, so you did feel sad for a bit after, you don’t understand how or why I am still grieving or posting sad stuff about grief. I get it its not your loss, you don’t feel it every day like I do and you don’t want to remember it  as much as I do. You might think I am bitter or want sympathy, I don’t. Just know that my heart hurts when I glance at the spot on the floor where she stopped breathing, that I have trouble thinking of moving because this is where she lived for 2 short weeks. Every time I hear a story of tragedy or a life lost I cry for her. Am I stuck? no I am human. I am a mother that gave birth to a beautiful baby that struggled to live, to breathe, that spent 5 weeks in the NICU, not sleeping, not feeling and slowly breaking. That was almost four years ago I know, you think I must have moved past this pain, I have another little girl right. She is my savior, yes. but also my daily reminder of my first little girl that is not here. Would they be best friends? or Would they fight a lot?  I wonder. And yes that too makes me sad. Immediate grief after a tragedy is overwhelming, its consuming and then time takes it away, little by little the intense memories fade and it is easier to ‘pretend’ life is what it is.

Today is October 15th- International Awareness of Stillbirth, miscarriage and infant loss

A day that makes me sad but grateful to have met and to be a part of a community of women, amazing women, that too have suffered a loss, something that is not openly spoken about but should be, something that people are uncomfortable to bring up, leaving the person(s) that suffered the loss alone. Why are we told not to share a pregnancy until 3 months? in case you lose the baby right, we don’t need to upset people like that! but then we suffer alone with our loss. Not right. After I lost my daughter, after she was born at full term, after she was given a birth certificate because she lived past 21 days (the time the government thinks your baby needs to live to be considered a human!) even though we all know as soon as we see that pink or blue line we have a child in our life, whether they live past 21 days or not, to be deemed a person! Different issue, I move on. The stigma that surrounds uncomfortable feelings needs to stop. People need compassion not shame. I don’t know how to change the world into thinking its ok to be sad, we do not need to ‘pretend’ to be happy all the time. As Buddha says ‘Life is suffering’ I believe we have pockets of happy moments or happy feelings but if you truly look at the world and live true, you see that it is about surviving, surviving tragedy around us, surviving, genocide, rape, famine , disease, homelessness, joblessness, then death. Acknowledging life’s struggles does not make us ‘negative’ it makes us real and if you let yourself feel the sad you will better be able to appreciate the happy.

After I lost my daughter, so many women came up to me and told me about their losses, a women lost her son when he was 21, another suffered multiple miscarriages’ but never told anyone, so many stories, so many women that suffered alone because society made them feel like they had to hide their shame because it wasn’t ‘happy news’ I call bollocks! I will continue to share my grief and encourage others to share because we are here for such a short time, all we have is each other. To help, to love, to pick each other up and hug.

Namaste

Thanks for reading.

Sheri

Grief and Loss Books

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MY TOP BOOKS ON GRIEF AND LOSS

In the dark hours and days/weeks after someone dies we often lay in the literal dark not able to shut off our minds, only wanting to sleep so the pain is not so physical; literal, as it is mental in those early days. Consumed with anguish, grief and loss. We search endlessly for books, articles, websites to help us understand what we are feeling, to know we are not alone, to help up cope. I have read many, many books on grief in the 5 short years since my daughters death, the ones that helped me cope were actually the fictional stories of parents suffering though a tragedy, in a very morbid way I was comforted. But I also read many books written specifically to help the bereaved and as I, 5 years ago would have loved to have stumbled upon a list of grief books, I didn’t, so I will share the top that helped me then and the ones I have read more recently to this day, when my daughter should be 5.5 years old.

#1 –   “no death, no fear” , (2002)  by Thich Nhat Hanh

#2 – “A Grief Observed”,  (1961) by C.S. Lewis

#3 – “Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief”, (1994)by Martha Whitmore Hickman

#4 – “The Bereaved Parent”, (1977) by Harriett S. Schiff

#5 – No Time To Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One”,   (1996) by Carla Fine.

