Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘stages of grief’

It Takes Courage!

There have been many examples world wide of people who have demonstrated such courage in their lives and have changed the world for the better. Maya Angelou, one of these people, passed away this week. She not only changed herself but the world with her acts of courage. She said that courage is the most important virtue a person can possess because it relies on our ability to be consistent in our views of ourselves and others. It draws the line of what can be tolerated and what cannot. Deciding what constitutes our own ‘line in the sand’ involves many things especially courage.

Courage can be as simple as knowing when to speak up and when to sit down, when to lean in and when to lean back. When we think about the millions of times and events in our lives that require us to choose action or inaction it can be a bit overwhelming. What is stabling, however, is realizing that the golden thread of courage from our life experiences is woven into every fiber of our being and exists to help us know when and where to draw our own lines.

We may not all have the heady experiences of changing the world but we can change ourselves in significant ways by having the courage to grow and expand our own comfort zone and be a model to others.

Any change in our lives involves both fear and courage. Then why change, why rock the boat you might ask? When there is less meaning, security or excitement in what you are doing and you feel that tomorrow will just be a repeat of today a gentle nudge of dissatisfaction is beginning to encompass you. That’s your intuition telling you to change – to have the courage to believe in yourself and your own survival skills enough to do something about it. Muster up the courage to follow your own heart and turn the page, start the next chapter in your life. Everyone has insecurities about change. That’s called being human. It is how long we allow ourselves to stay stuck in the familiar, known as The Waiting Place, that can sap our enthusiasm for life. We have heard of people who say they wish they could do … (fill in the blank) but are waiting for the perfect time, the perfect opportunity, the perfect reason. Guess what? There is no such thing. Waiting is often just an excuse that allows the fears of the unknown, the future, to be manifested in us today. That fear keeps us locked into our familiar, maybe even predictable or restricting place in life.

How sad it would be to reflect back on our lives at 85 or so and think to ourselves, ‘If only I would have …’ Decide today to use your courage to expand your comfort zone and experience more of life. The issue may be big or small – it really doesn’t matter because each time you decide to be courageous enough to change something in your life you are putting another chit in your bucket of strength, fortitude and belief in yourself. Maybe it’s as simple as changing your route to work so you can see a new landscape, or volunteering for a non-profit or even deciding to retire after a lifetime of work. Whatever it is if you have been thinking about it, your intuition is telling you the time is right to do something.

Alan Cohen said it best, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new, but there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.

What can you do this week that involves change and takes courage? Do it, practice the feelings of risk (don’t worry it doesn’t last) and become stronger and more sure of yourself daily as your life expands and grows. When you become that 85 year old reflecting back on your life you can think to yourself, as a wise, knowing smile spreads across your face, ‘I didn’t just take up space, I lived life! I grabbed life by the horns and rode it for all it was worth!’ Yes, you may have a few bumps and bruises to prove it but nobody, I mean nobody, can take away the thrill of the experience and the feeling of confidence you gained on the journey.

Have a great few days!

Helping Others Through Change and Loss

The depth of a cut is directly related to the length of time it takes to heal – and so it is with loss in our lives. Loss comes in so many varieties. The loss of a child, a loved one, a beloved pet, a job, security, our health and even changes in our living arrangements are just a few examples of life changing experiences that involve loss – the letting go of the familiar and moving into unseen territory. Most often we don’t ask for this change and are dumbstruck when it appears in our life. We question ourselves, ‘What could I have done differently to prevent this from happening?’ The truth is…nothing…’All is as it should be’ as difficult as that sounds, I know it to be truth.

For many loss is debilitating. They want to know the what, how, and whys regarding the loss. By seeking more information they hope to discover a hidden nugget that will help them reach a deeper understanding and feel somewhat more in control. There are times, however, that trying to unearth more facts just delays the healing process. When folks are unable to move through the stages of grief or change and mentally demand that things be what they once were we need to be there for them.

It may take a lifetime to wrestle with and finally resolve the changes that have happened to you in your life. You may think to yourself, ‘Life is not fair.’ I get it, I have been there with the loss of my son. I can tell you that given enough time and a desire to heal, heal you will – one small step at a time. Your loved one would want you to heal by remembering the good times and the love that you shared.

The losses in our life are meant to teach us something. The challenge is to discover what the lesson is for you and only you can figure it out. What is the absolute most difficult thing you are dealing with in your mind regarding the loss or change? Discovering our lessons and then actually learning them takes a lifetime. There is no short cut in the journey. We do need to remember to be kind to ourselves along the way.

The importance of finding someone you can talk to cannot be overstated. Think of it this way, if you were bleeding profusely you would need someone to help you stop the flow. Well, in dealing with the tragic loss of a loved one, for instance, you are bleeding profusely – it’s just on the inside – and not as easy to stop the flow. You may need help along the way. Be brave enough to seek help and remember, when the student is ready the teacher comes along.

