Losses come in all sizes, shapes, and forms.
You may have lost your spouse, your child or other beloved family member or friend. Sometimes, it happens with the normal progression of age.
Sometimes it is with the unexpected telephone call bearing bad news, or a spouse’s request for a divorce. It might be the loss of your job or the discovery that the symptoms of discomfort you have been having is due to cancer or other degenerative diseases.
Even though each loss is different in some way, there is a commonality between them; something of great importance has been taken away that had purpose and meaning to you.
How do we move past them? How do we rise above them? How do we grieve them?
There are many books on the market that talk about grief and loss. But grieving is more than just walking through the pain of sorrow in those early days and months. It is more than coming to terms with the unexpected and uncertainty about the future. It involves a transition from what was to what is now. It is answering the question, I knew who I was before, but who am I today?
Once upon a time, a package was delivered to a young woman. When she opened it, her eyes blazed and she became very angry. Although she was infuriated over receiving this parcel, nevertheless she picked it up and took it with her.
Soon other packages arrived and she had to get a larger bag to put them in so she could carry them.
Every morning she dutifully picked up her bag and took it with her wherever she went: on the bus to work and when she met the girls for coffee or a glass of wine. It went with her to family gatherings and remained on her back as she fixed meals, cleaned house and did the laundry. Every once in awhile, she would receive another unwelcome and unwanted package which she stuffed in the bag with the others. It began to get heavier and heavier.
There were moments when she laid her bag down – times when she went for a walk outdoors and enjoyed the beauty of trees and flowers or walked the beach where water gently lapped around her ankles. At such moments, she felt free and alive. She could enjoy the sun and the sweet pungent smells of earth or clean salt air.
Writing about our stories helps us not only to see what happened from a new perspective but our role in the outcome. It also gives us the opportunity to take away nuggets of learning and wisdom.
Yet, there were things that happened that you might find difficult to let go of – that continue to spark your anger. You still feel betrayed and taken advantage of. Forgiveness is out of the question as far as you are concerned and you are not ready to acknowledge any participation on your part in events gone awry.
Resentments continue to burn deep within your soul and spirit and an internal dialogue repeats “I have a right to feel angry and bitter. I was taken advantage of and made to feel stupid. If I simply accept and let it go, won’t I be admitting that I really am a fool? How can I come to terms with all that?
Life Experiences will be both good and bad
We will experience events in life that take advantage of our goodwill, our desire to get along and be a good neighbor. There will be tragedies associated with someone else’s hate or lack of responsibility or careless actions that leave us crippled or disabled in some way. There will be achievements thwarted; losses too deep to speak about. There will be many things that cannot be changed: the death of a spouse, the loss of your marriage, addiction, loss of health or finances; and the loss of support and care in your declining years.
Last week I suggested going back to your roots to complete old stories, heal old wounds and bring a new understanding to your life today.
While it can be painful, it is also very therapeutic.
Within your story of life there are many little stories, hidden like gems in the wall of your memory. They often get overlooked because we only see the vastness of boring, mediocre or unpleasant experiences.
Sit back in your easy chair and reflect for a moment on all the experiences you have had. Which ones were exciting? Which ones were humdrum or monotonous? Which ones would you flee from without a moment’s hesitation? Which ones would you love to go back, dig deeper and learn more?
Within the raw stories of our lives are life-altering moments; things that affected us profoundly but have been forgotten. There might have been “Ah-ha” moments or some “Ouch” moments when you learned a deeper truth about yourself, but then simply stashed it away in the closet of your mind. There are treasures waiting to be uncovered, dusted off and enjoyed.
If you wanted to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren that portrayed what life was like for you both growing up and as an adult, what would you say? What important and life changing events and people would be in your stories? What funny tales would you share? Just thinking about them makes you laugh out loud.
In putting together a speech I am giving this week to a group of writers on writing memoirs, I was reminded again on how important it is to take time, go back and explore our past. We have so many stories to tell – stories that only we can tell – in our voice and as we experienced them.
