7 Ways of Coping with Traumatic Loss

While there are many forms of  loss such as divorce, unemployment, estranged relatives, the death of another human being cannot be compared to any other experience on this earth. It is a totally unique experience. When it’s unexpected, there’s a whole other set of challenges that present themselves.

Everything is cyclical. You will have dark periods that cycle out and return, and with time and healing, the dark periods grow shorter. Do not expect them to disappear completely though. We loved that person; And it’s because we loved that person that there will always be sadness associated with their absence.

I’m not an expert (I don’t know who would want to be an expert in this). These are all things I’ve learned and observed through the last two years. 35985576_10214767892245350_7557907341509656576_n

My long time friend and fellow writer, Trisha Lynn, and I did a FB Live this week to
discuss some ways we cope with the losses that we’ve experienced. (*to see a replay of this go to www.facebook.com/31MainStreet ) Here, I briefly recap those suggestions, as well as discuss some other tools that weren’t mentioned in our Facebook Live:

Music – PURPOSE: Creating new pathways and associations in your brain. Music can understand you in a way that people can’t some times. When talking to others who are grieving, I’ve noticed a commonality. A lot of us have songs or entire genres associated with our loved one. In the beginning, it can be painful to listen to a song that feels like it belongs to someone else who is no longer here. So until then, I highly recommend finding an artist or genre that you never considered before. It could be EDM, Classical, or Jazz. For me, there was a whole other world of music that I never knew about (*for more on this see my post: How Music Worked With Me this Year )

Journaling – PURPOSE: Our minds race. Thoughts can build up and intertwine with one another, binding us, making it impossible to function. Many times, our thoughts can get so tightly wound up. It can be hard to make a decision as simple as what to do first in our day, so we go back to bed. Journaling (first thing in the morning or last thing at night in particular) can be a wonderful tool to rid ourselves of the useless thoughts. There’s a book to reference for this. It’s called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In the book, Cameron offers a means of decluttering one’s mind. She calls it “Brain Dump”, and I think that’s the perfect term. Get rid of all of the crap bouncing around in there, close your journal, and be one step closer to clarity.

Learning Something New – PURPOSE: Creating new neuro pathways within our brains. Learning something new will build your confidence in this foreign world. It will give you a sense of control that you feel you’ve lost. Some skills that I’ve learned over the past two years are real estate and shooting. Both of these areas have served different purposes for me personally, but the world is boundless with possible new careers, skills, or hobbies you could develop.

Reading – PURPOSE: This serves as a great escape from reality and can be incredibly comfortable and relaxing. It also serves another purpose. It goes along with the suggestion above: learning something new. I highly recommend reading books that feed you in a positive manner. Books like, The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, come to my mind. As Olson states in his book, reading just 10 pages a day will still move you in a positive direction forward. This fosters both patience in the process of learning, and also, it’s effective in the absorption of content.

Faith – PURPOSE: It’s my ‘why’. The promise that I will be reunited with loved ones some day is what keeps me going. While I don’t push my beliefs on another, I will say that believing in something bigger than myself has gotten me through some extremely dark times. (If you ever want to have a respectful conversation about it separately, I’ll gladly discuss my beliefs.)

Exercise – PURPOSE: Get rid of toxins. The enzymes in a sad tear have a different make up than the enzymes in a happy tear. These are toxins being released. Exercise elevates the heart rate, getting blood cycling throughout your body, but also, helping you to literally sweat out bad feelings. There’s so much already written about this, and I invite you to research it on your own, but endorphins have been way more powerful in my life than any other outside substance.

