Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Grief, Depression & Sharing the Tools I Need Daily: #4 ~ People


Grief and depression can be a lonely place, yet it is so important to surround yourself with people. I am, by nature, an introvert. Not painfully so, but I like my alone time. Solitude rejuvenates me.  I get exhausted being with a large number of people. People often describe me as quiet and hard to get to know, when really, I am very self-aware and learn by watching. This is not to say I am shy. Shyness is a fear of people or social situations where as being introverted people appreciate being around people but find 'small talk' tedious. I like to get into the nitty gritty, deep, meaningful conversations. To be in a crowd of people making small talk sucks the life out of me, but finding a corner in that busy room and talking about heart matters rejuvenates me.

So, how do you deal with grief and depression when you're an introvert and you need people around you? And even thinking about extroverts, like Jason. In the past two years he's become more of an introvert too. We recently came home after a day out with people and we both had to work on not falling asleep on the way home. When we got home we were beyond exhausted. We are learning that balance is so important. To surround yourself with people that are life-giving is the biggest thing.

Because we had only lived here for 7 months before Mikail passed away, we didn't have a tight group of friends who truly knew us, to support us from nearby. This was no one's fault. It just was the situation. Making heart friends doesn't follow a timeline and usually takes longer than just a few months. In a way this was really, really difficult, but in our age of technology there are so many ways to support long distance. Our 'life group' from out west supported us via daily texts, phone calls, visits,  meals (yes, meals from afar, can you believe it? There are so many possibilities), and unconditional support.

There have also been a couple of very committed friends who have been a life-line via text. Checking in on us. Asking the hard questions. Putting up with my sadness and never giving up. Always there, one text away. This has truly been a huge, huge blessing.

As important as this long distance support is to us, for nearly two years we prayed for local friends who could be real with us about their joys and struggles in life and weren't afraid to share those joys and struggles, and who weren't afraid of our grief and muck either. Who would laugh hard with us and cry with us if needed. We needed to be with others who weren't afraid to share their life with us. (It's funny how people shy away from those who grieve when in reality, the ones who are grieving need others so desperately). Large groups are exhausting to us, so a small intimate group that intentionally does life together was what we desperately needed. And guess what? God showed up and provided. When the months turned into a year and then nearly two years, we wondered if it would ever happen, but God provides. He truly does. Our Friday nights with friends have now become the highlight of our week. Oh how we've missed 'doing life' with others.

Having a doctor, counselor, and pastor who are on your side is so important. I think that often people tend to give up when they feel their needs aren't met, but we are learning that you can't. You keep on searching until you find someone with whom you have shared beliefs and values. We struggled to find a doctor who wasn't afraid of grief and the long lasting impact it has on people--especially children. But we didn't give up and we are blessed to have found one close by. In the span of the past 2 1/2 years I have seen four different counselors and each one helped bring healing on this journey in their own way. One helped us learn about the grief journey. One helped us understand grief and the work-place. Another has helped me understand the affect of grief on the brain, bringing biblical truths and science together. While a fourth has helped bring understanding into the trauma aspect of our situation. I remember being frustrated that I felt we'd come to a dead end in the road of grief after seeing the first counselor. We received so much knowledge and wisdom, but there were aspects that were left untouched and I felt like we were left hanging. Now I see that each one brought with them wisdom to one particular aspect of grief for us. Each was important in their own way.

When I hear people frustrated about the lack of support they get from their doctor or counselor or pastor, I am now reminded that we cannot give up. You keep on searching until you find someone that brings wisdom and knowledge and speaks life into the places that need help and healing. God provides.

Yes, I am an introvert, but that doesn't mean I don't need people. I need people desperately, just like everyone else. We need to surround ourselves with a support system that walks with us on this journey. I think that is true for all of us in all aspects of life, grief or depression aside.

Courageously yours,
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Grief, Depression & Sharing the Tools I Need Daily: #3 ~ Exercise

One of the symptoms that seems to haunt me in this grief journey is physical pain. Sounds weird, doesn't it? That grief and depression can cause physical pain? Psychosomatic symptoms have become ever so real to me these past two years.

