Tag: grief

SIMPLIFYING & DOWNSIZING ~ Getting Real!

SIMPLIFYING & DOWNSIZING ~ Getting Real!

Yesterday, as I carted home yet another piece of my mother’s furniture. I had to admit to myself that I am not doing very well in Simplifyingthe simplifying department!  When the calendar turned over, and 2017 began, I placed the intention to begin downsizing and simplifying front and center in my mind.  I had begun to feel the weight of the stuff I still carried with me, and I knew it was time.  Now, with only 3 short months until the next turn of the calendar year,  I am keenly aware that I’ve fallen short of my own expectations.

Reflecting on this situation today, I am reminded that while progress may not be evident on the outside, the intentions we hold work behind the scenes in our unconscious even when we are not working in the world. In truth, this is an essential part of the process of real and lasting change. An idea arises. We grab it, take a look at it, consider its merits and then decide whether to hold on to it or toss it aside. If we hold on to it, then we must either begin preparations to act or act. If we do not, the idea will keep reappearing until we let go of it or do it. Stating our intention is only the first step in a very long process that brings about the final outcome. This is the nature of change or transformation.

ANCHORING INTENTIONS

To effect change we must let our ideas sink down and become anchored within us. Then the wheels of progress will be set in motion. An idea in the mind must find support in the heart in order for the will to push it forward.  When we stall out it is because we are unconsciously blocking our forward motion. We are, in essence, sabotaging our own success.  Unless we become aware of the block and work through it, we will remain stuck. We will not be able to bring our ideas and intentions into the concrete world.

SimplifyMy intention was and still is a good one.  I did not bring it into the physical world, however, because unconsciously I was avoiding the pain of letting go. In order to shed the excess in my world, I must face layers and layers of loss. Simplifying is often more about our willingness to grieve and let go than it is the time and effort to psychically sort and toss.

In my home, I am surrounded by things of the past; my children’s belongings still buried in closets, unfinished projects awaiting my attention, boxes of my mother’s belongings, and so much more. It’s so much easier to push ahead into the future than to bury the past.  But, when we avoid letting go, we end up carrying weighty baggage that clutters our interior landscape as much as our exterior one. In time, life begins to feel overwhelming, frantic and/or unmanageable.

LETTING GO

The past year has not been wasted. Holding the intention allowed me and my psyche to lay the groundwork, to prepare myself for the grieving process. There is no value in beating ourselves up over unaccomplished intentions. It’s not only a diversion from the real issue, but a waste of time and energy.  Instead, I choose to bring the attention into my awareness more and more frequently. As I hold it loosely and turn toward it, my unconscious continues to set the stage for action.

This may sound like a whole lot of unnecessary psycho-babble to you, but it is important to understand that there is much going on within us that is outside of our conscious awareness. When we use it to our advantage, instead of our destruction, we step into the flow of life rather than fighting against it, or ourselves.

Has an idea come into your mind, perhaps again and again,
calling for your attention and intention?

© Dorothy Sander 2017

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Finding Hope

 

Turning Grief into Art By Madeline Sharples

Turning Grief into Art By Madeline Sharples

Madeline Sharples suffered an unthinkable loss, but her grief was not the end of the story. Not by a long shot.

TURNING GRIEF INTO ART

by Madeline Sharples

Grief

I was 59 years old when my son, suffering with bipolar disorder, took his own life. Following an aftermath filled with guilt and grief, I made the decision to come out of that experience alive, whole, and productive. Instead of doing the expected: getting a divorce, having a breakdown or an affair with a beautiful younger man, becoming an alcoholic, or going into years of therapy, I chose to live and take care of myself as a woman, writer, wife, and mother.

The Essential Truth I Discovered

The truth is I was able to survive this tragedy. Even though the effects of my son’s death have never left my heart and thoughts, this tragic event provided some wonderful gifts.

