Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘loss’

I Need to be Heard

Recently I had the privilege of leading a grief group for a local church. Those in the group experienced all types of losses – some of which they have continued to carry with them for years. Suffering can be the most powerful energy force in the Universe if – and only if – we use it as an instrument for change and process our loss fully.
When we experience any type of loss we question ‘Why me?” Maybe the real question is “Why not me?” Loss comes in so many forms – death, divorce, career and location change, empty nest, medical conditions that alter lifestyle – the list goes on and on – it is something that everyone of us will deal with in our lives. It is an equal opportunity employer. Yet we often remain woefully unprepared to handle the roller coaster of our emotions. We are guided on how to live by family, friends, school and church but rarely helped in learning how to handle loss. What is normal? Will I survive? Will this pain in my heart ever leave?
The average length of time that society gives us to grieve is two to three months and then we are expected to move on. Seriously! We know from research that the deeper our love the deeper our grief. For some it takes years to heal. Yes, we can heal but we will never quite be the same. Loss takes a piece of our heart in it’s wake.
When we try to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ and move on without fully processing our loss it is like eating bad food…anything else that you eat after just doesn’t set quite right. If you find yourself stuck in grief try to find someone out there that you can talk with…the emphasis is on you talking and them listening.
A poem by Leslie Delp published in New Freedom, Pennsylvania basically says it all…

                          

                                        I Need to be Heard
I need to be heard…

Please don’t tell me how YOU feel!

I need to be heard…

Please don’t try to comfort me by telling me, “You’ll be better in time.”

I need to be heard…

Please don’t try to pacify me by trying to ‘top it’ with a hurt of your own.

I need to be heard…

Please don’t look away when I mention that precious name!

I need to be heard…

Can’t there be anger among sadness and misery?

I need to be heard…

Meet me where I am and LISTEN to me…

Until I don’t need to be heard anymore.
‘Just Behind the Door’ is a book I wrote on loss that has offered hundreds of folks hope amidst their sadness. It may be of help in working through grief and is available through Amazon. Another book, Grieving Mindfully by Sameet Kumar helps us breath deeply and mindfully at the times when you need it most. 
Have a great few days!

Be the Change!

Have you ever noticed the immense amount of time, energy and money that people devote in an attempt to make themselves happier, healthier or more or less something? The wealth of books, magazine articles, week-end warrior workshops and therapy sessions available boggles the mind. It seems at least twice a year a new method workshop (usually with a 3 letter title for effect) and a cost of ONLY a few thousand dollars pops up to change your life. Wanting to be in on the latest and greatest thing people then flock to sign up being convinced that they too will experience nirvana. Many of these new approaches tout that they have found the Holy Grail for answers to self improvement and if you just follow their advice or activate the steps in their program you will be effortlessly transformed. This is usually followed up with pictures or videos of people (often celebrities) with smiling faces showing us how perfect their lives have become as they encourage us to follow their example. Not wanting to be left behind we rationalize ….. ‘well, it worked for them’ but did it really? If it were only that easy…

To successfully make a desired life long change requires that we have finally reached a point of not just unhappiness with our present situation but true and complete dissatisfaction with it. In other words it’s like a whole truckload not a small wheelbarrow of dissatisfaction because we know deep down that change is hard and it’s going to require a lot from us. There is no magic wand to make it easy. Only when we accept the fact that we want something so badly that we are willing to put up with the effort to achieve it will we muster the needed strength and follow through to achieve the change we seek. Our thinking begins to change and we no longer accept the existing condition as inevitable but make a conscious decision to recalibrate our thinking, finding a new truth for ourselves to achieve the change we so desire. The real trick is that we have to become sick and tired of being sick and tired before we will actually choose to make a desired change and follow through with it.

Change requires both our emotional and rational mind working together to allow us to understand and accept the why behind the change we want to make and then allow ourselves to feel, visualize and accept why it is warranted. When we have analyzed the why even momentary slip ups are taken in stride. We see and feel the bigger picture and know we will get there. As we begin to see our progress we think to ourselves. ‘I can really do this!’ and it motivates us to continue as greater confidence seems to flow through our veins.

Just think, a new you started when YOU decided, on your own time frame with your own belief, understanding and strength in yourself to do something different with your life. The self help books, workshops or therapy may have served as a motivator or incentive but it was YOU being you that made all the difference. You are both the noun and verb of the mindset and that is powerful!