#6 – “The Trauma of Everyday Life”,  (2013)  by Mark Epstein

#7 – “Wave”, (2013) by Sonali Deraniyagala

#8 – “Option B”,  (2017) by Sheryl Sandberg

#9 – “A Gift of Hope” (2012) & “His bright Light: The story of Nick Traina” (1998) by Danielle Steele

#10 – “Her”, (2013)  by Christa Parravani

#11 – “A Wind from the East” , (2016)  by Wendy Dartnall

 

 

 

Thanks for reading,

Namaste

Sheri

11 ways to help someone who is grieving. By Megan Devine

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#1 Grief belongs to the griever.
You have a supporting role, not the central role, in your friend’s grief. This may seem like a strange thing to say. So many of the suggestions, advice and “help” given to the griever tells them they should be doing this differently, or feeling differently than they do. Grief is a very personal experience, and belongs entirely to the person experiencing it. You may believe you would do things differently if it had happened to you. We hope you do not get the chance to find out. This grief belongs to your friend: follow his or her lead.

#2 Stay present and state the truth.
It’s tempting to make statements about the past or the future when your friend’s present life holds so much pain. You cannot know what the future will be, for yourself or your friend — it may or may not be better “later.” That your friend’s life was good in the past is not a fair trade for the pain of now. Stay present with your friend, even when the present is full of pain.

It’s also tempting to make generalized statements about the situation in an attempt to soothe your friend. You cannot know that your friend’s loved one “finished their work here,” or that they are in a “better place.” These future-based, omniscient, generalized platitudes aren’t helpful. Stick with the truth: this hurts. I love you. I’m here.

#3 Do not try to fix the unfixable.
Your friend’s loss cannot be fixed or repaired or solved. The pain itself cannot be made better. Please see #2. Do not say anything that tries to fix the unfixable, and you will do just fine. It is an unfathomable relief to have a friend who does not try to take the pain away.

#4 Be willing to witness searing, unbearable pain.
To do #4 while also practicing #3 is very, very hard.

#5 This is not about you.
Being with someone in pain is not easy. You will have things come up — stresses, questions, anger, fear, guilt. Your feelings will likely be hurt. You may feel ignored and unappreciated. Your friend cannot show up for their part of the relationship very well. Please don’t take it personally, and please don’t take it out on them. Please find your own people to lean on at this time — it’s important that you be supported while you support your friend. When in doubt, refer to #1.

#6 Anticipate, don’t ask.
Do not say “Call me if you need anything,” because your friend will not call. Not because they do not need, but because identifying a need, figuring out who might fill that need, and then making a phone call to ask is light years beyond their energy levels, capacity or interest. Instead, make concrete offers: “I will be there at 4 p.m. on Thursday to bring your recycling to the curb,” or “I will stop by each morning on my way to work and give the dog a quick walk.” Be reliable.

#7 Do the recurring things.
The actual, heavy, real work of grieving is not something you can do (see #1), but you can lessen the burden of “normal” life requirements for your friend. Are there recurring tasks or chores that you might do? Things like walking the dog, refilling prescriptions, shoveling snow and bringing in the mail are all good choices. Support your friend in small, ordinary ways — these things are tangible evidence of love.

Please try not to do anything that is irreversible — like doing laundry or cleaning up the house — unless you check with your friend first. That empty soda bottle beside the couch may look like trash, but may have been left there by their husband just the other day. The dirty laundry may be the last thing that smells like her. Do you see where I’m going here? Tiny little normal things become precious. Ask first.

#8 Tackle projects together.
Depending on the circumstance, there may be difficult tasks that need tending — things like casket shopping, mortuary visits, the packing and sorting of rooms or houses. Offer your assistance and follow through with your offers. Follow your friend’s lead in these tasks. Your presence alongside them is powerful and important; words are often unnecessary. Remember #4: bear witness and be there.

#9 Run interference.
To the new griever, the influx of people who want to show their support can be seriously overwhelming. What is an intensely personal and private time can begin to feel like living in a fish bowl. There might be ways you can shield and shelter your friend by setting yourself up as the designated point person — the one who relays information to the outside world, or organizes well-wishers. Gatekeepers are really helpful.

