Nurturing Relationships

Humans are social beings and no one is totally self-sufficient. As much as we strive to be independent and admire those who appear to be, it’s sobering to realize in order to accomplish some things we need help. When I read, listen or ponder on my own or other’s life experiences, I realized how much we need one another to succeed. As humbling as the fact is, it also encourages me to reach out and give back to others.

Greg & Laura LakeGreg and Laura are wonderful examples of giving back to others. They shared their story with us this past week. Laura talked about some of the mistakes she’d made by saying, “I am fiercely independent and a stubborn woman. In the beginning I turned family and friends away. I said, ‘don’t fly up here, I’m fine’. Then, ‘we don’t need meals, I’ve got this covered.’”

“By turning help down, I alienated the very people Greg and I needed the most. I felt neglected, isolated, abandoned, ignored, lonely, unsupported, disrespected and misunderstood. When I needed family and friends the most, they were all gone.”

How often do we turn away our friends and family because we don’t know how to accept help or because we want to appear stronger than we really are? It’s much more enjoyable to give rather than receive help. When our lives are out of control, it’s scary and we hope we can make it better by managing things on our own. We may not understand ourselves what we need or how others can help so we push the people we want in our lives away.

The words of John Donne (1572-1631) a Jacobean poet and preacher came to mind, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

When tragedy happens it’s hard to think about how it’s affecting our family and friends. We may be so wrapped up in our own worry and grief we are blind to the distress it has on others. They may feel left out or don’t know what to do or say.  They may not know how to help if we’re not open and honest with them.

I appreciated Laura’s advice to let people into our lives by letting them help and also by reaching out to others. She said, “It will reward you and them at a time when they are lost as well.  It will strengthen your relationships, not erode them.  You need help – take it!  They need to help!  Give them the opportunity! I challenge you to SAY YES! Learn from our mistakes and say YES!  YES I need help.  YES I could use that dinner.  YES I would love to join that group or club!  YES I could use a ride to my Dr.’s office or therapy appointment.  YES I would love to go on a walk, or to have you push me while you go on a walk.  Take a chance on making a new friend or rebuilding a relationship. As you do, opportunities, love and warmth will envelope you and your human relationships will grow!”

Get Well CardsI learn so much from others and appreciate my own life experiences. Today, in church, I witnessed many people nurturing their relationship with my mother, who has been too sick with back and hip pain to attend church for four months. Under better health circumstances, she has given so much love and service and is a great example to me of building friendships by reaching out to others. Our neighbors and friends ask me often how she is doing and I try to relay their concern to her. Since we live in the same home and attend the same church, I was given many cards to give to her expressing their love and concern. The children also made a big get well poster for her and wrote notes and signed it in their primary class. My mother’s spirit Get Well Primaryis raised up by the thoughtfulness of so many. Seeing the love that others have for my mother also lifted my spirit. I’m grateful for all the wonderful examples I see and have felt in my own life of nurturing relationships. Today, I realized it can be as simple as writing a note to someone.

 

In your life what personal acts illustrate nurturing a relationship? What effect did it have on you when you were receiving or giving the nurturing?

20 Things to Know About Grief

lifegoesonIn the journey of life I suppose everyone has felt like they’ve come to a screeching halt at some time or another. It’s part of the grieving process. In my article Life Must Go On, I recalled three common, everyday events which after the accident became tough to do. I felt awkward and strange, even around family and friends. Despite my shattered life, I could see that life was going on. It seemed odd that most people were unaware of my grief and pain. I knew I had to move forward regardless of my sorrow and the best reason to do so was for my children.

Can anyone prepare for grief? I don’t know, but I sure wasn’t prepared for it. What I do know is that it will come in all of our lives and sometimes when we least expect it. I found this list of things to know about grief very accurate to what I experienced. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone.

  1. Your grief will take longer than most people think.
  2. Your grief will take more energy than you would have ever imagined.
  3. Your grief will involve many changes.
  4. Your grief will show itself in all parts of your life: physical, social, and emotional.
  5. You will grieve the loss of many things, not just the death or change alone.
  6. You will grieve for what you have lost in the present and for what you have lost for the future.
  7. Your grief will involve mourning not only for the actual person, but also for all the hopes, dreams and unfulfilled expectations you had for/and with that person, along with needs that will go unmet because of the death or change.
  8. Your grief will involve a wide variety and combination of feelings and reactions such as anger, sadness, loneliness, irritability, frustration, annoyance, or intolerance.
  9. Your loss will bring out old issues, feelings and unresolved conflicts from the past.
  10. You will have a sense of loss of identity as the result of this major loss and you will experience reactions and feelings that are new and different for you.
  11. You may feel anger and/or guilt, or some variation of these emotions.
  12. You may have a lack of self-concern or interest in things going on around you.
  13. You may experience a grief burst, a sudden burst of feeling that hits you without warning.
  14. You may have trouble thinking, concentrating, and/or making decisions.
  15. You may feel like you are going crazy.
  16. You may search for meaning for why this happened.
  17. You may question your religion and or definition of life.
  18. You may find yourself acting socially in ways that are different from before.
  19. Society will have unrealistic expectations about your grief journey and may respond inappropriately to you.
  20. Certain experiences later in life may temporarily bring back your grief such as certain dates, events, sounds, smells, sights, and/or memories that remind you of your loss.

