The Lifespan of Grief

I remember when I heard the news of the father from Sand Hook, who had lost his young daughter to gun violence in the devastating shooting at Sand Hook Elementary, took his own life I knew this was going to be a topic I needed to blog about. Then around the same time the news of a young lady who had survived the Parkland School shooting had taken her life too. The thought weighed heavily on my mind – how do we address survivor’s guilt. It is part of the lifespan of grief. For those left behind and I felt compelled to write about it from my perspective.

Below I have provided some details around survivor’s guilt and some symptoms to watch for. The references are also listed for your use should you feel the need to review.

The lifespan of grief crosses over into many facets and timelines. Grief looks different at one day and one year; or 365 to 366 days; or birthdates, angel dates, or special occasions. If you peeked into the world of a griever you’d find a story that looks a little different at each point. If you peel back any part of the journey there may be a little bit of survivor’s guilt that looks a little different than the one referenced above and outlined below.

Personally, I asked God on numerous occasions why Brittany. Why couldn’t it have been me. She was a young and smart girl growing up into a beautiful human being, one that this world needs more of desperately. I was plagued by my own version of survivor’s guilt. It took me quite a while to get passed that. Many therapy sessions and talks with God to get my head straight. It was her time. It was not mine. A hard pill to swallow. God whispered I still need you here to do work. Still today I hear this faint whisper.

Wrestling with survivor’s guilt and grief is a daily, weekly, monthly and lifelong journey. It’s vital to get the support you need to find the space where you can breathe again. Where you can find purpose again. And you will. You can. The work is hard. Joy can return. And it will. I can promise you that.

Below are some excerpts from Psychology Today’s article on Survivor’s Guilt.

Survivor’s Guilt

In a recent article from Psychology Today, Survivor’s Guilt was defined as: something that people experience when they’ve survived a life-threatening situation and others might not have. It is commonly seen among Holocaust survivors, war veterans, lung-transplant recipients, airplane-crash survivors, and those who have lived through natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, and floods.

What Everyone Should Know About Survivor’s Guilt

Symptoms of Survivor’s Guilt can manifest themselves in several ways. A few examples are listed below:

  • Having flashbacks
  • Feeling irritable
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling immobilized, numb, and/or disconnected
  • Being unmotivated
  • Feeling helpless
  • Having an intense sense of fear
  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and palpitations
  • Having suicidal feelings

In truth, it’s not logical for someone to feel responsible for another person’s fate, but guilt is not something we necessarily have any control over. However, survivor’s guilt is a normal response to loss. Not everyone experiences this type of guilt, but it’s often a feeling that is difficult to shake. It’s been said that some people are more prone to it, such as those with a history of depression and low self-esteem.

Here are some coping tips if you (or someone you know) is experiencing survivor’s guilt:

  • Give yourself time to grieve.
  • Consider thinking about who was responsible, if anyone.
  • Remember to take care of yourself physically and psychologically.
  • Think about what those who are close to you are feeling about the situation.
  • Remind yourself that you were given the gift of survival and feel good about it.
  • Try to be of service to someone or something.
  • Remind yourself that you’re not alone.
  • Be patient.
  • Share your feelings with those you trust.
  • Try to stick to a daily routine.
  • Consider journaling your feelings.
  • Get professional help, as needed.

If you find yourself needing to talk to a professional, there are many sites with recommendations for therapists near you. Check your insurance website for a list as well. It’s important to talk about your feelings and help sort things out. You are NOT alone!

 

Until next time,

M

Easter

One of my most meaningful Good Friday memories happened at Grace Church in Carmel, Indiana. We chose to reenact the events that led to Christ’s death and resurrection. There were multiple rooms or stations where you could experience one part of the story. There were several that stick out in my mind today:

The Last Supper: the food did not taste too good, in fact I recall it was very bitter. But in prayer and meditation I could imagine sitting at the table with Jesus and enjoying the company and conversation.

The Cross: I was brought to my knees and cried at the cross as it laid across the platform of steps in one room. Simply displaying what we all know it meant. I recalled in that moment Brittany’s death and hung onto the fact of what I knew Easter means – Christ’s resurrection and the understanding that I will see my Brittany again. I imagined her sitting with Jesus at that moment and my life changed in a moment. I was able to breath again.

The Foot Washing Station: This was a humbling experience. While I opted not to participate I watched as many of the volunteers washed the feet of many. Including a Colts football player. I was struck by the sheer joy of those who washed feet and the humbling looks on those who were receiving such a peaceful moment by a giving spirit.

I tried to imagine myself in each scenario and meditated and prayed.

I was a changed person after this experience and grateful to Grace Church for being bold and showing us how to “feel” and “touch” Good Friday.

Many Blessings and a happy Easter.

M

What’s next….