Physiological Exercises: PURPOSE: These are calming activities done for severe panic disorders as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The sudden death of a loved one brings trauma. Traumatic memories are stored differently than other memories. Our brain boxes them up tightly, so we can function in other aspects of our lives. The problem is that the mind takes this tightly packaged memory and puts it in the emotional section of our brain, so if we have a trigger, a stimulus that pops the top off of this memory, we experience the emotions as if the event is happening all over again. This is overwhelming. Here are some recommended activities that one can use to calm his or her self down from a panic situation. While Trisha and I explain it in the context of PTSD, it is applicable to many other situations. Parents use this for children with intense emotions or who may fall on the spectrum. With the demands of our world nowadays, these activities are beneficial to anyone who feels like they are overwhelmed with panic. The first step before any of these recommendations is to recognize the rising feeling of panic, then proceed with any of the following exercises…

  1. The A-B-C Trick – Trisha explains this as first, choosing a category. The example she gives is “Animals”, but you could decide on any category (i.e. food, cars, TV shows). Once your category is selected, go through each letter of the alphabet and name an item within that category. So for Trisha’s category, “Animals”, one could say, “A – Alligator; B – Baracuda; C – Chamillion…” And so on. Do not stop until you’ve reached ‘Z’. Repeat as desired.
  2. Shoulder Tapping – This was recommended to me by a fellow widower, who experienced intense trauma in his life. Here, the individual takes his or her arms and crosses them over their chest, each hand on his or her shoulders. Then, just lightly tap their shoulders with their hands, remaining silent while tapping. (I was also told that one could tap their own sinuses to alleviate stress. This is depicted in my blog: Panic Attacks: 5 Quick ‘In-the-Moment’ Exercises to Alleviate Them)

While I know most of these are fairly simple recommendations, I also know that adding them into your life, when you’re under mental stress and emotional pain, is easier said than done. Here, I reference the book “The Slight Edge” again. Jeff Olson, the writer, points out that this “…path can be uncomfortable…scary. Especially if you’re the only one around who’s on it.” He also continues on to say that, despite this, if we take small baby steps forward, we will see change. Positive change. Pick one small way to cope and take your first baby step, even if it’s itty bitty.

Big Love,

Megan

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Lovely Days

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Happy Anniversary.

When we talked about it a few months ago, it’s not the one that either of us thought we’d be having . I was looking forward to the ‘surprise date’ you were planning for us, and I think of it often… what was it?

What would we be doing right now? This morning?

That, I do know …

You would pop up to the first sound of your phone alarm – set to the song “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers, and I would pull the covers tighter, with my eyes still closed and listen as you opened drawers and selected a shirt from its hanger. On special days like Fridays (or anniversaries), I could hear you dancing or singing as you chose your ensemble. The creaking of the floor boards as you walked back and forth from the bathroom to our bedroom were like an extra blanket to me. Pure comfort.

Then, once your shower was finished, you were dressed and cleaned shaved. You always came and sat at the foot of the bed on my side, tucked into my little nook of blankets and the grumbled mess that I am in the morning. You would sit there, with your socks in your hand, and I would feel you thinking.

That’s when I would open my eyes.

This was our time to discuss plans for the day. See, it was the same thing every weekday morning:

6:45 a.m. Bill Withers’ Lovely Day

6:47a.m. Choose a shirt. Take a shower.

7a.m. Sit by Meg with socks and think.

My mornings are different now. They’re still the exact same replica of the one previous to itself, but the routine, itself, changed overnight. Mornings are difficult for me. You’re probably laughing because they always were, but this isn’t the “hit snooze 12 times” type of difficult.

I wake up every morning, sore from head to toe. The therapist tells me it’s because I’m a person who “internalizes” my emotions. I lay in bed and subconsciously beg God every morning that this isn’t true. Please tell me how to undo this. Immediately, I become angry with myself for even asking that.

Then there’s fear…

How am I going to get our babies and I through the day today? Do I have the strength to get up and make them breakfast? Get them to school?

Usually by this time, one of the kids has woken up, and I’m reminded that there is no questioning. There’s only doing.

And I’m doing my best.

6:45a.m. Lay in bed, awake.

6:47a.m. Pain, begging, fear..

7a.m. Get on with the day.

