Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dealing with New Loss or Grief During the Holidays

I recall very well the first holidays, anniversaries and birthdays alone as a widow. Sometimes you want to be with others and other times you will want to be alone. It's important not to isolate yourself, but do be kind to yourself during these stressful moments. If you need to cry, do so. If you need support, ask for it. True friends and family that love you will be there to lend support. Sometimes we're afraid to ask for that support, but on the other side, sometimes those friends aren't sure what to do for you, even if it's just listening while you talk or sitting quietly with you for support.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sorting Through the Old Loss to Welcome the New Year

This is one of my more heavier posts in many months. But ultimately, it is a timely post as we get ready to welcome a new year. I always love the advance of a new year. There are so many possibilities ahead, so many avenues and opportunities for life in all of us.

For the last several months I have been working with life coach Janet Greene of Greene's Release, through some issues that had lain dormant, unbeknownst to me, in the last five or six years. I guess some of the upwelling of emotional dramas I had been feeling this month were undealt with shocks and memories from the past. Certain events seems to bring these emotional dramas close to the surface; resulting in a feeling of being stuck in place, annoyance, resignation and even a sense of apathy and regression.

I received a small gift in the mail at the beginning of December from a well meaning person. The gift set off this chain of thoughts and unexpected feelings, stirring memories that had remained buried for many years. There's a book out called Feelings Buried Alive Never Die and without having read that book, that would be the gist of this post today. Sometimes we feel the need to bury feelings so we can go on living day-to-day. We're not always aware we've buried them. At times it feels like the easist thing we can do for ourselves is ignore pain that rips at us, just let it be and hope it will go away with time.

Well, this is five years down the road and it just so happens this month some of that buried emotion started to unbury itself and I felt like I was literally being swamped all over again, in grief. I didn't understand what was happening and I didn't want to even look at what was causing the problem -- but I had to. So I made the decision to address what the heck was going on. I felt I had come so far in my life on my life after loss journey, and yet December I learned I hadn't sorted through everything in regards to this loss.

My friend of 18 years passed away at 53 years of age the week before Christmas. Since I'd known she was sick with cancer in February of this year, I had a heavy feeling for the outcome. I wondered did I have that feeling because my husband had died from cancer also? She had endometrial cancer and it was quite advanced. The doctors gave her a variety of mixed outcomes, but in my mind I felt it was the end.

I supported her as best I could, but all the time I was peddling toward what I feared was the inevitable outcome of this disease for her. She did everything the doctors suggested, the treatments they set up for her, beginning in March. They operated, they did the chemo and the protocols. My friend grew progressively weaker. One of the many times I went to see her in the hospital -- I thought I was in the wrong room. I didn't recognize her. I am glad she was asleep and didn't know of my instinctive move to back out of the room.

She remained cheerful and upbeat, even though she said to me several times she didn't think she was going to make it. Immediately after the chemo treatments, which went on for months, the doctors said she was in remission. This did not make sense to me, given her weak, debilitated state. My friend wondered about that also, but continued to trust in her doctor's care. What else could she do? She refused to have hospice, she said to her it was like giving up. I explained that my husband had been on hospice for pain control for seven months, and if they wanted to help her, let them have someone with her during the day to help her. It was a difficult situation for her, from my perspective. She was proud, independent and had always been very self-sufficient, raising 5 kids on her own. Now, she was dependent on others for her care and it remained difficult for her to accept that care, even to the point where at times I could see she pushed her family away.

In the end, her family and friends were with her in the hospital when she died. I was there the last hour also. I had driven that night, making the 3 hour round trip. I was going to wait until the next day but something inside urged me to go that night. I arrived to find her comatose, hooked up to a respirator. I could see it was pumping the oxygen into her. The only time she responded was when her son told her he was going to bring her dog in to see her. My friend had always had an incredible rapport with and love of her animals. This is the only time I saw her open her eyes when they mentioned her dog. I said my goodbye to her and told her I would miss her, and then knowing they were going to remove the life support, I left. She died as I was half way home, I later found out. I went to her funeral and it was a nice service with people getting up and speaking of my friend in honest and thoughtful ways. As I sat there the hot tears came to my eyes went down my cheeks. I pondered the loss and said the final goodbye, knowing she was somewhere in that church.

That same week my neighbor's pregnant daughter lost her baby in childbirth. They did everything they could to save the baby boy, but his organs were failing and he had been deprived of oxygen and nutrients inutero. It was incredibly sad to think of this young couple, the week before glowing with anticipatory happiness of the impending birth. I felt sad for my neighbors, the grandparents, because they too had lost a child many years before at birth. I sometimes wonder how this all works out in each of our lives -- the ripple effects it has on each of us, not only immediately but many years later. The sadness of loss is so very real and deep. But it gets deeper when we bury it within ourselves. It comes out in various ways through the years in actions and emotions -- and we're not always aware of the source of these emotions. When the emotional shock isn't dealt with, it festers beneath the surface, an unscabbed, unhealed wound.

The little gift I received triggered something within me this month, followed by the two deaths one upon each other. The gift was a keepsake ornament given to me by someone who had a good heart but mistakenly
thought this would be of comfort to me. It was meant to hang on a tree or in your house and you insert a picture of your loved one and it says "Remember me".

I felt this gift was out of place in my life, after five years. I had moved my life forward, the emotions looked at and dissected fully, and to have this ornament show up now stirred up the remnants of tears and emotions as yet undealt with.

