The Grief Diaries – From This Side of Grief – #Depression – A Silent Killer

I don’t wish to sound like a broken record sharing my moments of grief here, but besides the fact that writing about it somehow eases the weight of my grief, I know that there are plenty of us out there who are living it and may feel an ounce of comfort or kinship with these posts. And also, undoubtedly, everyone has lost a loved one, or ultimately, will, so my thoughts here may become beneficial to others somewhere down the road. This is why I’ll soon be starting my podcast on Grief – The Real Talk, for exactly these reasons.

But know this God honest truth – not five minutes of any day since the day my husband left me here, goes by that I’m not thinking of him or speaking to him. That man was woven into my soul, and not thinking of him would be like forgetting half of my body or forgetting to put on clothes. But today, I figured it was time to share more of my thoughts here in what I like to call my Grief Diaries series. In this series I’ve been discussing thoughts and/or moments that strike hard, baring my soul so to speak, but sharing not just because I need a place to vent, but sharing my realizations in hopes of spreading awareness.

Let me start by saying that this post might seem a little dark, but grief isn’t a sunny topic. And let me also state that this post isn’t me crying out for help, but more for recognition for the so many in this sometimes dark world who can’t summon their voice. Yes, I am one of grief’s victims, and I have been working diligently with books, videos, spirit and meditations since I lost my husband so that I can try and learn how to dig my own self out of the darkness that reigns because if I want to survive and find life again I must find the life boat back to the light. It’s a difficult thing to do one’s self, but I have spent my whole life since childhood ‘finding a way’ to get through adversity. I share my struggle on this journey, and I am not ashamed to admit it. But there are the so many out there who may not be able to search for or find their strength to want to go on, no matter what their traumatic issue is.

I’m a strong woman. I built myself up that way throughout my life. I’m strong-willed and minded, but I will tell you honestly, this grieving business is a Goliath of a beast. I know what it has taken from me and can tell you, it’s not difficult to see how the weaker sometimes can’t pull through. So I felt that besides letting off a little personal steam in this post, that once again, I wanted to spread the awareness to others and want to speak up for those who may have family going through some tough times who choose not to speak about their pain, so that family may clue in.

What sparked my wanting to share this post came from my scanning through a book of material I’ve written in draft to put into a book on my grief. I am suddenly getting inspired to read through just some of the material I’ve written as I witnessed my husband’s health decline to after his passing. For now they are in a Word doc temporarily titled – Conversations and Observations, and, Obituary. I currently have oodles of permanent titles on a page listed that I will have to work with once the book is put together and I find the most fitting title.

From this side of Grief:

I am a strong woman who has lived through some terrible shit in my life but nothing, I mean NOTHING is as painful as the grief I carry with me daily from the loss of my beloved husband.

It doesn’t matter that I could almost lift park benches from the strength I’ve acquired through difficulties in life, this enormous strangle hold that suffocates daily is an opponent bigger than life. And many days it can be emotionally crippling.

I often go to the dark side since losing my other half. And no, time doesn’t ease. When the grief monster and the bubble of sadness that comes along for the ride appear, I find myself in yet another duel. These duels become more and more trying and they don’t dissipate with time, despite everyone else in our circles forgetting we are in this grief for life and it can take a long time – or forever, to climb back into joyful living. Our grief never leaves. Even with however much time it may take for it to come to a slow simmer that resides within without constant bubbling over, mine never seems to leave, I am only still learning how to temporarily suppress it. So we are forced to find a way to continue on with our lives or merely just exist. I am choosing life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that it some days doesn’t knock the actual wind out of my breathing sails.

The loneliness is overwhelming. I am naturally a tactile, social being, often dubbed a social butterfly. Nobody is physically here for me, and I’m not one to cry for help to burden others. But I can’t help but wonder, where are the people who used to be in my life? Why did family forget me after such a traumatic event that goes on daily? There I said it, and I’m going to leave that one alone – for now, because, honestly, the people I’m related to by blood give me enough fodder to write a book, erm, make that a tome.

semi colon heart

Some days I’m living on the precipice between living and existing. I am, me, myself and I. I was never that person who got depressed, but I can surely say I know what so many in this world struggle with as this visiting sadness that looms large over me has given me new understanding. I don’t want to call my sadness depression, more like PTSD. My mind too often drifts in a continuous cycle of visionary reminders of watching my husband die daily before my eyes. This is some tough shit to erase from the play list of home videos. It’s a repetitive cycle that is easily triggered by a memory, a random object in my home, or just plain looking at photos of my husband (which surround my home like a mausoleum because I need them to be all around me). I’ve thankfully, never been a depressed person despite some of the awful things that have happened in my life, and knowing depression does exist on my maternal side, I am grateful I didn’t inherit that dis-ease. I may get temporarily depressed, knowing that’s the wrong word I sometimes substitute for sadness, but I don’t allow myself to live in darkness and I fight back with all my might not to allow myself to let a sad day turn into many in a row. Perhaps I’m lucky that way? But there are plenty of people who live in deep depression and can manage to keep that under a cloak when around others. This can lead to dangerous outcomes.

I’m not that person who calls people to wa wa my troubles and moan. Instead, I am silent and solitary. My cries for help will come in subtle ways, maybe talking to a friend and almost begging them to come visit, invading that fine line with my silent cry for help so as not to sound desperate, when in fact there are days when I am.

