My Grief is Not Your Grief…

“It’s like being covered in bruises and fearing the next time someone bumps into you.”

Grief is something we all experience at one time or another. Grief because someone we love died, grief from unmet expectations in life, grief because of losing a relationship, grief from realizing the dream we had of our life isn’t going to happen, and many other reasons. But, even though we all experience grief, my grief is not your grief. Even if we are experiencing grief for the same reason, my grief is not your grief. Even so, all grieving people need you to be gentle. It’s like being covered in bruises and fearing the next time someone bumps into you. It was customary in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to wear a black arm band as a sign of mourning. A sign for the world to be easy with you because you had suffered a loss.

My mom died, very suddenly and unexpectedly on April 19. Just a little over a month ago. She had lived with me and my husband since November of 2019. She was in good health for 87, and was especially happy in the last month of her life. The day she died, she was happy and laughing and we had been outside enjoying the sunshine and the lovely day. We were riding in the golf cart around our property, looking at the flowers and watching the dogs and bunnies and two of our granddaughters playing. In the span of about 30-45 minutes she went from that, to being dead. I still can’t wrap my head around it. Or my heart.

Yesterday, I took my husband to the same ER that my mom died in a month ago. It was overwhelming to me to be in that same place so soon. Because of COVID restrictions when my mom was in the ER last month, I couldn’t go back to the room she was in and she died alone, then they let me see her. Now, I was in the same waiting room. I walked to my husband’s exam room and saw the room that I last saw my mom in after she died. No one knew all the anxiety and sadness I was feeling. I didn’t express it, but I felt it in every cell of my body. I was overcome with so many emotions, but no one could tell.

Today, one day later, I MISS my mom. Gut wrenching grief that feels like I’m being punched in the stomach. Maybe it’s because of all the triggers yesterday. Maybe it’s because I got mail for her today. Maybe it’s because my husband is in the hospital and I’m alone. I don’t know. I don’t care. I just want her to be here, sitting on the porch with me and laughing. It feels like the first day after she died. Like I’m starting all over again. I’m just letting myself feel it and crying it out. I’m not afraid of this terrible, painful emotion. I’m walking through it, but I hate it.

There are many books written that include the five stages of grief, as identified by Kubler and Ross. Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining and Acceptance. Any good therapist will tell you that these are not linear. You don’t experience them in any particular order, for any particular length of time. You don’t go from one to the next, finish that one never to return to it again, and move on to the next. My experience with grief has taught me that I can experience them all in the same day.

When my dad died three years ago, you can go back in my blog and read about my feelings of being tossed in a sea of waves, then tossed up to the beach, only to find myself on sand that kept washing away leaving me unsteady. I feel that now with my mom’s death, but it’s not the same. I still had a parent left then. I’m angry often that I’m an orphan now. My parents tethered me somehow to this world, and now I feel untethered. Like an astronaut that was hooked to his ship with a line and the line breaks and he’s free floating in space. I’m angry that I didn’t know she was going to die that day, and I didn’t get to tell her goodbye. I’m sad all the time, though you can’t always tell. I’ve tried bargaining with God to have one more day with my mom, just to say goodbye. Sometimes I’m in denial, like the many times over the past two days I’ve picked up my phone to call my mom and update her on how my husband is doing. Or when I tell myself she will be at home, playing with her little dog, when I get there.

I know that my siblings loved my mom fiercely. Just as much as I did. But, I also know that my grief is not their grief. I know that it looks different in all of our lives. It doesn’t matter that we are going through the stages differently. All grief is valid grief. You can’t always tell a person’s pain from talking to them. No one in the ER realized the trauma work I was doing in my head, and the fear and anxiety I was battling.

Please be kinder than necessary to people. You never know the battles they are inwardly fighting. Don’t equate their emotional expression, or lack thereof, with their healing process. So many of my patients are doing trauma work for something that no one else knows even happened to them. Sometimes I wish I could give them a black band to wear so others would be gentle with them. Sometimes I wish I could wear a grief band so others would know how fragile I feel right now. Some kind of outward sign that says, “Please be careful with me. I’m not okay.” Assume others are fighting battles you know nothing about, and move towards them with gentleness and compassion. Those of us that are believers have a commission from God, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Something for all of us to strive for.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So….I’m valuable.

