Just Beyond the Waves: Help for the Storms of Life

Help for the Storms of LifeMy youngest daughter just had a birthday and we decided to celebrate by taking the family on a dolphin boat cruise. The boat goes  just beyond the waves that roll toward the beach, in search of friendly, fun-to-watch dolphins. We saw dozens of smooth, gray dolphins as they searched for food, swam with their babies, played, and even “surfed” in the wake behind our boat. We couldn’t stop smiling and taking tons of pictures and video of our new-found friends. It’s so amazing what you find just behind the waves.

My family has been facing difficult times during the past few months – like huge waves washing over us…at times knocking us off balance. The experience of discovering something wonderful just beyond the waves felt encouraging. It was a great reminder that good things are waiting behind the swirling water. Even the most ferocious storms come to an end, and the sun shines brightly again. If you’ve ever experienced a hurricane you know the most beautiful, sunny day happens the morning after the storm has passed.

It can be so tough to wait for trails and rough waters to pass us by. You may even find yourself looking for a life raft that can rescue you. When will help arrive? For me, I find my help in my faith. I find comfort in praying and remembering scriptures that give me hope. During these recent, difficult days I have thought about my favorite verse anytime I am feeling anxious or down,

” Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, because I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you and I will lift you up with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

These words give me comfort and remind me that I am not alone. If you are searching for rescue and hope, hold on to your faith. Find a pastor, rabbi, priest, church or trusted friend who can tell you more.

If you have never explored your faith or beliefs, you can find more at Everyday Answers.

No matter what you are facing, remember that just beyond the waves, something good is waiting. The sun will shine again.

Having Trouble Sleeping? Try Meditation!

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Tossing and turning when you lay down at night can be frustrating and tiring! If grief, worry or random thoughts are keeping you from getting restful sleep, it can affect your state of mind as well as your health. Numerous studies have shown that a lack of sleep can affect your bodies natural defenses against illness and disease.

If you are having trouble sleeping, it is important to take steps to improve the amount and quality of your nightly zzz’s.

Here is a great article on ways meditation can help – no sleeping pills needed!

Check it out and Start Sleeping better tonight!

 

Children and Grief: Where’s Our Baby?

baby-shoes

How to Help Children with Grief after a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Newborn Death.

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster, Valerie Oldfield, bereaved parent, and children’s writer whose background is in education and drama. Most recently she retired from grief support group facilitation, volunteer training as well as grief/death education. Find her book for grieving children, Where’s Our Baby on Amazon.

Just the same way everyone in the family shares the joyful anticipation that a new baby can bring, so does everyone in the family experience the grief when the new life is cut short. People believed for a long time that the youngest family members did not grieve. We know that just isn’t true. Parents can feel lost when it comes to their children’s thoughts and feelings and the subsequent behaviors. But there are concrete ways to bridge the generation gap and to allow room for the conversations when they are ready.

Young children have a very different understanding of the concepts around death:

  • they cannot grasp the permanence of death, it is only temporary and the deceased’s body can start to work again, in essence they can come back to life
  • dead means sleeping or away on a trip
  • they may wonder what the baby is doing now, they still live in a world of magical thinking

But, the sadness all around them does not go unnoticed. Their reactions can run the gamut:

  • feelings of guilt, worry, confusion, insecurity, fear and sadness, to name a few.

Young children often react with:

  • regressive behaviors i.e., wetting the bed, thumb sucking, neediness, etc.
  • they may repeat the same questions many times
  • their play may include themes of death and they can have a newfound interest in dead things
  • they may just as easily withdraw or lash out with playmates

With this knowledge we can aim our support to their special needs by:

  • most importantly, having children participate in any services or rituals the adults choose to do
  • accepting their behaviors, including regression
  • giving lots of hugs and other contact
  • encouraging them to play and draw so that they can work through their feelings and get a break from them as well, that is most natural for children of this age
  • allowing quiet times for them to express how they are feeling
  • using children’s books, around the topic of baby loss or any loss, can start the conversation
  • answering all their questions with simple explanations
  • not straying from their usual routines i.e., bedtimes, etc.
  • letting them cry and not hiding your tears in front of them

As a family, you will learn to live with the loss, each in his own way, and in his own time.

