Is it True?

We have an experience. It’s often quite personal, especially when it pertains to grief. Thinking or sharing about our experience is telling our story. This matters so very much! Sharing our story helps us to process. Important stuff.

Is our story true? By that I mean to ask; are we sure that we have all of the facts straight?

Some months ago someone that I like and respect asked me to participate in something that was powerfully meaningful to me. I quickly responded via email with an excited ‘Yes, count me in!’ And then I heard nothing more. Crickets… I sent another email to the same address which had initiated the offer and again I received no response.

And I began telling myself a story. It went something like this.

Oh boy, I guess she really didn’t want me after all. Hmmmmm, maybe it was something that I said last time we met. Perhaps others included found me to be objectionable in some way.

On and on I went. The story grew in my head and I felt sad. In truth I felt very hurt. This person, someone that I really like must not like me after all. I felt rejected. I asked myself why they would invite me at all if they were going to ignore me. Why wouldn’t they simply reach out and tell me we were not a good fit. It must be because I am not worthy. I am less than. I am not enough. In my head this was all true. And it hurt like the dickens.

Then one day I thought about the question that my clients know they will be asked when presenting a similar story. How did I know that my story was true? Had I taken any steps to confirm the facts? Nope.

Yes, I had responded to the same email address from which the invitation originated, but I’m well aware that email can often have problems.

The next step was to contact her in another way. I received a very swift response! Not only did she still want me to participate, she had been very disappointed when she did not receive the expected response from me. My email went to her spam account, so she had never seen it. Situation cleared up and we went on to cooperate with one another on this project.

Now I should know better than to take thoughts and make them true without verification. Having said that, it’s a very normal, human thing to do. I found myself laughing about this more than once because knowing what we should do does not always mean that we do what we should.

When a heart is broken by grief, it can be very easy to slip into our story of neglect or abuse. Believing that we are unloved or uncared for can feel as though it’s true when we have not heard from someone. When we misinterpret something that is said – or not said. Or any number of other situations.

I ask you to question your own story. So very often when we are hurting the most, we can forget that others have a life separate from our anguish. They may try to reach out and perhaps we are not receptive in that moment. So many things hurt. Misunderstandings happen easily.

Please be gentle with yourself and with those who care about you. Ask them to be patient as well. To repeat things or write them down. Take the steps you need to be sure that your story is true. It matters. You too are human and we are all doing the very best that we can.

And please remember, each story of grief begins and ends with love.  This I absolutely believe to be true.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

 

 

Q&A series: How do I explain to my Children?

Helping Children Grieve – Children and teens of all ages feel the loss of someone important in their lives. See how you can model handling grief and provide age-appropriate activities designed to help you communicate. Take back the time you have with your children. Most of these ideas are tech-free. Easy and inexpensive, they will bring healing to the whole family. 

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If someone significant in your child’s life dies, it is important to realize that children grieve differently than adults. How we help them depends, in large part, on the age of the child. It might be a parent or grandparent loss, another family member or even the death of a friend or classmate. No matter how young or how old a child or teenager is, the loss will be felt, and there are ways to help.

Tell your child what he or she can understand. Honesty is the best policy here because often classmates or adults will mention something within a child’s hearing that is shocking news. Babies and toddlers may just need extra hugs, for while they will miss the person who died, they are too young to understand what death means. Children do not need explicit details or lengthy conversations. This article, “10 Questions Children Ask about Death and Dying” may help you prepare.

The news is best given by the person who is closest to the child. Calm explanations for a loved one’s absence may need to be repeated at different times, always with reassurances that the child is loved and will be taken care of. Hugs and continuing support for all ages will help, but some older children or teens may prefer to talk to friends, write in a journal or connect with other kids going through the same emotions. (See Kidsaid link below.) Give your child time, and let them know you are there whenever you are needed.

Modeling ways to handle grief yourself can go far in teaching children and teens that it is okay to cry, okay to play, okay to take care of self. Follow these suggestions yourself. Find support, and make sure you have private time when you need it. It’s fine to let activities continue if your child wants to participate. If you need more time before resuming your normal routine, ask a trusted friend for help in getting your child to school, birthday parties or sports activities.

You and your family can get through this time of grief and mourning. Your life has changed with the loss of someone dear to you, but you will become stronger as time goes on. You will be able to face the challenges ahead.