I know you’d be in awe of the way others have supported us. It makes me sad to know that some of these kind faces will never get the pleasure of hearing your enthusiastic voice. My God, do I miss your voice.

These are the things I miss the most. I miss my morning guy. I miss acting like you annoyed me, when secretly I admired your cheerful disposition and your energy. I’m really pissed at myself for not telling you every second of your beautiful life that I felt this way.

I’m sure our date would’ve been perfect, but it’s not the dates that I miss. It’s things like ordinary mornings and the sound of your voice.

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Bystander in a Bar Fight: Independent Lady in this Election 

This is not a unique thought. It’s probably been written already. I wouldn’t know because I’ve been doing my best to avoid political opinions. But eh, it’s my blog, and I’m feeling a certain sort of something about politics right now; mostly, underrepresented, so I’m going write it out…

Holy smokes – anger, anger, anger. That’s all I’m seeing in the political realm. Anger that Trump was elected. Anger toward liberals who show disappointment in the election. Yikes.

My personal disappointment came several months ago when each party nominated two of the most morally inept candidates that I could have thought up. Therefore, going into the election, I was deeply sad that either way we’d have someone who physically turned my stomach.


 A rude, misogynistic bully or a sneaky, criminal career politician representing us. 

What I’ve come to terms with these last six months: Either way, the president is just a figure head. People were just as scared of Bush second term – and there was another group on the other side of the spectrum extremely frightened of President Obama. Like I said, a figure head (politically fancy term for mascot). Unfortunately, our mascot sucks right now. That doesn’t change anything about our every day life.

 It really doesn’t.

If your life was easy before, it will be easy now. If it was difficult before, it’s still going to be difficult. What makes a difference in your day-to-day life? Investing in the people closest to you.

Starting with our homes and moving to our communities – Let’s work to improve and stabilize what’s around us, and then, let us watch our lives bloom regardless of the mascot living miles away. 

Even before we work to improve our home situation or our community, we must work to improve our mindsets. Hate and bitterness is not productive. Positive blooms only within positive. 

With that, I’ll end this in a Mother Teresa quote (because no one can argue with her 😊)

Big love, Meg

A Baseball Story: That One Time I Said, “Sure.”

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It was last Summer (2015). It was dusk, and the kids were asleep. The heat of the day had broken, yet there was still a big, fiery sun lying low in the sky.

Scott was outside straightening up the yard, while I was doing the dishes or checking Facebook or something completely ordinary. He popped his head in and with a very loud whisper said, “Meg, come on out here.”

And I did.

When I got out, we discussed plans for our yard, while picking up children’s toys from the grass. He used a baseball bat to point at a tree that needed to be trimmed. Then with his other hand, he tossed a ball in the air and gave a good swing at it with the bat. I watched the ball as it flew to the other side of our yard, landing and rolling toward the back corner of the fence. I took a deep breath through my nose and sighed with contentment.

“Wanna play?” He looked at me and asked. After spending all day with our three little ones, I truly just wanted three little things: wine, sweatpants, and junky TV; the last thing I wanted to partake in was physical activity. I looked at him. His eyes were playful and filled with hope.

My reply surprised me,

 “Sure.”

Once I decided I was going to play, I was all in. We proceeded to set up the bases. We went over the rules, and I could feel his excitement. I hope he felt mine too. It was like we were twelve again, riding our bikes to the neighbor’s house and playing baseball until the sun set. We ran and laughed until our lungs hurt, and we very well could have played all night if it weren’t for the interruption.

“I see you over there,” Said a small, squeaky voice from our back door. We were busted. Our 6 year old daughter got out of bed for water and saw us playing baseball outside. She laughed, and I made a note to myself at the gratitude that I felt. My daughter got to see her parents having fun together. My daughter would know her mommy and her daddy loved each other.

And what was my gratitude is now my hope…that somehow this remains the same. Please, sweet girl, know: Mommy and Daddy loved each other: then, now, always.

The Fantasy of a New Widow

I wish I could take up a drinking habit. I fantasize about it often these days.