Writing your own story is powerful and gives voice to what you have lived – it allows you to be heard. Clarity comes as you begin to write. It is a way to gather your thoughts clearly and coherently to piece together all your experiences, re-examine events objectively, and come to terms with life altering change.
Reflecting and writing gives us the opportunity to grieve old losses, heal old wounds and put to rest difficult memories.
As you write, identify your strengths and abilities. It will help you gain a greater appreciation of yourself and others. When we can accept and celebrate all the parts of our life’s journey – the good, the bad and the ugly – we are able to integrate them into a new whole that has balance, grace and compassion.
We live in a time of rapid change. Adjusting to that change requires self-confidence in our ability to rise to the level of new demands. While technology can be helpful, it can also add to our stress levels as we try to adjust to the accelerating pace associated with rapid change.
It is a good time to ask yourself what things from your past have been helpful and how can I use them again? Our past influences the choices we make today. Taking time to reflect and explore our roots can help separate the negative from the positive.
What messages did you hear growing up? Were they hurtful or encouraging? How did the events and people in your past help “shape” and “mold” you into the person you are today? Reflection gives us the opportunity to consider how those growing up experiences continue to influence the choices we make today.
January is the time of year when we think about making new year’s resolutions. New goals are made because we want to improve our life in some way. We begin with good intentions but often do not have enough resolve.
Goal setting often fails because they are made without careful thought and planning.
If we do not take into consideration how they will impact family, work, relationships or finances, we can easily get discouraged and abandon them.
When goals are too general, we don’t follow through because the end result is too far in the future and we haven’t put in place reasonable steps to reach that end result.
While finishing the last touches of decorating, buying and wrapping presents, we might experience feelings of sadness and depression instead of happiness.
My last blog spoke to how losses can impact our Christmas. Those losses include pets that were a major part of our families.
It isn’t just recent losses that can influence our feelings.Holidays remind us of magical childhood moments when we were spellbound over lights and the promise of unwrapping that special present we wanted more than anything.
But holidays also remind us of strained relationships, broken promises and a past filled with pain and disappointment. It can remind us of a childhood where the dreams of a happy family were constantly shattered.
When painful emotions from the past surface, we often medicate ourselves with drugs or alcohol or endless shopping sprees to dull the ache. We lose ourselves in parties so we don’t have to feel. But deep inside a tiny voice pleads, “I am tired of running away and feeling sad. I want to feel peace and happiness. I want to experience that childlike wonder of expectation and anticipation this Christmas.”
Christmas – a time of presents, giving, receiving, concerts and singing. Most of us slip into the season without giving it a second thought.
But for those who have suffered a loss, it can be a time of renewed pain and sadness as we greet the season without our loved one. Sometimes it is disease that is slowly taking away a person we love.
Those losses include our pets, as well, as anyone who is a pet owner can attest to. They are a part of our families too.
Earlier this year I invited Deb Kalmbach, a writer friend, author and speaker if she would be a guest blogger. She had written a book about the escapades of her Jack Russell Terrier, entitled “Kosmo’s Christmas Delivery” (available on Amazon.com) and I had asked if she would write a guest blog for my website about what we can learn from our pets.
She shared the following blog which was posted on her website and she asked if I could re-post it on my website.She recently lost her beloved dog and her blog speaks to love of her pet and the pain felt of his death.
Thanksgiving is over, the beautiful fall colors have been replaced with red and green and twinkling lights. We have entered a new season, the season of Christ’s birth.
The namesake of this holiday is so often forgotten, pushed aside or replaced by a jolly old man in a red suit, congested malls and holiday specials you can’t afford to miss.
We are bombarded with ringing bells asking for donations, food bank requests and impersonal checks made out to special organizations.
But wait – Christmas is more than mulled wine or eggnog flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon. It is more than concerts and festivities and Christmas shopping.