Life’s Lessons

Test - permanet

In writing The Value of Testing article, I gained a new perspective of the purpose and benefits of trials. Every day Mark was continually being evaluated physically, mentally and emotionally. The assessments pointed out what abilities he retained and what he needed to relearn. The information directed the doctor and therapists in helping him through the rehabilitation process. The necessary painful and difficult analysis of his capabilities often left both of us feeling discouraged and overwhelmed for what he’d lost.

During this hard time I was going through a personal examination of commitment, faith, endurance and strength. As I reflected on Mark’s and my own trials, it became clear to me that life is continually testing us. Sometimes we feel alone in our trials and wonder why we’re not getting the help we need or the answer from God. However, in the silence and loneliness, we often learn the most. As I remember, a teacher is always quiet during the test. Life is constantly teaching us something if we just pay attention. Through self-evaluation we can learn what areas we excel in and where we need to improve. A few other tips I found on life’s lessons are shown in these images.

Test - Will

Test - Over again

Test - patience

Test - learn

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       Illness teaches me to appreciate good health and prompts me to take better care of myself and those around me.

Suffering teaches me the importance of service and giving relief to others.

Death teaches me to be grateful for life and the love shared with others.

Grief teaches me empathy for others and helps me connect with them on a deeper level.

What lessons have you learned from life?

Life Must Go On

With the tragedy of the car accident and Mark in a coma my life felt like it had stopped. One night Dad drove me to the grocery store to pick up some essential items. It was awkward to be amongst happy and carefree people who were walking up and down the aisles, chatting with another about what they needed to make delicious meals, or what they wanted as a treat. This common environment now seemed outlandish. Weren’t these people aware of the pain and trauma that was so prevalent at the hospital just a block away? I had become used to seeing individuals filled with worry and heartache; it seemed odd to be around healthy and happy people. I felt out of place.

I was grateful our children had school, homework, friends, and activities which kept them busy, yet it was difficult to support all their endeavors. Thankfully, I had family who helped. Near the last day of school there was a party for the children and parents which included dancing. I’ve always loved to dance, but now it took all the strength I could gather and to put a smile on my face a do a line dance with my child.

I bounced back and forth between a world full of tragedy, pain, illness and sorrow at the hospital to another full of pleasure, comfort, good health and happiness at home. I appreciated the reprieve from the hospital, yet it made me uncomfortable. It just didn’t feel right to be away from Mark.

My thirty-second birthday was six weeks after the accident. I wasn’t in the mood for celebrating, but it was a big day despite my feelings. At the hospital, Mark was lifted out of the floatation bed he was in due to a large blood clot in his right leg and strapped into a big white reclining wheelchair for the first time. His eyes were wide open with a terrified looked as they moved him from the bed. I thought he must be frightened by not having control over his body while being moved. He was upright for one hour three separate times that day, which felt like a giant step in the right direction. I even saw him move his fingers while he was sitting up, which brightened my day.

I came home to a kitchen decorated with balloons, cake and happy birthday signs made by the kids. After dinner and cake we were off to Christopher’s first Pinewood Derby Race. My dad had spent hours helping him make his car. I was grateful for the time he took to support and help make this race possible for Christopher. Two days before the accident Mark and I went to the Cub Scout meeting with Christopher where they passed out the pinewood box kit and talked about the race. Mark and Christopher were excited to work on the car together. While driving to Ogden that stormy tragic day, Mark told me all about the cars he’d made as a kid and how he looked forward to helping Christopher with his car. There was no doubt in my mind that Mark was as excited about this Pinewood Derby Race as our son was and the memory of our conversation hung over me like a dark cloud. I knew that if Mark was awake he’d be terribly disappointed he was missing out.