People are busy. We don’t wish to act sucky so we stuff down our silent hell when all we are craving is some human connection, a hug, an ear for us to cast off our fears, fears that sometimes keep us in the dark and have us questioning ourselves on why are we still here. Why am I here where nobody has time when I could be with one who my heart aches for?

Often it’s the crushing, suffocating pain of having to tolerate our own existence that leads to the many suicides labeled as mental health issues. Funny how I see in my own life how nobody has the time for a cry for help, even when it is deafeningly silent. But they make time for the damned funerals.

Depression, like grief, is a silent thief that traps us at its will. It comes like a tornado sweeping over us, leaving us nothing to grab hold of in its wake, it can often be called a silent killer.

Us grievers, the sad, lonely, or depressed, don’t typically cry for help.  And for the some that do, they aren’t always heard. This is why so often these people commit suicide. They don’t feel they are being heard, loved or cared about. They’re misunderstood for craving attention when in fact, they are, and sometimes that attention  they didn’t receive could have been the very lifeline that saved them. Connection and companionship are a crucial need for a griever, especially one who lives alone. Those who don’t understand how depression can take hold of someone in their darkest moments should pay more attention to the signs, without judgement. We watch movies and news reels about people who feel there’s no help for them and choose to end their pain, all too often. And their loved ones sit in question. Asking themselves, why didn’t I see the signs? Because you don’t always see signs as many depressed are clever at masquerading their pain with smiles and jokes with their pretended happiness. But if you listen and learn not just to the words, but the silences in between, you can learn how to read between the lines and you just may hear.

I remind you all that if you have a person in your life suffering from a situation, to give them a thought once in awhile. If you noticed their silences, patterns, or dispositions have changed, check up on them. If you noticed they don’t show up like they used to or don’t call you, take that as a sign they are in retreat mode and could use a little company, even if they say they are fine – because they are not. If they are going through an ordeal in their life, pick up a phone and make a point to get together with them or just go visit them. Take it from me. I will never beg, and neither will many others. Please have compassion for someone in your life going through a difficult time. Most of the time, their silence is not a good thing. Take it from one who knows.

I wrote a post awhile ago about the symbolism of the semi-colon not just being a punctuation mark, but a survivor symbol – we are making it through, or have made it through, after a life-altering pause. Our story is not over because we choose to fight on.

Semi colon pause

©DGKaye 2022

Sunday Book Review – Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen – Grief, Loss and a Path to Healing

Welcome to my Sunday book review. Today I’m reviewing one of the most important books I’ve read yet on grief and loss and a path to healing by Christina Rasmussen – Second Firsts. She received her masters in bereavement in 1998, and as she claims, when she had to live in her own words in 2006 when she lost her own husband at age 35, nothing she learned had prepared her for such loss. She knew her husband’s fate, yet when she lay with him in his final moments of life listening to his last heartbeats, she felt like she had died with him. This is my life! She explains how she came to write this book, questioning herself how she could tell people their hearts would someday mend when she felt her own would never. “Grief takes us into the Waiting Room but our Survivor fear of losing it all again is what keeps us there.” Below, I’d like to share her message to the reader in the beginning of this book:

“I have lived in the shadow of loss-the kind of loss that can paralyze you forever.

I have grieved like a professional mourner-in every waking moment, draining every ounce of my life force.

I died-without leaving my body.

But I came back, and now it’s your turn.

I have learned to remember my past-without living in it.

I am strong, electric, and alive, because I chose to dance, to laugh, to love, and to live again.

I have learned that you can’t re-create the life you once had – you have to reinvent a life for yourself.

And that reinvention is a gift, not a curse.

I believe your future self is a work of art and that science can help you create it.

If you’re lost . . . if you’re gone . . . if you can barely absorb the words on this page . . . I want you to hold this truth in your heart: when it’s your time to go, you won’t wish you had spent more time grieving; you’ll wish you had spent more time living.

That’s why I’m here. And why you are, too. Let’s live like our lives depend on it.”

Blurb:

A widow and therapist explores grief, loss, and our innate resilience in this updated guide, drawing on neuroscience and personal experience to lead the bereaved through the five stages of healing

After studying to become a therapist and crisis intervention counselor—even doing her master’s thesis on the stages of bereavement—Christina Rasmussen thought she understood grief. But it wasn’t until losing her husband to cancer in her early 30s that she truly grasped the depths of sorrow and pain that accompany loss. Using the knowledge she gained while wading through her own grief and reading hundreds of neuroscience books, Rasmussen began to look at experiences in a new way. She realized that grief plunges you into a gap between worlds—the world before loss and the world after loss. She also realized how easy it is to become lost in this gap.

In Second Firsts, Rasmussen walks you through her Life Reentry process to help you break grief’s spiral of pain, so you can stop simply surviving and begin to live again. She shows you that loss can actually be a powerful catalyst to creating a life that is in alignment with your true passions and values. The resilience, strength, and determination that have gotten you through this difficult time are the same characteristics that will help you craft your wonderful new life. Her method, which she has used successfully with thousands of clients, is based on the science of neuroplasticity and focuses on consciously releasing pain in ways that both honor suffering and rewire the brain to change your perception of the world and yourself.

Using practical exercises and stories drawn from her own life and those of her clients, Rasmussen guides you through five stages of healing that help you open up to new possibilities. From acknowledging your fear, to recognizing where you stand now, to taking active steps toward a new life, Rasmussen helps you move past the pain and shows that it’s never too late to step out of the gap and experience life again—as if for the first time.