#10 Educate and advocate.
You may find that other friends, family members and casual acquaintances ask for information about your friend. You can, in this capacity, be a great educator, albeit subtly. You can normalize grief with responses like,”She has better moments and worse moments and will for quite some time. An intense loss changes every detail of your life.” If someone asks you about your friend a little further down the road, you might say things like, “Grief never really stops. It is something you carry with you in different ways.”

#11 Love.
Above all, show your love. Show up. Say something. Do something. Be willing to stand beside the gaping hole that has opened in your friend’s life, without flinching or turning away. Be willing to not have any answers. Listen. Be there. Be present. Be a friend. Be love. Love is the thing that lasts.

Megan Devine is the author of Everything is Not Okay: an audio program for grief. She is a licensed clinical counselor, writer and grief advocate. You can find her at www.refugeingrief.com. Join her on facebook at www.facebook.com/refugeingrief

Body Image; the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body

*** This post is not about Grief, though there is some in it. I am choosing to write about something else that I have dealt with my whole life.

Body Image – Noun- an intellectual or idealized image of what one’s body is or should be like, that is sometimes misconceived in such mental disorders as anorexia nervosa.

Since I can remember I have been obsessed with being “skinny” my first recollection of this issue, or problem, as it became, was when I was around 7; one of my best friends was a ballet dancer. I was constantly looking at her legs beside mine, always believing that mine were huge by comparison. This photo of us below proves my delusion.

Summer of 1987

I loved playing with my Barbie dolls but unlike others I do not blame their tiny unattainable frames for my obsession, I blame society and television. It (Barbie) was/is a toy after all, a doll to act out my fun with. Magazines and music videos on the other hand had only beautiful, tall, skinny women in my face constantly, they were real women. I grew up in the age of Kate Moss, the ridiculously skinny frame and face of Calvin Klein.

By the time I was 12 I wanted to be a model, I was only 5ft 6 but hey so was Kate Moss, the problem however  was my frame… I was not “petit” or “tiny”, I always felt like an ogre beside my friends, big shoulders, big glasses, I was not an athlete or a dancer, I played no instrument, basically I had or felt I had no talent. By fifteen I was doing some local modeling and shows after taking classes the previous year. A friend at the time commented to me, a male friend, which in hindsight made it matter more, he said ‘wow, your too skinny!’ You see I spent much of the 8th and 9th grade not eating and if I felt I overate, I made myself throw up. I weighed 112 lbs. in grade 9 down from 118 in Grade 7 and when he said that, you’d think it sounded an insult but not to me, it was validation.

I went to a modeling show in Whistler at 15,  here I am, in this picture which is important because the pink sweater I am wearing in it is a shirt I was given when I was 8yrs old and here I was wearing it as half top 7 years later, I was so proud I fit into it.

model

 

My body image morphed from a child who kind of thought she was bigger than others, (even though I clearly was not) to being obsessed with controlling how many calories I ate and exercise I did. I didn’t really like throwing up and felt so mature that I was making the decision to exercise over being anorexic…(eye roll at myself) I joined the gym at 15, it was my routine. I took the bus everyday or went with my boyfriend, whose mom ironically or not was a former model and always commented negatively and positively to me about my body weight or the state of it.

I noticed every .05 of a pound I gained or lost. Fast forward to me realizing I will never be able to maintain 110lbs or be discovered,  so at 18 I got hired and started working at Hooters restaurant I began doing bikini contests. You see bikini models over fashion models were allowed to have curves. Something I, as I got older could not hide no matter how little I ate.

contest       1998     I got 2nd place at  a Miss Hooters contest which put me in the finals for Miss Hooters BC. I got 4th in a Miss Molson contest. 3rd in a Miss Ocean Beach, which put me in their finals. I never won any, those were the ones I placed, I did a dozen others that left me feeling even more insecure and fatter than ever. There was always someone skinnier or prettier or both.