  • Paul left a little black suitcase filled with the music he composed, played, and recorded. Listening to Paul’s music is like having him playing here at home. And even though it still makes me well up, it provides an inspiration for my writing work.
  • I became much stronger by sheer will. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I was obsessively persistent in dealing with my grief and becoming a productive person again.
  • I also became physically stronger. Exercise keeps me sane and healthy physically and mentally. And the payoffs have been terrific. My body is trim, I have an athlete’s heart rate, I have a lot of energy, I don’t have aches and pains, and I don’t have osteoporosis.
  • My marriage survived by a combination of my drive to deal with the pain, suffering, and loss, and my husband, Bob’s willingness to wait until I got better. We realized early on that our grieving processes were different, so we were patient, we gave each other a lot of space, and we respected each other. A big plus is we don’t worry about the small stuff anymore. A loss as great as ours put what’s important into perspective. Most important, we are still very much in love and best friends. I can see that love in Bob’s face. His eyes and whole face soften when he looks at me, exuding love from every pore. This love has been the glue that has kept us together—glue stronger than the trauma of Paul’s death. We’re together in it for the long haul—richer, poorer, sickness, health, and a son’s death. We celebrated forty-six years last May.
  • I created a wonderful relationship with our surviving son and his wife. I now have a terrific bond with Ben. We spend time together. We support each other’s work—I’m even helping him with his scriptwriting. And that he and Marissa chose to have their wedding in our family home meant so much to me. That created a very special bond between us and provided a very happy memory to supplant the bad memories of the past years.
  • Of course none of these gifts can replace what my family and I have lost—our beloved son Paul. However, discovering the gifts that followed such a tragedy has enabled me to move on and still keep Paul’s memory alive in my heart.
griefWhat Led to My Discovery of These Truths 

First, I went back to work. I wrote grant proposals and led capital campaigns for non profits for awhile, and then I went back to the full-time job I had retired from several years earlier—as a technical writer and editor and proposal manager for a large aerospace company. This job provided the routine and socialization I needed—getting up at the same time every morning, dragging myself to the gym first thing, dressing in business attire, putting on make-up and doing my hair, and interacting with groups of people on the job every day. I thought about my work almost twenty-four/seven, leaving me no energy or time to wallow.

However, I still had enough time to hone my creative-writing skills. Instead of taking creative detours into drawing and painting, sewing, quilting, and needlepoint as I had done in the past, I went back to writing, a love I discovered in high school and college.

How These Truths Unfolded

I took writing classes and workshops, I got into the journaling habit, and I began writing poetry to keep my son’s memory alive. I created a memoir about living with my son’s illness and surviving his suicide, called Leaving the Hall Light OnThrough this process I found that writing became my therapy and a way of healing.

In a writing workshop just four months after Paul died I found that poems came spontaneously out of my pen. Since then I’ve honed my skills by participating in workshops and poetry groups, resulting in many of my poems being published.

Both poetry and journaling are still my companions and my saviors—things I can turn to any time, any place. I can put my grief and tears on the page. After a loss such as mine, writing has become a healing balm.

I also moved on to a career I’ve always wanted to have. Paul’s death has given me the gift of a new career and mission in life. I created a book with the goal of helping others who have experienced a loss like mine, I have a new writing career as a web journalist, I’m busy writing a novel, and I discovered my mission for the rest of my life: to work to erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide. If my writing helps attain that mission, it will all be worth it.


Madeline Sharples’ Bio 

During her 30-year professional career, Madeline Sharples worked as a technical writer/editor and proposal manager in the aerospace business and wrote grant proposals in the nonprofit arena. She started to fulfill her dream to work as a creative writer in the last few years. Her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicidewas released in a hardback edition in 2011 and re-released in paperback and eBook editions by Dream of Things in 2012.

She also co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994), co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1, 2, and 3, and wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Her poems appear online and in print magazines, recently in the Story Circle Network True Words series, the 2016 Porter Gulch Review, and the Yellow Chair Review’s 2016 ITWOW (In the Words of Womyn) anthology.

Madeline’s articles appear regularly at the Naturally Savvy website. She also posts at her blog, Choices and is currently writing a novel. In addition, she produced a CD of her son’s music called Paul Sharples at the Piano, as a fundraiser to help erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide. It was released on the fifthteenth anniversary of his death in September 2014. 

Madeline studied journalism in high school, wrote for the high school newspaper, studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin, and received a B.A. degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles.

 

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The Silence of Morning by D.H.Hickman – A Book Review

The Silence of Morning by D.H.Hickman – A Book Review

The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time UndoneSilence of Morning  is a powerful memoir of one mother’s struggle to come to terms with the sudden death of her son.  Filled with wisdom and insight, Hickman’s  writings can only be described as a  prayer, one that comes straight from the center of her broken heart.