 

Mother’s & Father’s Day: Help for Grieving Parents

man-when-he-does-not-grieve-hardly-exists-quote-1Are you spending Mother’s Day wondering if you are, in fact, a mother? Are you a father dealing with grief as Father Day approaches? 900,000-1 million couples in the U.S. alone face this question every year after suffering pregnancy loss.

As you face the sadness of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, you can both give yourselves a very simple gift – acknowledge that you are a mother and father. You may not have a baby to hold in your arms, but you both have one to hold in your heart.

If you are grieving during this time that we celebrate parenthood, there are some tips that can help. Men and women handle grief very differently, so we have included separate help for each, adapted from the book  Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

Mothers:

Nothing will lesson the pain of Mother’s Day, but with some planning you can make sure the day has meaning for you.

Here are some tips that can help:

– Let Your Family Know What You Need.

If you feel uncomfortable being recognized as a mother at a banquet or other function, substitute an activity you would feel good about. If you would rather not receive or wear a flower, then wear an item that helps you to connect with your baby, such as a piece of jewelry that includes the baby’s birthstone.

– Remember Your Baby.

Mother’s Day can be a great time for a husband and wife to talk about their baby and what the baby meant to them. Take a walk, have a quiet dinner, or just set aside some time to remember your baby together.

– Decide Ahead of Time.

The way you chose to spend Mother’s Day should be your decision- and one you make ahead of time. Setting time aside to remember and talk about your baby will make you “feel” more like a mom on the very day designed to do that. Remember that your spouse may experience similar feelings on Father’s Day, so be sure to ask how he would like to spend the day.

Fathers:

After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation. Be sure to let your family know how you would like to spend Father’s Day.

 Here are some ways to handle your grief:

 

 – Talk About It.

 

You may feel uncomfortable putting your feelings into words, but talking about your loss with trusted loved ones will help. Don’t be afraid to cry and express your emotions. Discuss any questions or concerns that surface about how you are handling your grief, and know that your process will be different, but equal to your wife.

 

– Ask for Space. 

 

If you need space to experience grief in your own way without criticism, ask for it. Explain how the time alone can help, rather than giving the impression that you are “shutting out” your loved ones.

 

– Deal with Anger.

 

While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward your spouse or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response to grief, however hostile behavior is not. If you are feeling hostile, or having difficulty dealing with anger, get help.

 

Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone; especially on a day designed to celebrate new life, that instead, brings sadness. Mothers and fathers can support one another and ensure the day has meaning for your both.

Are You Feeling “Showered” By Grief or Addiction This Spring?

feeling rain of grief and addiction

Spring has sprung! You can see trees, flowers and plants beginning to awaken from their winter sleep. With spring always comes “showers.” While we know the rain is needed to nurture the flowers to come, it’s easy to become tired of the storms.

I’ve been going through a very stormy time in my life. My family and I have been dealing with difficulties on every front- job, family, health and many uncertainties. Facing this has reminded me how tough it can be to weather the storm- to stay calm and patient.

Are you feeling the pain of grief or addiction? Here are some simple reminders to help you navigate the spring rains:

  • Sleep. Sounds simple, but it can be hard to sleep, and to have quality sleep when you are facing stress and hardship. If you are not sleeping well, try cutting off electronics and screens an hour before bed. Read. Relax. Exercise. And if all else fails, get a doctor’s advice.
  • Eat. Taking good care of you is most important when you are going through tough times. Stress can cause you to overeat- stuff down your feelings with a hunk of chocolate cake or a party size bag of Doritos. Some find it difficult to eat at all. Pay attention to what you are eating- and “what’s eating you.”
  • Drink. Water. Hydrate yourself and give your body good things. This would not include drowning your sorrows with an entire bottle of wine. You may forget your pain for the night, but the morning hangover always comes. If you need help with moderation- get some!
  • Smile. Have fun. This can be hard to do when you are facing challenges. When life is coming at you from all directions, it can feel like the wrong time to relax. However, it can be just the boost you need. Go outside. Drive to the beach. Call a friend who makes you laugh. Pray. Do something you enjoy.

Finding it too tough to handle the rain on your own? Ask for help! Find a trusted friend, rabbi, priest or pastor and get the support you need. You don’t have to face the storm alone.