I worked at Hooters for 2 years, at the time in the picture below, I was closing the bar and one night 5 minutes  before closing time a guy came in, I was visibly frustrated as I was ready to go home. I poured him his pint and continued my closing duties, in his mind I suppose I was ignoring him. He paid and left. I found a note under his pint that read, ‘You are not as hot as you think you are , PS lose some weight your muffin top looks terrible over those shorts.’ I crumpled it and tossed it hoping my face didn’t show the pain I felt just in case he was out the window waiting for my reaction. I weighed 122 lbs. at that time the most I had ever weighed in my life- I was fat! and he just confirmed it.

Hooters

My obsession with my body image, the distorted view I became to have of what my body looked like was taking over my life, I fell asleep at night counting how many calories I had consumed that day. I ensured I was at the gym 7 days a week and through it all I smiled and pretended I didn’t care. Fast forward into my mid 20’s I struggled to maintain a weight that was not my natural body weight, I weighed between 121 – 126 lbs. constantly striving to be under 120 again. I look back at pictures and think wow, I was skinny, yet I never once felt it.  The next 10 years my inner demons fought within myself to maintain a body I couldn’t. Then I had my 1rst child at 25 and suddenly didn’t care, he was all that mattered. I wish I could say that it grew into a healthy mindset about my body image but no, it didn’t last, I did, after not caring for the 3 years whilst I had baby 1 and 2 but soon after rejoining the gym and learning very disgustingly how out of shape 3 years sans exercise made my body. I was even more ashamed of myself.

How did I let myself go? no, I never was actually overweight, though my new weight range was between 131lbs and 135- to me I was huge, that’s almost 20lbs larger than I always strived for. I got a personal trainer and got down to 128! then I got pregnant again. I was bitter, I just got my body back. I became depressed. I didn’t want another child, I didn’t want to get fat again. Then my beautiful little girl was born upside down and backwards not breathing with many complications. She died 51 days later.

I hated myself. It must have been my fault, I cared too much about getting fat and not appreciating what was growing inside me. I killed my baby. I sat with this pain and regret and guilt for many years. I also did not care what I looked like…is what I wish I could say but no, immediately after she died I hired another personal trainer my excuse this time? I didn’t not want to look like I had just had a baby, especially if I didn’t have one to show for it! Would you know it, a way some people grieve is sex, there are many, self medication, over eating, over sleeping and yes sex. Low and behold I was pregnant 2mths after my 3rd child died.

This is me, as big as a house, pregnant with my 4th child at 32.  I can honestly say I didn’t care how fat I got this time because this was going to be the healthiest baby damn it!

4rth pregnancy

The point of me needing to write about dealing with body image is that it is so incredibly unhealthy in the way it has literally ruled/ruined my life. I delete pictures immediately if I think I look fat, my mood is ruined if I don’t like what I am wearing or if something doesn’t fit right. I also feel that most if not all women struggle with this self imposed pressure. I constantly look at the small frames I always wished I was and think man they look good. But I bet they don’t think so. I still work hard at being healthy, I still go to the gym 5x a week, but I eat whatever I want and I try not to stress so much. I think with age it has become easier to let go of the “perfect” body.

I have kids who I pray see themselves as the beautiful little beings that I do. That I show them or have shown them how to be healthy over being skinny. I express to them their mind is much more important to work on than their body. I hope they hear me.

But I cannot lie, this picture below is  from only a few days ago. My husband said to me, ‘wow you look good’. I was excited to see it, I asked him to send it to me.  And I hated it. All I see is the paunch in my belly when I look at this photo. I want to stop this cycle. I  want to stop looking back and thinking wow I looked good, or skinny or fit. I want to feel it, now, but I don’t think there is an answer on how.

July 15 2018

Today, at almost 38, I weigh 137lbs, a very healthy weight for my age and height. I am trying to stop being my biggest critic. But I think with having it be an unhealthy obsession my whole life it might always be a demon that lives inside me. I wish there was a magical cure to how we see ourselves regarding our body image.

