Grief Work: Learning to Manage Stress

It would be so helpful if there was an app to track stress like there is to track spending.

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to get an alert that said, “Low Balance”, for mental, physical and psychological reserves like the one you can get for your bank account right before you are heading to overdraft territory?

But there isn’t.

And few of us are very good at gauging just how much is left in our mental wellness accounts which means we often keep giving when the well is more than dry.

Read the rest here: How Stress Impacts Grief

Grief Work: Physical Manifestations of Grief

Grief is not *just* feelings. It is so much more.

Often there are random or unusual physical symptoms that show up days, weeks or even years after a child has gone to Heaven.

An important and necessary part of grief work is learning to recognize the physical manifestations of grief and advocating for care from professionals who may not be able to make the connection unless the bereaved speak up and speak out.

❤ Melanie

It’s a well known fact that stress plays a role in many health conditions.  

And I think most of us would agree that child loss is one of (if not THE) most stressful events a heart might endure.  

So it’s unsurprising that bereaved parents find themselves battling a variety of physical problems in the wake of burying a child.  

Read the rest here: Physical Manifestations of Grief

If You Think You Can’t Hold On, It’s OK to Let Go

This has been an odd (to put it mildly) Christmas season. I haven’t done half of what I normally do and now there’s no time to catch up and do it.

I’ve been off balance since the first of November, hanging on by the seat of my pants and just barely managing the necessities.

So I really, really, really needed to read what I wrote several years ago.

Back then there was no chance I’d produce a full-fledged, decked out spread for Christmas. But I’ve gotten better at it since.

Just not this year. So if you are falling behind or falling down, you’re not alone! 

❤ Melanie

So many ways to be reminded of how hard it is to hold on in these days and weeks around Christmas.

If your heart is barely able to beat, the pressure to be “hap-hap-happy” can send you over the edge.

If your home is empty of cheerful voices, the constant barrage of commercials touting family togetherness can leave you feeling oh, so lonely.

Early sunsets and darker nights send feel-good hormones flying and leave a body aching for just a little relief from anxious and depressing thoughts.

SadGirlBeach

When you think you can’t hold on, let go.  

Read the rest here: When You Think You Can’t Hold On

Christmas 2022: Why, Oh Why, is Christmas So Hard???

I first shared this a few years ago when I really thought I should have reached a place in my grief journey where holidays weren’t as difficult as they were at first.

But what I realized then and what has been confirmed since is that every year has new and unique situations that make Christmas a fresh challenge each time.

❤ Melanie

As the ninth Christmas without Dominic rapidly approaches, I am pondering the question:  “Why, oh why, is Christmas so hard?” 

I think I’ve figured out at least a few reasons why.

Read the rest here: Why, Oh Why, is Christmas So Hard???

Child Loss Doesn’t Have to Doom Your Marriage

A few decades ago, faulty research methods made popular an inaccurate statistic that a disproportionate number of marriages fail after a couple experiences child loss.

Like many urban legends, once fixed in the minds of many, it’s nearly impossible to dislodge.  

And that is more than unfortunate because when marriages falter (and they often do) after child loss, lots of people just give up because they think failure is inevitable.

But it’s not. 

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Can My Marriage Survive?

How Stress Impacts Grief

It would be so helpful if there was an app to track stress like there is to track spending.

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to get an alert that said, “Low Balance”, for mental, physical and psychological reserves like the one you can get for your bank account right before you are heading to overdraft territory?

But there isn’t.

And few of us are very good at gauging just how much is left in our mental wellness accounts which means we often keep giving when the well is more than dry.

I’d be lying if I said I spend the same amount of time crying, lamenting and bent over in agonizing pain that I did in the early days of mourning Dominic. I’ve found a way to keep him close, to trust his soul to Jesus and to (largely) live in the present instead of always longing for the past.

There are days, though…

Some days are easy to anticipate-birthdays, holidays, the awful anniversary of his leaving-and some sneak up on me. I can often trace my overwhelming sadness to a specific trigger or memory dug up in a drawer or found in a pile of photos.

Occasionally, I have a horrible weepy day for no discernable reason.

That’s when I walk my heart back through recent events and always come to the same conclusion-I’ve let myself run dry:

  • I’ve overcommitted.
  • I’ve not planned rest.
  • I’ve had hard pain days.
  • There’s been family drama.
  • Someone I love is sick.
  • I’m sick.
  • A deadline looms large.
  • There’s some major unpredictability going on.
  • I’ve counseled too many people without enough time to regain my own emotional stores.
  • I’m not sleeping well.
  • I’m doing too much and not listening to my body.

What I’ve come to understand is that stress is a HUGE impact on my grief and how I experience it.

I won’t patronize folks reading this with a simplistic (but wholly unhelpful!) suggestion to “reduce or avoid stress”.

For heaven’s sake! If we could do that with a snap of our fingers we would hardly need someone to tell us to take advantage of that solution.

Truth is, stress is often largely outside our control.