Waiting for the “flowers” to appear during the storms of spring can be draining. Doing simple things to take care of yourself will fill you with the strength you need to get there.

Have some tips to add? Leave them in the comments section!

Having a “Losing” Season? Give it Time

shot-clockFor sports fans everywhere, March is about brackets and basketball. Excited college fans, students, players, teams and coaches gear up and strive for the BIG win- the Final Four. Since only four teams make it to the elusive Final Four, only a select few teams end the season as “winners.” The others deal with the disappointment of a losing season.

No one wants to have a losing season…in basketball or in life. Sometimes we all have “seasons” in our lives when we feel like we just can’t win- and we can’t figure out what to do differently. Watching a team struggle through a losing season reminds me of our struggle with life’s difficulties and grief. We go through the motions each day, we wait to feel better, or to feel anything at all…and we just can’t “win.” Funny thing is…the solution for the basketball team is the same for our grief. The answer is…time. Time to leave the sting of our losses behind, time to “relearn” how do the simple things we used to love, time to get better, time to feel joy again. The way to “win” is to give it time.

Are you going through tough times right now? When you start feeling vulnerable, the key is to give it time and reach out for help. For me, my help comes from my faith. The more I rely on my faith, the better I begin to feel.

Pass the “time” by listening to positive music – it will uplift your spirits, increase your faith and bring you peace.

kloveLooking for a positive radio station? Check out K-Love. You can listen online, or look for a local station near you.

Give your body, mind and soul time to be well.

How Well Do You Know Yourself? Watch This TED Video and Find Out!

I was intrigued by this thought provoking TED Talk that explains how we examine ourselves – and shares some surprising facts! In less than 20 minutes Organizational Psychologist, Tasha Eurich summarizes her vast research and interesting conclusions on the ways we introspect- and a simple ways we can do it better. Invest in few minutes in yourself – click and watch Increase Your Self-Awareness With One Simple Fix!

Note: If your browser has trouble, just click the ted.com link in the box below to play the video.

Should I Go? Help for the Holidays

Help for the Holidays

Help for the Holidays

Holidays and special events are normally a time of joy and celebration, however they can become a painful reminder of your loss. Seeing family members, making decisions, and attending the holiday activities you usually enjoy can take on a different outlook after the loss of a child.

If you begin feeling sadness during the holidays or a special occasion, think about why you are feeling that way; process those feelings and accept them.  It is a perfectly normal reaction to your grief. Taking this step ahead of time may help you to avoid some uncomfortable moments in public.

 

Should I Go?

 

Ask yourself if you are ready to attend family gatherings or parties. This will give you the opportunity to let someone know your decision in advance. Knowing that you would have planned to share your new baby at these celebrations could make them difficult and even tearful for you. Give yourself the option to gracefully bow out of the activity. Asking yourself these questions before a special event may help:
  • Can I handle this? Is this something I would enjoy? If so, it could be a good way to lift your spirits.
  • What does my spouse think? Will it cause problems if I do not attend?
  • Would the holiday or special event be the same if I don’t attend? Deciding not to attend a Christmas play will not take away from the holiday season; however deciding not to attend Thanksgiving dinner will certainly change the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thinking through these questions ahead of time can help you arrive at a decision that is right for you, and one that will not negatively impact your spouse or your family.
The above is an excerpt from the book Hope is Like the Sun.

10 Tips For Disabled Parents To Be

HopeXchange is pleased to welcome our latest guest poster, Ashley Taylor, who has a unique and helpful point of view. Ashley is the creator of DisabledParents.org. Here, you can find helpful resources for parents facing challenges that come with living with disabilities.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

What to expect when you’re planning on becoming a parent looks different to different people. Perhaps that’s why there’s no super deluxe Instruction Manual available when you make the decision to start a family. A couple managing a disability will include some personal planning than a couple who is planning a family with an infertile partner.

But being disabled doesn’t have to mean parenting is more challenging. Instead, it’s important to remember that your situation just makes parenting independent from the couple sitting next to you in Lamaze class who’s also planning for their first child.

If you or your partner is disabled, use these tips to start your preparation.