June 1991, Christopher & IExcitement filled the building as parents and children gathered for the big race. Despite the fact I was amongst family and friends, I felt as uncomfortable at the Pinewood Derby Race as I did at the grocery store or the school dance, but I knew life must go on and I didn’t want to deprive our kids of any happiness. I smiled and cheered for Christopher’s car as it zoomed down the track and beat every other car and finally took first place. I was thrilled for him, yet heart-broken for Mark. I watched Christopher get his trophy and we took smiling pictures, yet inside I was crying and I couldn’t help but wonder if Christopher was too. I was delighted that he won, yet grieving for his missing Dad. I felt torn between two different worlds causing opposites in emotions. It was a bitter sweet birthday with milestones happening in both the worlds I was living in. It was also the day I realized that no matter where I was life must go on.

Chris with Grandpa

Chris with Grandpa

Christopher’s winning smile

Christopher recieving 1st place

Receiving 1st place

 

Once again he wins the race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All bragging set aside. The red car wins by a landslide.

All bragging set aside. The red car wins by a landslide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1991 Pinewood Derby  1st place trophy

1991 Pinewood Derby
1st place trophy

My favorite part of the pinewood derby experience is the next time Christopher saw his dad after the race, he took his prize car and trophy to the hospital and gave them to him. The car and trophy stayed on the nightstand next to Mark’s bed during the many months of his next recovery stage at the rehab hospital. When Mark came home from the rehab hospital, I asked Christopher if he wanted to keep the car and trophy in his room now. He said, “No, I gave them to Dad.” To this day, nearly twenty-four years later, the car and trophy are still on the nightstand next to Mark’s bed. This token of love from a remarkable eight-year-old boy is still appreciated and the memory of it will be cherished forever.

 

Twelve Things I’ve Learned About Grief

Keep Moving Forward

Grief is not easily discussed or thought about, yet it is something we all experience. My Sunday post, The Dreaded Phone Calls, caused me to reflect on the grieving process. Twenty-three years ago I had limited experience with grief and I’m still learning about the grieving process. I’ve done some research and realize it’s helpful to know what you’re facing and to know you’re not alone. For that reason I’d like to share what I have learned through my experience and research.

1) Grief is a normal part of life. If you love, it is inevitable and it doesn’t take the death of a loved one for it to come. It can appear with the loss of a job, relationship, and opportunities. A life altering accident or illness will cause one or possibly all three, which compounds the grief.

2) The pain is intense. I was not prepared for the emotional pain level I felt. It far out-weighed the physical pain of a broken collarbone and bruised body. Don’t be surprised when emotional pain manifests itself more severe than any physical pain you have experienced.

3) It takes time to heal. My world as I knew it ended, but life does go on, slowly. A new normal does come. You may be okay one minute, one hour or one day and not the next. Learn to accept what your heart and mind are feeling and work through it. Each of us grieves differently. Some situations and circumstances take longer than others. Be patient with yourself and others.

4) It’s okay to cry. No apology is necessary and you should do it as often as you need without feeling weak or embarrassed. But it’s okay to laugh, too. Don’t feel guilty for feeling positive emotions even when dealing with a loss.

5) Take care of yourself. Do healthy things you love even if you don’t feel like it. Eat healthy and take time to exercise. You may feel like you’re just going through the paces of life. Remember, you are still living and need to take care of yourself.

6) Don’t shut people out. It may appear by doing so you will save yourself from more pain and the self-pride of doing it alone. Most people want to be strong and do things on their own. However, cutting yourself off from relationships or refusing someone’s help can hurt you and others. It’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to need people. Tell friends and family specifically what you need. They will probably thank you for doing so.

7) Grief is a mixture of emotions. I felt despair, numbness, emptiness, guilt, anger, confusion and sadness. These emotions materialized at different times and in different ways. I didn’t like it or want it, but there was no going around it. The only way to get through it is head on.

8) Don’t hide from the pain. If you do, it will fester and grow and consume you. It’s tempting to rationalize, if I don’t think about it, it’ll just go away. While I do believe being busy helps—it’s not an escape from grief. Some people use hobbies, work, relationships or even liquor, sex, drugs, in hopes it will take the pain away. If you are using anything to try to numb the pain, it will make things worse in the long run. Seek help if you’re dealing with the sorrow in unhealthy ways.