I will donate the gift to someone newly bereaved, because it is not something that I need any longer. I have a small area in my house where there are pictures of my husband, myself and my kids. The loss no longer hurts but is a gentle remembrance of a life that has changed and evolved to who we are as individuals and as a family today.

I am through this month being bogged down with vague feelings of depression and fear, facing the tears inside that I've left uncried, the feelings that I've let go unacknowledged. Feeling these buried emotions, letting them speak fully to me, is a gift to myself for a new year of new beginnings. I am free of the chains of my emotional enslavement. The fears which held me are dissolved and blown away.

Janet Greene is a Life Coach who developed the Greene's Release method. You can learn to release what's holding you back from being truly happy and successful and living your true potential. She can be found at">

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss" available in ebook

I am up and running! "A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss" is available in ebook format. You can order it from my website"> or a link on this blog, to the right. $8.95 for an instant download with artwork. Thanks for asking!

Monday, December 15, 2008

DeStressing the Holidays

The holiday seems full of stress, and perhaps we set ourselves up for this stress. Does everything have to be perfect, from our homes to our decorations, to the holiday baking that has to be just so? Can we cut ourselves some slack? Right now a good friend of mine teeters on the brink of dying. I've known since March that this day would come. Also, the newborn infant of a young couple I know passed away this week, living barely an hour. I know a man who lost his wife quite recently, so he's suffering the loss of a spouse through this holiday season, a time when many of us may take our family and loved ones for granted. You always think they're going to be there, but I know from my own experience life can change in the blink of an eye. Hug them, love them, be there for them. Let them know you care.

When death comes close and enters your realm, hopefully you can really see what's important in life. And guess what, it's not about the little stuff like the lopsided tree or the latest toy that you think your child has to have. Perhaps we simply must define in our hearts what the true meaning of these holidays is to each of us. It may be something as simple as enjoying your family and seeing what they really mean to you. Forget the presents, forget the running around crazy for the perfect gift. The love and appreciation for life starts inside each of us. I hope never to lose sight of that truth. I learned it the hard way, and I would not wish that lesson on anyone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Articles on Grief

I have been working the last several weeks on new articles related to the grief process. This is a fairly new process for me, and these articles are based on the use of Greene's Release, a means of healing trauma. I'm compiling information and will be posting more on the subject in the coming weeks and months.

What if you found out there was a way to heal grief, really heal it, instead of letting time and distance bury it further from your thoughts and mind? Would you be interested in taking that route? I'm exploring this alternative right now.

Beyond 50 Radio Interview

On December 5th I was interviewed again by Daniel Davis of Beyond 50 Radio, for their Beyond 50's "Widowhood" talks. The interview is approximately 36 minutes.">

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Radio Interview by Linda Binns, Harmony In and Out

I will be interviewed tomorrow, Tuesday, by Linda Binns of Harmony In and Out. Turning Crisis into Opportunity.

EVENT: Elaine Williams Interview
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 2nd at 8:00pm Eastern Time
FORMAT: Simulcast! (Attend via Phone or Webcast -- it's your choice)

Sometimes You Need to Cry

Sometimes You Need to Cry
Elaine Williams ©2008

I recall a period in time, at about 18 months after my husband passed away, that I felt pretty good about myself. I had handled what life had thrown me and come out battered, but mostly okay on the other side. After caretaking my husband for almost a year, I was battling some minor health problems of my own, related mostly to stress, but most days I was certain my life was on track. Steady and focused, my three boys were also adjusting and it seemed we all had a grip on reality.

On this day, I was on my way to an appointment with my holistic doctor when the radio began playing a song I had never heard before. The singer’s words stirred something inside me. The song spoke of loving someone through the years, and even with that person gone, the threads of memory remained.

The words reverberated through me, and I experienced almost a kind of shock as their meaning sank in. Out of nowhere, I began to cry so hard I had to pull off the road. I had no control over the rush of anguished emotion. All my hard won calm fled, chopped off at the knees as I hugged the steering wheel of my car.

I cried as if a great well had opened inside and pulled my guts out. When I finally began to calm and the tears subsided, I had to wonder where this emotional outburst had come from. How could a song open a wound of such profound loss?

I arrived at my doctor’s office, and as usual with holistic doctors, they not only want to know about you physically, but they dig deeper into the emotional aspects of your life. I hesitated only briefly before telling him what had occurred on the way to his office. I felt embarrassed by my earlier semi-breakdown. I tried to explain that I’d been feeling good, and then to suddenly have this upheaval had thrown me for a loop.

He explained it was to be expected there would be days where emotion could still catch me by surprise. With the loss still relatively fresh in my life, how could I expect to be 100%? I admitted to him that I’d been feeling excruciatingly lonely, but I thought I was handling it. Some days my idea of “handling” it meant ignoring or burying my feelings. Always a very private person, I hadn’t shared much of my thoughts with anyone. When friends asked how I was doing, I would usually say I was okay. Inside, I kept thinking, who wants to hear that I just want to get through another day?

I felt much better after speaking with him. Not only was he a sympathetic ear, it felt good to open up and share my worries about being alone, my concern for the kids’ welfare and fears that I wasn’t handling my finances to my best advantage.

We talked extensively about the triggers that stirred my own private misery. Something as straightforward as a song, or as complex as past memories, seemed to have the power to entrench me in great emotion. He made me realize there would be times I merely needed to cry as part of grief’s healing process. There was nothing complicated about it. Each time we are brave enough to reach down and allow our true emotions out, it brings a little more healing into our lives. As time passes, and we remain true to ourselves, a new sense of empowerment emerges.