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Archive for December, 2010

The Conversation

I’m not sure if my parents ever gave me “the talk” when I was a kid. I think maybe they handed me a “here’s what’s happening to your body” book and figured sex-ed would take care of the rest. However recently, we had to have an adult version of “the talk.” You know, the one where it starts out with the adult child getting ambushed when visiting and the parents throwing out the old, “we’re not getting any younger” line… 

Torture. Pure torture. 

I hate thinking out my parents’ mortality. The business of what would happen to their things, and where they would like to be buried and such is one thing. But really thinking about it – imagining the world without them on the other end of the phone or a short drive away – it kills me. I’m an only child, and unfortunately my extended family is not that close. When I think about life without my parents I see myself as a different person, an orphan. 

You can imagine that this is not a conversation I wanted to be having. 

But I sat down, and I listened, and I gave honest answers. One thing that I love about my parents is that they’re dedicated to leaving a legacy. They care about what I want, and they respect me enough to ask my opinion. They have identified their personal priorities, and are smart enough to share that vision with me, and teach me how to carry on what they’ve started. Like a smart business, they are working hard to create a strong succession plan. 

As an adult child of baby-boom parents, I don’t want to think about what might happen. It makes me uncomfortable, anxious and sad. But I know that just like anything else in my life, if I put in the work up-front, I will reap the benefit later. I will know what my parents’ wishes were. I will be confident about the decisions I make. I commit to honor them long after they’re gone, and I’ll know that I’m doing right by them because of the conversations we’ve had and are having.

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Trying to escape the holidays? Stop in at the Grief Resource Center Thursday December 23rd between 2:00-5:45 pm and be transported to the islands. We are having our first annual Grinch’s Gathering. It’s an opportunity to gather with others who are healing with a loss this season and who are not interested in holiday music, decorations, or all of the other holiday hub-bub. 

I know that the Grinch’s Gathering is only one afternoon—so how do you make it through the next couple weeks? Try these tips: 

  • Have a plan.
  • Be selective about what you want to do. With invites, consider instead of saying no, say maybe so you can decide on the day of the event.
  • If you’re on the fence about going—GO! Most people find that they have a good time. If you aren’t having a good time, go home.
  • Have an exit plan for any event or gathering you attend.
  • Don’t spend the day in bed under the covers—trying to sleep away the day tends to increase loneliness and sadness.
  • Do something. Go to a movie or restaurant.
  • Volunteer
  • Do something in honor of your loved one.  

Whatever you do, just remember that you are not the only one struggling through this season.

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Christmas tree

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever wished that the Christmas holiday would just carry on without your participation?  I have.  Several years ago I was simply unable to celebrate the holidays.  It’s funny but today, as I write this I can not remember why, though I vividly remember my lack of interest.  I told my husband that I did not want a tree and that I wanted no gifts.  I made no “list”.  I sent no cards.  I do not remember if I did any shopping. Maybe I was just too busy and tired, I’m not sure.  Sometimes you are just not up for a holiday.  I don’t think the reason really matters. 

The great thing about that year was that it did not seem to make any difference to others.  People around me carried on for me.  You see when a void is created it seems that it will be filled.  My husband decided that we were going to have a tree.  He bought the tree put it up and decorated it.  I baked no cookies, but others did.  The kids came home ready or not.  Christmas arrived, gifts were opened, we had a lovely meal, luminaries were lit, relatives stopped by.  I never truly “got into” the season that year. Maybe others noticed, maybe not so much. 

I say that it is ok not to always be the Martha Stewart of the family.  Yes, I do usually enjoy all of the details of preparing for the holidays.  What I found was that Christmas came, ready or not, and it was ok if I was not up to doing each and everything that I always did.  In the end it turned into a just fine holiday.  Not everything was the same. Not all of the decorations were up. I even forgot my signature dessert.  I do not think that anyone cared.  I’ve got to say the holiday was just fine. 

So, my theory on holidays is this.  Celebrate them in whatever way feels right for you.  If you feel like making cookies do so.  If you want to skip the cards, skip them.  Try something new, delete something you would rather not do.  Approach the celebrations in whatever way works for you. 

Now back to preparing for this year.