My 5 Star Review:

This book should be on every griever’s reading list. A raw, compassionate telling begins this book of Rasmussen’s own experience with a great loss precedes the premise of this book, a path to healing through her 5 Stages ‘Reentry Model’ – how to enter back into the world of the living from an abyss of grief and loss and a feeling of loss of our own identity. The author will tell us about ‘the Waiting Room’, a space where us sufferers are stuck between the inseparable past and the unfathomable future, and our ‘invisible losses’. As she states in the beginning of her book, she got her masters degree on bereavement in 1998 and had to live her own words in 2006 when her own husband died, claiming, nothing she’d been taught prepared her for her own grief and loss.

The author tells us that grief makes us question our reality, our safety, and our abilities. “You are more than your loss; you are a whole human being waiting to come back to life.” Rasmussen explains she wrote this book to help us see the light and build a bridge from our past to where we are now. When our identities have been ripped from us through grief and uncertainty and despite our wanting to move forward, we get stuck, and this book will reignite parts of us that have been shattered by loss.

This book is about the five stages of self-guided discovery and reentry process. It teaches us how to use the brain’s ability to rewire itself to help move past fear and sadness that looms over us. “You can live as you grieve.” Teaching us that we can meld our two worlds of grief and living. “Starting over isn’t only about the life you leave behind. It’s about the life that lies ahead of you.”

She speaks at first of the three stages to recover from loss by creating new habits to rewire our brains instead of staying stuck in grief and making it our default mode. Focus on new things to move forward. Loss forces us to leave behind the life we knew and we can’t just push out the old life, so we’re stuck in a gap between two lives – the ‘waiting room’, where we reside while afraid to take steps forward in our new present life because we’re safe in that grief. “It’s not the grief that stops us from starting life over, but fear of losing that life all over again.” Fear keeps us stuck in grief. She teaches us to create a ‘launchpad’, not staying in survival mode for distraction, but to move forward. “Loss can be a launchpad into a new dimension of living.”

Five stages of Reentry 1. Get real – losses are real, grieve and acknowledge and validate your loss and feelings to begin getting real about our new life. Explore and confront our grief, write out our invisible losses. The more we understand our invisible losses (loss of security, support, identity, etc.), the better we leave ‘the waiting room’. Instead of reflecting on our futures, the grieving brain stays locked in the past – the ‘infinite loop of loss’. 2. Plug in – learn to replace fear induced procrastination with action. Reconnecting with life in small steps, ie: going out, making plans, inviting life back into grief. And letting go of what no longer serves us – including relationships. 3. Shift – “When the dream that was, no longer can be, you have to dream a different dream.” She explains how switching ‘Survivor’ thoughts back to the living by getting ready to join back into life, using positive thoughts to overcome the voice of loss. “The goal is to end the habit of repeating thoughts of loss by instead repeating thoughts of life.” How to face the fears that block our happiness. How to shift our thoughts using affirmation and visualization because “Grief creates habits and beliefs in our minds that don’t serve us.” She demonstrates methods to learn to love ourselves again by focusing on people who lift us and our positive attributes and offers us to take ten minutes to visualize us in a brighter future. “Evolution does not take place when our hearts break but when they mend.” Advising us to create a new relationship with ourselves and find a supportive tribe. 4. Discover – she reminds that our ‘Survivor’ self needs to get out of the ‘Waiting Room’ with our false sense of feeling wanting to remain comfortable there and get back into a mindset of connecting with the ‘Thriver’ self that remains within us buried. Relearn how we overcame and triumphed over losses of the past to create a happy future. 5. Reenter Life – Finding your new life, dreaming big, and setting goals. The author instructs us to write out goals we want from our new life, and affirm those aspirations daily, as we get what we focus on. She speaks about the certainty that we will have moments of guilt and betrayal as we venture on to a new life, and possibly a new relationship, reminding that ‘Survivor’ mode will occasionally surface – “Because of your sadness, you have more depths in you to feel joy.” And adds, we also gain the compassion to help mend other’s broken hearts. We are told to create a separate place for the grief and guilt that will occasionally push through and to envision a separate housing unit for those feelings to dwell in. It’s okay to visit there when we need, but we know the way back, and not to stay there. Once we’ve processed our grief, “Reentry doesn’t mean we forget those we once loved or forget our pain. It means we remember how to live.”

Rasmussen concludes by saying some pieces of our old life are now scattered in the universe, never needing to be found again, but tells us our hearts will give birth to new pieces. The new ‘me’ is born from loss, every cell changed in us when our hearts broke.

This book is a most helpful guide to help grievers learn to separate grief from getting on with living, in stages.

Poignant Quotes:

“The heart remembers the past by loving in the present.”

“There are no words to describe the experience of losing someone you love more than life itself. You cannot know the feeling unless you have experienced it.”

“Loss is not something that keeps happening to you; it’s an event.”

“In the midst of his death, I lost my life too…we were both in a place between two worlds.”

“He died on July 21, 2006 at 2:00am. I died with him at 2:01 am.”

“The silence of grief attacks your body.”

“Everything about me changed, and everything about the world around me was altered forever.”

“Why hadn’t the world prepared me for this agony?”

“Mending is the ability to reenter life with a broken heart, while it’s getting fixed.”

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Bearing the Unbearable by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a poignant book, written from her own experience with grief and loss, as well as shared interviews with some of her bereavement clients, by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore.

As many of you know, I’ve read a number of books on grief – from the clinical to the afterlife, and one thing I can say about this book is that it stands out from others because it talks about all aspects and changes of life we go through when grief strikes – not just the expected things. Dr. Cacciatore has ‘worn the shoes’. One other thing I’d like to note about this book is that I would highly recommend everyone to read this book. Why? Because everyone in the world will have to experience it in their lifetimes, and for those who haven’t yet, this book gives amazing insights. It’s also a good book for those who know or love a griever and don’t know how to act around them or what to say. It distinctly states what us grievers need in our new life path from those in our lives.

Blurb:

If you love, you will grieve—and nothing is more mysteriously central to becoming fully human. 

Dr. Cacciatore is featured in the 2021 documentary series The Me You Can’t See, from Oprah, Prince Harry, and Apple TV.

Bearing the Unbearable is a Foreword INDIES Award-Winner — Gold Medal for Self-Help.
__
When a loved one dies, the pain of loss can feel unbearable—especially in the case of a traumatizing death that leaves us shouting, “NO!” with every fiber of our body. The process of grieving can feel wild and nonlinear—and often lasts for much longer than other people, the nonbereaved, tell us it should.

Organized into fifty-two short chapters, Bearing the Unbearable is a companion for life’s most difficult times, revealing how grief can open our hearts to connection, compassion, and the very essence of our shared humanity. Dr. Joanne Cacciatore—bereavement educator, researcher, Zen priest, and leading counselor in the field—accompanies us along the heartbreaking path of love, loss, and grief. Through moving stories of her encounters with grief over decades of supporting individuals, families, and communities—as well as her own experience with loss—Cacciatore opens a space to process, integrate, and deeply honor our grief.

Not just for the bereaved, Bearing the Unbearable will be required reading for grief counselors, therapists and social workers, clergy of all varieties, educators, academics, and medical professionals. Organized into fifty-two accessible and stand-alone chapters, this book is also perfect for being read aloud in support groups.

My 5 Star Review:

Before I go into my review of this book, I will simply state, as a griever myself, that this book is one of the best books I’ve read on grief because it isn’t a clinical diagnosis book, it isn’t a guide on how to get through grief, but a tender telling of all the emotions a griever will experience throughout the rest of their lives, the triggers, and most of all, also beneficial to anyone who has ever known a griever and is lost for words or knowing how to act around someone who is grieving.

The book begins with a prologue of the author giving us a snapshot of her own grief story. She shares some of the questions all grievers ask and wonders how the world can continue on when her world was left empty – a common thread between all grievers. The author tells us she hopes for other grievers to feel they are in a safe place for us to be with our broken hearts. She warns that this book isn’t instruction on how to get over grief, but how to learn to live with the undeniable ebbs and flows and triggers of grief that will remain a part of our lives, for the rest of our lives. She talks about grievers needing others to reach out to us, and just how to do it by telling of her own experiences, and that of others she has consoled.

Dr. Cacciatore speaks of how death will affect every single person one day in their own individual way. The more we love, the more we will grieve. She also delves into how grief is manifested and what the shock of a traumatic death can leave on us – sometimes and often, leading to depression and/or PTSD, the repercussions of the shocking experience of losing a loved one, and how that often leads to running to substances to numb our pain. The good doctor touches on all the various types of trauma and grief from losing a loved one, a child, a parent, a spouse, etc., covering the gamut of what each of these relationships lost leave the living loved one to endure and the various habits and personality characteristics that are altered in the wake of, including the physical ailments many of us experience in light of grief, of which, many can become life threatening – especially when self-care desire disappears.

Most importantly to me, the author speaks of those in our circles who tend to abandon us in our hours of need because they don’t know what we need, and fears of talking about our lost loved ones causing more pain, explaining quite the opposite, how us grievers aren’t looking for solutions, only an ear to hear us speak of our great loss with a compassionate heart. “…But please just sit beside me. Say nothing. Do not offer a cure, or a pill, or a word, or a potion. Witness my suffering and don’t turn away from me. Please be gentle with me. Please self, be gentle with me too. I will not ever ‘get over it’ so please don’t urge me down that path.”

“Traumatic death provokes traumatic grief.” Truest words. The author gets into the body’s reactions to grief, comparing a diagnosis or a death edict having that ‘fight or flight’ feeling within us setting off in perceived physchological threat within. Only, the fight or flight feeling never really leaves. She goes into the despair the griever learns to live within. “This is grief’s most piercing message: there is no way around-the only way is through”. As she states, those who don’t deal with their grief and won’t allow themselves to feel, are only suppressing their grief, tells us it will eventually manifest in unexpected ways. The doctor warns that suppressing grief is responsible for so many addictions, abuse and social disconnection.

We learn about how some people’s cry for help – or, the lack of those cries, can often lead to that griever taking their own life. She warns that grief always has a place at the table. Talking about grief is necessary and should never be stifled. The distractions we use for ourselves as grievers is also discussed as our everlasting unquenchable yearning for our lost loved ones never goes away.

Another poignant discussion in this book delves into the loss of a child and how that sometimes leads parents to unintentionally neglect their living children while focusing on the loss of another. We also learn how crying is a natural valve to relieve stress and explains the biochemical essense of grief tears and their differentiation to other tears.