After we have achieved our goal and arrived at a point of appreciation for the new us we may be tempted to try to convince others of their need to make a similar change (I liken this to a form of proselytizing) but we must remember that timing is everything and that few, if any, people really want to be told what to do. Remember they have not adorned us with the title of Master and Judge in Charge. Yet, through our own attitude and behavior we can serve as a positive example that whatever the mind can believe it can achieve.

Having achieved your desired change, congratulate yourself daily …. you deserve it!

Have a great few days!

Adversity can be a Double Edge Sword!

We all know someone who just seems to experience so much more adversity in life than others. We may think to ourselves if they didn’t have bad luck they wouldn’t have any luck at all. How do they cope with it? How do they continue to put one foot in front of the other and face another day? These individuals can teach us a great deal about compassion and resiliency.

Two studies soon to be published by Dr. David DeSteno and graduate student, Daniel Lim of Northeastern University help us understand the real effects of adversity in a person’s life. We may think that living through adversity would naturally cause a person to be more compassionate but there’s more to it than that. DeSteno says, “Living through hardship doesn’t either warm hearts or harden them; it does both. Having known suffering in life usually heightens the compassion we feel for others, except when the suffering involves specific painful events that we know all too well.”

In the later case it seems our minds can quickly move into a judgment mode. The studies indicate that when we see someone living through an event similar to one we have lived through the natural human response is to downplay the difficulty we had in dealing with our life challenge and think to ourselves, ‘Well, I made it through and they just need to buck up and move on.’ Oh, if it were only that easy.

Each of us has chosen specific life challenges for the lessons involved. We cannot equate or compare one individual’s ability to cope to our own even in similar circumstances. Another way to think about it is that no two dramas are the same because of the human factor. We may have overcome a hardship or life altering event but it doesn’t mean that someone else can heal at the same pace. That’s what the stages of grief teaches us. Everyone has a right to heal and overcome at their own rate and time. Recognizing the needs of the individual and giving them the gift of time and understanding is where compassion comes in.

When we live through the loss of a loved one or experience,moor example, emotional or physical abuse the loss, fear and anger affects each of us in our own way. Some scars are deeper than others and take longer to heal. There is no blueprint to follow for the complex task of healing. Each of us struggles to understand and accept life according to our own strength, tenacity and reserve.

The next time we hear of someone who is experiencing a difficult time coping with an event in their life maybe we could put aside our own life experience, especially our words of advice, and just be there to listen and show we care. The greatest healing energy comes from the power and honor in the human connection.

The pay off to accepting where someone is at and offering an empathetic ear and caring heart is double fold. The person has a shoulder to lean on as they attempt to right themselves after the onslaught of their latest challenge and by bonding with them during a critical time in their life we fuel greater compassion and resiliency in ourselves. Something to think about.

Have a great few days!

Practicing Forgiveness is Good for Your Heart!

In childhood it’s all about self but as we mature into adulthood we begin to understand the importance of being kinder, more forgiving and accepting of others. We start to see the world in shades of grey rather than simply black and white. This week the Pope’s message was to practice ‘peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.’ It seems that integral to doing this is to practice the art of forgiveness.

There is a reason that forgiveness is at the heart of healing. At a recent gathering in Manhattan 400 people were asked if they had difficulty and were not on speaking terms with members of their families. Over two-thirds of the participants raised their hands! Think about how many people are holding on to grudges and surrounding themselves with negative energy – it must be exhausting. Recognizing the importance of the topic, forgiveness is being further studied through the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

There are two common themes within all of this – forgiveness and its challenging cousin – judgment. When we think about an upset between family members or friends it seems to boil down to two things: assuming we hold the trump card on truth (believing that we know how others should feel or behave) and refusing to accept responsibility for any hurt we may have caused them through our practice of judging. Judgment can be felt without any words spoken.

When judgmental attitudes surface those half-hearted apologies of ‘I’m sorry that you’re upset,’ are not examples of respect or love. A true apology is recognizing what we have done that has hurt someone and then being courageous enough to verbalize it to them. In other words it’s about us – our actions – and not their reactions that are at play here.