Immediately after Mikail passed away my heart began to physically ache with the weight that was on it. That made sense to me. My heart was broken. What didn't make sense to me was that my arms ached. They were so heavy and hurt so incredibly much. I soon discovered that I was aching to hold our son. My arms were empty and the emptiness was physically painful. This pain continued on for a long time until Jason's aunt who is a Trager Practitioner brought her massage table and began gentle body work. As she came to my arms and worked on them, my tears started (not from pain, but from emotional release) and as they flowed and flowed, my arms began to release and feel lighter. It was an amazing moment of healing and physical release of pain, that is really difficult to describe. There are many types of body work that can help towards the physical healing of pain: chiropractics, reflexology, yoga, t'ai chi, deep tissue massage, bio feedback, etc.

I am learning that there is a deep disconnect between our body, mind, and soul. I have always tended to work out the things of life through my mind, completely disconnected from what my body feels.  A couple of months ago the aching and stiffness in my body was keeping me from doing my regular everyday life things and I began to wonder about this disconnect between my body, mind, and soul. I soon discovered that with simple stretches every morning and every night, my aches were a lot less. I'm not athletic. I never have been and exercising is far from something I would choose to do as 'fun', so I knew I needed to find something that would work for me.

A friend of mine, whose been in the muck of this journey with me, had mentioned that yoga  has been very helpful for her in her life journey, so I began to research (see this link for an explanation of the type of yoga I am learning about) and came across a wonderful website by a regular gal just like me (except she's felixible, I'm not -ha) and she addresses this disconnect we have between our body, mind, and soul and provides free videos with yoga practices that include the stretches my body so badly needs, in addition to devotional thoughts to encourage me in my faith walk. It has been a game changer for me in walking this journey of grief and depression. To connect what's going on in the body, mind, and soul--the whole person God created? It's amazing. I am still not athletic and still not flexible (I have never been able to touch my toes), and would be completely uncomfortable going to a yoga class, but that's not what it's about. It's about wellness. Wellness of the body, mind, and soul in this moment of the journey. I love that I can roll out my yoga mat, close the door and not worry about what I look like (it must be a sight). Click the image below for a link to learn more:

https://www.carolinewilliamsyoga.com/about/

Sometimes I feel guilty for taking the time I need to take care of myself. I need more time for that than most people and the guilt easily sets in. I know it shouldn't:

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, 
who is in you, whom you have received from God? 
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 
Therefore honor God with your body." 
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20) 

God has given each of us the job of taking care of our bodies. Why? So that He can use us to further His Kingdom. Each of us are an important part of the big picture. So to take care of ourselves, our body, mind, and soul is not selfish. We need to do this so that God can use us for His purposes. If we are worn out, sick, and exhausted, we aren't very useful. At least I'm not. I crash and can't go on until I am refueled.

Sometimes J asks me, 'When's the last time you sat at the computer and wrote something?' That question is usually a big sign that I am worn out. I haven't spent time reflecting, writing out prayers, blogging, and doing all those 'writery-type' things I need to refuel my mind and soul. Clearly this looks different for everyone. Maybe it's going for a run, listening to music. Maybe it's a long soak in the tub, pouring out your prayers to God. Maybe it's sitting outside listening to the birds and watching the wind blow through the leaves on the trees. Our body, minds, and souls are all refreshed in different ways, but I am learning that if I neglect one or two of these, in time I become quite useless. This is the last thing I want. I want to be there for my family and most importantly I want to be all there for whatever purposes God has for me.

What works for you? How do you refresh yourself physically? How do you renew your mind and soul?  These three are so important in this journey we walk, but especially if we are dealing with grief and depression.

Courageously yours,
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Grief, Depression & Sharing the Tools I Need Daily: #2 ~ Quiet Time


Over a month ago I started a blog series entitled Grief, Depression & Sharing the Tools I need Daily. I had great intentions of writing all five entries in the series at one time and scheduling them to post weekly.  Well, things happen. Life happens. But one thing that didn't change is this next tool that is integral in every season of life for me:

Quiet Time.

Everyone's quiet time with God will look different. My quiet time with God looks very different in different seasons of life. Sometimes I can sit and just 'be' in God's presence and feel so close to Him. Other times I listen to music, podcasts, or audio books. There are times where I follow a scripture reading plan that is topical, having to do with something I am going through in that particular season. Other times I know that I cannot concentrate enough to simply read a scripture passage and keep my mind on it, so I follow a scripture writing plan where I copy, word for word, the passage out of the Bible. This allows me to be still with God and focus on what He is speaking to me through the scriptures. The YouVersion Bible App has also been a great 'on the go' resource for our family. We haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all that it offers in the realm of resources for time spent with God.

