#MondayBlogs ‘6 Ways to Recover from Grief: A Letter to Myself’ #MondayMotivation

When I was in the midst of grieving the loss of a loved one, it was like being in a dark tunnel. I felt alone, lost, and I had no idea how to get out of the darkness and devastation. I think this sense of desperation, loss and confusion at losing your bearings, was not a unique experience; many others I’ve spoken to have felt much the same.

My sister died over thirty years ago, and although other family members, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, and my father, have died since then, my sister’s death was the most devastating loss I’ve had to date.

It was 1989, the Internet was in its early years, so information was not as easily and readily available. I had no counselling, and no type of bereavement support. I read How We Die, which was helpful from a practical, medical and rational point of view, but not emotionally, at least not for me.

I was bought up a catholic, but the doctrines of the established church, which I am well aware of, did not help, although I picked up the Bible a few times, but could not find any consolation.

My depression lasted ten months, and I got through it if I was walking across a dessert, putting one foot in front of the other and trying my best to cover my head from the burning sun. No pills, no therapy, and no closure. I was working as a teacher and looking after my three children, who were under 4, until one day, ten months after the tragedy, I woke up and bought new clothes, and my mood started to improve.

I have no idea why or how this happened, but I can clearly identify the moment the love I felt when I thought of my sister was greater than the pain I felt for her loss. I was finally walking towards the light and away from the dark tunnel.

I imagined my sister’s voice saying, “You look dreadful. You need to go shopping” and it was true. I hadn’t bought any clothes in over a year and I had lost weight, so I can’t have looked very pretty. I hadn’t gone to the hairdresser’s either. I wore a pony tail every day and stopped wearing make up. This was not a conscious decision, I just didn’t care about how I looked, until suddenly it started mattering.

It’s not the anniversary of my sister’s birth or death, in fact, there is nothing to remind me of it, although she is always in my heart and on my mind. I write her letters sometimes, and think of her with love and melancholy, not sadness, every day. In fact, her photograph is on my desk in my study and I smile every time I see it.

The reason I’m thinking about death today is because it has struck very near home. Covid-19 has claimed the life of my neighbour of twenty-five years and a doctor, and my best friend’s father both in the same month, and their family’s devastation has reminded me of the inevitable pain they must endure in order for their memories to be full of love instead of sorrow.

Giving advice on personal matters is a minefield, you can help or lose a friend, so when I was approached for advice, I decided to be thorough and look carefully at my own pain and process of recovery.

Looking back, I believe there was little I could have done to improve or speed up the process, because we all have to walk through our own tunnel in order to reach the other side. Some of us will take a longer time, or may need the help of medication or therapy or both, but as I have learnt many years later, we all have to go through the stages of grief.

The advice I never received

As far as I remember nobody gave me helpful advice and I had no-one to turn to. My mother was in an even worse state then I was, and the adults around me were either unequipped or unable to offer advice, other than an attempt at a comforting sentence or two, which is nice to hear, but has no lasting effect on lessening the pain.

So, this is the advice I think might have helped me to feel less alone and distressed. It’s like a letter to myself and I’d like to share it with you.

6 Ways to Recover from Grief: Letter to Myself 

1: Acknowledge the Pain

Firstly acknowledge the pain, you have lost someone you loved. Your sadness is a natural reaction to your loss, and although your pain is unique to you, you are not alone. Go through the rituals you have chosen according to your customs, ideas or religion, accept the condolences, pray, cry, express your pain in your own way.

2: Be Aware of What Grieving Involves

Secondly, I wish I had known about the five stages of grief at the time, a wonderful book I read at a later date.

in 1969, a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote On Death and Dying and On Grief and Grieving based on observations from years of working with terminally ill patients. She put forward the five stages of grief which became known as the Kübler-Ross model.

  • denial.
  • anger.
  • bargaining.
  • depression.
  • acceptance.

They may not always be experienced in the same order, and they may overlap, and some may take longer than others, but know that you will experience these feelings, and you are not alone in the process. If you don’t feel up to reading a book, you can read articles which summarise her theories or watch YouTube videos. Here are some excellent links. but a google search will also be helpful.

