The Cheapest Self-help Tool

When someone has left our lives, it is devastating on so many levels.  There is so much to process and to talk through. Your friends listen and try to help but they don’t know what to say, are busy and drift back  to their lives.   

Your life, however, can not just “move on”, the old is gone.  Loss forces you to reevaluate life, to give it meaning and choose how to rebuild moving forward.  To do that, most of us need to review  our story over and over, to see how the puzzle pieces of life fit and the picture they create.  How do you work that out without wearing out your support people?  Buy a notebook and write and journal how you feel. 

The Benefits of a Notebook

  Image Credit Etsy LunaBlueGifts

 Image Credit Etsy LunaBlueGifts

You might not know that expressive writing and journal therapy are recognized methods widely used by therapists, especially for loss and trauma. Whether you use an inexpensive $1.99 spiral notebook or a beautiful leather journal,  it is one of the easiest and cheapest self-help tools.  You can even buy an unlined version to add drawings or pictures. 

A Brain Dump

It is where you can dump out the unedited heartaches, confusion, struggles and sadness.  It is where you can write all the things you long for and wanted more of, what you wish was different or better.  Every relationship has ups and downs and it is where you can write about the good, but also safely vent the bad and the ugly (ensure it is kept in a private place).  You can write about what you are grateful for and what you regret. One day you might want to write a,  “I forgive you for …” and/or,  “Will you forgive me for…” letter, just to express things finally.  

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Writing helps you to get the unresolved and unsaid emotions out of your body so they don’t get stuck there and negatively affect your health. 
It is a where you can express the challenges of rebuilding a new life.  Your journaling will help you to sort out how to adjust your life.  But it’s also a place to note the small and big kindness that come your way on this challenging journey.  That remembering can help us on the hard days. 

A Culture in a Hurry

In a culture that avoids loss and grief and wants to speed us through it, people can unwittingly try to hurry us along with, “You’ll be okay,” “Don’t think about it”, “God won’t give you more then you can bear”.  But this is not helpful.  You need time to process your feelings and your journal does not judge you.  That is where you can tell your story over and over as you refine your understanding of your loss.  Slowly the pain losses its power.  Journaling is your free private therapy session.

Even though there are so many benefits of writing and journaling, there are people who are verbal processors and a therapist is helpful but even working with a therapist, your journal will help you find clarity and optimize your sessions.  People who are kinetic may want to add activities like chopping wood, dancing, playing drums or jogging to their writing for a fuller personal expression.  In early grief, some people do not have the energy to journal but find it immensely helpful later.   

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May I encourage you to give it a try.  An inexpensive journal can be an amazing tool to help you more easily find your unique way forward. 

Love and Hugs, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2018. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

When a Spouse Dies...

The number one stressor on every chart is the death of a spouse.  Few events in life are as painful.  You may be uncertain if you have the energy or the will to survive this overwhelming loss, much less try to heal.  But healing is possible, even though life will not be the same but it can be good again. 

At first, friends hover around, they bring food and offer compassion.  But slowly they drift back to their own normal lives: bills, kids, graduations, cars to repair, doctor appointments, bosses and spouses.  They can go back, but a widow(ers') life can never go back, you sadly,  have a new normal.  

Many Different Emotions

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For the new widow(er), your daily life has changed.  Your lifelong companion is missing – from the morning cup of coffee together, to an empty bed at night.  Loneliness can also set in - aching for the one who shared love, memories and could even finish your sentences for you and you wonder why you should get dressed in the morning now. Your daily routines have changed and there are good reasons to feel disoriented and disorganized. But there is a light and a life at the end of this tunnel of grief. 

Conflicting Emotions are Normal

Don’t be surprised if you feel emotions like confusion, fear, guilt, relief and anger all at the same time. It may seem bizarre to experience laughter and tears all in the same sentence but this is normal.  There can be deep love but angry resentment too,  “Why didn’t she fight harder to stay with us?”, “Why didn’t he take better care of himself – I told him!”.  There can also be anger at

  •  Shocking discoveries, “He was gambling and our finances are in shambles!”, or the “other woman” who showed up at his funeral.  
  • At ourselves, “Why didn’t I insist that (s)he …see a doctor/ eat better/ etc.?”
  • At God, “Am I being punished?”  
  • At injustice: of life, of the medical system, of a criminal act that took them away. 

These are normal emotional reactions.  Express them safely by journaling, talking with a safe person (maybe to God), or expressing them physically through exercise, or art or music etc.  They will slowly diffuse and then it is easier to assess what is realistic. Permit yourself to learn from these feelings and to grow in compassion etc. for the next stage of your life.   

Secondary Challenges

Losing a spouse is hard enough but there are secondary losses too.  Your spouse may have brought security, relationship, dreams and identity to your life.  They may have filled a number of other roles: the cook, the repairman, the accountant or your caregiver.  Now you are doing it yourself and must learn these skills quickly (even through your heartache) - or find help.   

A diabetic man lost his wife suddenly.  He was losing his eyesight and she was his caregiver, giving his daily insulin needles and driving to the doctor. He had to hire a helper immediately but he also lost her pension income and could not make ends meet.  He had to sell their house, which was another grievous loss of memories, of community and also his independence.  Fortunately, he could move in with his caring son.

A widow(er) has lost the one that is most precious to them in the world and their comfort, routines and help in doing life together. It can be an difficult and confusing journey. The most compassionate self-action you can take is to find a support system in the community or support group of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need.  Your local hospice or hospital chaplain will be able to recommend resources and groups.   This can be a vital help and needed support at one of life's most difficult transitions.   

For you that are suffering loss:

Love and prayers, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Second Act: Reinventing Your Life

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” As children, we replied, “A fireman,” or teacher, doctor, or my favourite, a movie star.   We grew up, we all learned skills to fit in and advance in the world around us.  We built a family and resources and maybe we got our dreams. 

As we got older or crisis hit, some of us asked the grown-up version of that question, “Is this the life I really want, am I doing what I really want?” or “Do I even know what I want? 

Adult development research shows that middle age is a valuable time to discover, grow and reinvent life.  As we get older, we can climb with surprising strides to connect to our deep hopes, values, and vision.  Losses in life are also an invitation to become more “inner directed” and discover the treasure of who we really are to more authentically enrich the world around us.

Jungian psychology of adult growth says that the first half of life is about surviving but the second half is about discovering our unique person-hood.  The first half requires getting along and conforming but the second half is for becoming our individual selves and serving others with our unique gifts.

During the first half, the ego takes charge to ensure we survive and thrive in the world.  Ego decides what is important and often disregards the input of our psyche or soul.  Then the time comes and psyche starts quietly stepping forward to direct us to our true north and to push us inwardly. The psyche wants us to discover the joy of who we are, our unique contribution and the meaning of our life.   

       “In life, the first act is always exciting but it is the second act – that’s where the depth                  comes in.”— Joyce Van Patten 

In the second act of life, we don't find it as rewarding to go along with other’s agendas and we ask “What am I really interested in?”  Dr. Bill Sadler calls this “embracing your wholeness” to discover our unexplored interests, dimensions and ways of being.   

Midlife is a time of growth and inner discovery. We can search out new and satisfying directions that flow from our inner person and offer others the richness of who we really are. 

In my next blog I will help you with the "how to" of doing just that.

My blog has been focused on grief.  But grievers want help in building a well-rounded life too.  As a result, my blog has broaden to include more issues for thriving and living well in midlife, even with its many stress-ors.  Look for more help and ideas to help you to launch a meaninful second act of life!  