I have been thinking about the future of this blog for a couple of months. I will be honest I have some level of ambivalence. At some level I feel I’ve said it all. In fact, one morning when I was feeling a little sorry for myself ,I wanted to just post in big letters “I’ve nothing else to say”. When really I have a lot to say. I just don’t want to.

It doesn’t feel good to think about the deep hole that resides in my heart. It doesn’t feel good to look back and dredge up old memories (good or bad). Here’s the thing… the good memories are fading. As the years wane on, the memories become less vivid. The memories of the good times or the bad times – all fading away. I find unless I put a lot of energy around it – I can go through my day-to-day and not think about how hard it is. When I do – it’s beyond painful.

I’ve been tempted lately to spend a day watching old videos and going through her things. I don’t have much but what can fit in a 3×2 foot box. A lot of memories packed into a small space. I kept only the most treasured items – things that she loved or cards from so many after her Celebration of Life. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about going through it. I feel like I need to do that and do it soon.

Perhaps that will be the motivation for my next post.

Until next time,

M

 

Writing

For many years now I have recommended to everyone that writing, whether it be in a handwritten journal or on-line blog, can be cathartic for a grieving soul. It has always been an outlet for me to express my pain and sorrow. In the early days there was a lot of pain and sorrow. It needed an outlet. I was motivated to write because I could feel the words pour out of my broken heart and onto the page. I got some level of comfort with each word.

As a seasoned griever, I find the words don’t come as easy. I have nothing new to say. I struggle to write anything that might be helpful to anyone. And then it dawned on me. I have been avoiding my grief for a long time. I stay so busy. I work hard. I play hard. I avoid hard. I remember how difficult this journey has been and the toll it’s taken on my heart and soul over the years. Quite frankly, I’m tired of it. Problem is I can’t run away from it.

Trust me, I’ve tried and all I’ve done is push it away. It’s still there. lying deep within my soul waiting for a time to resurface. This is where I can control how and when it happens. If I wait until it chooses to resurface and it comes as a complete surprise, it can be devastatingly difficult to overcome. But if I acknowledge it and express it through writing, I choose how the grief is released. I choose.

I can’t tell you how important it is for you to control this journey. Choose to write. Choose to talk. Choose to live. Choose to honor. Choose to overcome. Choose to comfort. Choose to bless. Choose to breathe out life.

Until next time,

Mal

Bravery

This post is my sixth and final installment from my series Grief and Essential Oils. The topic for today’s post is about facing every day with a positive outlook – somedays that can take an extraordinary amount of bravery. Valor is nicknamed the “brave oil”. I use it as a perfume or when I head to the dentist (lol). Valor can be used to create a sense of empowerment, confidence and to foster energy balance.

Walking the journey of grief takes courage, positivity, a support system and a long-term commitment to taking one step at a time towards healing. I know my heart will be forever broken having lost my one child, my mother and grandmother. I also know God heals. I feel it every day. But I have skin in the game. I must do my work to continue moving forward and healing every day. I use many tools in my grief toolbox to help with this and essential oils is part of that toolbox. Journaling and grief support with other mothers who’ve lost their children help me so much.

Valor

Valor essential oil blend is one of the most popular products at Young Living and a favorite of founder D. Gary Young. Its woodsy, positive scent comes from a blend of Black Spruce, Blue Tansy, and Frankincense. Valor is great for massages, in addition to other topical and aromatic uses.

Use it to greet each morning with a positive attitude or to unwind at the end of the day. Its powerful yet calming scent is versatile enough that you can integrate it into your morning and bedtime routines and anywhere in between.

How to use Valor™:

Topical:Apply 2-4 drops directly to desired area. Dilution is not required, except for the most sensitive skin. Use as needed.

Aromatic:Diffuse 1 hour 3 times daily. You may also use one drop on your hands and create a cup from your hands and bring to your face to breathe in to help connect with your inner self.

Caution: Keep out of reach of children. For external use only. Keep away from eyes and mucous membranes. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult a health professional prior to use. Avoid direct sunlight or UV rays for up to 12 hours after applying product.

When you use essential oils every day you will notice subtle changes in your thoughts and emotions. Learning to release negative thoughts and feelings creates the space for positive and joyful memories to emerge which will help to move you along in your grief journey and find moments of joy and gratitude again. It takes time and with consistent application of meditation, essential oils and journaling you’ll begin to experience more frequent moments of joy and gratitude.

Until next time,

M

 

Becoming Present

This post is my fourth installment from my series Grief and Essential Oils. The topic for today’s post is becoming more present and finding joy and gratitude in the present moment.