In this book there is a dedicated chapter to grievers on how to tell our friends and family what we need from them in our hours of grief. Letting them know our triggers, asking for our acceptance when we aren’t up to a family gathering, a cry for help, and more. She offers up solutions like, writing a note to family letting them know our needs and reassuring them to not hold back conversations of our lost loved one because that is one of the most needed conversation many grievers crave, is talking about our lost loved one.

Time is linear with grief, sometimes minutes feel like years, years feel like minutes. The author tells us how easily a grief moment will steal our breath. “It is both feared enemy and beloved companion who never leaves.” Reminding, we won’t stop grieving until we stop loving. “Those we love deeply who have died are part of our identity; they are a part of our biography. We feel that love in the marrow of our bones.”

The author offers writing to a lost loved one as a great therapy. Read it and weep as she explains these tears of release are good for the soul. She also talks about making a memory box we can revisit to soothe our souls in memory.

All different types of grief are covered in this book, from the ones we carry for our lost one to the kind where we blame ourselves for. You will find stories here that demonstrate things that can happen for those who withhold their grief.

I loved her analogy of grief ‘ it’s a big bowl of grief broth’, describing how just one more ingredient can overpower us with overwhelming grief.

Poignant Quotes:

“No intervention and no interventionist can ‘cure’ our grief. And we are not broken-we are brokenhearted.”

“Grief is not a medical disorder to be cured.

Grief is not spiritual crisis to be resolved.

Grief is not a social woe to be addressed.

Grief is, simply, a matter of the heart-to be felt.”

“When we cannot hold in our arms our loved ones who’ve died, we hold them in our hearts. This is being with grief.”

“When you’re feeling tired of our sadness, just remember that we are supremely more tired of their dead-ness.”

“Losing our beloved brings a pain unlike any other-and this pain is- legitimately ours. Being with grief is terrifyingly painful, yet when we live our grief honestly, it has the mysterious power to deepen the meaning of our lives. This is the gift-curse of grief.”

Whoever survives the test must tell his story. ~ Elie Wiesel

©DGKaye2022

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – September 2021 – The Relationship with Ourselves -Self-Care | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to my September edition of Realms of Relationships at Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Blog Magazine that I contribute to monthly. There are many kinds of relatioships, but often, we forget about the one with ourselves.

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – September 2021 – The Relationship with Ourselves -Self-Care

 

 

Relationships with ourselves – Self-Care

 

Welcome to my Realms of Relationships column at Smorgasbord Blog Magazine. Today I want to talk about the most important relationship we can have, and that’s the one we have with ourselves. It’s often easy to overlook ourselves, especially when times are tense, fast, and frazzled with life’s daily grind. And if we have loved ones to care for on top of daily living, often, the last person being served is usually ourselves.

 

I’m a living testament of what self-neglect can leave behind as resulting damage. Often, we get so wrapped up in our lives and lose track of time – the time we let ourselves go. So yes, self-compassion and self-care are just as essential for us to live in good health – not just to survive.

 

Sometimes, some of the most nurturing people forget that taking care of others requires us to be in good health in order to care of someone else. But often in the middle of trauma, our focus often falls on the loved one we’re caring for – both young and old, without giving a second thought for our own well-being. I know this because I lived it.

 

 

Self Care

 

Self- care encompasses the daily things we do for ourselves to keep our health in check – hygiene, eating properly, taking meds and required vitamins, and getting in exercise and enough sleep. Most importantly, any ailments we feel coming on should be dealt with as soon as possible once we notice things aren’t running as smoothly with our bodies, and not left to fester until such time we decide to stop pushing aside things a doctor needs to have a look at. And then there is emotional health.

 

If we are living through a stressful time, not just our physical health needs tending to, but, we need an outlet to relieve some of the mental angst that can sometimes translate to more physical ailments. Trust me, it’s not a myth, stress and worry have the ability to do great damage within us. Just like a health regimen followed daily creates cumulative benefits that add up daily, not following one will most certainly chip away at all the goodness we’ve already accrued through time as we continue to neglect ourselves.

 

Taking care of ourselves is vital for us to function optimally, but especially when someone else is relying on us to take care of them. When chaos or trauma strike, it shouldn’t mean that we abandon what’s important for us to remain in good health, but so often we’ll sacrifice what’s good for us and put others before us. Here’s what we need to know about taking care of ourselves:

 

 

  • Make sure to get enough sleep – not getting enough sleep can initiate other health problems.
  • Make mealtime a routine at least twice a day if you can’t manage three squares. If you eat a good breakfast it can sustain you through the day in case you do happen to miss out on lunch. But even more important to eat a healthy dinner, especially if we’re missing that lunch.
  • Don’t stop taking important vitamins and supplements, especially if you’re deficient in them. Not eating properly during stressful times, then not taking supplementation, doubles the drain on our bodies leaving us without efficient fuel or nutrients.
  • Take a timeout and go for a walk, read a chapter, listen to music – whatever you enjoy for a mental health break from high stressed life. If you’re caring for someone 24/7, arrange for someone to come by and give you a break for some down time and time to get household essentials looked after, and maybe even to eke out some personal time.

 

You can take this Self Well-Being test here to see how you’re doing: Berkeley Wellbeing Survey

 

Take care of yourself

 

How I can attest to this advice? Because I became one of those self-neglecters.