9) No one will respond perfectly to your grief. People, even people you love, will let you down. Possibly they are too full with their own grief. Friends you thought would be there won’t be there and people you hardly know will reach out. Be prepared to give others grace. Be prepared to work through hurt and forgiveness at others’ reactions.

10) God will be there for you. Prayer is the gateway of communication with Him. He understands your emotions better than anyone. Your prayers may not be answered the way you want them to be, but without a doubt, He is near to the brokenhearted.

11) You will ask “Why?” If you’re like me, you’ll ask it many times and you may never get an answer. What helps is asking, “How? How can I change and grow from this, how can I become better, how can I embrace others?”

12) Grief changes you. Life will not be normal and routines may need to be different. Try to keep as much structure as possible in your life and minimize the amount of change. Grieving takes most, if not all, of your strength. Do not worry if you don’t have as much energy as you did before your loss. Don’t feel guilty about doing less. Realize anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, places, objects and people may all trigger memories surrounding your loss. Be prepared for a gush of grief during these times. The process of grieving makes a person change who they are emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is okay to change. Embrace the change rather than fight it.

What things have you learned about grief that you wish you’d known before your loss?

Resources:

“What To Know About Grief” by Kelly Baltzell M.A. & Karin Baltzell Ph.D                                “15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief” by Teryn O’Brien

 

Time for Reflections

IMG_2032_Cropped

Christopher, Jen, Katie, Eldin
Mark and Barbara – 2013

The hustle and bustle of Christmas is over. Now my thoughts turn to the New Year. Eager for new beginning, I’m filled with hope for a successful year. My goals are similar to last year’s with renewed faith that I can do better.

As I reflect on this past year, I did not reach my goals—I’m still not punctual; I’m still over weight, and I did not write the book I’d planned. It’s remarkable I don’t give up on these goals. I must truly believe that I have not failed until I quit trying. Life is interesting and rarely goes the way I planned. However, I do believe setting goals, is the strongest force for self-motivation.

Although I did not reach my goals, there were small victories, pointing me in the right direction. I did take a writing class to improve my writing skills, January through May and I did get two chapters written and edited. I also joined the American Night Writers Association, and I’m a part of the Salt Lake Storytellers Chapter. I have learned a lot about writing and publishing, and I realize I have a lot more to learn. I have put my book goal aside for now to concentrate on my blog and writing technique. Some time in the future, I plan to use my blog articles to help me complete my book.

Another victory, not on my goal list, was keeping up with my job as an account manager for Earthwork Property Management. I have deadlines for specific tasks for my job, and do not think of them as goals, but I’m relieved every time I meet the deadline—especially this past summer, while Mark was hospitalized twice for blood clots. He also became very weak and was released from the hospital only to be admitted to a rehab center for three weeks in August. This consumed much time and energy. Most of the hours in a day were spent by Mark’s side, but I was still able to achieve the important tasks of work. As I look back on those months, I should have felt more pleased at the accomplishment of meeting each deadline instead of just relieved.

The only known cause for these blood clots is Mark’s inability to be active. He did receive eight weeks of home health therapy after returning from the rehab center but now, it’s all up to me to make sure he gets the exercise he needs. To prevent more blood clots, he takes an anticoagulant. This affects his diet which requires better meal planning on my part. More exercise and planned meals is an important goal for 2014 improved health.

Goals take work and constant planning. When life keeps messing up plans, it’s discouraging and easy to think, why make plans? I don’t plan for seizures, illness, accidents or hardships, but they still happen.

I agree with Harvey Mackay, who said, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” I don’t want to waste time on regret, or become discouraged over the major goal not accomplished. Instead I should recognize the minor victories. This new year, I plan to break down my goals into obtainable pieces and allow myself to feel joy for every small success.

While striving to reach goals I want to remember—faith, family and friends come first. It may take longer to accomplish the goal when putting them first, but they are most important and make all goals worthwhile.

I’m so grateful for new beginnings which encourage me to recommit to another year of self-improvement.