Instant memories

A flash of  light, lightning in the sky taking you back to a time you forgot, the whiff of a scent instantly transferring you to a moment lost, a picture, a cloud, a breezing wind, a fallen tree random memories show you in an instant. Be they happy or sad they come with no invitation just a reminder tugging at a memory in our subconscious.

Like when I saw a 92′ Mustang yesterday and it reminded me of a childhood friend that was beaten to death in 2002. Or every time I pass an ambulance I think of the time my daughter was taken away for the last time in one. Or when my 4 year old lays on my chest, I am reminded of a favorite memory of mine, when my first born was 2 years old and I was pregnant with my second and he would lay on me as we both napped, I remember thinking it would be the last time it would be just he and I. When I see a lily flower or a rainbow, my daughter pops back in an instant, with a pang in my heart and a glaze in my eye. A lake brings me back to my childhood summers, carefree and swimming.

Every time I eat spaghetti or need to sew something I am reminded of my Nonna that passed away the same year my daughter died, who taught me to sew and fed me the most delicious of Italian cooking. The thought of fishing reminds me of my Nonno who joined her this year. Every time I hear the hideous word cancer, I think of the dozen or so family and friends that have died from various types of that disgusting disease in the last ten years. Or hear of another celebrity that takes their life, via suicide or overdose, I am reminded of the few lost souls of my past that have suffered the same fate. There was three of them, all boys 2 overdosed, 1 suicide, all within a few years of each other.

Thoughts can be so random, but the ones that creep up on you in an instant because of something you see or hear truly amaze me, in that our brains keep everything we have seen, heard or felt, unless shock or trauma have hidden them, but there are still those unfavorable memories we wish we could release from the time capsules in our head. Others we wish we could relive and savor forever.

The smell of a flower, or soup; the look of a stranger or rhyme in a song all triggering instant memories.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste,

Sheri

Dealing with Grief

I want to share some thoughts on the grieving process and hope you will share your feelings and thoughts as well.

I have encountered many types of loss over the last ten years and as I am an analytical person I tend to look for similarities, differences and coincidences or circumstances in things.

For example when I first attended a bereavement group, after trying individual counselling (with four different counsellors- two women, two were men, neither helped, because in my mind, though they had been trained in psychology and counselling they clearly had never experienced a raw grief circumstance, I am basing this on their comment and reactions, anyways, at the bereavement group I met a lot, too many, parents that had lost children and babies of all ages to all sorts of circumstances, in the two years that I attended and I will never forget the first time I went. I shook the whole drive there, I cried the whole time being there, blubbering my way through my reason for going. I felt so comforted, in a morbid way I guess to hear their stories and know that I was not alone in my feelings. Fast forward to a few months in and I had gotten to know quite well a few of the moms and dads that regularly attended as well as listened to a few random people that came and went every week, ones son was killed by a drunk driver, ones child fell out a window, shocking and troubling to listen to, when you feel the pain in someone’s voice. But after listening to the ones that had older children die, I started to feel like maybe I was not deserving to feel the grief I was, after all some of these parents watched their kids suffer for months, some years with terminal illness, some were so in shock at their healthy 3 or 4 year old being suddenly diagnosed and dying immediately, it was so very heartbreaking. I was living in a bubble of other people’s pain and you know it was easier than focusing on my own pain. But I also remember feeling like, wow these people deserve to grieve more than me because of their loss being more prominent than my two month old dying.

As I lived through the fog of raw grief which in my opinion does not start until after the shock wears off, which can take a few weeks or months, for me it was almost six months when it hit me, when I allowed myself to re live what we went through in such a short time. And I was suddenly stuck in raw grief; I was back at that first meeting as a blubbering fool. I remember one of the dads telling me after a long rambling of me sobbing and saying what’s the point to life when this stuff happens, when there is so much suffering, I kept saying why, why. And he came to me after and said that his wife (who was not there that night) had said such similar things not long ago, they had been going a year before me so this was over a year into their loss and seven or so months into mine, I was sad to know that she felt the same but also in knowing my thoughts were not random, were not crazy, I felt comforted.