The good news is that as we practice accepting responsibility for own own behavior we become stronger, more positive and happier people. We begin to realize that we don’t walk in another’s shoes and really have no idea about how difficult it is for them to learn their own life lessons. Maybe – just maybe – they are doing the best they know how at this moment.

Dr. Fritz Perls, the noted German psychoanalyst who emphasized Gestalt Therapy speaks to tolerance and acceptance of others in The Gestalt Prayer:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful…

When I read this prayer I think of a world in which true acceptance of differences is foremost in our thinking and behavior. Peace, tolerance and respect for self and others flows from this mindset. We become more rather than less as human beings.

We are all in a fluid state between independence and interdependence in life. Doesn’t it just make sense to look for the strengths in family and friends rather than focusing on what we perceive as their weaknesses? When we acknowledge their effort we show them that we have faith in their ability to handle difficult situations. We allow them to grow. As we learn to judge less and forgive more the value and significance of touching base or celebrating holidays begins to take on a greater significance. We learn to bring our best selves to the table and treat our family and friends as we would like to be treated.

Over the next few days let’s try to see how we can practice greater forgiveness and allow the Pope’s message of peace, tolerance and respect to take seed in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Are You In a Dependent Relationship?

I have written about the four different types of love that were identified by the Greeks hundreds of years ago (see blog archive 8/16/15). Their point as reiterated by David Brooks in his book, The Social Animal,” was that for love to be everlasting all four types of love need to develop in relationships over time. That makes sense. Once the initial physical attraction is experienced, deep love like the flowering of a rose takes time to tend and nurture to full bloom as it celebrates the individual strengths of each other.

But what happens if the Philemon type of love – the platonic, friendship type of love you have with a best friend seems to be difficult to juggle as you spend more time with your new found love? Let’s first look at what causes two people to become best friends. Shared interests, respect, admiration and concern all rank high on the list of factors.

However, once in a while this type of love can devolve into a needy, unhealthy type of dependent relationship. When you share your excitement about this special person in your life with your best friend and you hear subtle demands that infiltrate into your relationship such as wanting to know when they will see you again it’s time to consider the possibility that this could be a type of co-dependency. Maybe – maybe not – but for sure sharing you is not something they want to do. The label itself is less important than the recognition of the signs involved.

Any dependency is usually rooted in childhood and these individuals often become ‘survivors’ that exhibit fear, anger, pain or shame which was ignored or denied early on in life. These feelings begin to color their world over time since dependency is a learned behavior. The more it is practiced the stronger it becomes. The friendships they develop are more need than mere want but they simply don’t see it since abandonment is a constant issue.

The good news is that by recognizing dependency and learning more about the signs and signals it can be overcome and replaced by confidence and trust in one’s own ability to thrive in future healthy, loving relationships regardless of what happened in childhood.

How do you know if a relationship of dependency exists? Let’s look at some other possible indicators. Is there a pressure to touch base frequently – fearing anger or hurt exhibited from the other person if you are not in constant contact? In reality, best friends can go days, weeks, or months without touching base but still know the other person cares for them and has their best interest at heart.

If you experience feelings of rejection when you spend time with someone other than the dependent friend and it results in pouting, temporary withdrawal or outright anger until they have your attention once again – you can be sure dependency exists.

Other indicators of co-dependent people are their difficulty talking with people in authority, making decisions, handling pressure regarding time frames for completion of tasks, difficulty or even rigidity in adjusting to change, feelings of inadequacy, and an inability to share their feelings – especially with family members. Basically, they have low self-esteem often due to their early upbringing.

If you are involved in this type of relationship at first you may feel a sense of importance by ‘being needed.’ Unfortunately, your attention and constant concern or attempt to do more than your share does not help since this behavior can become compulsive and self-defeating as the reliance increases. In essence, both parties start to develop a view of ‘us against the world’ and the dependency increases.

As stated, the good news is that when the dependency is recognized and steps are taken to readjust the invasive nature of this type of relationship personal growth is experienced by both parties and over time an even higher level of friendship develops. Sometimes it takes a best friend to get their attention and even professional to unearth the need for dependency.

When you really care about another you want the best for them. Moving from dependency to independence is the best gift you can gift yourself and the other person. The Philemon type of love is a critical element in best friends as well as deeper love relationships.

Have a great few days!

What is Your Song?