Staying present takes work. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s much easier to float back to memories that can often take us to the dark side of grief. As griever’s we spend a great deal of time early on the journey remembering our loved ones and missing them with our broken hearts. We spend time in the multiple stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Remember that we all experience this journey differently. Sometimes, we spend time in one or more of the stages longer than others. That is ok. It’s normal. What we must try not to do is spend too long in one and not moving forward.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is how to become present in my life. When I connect with the present, I find I can look around and see many reasons to be grateful. That can be a big pill to swallow when you are grieving the loss of a child or loved one. If someone mentioned gratitude to me in the early days, I would have thought they had lost their mind. But for those of us who are what I call “seasoned grievers”, we can accept and when we are present, can find gratitude. Gratitude is the air that fills our lungs and allows us to experience the miracle of life. Gratitude experiencing the love of others in our lives. Finding gratitude in the simplest of things can be the start of finding joy again.

Present TimeThe fragrance of Present Time™ can be used aromatically to bring you into the present moment and create an atmosphere of empowerment.

I like to apply Present Time™ when I feel the need to be present in a particular moment. For example, preparing to write this blog post; or attending a conference call. There are many times when we need to be present for ourselves, our loved ones and Present Time can be a great tool to help you be more present.

When diffused, Present Time™ helps you focus on the here and now, so you can get beyond the past and move forward.

How to use Present Time™:

Topical:Apply 2-4 drops directly to desired area. Dilution is not required, except for the most sensitive skin. Use as needed.

Aromatic:Diffuse up to 30 minutes 3 times daily. You may also use one drop on your hands and create a cup from your hands and bring to your face to breathe in to help connect with your inner self.

Caution: Keep out of reach of children. For external use only. Keep away from eyes and mucous membranes. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult a health professional prior to use. Avoid direct sunlight or UV rays for up to 12 hours after applying product.

When you begin to incorporate essential oils every day you will notice subtle changes in your thoughts and emotions. Becoming present can help you move along your grief journey and find moments of joy and gratitude again. It takes time, practice and lots of patience, but with consistent application of meditation, essential oils and journaling, you’ll begin to experience more frequent moments of joy and gratitude.

Until next time,

M

Connecting with your inner child.

This post is my third installment from my series Grief and Essential Oils. The topic for today’s post is connecting with your inner child.

Grieving is hard. It’s a daily chore. It’s a walk down memory lane each and every day. Sometimes the memories are positive and joyful and sometimes memories are negative and painful. The goal is to transition your thoughts and memories to joyful and positive ones hence creating an atmosphere of healing. It takes hard work and a lot of support from those who stand with you on this journey.

I remember so clearly the day my daughter passed. It was a horrific 12 hours that I’d like to never recall again. The pain of watching your daughter slip through the hands of seasoned medical professionals knowing all you can do is pray and yet, still she dies. My heart took a hard blow and broke into a million pieces. It’s taken me a long time to go from negative feelings to positive feelings but most importantly from negative memories to more positive ones. It’s not a one stop shop to move from one level to another. It’s more of a life long journey to support your heart and mind by releasing negativity and memories and creating a space where you can remember the wonderful things about your loved ones. To release the negative energy and accept a more positive self is the goal. And you can get there. It’s not a race but rather a marathon.

Inner ChildInner Child™

The sweet fragrance of Inner Child™ can be used aromatically to encourage you to connect with your authentic self and for emotional balance.

I like to apply Inner Child™ when I’m feeling sad or during times of reflection and meditation especially when I want to connect to my inner child who loved life and enjoyed just being a kid. Meditation is a big component in the grief journey. I use meditation prior to writing in my journal. It allows me to collect my thoughts before I write.

When you’re feeling disconnected, or have negative thoughts bringing essential oils like Inner Child™ into your daily or weekly routine can be an effective way to enhance your day. Creating a sense of emotional balance can be vital to bringing the type of atmosphere that can be helpful to you as you navigate all the emotions that come from experiencing grief. By allowing feelings to bubble up to a present moment as you smell the oil, you are in control of the thoughts and energy you give to that feeling or memory.

How to use Inner Child™:

TopicalDilute 1 drop with 1 drop of V-6™ or olive oil and apply to desired area as needed.

AromaticDiffuse up to 1 hour 3 times daily. You may also use one drop on your hands and create a cup from your hands and bring to your face to breathe in to help connect with your inner self.

Caution: Keep out of reach of children. For external use only. Keep away from eyes and mucous membranes. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult a health professional prior to use. Avoid direct sunlight or UV rays for up to 12 hours after applying product.

When you use essential oils every day you notice subtle changes in your thoughts and emotions. It’s important acknowledge the memories that create a negative response and reconnect the memories with something positive. Reconnecting with yourself is truly the first step in moving beyond the past. With consistent application of meditation, essential oils and journaling the negative thoughts and memories can be replaced by positive thoughts and memories. That’s not to say you won’t remember or have negative thoughts; however, they should feel reduced and short lived so that you are able to move towards positivity and light.

Until next time,

M