I just pray as a society with the shifts that are in place today we start appreciating our brains, our words, or acts of kindness as much as we have been taught to appreciate a ‘nice body’.

This post was inspired by this photo that I saw on FB the other day. It really struck me and stuck with me because it is how I have felt my whole life.

body image

Thanks for reading

Namaste,

Sheri

 

 

I Know That My Baby Died, So Stop Pretending It’s A Secret

WOW. Yes. Reading this brought me to my knees. Remembering feeling these exact words, this description is spot on. My heart feels/felt what this mother and all mothers who lose/lost a child do. I remember describing it as an invisible field around me where people literally formed a distance pathway for me to walk through alone, just far away that they never had to make eye contact. It has been 6 years and 5 months since my 7 week old baby died. People, still act different after they find out. The akward Ness fades faster, as I have become better at comforting this unexpected news to them. I also remember the relief I felt the first time I went away, to a city where no one knew me and was spoken to as the old me, the person that wasn’t the lady who’s baby died. But today, at least I am not invisible anymore. Enough time has past, the whispers and quiet shame is long gone. I still talk openly about my loss, but the select few who I bring her up to matter more to me. Whereas before, I wanted to shout from the roof, look at me. I guess that is the evolution of grief. It stays forever. But changes constantly.

An Unexpected Family Outing

norman-toth-171216-unsplash.jpg

I’m the lady with the dead baby.

It’s okay, I’m allowed to be so blunt because it’s my truth.  I am the lady whose baby died. One day my baby was living and the next day she died.  That is what happened.  It doesn’t offend me if you acknowledge this.

It offends me when you don’t.

You see, I know that my baby died.  I will not forget this.  So, when you whisper about it like it’s a secret that feels shameful.  It makes me feel like you’re embarrassed for me. I’m not embarrassed about my baby and I’m not embarrassed that she died.  I’m sad that she died. It’s different.

I am allowed to be sad that my baby died.  Please stop trying to cheer me up.  When you respond by trying to cheer me up, it feels dismissive.  Being supportive does not mean making me happy, it means…

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Return to ZERO

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Return to Zero is now streaming on Netflix in Canada, I  recommend all who understand this topic to watch and feel comforted that their story is in it. But I highly recommend it to those that do not understand the grief that follows a death of a baby.

Written, directed and produced by Sean Hanish

Based on the true story of Sean and Kiley Hanish and their journey through the stillbirth of their first child.

I cried through this entire movie, it is not for the light weather talkers. It is a deeply sad and compelling story that many go through but mostly in silence because of the stigma around miscarriage and stillbirth.

I saw myself in Maggie the main character in how she reacted to people ‘after’ in how she stared blandly, expressionless at the world.

The movie covers all the usual suspects after loss of a child. The ‘everything happens for a reason’ person, the its Gods plan person, the person that compares losing a child to losing their friend last year. All the ones that expect you to move on immediately because the baby was never alive. Although lived in your body for however many months before their death. It has the person that reveals themselves to you as an ally because the same happened to them, there is always a few of those that you never knew about before and you wonder why it takes your loss for them to be able to share, but you also understand why they keep it in.

A miscarriage that happens after six months is called a stillbirth because the mother must traumatically give birth to a baby that is not breathing via C-section or natural labor. Imagine how hard to live through that and others expecting you to simply move on.

A stillbirth also happens when the baby dies during childbirth and comes out ‘still’ or not alive.

A miscarriage is quite common, an early miscarriage may be easier to ‘get over’ than a later miscarriage, but how do you, or can you ‘get over’ multiple miscarriages?

Thanks for reading,

 

If you do see the movie please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sheri

 

Memories of her on International Bereaved Mothers Day 2018

 

As I awake on this sun filled Sunday, I am quickly reminded of todays tasks: 1 kids hockey game, 1 kids birthday party, 3 kids to get breakfast, 3 animals as well, and hopefully a run before I go to work. As I glance out the window and listen to the birds of spring happily chirping. I do, what we all do, after I am up, teeth brushed, kids hugged and coffee brewing, open my browser and am quickly reminded it is International Bereaved Mothers day.  As my feed fills with gentle memes and love for us. I decide, for the first time in a long time to open her box.