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My Safe Haven (Kelly)

One of the things that I find interesting in the world of loss is how different people seek comfort in different ways. One person’s safe haven is another person’s torture chamber. I’m comparing myself to a close friend who is going through a divorce. My own safe haven is my home. The moment I walk through the door, I can breath deeper. I have put my own time and energy into picking colors that I love for the wall and floor coverings. I surround myself with antiques from both sides of my family, art that I’ve collected through travel and auctions, plants and warm smells from the kitchen. The quiet peacefulness of my home is where I can truly relax, find and sort my thoughts and be myself. 

For a long time, I assumed that others felt the same way. What I’m experiencing now with my friend is that home can be a tomb of memories, a chamber of thoughts that can’t be escaped. Since the divorce, my friend doesn’t like to be home. She spends many nights out to dinner with friends or family and prefers to be very busy at work. When she has a bad day, the comforts of home aren’t so comforting. The reminders of the life she lived “before” surround her every time she steps in the door. 

I would imagine this is much the same for people who have lost a loved one to death. I know how difficult it is to clean out the closets, and how it seems like there must be a ghost present when you walk into a room. Knowing how strongly I feel now about my home as my safe haven, I can’t imagine what it must be like to have your home transformed into a constant reminder of what’s been lost. How do you find a new safe place? Is the place really what matters, or the people who join you in it?

 I’d love to know where our readers’ safe havens are. Where do you find peace, and if you’ve ever lost that safe haven, how did you get it back?

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My Safe Haven (Kayla)

My home is my safe haven. I love the moment when I open the door after being gone all day, and my dog is waiting at the gate above the stairs and I hear my husband yell “Hey Sweetie”– that just makes me smile in anticipation. I instantly relax when I am in my house. It’s a feeling that all is right with the world, even in difficult times. 

I especially love “my room”. Since my husband and I are not going to have children, we each took a room in our home as our own rooms—to decorate as we please and to be our space to do with as we please. I have a big fluffy chair that I love to sit in. It’s painted a dark grey and has great windows. It’s a treat to have my own space to journal, read, watch a movie, or just sit and look out the window! 

I would have to say that the Grief Resource Center is also a safe haven for me. The atmosphere is so relaxing, that I immediately just take a deep breath every time I walk in the door. It’s calm, quiet, and peaceful. It’s a treat to work at a place that feels like home! www.horizonhch.org/griefcenter

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Over the next few posts, I’ve asked Kayla and Mary to share what their safe haven is. This is a topic that AARP posed to its members recently, and I found it extremely interesting.

When dealing with grief and loss, you need a safe haven – somewhere to let your feelings out and just be what it is you are at that moment. We hope that the Grief Resource Center (www.horizonhch.org/griefcenter) is a safe haven for the many people who come for counseling, support groups and workshops.

Please take a moment to think about your safe haven, and what makes it so. Your comments are always welcome!

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There are a lot of misconceptions about grief in our culture. Many people think you get 3 days off work and you should be over your loss. We also get several messages in our culture about how to “fix” grief—replace the loss (i.e. get a new pet if your pet dies), get busy (meaning, if you don’t think about it, it will get better), time will heal everything, and we don’t grieve certain losses (mostly, divorce, break-ups, moves, house fires, change of jobs, and loss of a pet). 

Due to these reasons, people say many rude and hurtful things to those who are grieving. Although their intention is to make the person feel better, they can cause more pain. In fact, sometimes they feel like a sock in the gut. 

Unfortunately, I got a sock in the gut this week. My dog, Dozer, quite suddenly lost his ability to walk this past weekend, most likely due to a brain tumor and we had to put him to sleep. On a walk with our younger dog, a neighbor asked where Dozer was and when we told him, he said “Well, life goes on. At least you have your other dog.” My mom said, “Well, at least you had 6 years with him.” 

I hear variations of these from almost everyone who comes into the Grief Center, no matter what type of loss they have had.

  • At least you have other children.
  • At least you had him/her for a long time.
  • Life goes on.
  • At least your loved one is out of pain.
  • You are still young enough to….(get married again, have other children, etc.)
  • Just get another dog, cat, pet.

 And unfortunately, there are a million more. Sometimes the best thing to do is take a deep breath, walk away and know that the person was trying to say or do something to make you feel better. And then you let the comment wash over you like water off a duck’s back and move on knowing that they do not know what they are talking about. Someday they will, and they will do better in that moment. Until then, they may not be the support person you need in your corner—but there are a lot out there who can be in your corner, and there is always the Grief Center in your corner!

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