The author dives fearlessly into the void created by her loss and does battle with herself, external reality, and all that is unseen. She knows instinctively, even if not consciously during the process, that she is not only searching for answers and some kind of palatable acceptance of her loss, but for the meaning of life itself.  She is searching for the voice of her soul.

HIckman’s philosophical  writing style does not belie the pain beneath her words, but it does keep  the book from being voyeuristic or maudlin. In every word she honors the memory of her son.  As she recounts the days before and after Matt’s death, she does not do so in tedious detail, but in poetic reflection, and the deep questioning that is her style. She writes with a heart that is strong and courageous, even when it is broken wide open.

Each question the author asks of herself, of the Universe, of Life Itself, the reader needs and wants answered as well. We wrestle along with Hickman as she travels through heartbreak, anger, frustration, sorrow, longing, and the ever-present search for understanding.  She wants a reason to keep on going, to find meaning and purpose in life again.

The Silence of Morning offers a glimpse into the transformative process.

Hickman givesSilence of Morning us a glimpse into the transformative process. Unspoken in the loss of her son, was the loss of life as she knew it. One can never return to a life of innocence before loss. When the unexpected happens, when loss occurs suddenly, no matter what the preamble, we are in some manner traumatized. Something has occurred that our reasoning minds cannot understand. As we grieve we struggle to understand that which cannot be understood, and as such it becomes a spiritual matter. Hickman knew instinctively, before she knew consciously,  that she would have to follow the transformative path if she were to come through her loss and still find meaning and purpose in her life.

The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone ultimately offers readers not only an opportunity to explore their own losses but to do so in the context of transformation. It is hard work. It requires that we ask the hard questions and seek the unexpected answers. Daisy takes her readers on this journey. It is a powerful gift to those who long to articulate the depth of their pain and to find meaning in it. If you have experienced a dark night of the soul, if you have experienced loss or trauma, and even if you haven’t, The Silence of Morning offers you an opportunity to wrestle with the hard questions that we all must ask if we are to live a life worth living.

 

Connect with the author:

Silence of Morning
Daisy Hickman, author of The Silence of Morning, A Memoir of Time Undone At home in The Sunny Room Studio


Facebook: The Sunny Room Studio Page

Website: The Sunny Room Studio

Twitter: @MySunnyStudio


YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:

LEAVING THE HALL LIGHTS ON, by Madeline Sharples

THE DANGEROUS OLD WOMAN, Audio Serioes by Dr. Clarissa PInkola Estés

 

Mothers Letting Go

Mothers Letting Go

Mother's Day

“The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.”  Erich Fromm

Many of us are in the phase of “letting go” of our role as mothers. The hardest part is often where allowing our children to be independent and make their own decisions conflicts with our need to protect, guide and love; when our children cut the strings and pull away. We feel the loss acutely, and yet, that is our job. We must set them free to make their own mistakes just as we have made our own.

We must never forget, however, that they will always need the love and acceptance of a mother’s love. When we set the example of unconditional love they will grow a mother within themselves that carries them far beyond the length of our years and our presence in their lives. Holding them loosely in our hearts through the years of growing independence gives them a safe haven in a storm when they need it while allowing them to grow into the adults we long for them to become.

When our children no longer needs us, we must grieve and let them go. Still, we must never forget that our role as mother never ends. We need never stop sharing our mother love. We only need turn our attention elsewhere. Children needing love spill out of every crack and crevice throughout the world. If we look carefully, we will see the unloved child in the cashier at the grocery store, the grumpy mailman that always messes up our mail, the young woman whose husband abuses her, the little boy acting up in church, and in face after face of those we encounter briefly or every day. The wounded children of the world need the love of a mother to grow strong and whole. If your heart is full of mother’s love and your children no longer seem to need it, let it spill over on the world around you.

Download your copy of my book, Finding Hope today, as my gift to you. (Offer expires at midnight tonight. 5-10-15.  I think you’ll find a little extra strength, guidance and hope between the pages that may just take you through the hard moments of “letting go” to a new place of acceptance and outward of expression of mother’s love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Coping with Loss

Coping with Loss

Grieving-mother-and-grandmother

Losing someone we love is likely the most painful and difficult experience we face. Of course there are no easy answers but there are a few things that we can do to support the person who is grieving, even if it is us!