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2018. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

When Blueprints Go Wrong

Sooner or later, it will happen.  Our blueprints will go wrong. 

We all have an idea of how our life should look.  It is our blueprint for our ideal, happy life. Happiness and satisfaction come when we are progressing toward building that picture-perfect life. But we can have different blueprints.  One traditional blueprint is to work hard, find Mr./Miss Right, have cozy home, a family, help the community then sail off to together in the golden years, preferably on a luxury cruise.  For others it might be building an exceptional business or helping others medically or spirituality or in art, etc.   

Blueprints that go wrong

When we are making progress to our blueprints, life is good.  If our blueprints go wrong, we will feel stress, frustrated, and unhappy.  But if something happens where that blueprint is totally blocked and you have lost and lost hope of ever getting it, that makes you feel crazy and helpless.  For many this is the dark night of the soul.  

Is there an antidote?  Yes, there are 2 important steps that really help:                                                                   

1.            Deal with the emotions

2.           Adjust your blueprint 

Deal with Emotions

In massive loss, there is good reason to feel massive emotions.  There is not only sadness but there could be

  • injustice and anger
  • fear and dismay about the future
  • loneliness and isolation 
  • exhaustion and disorganization

Adjust Your Blueprint

If you have lost a loved one, life has changed. You must adjust your blueprint because the old blueprint is gone.  Slowly, as the intensity of emotions weakens, we can examine our old blueprints to find the desires behind them. As we identify those desires, we can go back to the drawing board and consider possible ways that we might still achieve those desires in some fashion.  Limiting our hope of happiness to the old blueprint will only leave us struggling and discouraged. 

Review parts of your blueprint and ask, "Why did we want this?"  Was part of your blueprint to travel to experience exotic places?  Instead, explore tour group travel, especially with the wide variety of singles groups. How about armchair travel:  view national geographic videos or even invite family or friends to join you and provide international themed snacks?   

My parents loved dancing, sharing a love of music and activity.  When my father died, my European mother surprised us and took up Western line dancing!  It was a good adjustment to her blueprint.  It was a way to enjoy dancing, being active to music even though with different people then she expected.  

Did you want to volunteer together?  Find an organization where you uniquely fit and offer your skills.  You might discover some new friends to share the rewarding experience too.

When we process our emotions, it slowly defuses them and allows us to be creative in revamping the blueprints of our lives.  As we uncover new ways to pursue our desires, dreams are renewed and revamped and life satisfaction grows. When we adjust our blueprint for our situation, we discover a new contentment, satisfaction and even happiness growing in our lives.   

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2018. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

New year - Tidy up their things?

Cleaning up your loved one's things can be a difficult task. The finality sinks in more deeply. My son was killed in a crash and we had to clean out his possessions in his rented home immediately. Though it was gut-wrenching, it was a blessing in disguise.

At first, opening the closet to see their clothes, or their toiletries in the bathroom usually offers a sense that somehow — they are still there. But grief is fluid and changes.  Later on, those same things can begin to accentuate the pain of loss and weigh heavy. 

We might wonder if tidying up is dishonoring and if putting away their things means that we might forget about them. But forgetting someone who we loved and was a key part of our life is impossible. The best way to honor them is by taking care of ourselves, including slowly processing and releasing the pain of the loss which takes us into a new way of thinking and feeling on the other side of a loss. It would honor them to see us live again and to make our life beautiful.   

The freshness of this New Year offers momentum for facing that daunting task of tidying up.  Consider removing the bulk of their things from your environment, like clothes, shoes, and toiletries and store them in a different area.  It helps lift the emotional weight of seeing their things at every turn.  Some researchers claim that possessions have a vibrational fingerprint and energy, that can be felt, like a reminder of them and that make recovery harder. However, if you are in early grief, their things are often a comfort. Wait a little and don't rush yourself.

Many people pack up a lot of their loved one’s things but may keep out a few things out like a couple of pictures and their cozy shirt or even wear it themselves.  Pack the rest up but do not permanently dispose of them.  That way, you can always go back and get them later on.  In the meantime, getting it out of your immediate environment can give you a little space from teh intensity of anguish and grief.  Later, when your mind and heart are in better shape and recovering, unpack what you know you would like to keep. Do not feel guilty about discarding or donating things. You will always keep your memories. The “stuff” served your loved one well, but you don't need to keep it forever.

Cleaning out our son’s home very early in the process forced us to make those decisions quickly, while everyone was there.  We gave away many things to his friends at the funeral who appreciated them.  Maybe it seems odd to you, but one of the mementos I kept in my spare room closet was his stinky rugby shoes - for when I need to just to smell his sweat again.  Then one day, I packed them up too and put them in storage, along with a bin full of his travel journals, childhood teddy bears and hockey trophies and I have not touched them in years.

In grief, the timetable is very personal including for tidying up. When you do, it helps you clear some emotional space that makes it easier to design new patterns and hopes for your life as it is now. There is hope for the future, and a light at the end of the tunnel but sometimes we have to move some of the rubble aside so we can see the possibilities more clearly.  

May the New year hold many unexpected blessings,

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Christmas: A Minefield for Grievers?

For grievers, the holidays can be full of grief landmines: Empty chairs, missing hugs and absent faces that can trigger a flash-point of heartache.

How do you get through it?  People have different approaches. Some opt to be too busy to think about their loss. Others try to make Christmas just like it was before and ignore the loss. Some "tough it out", dismissing help with, “I’m fine" and an academy award performance.  These might work for a moment but often the pain and tears splash out anyway, at the worst time and closes off the healing support that others offer.  Others discover ways to deal with loss, though still painful, it helps healing and recovery.  These ideas can guide you as you find the best way to navigate the holidays. 

Working with a Christmas that is different now 

Even though you never wanted it, there is a new normal.  Its okay to experiment to see what traditions still work and what needs to change.  If the loss is closest to you, take may need to take the lead in planning and discussing it these changes with your family because they may be afraid to, in case they might upset you to mention it.  You are the best one to diffuse the “White Elephant” in the room awkwardness about the topic of loss.  

1.      Sort out how you want to handle old traditions while honoring their contribution.  One family announced, “Dad always carved the turkey, but he would be proud that John is taking that role now.”   A new widow said, “I always served pecan pie, Tom’s favorite, but this year I am serving cheesecake because I can not bear to serve it without him here.  In contrast, another widow might feel happiest serving that pecan pie to remember Tom and remember him.   The first year after the loss of their husband and father, one family decided to escape traditions and went away for a sun holiday but the second year, they wanted to spend it at home again.  You have the right to decide what feels best for you and to change it as you try different things.

2.      Many people light a candle for their loved one at the table or put out a photo or flowers and speak some words of appreciation about them or read a poem.  One daughter asked all the family to write out a short favorite memory about Grandpa, put them in a decorated jar, and readthem together at dinner.  She gave it to her widowed mother who still cherishes it years later.  

3.      Decide about Christmas cards and how you will sign them.  One widower said, “We used to send dozens of cards, but I did not have the heart for that.   I sent to a handful of people that I wanted to thank for their help too and signed my name and hers adding “who is in heaven now.”  I e-mailed a holiday greeting to everyone else.  That was all I could handle." 

4.      Change difficult traditions.  If your wife is gone and she cooked Christmas dinner, then try taking the family out for the meal or inviting other family members to take it on.    

Simplify the holiday.

Grief is stressful and energy draining.  Activities that were fun and joyful may also trigger pain and longing..   

1.      Reduce and simplify your activity level but avoid isolating which can intensify loneliness.

2.      You can RSVP to an engagement in a non-committal way explaining that “some days are better then others and I’m sorry, but I can not predict it”.

3.      Simplify your holiday shopping. Cut back on your list, shop at early or late hours.  Consider buying gifts cards.  

4.      Simplify your decorating.  It will save energy by not putting it out and on the other end by not having to pack it up.

Take care of yourself. 

A body in grief needs more attention and physical care. Allow your energy to be directed to recovery.

1.      Find time to rest, especially after activities.  You might need to process your feelings afterwards by calling a close friend, journaling them or connecting with your creator.  Consider finding a support group because telling your story over and over is very helpful for the griever but listening friends can develop compassion fatigue.  Also consider accessing a professional like me to help you through.  

2.      Ensure healthy eating and drinking at Christmas when the sugar and alcohol flow.  Grief is stressful and drains the immune system, especially if you were in a care-giving role too.

3.      Take people up on their offers to help, whether for a meal or computer help or snow shoveling.  Friends are often at a loss as how to do and appreciate the opportunity to be of assistance.

Wishing you renewed strength and comfort as you walk through the mine field of Christmas and peace and hope in the new year,

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Making a "Hope Jar"

Don’t you love a beautiful jar?  Especially one filled with simple but great ideas to affirm you as you renew your resilience after loss?  

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You can make your own “Hope Jar” for yourself or as a gift.  It is filled with slips of paper, each one is a written affirmation or simple self-care idea as personal daily encouragements or invitations to self-care.  They are positive, small steps that help take you a long way toward healing. Each day, you pull one out to inspire you in this transition time.  This is idea is based on the Happiness Jar, created by author Elizabeth Gilbert. 

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When we can look forward to and anticipate something good in our Hope Jar, it creates dopamine in our bodies.  Dopamine is a “feel good” hormone that lifts our spirits and improves mood, behavior, sleep and focus. It can be triggered by the anticipation and patience of receiving a reward when you pull your affirmation/self-care idea out of the Hope Jar.  The surprise of which slip you get heightens dopamine by anticipation and adds an element of curiosity and playfulness to difficult days.

It is easy to make one for yourself or as a gift – especially with Christmas coming. Get an attractive wide-mouth storage jar or canning jar with a lid.  Write out one-sentence affirmations on your computer and print them – perhaps on a special or coloured paper.  (You may also hand-write affirmations.) Cut the affirmations into strips and put them in the jar, with the print facing inwards. If you are giving it as a gift, consider rolling them and tying each one with a ribbon, like a scroll.  Tie a bow around the top of the jar and affix a tag that says, “Hope in a Jar. Read one each day (preferably out loud).”  Decorate it with stickers like stars, flowers, or meaningful words – found in the scrapbook section of your hobby store.

One-sentence affirmations are easier to write, to speak out and remember in the course of a day. To get you started, here are some ideas that I like but pick or create ones that comfort you:  

  • I am rediscovering myself in a quiet time that is a regular part of my day. 
  • I keep my loved one close by living her (his) values.
  • Every so often I call “time out” and take a break from grief.
  • Happy memories of my loved one are mine forever and comforting.
  • Instead of pain leading me, more and more I lead the pain.
  • Slowly, surely, I’m a creating a new life for myself.
  • There is a light at the end, and grief will soften.
  • With every breath I take, I’m thankful for the gifts life has given me.
  • Getting better! I can talk about my loved one without crying.
  • Well-meant advice doesn’t always have to be followed.
  • In defense, I’ve prepared answers to the question, “How are you?”
  • Sometimes I just want to be alone and that’s okay.
  • My life is what I choose and what I make of it.
  • Invite a friend for a walk.
  • Take an aromatherapy/bubble bath.
  • Buy a new shade of lipstick.
  • Buy a little treat, specialty cup of tea or coffee (mocha is my favorite).
  • Watch some fun upbeat comedy (YouTube Comedian Jeanne Robertson is a favorite)
  • Recall something you are grateful for – spend a minute in those good feelings again.  
  • E-mail (or call) to say a thank you to someone you appreciate.
  • Cuddle your pet – or a big plush cat, dog, etc. (or buy one).  
  • Take a 10-min power nap today.
  • Plan a swim, hot tub or water aerobics class.
  • Enjoy some good music (for me, Paul Simon’s Diamonds on the Souls of Our Shoes) and move a little with it.
  • Sing your name 3-4 times to vibrate and ground you.
  • Breathe 3-10 deep breaths to get oxygen to muscles.
  • Put some relaxing essential oils nearby (lavender and Ylang Ylang are especially good).
  • Stretch and massage your shoulders and neck.
  • Do some knitting, crafts or colour an adult colouring page.
  • Walk up the stairs or around the yard (or farther) to get blood flowing.
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You can fit 30-60 slips in a jar. Creating this for yourself or as a gift for a bereaved relative or friend helps you in your grief journey, especially since writing the affirmations requires you to frame things in an affirming and positive way.  It also makes you aware of your own progress too. Even when it feels like baby steps, it is still important progress.

This simple idea is a wonderful gift to ourselves or others because we all thrive better in hope!          (Interested in buying one? Contact me at coach@helgabender.com (not exactly as shown)). 

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Their eyes lit up!

When their eyes light up, whether coaching or giving seminars, I love it!.  After two seminars last week, the great feedback included,

“ I finally understand I wasn't going crazy after my father died!  I wish had this seminar two years ago!”

“Fabulous tools that I can use right away to help me add “umph” back to my life!”

I presented “Bouncing Back, the Art of Resilience for the Unexpected Life,” at the South Calgary Hospital Wellness Centre where 20 people had registered. It was for when life does not go according to plan and we face the unexpected: health or job struggles, disaster or marriage breakdown. As I taught what is “normal” in an unimaginable situation, there were connect-the-dots moments. Yes, we're talking Aha! moments, they are so rewarding!  

I also teach practical techniques for handling stress and boosting our resilience. Participants notes and asked great questions during our “Ask the Expert” time.  This is when I hear stories of major health loss due to a vehicle crash, painful, toxic relationships, the loss of a husband of 40+ years and I offered tools but also my heart went out to them.  I admired their courageous choices to learn how to make the best of tough situations.

My other seminar was “Creating an Extraordinary Quality of Life Right Where You Are,” for a seniors group and the lights went on there too!  They appreciated getting tools and using simple graces to find a better life right where they are.

Both groups were ready and eager to apply their learning to face the tough circumstances of their lives.  It makes me smile to know that they are excited to create their own courageous new story.  That's why I will be also be working with the Hurricane Irma victims as a Rapid Relief Chaplain - to help them to rebuild and bring back a smile.

 

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

If you are interested in find out more about seminars check my schedule in the sidebar or talk about booking a seminar, e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Helping when disaster strikes

An angry storm smashed boats over sandbags, tore out trees and destroyed homes.  It swallowed up oil tanks, e-coli filled septic beds and swamped basements furniture.  Six weeks later, in July 2017, the Vernon B.C. residents were allowed to return after the terrible flooding around Okanagan Lake.  Huston and Florida too, just experienced horrific hurricanes with tragic loss of life and ravaged communities that left residents reeling.  In Vernon that day, we Rapid Relief chaplains looked for a dry spot to park our car, put on our rubber boots and headed off to support residents emotionally and spiritually.   

Returning residents had no water, sewage, or power for the recovery work.  The storm had seriously damaged homes, mold had grown up the walls and mice dropping sat on the counter tops.  The weary residents were greeted by the sickening stench from overflowing septics and rotten refrigerator meat.  Some of the homes were so bad that they would have to be torn down.   

How do you help disaster victims?

There are urgent things that need to be addressed first.  It is urgent that they are out of harm's way and have the basics of life like food, water and shelter.  They need reliable information about how to continue to be safe, that their loved ones are safe too and where to get on-going emergency help.  They may need continued basic services if they can not return to their homes afterwards.  

When we are faced with shock and disaster,  we respond in three primary knee-jerk reactions: fight back, flee or freeze.  The blood is physically directed to the muscles so they can fire instantly to take action and it is shuttled away from the brain.  This means people often feel dazed and confused.  They need help in good decision-making, planning and taking action.    

When they return home, they need physical help with the heavy work of hauling out destroyed possessions, repairing structural damage, dealing with contamination and salvaging treasured items like photos.  They need help with paperwork and dealing with insurance companies.

Does disaster trigger grief?  Most often, yes, because grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind.  The residents faced losses due to flood damages to their homes, community and way of life.  They faced huge change in their routine, lives and face big recovery tasks just to live normally again. 

They also need emotional help with their grief.  They need to tell their story, express their feelings and be heard. This helps to sort out what happened but also to express their emotions rather then suppressing them in the body where they can cause chronic stress and trigger physical symptoms.  

They need spiritual support as they grapple questions about the disaster and what it means:

  • Was it a freak act of nature or should they have prepared for this?  
  • Were they being punished? 
  • Was God mad at them?  
  • Is there still a future here for them in this place? 
  • Is it the end or a beginning? 
  • How will they find their way back to hope?  Or to courage? 
  • Will life ever fell safe and normal again? 

If they are people of faith, they often need reassurance that God is still for them, and cares for them. They are often comforted to know someone else is praying for them and seeking God’s help on their behalf because they are dazed and praying is hard.  They may need someone else’s faith to hold them steady in time of trouble.

As a Rapid Relief Chaplain, I prayed with flood victims in Vernon on-site and they were very grateful.  Now home again, I still remember them in prayer and hold them in my heart up to God. I have been asked to deploy to the hurricane sites too and I hope you will join me and hold the victims of the Vernon flood, Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Hosea in your hearts too, as well as others in other recent disasters around the world, to pray for God’s help and mercy.  John Piper verbalized a helpful prayer: 

O Lord, unleash the common grace of kindness from a million hearts [to the needy]...Restrain, O God, the evil hearts of those who would bring sorrow upon sorrow by looting what is left behind, or exploiting loss for private gain.

…how great the sure and solid gift held out to everyone in Christ!: Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword — or wind, or waves?

…For you have made us say with deep assurance: Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor hurricanes nor floods, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And all in Jesus’s name. 

Perhaps you can join me in saying an amen.   Our prayers and blessings are an important help for when disaster strikes.   

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience in a complimentary coaching session with me.  Contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

5 Unspoken Funeral Etiquette Rules Every Guest Should Follow

Good intentions can go off the rails

We all want to do the right thing when the wrong thing happens, but sometimes we are afraid of putting our foot in our mouth.  Instead, we stall and don't do anything, not even going to the funeral.  Our good intentions go off the rails. 

We don’t discuss death and aren’t informed

Normally, death is a tough subject, one that we avoid.   That means we have little knowledge of what to do or say at the funeral.  Funerals are about honouring the loved one, saying goodbye together and supporting the grievers by sharing in the burden of grief.   You may not know the deceased but if he was your best friend’s brother, it is right to attend to support her.  When the grievers are in deep pain, simply your presence at the funeral says, “I care too and I know it is tough”. 

5 unspoken rules for funeral etiquette 

Stick with these and you will bring comfort to ease their suffering and comfort in their time of need.

1.        Less is more:  Keep your words to the bereaved short, sincere and simple.  Remember that they usually have many people to talk to and are emotionally worn down.   Saying something like, " I'm so sorry", "My condolences to you and the entire family" or "My thoughts are with you all," are safe bets.   Recalling a fond memory or a positive short story honours the loved one and helps the bereaved know you cherished them too.  However, asking them to tell the story of how they died (again) can be draining.  Be sure to sign the guestbook because the family cherish remembering the guests that came and cared.

2.       What not to say:  Beware of platitudes, they can be insensitive and sound off-handed. 

•    Avoid saying,  "He's in a better place," - which might be true, but they are hurting here.  
•    Avoid saying,  "The pain will lessen in time," – at this time, it is too painful to imagine life without their loved one. 
•    Avoid saying,  “I know how you feel,” – each relationship is different and you might be able to identify with the type of loss, but you cannot actually know how they feel.  
•    Avoid saying,  “God needed another angel” – which implies God does not care about their broken heart.
You get the idea.  Better to give them a simple, “I am very sorry”, a hug, a warm handshake, or a pause of respect.

3.       What do I wear?  Black is still common but muted dark colours like blue, grey, and eggplant are welcome too.  It is a solemn occasion, so dress to indicate respect and honour: no flip flops, t-shirts nor taking center stage with a fashion statement outfit. 

4.       Do I take my children?  There maybe extended family for them to meet there but remember that the focus is the life of the deceased and supporting a grieving family, so be careful of taking selfies with all the relatives.   Prepare the children to ensure their well-being and be prepared to discretely take them out if they act up.  

5.       What not to do during the funeral? 

  •  Don’t receive calls on your phone, turn it off. 
  •  Don’t sit in reserved areas.  Carefully follow instructions by ushers to ensure the event goes as smoothly as possible.
  • If you are speaking, don’t tell questionable jokes, or long-winded stories.  

You can do it

These guidelines will ensure that the focus is on honouring the loved one at the funeral and being a comfort to a family in pain.   The bereaved will look back and appreciate your presence, respectfulness and support in their time of loss.    

Can you think of any others to add?  Please post in the comments for everyone’s benefit.

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience.  For a complimentary coaching session to renew your resilience, contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Can I ever be happy again?

Can I ever be happy again?

You have loved and lost.  Your heart was torn apart.  Happiness is unimaginable.

But they say it will get better: the grief books, the clergy, the friends.   Who believes them?  How can it be possible, with the searing pain, the huge loss, and the finality of death ... When my son was killed, I did not believe them either.    But… they were right. 

It has gotten better.  It can get better for you too. 

Create a New Blueprint for Happiness after Loss

We all have a blueprint for our life.  Have you imagined the future as: married, good job, home, kids, and then surrounded by grandchildren, a secure retirement where you both travel the world together?   But sometimes life happens, divorce or disasters crush those dreams.  Our blueprints are torn up and now our future is changed.  This is painful, it is suffering.   We are forced to build a different life blueprint, one we did not want and we wonder if we can ever find happiness again. 

My father was a house builder who knew about blueprints.  Once, he bought a nice big property hoping to take advantage of the great view.  He for a bungalow drawn up believing it would sell best.  When the basement was dug, they discovered a natural spring right under it.  My father consulted with others and decided to slightly relocate the house, make it a two storey with a smaller basement and float a concrete pad under it.   It meant new blueprints,  to especially optimize the view from the 2nd floor.  It turned out to be a huge selling feature of the house.  Sometimes, the unexpected happens and forces us to change our blueprints.  But his goal was to have a great view and he still got it, and sold it quickly. 

A friend of mine, lets call her Sue, met her professional athlete husband when she was a gym teacher. At the age of 48, he died suddenly of brain cancer, leaving her to raise 2 teenage sons alone.  Her blueprint for their future had been that one day, their sons and future families would spend summers at their vacation cottage, water-skiing and barbecuing.  They would retire and teach third-world kids in sport camps and winter in Arizona, playing golf and dining with friends.  Their goals were family, travel, to give, self-improvement in sports and a social life. 

Now, in all the grief, she felt like giving up, and resented that tragedy destroyed their future and there was nothing she could do about it.   But one day, she realized she still had lot of life ahead and so did her sons.   She could not go back to their old blueprint but it was up to her to find a new blueprint to rebuild a life for them all.  She looked at what she really wanted, her purposes and goals behind their old blueprint.  It was family love, togetherness, activity and meaningful living.  She resolved to create a new blueprint to still get those goals for happiness as best she could.      

To do that, she poured her energies into helping her sons get launched in life, and doing it as a family, supporting them in sports and school.   She eventually bought a vacation condo with space for her sons to stay and they swim and hike together.   She became a real estate agent and joined a mountain hiking club where she made new single friends and has a social life.  When her sons were older, she volunteered in local sport camps for inner city kids, which gave more meaning to her life.   Her friends call her an inspiration in how she has overcome challenges while contributing to the lives of others.  

Her original life blueprint was destroyed but even though it was tough, she discovered a way to achieve those old values with a new blueprint.  She found ways to build family, to give, to grow and to love and embraced it.   Now, 15 years later, she has a “happy, rich and rewarding life” although different then expected.  Along the way, she also discovered she was more then what happens in life.

You and I may have had tragedy destroy our life blueprints.   It is painful to let go of cherished dreams but when we look behind our blueprint and rebuild with our values and goals, we can create a new blueprint for happiness.  Like Sue, we too,  can build a “happy, rich and rewarding life",  although different then expected.

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience.  For a complimentary coaching session to renew your resilience, contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

De-stress like a Navy Seal

Tough stress surrounding loss needs a tough solution.   Navy Seals know how to stay calm and focused – and alive, even in tough stress.  One simple way that they use is taking a deep breath.   They call it the box breath and I will explain how you can do it too.  Every healthy person can simply and easily learn how to combat extreme stress with powerful deep breathing and drastically improve their health.  

When you’re stressed, what does it do to your breath?  Is it deep or shallow?  Most of us know it is shallow, because we have all seen it or been there ourselves.  You’d be surprised how often we also hold our breath when we are anxious.   

What exactly are the good things deep breathing does for you?

1.    Your muscles relax. 

2.    Oxygen delivery improves. Fresh oxygen pours into every cell in the body including your brain to help focus, stamina, mood and fatigue.  Oxygen rich environments are unwelcoming to many infections and cancer.

3.    Your blood pressure lowers. Muscles let go of tension and your blood vessels open.

4.    Endorphins are released. This provides pain-relief and a sense of well-being.

5.    Detoxification improves. The movement of the diaphragm in deep breathing helps the lymphatic system function properly, which helps the immune system to release harmful toxins. Did you know that 70% of the toxins inside of your body are removed through the lungs?  Sighing and groaning is part of that. 

Controlled breathing, also known as “deep breathing,” or "diaphragmatic breathing" has long been a part of Christian prayer and Eastern health practices. A "breath prayer" was used by the early church and even today.  It purpose is to connect with God by inhaling the air and God’s spirit then exhaling worries while gently sighing out a prayer like “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”  The Jews like to breathe out the ancient name of God, "Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey" or Yahweh. 

So here is how you too can breath like a Navy Seal in the "box breath":

Step 1: Find a comfortable chair or place to lie down. Focus on your breathing, letting your belly rise and fall.   As you get familiar with it, you can focus on thankfulness which will add extra de-stressing.

Step 2: Inhale for 4 seconds (while the circle above is expanding).

Step 3: Hold air in your lungs for 4 seconds (while the circle is expanded), and let the oxygen flood your system

Step 4: Exhale for 4 seconds, emptying all of the air in your lungs (as the circle contracts).

Step 5: Hold your lungs empty for 4 seconds (while the circle is contracted).

Even though there are other breathing techniques, breathing like a Navy Seal is an important time-proven and simple approach.  If you can do this ten times, two or three times a day (morning, evening and before bed) you may notice a big difference in your energy, clarity, immune system and stress level.  You just might be amazed to at the positive impact on your whole body.

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out the best ways to renew your resilience.  For a complimentary coaching session to renew your resilience, contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I believed him, big mistake. Now what?

I believed him, what a mistake.  

I was betrayed.

Have you ever stood up for someone and helped them, only to discover you were “played” and lied to?  That's what happened to me.  There is a good chance it has happened to you too.  

Now what do we do?    

There are 5 solid steps to dealing with betrayal and healing the wound. 

Every hurt has its story.  Maybe your's is that you were deceived, used and abused.  One new widow learned about “the other woman” when she showed up at the funeral.  The widow was angry and wanted answers from him but it was too late for that.  Maybe, like that widow, you had a deep bond of love and trust that has been ripped out of you by the roots and it hurts.  

Healing from this kind of deep wound needs deep healing.  It is a process.  Part of us wants to:

  • deny it, minimize it or fix it – so we don’t have to face the reality and pain but that is a lie
  • retaliate and make them “pay” –  sweet for a moment but ends in more problems
  • make some sense of why they did it – but they may not even understand it themselves
  • forgive, release and rise above it – which is hard work and unfair but ultimately brings freedom

Forgiveness

Forgiving is what will set us free.   It is not the same as condoning.  Forgiving is giving up the hope of better or different yesterday.  It does not involve the other person – nor waiting for their apology.  It is your release for yourself, a gift to get you out of this black hole of anger and rejection.  You do it alone and you do not announce your forgiveness otherwise, that can be perceived as an attack and can backfire. 

Forgiveness also comes with health benefits.  You may notice your body thanking you for lower stress levels, a healthier heart, higher pain tolerance, lower blood pressure, and even an extended life.  You may sleep better at night and be less distracted. 

It may not seem fair that we have clean up their mess they made in our lives but if we wait for the offender to make it right that might take years, if ever.  Sometimes they are self-deceived and sometimes no one can make it right.  When the criminal driver killed my son, he got a jail sentence but that could not bring my son back, nor could my holding a grudge or living as a victim. 

Forgiveness is tough and can be on-going but eventually freedom comes,  freedom from living victimized, angry and bitter.   To release and forgive, it helps to face the brutal reality, grieve it, and get out of the muck by releasing their IOU.   If it keeps knocking at your door, it may be because of how brutal and deep it was so and persist at re-releasing until it’s muck is finally washed off you.   

Here is how to get free of the betrayal in 5 clear steps:

1.       Name it and face it.  Be truthful without glossing over it.  Yes, it really was insulting, awful, violating, degrading… evil.  That is where the healing starts.

2.       Feel the hole inside and express your emotions privately and safely, mourn it.  For many people it feels like it is rising out of their belly and out their throat.

3.       Write your thoughts in a paragraph or two and then your decision to release and forgive them.  Read  it out loud to “God” or to “the universe”,  committing to giving it away to God or the universe,  asking them to make it up to you in whatever way is best and then tear it up.  Restitution may come from a totally different direction then you might expect.  Repeat this internal commitment every time the anger comes back.  It could take weeks but it is worth it.