Here are a few resources:
The Dougy Center (The National Center for Grieving Children and Families)
www.dougycenter.org

Childmind (Coping with a Parent’s Suicide; also teacher and Spanish resources)
www.childmind.org

​Kidsaid.com (from GriefNet.org and a place where kids can get support and interact with each other)
http://www.kidsaid.com/index.html

Jan McDaniel creates projects for survivors of traumatic loss through Way For Hope. A former journalist and educator, Jan never expected her personal grief to lead to writing about suicide for people all over the world, but that is exactly what happened. Her greatest tragedy became a hope-filled mission to help others through the devastation that follows this kind of traumatic loss.

Sometimes We Need to Sit in the Mud

A very wise woman I know very gently reminds others, ‘Sometimes you just need to spend time sitting in the mud’.

And I believe she’s absolutely right.

When you have a heart that is grieving, you may not even realize how very exhausted you are at the end of each day… or even right after waking. Grief is very hard work!

Time out matters.

While we often think that we need to get things done, even having a to-do list, a very important part of healing a grieving heart is allowing time and opportunity to simply be in the now. To truly feeeeeeeel all of those emotions at whatever level they are in the moment.

Release judgment. There is no right or wrong to your feelings. They simply are a measurement, an indicator of where you are right now.

What might this look like? It could mean a day curled up in bed for some. Perhaps listening to music, sleeping, crying or reminiscing. It might be time spent on the couch watching shows or movies that take us back to cherished time spent with the one we are missing. Perhaps a nice warm bath nourishing your body.

Find what works for you. This is not about movement or work; this is about feeling and allowing your heart to express itself.

And here’s a little secret for you. While this may feel as though you are doing nothing at all, you are in fact accomplishing quite a lot. It’s important to fully feel and acknowledge all feelings in order for them to begin healing.

Spend some time sitting in the mud. As you rest your body, your heart and your soul be assured that healing is happening deep within. This is a very important part of the healing journey.

Namaste,
Sandy

When we Grieve a Pet

Are you a pet lover? If you’ve ever considered a horse, guinea pig, dog, cat or any animal your friend or even family then you well understand the special bond and steadfast love that exists between you and this amazing being.

So why is it that so many are surprised at the grief that sets in when we have to say good-bye?

I hear those who are grieving say things like ‘I understand she was just a dog.’ and it’s often followed with tearful, loving honesty ‘She knew me, she was my best friend.’ And there it is, that loving bond that can be so hard to explain if you are not someone who has ever been close to a beloved pet.

It’s alright if you don’t understand that bond, that absolute unconditional love that people talk about when they go on and on about these companions that are so much more than pets. Maybe you’re not an animal person, that’s alright.

What I ask, is that we remember love comes in all sorts of shapes and forms. It may not be something that we understand or it might be completely clear to us. Grief is the result of someone or something that is cherished ending. Perhaps that companion had to be re-homed, or it may be that they died. Regardless, there has been a parting and it just plain hurts.

Recently, I’ve known a few people who had to say good-bye to their four-legged family members. I will tell you without a doubt, that there was heartbreak in their voices and love in their eyes as they talked about how they will miss their friends.

If you are grieving a pet, please know that your heart deserves the same support and kindness that should accompany any loss. If you care about someone who has had to say good-bye to one of these special relationships, please be gentle and patient. Let the person you care about talk about their pet, show you pictures, and yes, let them cry. Be there for them because it matters.

Namaste,
Sandy

Q&A What about guilt and blame?

It doesn’t matter how the news comes or exactly how a loved one died, questions surrounding guilt and blame can creep into a survivor’s mind, sometimes returning again and again.

Did I cause this to happen? Could I have prevented it? What would have made a difference?

It is human nature to look for reasons, cause and effect, and others to blame. Even when we know why (automobile accident, cancer, heart disease), our thoughts can tumble toward guilt or blame aimed directly at ourselves or others … and away from the harsh reality of the loss itself.

When the “why” question is not as clear, as in traumatic loss to suicide, these feelings can be magnified, yet there are things we can do to understand why we feel this way and how we can calm these thoughts.

Find support. Get professional help. Remember that you did not have complete control.

We are only human. Trying to help a loved one through extreme challenges is not something love alone can manage. Even mental health experts are blindsided at times and cannot predict suicide with reliability.

Perhaps you had no idea that your loved one was struggling. Connect with others who share similar experiences. People who are further along on this journey will have valuable insights to share. They will listen without tiring.