 

During my husband’s illness when I was caring for him 24/7, the last thing on my mind was about what I needed. While my world was spiraling out of sense, I didn’t care about eating properly, sometimes not eating at all. I had no appetite. I’d sneak in a shower when my husband would sleep, or if one of his personal support workers were bathing him.

 

I was full of preliminary grief and anxiety, and I wasn’t hungry. . . Please continue reading at Sally’s Smorgasbord to learn the repercussions after we forget to take care of ourselves.

 

 

Source: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – September 2021 – The Relationship with Ourselves -Self-Care | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

 

 

©DGKaye2021

 

Colleen Chesebro’s Tuesday Tanka Poetry Challenge – Poet’s Choice

It’s been awhile since I jumped on to Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge at Word Craft. This week is Poet’s Choice and I’ve written a Tanka with Tanka prose.

 

#TANKATUESDAY WEEKLY POETRY CHALLENGE NO 242: #POET’S CHOICE

 

 

In grief, many are intimidated when it comes to giving condolences, for fear they don’t have the right words to comfort, they cower in distance because that’s easier for some than confronting.

 

 

A hand to caress

The unsettled grieving heart

And two patient ears.

Searching appropriate words,

Open heart is all required.

 

 

Visit Colleen’s original post and hop on the challenge!

https://wordcraftpoetry.com/2021/09/07/tankatuesday-weekly-poetry-challenge-poets-choice-2/?fbclid=IwAR1odZRdMpRexCUBkuwIxE03FNlpMv_Jj2pVDxeMKamWZerqi9E4c7NwzSE

 

©DGKaye2021

 

Sunday Book Review – A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

 

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Through my journey of grief and reading several books on the subject of grieving, several times I came across quotes from C.S. Lewis’ book on grief mentioned in other books- A Grief Observed, which he wrote after losing his beloved wife. I came across Lewis’ reflections on bereavement in some other books I’d read, which had me scurrying off to Amazon to read yet another book on grief. But I didn’t feel this was just ‘another book on grief’, but a telling, a rant, a questioning, and a feeling of familiarity. I also felt this book different because it wasn’t written after the healing began, rather, in the rawness of grief as he questioned death and what, if anything, comes after.

 

Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day.

 

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” – C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

Blurb:

A Grief Observed is Lewis’ brutally honest reflection on the death of his wife, Joy Gresham, which exposes readers to the fact that man is vulnerable and fragile when attempting to understand the goodness of God in the midst of extreme pain.

 

Lewis’ four-part reflection brings readers face to face with the cruel reality of the damage that sin has done to our world. His writing demonstrates utter despair as a result of acknowledging that death is a natural and unavoidable destiny for all. He writes expressing the sentiment that his wife was so beautiful and beloved that her death, though natural, was undeserved. Lewis compares the feeling of grief to fear stating that it gives him the same restlessness, yawning and fluttering of the stomach. It is not hard for the reader to recognize that Lewis feels that damage has been done to his world.

 

While Lewis paints a vivid picture of why he loved his wife Joy, throughout his reflection she remains a faint figure in the background while the author focuses on grief itself. A Grief Observed leaves readers with a real sense of the frailty of the human experience.

 

Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moments”, A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period: “Nothing will shake a man, or at any rate a man like me, out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”

 

This is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

 

 

My 5 Star Review:

I’ve read many books on grief through my own journey of darkness after losing the love of my own life, and what I will say about this book is that it’s raw and in the moment while the writer suffers the pangs of grief for the giant loss in his life while in the depths of his grief, sharing his thoughts and cynicism on the topic of death during the grieving process through his anger at god. Lewis questions all we know of death and what happens after, asking, what do we know really about the end of life and if there really is anything more after. Lewis helps put in words what many of us grievers wonder of the same. The author doesn’t offer the hope, but shares his path to coping as he questions god and religion and what exactly the ‘afterlife’ is all about and if it exists.

 

Lewis is a broken and confused man struggling to accept the death of his wife, writer Joy Gresham, he affectionately refers to as H., (her given name, Helen). These are the writings of a man suffering grief after losing the true love of his life – his ‘other half’. His writings are like a search for answers, a questioning of self, love and god.

 

Lewis talks about some people as ‘idiots’ in one of his rants – people who don’t have the faintest idea about some of the platitudes that automatically spill from their mouths as condolence: “It was God’s plan,” “She’s in a better place now.” Empty platitudes he calls them from people who have no conception behind those words. This statement seems to be the general concensus from those of us who’ve loved and lost.

 

Often people don’t know what to say. They don’t want us to hurt so they say words like, “It will get better, time to move on, or even worse, pretending to know the actual weight of grief when they’ve never walked the walk,” Lewis touches on this, the deep-seated root of pain of loss as he laments in his grief.

 

I’d recommend this book for anyone grieving and searching their soul.

 

 

Memorable quotes from Lewis on grief: ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

 

“Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened again; the mad words, the bitter resentment, the fluttering in the stomach, the nightmare unreality, the wallowed-in tears. For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?”

 

“Did you ever know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left? You have stripped me even of my past, even of the things we never shared.”

 

©DGKaye2021

 

Updates – Moving On and Best Friends

 

 

Wow! It’s been so long since I posted a personal update here for you. I don’t know where the time has gotten to, but considering my last post a few weeks ago, talking about my brutal move and hearing Johnny Cash on the radio, and the post prior, talking about my moving in July and my BFF coming from the U.K., ya, well, that didn’t happen. But a few things have. And so I’ll fill you in.

