|Publisher:||Chicago Review Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
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Living with Loss, One Day at a Time
By Rachel Blythe Kodanaz
Fulcrum PublishingCopyright © 2013 Rachel Kodanaz
All rights reserved.
Beginning the Journey
You have lost a loved one, and your grief journey is just beginning. The funeral is over, those around you have resumed their daily lives, and your new life without your loved one has just begun.
Where do you begin the journey? With you!
Start with the essentials of life — taking care of yourself and your health. The better you feel, the better you will operate. Make it a priority to eat well, sleep regularly, exercise often, and let those who love you care for you. Accepting a helping hand will allow you to take care of yourself. Embrace food others have brought over; allow someone to empty your dishwasher or bathe your children.
At times you may not have the desire to eat — so find something to nibble on. Take a walk around the block or at least walk out the door for some fresh air.
Today, it is about you.
If We Had Never Loved, We Would Not Need to Grieve
Early in my days of grieving the untimely death of my husband, someone said to me, "Isn't it great that you are grieving?" Of course, I wanted to walk away after telling him what I thought of his insensitive comment, but before I could, he continued to explain. He said, "Grief is not the result of having experienced loss, it is the result of having experienced love!"
As I pondered his interpretation of grief, I felt he summarized it very well. I would not have exchanged my time with my husband, even though I thought the pain in my heart would never stop. It really meant that I had loved and was loved in return.
No matter what our relationship was with our loved one, the loss can be so overwhelming that we lose sight of the love and only feel the pain. In the end, aren't we fortunate to have loved these people so dearly that with their passing there is an emotional and physical void?
As you journey through your loss, continue to remind yourself that the pain you experience is in direct proportion to loving someone and being loved back. Even if the life was taken too soon, you still had the opportunity to embrace love.
Find Someone to "Think" for You
Navigating the early days of grief is often challenging, and you are often too emotional to "think," as you walk around in a fog. You barely remember if you ate, changed the baby's diaper, fed the dog, returned a phone call, or even whether you took a shower.
If possible, during the early days of your loss, find someone who can "think" for you. While you might interpret the idea as not being able to engage in the simple tasks of the day, in reality, having someone to help you will provide strength, allowing you the ability to accomplish those simple tasks.
Find the special person you feel comfortable enough with to make decisions for you without having to burden you with questions. This is someone who can predict your needs before you can. Let this person figure out if there is enough food in the refrigerator. Is there toilet paper? Is today trash day? Someone who can keep track of bereavement gifts, return phone calls, and run interference with all the tasks being thrown at you that you are not ready to tackle.
Most likely the right person will come to you before you know you have the need. Embrace this person and let him or her help you.
A few years ago, I attended the funeral of an eighteen-year-old who had been attending his freshman year of college. As I listened to his father share a eulogy with hundreds of attendees, he used a phrase that I will never forget: "unspeakable grief."
I listened to his words while watching the sadness in his face as he shared his story at the podium that cold winter morning. He taught me a great lesson of the meaning of unspeakable grief. One cannot speak when there are no words to truly articulate the feeling of overwhelming sadness, the inability to comprehend the loss, and the continual search each day for the will to carry on.
We will survive, and while we may not be able to speak in words, we are speaking — in love, loss, and the desire to remember.
You Held Their Hand
As we search for answers following the death of a loved one, we often wish the end were different.
For those who experienced a sudden death, we are torn between not having been able to say good-bye and being thankful that our loved one did not suffer. For those who experienced a slower death, we are thankful for the days and weeks during which we were able to share emotional thoughts.
Whether your loss was a sudden death or a long illness, you held your loved one's hands for the last time and said good-bye. May the love you shared triumph over the pain and bring you comfort for time you had together.
Two Tiers of Grievers
Why, after a loss, do we connect with some friends or family members and not others? A simple explanation — there are two tiers of grievers:
First-tier grievers are those who are grieving the loss of someone special.
Second-tier grievers are those who are grieving for the griever.
When I lost my husband, I found a direct connection to his family, as we were all first-tier grievers — grieving the loss of their son and brother and my husband. I considered my sisters to be second-tier grievers; even though they lost their brother-in-law, their grief was directed toward me.
