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Posts Tagged ‘Mental health’

We thank Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes for his monthly contributions to the Grief Resource Center blog.

When a mother bird nudges her baby out of the nest, is she giving up or letting go?

When a tree loses its leaves in the autumn, is it giving up or letting go?

When a caterpillar decides to enter a cocoon – its chrysalis, is it giving up or letting go?

When a flower unveils its petals after days of being a bud, is it giving up or letting go?

When a woman who has treated her brain tumor for over two years decides ‘that’s enough’ and reaches out to hospice, is she giving up or letting go?

When someone decides he needs space and distance from his family of origin for a while, perhaps years, is he giving up or letting go?

When someone who struggles with addiction finally chooses to acknowledge the addiction and accepts needing a recovering program, is he giving up or letting go?

When a grieving person chooses to share her loved one’s belongings, is she giving up or letting go?

When life looks consistently bleak, every day such a struggle, each dominated by depression and he at last notices and chooses to get help, is he giving up or letting go?

What a tension and sometimes a fine line this question of ‘giving up or letting go’. There is clearly a difference between them both in attitude and in motivation, albeit subtle at times. Many, many years ago, shortly after being released from inpatient treatment for alcoholism and attending AA, my mom shared with me a reflection regarding ‘giving up or letting go’. Through the years I’ve posted this reflection in my offices and often find myself reading it. I share it with you now because it has helped me gain perspective many times, and, because, for most of us, a very significant part of our journey of grief involves, dare I say demands, our ‘letting go’ on many different levels. There is no ‘healing’ and/or reconciling our grief in giving up, only in letting go. There can be no ‘transformation’ in giving up, only in letting go. We’ll never experience fully living again in giving up, only in letting go. Although you may not be at a place of ‘letting go’ yet, or these words might not express your experience, may this reflection cause you to take pause, if only for a moment, to reflect upon the difference between giving up and letting go in you and how both are expressed in / through you. May it serve you as well as it has served me.

Giving up implies a struggle…Letting go implies a partnership.

Giving up dreads the future…Letting go looks forward to the future.

Giving up lives out of fear…Letting go lives out of grace and trust.

Giving up is defeat…Letting go is a victory.

Giving up is unwillingly yielding to forces beyond oneself…Letting go is taking control by choosing to yield to forces beyond oneself.

Giving up believes that God and the Universe are to be feared…Letting go trusts in the goodness and love of God and the Universe.

 

 

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We welcome back Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services for Church and Chapel Funeral Homes as our guest blooger. Please enjoy Pete’s thoughts on surrendering to grief.

“You don’t heal from the loss of a loved one because time passes;

you heal because of what you do with the time”. 

– Carol Crandall

 

Healing doesn’t ‘just happen’ after the death of a loved one. And, quite frankly, “Time heals all wounds” is a myth ~ an illusion at best. Healing doesn’t wait on time; healing waits on our ‘welcome’ ~ our intention. Therein dwells the hard grief-work of surrender, acceptance and integration. As each person is unique, this work will be done in one’s own time, on one’s own personal journey, in one’s individual way, a step at a time. It’s only in doing this important work that eventually one can fully live again in new and changed ways. Here’s an example.

Gregory, whose wife Marie died a year and a half ago from a tragic accident, has been very active in engaging and facing his grief and assisting his teenage son in doing the same. For me, Gregory has been an inspiring example that healing can only happen when one finds the courage to move toward their grief rather than ignoring, denying or moving away from their grief. Gregory would be the first to tell you that he is not done grieving or healing, and perhaps may never be. But, as you read the e-mail below from Gregory, those of us who are grieving can take heart in knowing that authentic healing can happen if we are willing to do the hard grief-work of surrender, acceptance and integration – bit by bit, one step at a time, in our own way, choosing to fully live again. Thank you Gregory!