  1. There are resources available. On both the local and national level, there are organizations that are designed to help you. For instance, locally you can rely on the Department of Aging and Adult Services, which helps adults with disabilities and their families maximize self-sufficiency, health, safety and independence. The organization Through The Looking Glass is a nationally recognized center whose mission is researching, training and providing services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability.
  1. Carefully consider necessary home modifications. Every new parent should complete a checklist of home modifications before welcoming home their new bundle of joy, but if you’re disabled there may be specific changes you need to make based on your disability. For example, if a parent is blind, you’ll need to label food with Braille labels. Or, a parent with a wheelchair or decreased mobility may need to remove area rugs or wall-to-wall carpet from critical travel areas.
  1. Become a voracious reader. You can’t over educate yourself when it comes to preparing for a child, so hit the local library or your favorite bookstore to pick up plenty of books. Make sure to read books on how to prepare to be a parent, as well as books on parenting.
  1. Look for products that will make managing your disability easier. From wheelchair accessible cribs, to adjustable high chairs and Velcro bibs, there are products designed to help in your parenting efforts so be sure to look for things that will make your job easier.
  1. Understand the importance of self-care. Before you can take care of your newborn child you have to be able to take good care of yourself, and this means whole-body wellness. A comprehensive self-care plan will include adding things to your lifestyle that improve three core elements of wellness: 1) physical health, 2) mental health, and 3) spiritual health.
  1. Attend some classes. It will be helpful to attend some classes that teach the best prenatal and postnatal care. You can do this and shop at the same time with a visit to Carmel Blue.
  1. Establish a support group. There may be times when you need an extra hand, and it’s always a good idea to ask for help versus becoming overwhelmed. Before you give birth talk to friends and loved ones about their willingness to help you. Having a strong network in place beforehand will give you a good reliable go to when the time comes (and it will come).
  1. Have a baby budget. Your budget will change with the birth of a child, so discuss with your spouse beforehand mutual expectations and goals to avoid any money stress issues that may arise. The folks at Quicken Loans recommend these nine critical steps.
  1. Create a nursery you love. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your baby’s nursery, so make sure it’s cozy and to your taste. A comfy rocker is something you’ll want to be sure to include.
  1. Let go of perfection. Being a parent requires a great deal of flexibility and self-compassion. You won’t get everything right, all of the time. So instead of being critical of your efforts, recognize that it’s all part of the normal process.

Being a parent is likely one of the biggest choices you’ll make in your life. Raising a child from birth to adulthood takes delicate care, keen understanding, and a lot of love. Being prepared in advance, will make those parts critical parts of the job that much easier.

 

 

In the Shadows: Hiding from Grief

rain_clouds_2This is a tough time of year for me. Many years ago I had a miscarriage that began just before Halloween. My baby died; and every year at this time I am reminded. Two years ago on Halloween my best friend had a “routine” surgery that revealed stage 4 cancer. A year later she was gone. These two horrible events had one thing in common for me…grief.

When faced with overwhelming grief, I often find solace at work. While I find the distraction of work to be a blessing, it sometimes wasn’t enough to keep the worry and pain from creeping in. I realized I was going to have to deal with everything that was happening, because trying to hold it all in definitely wasn’t working.

The grief of loss is exactly the same. Sometimes we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we are okay and we quickly move on so we won’t have to feel the pain. Only to find that it is simply hiding, ready to attack later on. Like the “boogey man” who hides in the shadows, grief patiently waits for the right time to strike, and then takes us by surprise.

The more I realized that I wasn’t dealing with my feelings, the more I started to feel them. As difficult as this was, it actually made me feel a little better. At least I wasn’t looking for ways to stuff down my feelings, leaving me in a better place to deal with my swirling emotions. When I started feeling vulnerable, I reached out for help. For me, my help comes from my faith. The more I started to rely on my faith, the better I began to feel. Listening to uplifting music seemed to recharge my battery every morning. I would find myself thinking of the songs throughout the day, helping to replace some of my painful thoughts with positive ones.

We don’t know what the future will hold, but we can stop the “boogey man” of grief from chasing us- by facing him . I’ve realized that I cannot make it through difficult times on my own and I’ve asked for help. Find a rabbi, priest, pastor, support group or close friend you talk too. Don’t be scared by your grief and pain any longer- reach out for the help you need.