In my last post I discussed my “self-care” emergency kit. While I incorporate several modalities, my favorite is the “Daily Challenge.”
Every day, I challenge myself to learn or try something new. Sometimes it is as simple as looking up a word I don’t recognize. Other times it’s reading a new topic, or challenging myself to walk 15 more minutes. Some days, it’s trying something new with art.
As I continue my healing journey, one thing I am constantly reminded of is to “self-care.” I’m sure others are probably tiring of me reminding them to do the same.
Self-care may sound a little “woo-woo,” but it really is not. It’s not all about massages or mani-pedis, though they can be incorporated, too. In times of trauma recovery, self-care is a reminder to be gentle with yourself in all situations, and to not only learn your limits, but to honor them, too.
Yesterday, I celebrated my sweet Sarah’s 13th birthday, wracked with profound grief. Sarah transitioned to Heaven early in December after contracting viral myocarditis. It was such a shock to our family, friends and the community at large. People from around the world – literally – were praying with us as this sweet child battled an awful virus that attacked her heart. And those same people have supported us in our grief.
The initial shock is beginning to fade, and I find myself living in the reality of the grief. The loss. The gut-punch of never seeing her in this realm, yet feeling her presence on a soul-level.
To say that the past year or so of my life has been the worst season of my existence is a gross understatement. So, while I am on my healing journey, self-care has been a huge priority.
A month or so ago, my hairstylist/friend, recommended the book, “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron. The book is an exercise in tapping back into the creativity we all have, and using our art – in any form – as a building block to healing. A great way to self-care.
Ordering the book, I was struck with the thought, “I know I heard about this book before,” but I couldn’t remember why. An email reminder that I received the next day re-engaged my brain: I had signed up for a workshop at our local library, based on this book – and it was being facilitated by a friend of mine.
“I could give you some medication for him. It would alleviate some of the pain, but…”
I knew when I hugged him that it would be for the last time. Cradled in my oldest son’s arms, I bid farewell to our family’s dog.
He had a wonderful life. He lived better than some humans, as he never wanted for a meal or a warm place to lay his head.
Apparently, I slept through what my husband said was Jack’s very labored breathing. Our dear old dog made some very odd sounds, jarring my husband awake. And since I woke at my usual time, I let Jack outside while I filled his dish with his breakfast, not knowing what had transpired through the night.
This morning I had the privilege of watching my granddaughters before school started. It was a “late start day,” which used to cause me some angst in the mornings. I know it messes up the routine for many working parents, since an hour of childcare is needed at an awkward time, causing a disruption in the usual hurried morning.
But these days, since I don’t have to corral sleeping kids off to school in the morning, I enjoy helping out by having the girls over for breakfast – even if they ended up eating the pumpkin muffins their mom sent over for me.
We had a little silly time, a little talk time, and a few rounds of playing “Go Fish.” I laughed when one of the girls said, “You go first because you are the oldest,” which I thought sounded much better than, “Because you are old.” A little before nine, we headed outside. A neighbor was going to drop them off at school, so I walked them down the sidewalk adjacent to our yard, which is now sporting a beautiful blanket of colorful leaves – a season of change.
“Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings.” – Henry Cloud
Just a moment ago, it was summer, and they were running around in the yard catching fireflies in jars or doing cartwheels or playing basketball. Now, they will be excited to come over and rake all the leaves into a huge pile and jump into it.
As they made their way into our neighbor’s car, I turned around and looked at the yard. Other than the leaves and my trusty dog, it was completely empty and quiet.
Though it seems like yesterday, it was almost ten years ago that our yard had a completely different look. It was a hot summer day, and it was early morning when my husband, kids and a few other relatives were moving around under the huge canopies set up for our oldest daughter’s wedding. My husband made a wedding trellis; tables and chairs were decorated; a dance floor was set up, and we were ready to welcome more than 100 family and friends to celebrate.
Sometimes when I look into the yard, I can’t believe how it had held so many people, and how beautiful it looked with tulle along the fence line and pots of flowers scattered throughout. So many people pitched in to help. So many people attended and shared a special day.
I thought of all the people that filled our yard that summer day.
For a moment, I let myself have a cry. In less than a decade, both sides of the family have lost dear loved ones: my dad, my grandfather, my great-aunt, my husband’s cousin; the groom’s grandmother, and, sadly, this year within ten months, we lost the groom’s parents. I was kind of taken aback, because I didn’t expect to look at my quiet yard and feel so moved. Just standing on the sidewalk, I looked over the fence and saw where everyone was sitting, smiling and talking.
Grief doesn’t really know a time frame. Some days you smile at memories, and sometimes you weep. There isn’t a right way to grieve, or a wrong way. You never know which way a memory will take you, so you just go through the moment.
Maybe today’s memory happened because the leaves on the grass reminded me of my dad and his vigilant effort to get them out of his yard. Maybe it happened because the quiet was a little too quiet once the girls left for school. Maybe it was because of hormones. Or maybe it is because midlife is like fall – a beautiful, colorful season of change – a time of enormous transformation, yet a time to reflect and perhaps even mourn.
Watching the next generation skip down the side walk heading to the neighbor’s and ultimately to school, the grief lifted momentarily. How could I not smile as they waved and yelled, “Bye, Mema!” They are so full of life and wonder and growth – like spring.
Back in the house, I allowed myself to mourn a bit more. I realized that like summer, life seems short. I took a few minutes to remember the loved ones my granddaughters are probably too young to remember. I thanked God for the people that are in my life, and those who no longer are – physically, anyway – because they will always be alive in my heart.
And I promised those we’ve lost that we will keep them alive in my granddaughters’ hearts, too. They loved those little girls, just as we do. So, we will make great memories and tell the girls stories about the ones we loved and lost – the ones who shared a special wedding day with us – the day that was the beginning of their little family, and a day I cried happy tears when I looked into the yard.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; …” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-22
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers
It’s hard to believe that yesterday at this time, sleet, rain and snow flurries were taking turns smacking against the windows. It was gray, cold and dreary – a typical November day in our area of the world. Twenty-four hours later, the sun is streaming through the windows of a pretty late-fall day, and as I had let the dog back in the house, I could hear the comforting bells chiming at the church a block away.
“This is the price you pay for having a great father. You get the wonder, the joy, the tender moments – and you get the tears at the end, too.” – Harlan Coben
I’ve come to the realization that Father’s Day will always be bittersweet. The first few years after my dad’s death were really difficult, and you can tell by the type of posts I wrote that I was really grieving.