Then comes the realization of firsts, around a years’ time, the first Halloween, Christmas, Birthday. And this is when most people think that after the first you should be done grieving and moving on.

This is so wrong.

Grief is a struggle to live through and learn from without the judgment of others.

But you find yourself pretending you’re “better” because you don’t want them to think you’re stuck because unfortunately that is what some think. Because for example when their high school friend died in a tragic car accident they remember being really sad for a few months but after that first year it didn’t really affect them anymore and they relate this loss to your loss.

I too have lost many acquaintances and friends from high school, a few cousins and few close friends, and a few co- workers. It sucks, yes, it’s hard, yes, it’s sad, yes, you feel for their lost life, their family, but it’s not the same as when you lose your mom who is your best friend and she dies suddenly after fighting breast cancer. Or when your child of seventeen gets diagnose with terminal cancer, or any ones child dies, or when your spouse gets killed in an accident or when your best friend or sibling that you cannot live without suddenly dies. I am not saying these people have a right to grieve more, I just believe that their grief is very different than the other. It is very different when someone dies of old age then when someone dies tragically from suicide or murder or a genetic malformation but sometimes we lump loss together, and ‘sympathy lasts longer than grief’ but someone living with or through their grief will often tell you they do not want sympathy, they simply want to be allowed to grieve in their own time, they want to feel sad when they feel sad and they want not to be judged or ignored. It is a different type of grief it is still grief and I am not trying to dumb down one to the other, I just feel that those that think you should be ‘done grieving’ are the ones that have experienced only the preceding types, the ones where you feel sad for a short time, I think that is called empathy not grief.

I invite you to share your thoughts on grief.

Thanks for reading.

Namaste,

Sheri

Thoughts…

Do your thoughts wander…. from one to the next, in odd fashion? Have you ever obsessed over the same thought over and over? Lost sleep over ‘too much thinking’ Cant turn your brain off. I think it is a trait that is innately human. We learn, we obsess, we overthink… When series of events cause us to overthink or overlap our thoughts, we get anxious or afraid at outcomes we cannot control, one wonders why we are so wired to worry about what we cannot control. perhaps sayings like: always stay positive or never give up, you are what you make of your self  and maybe even you are what you eat. Cause us to grow up thinking we can control our outcomes or what happens to us. But often things happen that we do not want to and things do not happen that we do want to. That is life.  We believe we can control situations as long as we follow steps a, b and c, unfortunately there are always unaccounted for endings, like the one we don’t want. In a way things happen to us that will teach us, where we can learn and grow but also serve as a reminder we are not in control and need to accept that and ultimately let go.  If we can look at life as a journey, with probably more downs than ups, a journey where our overthinking will overlap our thoughts and intentions and that is ok. We maybe can enjoy the journey better in a way that we do not or have the need to be right or positive or as it should be. I am not a fan of the saying everything happens for a reason but I do believe that we are meant to learn what we can from things that happen that we did not want to. The greatest thing to learn from is death, loss and grief. How we learn to cope. To grow. To accept. These things take on so many forms for so many people. Some depression. Some become adventurists or less shy or more introvert as they ponder their own mortality, as inevitably it pops up when we lose someone. we tend to think about others around us dying or even ourselves. It is a scary train of thought that precedes the death of a loved one. It takes years to get over a loss although you never fully recover. I believe it takes us consciously accepting the fact that we do not or can not control the outcome of most things and therefore allow ourselves to be free from the guilt that also follows death. The what if? that haunts your thoughts’ There is no easy solution to grieving but to let it happen. Get lots of sleep, lots of water, long walks. fresh air, talk to friends, write in a journal, but most importantly stop obsessing that you could have done something differently, that its your fault. Because we are not gods, we do not control what happens as much as we try to believe or are raised to think we can/do.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste

Sheri

I see you’re sad

I see you’re sad. You are trying to hide it but I can see it. Others won’t, you are functioning as you should, but I see the slight differences. You used to laugh so freely now it’s forced; you dressed always over the occasion and easily looked the best, now you wear my favorite attire in time of raw grief, comfy clothes that are always ready to nap with you. I sense the change in you; you are quieter staying inside yourself protecting your heart. I see it because I know, I have been there. Your mind is reeling from the loss that it feels fuzzy sometimes confused or hard to make pointless conversation, not sure what to say so it stays silent. You become an observer. Watching life move on when you can’t. You don’t find things funny or silly it is too hard when you experience the certainty of life -that is death. Your appearance seems unnecessary, we hide behind hats; literally to cover our face; hide our sad. We assume people do not notice because we are out, we are functioning, we attempt to smile when need be. They don’t know we sleep more, eat less or less healthy because who cares right. But I see you’re sad. I feel your grief when I look in your eyes. I know your pain when you force a smile or conversation or simply walk away because you can’t take it. I know, I see it and I am sorry.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste,

Sheri

 

Written for my close friend because I see her pain but oddly enough do not know what to say or do knowing she needs to walk her own path through her grief.

 

Reality of Life and Death

After talking with a  few friends who are having a hard time with recent deaths of those very close to them, they’re having a hard time having never experienced  loss before or perhaps dealing with death; the older we become it seems to get harder because of the realization of our own mortality. They are in there mid thirties to mid forties, so I was surprised; I just kept thinking how lucky they were to have been spared for so long. But of course knew how insensitive that was to think.

I started to think of my own life and those that have died around me. The first death I experienced was the death of my friend/neighbors mom when we were 7 or 8. I knew it was sad, I knew she was “gone” but did not really understand what happened or the loss to the family. I remember her brother who was 10 or 11 yelling at me and my brothers for going to their moms funeral saying that we just wanted to miss school. I didn’t understand why he got mad at us not until I was older. The next was not for almost 10 years later when my paternal grandfather died, I remember going to the hospital to say goodbye, I am glad my dad brought me. I remember how shallow and scary his breathing sounded; I remember crying but also trying to hide it. The worst was watching how that death affected my dad, he began drinking more after that, and maybe that’s why within a few months my mom left him.

The next death that impacted me was that of a friend who was beaten to death. The hardest part about that was that it was done by other mutual friends. Not being able to understand why. His funeral was hard because some of our friends ,who were friends with both were not allowed to go; I was friends with both but not close to either at that time. It was hard because it wasn’t right, no one deserves to be murdered and no one expects others to take one’s life so carelessly. It really opened my eyes to the brutality of life. After this I was in my early 20’s and quite a few friends and acquaintances in the years that followed had died or been killed or overdosed. It almost started to be ‘normal’. No, just easier to accept I guess. Then 2 friends from high school died, we were not close anymore it had been almost 10 years since high school but it was hard to understand and handle none the less. One was killed by a drunk driver leaving behind 3 kids, and just having had my 1st child being pregnant with my 2nd it literally shattered my heart to think of their loss as well as her for not being able to see her kids grow up. The other friend took his own life, battling a terrible depression that none were even aware of. The amount of death at my minds door at the ripe age of 30 was astounding. But nothing prepared me for the next year, the year I turned 31. I gave birth to and then lost my 3rd child when she was 2 months old, 2 months later my maternal grandmother passed and 2 weeks previous my paternal grandmother passed. All the deaths were overwhelming. I felt surrounded, I was in shock for most of that 1st year, as I sit and type I realize the fog lifted shortly after a year but I think I hurt more because I started to feel more, the shock being gone there was more room to think as well as feel. I felt not only grief and loss but guilt and longing were added. Then I thought about all those lost before and felt just so overwhelmingly sad and mad at the world. How do we live “happily” when so many are not given that chance? How can we accept death when it is so unexpected most of the time? How do we live with the intention of putting love first when some of us are lucky enough to not experience hard losses and therefore live to maturity and grow wealth or some that disregard life and kill the earth or our environment due to lack of empathy. I believe death teaches us empathy, to care more for what is important. I hate death and the things it has taken from me but it has given me appreciation for things like a 100 year old tree, spring flowers, a hug, a kiss, a smile. Things money cannot buy.