From: GREGORY
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 9:21 AM
To: Undisclosed

Subject: Time to Let Go

 

Hello All,

It’s been over a year and a half now since Marie died.  I’ve had many ups and downs through my journey with grief.  I’ve now come to the crossroads that in order to continue my healing I need to start separating myself from Marie’s physical presence.  I treasure all the great times we had together and the wonderful memories of our life and raising Robert through the years.  But all the physical things around the house bring back too much pain.

In a moment of weakness I received a flyer for a neighborhood rummage sale last Sunday.  Marie organized the sale every year.  She loved doing it (I did not).  But Grandma offered to tend the sale so I thought why not – I’ll participate.  It’s been a whirlwind of gathering all “Marie’s stuff” together for the sale over the past 3 days.  Robert, our son, has been gathering his “little boy” toys, shirts/pants and grade school reading books as well.  We have a lot available including holiday decorations, scrapbooking, stationary, candles, kitchen items, cloths and size 8 shoes.

Stop by the one and only rummage sale I will ever do.  Our Subdivision Rummage Sale runs this Friday and Saturday 9:00 – 4:00.  Grandma will be helping out and Robert on Saturday.  Tell a friend or two as Marie had a lot of neat items.

Here’s to you Dear,

Gregory

PS: Any money raised will go to Healing Hearts of Waukesha County, the grief support group that’s helping Robert and I live life again.

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We welcome back guest blogger Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services at Church and Chapel Funeral Homes. This month, Pete encourages us to welcome breaks into our lives…

There’s nothing quite like taking a walk and breathing some fresh air after being confined in enclosed places for an entire day…Or, putting your feet up, enjoying a refreshment and watching a TV program after a long physical day of doing yard work and projects needing to be completed around the house…Or, at least for me, having a cup of coffee in a quiet space, candle lit, reading a good book, without any pressure of time constraints, on the very first morning of my first day off of the weekend. I value and badly need ‘breaks’ during the course of my day – during the course of my week.

The same can be true with those of us who are in the throes of doing – being immersed in – grief work. And, it’s true, grieving takes work and effort and intentionality especially if we want to heal. Someone recently said to me regarding their grief journey, “This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.” Make no mistake about it, grieving can be intense work. It’s okay and so very necessary for us to take breaks while we grieve. We cannot dwell on our sorrow every waking moment. Taking breaks doesn’t dishonor our loved one, nor does it equate to ‘forgetting’ our loved one. It does mean our body, our mind; our spirit needs some ‘fresh air’ to renew, to rejuvenate and to perhaps gain some new perspective.

Staying busy can be a form of taking a break. We need to keep a close eye on our busy-ness though, too often it’s easy to be soooo busy that we use it as a way to run from the necessary work of grieving. We hear it often from others, ‘just keep busy’ because if we do stay busy we can keep our minds off of our pain, our hurt, our fear. And while there may be some wisdom and gift in being busy, we need to honestly ‘check-in’ with ourselves regarding the level of our busy-ness and our motivation for staying busy. We also need to be aware of our substance use and/or abuse as we walk this path of grief. Sometimes we convince ourselves the over-consumption of substances (i.e. alcohol, drugs, food, etc.) can be a healthy way to take a break from our sorrow and pain. On the contrary, although seemingly attractive and easy, they provide an illusion of taking a break, and often result in leading us down an even more painful path.

Sometimes, it may mean giving ourselves a ‘push’, a nudge to allow ourselves to take a break. But it is really necessary and important for our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing and energy to do so.  Go bowling. Be with friends who are easy to laugh with. Volunteer. Get lost in a book.  Start an art project. Watch a movie. Cook a meal for someone. Choose to do whatever a ‘break’ might look like for you – what looks to be most ‘inviting’ for you. Yep, it won’t be the same without your loved one. But, in all honesty, nothing (including you) will ever be the same without your loved one and taking a break isn’t about trying to recreate what once was. No matter the intensity of our pain and hurt, we have a responsibility to ourselves, to those that care about us, and to our loved one, to be about ‘living’ again.  Indeed, taking breaks helps us to do the necessary work of grief in a healthy way and gives us permission to live again in new and changed ways.