 

My bestie from U.K. did not get here because our airports wouldn’t allow non-essential visitors without having to quarantine in a hotel at her own expense, for fourteen days. Heck, so many people can’t even afford to stay that long, so why would they want to spend it alone in quarantine? They only began allowing Canadian residents to come back home, in late June. And now it’s September 7th supposedly, where leisure air travelers will be welcome, as long as they’ve been double vaxxed and Covid tested prior to flight then no quarantine required.

 

Well this new time frame threw a wrench into my U.K. plans. And in the meantime, my friend Zan has sold her house again and will soon be moving to a rental home in a few weeks and she and her hubby will begin a new house project from scratch on the land they’ve purchased. So now, until she gets moved in and her and her hub take a private getaway for a week or so to Italy after their move, their first holiday since Covid struck, she will probably be here in late September. So it’s looking like some time in October I’ll be flying back with her to the U.K. It’s a tough wait, but probably better for time to pass as the summer crowds should be more tame, easier for traveling – maybe a jaunt to France, maybe to Italy, but definitely to Spain, and hopefully more time for the Covid to simmer down. Heck! I may even stay through Christmas, come back, and pack up for Mexico. All I know is I must get out of this constant space and spread my wings and breathe. I have no clue what I’m doing the rest of my life, but I sure as hell know I won’t find out by sitting on a couch with a computer. Nobody is going to come banging my door down with opportunity. I have to get back out into the world.

 

The last week of July, I took a little trip with my girlfriend Alison. We both needed to get out of our four walls, so we rented a hotel room up north here in cottage country for a few days. But, as it turned out, Zan’s sister lived twenty minutes from where we were staying and once Zan told her sister we were there, she swiftly invited us to stay with her instead. So, we stayed the one night at the hotel and off to Kokie’s beautiful home for almost a week! It was a slice of heaven to be in the fresh air and steal a few days at the beach when the usual rainy weather would let up. We had lots of fun yacking, Netflixing, walking, shopping vintage stores and playing Mexican Train Dominoes – a fun variation of Dominoes.

 

It was a lovely mini getaway and I look forward to Zan’s visit here so we can go back up to her sister’s house once she ever arrives here.

 

Coming back to my new abode felt a bit strange and back to reality. I am trying to establish somewhat of a new routine for myself without my husband and now, four months after his passing, everything still feels strange and out of sorts for me without a comforting familiarity.

 

And then something wonderful happened in the midst of my sadness and loneliness, I got a condolence message from my other BFF Bri. We had a falling out a few years back, and sadly, stubbornness had kept that distance hanging. I was elated to hear from her. She adored my husband, and I had wondered why I hadn’t heard from her, thinking she’d have heard the news, but she hadn’t. When she found out, she sent me a message. I replied, and the next thing I knew, we were gabbing on the phone for hours. A few days later, we met at my husband’s grave and spent a few hours together there sitting on the grass, filling each other in on our lives while apart. The day turned into night after picking up some food and killing a bottle of wine together on my balcony at home.

 

The reunion was just what my heart needed, and both of us said to each other that it was my husband who subtly found a way to inform her about his demise and he knew we had to get back together. We both felt that. The whole thing was divine intervention how it all came about, and the fact that I’m pretty much family-less now (a book for another time),  there is no comfort like a best friend who has been in my life for 37 years. She knows all the ghosts, good and bad, and understands my loss better than any family could ever imagine what I’m living.

 

God and the universe certainly do work in mysterious ways. Everything has its time and place. Yes, Zan never got here for my turbulent move, but had she come and the lockdowns coming and going, turns out, Canadians too are being made to quarantine right now still going to U.K. and I wouldn’t be interested in doing that either. Not to mention the new wave the U.K. has been experiencing much of July. Then there’s Zan’s sudden house sale and getting ready to move later this month. Suffice it to say, divine timing is looking much better for the fall than the summer. And in my deep and dark moments, waiting once again for this U.K. connection to happen, my husband and the angels were at work bringing me back together with Bri.

 

In the meantime, I am getting my feet deeper back into blogland. I do hope to get the mental energy up to get back to my MS I completed last fall and get that off to the editor by September. Lots of things up in the air, but definitely some good things to look forward to. I feel uplifted when I have something to look forward to, despite my loneliness and ache for my beloved husband that follows me wherever I may go, making plans and friendships are what keeps me out of ‘the dark’.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

 

 

Memoir Bytes: Forgiveness? Love? The Power of Money – Backstory from Conflicted Hearts

Memoir Bytes

Vision perception - Memoirs

 

Sometimes I look back in reflection at some of the poignant moments in life, at some of the characters in my family. I like to analyze in retrospect, how I felt about a certain situation while emotions were running high, and interpret them later in time by dissecting some of those events to see how I handled the situation while experiencing the emotional moment and if my perceptions were accurate.

 

This particular incident recently resurfaced in my memory. I try to look for the compassion I may have missed back then while originally feeling confusion and resentment. As a memoir writer, I tend to do this with many of life’s difficult situations I’ve encountered to assess and better understand not just my perspective but what the other parties concerned may have been feeling. So today I’m going to bring up a sad memory about my father’s death. It seemed only fitting to write about this today when January 9th was the day I buried my father in 1991.