Here are a few links of resources I have used in the past in my quiet time with God. I love that there are so many different ways out there for us to meet Him. Yes, sitting with a Bible in your lap, reading the good book from cover to cover is wonderful, but truthfully when there are seasons in life where those words to just blur and your mind wanders, there are other Bible based ways to meet him too.

Music

The Spotify App is one of my faves. This year I have been making a playlist of songs we sing at church regularly and often have it playing while Olivia gets ready for school. She is learning the songs and to hear her sing the choruses with all her might at church just warms my heart. She is so on fire for her God. It's inspiring. And of course there are the playlists I make just for me.

Podcasts

A few of my favourites:
God Centered Mom
HopeWriters
Mud Stories with Jacque Watkins
The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey
By Design
On Being with Krista Tippett
Pastor Rick's Daily Hope

Audio Books

There are so many possibilities out there for books that have been put into audio. www.christianbook.com is my go-to place for books whether they are audio, paper, or e-book)

Scripture Reading Plans

Rachel Wojo (she's my scripture reading plan fave)

Scripture Writing Plans

Sweet Blessings
The Busy Mom
Life Hope and Truth

Journaling

I have boxes worth of journals that I have filled in the past 30 years. I think I was ten when I started journaling. Maybe even younger. It's never been consistent like a diary would be, but putting my thoughts down onto paper has always been cathartic to me. I've always liked a pretty journal, yet in the past two years I have turned to simple Composition Books from the dollar store. They make them so pretty now and the page size and thickness of the book is what works for me.

YouVersion

This is my favourite App for the Bible and devotional plans. If you haven't every checked it out, do. There's so much good stuff in there. It's also been a good way for Jason and I to share thoughts on sermons. Every three months I miss a whole month of sermons at church because I have the privilege to teach Sunday School. It does, however leave a hole in our ability to discuss what was shared on those Sundays. J has been using YouVersion to take notes and highlight scripture as sermons are being shared. It's been great for us in that way.

 Courageously yours,
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Grief: The Only Way Through it, is Through it



It has become a highly accepted theory that the first year of grief is the hardest.  In a way, perhaps, this is true. It’s the ‘year of firsts’. First birthday without our loved one. First Mother’s Day. First Father’s Day. First Easter. First Christmas. First Thanksgiving. The list goes on and on depending on who the person was that you lost.

For us, however, the first year was so easy compared to year two or three. Year one seemed to have built a shell of protection around us. This, I now know was the shock we were experiencing. It is how our body builds a protective barrier to shield us from the reality of the depth of what we experienced. In a way we were numbed. Another thing that made year one easier in a way was that we had a lot of people visiting us from a long distance away. They came to ‘be’ with us for days/weeks at a time.  This was so very helpful since we had only moved here 7 months before Mikail’s death and didn’t have a community of friends or church to truly support us in the way we needed. How could they? They didn’t really know us and most of them had never met Mikail. This is not to say we didn’t receive any support. There were many who were there with us through it all and did for us more than we could have ever hoped for or imagine. Yet, being together with people who have known us for years, was a healing balm to our broken hearts.

As year two approached there was a sense of self-expectation that we would feel better. That things would get easier. But they didn’t.  They just got more difficult. The shock was wearing off and now we had to deal with how this was affecting us emotionally, spiritually, and physically. There seems to be an unsaid social expectation that once year one is over, things get easier. Even our doctor (at the time) was of this belief. The visits become less, people go on with their lives and when they do acknowledge the loss, they seem to see us as ‘doing amazing’. We politely nod, but our hearts are crushed and we feel even more pressure to ‘get over it already’. There is this counterfeit of normalcy that grows into a  mask that we wear so that society sees us as ‘normal’. And this is when the reality of secondary losses sets in. Mikail is the first loss and will remain the biggest loss, yet there are other losses. The reality that we are no longer the parents of a son on this earth.  The loss of hopes and dreams we had for him and for what our family would be. And one of the biggest secondary losses is the alteration of integral relationships because of his death.  Some relationships come to a stagnant halt when people don’t know how or don’t want to walk this journey with us.  Some relationships need boundaries set because of the intentional or unintentional hurt they cause. While other relationships grow and bloom and become almost holy because of the conscious choice that has been made to walk through the mud and sometimes just come and sit in the mud of grief with us.