Finding Meaning:The Sixth Stage of Grief is on my TBR list. It was written in 2020 by David Kessler, coauthor of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s original book.

Knowing what is happening and that is a process which has happened and will happen in a similar way to everyone who loses a loved one, will lead to an understanding which could help us move forward and accept.

3: Writing letters and Journaling

Thirdly, although I have always enjoyed writing, poems, stories and thoughts, thirty years ago I had not yet understood the power of journaling. So, I wish I’d written a journal dedicated to my sister, like a scrapbook, including photographs, letters, memories. This is something I could still do, and may do. I could gather the letters Ive written, add photos and thoughts, letters and postcards she wrote to me, too.

If you are not used to journaling or would like more ideas, this article on grief journaling could be helpful there are books like Understanding your grief journal which could also help.

The Understanding Your Grief Journal: Exploring the Ten Essential Touchstones de [Alan D. Wolfelt]

Letters are another powerful tool which could be included in your journal they can be to your loved one, or a letter you imagine he or she would write to you.

4: Meditation and Spiritual Guides

If you are part of a supportive religious community, you won’t need to think about this, but of your religious beliefs aren’t helping or you need more spiritual support I’d recommend in the first place meditation, I have two favourite books on this topic, plus there are apps for your mobile which are also very useful.

Any book by Deepak Chopra will be enlightening, especially his book on Total Meditation, which is one of the ones discussed on this blog post.

Books like Heal Your Grieving Soul: 100 Practices for Mourners  can be helpful as it contains one hundred short activities to think about based on meditation, prayer, yoga, breathing exercises, etc are described and proposed.

Five:  Go for a Walk and take photographs

If you already have a favourite exercise, such as cycling, or if you practice a sport, don’t stop because your grieving. You may need to force yourself, but you have to do it because the serotonin you’ll secrete will help you handle your depression.

If you don’t exercise regularly, go for a walk, preferably anywhere in nature, a park, the countryside, and I’d recommend you take photos, because if you plan to take, say, five photos, you will be looking for nice things to photograph. This means you will be actively looking and thinking about your environment which is outside, instead of your pain, which is inside.

6. Humour and Not Moving On, Moving Forward.

This Ted Talk will make you cry and make you laugh. In a talk that’s by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, writer and podcaster Nora McInerny shares her hard-earned wisdom about life and death.  She encourages us to shift how we approach grief. “A grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again,” she says. “They’re going to move forward. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve moved on.”

Unfortunately, as Nora reminds us, “Everyone we love has 100% chance of Dying” and so do we, and yet it’s probably the most heart-wrenching pain we’ll have to endure, and there’s no pill or magic wand to make it disappear. We have to go through the stages, walk through the grief, and move forward until the love we feel when we remember is greater than the pain we feel for the loss.  

To conclude my letter to myself and anyone who has or will suffer the loss of a loved one, reading and writing is the answer. Understanding our pain and what is happening by reading and expressing our loss in a coherent way by writing journals, letters, poems, or blog posts.

Take care and stay safe.

Here’s the link if you’d like to read my other posts on #PersonalGrowth 

 

#MondayMotivation ‘Feel Better in Five’ by Dr Rangan Chatterjee #MondayBlogs #PersonalGrowth

Over the past months I’ve been reading a great number of motivational and inspiring books on the topic of personal growth. I’ve also been listening to podcasts and watching videos on YouTube. This interest has sprung from a combination of factors as I’ve recently reached a few significant milestones in my life; I retired and turned sixty and I have five grandchildren between the ages of three months and nine years. I am concerned with aging, health, and emotional wellbeing, as well as my children and grandchildren’s future challenges. I have more time to reflect and more things to reflect on, so I’ve found these books, podcasts and videos very helpful, especially in these uncertain and volatile times in which nothing can be taken for granted. I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you on Mondays.

Feel Better in Five 

Dr Chatterjee, a medical doctor with sixteen years experience, wrote Feel Better in Five as a response to the ailments and complaints he observed in his patients and many other people who feel overwhelmed by the demands of their daily obligations and stressful lives.