But there ARE some things I can make choices about. So I do. I look ahead at the calendar and note upcoming milestone days. I plug in doctor’s appointments, birthdays and holidays. I review every invitation to celebrations or lunch in light of what is already inked in.

I’ve learned to be honest with folks about my limitations and send a card or gift through the mail if I can’t be there in person. I sometimes suggest an alternative date and time if the one a friend offers just doesn’t work for me. I stand firm in my opinion that “no” is a complete sentence and as long as I’m kind and gracious it is not incumbent upon me to offer an explanation for why I’m turning down an invitation.

And if I have an unexpectedly hard day-from grief or activity or because of my RA-I drop back the next day to allow time to recuperate and rest (if at all possible).

The reality is that child loss means there is ALWAYS a certain low-level hum of stress in my life.

Adding to that already higher-than-average stress means it’s easy for me to be tipped into unhealthy territory.

Crying is only the tip of the iceberg.

Health problems, heart problems, relationship issues and other long-term consequences often result.

It’s not only OK for me to set boundaries to protect my health and my heart,

It’s absolutely, positively the right thing to do.

It’s OK-Yell, Scream and Throw Things!! (Just Not at People)

A mom who is also coming up on her season of sorrow this spring wrote that she felt like screaming and throwing things.

I get it.

And because I live in the middle of the woods, far from neighbors or nosy passers-by, I’ve done it.

Read the rest here: Go Ahead-Yell, Scream and Throw Things!

Please Accept My Apologies

I used to be a lot better at answering every single comment on the blog, on Facebook pages and in closed groups.

I’m not keeping up at all these days.

And I am very sorry for that!

A recent private message reminded me that some folks may think a lack of response is disapproval or rejection. That made me very sad so I want to set the record straight.

These past few months have been…different.

And challenging.

And topsy-turvy.

My husband retired-which is a good thing. But for the past several years he was working out of town so not only am I adjusting to his being home every day, I’m adjusting to his being home at all.

We’ve worked out a schedule that accommodates his night owl habits and my farm girl hours so that’s going well.

The pandemic, wintry weather and the holidays have dampened my spirits a bit so motivation is a factor.

My recent hospital stay, wrist pain and realization that my hands are simply not going to get better make typing more difficult.

All that to say this: I’m really sorry for not being more attentive, more timely and more responsive to comments. I read every. single. one.

I’m going to try hard to catch up.

If you feel overlooked or are ever concerned there’s something else going on besides my own preoccupation, lack of diligence or oversight, PLEASE message me!

I never, ever want a single heart to feel sad or abandoned because of something I do or don’t do.

I promise you are important to me.

Grief’s Physical Toll

I don’t know about you but my face and my body tell the tale.

It’s a story of stress and strife and it’s not pretty.

I look at photos before and after and see grief written all over the pictures taken since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

There’s an old saying in the South when you see someone who looks exhausted and unwell: “She’s been rode hard and put up wet.” My horse loving friends will get it right away.

For the rest of you this is what it means: When a horse is ridden hard or worked long, it sweats. The kind and appropriate thing to do is to walk the animal until it dries off and then stable it. Doing so means the horse’s muscles have time to recover from the exertion and helps prevent injury or lameness. If a horse is repeatedly “rode hard and put up wet” it begins to show in her performance, resilience and ultimately, in longevity.

Living with child loss is definitely a hard slog through difficult terrain.

While my burden is not nearly as hard to carry TODAY as it was in the beginning (six years ago) it still adds significant resistance and requires more effort when doing everyday tasks or facing new challenges.

And I rarely have the ability or capacity to treat myself to a “cool down” period because my to do list is long and the days seem short. Life just doesn’t let up.

It has taken a physical toll.

I tire more easily-physically, emotionally and mentally. I am less resistant to illness. My chronic disease has progressed more in these six years despite aggressive treatment than the decade previous to Dom’s leaving. I don’t handle change well. I am more prone to call it quits, give up and give in when things get tough instead of powering through. I have a drastically shortened attention span. It’s hard to remember details and words-I write things down so I won’t forget. The lines in my face have deepened and multiplied. Sometimes getting out of bed is the bravest thing I do all day.

I could list at least a dozen more ways grief impacts my body but you get the idea.

Dealing With Physical Grief Symptoms Whats your Grief

Grief isn’t *just* an emotional response to loss.

It’s physical too.

So if you are noticing your body doesn’t act like it used to, you’re not alone.

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Physical Manifestations of Grief

Grief is not *just* feelings. It is so much more.

I shared this last year around this time in response to many, many comments and questions from bereaved parents about what felt like random or unusual physical manifestations of their own grief.

I hope it helps another heart navigate this life none of us would choose.

It’s a well known fact that stress plays a role in many health conditions.  

And I think most of us would agree that child loss is one of (if not THE) most stressful events a heart might endure.  

So it’s unsurprising that bereaved parents find themselves battling a variety of physical problems in the wake of burying a child.  

Read the rest here: Bereaved Parents Month Post: Physical Manifestations of Grief

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