I first shared this post three years ago when our family was in the midst of hard circumstances and we all had frayed nerves.
This year is a different kind of hard because some of the plans we thought were coming together are falling apart. I imagine many folks probably feel the same way with the pandemic forcing changes to longstanding traditions. So I’m sharing again.
You’d think that writing something down would ink it in my brain but I forget too. I need this reminder to take a breath, take a sip of my favorite flavored whatever and savor the beauty of this season.
Here they come round the bend like a pack of dogs chasing that rabbit on a racetrack.
No way to slow them down, no way to step to the side and ward off the relentless message that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming soon-so, so soon.
Internet ads scream, “You’ve got to buy it NOW! You’re running out of time!”
If you’ve ever been in any kind of counseling or recovery group , you have probably seen or heard this acronym and advice: HALTbefore you speak.
It’s a great reminder that I should take a moment to consider my frame of mind before I blurt out something that might damage a relationship or wound someone else’s heart.
I had never thought about it until recently, but it is also a great reminder to us who grieve that what we interpret solely as grief (which we cannot control) might be compounded greatlyby other things (some of which we can control).
So I am learning to apply the HALT acronym to a grief spiral in my own life.
I’ve never understood the *wisdom* in refusing appropriate treatment for what ails you.
Sure, no one wants to take a handful of pills every morning and every night but for some the magic of medicine has given us more years than we’d have otherwise.
But pharmaceuticals aren’t the only kind of medicine out there and if we availed ourselves more often of easy-to-access lifestyle choices and built in better habits we might all be happier and healthier!
It’s so easy to focus on the miles left to travel and forget how far I’ve come.
Life has a habit of reminding me that there are hills yet to climb, emotional hurdles still to come and (the ever looming threat) gray hair, wrinkles and an aging body with which to tackle them.
But every now and then I remember to take stock of just how many miles I’ve already traveled.
I pause, sometimes with pad and paper, and recount the bends, twists, devastating events and challenging circumstances I’ve already navigated (some by the skin of my teeth and ALL by the grace of God!).
Doing that helps my heart hold on to hope.
It helps me take one more step, one more breath, last one more sunrise to sunset. It’s a way of speaking courage to myself when I’m afraid I won’t be able to endure and might give up before I complete my course.
So if you are, like me on some days, feeling undone by long years stretching ahead or a particularly hard season already upon you, may I ask you to think back, to take stock, to answer a few basic questions?
Are you getting up each morning and caring for yourself and/or others?
Are you fulfilling job obligations (if you’re employed outside your home)?
Have you lost a job, changed jobs, found a job, retired or relocated?
Are you sending birthday greetings to friends, family and children or grandchildren (even if they are belated!)?
Have you celebrated important milestones with those you love (even if you cried before, during or after)?
Have you planned a wedding, baby shower, birthday party or other public event?
Do you pay your bills?
Have you resisted the urge to turn to food, alcohol, drugs or any other destructive habit or behavior in an attempt to numb your pain?
Do you take the garbage out?
Have you taken a shower recently?
Are you connected to a faith community/bereaved parent group/small group of some kind?
Are you still married or with a long term partner even though grief may have strained the relationship?
Have you or are you caring for an ailing family member?
Are you buying groceries/preparing meals/or otherwise feeding yourself and others in your household?
Do you practice self-care (exercise, journaling, prayer/meditation, rest and proper nutrition)?
Has your home life shifted significantly (empty nest, boomerang kids, elderly parents moving in)?
Do you/have you addressed health concerns and are you following recommended and prescribed treatments?
Do you maintain contact with those you care about (even with coronavirus limitations)?
Is there at least one thing you pursue that feels like a break from responsibility (reading, a hobby, pets, watching old movies…)?
Then you’ve covered miles, my friend.
You are making progress.
No matter how much is left to travel, you have it in you to make it! ❤
Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.
I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.
And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.
My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words,“He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.
The worst thing I could imagine had come true.
There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THISunbearable pain would be the ONLYunbearable pain I would have to carry.
I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.