If you could choose a favorite song – one that speaks to you and transports you elsewhere what would it be? What are the lyrics that resonate in your heart? What melody causes you to stop and listen to the sound causing your toes to tap or your mind to escape for a moment? When you think about it music has the power to change our mood instantly. It has the ability to lighten our mood and put a smile on our face. It has been said that music is a language that is there when normal language is of little use. It’s no wonder that every culture known to man has created their own music.

I remember years ago going to a funeral of a wonderful, gentle spirit who was moving on. She requested that her favorite song be played. The lyrics were written by Lee Ann Womack, the song entitled, ‘I Hope You Dance.’ This song can still stop me in my tracks and momentarily take my breath away as I remember this special person. A few of the lyrics …”Never lose your sense of wonder…never take one single breath for granted…never settle for the path of least resistance…and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…I hope you dance.” This person fought a valiant 10 year struggle with cancer and was totally bed ridden for a least a year before she passed on. Yet through the lyrics of this song she left us with powerful thoughts of hope, humility, bravery and even joy. The song is about the magnificence of life, the importance of love and choosing to face any fear in our life head on, not allowing ourselves to be cowered by it.

I marvel at both the song writers and musicians who through their talent can emotionally transport us to a different space and time. These individuals have a gift that they have honed through hard work and effort. As Malcolm Gladwell has told us to be an expert at something we must put in about 10,000 hours of effort. When a song can take our breath away we know the lyricist and performer has paid their price in personal time and effort. Maybe their purpose for this lifetime was to try and help us along our way.

No one has the power to take away the music in our soul. As Dr. Wayne Dyer reminds us, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” Each of our lives is like a song, partially written and played, still in the creation stage of possibilities. We are all part of the orchestra of life. We can work together in harmony and feel the happiness in our hearts or like the songwriter or performer continue to rehearse, change, adapt our views through trials and life challenges until we finally get it. When things begin to fall into place in our life – our song – just begins to finally feel right. We feel something deep inside …excitement, assurance and at peace that we are following our chosen path and it moves us to our core. At that point we know we are truly living our life purpose and it is grand.

Have a great few days!

Caring is the Key!

Every once in awhile we read a word or sentence that takes our breath away. That’s exactly what happened when Vice President Joe Biden commented at the funeral of his 46 year old son Joseph ‘Beau’ Biden that “a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did.” Humility and recognition of something greater than self were so eloquently spoken by a grieving father and leader in our country. These words in context cause us to exhale slowly as we think about the powerful image that comes to mind.

The Biden family experience with loss started early. The tragic death of Beau’s mother and one year old sister in a car accident that seriously injured both Beau and his brother ‘Hunter’ was the beginning. He served two terms (2006-2015) as Delaware’s Attorney General. Beau’s life ended after a two year battle with brain cancer. Yet, through it all his father said he witnessed “the same integrity, courage and strength that he demonstrated every day of his life.”

We know that through all of the life challenges and losses we experience and all the ‘whys’ left unanswered we are ultimately left with a simple truth, ‘life is as it’s supposed to be.’ It doesn’t ease the pain or soothe the open wound of loss yet we know deep down that this simple truth somehow rings true. Some complete their journey sooner than we would have chosen.

Vice President Biden helped us all to remember our jobs, our calling and purpose in life. As parents we know our greatest success is felt in our hearts when we see the type of children we have been fortunate enough to raise. Our other achievements pale by comparison to the feelings we experience when we see them succeed.

Our legacy, what we have ultimately done to make this world a better place, comes in many forms. For Beau Biden it was dedicating his life to the service of others. For others it may be discovering a cutting edge idea, teaching a child or lending a hand to a fellow traveller. Caring is the key as Biden exemplified.

When we demonstrate love and caring to our children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews we give them immeasurable strength to face the challenges that will naturally surface in their own lives. It’s as if we give them an invisible shot of confidence. Everyone needs to feel valued and to know that their life is important to someone other than themselves. When we believe in someone we give them the emotional support that is needed as they try out their life wings. We stand by eager to encourage them to fly higher than we have ever experienced. We listen to them with our head AND heart as they talk about their hopes and dreams. We are in a privileged position, at just the right angle, to see into their souls as we cheer them on. The Universe then smiles and says back to us, ‘Well done.’

Have a great few days!