Daily Battle: Tempted to Give Up

So many things raced through my mind in the first five minutes of hearing the news:

Oh, God!  Is it true? (I have to authenticate his identity);

How do I tell everyone? (I have to make phone calls);

What do you do when your child dies? (I have no idea how to plan a funeral);

and on

and on

and on.

Of course, that doesn’t touch the FEELINGS flooding my heart.

I don’t really have words for that, even now.

But as the days of crazy activity and people everywhere gave way to the weeks and months of silent sorrow, all I wanted to do was to give up and give in.

What was the point of carrying on if it meant carrying this weight of sadness until I was also in the grave?

At first, my motivation was to help my husband and children through these crisis moments.  My training gave me tools to give them words and ways to frame the pain. Hours of home “therapy” drained me but also gave me a sense of purpose and  direction.

It was a couple of months into this journey when  I faced my first test:  I suffer from a gastrointestinal condition that predisposes me to catastrophic GI bleeds.  Combined with the medications I take for RA, I woke one morning to find I was losing large amounts of blood.

It was nearly welcome news.

As weakness overtook my body, I could feel the lure of simply drifting away into eternity.  I was tempted to lie down on the bed and allow my heart rate to decrease, my blood pressure to dive and my soul to break free from this body of death.

But I didn’t-because I could not knowingly add to my family’s heartache.

No one was home so I drove myself to the emergency room and was admitted to the ICU. Several days and units of blood later I came home, restored to life but not unburdened of grief.

And so it goes.   Each day brings its own temptations.

I will be honest:  I am still motivated more strongly by love of my family than a sense of mission or purpose this side of burying Dominic.

Perhaps that is sin.  I don’t know.

But for right now, that’s enough.

Every day, even almost three years later, I wake up and must choose to go on.

I’m not suicidal!

I’m willing to stick around.  But I am no longer afraid to die.

I can say, like Paul,  “To live is Christ, to die is gain”.

doesnt-get-better-gets-different

 

 

 

 

Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing! PART TWO: Coping Strategies

So now that you know you aren’t going crazy, what to do?

Give yourself grace-understand that the old you is not the new you.

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You will not be able to overcome these very real changes by sheer force of will. No matter how talented or together you used to be, it’s unlikely you can operate on that high plane right now. If you try, you will only exhaust the resources you have left.  

So slow down and make room for how grief has impacted your mind.

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There are some basic self-care techniques that bear fruit in every area, not only mental acuity:

  • Eat balanced meals or snacks-It doesn’t matter if you WANT to eat.  Consider that you are fueling your body so that it can feed your mind.  Find a protein bar you like or eat easy-to-make salads or sandwiches.  When blood sugar levels are stable, your mind works better.
  • Get as much quality sleep/rest as possible-This is very hard, I know, when the setting sun brings memories and thoughts that make sleep almost impossible.  But research “sleep hygiene” and apply the techniques that might work for you.  Herbal supplements and teas can help as well as prescription medications.
  • Drink enough water-hydration is so very important and easy to ignore.
  • Limit alcohol and/or other stimulants/depressants -any of which can interfere with your ability to think and remember. (Do NOT stop medication unless you do so in concert with your doctor)
  • Exercise-There’s no need to run a 5K. Just a walk around the block or even around your house can get your blood pumping and providing more oxygen to your brain.
  • Get a physical exam to rule out hypothyrodism, diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical cause for your symptoms.  If prescribed treatment, follow the protocol.

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Develop work arounds:

  • I simply admit to people I’m meeting for the first time that I will not remember their name unless and until I use it multiple times, and even then I might forget.  It takes the pressure off so I don’t have to pretend when I see them again.
  • I write down EVERYTHING.  If I put something “someplace safe” I jot down the location in my calendar.  If I make an appointment or need to make a phone call, I write it where I can see it.  If I commit to bring something to a potluck meal, I put down what I promised and when it needs to be there.
  • I ask for help.  Like I said before, if I make lunch plans with friends, I ask that they text me the day before to remind me.  If I need extra time to fill out a form, I speak out-I’ve never had anyone refuse.  If I can’t remember something important, I admit it and look it up.  I have given my family permission to tell me when I’m repeating myself.
  • I maintain routines and habits.  Keys-same place,always. I have a carabiner on my purse to attach them when I leave my truck.  Glasses-same place, always.  Medicines in those little seven-day sorted containers.
  • I use the Internet, mail and telephone calls to expedite things and minimize stressful interactions with people.  If I am going out to a restaurant, I look up the menu online so I’m not forced to make a decision on the spot.  I look up and print directions even though my phone can navigate on the fly.  I call ahead to learn how long a repair will take, if items are available and if my prescriptions are actually ready.  I send letters and cards instead of visiting when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

take-control-of-your-life

Lifestyle choices:

  • I aim for balance:  Harder tasks with easier ones; stressful outings with quiet moments; reading with sewing; outside and inside; work and play.  Switching up seems to help keep me sharper somehow.
  • I don’t overcommit.  When someone asks me to do something, unless it is truly an emergency requiring an immediate answer, I consult my calendar.  If I already have a couple commitments for a week, I beg off or reschedule for another time.  I realize that those working outside the home have far less control over these things but perhaps you might ask your boss for some leeway.
  • I group similar tasks and do one thing at a time.  I find that doing things that require the same skillset on a single day increases my ability to do them well.  Shopping, writing notes, cleaning house are things I schedule for one day at a time.  I am absolutely NO GOOD at multitasking anymore.
  • I’m realistic about what I can and can’t do.  It is humbling to admit that I’m no longer tolerant of small children and large crowds.  I used to be able to handle both.  But I just can’t do it, so I limit my exposure.  I won’t serve in the nursery at church and I don’t attend concerts.  That’s just the way it is now.
  • I plan for laughter.  If it doesn’t happen organically, I seek something uplifting and funny to tickle me into laughing out loud at least once a day.  Laughter helps me cope and releases all kinds of feel-good hormones.  With the world of memes at your fingertips, this is an easy thing to do.
  • I refuse to apologize.  Yes, I might say, “I’m sorry” when I forget someone’s name, but I don’t make it a habit to make excuses for my inability to live up to others’ expectations.  I learned early on that anyone who has not walked this Valley can’t really understand anyway.  It frustrates me, adds to stress and does no good.  So I let my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no”.  I’m beyond being embarrassed.