Feel Better In 5: Your Daily Plan to Feel Great for Life by [Rangan Chatterjee]

We may presume it is only serious illnesses which end, shorten or damage the quality of our lives, but it’s often the recurring minor battles and niggling setbacks which occur every day that erode the quality of our lives; the neck pains after hours at the computer, the fuzzy brain due to lack of sleep, the distress caused by an argument with your neighbours or colleagues, or heartache as a result of lack of communication with our loved ones, these daily episodes can lead to insomnia, high blood pressure and depression, among other ailments.

Imagine if we could improve the way we react and cope with these daily, so-called, minor events, how much would the quality of our lives improve? Feel Better in Five offers simple solutions which can lead to immense changes in the quality of our lives.

Dr Chatterjee proposes three types of health snacks which can be carried out in five minutes for our minds, bodies and hearts, leading to increased health, well-being and greater optimism to face our days with renewed energy.

This quote is from The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships and Purpose by R. Chatterjee image by Enrique Lopez Garre on Pixabay

A little goes a long way.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Five minutes will never be enough!’ I’ll prove to you that it is more than enough, and that you are already aware of the power of a short investment in time to improve your health. Most people spend between six and ten minutes a day taking care of their teeth, brushing, flossing and using mouthwash etc. It has become part of our daily routine since childhood. We all know that as a result of our improved dental hygiene, our dental health has vastly improved compared to previous generations.

Imagine what could happen if we spent between five and ten minutes a day on stretching exercises or meditation?

The power of less.

Less is more. This is not a gimmick, it’s a reality. Less will empower you to feel successful, create a routine and it could lead to more once you win the battle and recognise the benefits. We can all spare five minutes to improve our health and wellbeing, the difficulty, as with everything in life, is starting, that is, garnering the willpower and motivation to act. Dr Chatterjee talks about that extensively too, offering simple tips and strategies to create daily habits.

 Image by Mohamed Hassan at Pixabay

In his book, Dr Chatterjee proposes three groups of simple, 5-minute health snacks for Mind, Body and Heart which you can pick and choose according to your interests and motivation. You may even be doing some of them already. For example I was playing my favourite songs and singing and dancing throughout the day for five minutes during the recent covid confinement, and it did make me feel better.

Dr Chatterjee describes simple activities to calm our minds, such as breathing exercises, meditation techniques and morning and/or evening journaling.

He encourages us to activate our bodies with 5-minute workouts, yoga, press ups, lunges, etc. With no tools and no gym visits.

He shows us how to improve our emotional wellbeing, which he refers to as ‘heart’ by carrying out 5-minute meditations, doing things we love, daily affirmations, gratitude journals and engaging in kindness.

Why 5 minutes is enough

  • When you make something easy to do, people are more likely to do it.

If it’s too hard many won’t even try, and if they try and fail they will feel guilty and inadequate. Making time and finding the funds to go to the gym three times a week is anything but easy, yet doing 5 minutes of stretching exercises before your coffee break, not so much.

  • Everyone has 5 minutes.

We waste plenty of time surfing the internet or watching a TV programme because we couldn’t be bothered or feel too tired to get up from the sofa.

Completing your 5 minutes will motivate you to continue. You will feel successful and it may even encourage you do do five more minutes. It can be as easy as writing ten things you are grateful for or dancing to your favourite song.

  • It will keep the habit going.

Completing a short and simple habit will motivate you to carry on. If you skip a day it doesn’t matter. Remember, your teeth won’t rot if you forget to brush them for a day, but your breath will smell if you don’t brush them for a month.

I’m convinced it really is enough. Every minute we spend consciously improving our lives adds up. Five minutes lunging or skipping is five times more than zero minutes.

I listened to his audio book on Audible, which Dr Chatterjee reads himself, and it is full of positive energy, achievable goals and simple exercises and activities which are changing peoples’ lives.

Feel better in Five by Dr Rangan Chatterjee, is a brilliant book which will help you feel healthier and happier.

If you’re still not convinced, I urge you to listen to Dr Chatterjee himself here:

You can also visit his webpage

Or follow Dr Chatterjee on Twitter

 

 

 

 

#PhotoOfMyLife Day4 Autumn Leaves #Poem #MondayBlogs #MondayMotivation

On my way to town this morning. What a lovely autumn day!

Enough

The path is narrow,

With many a winding turn,

Which leads us to who knows where,

Who knows when, or why?