Not the kind of habit where I go out with friends, get hammered, and hit the drive thru on the way home; All of us laughing, listening to Rihanna songs.

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No.

I want the nastiest most painful vodka. I want to be alone with my misery. I want to be alone and lose my mind. My eyes smeared of mascara, my hair greasy and unwashed… This is the fantasy I have for myself. A drinking habit.

It can’t happen though.

I have little people looking to me for guidance through this confusing time. I have dear loved ones watching me, ready to catch me… and I really don’t want anyone to have to catch me.

I also have a belated husband who took great pride in my happiness. So I have to be happy. I have to wash my hair and drink coffee. I have to cry into a glass of good wine before going to bed early because the kids wake up for school in the morning. For him, I have to find happy.

But I really want vodka.

 

Cooking with Crazy 

It’s Friday. And I have the night off, so that means I want to make dinner.

I love making dinner. I’m not a mom who complains about this one. 

Cleaning the bathrooms? Yes. 

Folding laundry? Eww. 

But cooking …I love it. 

There are definitely issues when someone, like me, in my situation, steps up to the stove. And I will get to that. 

For now, let’s talk about what I made.

Shrimp scampi over riced cauliflower. 

So simple. So easy. And just good. (Most things, when kept simple, are good.)

Here are my ingredients (as adapted from Pinterest):

Edit

I found this list of ingredients in Pinterert and knew I could work with them. Rather than using a carb heavy pasta, I decided to combine this recipe with a new fave of mine: cauliflower rice. 

The whole thing took about 20 minutes all together. Very fast and easy. 

1. Peel and mince garlic *Note: this is the most time consuming step – and while it’s not that difficult, everything else is smooth sailing afterwards.

2. Heat olive oil in a skillet add garlic and shrimp ( with tails cut off)

3. Mince cauliflower in a food processor *buy a food processor – it sounds intimidating but it’s so easy and life changing, really. Go buy one. Like, now.

4. Deglaze the pan with juice of one lemon and a half cup of dry white wine 

5. Add a cup of chicken broth. Keep heat at med-high.

6. Add riced cauliflower

7. Chop parsley – This is the first time I’ve ever bought or cooked with parsley. It’s not necessary for flavor but is a 100% improvement on the appearance of the dish, which is just lookin like white grits up until this point. Mentally, you will enjoy your dinner so much more with it.

8. Add parsley; total cool time of this dish should be about 5 mins or until the liquid has evaporated out. 

So what’s going on in the meantime with my kids? What’s happening while mommy pretends to be Nigella Lawson?

Let’s see what I meant before when I said there are “issues” when someone in my “situation” tries to cook…

Baby J repeatedly got it into our fridge, and at one point, was caught DRINKING Parmesan cheese.

The girls spent that 20 minutes wrestling. You think boys are the only ones who wrestle? I used to too… Nope. Gracie now has a loose tooth, which she’s pretty excited about. She even ran to go clean her room for the tooth fairies anticipated arrival. (Thanks Grandma L for that idea)

So you see, I’m not exactly cooking in peace and wouldn’t blame another mom who just said eff it and ordered a Friday night pizza.

If you have a personality like me though, once your into something, you’re entranced. Bottomline, I’m a mad woman in the kitchen. 

After the liquid is evaporated, I cover and remove my skillet from the heat, and I allow it to sit while I set up plates. 

This keeps it hot, and gives that cauliflower a wee bit more cook time.

I know what else you’re wondering…

What did I do with the leftover wine?

Ahhh… Here’s a little Mommy refreshment for after dinner and baths. 

A little dry champagne and frozen blueberries – complete with antioxidants! So you can feel good about getting boozed up 😉

(This sparkling wine is like 80% off at Kroger right now, and if you buy 4 bottles, you get an additional 10% off. Just sayin. ) Comment and let me know if you try some variation of these!

Have a happy Labor Day weekend!

Big Love,

Meg