Grief, like most things in life is a process. Swiss Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in the study of grief and laid the groundwork for how we view it today in her book “On Death and Dying”. Kubler-Ross made note of five very clear stages that one goes through when coming to terms with the death of a loved one or their own impending death. These stages are: 1) denial 2) anger 3) bargaining 4) depression 5) acceptance. No two people go through the process at exactly the same speed or order and many times we move back and forth between the stages before we arrive at acceptance.

These stages underline the reality that grieving takes time and that it is a process of coming to terms with our loss. It’s a very painful period of time and not an easy course to navigate but with time and patience and the right support we can find ourselves coming to a place of acceptance. It’s not the we will not feel the pain, but that it will be more bearable and we will be able to go on and live out our lives.

How we grieve will depend on many things, how we have coped with stress in the past, the support system we have in place and the circumstances surrounding our loved one’s death. A sudden loss may be more difficult to come to terms with than a prolonged illness where we have likely already grieved little by little for a long time.  If we have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, these same patterns may arise again. It is important to seek outside support and support groups are readily available.

HERE’S A FEW THINGS YOU CAN DO

EXERCISE: When at all possible going for a long walk every day with a friend can hep you both physically and mentally. Exercise has been shown to raise the good chemicals in your body and help dissipate the bad.  Walking with a friend also provides a good opportunity for conversation.

SPEND TIME OUTSIDE: Fresh air and sunshine is also beneficial to our mood and sense of well-being.

KEEP A ROUTINE: One of the hardest things about coping with the loss of a loved one is that it shakes our sense of security. Keeping a routine will provide an foundation for the healing process.

JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP: A support group is very helpful, particularly if you don’t have family and friends near by. A good place to look for a support group is through your local Hospice organization.

CRY: Crying is healthy, particularly when we are suffering a loss. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, let the tears flow.

MAKE AN EFFORT TO SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS: Respect your need or desire to be alone, but do spend some time each week outside of the home with friends.

©Dorothy Sander 2013

MORE INFORMATION

HOSPICE FOUNDATION

FINDING A SUPPORT GROUP

COPING WITH GRIEF AND LOSS

GRIEFNET.ORG – An internet community of persons dealing with grief, death, and major loss.

 

 

A Gift for Mom

A Gift for Mom

Photo by Chalmers Butterfield

My mother lived to be ninety-seven years old. Born in 1911 she saw the world undergo enormous changes. She lived a life that was not without its problems, but always seemed to find a way to give to those in need. When she and my father sold the family home and moved into a retirement community it was an enormous change for her. She didn’t know what to make of apartment living after tending to her own home and gardens most of her life. She struggled to make it “home” and for the most part, she succeeded. When my Dad died a few years later, she was adrift. Disabled from a stroke in his mid-sixties, she had hovered over him and cared for him for twenty years. She was a caregiver by nature and I learned, first hand, most of the tricks of the trade.

For the next eight years, my mother struggled to make sense of her life, to understand what it was she was supposed to do with her time while she waited to die. At first she rallied the necessary support from her children to fulfill her bucket list. Then she turned her attentions toward her neighbors in need. She baked cookies, washed laundry, fetched mail and looked in on sick and dying friends. There came a day, however, when she could do this no longer. One by one she gave up her caretaking activities. It was her turn to be cared for, but it was a completely unfamiliar role and she fought it every step of the way. This made it difficult for her children.

As we age we are asked to change our idea of ourselves and our purpose, sometimes multiple times before we die. As our physical and mental capacities diminish placing limits on our accustomed activities, we must find new ways of understanding who and what we are. For many it is difficult to live without a purpose, or for those like my mother who played more or less the same role her entire life, impossible. Trying to comfort my mother by distracting her was the only thing we knew to do. It may have been the only thing we could do. After all, each of us must make peace with our own lives, no one else can do it for us. This is the job of the elderly. This is the purpose of the last years in life.

It is hard for the living to understand the dying process. It is almost impossible to plan in advance how we will respond. Watching from a loving distance, as our parents pass through this difficult life process is their last real and valuable gift to us. We have much to learn from them even or especially when they are dying. What we witness will inform how we will handle our own last days. It may inform how we live from that day forward. Walking with them, loving them, and allowing them to do whatever thrashing about they need to do as they wrestle with their living and their dying is our last gift to them.