Go get your coffee cup and settle in. We need to talk. Or actually I need to talk. I’ve been thinking about how to start this conversation with you for a while, but my head has been in a fog, trying to figure out, “What now?”
Maybe you can listen. Maybe it will help me.
My husband committed suicide almost two years ago; my heart is broken and sometimes it feels as if all of my words are stuck in my throat. My fingers on most days just hover over the keyboard; not sure what to write–an added injury to a writer. The few pages I have written in my journal look like Rorschach tests from all the tears swirled in with ink. I know the importance of staying emotionally up-to-date with myself and with others. I know to talk out the pain and be real with people about how I’m doing. I’m so grateful for the people who sit and listen without trying to prompt me to see the silver lining (and I’m a person who perpetually, and obnoxiously, so I’ve been told, looks for the silver lining). I’m grateful for people who refrain from telling me that my husband is no longer suffering from debilitating depression and that he is in a better place. His place was here. With us. With me. We were his place.
Last April I stepped into a SNL photo booth at a work fundraising gala, and when the photographer said “Show me your fun side,” I let go. For one of the few times in the nine months since my husband had died, I let go of sadness. I let go of overthinking; I let go of panic and anxiety. I actually felt joy and fun. I breathed deeply. But when the photo was developed and I saw the picture of myself looking so free and happy, I was hamstrung by guilt and shame that someone who had experienced such a recent loss looked so happy and carefree. What kind of person was I anyway?
So I tucked the picture away. Continue reading
People who need help sometimes look like people who don’t need help.
Author Glennon Doyle Melton
My day job is working with family caregivers in support groups, a place where they have the freedom to share what’s on their mind and visit with and learn from others who are walking the same path they are on.
I often meet caregivers who are trying to wear so many hats in their families while caring for a loved one with a chronic or terminal illness. They put on a brave face and grip tightly to the ship’s wheel while weighted down by duty, tired and already in the midst of the grieving process that comes early to caregivers as they let go of what they dreamed life would look like for them and their spouse. Often, they can’t see to navigate the ship for their loved one let alone take care of their own health and well-being. Sometimes the simple question: “Is there someone who can help you?” leaves them dumbfounded. Many don’t realize they have the right to ask for help from friends or family members. They often believe they are in it all alone. Continue reading
One thing we can be sure of in life is that if you haven’t experienced circumstances that knock you off balance, hold on, it’s only a matter of time.
My husband’s death changed my family’s life as quickly as flipping a light switch. On many days since, I’ve wanted to bury my head under the covers and never come out. But I learned something through counseling and my graduate work that has piqued my interest in people’s approaches to stress and crisis. How a family or individual perceives a stressor can have an effect on the impact of the stress. Continue reading
About a decade or so ago I started keeping a gratitude journal after author Sarah Ban Breathnach introduced many of us to the concept of listing on paper the day’s blessings. This was a way to hold focus on the goodness in our lives–the things that bring a sense of relevance and peace.
This practice is one that is helping to guide me through the murky waters of grief since losing my husband. As the shock wore off, I loosely set a goal to write at least one thing at the end of the day and I’m certain it is one of the buoys that has kept me afloat. It has been the reminder to look for something, anything, that is positive, that feeds me, that keeps my mind from getting stuck in the pain and fear that comes with losing a love. Some of the notes in the early weeks following his death were as simple as: I’m grateful for potato soup, the beautiful vegetables at the farmers market, work to do. Continue reading
Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one that finds the gold. — Proverbs 11:27
I found it pretty natural while raising my kids to look for and encourage their strengths, whether it was our daughter’s talents in art and music or our son’s track abilities and love of history. Sometimes the challenge was to help them to see something about themselves that they couldn’t see on their own.
I remember when the kids would occasionally talk negatively about themselves, it hurt my heart to hear it. “Don’t talk about my kid like that,” I’d say in a stern voice, which was usually enough to garner a smile and redirect the negative self-talk into something more positive. When I told my therapist this recently, she asked why I didn’t say that to myself when my own inner critic started in on me.