So, Crunch the leaves,

Stare at the sky,

Feel the wind swipe your cheeks,

While the sun tickles your eyes,

And smile,

Because that’s enough.

Enjoy your walk!

On my way back home. I’m nearly there!

I live outside my city, but not far enough that I can’t walk into town. I could take the car or catch the bus, but as I’m in no hurry at the moment, I enjoying a long, brisk walk. (I spent many years rushing to work, shopping and taking the kids to school and after school activities!).

Sometimes life is so demanding that we forget what a simple, quiet walk can do for us. We can stop for a few minutes to listen to, see and feel the trees, wind, and sky, which is so mentally and physically refreshing.

I love walking. It’s great exercise and I have time to think about so many things that time flies by!

The rules for this Twitter Challenge: no people, no explanations and challenge one new person every day. I was challenged by @GeorgiaRoseBook check out her blog.

Today I challenge @bakeandwrite check out her book blog.

As I already told you, I’m terrible at following rules, so not only have I written a poem, I’ve also told you all about the picture!

Enjoy your Monday! I hope you can spare a few minutes for a walk:)

#FridayFictioneers ‘The Swimming Competition’ #FlashFiction #100Words @MondayBlogs

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story featuring Alice Pendragon and her best friend Billy! This week they’re both taking part in a swimming competition.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge and to Terri Smeigh for this week’s photo prompt.

Photo Credit: Terri Smeigh

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The Swimming Competition

The highest school team goal scorer wore a smug smile as he strolled over.
‘Hi Alice, fancy a pizza?’
I was one of the few girls he hadn’t hit on yet. ‘Sorry, I’m swimming.’
‘What about the Saturday market? Help me choose my sister’s birthday present.’
Jack is dense, but persistent. ‘I’m swimming.’
‘Everyone knows Billy will win.’
I nodded, Billy’s the best. ‘We’re training together.’
‘So, when he beats you, we can go on our date. What about a movie on Sunday?’
‘On Sunday I’ll be celebrating with Billy, his victories are mine too,’ I said and strode away.

****

My ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be mostly read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are! 

By the way, I’m a couple of days late this week in posting my story and below are the three reasons! My lovely grandchildren!

#MondayBlogs ‘Write from the heart’ #WritingTips @BathFlashAward #FlashFiction

I was recently browsing the Bath Flash Awards website when I came across an interview with this edition’s (March-June 2019) Flash Fiction Award Judge, Christopher Allen. You can read the whole interview here.

It was the final question and answer that has mesmerised me all weekend. I quote the question and answer here:

  • Any final suggestions for writers entering our award?

Yes. Write from the heart. Edit it and edit it and edit it. Have other people read it. Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something? Write something you think the world needs.

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So much advice in so few words, a true ‘flash answer’ to a complex question.

My thoughts on this priceless and concise advice:

‘Write from the heart’

Inspiration is entwined with emotion. Whatever we write should spring from passionate feelings about an issue. That’s an easy one to fulfill. Most of us write stories about people, places and events that are meaningful to us.

‘Edit it and edit it and edit it’

First drafts are necessary, but also messy and too long. Most of us need to ramble to ourselves to get to know our characters and understand their thoughts and actions, and yet those ramblings need to be carefully edited, more than once, thus the repetition, before they can be shared with readers.

‘Have other people read it’

We all know and appreciate the invaluable task of alpha and beta readers, friends, agents, editors, proof readers, and an array of generous and professional people who are usually acknowledged by authors in their books.

Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something?

Words need to go beyond an aesthetic use of language in order to make an impact on the reader. It’s not only about organisation, expression, wording, pace, and grammar, but about the inspiration and feelings conveyed in the writing.

Write something you think the world needs.

Finally, the most important attribute which distinguishes good writing from outstanding writing, the content or message of the text.

Is there an intention beyond entertaining readers? And secondly, is the idea worth writing about? Do readers need to know or think about the characters or issues in your flash/novel?

Christopher’s answer is great advice for writing, a haiku, a birthday card, a flash, a letter, a short story, a novella, a novel and everything else.

If it’s worth writing, it’s worth doing it from the heart.