If they have no perceived power over our value, then we no longer have the need to beg, coerce, manipulate, or perform for them.

I pulled a crisp new twenty dollar bill from my wallet. She watched me quietly. “How much is this worth?” I asked. “Twenty dollars.” she replied. I crumpled it up in my hand. “How much is this worth?” I asked again. “Still twenty dollars.” she said with a quizzical look. I threw it on the floor and enthusiastically stomped on it. “How much now?”. “Still twenty.” she20.jpg smiled this time knowing where I was going. I took the twenty and carefully straightened it out. “It’s a little bit weathered now, from all the mistreatment, but it’s value is still the same. This is you.” I held out the twenty with the wrinkles and creases. She teared up. “You are so valuable. You hold so much worth. And yes, some people in your life haven’t recognized that. Some people have crumpled you up and stomped on you. But it didn’t change your worth. It didn’t change your value. It says more about them then it says about you.” We sat in silence while she contemplated my illustration. She cried quietly. I waited silently, giving her space to experience her emotions. “No one has ever told me that.” she said. “I always thought that if someone rejected me it meant there is something wrong with me.” She sat quietly again. Then she whispered, “But it doesn’t have to does it?” I smiled as I could see her rolling new thoughts around, trying them on like a new outfit, turning this way and that as she formed an opinion on them.

When we let the opinions of others form our opinion of our self, we are in danger of our value being determined by the acceptance or rejection they give us. There is internal validation and external validation. Internal validation come from inside us. It’s our own knowledge of who we are, good and bad, and our acceptance of that. External validation comes from outside of us. It’s the opinions of others based on our looks, our opinions, our performance, our actions, etc. We are a culture of judges. We feel we have the right to judge others constantly. I do it. I comment on people on TV, on their actions, their outfits, their opinions. Isn’t that the point of reality TV? To make us all judges? I don’t do it as often in real life. I’m pretty okay with letting others be who they are, but it’s not always easy. As a friend once told me, “I’m aware of my faults and I’m working on them.”

We all want positive external validation. It’s human nature. An acknowledgement of our effort, a compliment on our looks, a respect for our opinion, appreciation of our work. It feels really good. But what if we don’t receive it? Or even worse, what if we are rejected? I’ve been rejected. It hurts. It can make us question ourselves. It can make us lose our confidence. It can make us feel worthless and fragile. But it doesn’t have to does it?

If you can do the work to honestly know who you are, not the you meeting others expectations, not the you on social media, not the you that’s your front, but the authentic you. with all your imperfections and quirks and awesome qualities. If you do the workmirror.gif and face who you are, and become friends with that you, and accept yourself completely, no one can make you feel worthless again. Your value is then based on your internal validation. If external validation comes, YAY! soak it in, delight in the feeling. But, if no validation comes, or rejection comes, you will know that you are still the same person, and that rejection takes nothing away from who you are. It still hurts, but it doesn’t destroy.  You’ll be a bit more weathered from all the mistreatment, but your value will remain the same.

Once we are able to accept who we are, we can let others be who they are. We no longer need others to agree with us, because it’s no threat to our worth if they don’t. It frees us up to experience others in a new way, not needing anything from them. If they have no perceived power over our value, then we no longer have the need to beg, coerce, manipulate, or perform for them. We can enjoy others with no fear.  And that is a beautiful way to live your life.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So I’m…a mom

“Mamas worry about everything all year. Mamas worry more at Christmas time.”

(Disclaimer…I know there are lots of daddies that show up as well, but only having experience of a mama, I speak from that. If you are a daddy and this applies to you, share it with your daddy friends.)

My son surprised me. He likes to do this. He said he wasn’t coming home for Christmas and I have been cursing the Army for a month for keeping both my boys from me. Thursday morning the doorbell rang and there he was, with his wife and kids, and I was totally confused. I was thrilled, but so confused. He showed up and all my sadness was gone. Those sweet baby kisses came, and I forgot all the days I had cried over them not coming home.

This post is for all you mamas who are especially busy this time of year. All of you who feel mommy guilt for not getting it all done. The ones worrying about not getting every teacher a gift, and decorating cookies with the kids like Pinterest. For all of you who are lucky to get all the gifts wrapped, let alone put bows and tags on them. For all of you that worry your kid will be scarred for life because you didn’t watch Christmas movies in matching jammies and write letters to Santa.