http://www.unitypoint.org/homecare/filesimages/THINGS%20YOU%20SHOULD%20KNOW%20ABOUT%20GRIEF.pdf

Life Must Go On

As I came to terms with my own grief, I learned this – life must and will go on, with or without you. Choose to be apart of it. Each day is precious and relationships need to be treasured. If you’re grieving, keep moving forward one step at a time. You can and will move out of the dark and will see a colorful life again.

Please share your tips on grieving or what kept you going during your time of grief.

Anticipating the New Year

As a child, December was a long month of anticipation and wonder. The excitement in the air nearly took my breath away. I felt gloomy when the Christmas season and school break came to an end. The thought of having to wait another twelve long months or 365 days to feel that kind of joy and excitement was dreadful. Many Christmas’s have come and gone and the month no longer brings a school break, in fact it’s just the opposite.

As an adult, December can feel like a month of endurance. At work it’s a month of year-end bookkeeping and preparations for the new year. It would be a busy month all on its own, but throw in Christmas and all the beautiful decorations, sounds of terrific music, pleasure of parties, delicious baking and delightful shopping because everything is on sale. It’s no wonder we feel exhausted, overwhelmed and often get sick.

Forgive yourself

At the end of the year I always suffer with melancholy. As a child, it was because the Christmas season and break was coming to an end, as an adult it’s because I remember the year’s resolutions I didn’t achieve and other unfulfilled expectations. I’m plagued with wondering how I can better plan for the new year and actually complete my goals.

Don't Compare

 

I commit the sin to often  of comparing myself to others and what they have accomplished. I question why I can’t do better. The antidote to melancholy is optimism and I’m giving myself a healthy dose of it over the next week as I prepare for a new year, new beginnings and a better me.

Give ThanksA change of heart occurs when I reflect on the blessing of family, friends and experiences of the past year with grateful heart. When I’m thankful I find peace with my life and my relationships. This is what December and every other month should feel like—joy, peace, gratitude and goodwill to all mankind. If you are reading this, I thank you for being a part of my life’s journey.

I’d like to share with you my plans for the new year. In the past, Uniting Caregivers has had three categories: Sunday Stories, Tuesday Tips and Thursday Thoughts. I’ve decided to drop the day and have  categories of Stories, Tips and Thoughts. I still plan on posting three times a week, but without the days listed two stories may be posted in a week or two tips, or two thoughts depending on the inspiration that week. If a guest author has written two parts to their story it could be posted simultaneously on a Sunday and then on Tuesday. At least one inspirational story will be posted every week and the follow up tip may be shorter than in the past.

 

 

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

 

Live and Learn

Live and learn

Several years ago my sister Rosanne said, “I often hear the phrase ‘you live and learn’, well I’m tired of learning, I want to start living!”

We laughed and the memory of the conversation still makes me smile. We were both raising children at the time, and learning all sorts of things we didn’t ever expect to learn. It’s one of those conversations etched in my memory that brings sisters or friends close as they share experiences.

It’s true sometimes we don’t get to choose what we learn. As a caregiver, often I have thought I didn’t sign up for this course, or I don’t want to know about this. There’s a certain amount of responsibility that comes from knowledge, so sometimes I think, ignorance is bliss!

In reality, it’s the unknown which causes fear. Whether it’s about a disease, injury, grief, or even raising children, the more we learn about it, the better we can handle it and usually it then becomes less dreadful. Knowledge gives us opportunity to improve and cope better. Knowledge makes us useful and compassionate. It’s the key to understanding others as well as ourselves. Knowledge makes a difference in how we live.

Because we’re always learning, we change through our experience and knowledge, therefore our relationships change. Some get better, some seem to stagnate and some come to an end. My experience is that every relationship, no matter how long it lasts, serves a purpose. Some teach us to be better than we are. Some show us what we don’t want to be, while others remind us just how blessed we truly are. Some keep pushing us forward helping us become what we are meant to be. Every relationship teaches us something. Don’t regret those that end for they were worth the effort if you grew from the relationship.

Untraveled journey

So when you get a course you didn’t sign up for or have a relationship that changed or ended, look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow.