Posts tagged #loss

Fatherless Father's Day - 5 Tips to Help

What do I do? How do I handle a day set apart for celebrating “Fathers” when my Father and husband (father of my 3 children) died 8 months apart from each other. Dreaded? Painful? There are no words to desribe the void. I couldn’t avoid it, reminders were everyone . . . . advertisements for Father’s Day gifts in the mail, on the TV, in shopping malls, radio . . . .special recognition anticipated at church (to be honest I avoided church on Father’s Day for several years after my husband and father died). 

The first Father’s Day with both of these men out of my life, I came up with the brainy idea to take my 14, 12 and 8 year old on a backpack trip(first time by myself) . . . . after all, their dad loved to backpack so it would be honoring to him and we could somewhat avoid the “in your face reminders” of our fathers not being present.

With all gear in tow including a back pack stove(our means for cooked food that I had just learned how to use a couple days prior), we set out for a short backpack to Twin Lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This journey of grief I was on was like this back pack trip, I had to learn to do things differently on the adventure called “life”. 

Tip #1  Do things differently  

Of course things are different!  I’m talking about to be intentional about doing something different coupled with something familiar. We had been to this same place a several times but not without their father. It helps to make some plans. It doesn’t have to be as intense as week-end backpack. Maybe this Father’s Day you can intentionally do something different and that’s also honoring to your children’s father. 

After arriving at the place where we parked our cars, put the back packs on (heavier than I wanted) . . . a stark reminder that my husband had always carried the bulk of the weight, but not today . . . today we would trudge ahead not knowing what was around the bend but looking for the good. I looked at our 3 children and was  proud  - all decked for the hike, hauling their own heavier than usual backpacks, none the less, ready to go. 

I was doing these things “solo” now and didn’t like it but I had no choice so I trudged ahead one step at a time. Our youngest started to complain about the weight of his pack and wanted someone to carry it for him. Not an option for this trip. My pack was already heavier than it had ever been. Instead I encouraged him to put one foot in front of the other, slow and steady.

Tip #2  Take one step at a time  

The load gets heavy. It may feel like you can’t go on.  We would like the rule book . . . .you know the  the abc’s of how to walk through grief and face days like Father’s Day. It doesn’t exist.  I encourage you to take one step at a time, put one foot in front of the other, face one moment as you walk through Father’s Day. 

Walking along the trail, I was struck with a fear of being the only one responsible for these precious children. I had to face the fear to keep from getting paralyzed in my own thoughts. Praying as I walked, I chose to focus on the present beauty around us. Dense forest of evergreen trees, colorful wildflowers in the meadow, my brave and beautiful children. Courageously we trudged along the trail, (luckily it was well marked), we came to the top of the first mountain and were met with the vast beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with snow covered tops. Breath-taking. 

Tip #3  Focus on the present  

There’s temptation to live in the past with constant reminders of “how life use to be.” I urge you to look right now . . .  yes this moment  . .  at who and what is right in front of you.  . . . your children, each with their own uniqueness, other people in your life, the beauty around you (may be hard to find, but it’s there if you look for it) and the blessings. Notice it and take if all in. 

 As we descended the mountain crossing along others, we came around a bend to find snow, not just a patch, the whole area was covered in snow!! I had to chuckle . . . my husband actually liked “snow camping” something I had never wanted to experience. Here I was with our 3 children trudging now through snow, a new experience and not so easy with full backpacks strapped to our backs. It was an adventure. Their dad use to say, "The adventure begins when you leave the house."

Tip #4 Be open to new experiences                       

Do something new, something that may be an adventure or bring a chuckle to you and your children. Open their eyes to realize . . although hard, . .  life can still be good. If you only focus on “what was”, you can get stuck, unable to move forward. Being open to “what’s around the bend” New experiences, build resilience, new memories. and give hope for a future.

Fortunately we did not have to pitch our tent in the snow. We did find dry ground, we spent two days and nights in the wilderness, caught trout for dinner in the stream, gazed at the starry night and remembered the wonderful memories we had made at this same exact site. We laughed, we were silly and we shared stories. Had my husband not chosen to include his wife and 3 little ones in his love of hiking outdoors, we would not have been there on the 1st Father’s Day without him. 

Tip #5 Remember the memories   

Tell your stories, the blessings of a father’s touch on your life. This is different than being “stuck in the past.” There’s a joy to remember memories  and live in the present.  Sometimes your children need a boost to get started. Start off a story with . .”remember when we or dad” . . . . As mom begins to remember, their memories kick in gear and the blessings begin. 

These tips are not without pain and struggle. It is hard. It's difficult. I urge you to trudge forward and face the difficulties. But you do not have to do it alone. I'd love to share some resources with you. Give me a call for a free phone consultation at 559-577-3994 or email me at patty@counselingfresno.org

 

Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

 

Are you in the midst of grief?

 

Do you wonder if you’ll ever enjoy life again?

 

You may feel like you’re going "crazy" or "losing it." You’re not!  You’re grieving the death of special person you dearly love. 