This is a concept I discovered years into my grief journey, and in hindsight it was helpful to know why I clung to some people and not others. Bottom line — I emotionally related to them.
Tell Your Story
Everyone has a story, but yours is unique to you. Embrace it and share it!
Tell it a thousand times.
As you share, listen to yourself as you speak:
Embrace the love.
Embrace the loss.
Embrace the sadness.
Feel all the emotions.
Share the story with pictures.
Keep telling your story — people will keep listening!
Don't Worry, as They Already Knew
Regret is often a common form of sorrow after we lose a loved one. If only we had told our loved ones what we were thinking or what was troubling us. We can spend days, months, and years wishing we had one more chance to share our thoughts. Instead, we can just know in our hearts that they already knew what we were thinking.
Regret is an emotional reaction to past acts and behaviors — usually linked to sadness, embarrassment, or guilt. You cannot change the past after the death of a loved one, so do not feel remorse, but instead, look forward.
To help you move from regret to "we lived our lives to the fullest," remember that your loved one knew you better than you could have imagined, and they knew you loved them.
Love Never Dies
Your loved one has passed away, but the love you shared has not died. The memories you created, the connection you built together, and your affection toward one another will live forever.
Embrace the love and cherish the memories, as they will always be a part of you and remain in your heart.
Anticipatory grief is a reaction that occurs before an imminent loss, with emotional feelings of anxiety, dread, guilt, helplessness, and the constant feeling of being overwhelmed.
For those of you who have been caring for someone who was ill, you probably wrote the script for what would happen after your loved one passed. You visualized making the phone calls, planning the funeral, and defining the timeline of your grief journey. In your mind you had plenty of time to prepare. However, the true realization is that all the planning in the world could not ease the pain of the loss or what would come next.
Anticipating the loss of a loved one does not mean your grief journey has begun earlier. In fact, anticipatory loss is often two grief journeys: the first starts from the time you receive the diagnosis and the second from the time of the actual death. No matter how hard you plan, you cannot predict your emotions or how you would react to the loss.
For those of you who are now embarking on your second grief journey, take the lessons from your anticipatory grief and apply what you have learned.
Why Have I Not Found Strength in My Religion?
Mad at God. This is not an uncommon reaction to the loss. How could this happen? How could you lose your loved ones? How can they be in a better place? What better place is there in the world than being right here with me?
It's okay to get angry with God. Just take one step at a time. As we try to find comfort with the loss, we often turn to religion for the answers. As we all know, typically there are more questions than answers. For those who can find strength in their religion, it will be very helpful. For those who have lost faith, it may not be forever. Just be patient and know that it is normal to distance yourself from your faith for as long as you need to.
Continue to revisit the notion of support from your religion, and embrace it when you are ready.
Take a Deep Breath
Take a deep breath — it calms the mind!
Have you ever really let out a good sigh? One that you feel from head to toe?
Let's try it together. Find a quiet place in your home or office, or simply step outside.
Clear your mind.
Take a huge breath in.
Hold if for a bit.
And exhale with a sigh.
As you feel the air flowing through your lungs and into your core, think warm thoughts of someone special, a memory, or a future event.
Try it again!
Is What I Am Feeling Normal?
While grief is a natural and normal response to a loss, the journey will vary based on the individuals and their circumstances. Grief can feel intense and complex. We will all experience grief at some point in our lives and might experience similar phases or stages, but the timeline will differ based on the person who has passed away, our relationship with the person, the type of death, family ties, and our individual coping mechanisms.
So, what is normal? Everything you are feeling is normal, as it is your reaction to the loss. Most grievers will experience several aspects of grief:
Please remember, though, that these feelings don't occur in the same way or in the same order for any two people. Your response is based on your unique circumstances of the loss of a loved one. You are not going crazy — your reaction is normal!
A Soothing Cup of Tea
What is it about a cup of tea that can soothe you when you are sick, relax you after a hard day at work, and warm you on a cold winter's day? The combination of tea leaves and hot water creates a cup of rest and relaxation.
Specifically, tea leaves contain seven hundred chemicals, including amino acids that reduce mental and physical stress. In addition, consumption of tea is known to calm you, while allowing you to remain focused and alert.
Whether you prefer herbal, black, or green tea, enjoy a cup of warmth to help you get through today.
Do One Thing at a Time
Experiencing grief often takes the logic out of our daily thoughts. We often try to do too much, resulting in disappointment and discouragement. One "logical" solution: to avoid being overwhelmed, try not to multitask.
Create a list of what you need to accomplish, getting it out of your mind and onto paper. This will allow you to clear your thoughts. Prioritize the list, decide what is important, delegate if possible, and work your way down the list, feeling good about your accomplishments. Finish one task at a time, focusing on completion and accuracy.
Rome was not built in a day, nor does your list need to be accomplished in one. Simply do the best you can.
Clichés of Grief
Some of us experience hurtful comments from friends and family as they search for ways to help ease our pain. The remarks are usually said with the best of intentions but are misunderstood by the griever as insensitive.
People are not mean spirited; they just don't know what to say. As a griever, please try to filter out the "hurtful" gestures and interpret them as love and caring.
Pictures of Your Loved One
Why is it that some grievers can look at pictures of their loved ones and find warmth, while others need to place them face down on the table to avoid looking at them? For certain grievers, the pain of seeing a picture is too heartbreaking, while others receive comfort by looking at and sharing photos as if their loved one is still alive.
Immediately following a sudden death, looking at pictures can create anger and other negative emotions. Often I am asked, "When does this change, and instead of sadness, I will cherish the photos?" Usually, once the shock has worn off and you begin to digest that the loss really has occurred, you find comfort in gazing into the eyes of your loved one.
Find Your Comfort Food
We all have comfort foods that make us feel better. There is something about a chocolate candy bar that makes us feel relaxed or an ice-cream cone that makes us feel refreshed.
There are so many categories of comfort food. For some, eating right provides comfort, as the griever is less lethargic. For others, reaching into the cookie jar will console their emotions. Some feel having a full stomach will help them fall asleep. Anything in moderation will be helpful for the immediate "high" the food has to offer. As your journey proceeds, your comfort foods will change along the way.
What is your comfort food?
Schedule a Realistic Day
What was once realistic to accomplish in one day may have changed for you since your loss. Before you plan your day, think about what really needs to be accomplished.
First, tackle the have-tos — those tasks that must be done, including taking care of yourself, your children, and your parents, as well as going to work, light housekeeping, and family commitments. Once you have successfully completed those tasks, attempt your prioritized list of responsibilities. Only attempt the items you can juggle with your day, including returning a phone call, going to the grocery store, reading the unopened mail, or sending a thank-you note.
Each day as you feel stronger, add additional tasks to your list. Be sure to pace yourself, as feeling overwhelmed only increases your anxiety.
Back to Normal
Following the funeral, people around you often expect you to resume life as it was before the loss. Their expectation is that you will be back to normal and exist as if nothing has happened.
But for many of you, following the funeral means you now need to clean out your parent's home, distributing the belongings to siblings and family members, followed by selling the property. For those of you who have lost a spouse, you will have to complete paperwork, organize personal belongings, and determine financial needs, while caring for your children.
The funeral is only the first step after the loss — then comes adjusting to your new life, which has changed forever.
While you find your "new normal" and resume your new life, let others around you adapt to that normal.
Every grief book I have ever read suggests not making any major decisions in the early days of grief. This mainly refers to selling a house, quitting a job, moving to a different state, or cleaning out the closets. The advice makes sense, as your journey is just beginning, and your emotions and outlook on life will change during the course of your recovery.
Do go ahead and make the minor decisions that are important to you and your family. Often following a loss, we flounder and are overwhelmed when making decisions — even if they are small — such as taking time off from work, going on a vacation, meeting a friend for a cocktail, painting the house, or buying a much-needed new car.
Try not to question yourself about whether the decision is good or bad, right or wrong — just decide!
Excerpted from Living with Loss, One Day at a Time by Rachel Blythe Kodanaz. Copyright © 2013 Rachel Kodanaz. Excerpted by permission of Fulcrum Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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