4.       Avoid self-pity by being of service to someone worse off then you (call them, volunteer, donate).

5.       Find something in the event that made you stronger or wiser, that you learned, or a skill you developed.  It is not calling the betrayal good, but it is finding a silver lining.  It is calling on your inner resourcefulness to rise up and find something useful in it.  It maybe your decision to ensure it does not happen to you or someone else again or to establish smart personal boundaries or to refusing being locked in with bitterness.  I am fascinated by epigenetics, which has discovered generational trauma on descendants' DNA.  What if your forgiveness is overcoming a negative family DNA propensity to withdraw or to fear when betrayed, imagine if it could reset DNA for your future generations, that would be a silver lining too. 

Betrayal catches us off guard and wounds.   However, as we mature we get better at coping, forgiving and letting it go.  Things that bothered us before do not crush us and we accept the ups and downs of life with greater confidence and empathy to the suffering.  We become caring people of muscle and character, who rise above storms and overcome adversity.  We live happier, healthier and more peaceful lives.  

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, find out if you are on track and the best ways to renew resilience.  For a complimentary coaching "How to rebuild a life again" session with me, Helga Bender, MThS, contact me through my resouces page or e-mail me at coach@helgabender.com

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Can "The Shack" help a grieving heart?

Can “The Shack” by William P. Young help a grieving heart?   When the best-selling novel came out in 2007, it took me months to gather the courage to read it because like in the story, I too had lost a child to a criminal act.  The tale pulled me in when I did read it.  As I turned the pages, I wept about Mack's loss and his pain of the broken heart and I wept about my loss too.  It helped me and healed me.  It can do that for you too.  

The Story

The story is about Mack, (spoiler alert ahead) who lives with the Great Sadness after his youngest daughter was abducted  from the family campsite.  He walks with stooped shoulders and silent despair crushes his heart.   One day, he receives a peculiar invitation to the shack where she was killed and later to a beautiful cottage. 

Cherry_pie_with_crumble_topping,_July_2009.jpg

This is where the story unfolds, as Mack comes face to face with God as a loving Trinity depicted by unexpected characters who radiate their care.   Knowing all about his baggage, they anchor and comfort him as he walks through the smoldering pain, guilt, anger, disappointment and heartbreak of his haunting loss.  Whether in a garden, under a starry sky or eating pie, they penetrate his defenses, face his questions together and bring healing to his heart.

Imagining the Joys of Heaven

It is an imaginative story that includes looking through a waterfall to see his happy daughter playing in heaven and describing the people there as rainbow lights bobbing and sparkling.  That made me smile.  I could envision my 25 year old son, Ben as a joyful orange lightening bolt break-dancing with Jesus!  (Yes, I am a proud "Mama Ben", my nickname by his Rwanda friends.)

Questions, His and Mine

When my son was killed, I asked the same kinds of questions that Mack did, and I banged on God's door as my tears ran under it.  The story gives language to these questions,  “Where was God when..., why did He not stop it, was this a punishment? ”  Thankfully, the novel does not spout neat and tidy clichés.  Instead, it reveals a God of compassion, who is with the broken hearted, binds up their wounds and collects their tears in a bottle.   He is a comforting friend engaged in relationship with us even in our doubt,  brokenness and tragedy.

As a coach for people in grief,  I hear these difficult questions often.  People struggle to find meaning in their loss, and to make sense of their devastated world, their image of God and their spirituality.  It takes courage to face them: of our own mortality, if life is just random, of the hugeness of our pain and of trusting God again.  Sometimes lies cling to our soul because of what was said or done to us, just as the author experienced.  In this book, I loved how “Jesus” kindly explains about fears, “All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can”.

Unforgiveness Hand-cuffs

The criminal and brutal killing of Mack’s daughter is a big issue.  Somehow, Mack needs to be unhand-cuffed from the weight of his (false) guilt of failing to protect, and his on-going anger and pain.  For many grieving people, it is a real struggle to forgive, whether themselves, their loved one, the medical system,  God, etc.  This is where The Shack really shines, by explaining, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person's throat,”  and that it is a decision that is made over and over to allow the poison of bitterness to finally drain away. 

I know this from experience.  Before the five-day trial of the driver who killed my son, I had worked hard to forgive him but I when I heard the testimonies of worse details and new information, I was a wreck.  I was so grateful for the friends that were a God-sent support.    The driver got a jail sentence but I had to get out of my  “shack” of new levels of anger and bitterness by repeatedly releasing those things to God and trusting him to make it up to me one day. 

Recommendations

The Shack has kicked up a lot of theological controversy which is not my focus in my loss blog.  However,  I will add a disclaimer:  Please do not expect this fictional book to be a theological treatise any more then you would read Star Wars novels expecting accuracy about space.  When the dust has settled, I imagine it will find it’s place with the "edgy" fiction of Tolkien and, C.S. Lewis, or J. Bunyan where God shows up in different forms.  However, if you are looking for non-fiction Christian grief reading, try C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, Ronald Dunn’s When Heaven is Silent or Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Lament for a Son, all very good books.  

Is it for you as a bereaved person? 

In the early days of loss,  it is hard to focus, especially on a heavy story.  Light-hearted humor is a better choice for a little break from the intensity and daze of early grief.  But if your loss is not fresh, and you are pondering meaning, spirituality or forgiveness, The Shack, is a very creative engaging story that speaks a honest language of loss in a culture that avoids it.  It has the potential to bring great comfort and launch you into deeper relationship with God.  The book format allows you to put it down if you need a breather.  I haven't see the movie yet, so I can not speak to that.

In The Shack, questions are wrestled with and forgiveness rises.  It is a story of wonders, water is walked on, heaven is imagined, burdens lift and freedom is found.  All this ripples out of the pages and embraces the reader in hope.   Thank you, William P. Young for this remarkable story, The Shack.

 

 

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, get the support you deserve.  For a no-obligation "Rebuilding Life Again" session with Helga Bender, MThS, e-mail me click here.   

Please leave a comment about this blog - let me know whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Re-framing Valentine's day

lonely woman.jpg

It's Valentine's Day - but your heart is aching. 

What do you do when the one you love has died? 

Yes, you have the right to be miserable.  

I don't blame you for just ignoring the next 24 hours.  

But here is another idea.  Re-frame the meaning of Valentine's day now in your circumstances to give it a new and healing meaning.  

Re-frame

Boy: Do you have a date for Valentine’s Day?Girl: Yes, February 14th.

It is okay to drop the idea of a date and romance.  At the "heart" of the day is ‘love’ (pun completely intended) of all kinds. Enjoy the memories of your love.  And there may be a lot of emotion to express including through tears but also writing them a love letter, music, art, exercise.  But you may want to release the love in your heart to love on family and others.  

Love the One you are with

"If you can't be with the one you love, Love the one you are with" - Crosby, Stills & Nash (I have been a fan forever) gave us a little sage advice.  This old song advises us to find some of those that you can love that are in your life: kids, parents, friends, dogs and give them a phone call, a little gift, a hug, a walk.  It will help heal your heart.

Random acts of kindness

How about making the world a better place on Valentine's day with 3 simple acts of kindness.  It makes the world a nicer, gentler place, and you feel better about yourself.  In fact, research finds that when we give to others, the same “feel good” hormones are released as when we receive a gift.  Kindness boomerangs back to us!   Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • hold a door
  • buy a coffee for someone
  • e-mail to encourage someone – a friend, or political figure, etc.
  • by a little gift for a relative – especially children
  • shovel a walk
  • volunteer at the pet shelter (and get lots of dog kisses)
  • make a donation – perhaps in your loved one’s memory
  • make a call to an elderly relative – who may be lonely

I bought little chocolate hearts and toys for my three granddaughters and they felt so grown up to get a heart box, it was a joy to see them so excited.  They gave me homemade cards and put on little impromptu acting and piano performances over a delightful early-valentine's dinner at their house with their family.  They had even decorated with hearts everywhere.  Wonderful conversation, wine and the kids insisted on candles.  So Valentines-y!   