 

```We grieve because we love and this is normal.

Normal grief throws ones life into chaos, mentally, emotionally physically and spiritually. It is painful and harder then you thought it would be. Finding out what is normal will help you hang on to hope and know that healing will come.

Here are some normal reactions to grief & loss:

  • mixed up bundle of emotions
  • forgetfulness
  • numbness
  • time distortion
  • hopelessness
  • deep ache in your soul
  • disorganization & confusion
  • trouble concentrating
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite
  • sleep disruption
  • anxious, sad, apathy, fearful, teary, angry
  • lack of motivation
  • little or no zest for life
  • questioning existence, life & death
  • physical pain
  • feeling like you're going "crazy"

This is a time to be gentle with yourselfTake one step at a time and allow yourself to heal. There is no “quick fix” or microwave solution. It takes time and effort to heal. 

The loss of a loved one is not an event it is a process, a journey. 

You do not have to do this journey alone and I don’t recommend that you do. Seek out help from others. Attend a grief support group. Maybe some counseling will be the route to take. I can come alongside you as your travel through your grief journey and offer resources along the way. Contact me at (559) 577-3994 to see if counseling might be right for you.

Posted on February 23, 2016 and filed under grief, suicide loss, loss.

4 Quick Tips to Handle the Unexpected

Before I knew I it, I was hanging partially upside down with only a lap belt that kept me from falling. 

This was not the pleasant ride on a path that I had expected.

It began as a nice Saturday in the mountains where my husband had taken me for a drive. Oh yeah, another part I should add, it was a ride in his four wheel drive vehicle up mountain rock paths. We went through a forest of evergreen trees, through a stream trickling water, up a waterfall pathway (no water) and onto other marked trails. Then the unexpected happened, we were slung off the path before we realized what happened, rolling over and stopped by a tree. I thanked God for the tree; otherwise we would have kept rolling. 

 

As a therapist, I help others deal with hurts and pain, including, “the unexpected”.

 

Here’s some quick tips that help.

1. Stay Put and Hang On

When life is out of control, you’re thrown off your normal path, it can be best to stay put (at least temporarily). Ride out whatever is going on; hang on to the familiar. Ground yourself with what is right in front of you. The unexpected can alert your brain to go in reactionary mode causing you to do and say things you may regret and make the situation worse.  Have you ever overreacted to a situation? . . .Yeah, met too. By staying put, you send the message to the fight/flight part of your brain to calm down. This will allow your brain to get or stay calm and respond with clarity rather than react. 

 In my story, I hung on to the overhead handles that I knew had been placed there to help brace myself, to keep me from banging my head or  . . . who knows whatever else.

2. Check Yourself

It’s important to realize in what ways your’e okay.

It’s important to pause for a moment (or two), take a breath and see how you are doing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Are there some self needs that you can tend to or  areas where you need help. As important as it is to tend to your needs, it’s important to realize in what ways you are okay. It will help you to stay calm.

For us that meant literally checking in with ourselves and with each other to see if we were physically and emotionally ok. We were able to breathe a sigh of relief and look to what was next.

it’s important to realize in what ways you’re okay.

3. Reach Out for Help  

Seek the help of those around you whether it’s friends, family,  helpful people/organizations or a therapist, counselor, pastor, other professional.  You may not know the answers or which direction to go, but others can offer valuable resources, point you in the right direction and give practical help. We are meant for relationships, community and connectedness. Help is available. You need to ask and accept it. I know it’s not always easy, but others are more than willing to help . . . it’s actually a blessing for them. (Research shows we have a feel good chemical released in our brains - oxytocin- when we help others)   

Needless to say, hanging at an angle on the high side of a vehicle tipped over, we weren’t sure what to do next.  Thankfully, people came running to help us and give us direction. I was instructed to climb out a window which meant unbuckling the only strap holding me from falling downward and climb against gravity. Putting one foot and another on the internal roll bar, I climbed up, went out the window and had to fall toward a man who assured that he would catch me. 

 

4. Keep Moving Forward 

Here’s where you put one foot in front of the other to keep going and not become stuck. The unexpected has a way of causing paralysis. If you stay put for too long, your brain can become stuck, frozen in fear, unable to move at all. That’s why it’s vital to do something to keep going. I don’t expect you to climb a mountain, but do something that is familiar, something “normal” like talk to a friend, go to the store, do a task around the house or yard, go for coffee. It will calm your brain to know you can function and the hyper-alert signal will decrease.The longer you stay stuck the harder it is to move on any path.

Keep Moving Forward

To finish the story, our vehicle was pulled back over with the help of others using winches on their vehicles. Other than cosmetic damage and a lot of fluids being lost, our vehicle was still drivable. So . . . we kept going, not along the same path, but we still kept going. I must admit I was a little hesitant to go on a harder rock climb, but my husband went to keep from fear from settling in. I joined him as we went along the rest of the trails and enjoying the day. As a therapist I knew to keep checking in with myself, breathe deeply and assure myself we were fine (Extra tip on ways to keep your brain from staying in fight/flight mode or being hyper-aroused).

 

Posted on July 21, 2015 and filed under anxiety, loss, trauma, stuck.