At times when I see others pain in coping with death and loss I wish I could take it or make it go away, but I also know that it is part of accepting the reality of life and death in having to accept others passing and how it makes us feel.

So as I enter the later years of my life where I am watching my friends deal with the loss of their parents, I know that there is so much more death around the corner as I get older, I just am not sure how to prepare my heart for the pain that I already feel brought on just by the thought of loss and not yet the actual death. I think I’ll have to go hug a tree, cry and hope I will have the strength to let go as I already have.

Thanks for Reading,

Namaste.

Sheri.

 

 

My Apologies

My Apologies

I think I am ready, my vision is not so blurred, my wound not so fresh.

I realize in my grief that I have hurt many people, not purposely, not intentionally, also at the time not really caring. I didn’t care how my words affected people, it didn’t matter to me; nothing did.

But I did hurt people, I did lose friends. And I am coming to see that I was to blame not them as I had chosen to once believe. The ones closest to you disappoint us the most when they don’t know what to say- but really no one did and nothing said was ever right, but we expect more from certain people and when I felt they didn’t deliver I was cruel. Yes, I was hurt and did not care, to quote the movie ‘Home’ I was ‘sad-mad’. I also wanted them and others to hurt, to lose someone, to lose me even. Grief blurs our reality and for a while it is helpful but when the haze clears sometimes there are regrets and this time it is not about the loss or if I could have done something differently.

It is realizing that in my pain, I caused pain to those closest to me and for that I am sorry.

“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.”
Natsuki Takaya

That sinking feeling….

I feel like I am sinking, I have a stone tied to my heart and it is taking my head down fast, I am barely able to breathe through the choking of tears, where is this coming from, why am I so scared?

If I had one wish it would be to freeze time just at this moment so I can figure out what I am so afraid of without doing anymore damage.

I want time to stand still, because I am scared of the future, not looking forward to it, there was a time I wish I could fast forward now I wish it would be still. I don’t want my kids to keep getting older and eventually leave me, I don’t want to realize that they won’t need me soon, I don’t want to continue watching myself slowly age and die. I am scared. Mostly scared, of living right now.

My son who is almost 8 said in a random conversation when I asked him a question- he said- ‘because you always get mad at me’

Those simple 6 words ripped my heart open and here I sit falling into a wayward sinking hole, I cannot stop crying, I cannot understand, where did I go wrong? I love my children –this 7.5 year old boy- I love more than life itself, how can he not know of only my love for him, he is afraid to see me or do something because  I always get mad at him! Not so good. I have failed. I am sinking.

Hope is 1 today, and I am not elated, I am not happy, I don’t think I care.

I am overwhelmed by emotions of anxiety, guilt; I feel like a really shitty mother, to her to my boys, to lily, I am scared to death! Of death, of losing my remaining children, of them loosing me. I cannot get these morbid, sad thoughts out of my head, I feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing anything other than sit and do nothing. I want to do nothing, which actually makes it worse because I feel like I am wasting my time, my precious moments left of life, what am I doing, what is wrong with me.

I was feeling better, almost normal, my new normal -was ok. Lily’s been gone 2 years and 45 days. I feel like I am to blame, like the universe punished me. I was selfish, I didn’t want a daughter because I was scared, I thought of miscarriages while I was pregnant with Lily, I knew something felt wrong and I said nothing. I am to blame. I can’t breathe. I am sinking.

I know I must keep moving…..before I sink to the bottom.