We are now in the third year after the loss of Mikail and is it easier? No. It’s just different. Harder in some ways because of the internal work we need to do--the emotional, spiritual, and physical work of healing.  We are working through the trauma and the anxiety. We are finding our new identity that was stolen from us the day he died. We are forever changed. We are learning to forgive—ourselves and others. We are learning to be patient and honor where we are on this journey in this exact moment.  We are finding rest for our souls. We are not setting timelines anymore--even when others tell us it's time to move on. There is no moving on. There is only moving through. Grief is a life long journey and we are on the road to hope. 

Courageously yours,

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Grief, Depression & Sharing the Tools I Need Daily: #1 ~ Calendars, Goals and Lists

In the past three years I've really struggled with staying focused and achieving goals. The past 8 months, when depression reared its ugly head, have been the most difficult. The only goals I seemed to be able to accomplish were the ones that were necessary--feed and clothe my family and keep the house semi-clean. Beyond that? The couch was my closest friend. Books and movies kept my mind off the pain. There were spurts of energy where I dove into the distraction the wool business could provide, but my heart wasn't in it.

This past February I was finally able to get some help beyond the "you know what you need to do" platitudes I heard far too often (sometimes you need tools, not just words shared and then dismissed, right?) and slowly I'm crawling out of the muck and mire, but it's a slippery slope. 

As I'm crawling out of the muck and mire, I've been struggling with this feeling that I should share some of these tools here on the blog. I can't be the only one who needs these tools. I struggle with sharing them because there are many people who have never experienced grief or debilitating depression and the silent judgement is often deafening...yes, we notice it.  I'm a people pleaser and some of the tools that have been life changing for me, will not please everyone. I struggle with that. A lot. Yet, these are tools I wish I would have had a long time ago.  So, I'm going to work at sharing these with you. One at a time. 

The first one is a pretty safe one 😉: Create a calendar with goals. Some people like to use the calendar on their phone. Me? I'm old school. I like to write it all out. 

 



Every Sunday I try to sit down and map out what I know about the week already and then each day I add what I need to add. Some days all I can handle is the Daily Cleaning. That's okay, I'm learning. 

I don't enjoy cleaning the house all in one day, so I divide it up to do a bit each day (and yes, I skip some of the items--a lot--let's be real). Laundry is the same. One or two loads a day and there's rarely a huge pile.


Having things written down is the only way they will get done. If I try to remember what I was planning on doing, 90% of the time I won't remember, unless it's written down. 

Completing my goals for the day is giving me a purpose beyond losing myself in feel good Hallmark movies and feel good Amish novels (the only drama I want to handle 😬). I've also been reading with students in Olivia's class twice a week. This too gives me a chance to get out and do something beyond my little world. 

Do you have a helpful tool that helps you stay focused and reach daily goals? I'd love to hear about it. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Droopy. The Dried Out. The Ready to Fall Apart.

 

I was about to throw out the tulips in this vase, but as I sat there, finishing my coffee, I was drawn to the droopy, the dried out, the ready to fall apart petals. They weren't perfect and fresh anymore, yet the beauty of the details still intrigued me. There was still so much to enjoy.

 

I think we all feel that way sometimes. Tired, dried up, droopy...and I don't mean physically (although...😉).  It pretty much sums up our weekend. Emotionally exhausting on many levels. Yet, God reminded me over and over that there's beauty in the 'droopy, dried up, falling apart' moments of life. What we think is ready to be thrown out, holds a beauty that the fresh, beautiful, and vibrant part of our lives never showed us. 

 

Friday, April 28, 2017

My big hearted little girl

Sometimes the big heart of my little girl blows me away.

Last summer she came home from Day Camp one day and told us she wants to grow her hair, then cut it, and send it away so that someone could make a wig for a little girl who lost her hair because she was sick. 

So she grew her hair and today it was finally long enough to cut and donate:

 





 
 
 

And now she starts the process again. 💗

My Mama heart is filled with joy and so is the cancer survivor part of me. 