My treasures; memories of her.

box

The first thing I see as I open the box is the heart box the hospital gave us with things of her beside her pink blanket. The first I see as I open its lid is her cremation certificate and a photo of her on day 2 of her short life.

open box

As I gently spread out the contents of the heart box, I am confronted with the very strings that pull hard at my heart. A lock of her gloriously soft black hair, the imprints of her beautiful tiny hands and feet. Her tiny stained toques, other pictures, hospital bracelets and soothers.

her hair

 

Under her pink blanket is her things, a December candle I bought for her, a babies first teddy, a gift from a friend, her tiny little pajamas and jacket. Things I cannot give away.

 

in the box

 

As my other kids call me, they need help with socks and milk and other simple problems, I tightly fold the contents away, close the box that holds a piece of my heart and put away her treasure.

I wish all bereaved mothers a gentle day to remember their babies and children lost today and everyday.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste

Sheri

 

Nothing left but a memory and a recipe…

‘Si cara’   ‘yes dear’

Sounds very formal, however, my nonno, who died a year ago this week, used to call me cara- dear and the last time that I have a meaningful memory  of him other than the ones of my childhood is one of the time I brought my first born to visit. As a first time stay at home mother I was very lonely, I used it as a reason so see my maternal grandparents.

It felt amazing to see them, to visit every week for two straight years. After not seeing them after my parents divorce. After a childhood of weekly visits that ended when I was ten because of their separation. We visited weekly until my Nonna was admitted to care. I was leaving with my first born, pregnant with my second and tears in my eyes as my son screamed to be locked into his car seat, an acknowledgement of pain locked in our gaze, he (my strong, Italian born Grandparent who hid from Mussolini) said ‘oh cara’ – oh dear, with the look of love and sympathy on his eyes that I had not seen in ten years. My heart melted into a childhood heart, I cried. I was young, I had no help, I wanted my family. A sudden flashback came to me of my nonno calling me cara as a child.

Fast forward to his funeral; I see his brother who recently lost his son my cousin to a drug overdose and cried continually, when he’d stop to look at me,  he would hold my hand and say Oh Nina, my name is Sheri, but oddly growing up I always wanted my name to be more Italian, I wanted Nina or Gina. he always called me nina as a child, I thought it meant neice, as he was my Zeo gino, my uncle. A strong Italian immigrant came to Canada with his brothers for a better life. Always hard workers, always tax paying, law abiding citizens. All gone, my family from my childhood, gone.

With my dad suffering and witling away from dementia, my mom and I estranged since their divorce when I was a teen, my brothers, one a drug addict, a thief, on and off the streets, the other wanting nothing to do with our family. It is easy to feel sorry for oneself, but I try to remember that many, so many, still have it worse than I.

Thoughts of life and death wander through my mind and then sometimes with the reflections of those gone; a simple memory of soup. A warm meal served with love at my Nonna and Nonno’s house, a favorite place to be as a child. A beautiful memory, like the delicious homemade soup, warms my heart.

Italian Minestrone Soup

 

minestrone

 

Ingredients

400 g of cannellini beans or a mix of pinto and garbanzo beans

2 liters of water to boil the beans

1 can of stewed tomatoes (unsalted)

200 g zucchini

500 g of herbs (Italian seasoning or fresh basil and oregano

150 g of pork rind or 100 g of raw ham

200 g of fine pasta

Parmesan cheese

extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

1 parsley

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tsp. pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Place into a saucepan the prosciutto (ham) cut into strips or pork, together with oil, a chopped onion and parsley.
  2. As soon as the onion starts to boil, add tomatoes, beans, garlic, herbs, zucchini and season with freshly ground salt and pepper.
  3. Let it simmer for a few minutes, add the water in which the beans have been boiled, cover the pan and let it cook at moderate heat.
  4. Let it simmer, increase the heat and add  large macaroni pasta or small shell pasta, let cool.
The minestrone should be dense at the end. Serve it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Enjoy with a slice or two of fresh bread mmmmm.
Buon appetito.
Thanks for reading
Sheri

Coincidences or not?