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Empathy vs. Sympathy

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Empathy vs. Sympathy

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

People say things like ‘everything happens for a reason’ – no, no they don’t. or ‘God needed another angel’ or my favorite to hate ‘they are with the Lord now’ UGH! NOPE- they are not! Imposing your belief’s while someone is suffering is not only insensitive it can be very hurtful. Once a ‘friend’ said to me very shortly after my daughters death- “your not getting all sad again are you?” – I was in shock- what?! I found myself making her feel better like- no no I’m fine… wait? -this is wrong and quite frankly ended our relationship shortly after that conversation.
First, I understand you are uncomfortable with my sadness but secondly I do not care how you feel. Thirdly, just because I can smile (be fake) doesn’t mean I am ok. Last- let me be sad, let me just be, stop trying to cheer me up that is not what I want or need from you. Its easy for me to write this for others to ‘get it’ 2 years after the loss of my daughter but I didn’t know back then, what to say, I didn’t know how to feel, I couldn’t explain why people trying to cheer me up made me angry, I did not understand peoples want in me to be better. I think in sharing this video maybe others who need a clue could watch and hopefully ‘get it’.

Thanks to Dr Brené Brown for creating this PSA on the power of empathy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

** Thanks to a very thoughtful friend for sending it to me

Acknowledgement; How to Help a Grieving Friend

I cannot believe another year has come and gone. I cannot believe how fast life is moving, how far away you are getting. How the memories begin to fade, the pain has faded as well, but I wish some would stay to remind me more.  I bought the most beautiful star-gazer lilies for your birthday; we also dropped white ones into the ocean for you. I remember someone saying to me once while at my house-“you always have fresh lilies around” I didn’t respond, but that comment haunts me, I was bothered that they didn’t acknowledge that they were always lilies I kept but said flowers instead. I think well yes because I always want the flower that remind me of my beautiful angel, then I think, why don’t you know that? Are you really surprised? She then asked me where I find them – I say everywhere! When I am at a store and they have lily flowers I buy them. They could ask why I named her Lily and discover it was the very first flower my now husband and father of our children including lily had brought me on our first date and then following anniversaries. In hindsight maybe she was trying to mention my daughter but at the time I was still angry and could not understand why it was so hard for others to bring up. I then thought about how after this past Christmas having had a bouquet of lilies on every surface and having double digit family members visit, I realized they to never comment on my flowers, I think that is odd, I remember having roses or tulips when people come into the house and say ‘wow -nice flowers’ but no, not for my lilies, is it because they think I may be reminded of my angel? well then they are foolish, she is never forgotten even for a second, even if I am smiling she is on my mind and in my heart. Is it because it makes them uncomfortable to acknowledge them? That is probably more likely. Would it be a big deal to just say nice lilies and leave it at that. I have Lilies planted in front and back of my house, I find the fragrance welcoming, I find the sight of them heart wrenching-ly peaceful. I love watching them grow from nothing. Its weird I see a bunch of lilies at the store and feel like I really have no choice, I buy them I feel somehow like I am betraying my lost daughter if I don’t- that may seem obsessive but it hurts no one and you will not hurt me by commenting on my lily flowers in my home- they are not there by accident nor to make you uncomfortable. They are there to comfort me.

On an unrelated topic but still having to do with acknowledging grief or someone’s loss or maybe in my case remembering the person with us. Start by mentioning the beautiful lilies in my house or how it must be hard to experience Christmas without her when just two years ago I was anxiously, nervously awaiting her (late) arrival all throughout Christmas. My Christmas’s will forever be about Lily and how she came and went Christmas to Valentine’s day with New years in between. Huge “celebrations” that are not celebrations for me, but remembrance days of what was supposed to be. She may have lived only two months in the “real world”, but she lived inside me for fortyone weeks (ten months) she lived a thousand days in my mind; how I imagined her first trip to the beach- her and I in matching bathing suits, how I thought of her first or tenth birthdays imagining what she’d look like, how we’d celebrate. – She has lived- in me, in my mind and now in my consciousness, in my heart.

******So I share this-(Written by Megan Devine) on how to deal with others grief because the more aware people are the better  the grievers can cope, with their new life, their new guilt, their new loss that will never be healed.

I especially agree with #5, # 6 and #3……and#4 okay I agree all with all of this!

 #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