My twenty-word flash conclusion:

Write with passion about a meaningful issue, edit, aim for emotional impact, edit, share and test, edit, publish. Start again.

And now, let’s finish that flash/novel and start the next one…

 

 

 

Not #BlueMonday in #JaneEyre

Poor Monday, nobody seems to like you, and apparently today is the worst Monday of the year, the third Monday of January.

Don’t despair. I have three great reads to liven your Monday:

1- I found this article on Twitter this morning thanks to @Taragreaves who posted this fabulous article called Stop Chasing and Start Living, by Lindsey Miles @treadmyownpath  These lines are especially enlightening:

‘Research shows the three main things that make people happy are close relationships, a pastime they love and helping others.’

I couldn’t agree more. They should be our mantra for every single day of our lives.

2- Just in case you are feeling blue today, here’s an article in today’s press to liven your day. You’ll find out all about ‘Blue Monday’ and how to get to ‘Thank God it’s Tuesday!’

3- Number three is my favourite.

Monday might be the least liked day of the year, but did you know it was the day Mr. Rochester called Jane across the Moors, and she actually heard him and returned to the Rochester Estate to find him!

She discovered Thornfield had been burnt down, and Mr. Rochester a sick and brooding widow at his Manor House, Ferndean.

It’s definitely one of the romantic highlights of the novel. Here it is for your pleasure, Mr. Rochester is speaking to Jane who has just arrived unexpectedly on his doorstep:

‘Some days since: nay, I can number them—four; it was last Monday night, a singular mood came over me: one in which grief replaced frenzy—sorrow, sullenness. I had long had the impression that since I could nowhere find you, you must be dead. Late that night— perhaps it might be between eleven and twelve o’clock—ere I retired to my dreary rest, I supplicated God, that, if it seemed good to Him, I might soon be taken from this life, and admitted to that world to come, where there was still hope of rejoining Jane.

‘I was in my own room, and sitting by the window, which was open: it soothed me to feel the balmy night-air; though I could see no stars and only by a vague, luminous haze, knew the presence of a moon. I longed for thee, Janet! Oh, I longed for thee both with soul and flesh! I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if I had not been long enough desolate, afflicted, tormented; and might not soon taste bliss and peace once more. That I merited all I endured, I acknowledged—that I could scarcely endure more, I pleaded; and the alpha and omega of my heart’s wishes broke involuntarily from my lips in the words—’Jane! Jane! Jane!’’

‘Did you speak these words aloud?’ 

‘I did, Jane. If any listener had heard me, he would have thought me mad: I pronounced them with such frantic energy.’

‘And it was last Monday night, somewhere near midnight?’

‘Yes; but the time is of no consequence: what followed is the strange point. You will think me superstitious,— some superstition I have in my blood, and always had: nevertheless, this is true— true at least it is that I heard what I now relate.

‘As I exclaimed ‘Jane! Jane! Jane!’ a voice—I cannot tell whence the voice came, but I know whose voice it was— replied, ‘I am coming: wait for me;’ and a moment after, went whispering on the wind the words—’Where are you?’

‘I’ll tell you, if I can, the idea, the picture these words opened to my mind: yet it is difficult to express what I want to express. Ferndean is buried, as you see, in a heavy wood, where sound falls dull, and dies unreverberating.

‘Where are you?’ seemed spoken amongst mountains; for I heard a hill-sent echo repeat the words. Cooler and fresher at the moment the gale seemed to visit my brow: I could have deemed that in some wild, lone scene, I and Jane were meeting. In spirit, I believe we must have met. You no doubt were, at that hour, in unconscious sleep, Jane: perhaps your soul wandered from its cell to comfort mine; for those were your accentsas certain as I live—they were yours!’

Reader, it was on Monday night—near midnight—that I too had received the mysterious summons: those were the very words by which I replied to it. I listened to Mr. Rochester’s narrative, but made no disclosure in return. The coincidence struck me as too awful and inexplicable to be communicated or discussed. If I told anything, my tale would be such as must necessarily make a profound impression on the mind of my hearer: and that mind, yet from its sufferings too prone to gloom, needed not the deeper shade of the supernatural. I kept these things then, and pondered them in my heart.

Here’s a dramatic rendering of the events:

Have a Happy Monday!