Today, I met a friend for a drink. A Friday release, a mother of two who meets a few others on their off weekend. I have been invited a few times but decided to go today. I sat down, deciding I would stay no longer than an hour.

A few minutes later another friend joined, who said a few of her co workers were going to join.

Three more women sat down shortly after, I immediately knew one of them although never having met her before ‘officially’  I had…

When my daughter stopped breathing and turned blue on my living room floor six years ago this week, I gave her CPR and we travelled via ambulance to our local hospital.

This women that joined the table, well all the women worked at this local hospital and as soon as she spoke I knew it was her. It was the nurse who so sweetly spoke to my daughter before she seized up and stopped breathing, before she was intubated for the last time and returned to the Children’s hospital, were she spent the first four weeks of her life, were she had two surgeries, were she would have had four more had she lived.

The night we returned to the hospital, we were finally checked into the pediatric unit, they thought she had the flu…

The next morning, a nurse, a pretty blond French nurse came into the room to see if she could help hook my daughter up to her feeding marching, she had a G-tube that needed to be hooked up to a machine to push the milk/formula into her stomach intestine.

She called her ma petit choux, over and over, in such a sweet and endearing way that I would know that voice forever.

When Lily turned blue and stopped breathing,  she seemed scared, I walked away not knowing what to do, not wanting to cry or scream or disturb the doctors that were being summoned to help.

I was scared.

I thought this women talking so sweetly to my child must be a sign that things will be ok.

I was wrong.

Tonight that nurse walked into the restaurant I was at for no reason other than chance. She sat at my table and I recognized her and her voice.

I did not know how to approach the situation but knew it had to be acknowledged.

I said I think you were the nurse who saw my daughter, she smiled and the conversation continued. Later she asked how old  my daughter was now, I said she passed. There it was, the look. I said sorry, she said no, she remembered. My daughter was intubated before being transferred to Childrens hospital. She knew.

The odds of meeting this women at random, rare. But the odds of the events in how I knew her even more rare.

The chance of meeting her the same week, six years later, coincidence? I don’t know,

Do I know how to deal with every anniversary, or deathversary as I have come to call them. How to deal with every lost birthday, every missed date that she is not here for.

I have thought of this women many times since that day. I have thought the same phrase mon petit choux since that day, often. I endearingly said it my rainbow Hope who was born 15 months after her sister died.

 

Thanks for reading

Sheri

Nothing is forever

Edited

Dealing with My Grief

When I had to give my baby CPR on our living room floor after she stopped breathing. The ambulance came and she was resuscitated, we followed her ambulance to Children’s Hospital; my eyes were suddenly ripped opened to a raw,  treacherous and sad new world. A  new life filled with guilt, anxiety, PTSD and loss.

The suffering  witnessed and felt by so many children, parents of children, siblings all stuck in the hospital. All exposed to a very different reality than those on the outside. Then followed immediately by watching the suffering of so many bereaved parents in a support group, reliving their children’s last moments; heartbreaking.

I cannot erase the immensity of the sad stories I heard of all the children (lost) from my mind- not that I want to. I will cherish those stories of those angels that I was blessed to hear and learn about,  it is ironic to feel blessed about something I wished I…

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The dream that was too real; but not real enough

Dealing with My Grief

nice

The dream that was too real; but not real enough.

She was in a box, a small white box, I knew she was in there although I would/could rarely look; it hurt too much. My broken heart was in that box. One day I found the courage and opened the box and these big beautiful dark eyes stared back at me, I screamed, not a loud or frightened one, just a squeak came out. We locked eyes, and then she smiled the most amazing, wide grin that was lost to me. I looked around frantically, I yelled, what is this? What is happening? How can it be? Have you been feeding her? I never stopped he said, I cried, why did I give up? I picked her up and instantly she was three years old I laid her on my  bed and just stared in awe, in love, in anguish, I…

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