Every day, millions of people remember precious loved ones they have lost this way. Don’t let the undeserved stigma that sometimes surrounds suicide keep you in isolation.

You are not alone.

Jan’s “Battling Guilt and Regret fact sheet” includes definitions, resources, actionable steps and journal prompts to help you deal with these issues. For even more resources, visit Way For Hope – Resources

Jan McDaniel creates projects for survivors of traumatic loss through Way For Hope. A former journalist and educator, Jan never expected her personal grief to lead to writing about suicide for people all over the world, but that is exactly what happened. Her greatest tragedy became a hope-filled mission to help others through the devastation that follows this kind of traumatic loss.

Reiki and Healing Grief

I’m grateful to say Reiki has been a part of my life for a very long time.

I’ve called upon Reiki for day to day stress relief, for myself and others. Reiki has been there when my dog began having strokes as a young boxer of only 4 years old. I felt the energy radiate and I was able to watch him come back in a way that still leaves me amazed. And of course, I’ve been privileged to work with clients to release and heal.

This healing energy is often considered an alternative modality. But I will tell you quite frankly, for me, I call on Reiki first. Because it can never harm, I trust Reiki to support me through headaches, worries or injuries. And that’s just what it does.

If you are unfamiliar with Reiki, let me tell you a bit about what a session will be like when we work together. If you are receiving the session in person, you will likely lie down on a massage table. Wear comfortable clothing because you are fully clothed at all times.  There will be relaxing music playing, at the level you prefer. Your job is to simply close your eyes and relax. While you are laying on the table, I will spend the next 60 minutes moving around you. If I have your permission to touch you, I will gently lay my hands on you. If you prefer not to be touched, be assured the energy flows just as well. In that case, I would simply hold my hands above your body. We generally touch because humans crave the touch of other humans, but this is very individual. At the end of the hour, I will gently call you back to full wakefulness. You can share your thoughts and feelings if you like, but it is not necessary. This is entirely up to you.

Reiki has also been something that has played a strong role in healing grief for me and others. I will always be grateful to the Reiki practitioner who worked with me when my son died and also so grateful that I could send this energy myself. This gentle energy has helped to release pent up stress, worry, emotions that seemed blocked. After a Reiki session, it just seems that everything flows more easily.

It’s important to remember, that Reiki supports us to release what no longer serves us and to heal in whatever way we are ready for in that moment. There have been times when someone has got up from my Reiki table and poured out their heart, often surprising themselves. Be assured, anything shared is completely confidential. This is cleansing, healing and completely natural.

Other times, they might feel a deepening calm or peace. Really, it’s about what is right for the person receiving the energy. Reiki. I encourage you to consider adding this gentle treatment to your self-care regimen.

Namaste,
Sandy

Q&A: How do I honor my loved one?

At some point along the journey through grief, survivors often begin to find ways to honor the lives of the ones they lost. This is one of the ways to form a new connection with them, to share the love that was known and that still continues. This is also one of the ways to reconnect with life.

Honoring or memorializing what someone meant to you can be as simple as lighting a candle during a time of remembrance, perhaps with family and friends, perhaps alone. Taking time like this is a beautiful way to remember the good times. And it can be done anytime.

You may choose a more formal or permanent memorial. A beautiful stone marker for a grave site, a scholarship in a loved one’s name, or a foundation that carries forward work that was important to the lost one. There are many options and, if you think about these things, there is one that is just right for you.

All of these ideas and more are appropriate and can bring healing into the lives of those left behind. But there is one thing that everyone can do. Finding a way to live your best life possible reflects the impact your loved one’s life (and death) had on you. Helping others in some way or taking care of yourself and your family, getting up each day and sharing hope are things that would make your loved one proud.

Whatever you decide, there will be a time when choosing a life of meaning and purpose has healing benefits. Do not be discouraged if you have not experienced this feeling or these benefits yet. This journey is long, and sometimes healing seems impossible. That just means you are not yet where you are going to go. You have not yet processed the tragedy that came into your life. Keep going.

As I have heard survivors say, “The future is unwritten.”

Jan McDaniel creates projects for survivors of traumatic loss through Way For Hope. A former journalist and educator, Jan never expected her personal grief to lead to writing about suicide for people all over the world, but that is exactly what happened. Her greatest tragedy became a hope-filled mission to help others through the devastation that follows this kind of traumatic loss.