But romance, no.   

But love?   There was lots and lots of love.  How blessed am I!

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, get the support you deserve.  For a no-obligation "Rebuilding Life Again" session with Helga Bender, MThS, e-mail me click here.   

Please leave a comment about this blog - whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2017. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Grief: Snowball or tennis ball?

snowball.jpg

Some people think grief is like a snowball. They hope that it slowly melts away and one day, disappears.   But that is a mistake.   It more like a tennis ball that never really disappears.  How, then, do we cope with that tennis ball? 

These three jars and three tennis balls help explain how grief really works:

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The first jar: 
This is early grief.  The tennis ball barely fit in this jar.  It fills every part, just like grief fills every part of our lives at first.   There is barely air to breathe and no space to move round.   It fills our waking thoughts making it hard to concentrate on even the simple things like getting groceries.  Our life is filled to the brim with numbness and pain.  


The second jar: 
The size of the grief has not changed but as we mourn and adjust, our lives slowly start to expand.  We still have to pay the bills, take out the garbage and go on living life as we face the deep pain, loneliness, disappointment, and fears of grief.  We often have to learn new skills and roles that our loved one did.  We are faced with questions about spirituality and the meaning of life.  Our relationships change.  Maybe we have deeper relationships with supportive friends, family, or a support group.  We are changing and forced to stretch to become a bigger jar. 

The third jar:  

When others suggest that we should “get over it”, they often are hoping that our loss has “melted away” like that snowball.  But they don't understand that it is not a snowball or a flu that you can “get over”.  We don’t get over people or relationships, they remain a part of you.  But as we are stretched, including by a growing family, new interests, travels, challenges, skills, values and a bigger heart, our life and our identity has grown.  Our loss and grief, the tennis ball, is always there but we, the container has stretched quite large.

Going through loss, can deepen compassion for others.  People who have suffered, often have huge hearts and great empathy.  They understand how life is fragile and how hard things can be.  They understand what it is like to be stretched beyond what they thought they could ever bear and have become bigger people.  There is more space in the jar of life now because the jar got bigger.  The tennis ball of loss has not shrunk but their shoulders have become a bit broader.

I can not promise you how your grief will work out, but we can grow to be those bigger jars.  The grief does not disappear but as you process it,  you can become a bigger person with an expanded identity.  You slowly become more then the bereaved person.  Your identity has grown, perhaps as an artist/craft-er,  a facinating traveler, or a caring friend with strong shoulders and someone who really understands.  

Big hugs and love, 

Helga

If you are facing loss, get the support you deserve.  For a no-obligation "Rebuilding Life Again" session with Helga Bender, MThS, e-mail me click here.   

Please leave a comment about this blog - whether you liked it or not.  

Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2016. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

4 Tips When You Just Want to Sleep Till January

Wish you could take a long winter's nap right into January?  
I've been there too. 

After loss and bereavement, the closer the holidays come the more knotted up we can get on the inside.  Just to face the holidays takes a courage no one sees.  Our holiday has fallen apart.  No, it has been blown to pieces and so has our life.  For me, it changed the year a criminal driver killed my 25 year old son Ben. 

The holidays bring extra pressure to be “merry”.    But the grieving person finds themselves in a different season, a season of mourning regardless of what the calendar and the TV commercials say.   

Here are 4 tips to help you get through the season.

1.     Plan/ prioritize
Because grief is fatiguing, don’t try to do too much.  Pick out the two or three important activities that you want to be part of and focus your energy there.  Don’t get bogged down worrying about the rest.  Delegate as much as possible to others.  

2.     Pace yourself
Grief is a marathon not a sprint so ensure you are pacing yourself and doing good self-care. Extensive Christmas preparation decorating may be overly exhausting.  
Personally, I scraped Christmas baking, I did store-bought - except for the shortbread cookies that my son loved.  I skipped Christmas cards since I was ambushed by grief trying sign the cards - without my son’s name.   I finally decided to write my name then, “and Ben, from heaven”.  Some people put an angel sticker and write their loved one's name on it.  That year I sent an e-mail greeting without any family picture, since mine now includes my son’s gravestone.  

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I did not decorate, no lights, no tree except the beautiful huge white poinsettia that my daughter gave me.  Gift shopping was one stop at the Walmart gift card display, since I could not handle the bustling mall.  Others hosted activities, I just did not have the heart or the energy.

 

If there is a family gathering, it helps to mention how you would like to honour your loved one. Others mean well but often just don’t know what to do. Many people light a candle and say some words of thanks about their loved one at the gathering.  It is a time of tears but gratitude and laughter too.  

Many people like this candle lighting, saying "Tonight we light 4 candles to remember ______:

 1.  This candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

2.  This candle represents our courage – to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to change our lives.

3.  This candle is in your memory – the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, the caring and joy you gave us.

4.  This candle is the light of love. As we enter this holiday season, day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us. 

3.     People vs Privacy
In socializing, we usually find support but honor your need for privacy too.  It takes energy to face something as emotional and sentimental as the holidays. One new widow found she had to leave a Christmas party to sit in the car and cry.   If you prepare your hostess by explaining that grief can be unpredictable,  you will be more comfortable accepting an invitation if you have the liberty to leave early or not attend at the last minute.  

4.     Perspective
Asking yourself what the holiday means to you will help you determine where to focus your limited energies.  That way you can ensure you do what is truly important to you.

Some grievers want to keep the traditions the same to honour their loved one’s traditions and memory.  Some want to make it entirely different, like taking a beach vacation,  to honour their loved one’s absence and memory.  

Either way,  love remains forever.


Big hugs and wishing you quiet and rest in the hard season,

Helga 

If you are facing loss, get the support you deserve.  For additional resources, including a no-obligation introduction coaching session with Helga Bender, MThS, for help, relief and rebuilding life again  click here.   

Please leave a comment about this blog - whether you liked it or not.  Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2016. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

When is Grief 2.0 Installed?

Grief versions 1.0 and 2.0
 

If you are in recent loss, you need to know that grief changes. It is much like a computer app installation, Grief 1.0 installs instantly at the heartbreaking news. As you process it, Grief 1.0 is updated and slowly stops being the lightening bolt that hits you first thing in the morning.  You begin to remember where you put your keys and if you ate breakfast. Grief 1.0 slowly changes to a softer version, Grief 2.0 - where you can enjoy browsing the Christmas market once again. 

For me, Grief 1.0 installed instantly at the news my son had been killed in a car accident. But Grief 2.0 was installed without me realizing it at least a year after, maybe even three years later. I know it sounds weird to say it just snuck up on me but that’s the way it works.  Life is much kinder now. How about you?   

Grief 1.0 installed automatically. In early grief, it initiates the natural numbness and daze to protect you from the full reality of the death. Every day, when you wake up and you hope it was all a bad dream, it relentlessly loads up again.  Grief 1.0 often includes a wide variety of emotions besides sadness: anger, shock, fear, loneliness, rejection and even relief that they're not suffering. 

It often runs a monstrous data backup reviewing all the moments, conversations, joys and pains of life together.  Your entire system slows down and you forget what you were doing in the foreground like where you put the keys.  If you try to do too much, it can easily overload, and “blue screen”.   When that happened to me I had to operate in “safe mode”  for a while, just doing the basics in a basic way.