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Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was incredibly busy the other week, and my husband had a vacation day coming up. He offered to take my car to get an emissions test and oil change on his day off. Immediately, I had two simultaneous thoughts: one, that would be awesome, since I didn’t know when I was going to fit those things into my schedule; two, I don’t want to ruin his day off, I’ll find a way to get it done. Sensing the hesitation in my voice, he encouraged me to let him do these tasks, and I said yes.

It was a rare occasion where I actually say yes when someone wanted to help me. And it felt great. Foreign, but great.

As I look back on all the times that I have said no when someone offered to help me, I realized that most of the time I felt resentful that they didn’t help. That’s right. I said no, but still resented them—how unfair! I realized that I would rather live in gratitude than in resentment and it was a big part of why I am working on saying yes to help and assistance.

We really give people a gift when we allow them to help us. Think about a time when you assisted someone and how great it felt to know that you helped them out. And you didn’t look down on that person for needing assistance. Don’t take that feeling away from people.

We can’t worry about whether they mean it when they ask—if they didn’t mean it, they won’t ask or offer again because they now know that you will say yes! Be grateful for the assistance and soak in the good feeling of being loved and cared for. Let the other person know how much it means to you and share the gratitude with them.

This is something I encourage everyone who is grieving to practice. There are many skills you need to learn or tasks you are now responsible for since your loved one is gone. You might need emotional or moral support. Whatever it is, you don’t have to shoulder that load all by yourself. Say yes to those offers! Choose gratitude instead of resentment and see how it changes your attitude, emotions, and connections with those you love.

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a "low profile" sole provides a grea...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again, we welcome Pete Reinl from Church & Chapel to our blog and thank him for sharing his insights on grief and loss with our readers.

I enjoy, for the most part, running every other day as a form of exercise. There are two hills on my running route; one about midway through which seems to stretch on forever, and the other toward the end of my route which is shorter but much steeper. Sometimes, each looks insurmountable and it takes everything in me to keep running. At other times they seem to be manageable, even less challenging. I’ve noticed during the manageable times of running the hills I’m concentrating more on each individual step I’m taking verses looking to see how far I have yet to go. Then, there are those days I just simply ‘feel’ stronger verses being tired and worn out. I’ve also noticed during those manageable times that I’m aware of what is beyond the hill – in the first case a nice long decline, and in the second, the end of my run.

Sometimes in the midst of grieving, particularly early on in the journey, we become overwhelmed by our experiences and all the choices we are faced with on many different levels. Experiencing feelings we’ve heard about from others but could’ve never imagined having ourselves with such intensity and depth, such as sadness, guilt, loneliness, fear, relief, and anger, to name a few. Tears we’re afraid will never stop ~ fearing that we’ll never genuinely smile again. Weeping that comes from a place in us we never knew existed. Finding ourselves believing we’re going ‘crazy’ because we’re so scattered, forgetful, distracted, impatient, low on energy and saying things that are out of character for us. Then, there are all those choices and decisions needing to be made and people to consider. What will the holidays look like? Who will take care of the bills? Can I continue to live here? When is it okay for me to consider being in another intimate relationship? Do I want another intimate relationship? What about the laundry? Who will fix the car if it breaks down? I don’t know how to cook? Who will be my ‘go to’ person – the person I confide in? God? Faith? Who am I now? Who will I become? What purpose do I have? What about the children? Who gets what? Who are my friends? Can I, should I, continue in the bowling league? And yet even more choices! It can be – IS – daunting.