You worry about getting the presents they want, making the money work, getting to the programs at school and church. You go to the store with toddlers and babies to buy gifts, because finding a babysitter costs too much. You have to remember a million things, and then your second grader says they need a reindeer headband the next morning at school.

Mamas worry about everything all year. Mamas worry more at Christmas time. So many celebrations, so many places to take the kids and get them off their schedules. So many opportunities to feed into our mama insecurities.  I know. I was you. I remember.

You’ve never heard what I’m going to say. I’m going to tell you what Christmas is about. It’s about God showing up. It’s about God saying “I’m coming to you.” and then showing up. That tiny baby in the manger was God, choosing to be human, choosing to depend on humans for his life, choosing to experience all we humans experience, because of his love for us. He’s a great father.

Mamas, hear what I’m saying to you. Kids know who shows up. They know who is there every single day, listening, reading their favorite book for the 36th time, feeding them, taking them places, kissing boo-boos and healing broken hearts. Laughing and celebrating and having impromptu dance parties. They may be disappointed Christmas day if they don’t get the toy on the top of the list, but you show up every day, and that makes all the difference.  You show up. You’re a great mama. You show up, out of your love for your children, just like God.

Be kind to yourself this season. Give yourself credit for showing up the other 364 days, and don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make this one day perfect. Because it won’t be. Do what you can, and enjoy the time with your family. My 85 year old mom tells me often “The days go slow, but the years go fast. Enjoy your moments.” Merry Christmas mama❤

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

So I’m into recycling…

“We choose easy over effort too often.”

When we lived in the city I was provided with a big blue box to put all my recycling in, and someone came and took it each week. It made me feel like I was doing something good. I have no idea where they took it or what they did with it, but I felt like I was contributing to the greater good of humanity by recycling. Now I live in the country. No one gave me a blue box. To recycle I have to take it into town. I don’t feel like humanity has missed my contribution. Now it all gets burned in the trash barrel. (please don’t write me and tell me if that’s bad).

pw-waste_blueboxMy granddaughter #1 (g’baby 1) is 8. She loves upcycling. She will take nearly any piece of trash you give her and make something creative out of it. She’s pretty great at it. I’m sure TLC will give her a show any day now. I have friends that can make terrible looking furniture into beautiful things. Why throw something out if you can keep it and make it into something wonderful? (Disclaimer: Obviously some things need to be thrown out. Some relationships are toxic and need to be burned.)

Unfortunately though, we sometimes burn our relationships when we could recycle them. Sometimes we are in a relationship that isn’t working. Someone has wronged us, we have wronged someone else, we are stuck in a cycle of unhealthy communication, we are just tired of arguing, pride gets in the way of asking forgiveness or admitting wrong doing, etc. Sound familiar? Do you burn it or recycle?

I once worked with a couple that was in relationship hell. They fought, he shut down, she got louder, he had an affair, there were a lot of problems. They wanted to recycle the relationship. They both were committed. They worked hard. Both of them needed to make changes. Both of them needed new tools in their tool box. Both of them needed to put things in the blue box to get rid of. But, both of them wanted to make their marriage something wonderful. And you know what? They did. They are in a mutually satisfying marriage today, and hold one another in high regard. Because they did the work. They recycled when they could have burned it. They recycled their terrible looking relationship into something wonderful.

We live in a disposable society. I know someone that throws away Christmas lights every year because lights are cheap to replace, and they don’t want to untangle the ones from the past year. When my tribe of nearly 20 comes for family night every couple of weeks, I buy paper plates instead of washing so many dishes. We choose easy over effort too often.

The holidays can spotlight relationships with those that we choose to distance ourselves from the rest of the year. What relationships are worth your effort? One with your parents? Your siblings? Your spouse? Your best friend? Any of your friends? When do you recycle and choose effort over easy disposal? Only you can answer that. But at least consider before burning.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

 

So I’m traditional…

“Instead of a bat, I’m trying to use a rolling pin…”

My family has Christmas traditions. For 29 years, since Big Daddy and I were married, we sleep under the tree the night we decorate it, to symbolize that family is our greatest gift. (Not actually UNDER the tree, but that’s a funny visual!) As our family grew, we all six slept under the tree.  Now it’s just back to the two of us. Growing up, I had the same breakfast every Christmas of my life, and my kids have grown up having that same breakfast. Last year, we moved our family Christmas celebration to Christmas Eve, and at the insistence of my kids, for dinner we still have Christmas breakfast. My tree is covered in ornaments collected over the last 29 years. I still do stockings for my grown kids. I take goodie plates to my neighbors. I like tradition. But sometimes we have to change them or let them go.