Some people suggested I should just quarantine this entire process.  Clearly they lacked expertise.   The process is not a virus but rather a loving de-frag where all the precious memories of your loved one  are integrated for effective and clean access.  When the system has processed an adequate amount, it speeds up again, and can allow for a fresh commitment and new possibilities.

When Grief 1.0 had been running for some time, I worried that I had a glitch when I realized that I had not thought about my son for a whole day.  I worried that I was forgetting his memory but I realized it was a normal update.   Slowly, other updates were added and extra Ram was installed as I continued the processing.  That meant other apps and activities could be reintroduced, but I was very selective, not wanting to overload my resources.  Other updates also made it run more smoothly and they were slowly transitioning me to Grief 2.0.  

Grief 2.0

When exactly Grief 2.0 was released in my life, I can’t tell you.  I believe it installed when the recommended resources became available when internal capacities had stretched and life processing power had excelled.  You have grown in your capacity to handle life, with a higher perspective and reassessed values.  For me it means, like Stephen Stills wrote in his song, “And if you can't be with the one you love honey / Love the one you're with.”  Even though I can’t be with my son in this world, I can love the precious ones that are in my life: my family, friends, and community.

Grief 2.0, is a softer version and less intense version of Grief 1.0.  It even comes with a planner calendar for the future.  I have discovered some great uses for it: schedule a trip to the Christmas fair with my granddaughters, volunteering with Mother Against Drunk Drivers, a fun birthday trip.

Sometimes, I wondered if I was still operating in Grief 1.0 when the pangs of longing were triggered by something simple like seeing his favorite chocolate bar in the store.  But Grief 2.0 is much softer, and now that even makes me smile in my sadness.  In Grief 2.0, we are grateful for them being a treasured part of our lives and permanently in our hard drive memory.  However, we are also grateful for the new ones who have come into our lives since.  Surprisingly we have a bigger capacity to embrace additional treasures in our present and future too.     

"Why God?"

Feel like you have to live as an impostor?  

When my son died, I asked, "Why this way?  Why now?  Why did he die when I prayed?"  
Some well-meaning people said, "Think of what you have to be thankful for" or "It was God's will".  I pasted on a smile and nodded my head but I was an impostor because deep in my heart I could not accept these cliches. 

When Mark's wife Sue, died of cancer last March, he angrily asked, “Why God?  She was only 54 years old?”  His friends told him, "Everything has a reason and it was wrong to question God". Now, in October, his friends were happily hooking up their trailer to spend the winter in Arizona.  He and Sue were supposed to be joining them.  She was also supposed to outlive him since she was 11 years younger and she was the sparkling glue of the family.  Her death made no sense and neither did all his grief that threatened to swallow him up. 

You have the right to search for meaning

The Mourner' Bill of Rights states, " I have the right to search for meaning," but your friends may not be comfortable with the hard life questions that you are asking.  Watch out for the clichéd responses like. "God needed another angel" or "It's not a funeral but a celebration" or  "Everything has a reason".  They are not helpful but in fact minimize your loss. The idea that “Jesus took them,” mistakenly suggests that he is heartless even though he died to overcome death.  Better to say, "It was death that took them but Jesus took them away from death!”  

So is it punishment? 

Cliches can feel like God might be punishing us.  But that is not how he operates.  Jesus said,  "Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all others… No."  (Luke 13:4–5).  No, they were not worse and being punished.  He also clarified that a man born blind was not a punishment on him or his family, saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3).  It had a purpose.

 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

I used to think that accepting things with a calm smile meant you were more spiritual but now I know better.  In my struggle to understand why my son was killed, I brought my questions to God for several months.  I found it especially hard when people told stories of: "My child was almost killed/ almost died of illness/ almost flunked out but God saved them."  I asked myself, "But my son did die so God, what went wrong with us?"  I had to find answers that made sense to me.  Only the desperate, the real or the courageous go there.  

Finding your own answers

Searching for meaning is natural and a common part of the journey of the desperate bereaved.  Death leaves you feeling powerless, unable to stop it.  The person who died was a part of you and now you feel empty.  It is as though a part of you died.  Now you are forced to confront the questions racing through your head about your own spiritual beliefs.  You do not have to accept the cliches.  You will find your own real and authentic answers that are meaningful to you but you may have to face that some questions may not have clear answers today and accepting that tension.  Other questions may evolve and change.  This is part of living life authentically. 

One widow found some help by asking herself, “What would my husband want for me going forward?”  That was easy: to be happy, healthy, kind and giving and take care of their family.  She thought she would try being happy again by really laughing at her favorite comedy, “Big Bang Theory” but at first she felt guilty.  At the same time though, it felt good.  He would want her to laugh again, and to use her loss to grow, adapt and as a springboard to make a difference in the world.   

For me, as a result of losing my son, I am more determined to live an authentic life.  I have little time for the petty and theatrical.  I have a deep understanding and confidence in life after death - which is a long explanation that I have mentioned in other blogs.   I have bigger dreams for my life.  My son dreamed big dreams and made the world a better place by helping build leaders at home and start Wellspring school in Rwanda - to rebuild the nation devastated by genocide.  He is an inspiration.  It’s one of the main reasons why I am now a Life Coach specializing in loss and trauma. 

  My son, Ben, pretending he was "sleeping on the job", at Wellspring Academy, Rwanda. 

My son, Ben, pretending he was "sleeping on the job", at Wellspring Academy, Rwanda. 

Meaning in suffering

Concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl told of a widower came to him in deep grief, unable to find meaning in the death of his wife.  
Frankl asked, “What if you died first and your wife survived you?”  
“That would have been terrible, she would have suffered deeply.”
“Do you see, you made a sacrifice.  You have spared her the suffering.”
The man shook his hand and said, “Thank you, you have given meaning to my pain and  to my living, I can go on now.” 

In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it has meaning, such as a sacrifice.  We can’t avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope and how we find meaning in it.  If you are searching for meaning, don't let anyone stop you.  Search for it until you satisfied - even if you do not find an answer.  It can be an important part of finding renewed living and resilience, your personal story can change, and the reason for living can be deeper and richer also. 

This is the last of my eight points in the Mourner`s Bill of Rights, "I have the right to search for meaning".  I am excited to list them all here again for you.  They give confidence to express our grief and mourning to stay on the most effective path to real healing.  

The Mourner's Bill of Rights:

1. I have the right to experience my own personal, unique grief.

2. I have the right to embrace my grief and heal.

3. I have the right to feel many different emotions including surges of grief.

4.  I have the right to treasure my memories.

5. I have the right to respect my own physical and emotional limits.

6. I have the right to talk about my grief.

7. I have the right to embrace my spirituality.

8. I have the right to search for meaning.

 

Bless you in your real and authentic journey! 

BIG HUGS AND ALL MY BEST,

Helga

Check out other helpful blog articles including : 

Five Lessons Learned in the Fire, 

 Birthday Parties in Heaven, 

He is not here,

Just Tell Me What Happened  

The Worst Nightmare

plus helpful Renewing Resilience Tips.  or scroll down for more


If you are facing loss, get the support you deserve.  For additional resources, including a no-obligation introduction coaching session with Helga Bender, MThS, for help, relief and rebuilding life again  click here.   

Please leave a comment about this blog - whether you liked it or not.  Also check out my facebook page - for the latest, or just to say Hi!  


© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2016. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.