Perhaps we need to consider taking one step at a time…one day at a time…one hour at a time…sometimes, one minute at a time. Taking ‘things’ as they come ~ one at a time. Choosing to be ‘selfish’ and honoring our needs, over those of others. Perhaps we would do ourselves, and those around us, a huge favor if we tried to remain in the moment, as unpleasant and painful as that might be. Surrendering to who I am and what I need right now. It seems to me, when we look at everything all-at-once and stay in the ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ and ‘what then’ and ‘what will they think’ we become overwhelmed and ‘it all’ can become a powerful source of depression, and drain the precious little energy we have. Fully feeling what we feel right now, sharing our story with others who are safe, and making decisions that are based on our readiness, our intuition, and in our best interest, not based on a ‘should’, is part of how we heal.

Sometimes, all we have in us are small steps. Sometimes we can take larger ones. Sometimes we don’t have one step in us at all ~ and that’s okay. It’s important to take a moment, every now and then, to look back at where we’ve been on our journey of grief and give ourselves some credit verses beating ourselves up and comparing ourselves with others. And, when we’re ready, to contemplate what healing might look like in the future; how we imagine joy in our lives again. To visualize / envision who we want to become and what we want our lives to look like again ~ integrated and whole, in a new and changed way. In essence, we’re in the midst of creating a new life that will naturally and authentically honor our deceased loved ones, while honoring our True Selves, a single step at a time.

 

Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services

Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

petereinl@churchandchapel.us

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Please read the following short blog by one of my favorite bloggers, Heather Hunter aka “This Fish”:

http://thisfish.com/?p=2424

I’ve never considered the loss, or what grief counselors would probably call “anticipatory grief” as it pertains to addiction. It’s an incredibly heavy thing to think about. We don’t often talk about losing someone who might still be alive and walking the planet. I think those who lose a friend or loved one to addiction are at such high risk – because just when they might start to heal, just when life might start to feel normal again, that person can walk back in and open up the wounds.

Heather’s poetic words, “a dress rehearsal for mourning” are haunting me. This is not the attempt at joy and a celebration of life that you might get from someone with a terminal diagnosis who is preparing in a healthy way with friends and family for death. To me, this is a lonely, hopeless statement; one that makes me feel empty. I can’t imagine what it is like to watch someone you love hurt himself and not have the ability to stop, even knowing that this may kill him. And what if the addiction doesn’t kill this person? What if it just takes away everything that was vital: family, friends, career, health, compassion, talent and more? How in the world do you even try to cope with losing what is essential about a human you care about knowing that a shell of a human is walking around with that person’s identity?

I am struggling with this concept. Do any of you, our readers have experience with this? Are the losses from addiction similar to death or divorce, or is this something unique unto itself?

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English: 'A pain stabbed my heart as it did ev...

Image via Wikipedia

Speaking about the death of the son of one of the packer’s coaches, many newscasters this week asked the same question, “What should you say when someone loses a loved one, especially a child?”. Our first instinct is to say “I’m sorry”, but that feels inadequate. Then our next instinct is to not say anything at all. So, what should you say?

Say, “I’m thinking of you”, “I’m not sure what to say, but you are in my thoughts”, “I’m here to listen”, “I’m here for you and your family. How can I help?”, “Your loved one was very special and will be missed greatly”, “I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I’m here to support you anyway I can.”
And you don’t even need to say anything. Give a hug. Drop off a meal. As silly as it sounds, dropping off toilet paper, paper plates, kleenex, or household supplies can be incredibly helpful since the family will be busy with company and planning and may not get out of the house for these errands. Take initiative and complete a task, such as shoveling, without being asked. Most people who are grieving are not able to identify what they need help with as thier loss is so overwhelming. By taking initiative and just doing it, it can be a weight off the bereaved.
Just listen and be there. We often overlook how healing our presence can be, even if we are sitting in silence. Really listen. Don’t try to fix it or take away the pain–we can’t do that. But by listening we are helping them start to heal. Share memories of their loved one. Share how that person impacted your life.
And most importantly, know that the pain will not go away after the funeral or in a couple weeks. Continue to be there for them. Check in periodically and let them know you are still there for support.

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