Sometimes we have unknown traditions. Unhealthy traditions that we need to stop passing down. Traditions of sweeping conflict under the rug and  never resolving issues, traditions of arguing at full volume, traditions of proving your point at any cost. We get our tools for life from our models. This could be parents, grandparents, friends, and/or others that have had an impact on us. We observe and learn without even realizing it. A teenage client said to me, “I have no idea how normal families interact with each other.” She said that she had no models in her life of relationships where people can disagree peacefully, can argue fairly or were effective at conflict resolution.  Her parents are giving her tools, but they aren’t the best tools for the job.

imageI’m the queen of improvisation. If I can’t find a hammer, I use the heel of my shoe, a book or the side of a pair of pliers. Am I the only one? When I don’t have the right tool, I start trying out all kinds of things to see if they are effective. This is what we do emotionally as well. If we don’t have the right tool, we start trying out all kinds of things to see if it’s effective. If we need conflict resolution, we probably try the tool we have first.  For example if we always saw one of our parents shut down during an argument we do that, but if that doesn’t work we then start grabbing other things like anger or manipulation or dominance to see if they are effective.

Recently someone told me that she was on the toilet and realized there was no toilet paper. She asked her 2 year old to get her a roll. The little one came back first with a roll of paper towels. Her mom showed her the toilet paper roll and asked her to try again. This time she brought back a stack of napkins. All in the ballpark. All will get the job done, but not the best tool for the job.  I do that sometimes. I get in the ballpark, but instead of a bat I’m trying to use a rolling pin to hit the ball. It might hit the ball, but not as effectively as a bat would.

Here’s my question: What tools are you passing down to those you impact? and What tools/traditions do you need to get rid of and replace with something new?  When you gather with your tribe this holiday season, notice your emotional traditions. Are they effective? If not, stop. Make a change. Start a new tradition that can have an impact on generations. Actually, I know my daughters have both used shoes for hammers…maybe there is still hope for the G’babies.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous.

Jules

So I’m new at this…

“Authenticity is scary isn’t it?”

And so it begins. A blog from a small town girl that lives in the city, an introverted and extroverted woman who loves parties and needs time to herself, a woman who is full of confidence one moment and full of insecurities the next. Someone that wants more than anything to have the heart of Jesus and yet is enticed by my simple, human, selfish desires. I’m happy at home with my dog and mud boots, but equally love a beautiful dress and heels. I’m a contradiction. I’m okay with that.

1580461128-half-empty-half-full-signTwice in my life something I’ve heard or read has changed me. First, years ago, I read this quote, “Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” That changed the way I interacted with every person I met from that moment on. Secondly, I was having a conversation with my friend Rose in Uganda about the glass appearing half full or half empty. My dear Rose, who has experienced trauma you cannot imagine, said to me, “I’m thankful to have a cup and something to drink.” That changed me from that moment on. Gratitude became my focus and I’ve found it’s the answer to most of my troubles.

Many of my clients say that they wish they could call me in the middle of the week and just get an encouraging word, an inspiring thought, a caring ear. This blog is my way of doing just that. Words from my heart to yours. Words that I hope will make you think, make you laugh, make you consider changes. Words that might give you hope and courage and even healing.

I’ll do my best to be authentic. Authenticity is scary isn’t it? It makes us vulnerable to others. I’m learning to be comfortable in vulnerability. I’m learning to be okay with others not agreeing with me, or not being pleased with me. I’m learning it’s okay to be scared because that means I’m trying to do something really brave. I’m learning all the time. Did you ever notice that the more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know? There is so much I don’t know. But, I do know some really helpful, wonderful things that I want to share.

Maybe someday, someone will say “I once read something that changed me.” and it will be something I shared. That’s pretty cool. Maybe I’ll never know. I don’t need to know. I’m just going to share from my heart and pray it is something that someone needed to hear. God can’t use you if you do nothing.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous.

Jules