Talking to a good friend, family member or mental health professional is a positive way to start digging yourself out of the emotional abyss that can result from a loss. Verbalizing your feelings, getting the anger and denial out is like putting a soothing ointment on a cut. It will still take time to heal but the process will be less painful along the way.

If you know of someone who has experienced a loss or change recently and are having difficulty working through it please be there for them. Often they will not ask but will receive your emotional support as if it were a lifeline thrown out to them in choppy waters. They will be forever grateful. We can all make it through this life if we just hold on to each other and know that when life seems the darkest there is always someone who will come into our life to help light the way to our tomorrows.

Be that light, that friend, that loved one who steps up and says, ‘I’m here for you – for now and for always.’ You’ll be glad you did!

Have a great few days!

Listening to Others

What makes us emotionally richer and deeper as human beings is when we try to walk in the shoes of another and search for a point of understanding rather than judgment. John Lennon wrote a song entitled, ‘Mother.’ It was not a particularly popular ballad but I would challenge you to listen to it. Simply google his name and songs to hear it in its’ entirety. It is a song of deep longing and the gut wrenching grief he felt even as an adult by not having a mother or father that was there for him during his short life. ‘You had me…I didn’t have you… I wanted you…You didn’t want me. Mama don’t go…Daddy come home.’ When we hear his name, thoughts of success, talent, even a lifestyle of the rich and famous come to mind. But how many of us realize that inside his heart he was as raw as any of us due to his early experiences.

Most of us are blessed with at least one parent if not two who offered unconditional love. So it is difficult-or nearly impossible to understand the feelings of those who have not been loved with heart and soul. Yet, there are so many walking wounded who struggle in life due to traumatic early experiences. They are waiting, hoping for a smile or even a kind word as they face the challenges of life with a hole in their heart from a deep seated loss.

When we consciously take the time to try to even marginally understand the struggle of others it just causes us to be a bit more gentle, a tad more understanding and more aware that none of us gets through life unscathed. We have all chosen our path to learn unique lessons – as painful as they may be.

Loss comes in so many different forms. Not having a parent figure or significant other in our life can cause us to experience the same stages of grief that others do when they lose a loved one through death. If you listen to the lyrics of Lennon’s song and hear the emotional pleading in his voice, you can better empathize with those who have feelings of abandonment and loss. The heart of this talented song writer and performer remained raw even after years of living what most would label a highly successful life. Some losses are just like that – forever deeply embedded in the cells of our being. Sometimes we just need someone to take the time to recognize our sorrow. It allows us to regroup and move on. At other times, we find it impossible to completely move on but we still need others to hear, to care and to offer us a hand on our life journey.

As we evolve as human beings we realize the importance of feeling gratitude for each other and gratitude for each day. We recognize the importance of judging less and caring more. We remember that everyone has a story and that through greater patience and understanding we can make a difference in our world.

Have a great few days!

Irreplaceable Loss

Around the world we are watching the effects of the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. To date, 24 people have lost their lives. Natural disasters are frighteningly unpredictable and may cause us to feel uncertain, vulnerable even fearful of tomorrow.

We don’t understand why things of this magnitude happen and why one life is spared and another lost. What can we do to regain our emotional balance and continue on with our lives? Of equal importance, what can we do to help others?

Many times contributing to a reputable assistance fund to aid the victims allows us to feel that we are doing something, however small, to offer a measure of comfort and support. Possessions can, over time, be replaced and are merely things, commodities that seemed important at a point in our lives.

The irreplaceable loss, of course, are the human lives. The deaths of those 24 people will leave a gaping hole in the hearts of their family members who must face tomorrow without them. For those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one, we know the lives of those left behind will be changed forever. We also remember the importance of taking the time to connect with someone who has experienced a loss. We need not worry about what to say for words, oftentimes, are unnecessary. Our energy and concern for the grieving soul can offer strength to them. Simply listening to them as they talk about their loved one can be a lifeline. It helps keep their loved ones alive in their minds as they talk about them and remember….

Every person grieves on their own timeframe. What we do know is that the stages of grief are painfully predictable. Denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance are real emotional hurdles – mountains even, that we must overcome when we have lost a loved one. It will take a great deal of time before the survivors will be able to first crawl, then more slowly stand and regain their footing. Initially, they may question what they could have or should have done to prevent their loved ones’ death. Over time, they arrive at an acceptance that they were powerless to prevent the loss and, as cruel as it may sound, “All is as it should be.” They will never forget their loved one that is physically gone but will gradually begin to rely on the loving memories as salve for their wounded hearts. Losing a loved one has a way of humbling all of us – bringing us to our knees with gut wrenching pain.

Eventually, loss causes us to reexamine the importance of our priorities in life and we place greater value on our relationships with friends and family. Whatever moments we have left become even more purposeful and significant.