I do the best I can as long as I can.

And when I reach my limit, I admit it without being shamed.

 

shame-is-the-intensely-painful-feeling-we-are-unloveable-brene-brown

 

 

 

 

 

What To Do With All These Feelings???

Feelings, feelings and more feelings!

I’m overwhelmed with them. All. The. Time.

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Sadness.  Longing.  Regret.  Hopelessness.

But also happiness, excitement and joy.

They bounce around in my head and heart doing battle like caged animals.

What to do? How do I keep my life in some sort of forward motion when if I give in to each and every feeling I’d be going in circles and heading nowhere?

One thing I can’t do is ignore them.

I’ve tried.

Stuffing pain down deep where I think it’ll never escape doesn’t work.

hungry

It just sneaks through whatever crack I haven’t managed to seal tight and shows up at the most inopportune moments.  And the release is often explosive-hurting me and those around me.

Journaling is the best method I’ve found to let my feelings out in a more controlled fashion.

I can say whatever I want to on paper without worrying it will harm another’s heart.  I can write things I would never be brave enough to speak aloud.  I can mark my page with anything I want to-it’s for my eyes only.

I find that letting go of the feelings I’ve been holding in for so long often results in great freedom and release even when my circumstances haven’t changed at all.

This pouring thoughts out on paper has relieved me. I feel better and full of confidence and resolution.

~Diet Eman, Things We Couldn’t Say

And writing them down, I am often better able to discern the reason behind the feelings, better able to think of what I might do to help myselfeven if no one else can help me. Seeing it in black and white I can find patterns and pinpoint unhealthy habits that are leading me down deadend alleys.

Successful journals break the deadlock of introspective obsession

~Alexandra Johnson, Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal

I might start a journal entry with a thought bouncing around in  my mind, or a quote or a Scripture verse.  I may ask a question-of myself or of God-write a memory or whisper a fear.

However it begins the page soon fills with things I wasn’t even aware were inside me.  And almost always ends in a better place than where it started.  

Not one outward circumstance altered.

Not one problem “solved”.

Not a single aspect of life “fixed”.

Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. ~Christina Baldwin

But my ability to understand my own heart and to respond to the unchanging circumstances around me has been enlarged and strengthened.

My journal is the safest space to explore the nooks and crannies of how grief is changing me from the inside out.

Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.

~ Pat Conroy, My Reading Life

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Exhausted

Exhausted

Worn out

Bone-tired

Ready to drop

Drained

Fatigued

War-weary.

I wasn’t created to carry this burden.   I cannot do it.

Jesus invites me to lay it down:

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 VOICE

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Just Tears

No great wisdom today.  No wonderful insight.

Just tears.

woman-looking-through-rainiy-window

A day that was going pretty well ended in a conversation with someone who should have known better stomping all over my heart.

Someone who is very much aware of my loss acted like it hadn’t happened.

It really hurt.  

After all this time I was surprised by how very much it hurt.

So I cried.

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I cried because I miss Dominic.

I cried because a day that had felt victorious ended in defeat.  I cried because it feels selfish to hold people to the standard of caring about my broken heart when they are so busy with their own lives.

I cried because it feels like even those who shouldn’t forget ARE forgettingthe son that walked beside me for almost 24 years has been set aside in less than three.

My heart hurts and I don’t think I can just suck this up.  I’m not even sure that I should.

Where do I draw the line between extending grace and asking for it?

I just don’t know.

heart and wood

 

 

I Don’t Know How I’m Doing

People see me, these years and months after Dominic left us and ask, “How are you doing?”

I come up with an answer because that’s the law of conversation-you ask something and I answer, then I ask something and you answer.

are-you-ok

Gotta keep that ball rolling.  

If it drops we are both forced to stand there wondering what to do with our bodies, our faces and our thoughts.

But right now, I don’t know HOW I’m doing.

I am definitely past the crying-every-single-day stage.  The deep sense of loss still strangles me but I’ve learned to pretend it’s not there and just keep on keeping on.

I can look at his photo (most times) and not feel the sucker punch as my heart realizes-once again-he is not coming back.  

Ever.

I’ve developed routines to work around the hardest part of a week-Friday night into Saturday morning-so my mind and body follow the rut like cows headed to water.

cowpath

One-foot-in-front-of-the-other.

“A thousand mile journey begins with the first step” and all that.

I try to lean into the life I have NOW.  The life I would have never imagined or chosen for myself but the one I wake up to every day.

There is no EASY way to lose a child but I almost envy parents whose child’s death has given them a cause to fight for. Sometimes the circumstances surrounding loss lend themselves to a crusade which at least gives a parent somewhere to focus his or her sorrow.

What can I say about Dominic’s leaving?

Don’t ride motorcycles?

Sure, but that was my position before they were ever purchased.  I was always only barely able to contain my anxious thoughts as my sons went from here to there on two wheels with no protective shell.

I’ve learned to push down the pain and that means I stuff every other feeling as well.

I can’t select JUST the pain to hold inside.

So that leaves me here-not knowing how I’m doing.

Am I better?  

Healing?

Or just plain numb because to feel whatever I’m really feeling is too hard to embrace?

I have no idea.

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