The situation was tragic enough that my father had died suddenly and out of country, but with a dysfunctional family background to add to the mix, there were many more mixed emotions presented at that time.

My paternal grandmother had been dead for a few years prior to my father’s death. And my dad was the only child left of my grandfather’s – a man who’d been dominated by his overbearing, bossy wife throughout his marriage. My dad had one older brother who had been disowned, completely banished by his parents, and consequently, from all of our lives when the edict had come down from my grandmother twenty-five years prior. “We shall speak no more of his name” were her words. And so it was written. And so it was done.

Dad and my estranged uncle Don ran the family business with their father up until that fateful day when something huge went down. I was only about 6 or 7 years old at the time and my investigative listening skills were already fine-tuned from growing up in a volatile and emotional roller coaster household, where listening in the shadows always gave me a leg up on what I could expect come tomorrow. But despite my efforts, I wasn’t permitted to ask questions without being reprimanded for doing so, consequently, much about what I learned about this occurrence was from the chatter that went on after the event at my grandparents’ house and afterward in my own home while I listened to my mother tell her sisters and friends.

To this day, I still don’t know the whole reasoning behind the incident that had my uncle banished for life, but what I got from it was, my quick-tempered uncle grew very angry at his father one day at work and pegged his dad up against the outside brick wall and was stopped short by my father who heard the ruckus and he restrained my uncle from throwing a brick at my grandfather’s head, as he shouted in anger with what seemed the end of his tolerance for his father’s orders. After the feud was broken up by my dad, my uncle was thrown out from the family business – and the family.

When my stern grandmother was informed about what had transpired, she made an instant declaration ( I heard it with my own ears), her son Don was now dead to my grandparents. They even sat the traditional ‘Shiva’ period as we do in our religion to mourn the dead.

We never saw my uncle or our cousins again for almost a quarter of a century.

On January 9th, 1991, 4 children and their grandfather sat in the mourner’s room at the funeral home before it was time for the funeral to begin in the chapel. The door opened and a strange man walked in. He looked as though he was in his early 60s, dressed in a dark suit and tie, slighted hunched over with age, he kept his eyes focused toward the floor as he entered while adjusting his yarmulke (skullcap). I leaned over to my one brother and asked him who this man was that just invaded our mourner’s space. My brother replied, “It’s Uncle Don.”

My heart skipped a beat. In my dire moments of grief, I didn’t know what to make of the sudden appearance of my long lost uncle. Within the same one whirlwind moment of emotions, I felt curious, angry, and heartbroken. I never said a word to him and moments later we proceeded into the chapel for the ceremony then out to the cemetery. We buried our father on that freezing cold day in January and my Uncle Don stood along right beside us.

After burying my father, we proceeded to my younger brother’s house to commence the Shiva where we’d sit in mourning for one week from morning til sundown and receive guests and visitors who would come by to keep us company and pay their condolences.

We’d just arrived from the cemetery, and took our respective seats on the cushionless couches, as tradition warranted for the immediate mourners. Immediate family of the lost loved one are the mourners – parents, children and siblings. And then into my brother’s home walked Uncle Don. That’s when emotions were escalated. My siblings and I were dumbfounded, wondering why he had suddenly showed up after a quarter of a century to his brother’s funeral and for mourning. This was a brother who never even went to his own mother’s funeral a few years earlier.

Suspicions, doubts, and curiosity ran through each one of us and before any of us even voiced our opinion to the others, my grandfather stood up, embraced his long lost son and announced aloud, “I lost one son, but I gained another.”

Who does that?

Resentment built up within me that the complete stranger to us could walk into my brother’s home the day we buried our father and our grandfather greeted him like he was the consolation gift God had given him – the man who threatened to kill him a quarter century past, when his only other son who had been nothing but obedient at his beck and call for all his life had saved his father’s life.

Many thoughts rolled through my head that day – why did he show up decades later? Was there remorse? Was his sudden arrival back into my grandfather’s life for monetary gain?

I felt heart-broken when I lost my father, but I also managed to feel sorry for my grandfather too, for losing his only son who had stood by him all his life. I was never close with my grandfather because of the years growing up around him, feeling no love or compassion from him or from my grandmother – the price I paid for my mother’s deceit when she purposefully got pregnant with me to get my father to marry her. I was a constant reminder to them of my parent’s union.

Because I harbored a life-long resentment toward my grandfather, it wasn’t difficult for me to speak to him with snark and sarcasm. I never had a problem letting someone know what I thought once I moved away from home and found my voice. The four of us confronted him when we were alone together, questioning how he could welcome our uncle with open arms as though the past had never happened. We didn’t hesitate to let him know we suspected the only reason our uncle had shown up was because he knew he was the only child left and there was plenty of money to be gained if he got himself back in my grandfather’s good graces and ultimately back into the will. My grandfather didn’t seem to care. In his own moments of grief I think he felt alone with the loss of his beloved wife and no children left, and so he clung to whatever rope was thrown to him despite motives. Sad.

Us four kids had spent much of our growing up years at my grandparents’ home, despite our reluctance or desire to do so. We were to become the inheritors, but as suspected, my uncle did manage to get involved with the finances. Sure there was some left in the end of it all, but not much. And whatever was left was not divided evenly between us four. I got the biggest shaft of all of us, and that was quite expected. But I never used that against my own siblings because, as I learned well, money had the great potential to divide a family.

@DGKaye 2018