Let’s remember the adage, ‘Live each moment to the fullest.’ As witnessed in Moore, tomorrow is shockingly, painfully uncertain. The only thing we do have for certain is this moment – right here – right now in which to make a difference.

Thanks for reading!

The Importance of Tenacity

Roger Ebert, THE film critic, author and first journalist (of three) to win a Pulitzer Prize passed away on Friday after a long battle with cancer. When he lost his voice to the disease he found a way to ‘keep on keeping on’ his work and became an avid social media user on both Facebook and Twitter. He refused to give up simply because his voice was gone along with part of his jaw. Although he could not eat or drink as we do, he found sustenance in other ways. Communicating to his nearly 600,000 followers was too important a task to walk away from – tenacity – he had it in spades. He created the now familiar thumbs up sign which became a trademark used by he and his fellow critic Gene Siskel who died in 1999. Demonstrating his passion for connecting with others, he posted his last blog on Wednesday, two days before his death.

What an impact he had on this world! Michael Moore credited him with his own success when he enthusiastically endorsed Moore’s first movie, ‘Roger and Me.’ The integrity of Ebert’s message was felt by both the large film industry as well as the small independent film producers. Movies should stand for something, make an impact and deliver a message along the way.

The tremendous success he experienced came from his honesty, hard work and passion for his field. He believed that the significance of films was in how they could sensitize us to go where we had never been in our minds. He encouraged us to stretch our sensibilities and walk in another person’s shoes during the 90 minutes of a well made movie. His reviews were never ‘bought or sold’ to the highest bidder. If he gave the thumbs up sign, you knew the price of the theatre ticket would be money well spent. He was a person who lived his truth in service to others and just happened to love his job along the way!

During his battle with cancer some people told him he was a brave inspiration. Shunning the accolade he replied that “courage and bravery have little to do with it. You play the cards you are dealt.” He did not want praise or pity but to simply be allowed to keep on going and apply his steely determination to contribute to our views for tomorrow.

Reflecting on death he wrote in 2010 that he did not fear it because he “didn’t believe there was anything on the other side to fear. I was perfectly content before I was born and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”

He lived life to the fullest and made an impact along the way. I wish him well on his journey. Tonight when we gaze up at the sky we might see a star flickering a little more brightly than the rest. It may be Roger Ebert telling us he has arrived and to keep on going regardless of our challenges and to remember to enjoy the ride as we give it everything we’ve got to make the world a little better place. ‘Roger on that…’

Have a great few days!

Take Time to Reconnect

Who have you given a compliment to lately or listened to with both your head and heart as they were sharing a concern? Sounds like a trick question doesn’t it? It’s not meant to be, but it is meant to get us all thinking about our need to pass on a ‘thumbs up, I care about you or thank you’ kind of communique.

We seem to be living at light speed. Trying to get more and more done yet we look at our list for tomorrow and it seems longer than today’s. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. And yet…there is always a nagging thought about someone you meant to thank or someone you meant to reconnect with but the time just slipped away. Maybe tomorrow…maybe…but who knows if tomorrow will ever come. Something to think about and act upon when the thought comes to us.

The lyrics to the song, The Living Years, by Mike & The Mechanics reflect on the feelings of missed opportunities to communicate and understand what our loved ones are saying. A few of the lines are:

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got
You say you just don’t see it
He says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defense
So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts

The refrain, You can listen as well as you hear… I just wish I could have told him in the living years.

Some of us believe you can still communicate with our loved ones after they have passed on. I have had too many experiences that I shared in my book, Just Behind the Door, to question that reality. However, it is still important to remember that a missed opportunity is just that – missed- in never being able to do it again in that same way or same time.

Maybe each of us could set a goal to take 5 minutes over the next few days and reconnect with someone that we have been thinking about lately. Who knows we might have a new perspective from the connection and bring a little joy into both lives.

Have a great few days!

Verbalizing your Feelings

Every once in a while I read something that just touches my heart and seems to beg to be shared. Finding a trusted family member or friend to talk to can lightened your load and make tomorrow a little easier. The following has been written by Devorah Zolotarev a gifted poet. I have taken the liberty to shorten it by not repeating all of the stanzas. The message in her writing remains intact – the importance of trusting yourself and others enough to verbalize your true feelings.

If I would let myself tell you
Where I’ve come and gone
How far I have run
Where I now stand
You could tell me you understand

If I would let myself tell you
About my hidden, darkened fears
My struggles through the years
My joy of breaking through
Then maybe you could help me
Continue what I do

If I would let myself tell you
Of the battles in my heart
What shatters me apart
How fragile I can be
Then maybe you could help me
Escape and just be free

If I would let myself tell you
Why I struggle with each word
How I’m scared of being heard
That I wish I could let go
Then maybe you could help me
Because then you would know

If I would let myself tell you
Than all this could disappear
Then you’d see me crystal clear
Then at least my tears would flow
Just maybe, maybe now
I’ll allow you to know

Have a great few days!