* * *

We have chosen to donate to Hair 360. It's Canadian and affiliated with the Canadian Cancer Society. The wigs are made FREE for recipients under age 19. Each recipient's wig is custom made according to their colour, length and style preferences. Each recipient has a say in the wig made for them. And the biggest thing for me in choosing Hair 360 is that it's all done by volunteer professionals. It's not a money maker. They are truly there to help kids in need. How cool is that? 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Choosing Strength Amidst the Mess

 
As I sit here on our deck, enjoying a beautiful spring morning while having my quiet time, I'm tempted to post the above picture to my social media accounts. Sunny. Beautiful. Idyllic. And it's true, but reality also shows that if I look to my left, things aren't perfectly put together:

 

There's toys strewn about, cushions out of place, hornet spray on the coffee table, and insecticide on the fake fireplace 'hearth'. 

 

My cute vintage looking patio lights are tangled on the chair, waiting to be hung, and the deck needs a paint job. 

 

Our "Gather" banner is all wind blown and there's still a sled out behind the love seat. 



And me? I'm definitely not 'selfie ready'. I just spent 30 minutes push mowing the front yard. I'm a sweaty, no make-up wearing, grey hair overtaking, pasty skinned, mess. 

But as I read this morning, God is reminding me that He is here to fill me up with His presence. I may be tempted to focus on the hot mess around me and the difficult life-path we walk that's draining me of my strength (and adding grey hair daily?? 😉). But this morning I choose the beauty and am grateful for the strength He gives us when we feel weak and messy. When we are tired and weary. I cling to the hope that is renewing our strength and helping us to soar like eagles. 

 
From Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Redemption in Brokenness


The very thing we are afraid of, our brokenness,
is the door to our Father's heart.
Paul Miller

I sat there, near the back of the little chapel hearing the murmurings of His truth from the pulpit.  Good, solid, Godly words being spoken loud and clear, but they only came through to me as murmurings. I willed myself to listen, to hear the words of Truth.  I begged God for the healing of my shattered heart. Take this fear away, God! It does not come from You! My heart pounded inside my chest. My mind swimming. My lungs gasping for air. My ears filled with cotton.... 

Continue reading at Compassion That Compels, where I am a guest blogger today:


Compassion That Compels 
provides HOPE to women battling cancer. 
They are a resource to equip cancer warriors 
spiritually, emotionally and in a tangible way, with Compassion Bags. 

Courageously yours,
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Nevertheless


I think we all go through times in life where we wonder, 'Why'?
Why are my children not following God?
Why did my marriage fail?
Why do I go through so much physical pain?
Why do I have to endure so much abuse?
Why do we struggle financially?
Why did my loved one die?
Why did I lose my job?
Why is cancer ravaging my body?
Why is everything in our home falling apart?
Why does my child suffer so much?
Why? Why? Why?

I have my own share of 'why' questions, and they all lead to the question of 'If God is able to change any situation for us, and I know that He can, with His mighty hand, then why doesn't He?'

I have learned that this line of thinking can lead to much toxicity in my mind and soul. The enemy loves weakening us through this line of thinking.

I think the biggest 'If You, God, were able, then why didn't you?" leads back to a cold winter day a few years ago when I sat beside the stiff, life-less, body of Mikail and begged God, 'If you raised Lazarus from the dead, You are able to raise Mikail to life. I know You can. Breathe Your breath into him! Please, God! Please!'

And He didn't.

Where do we allow our minds to go when God says 'No', even though we know He is able? The easiest thing is to turn our backs on God. Believe me, that was a real option for me at times, but somehow I always came back to the knowledge that God is sovereign. God is in control. There is a reason why the answer was 'No'. I may never know, this side of heaven, but I do know that God is good and God is sovereign. No, it doesn't make our everyday life easier. It doesn't make the 'missing him' go away. It does give some sense of comfort though.

One thing I started doing last year was what I call my 'Nevertheless' thinking:

Life hurts.
Nevertheless, life is a gift from God--a gift I must honour.

Mikail died.
Nevertheless, he is now with God.

People's words sting.
Nevertheless, God's strength is what will pull me through.

I feel hopeless.
Nevertheless, God is present in my depths of despair.

Regardless of the outcome of my life, the ultimate 'nevertheless' is that God has a plan. He is sovereign. If we focus on the negative, toxicity will take over our mind and soul, and open the doors for the enemy to darken our souls. And that's his plan. We have got to fight this. God is our hope.

Mercy Me solidified my 'Nevertheless' way of thinking with their recent song Even If:

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

May you walk through today with thoughts of 'Nevertheless', that recognize that God IS able, but even if He doesn't, our hope is still in Him.

I hope you join me in making this our anthem this week:





Courageously yours,
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