#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 

 

February Full Moon #Blogging Goals Update 2021 #Blogger #amblogging #MondayBlogs #MondayMotivation

The second full moon of 2021 was two days ago, the 27th of February, it’s called snow moon, and it still looked full last night when I wrote this post.

On the last full moon, in January, I told you about my blogging goals for the next six months, so here’s my monthly update.

I did a great deal of planning in January, regarding all my goals, which I divided into five categories: mind, body, soul, career and hobbies, for the first half of the year.

I’ve never been so disciplined before, but I had the feeling that since I retired in September 2019, although I had a lot more time, I wasn’t using it as productively as I’d like.

Unfortunately, 2020 was a tough year until September, so all my plans went literally down the drain. Covid-19 was only partly to blame. There were family and health issues with my mother, my daughters and my husband that had to be addressed, and are now fortunately, if not completely resolved, at least much improved.

So, although I started plotting and planning my goals in September 2020 in a desperate bid to take control of my life, the process culminated in January 2021 when I chose my three words for the year which are: Believe, Routine and Gratitude. 

Because I agree with Hal Elrod’s equation in The Morning Miracle for Writers that Unwavering Faith, or belief in myself and my projects, and Extraordinary Effort, by means of a strict routine, will lead to Miracles, or in earthly terms, reaching my goals.

I had already started reading books on personal growth and time management, many of which I’ve shared on my blog. As a result of some much needed introspection about what I wanted the rest of my life to look like, I decided to take the following actions:

1- Design a unique morning and evening routine that works for me (I designed it in January and I’ve been doing it regularly during February).

2- Keep a record of everything I do in one notebook, including my ‘done list’ and my ‘to do list’ (I’ve been doing this for some time, but I’ve perfected the strategy in February).

3- Establish and keep to a blogging and writing routine (I started following it as strictly as possible, this month).

4- Write out my goals for 2021, including identifying my ‘whys’, ‘strategies’ and ‘timelines’. I wanted to make sure I was doing at least one little thing every day towards my goals (I did this in September, although there were some minor updates in January).

To keep track of my goals and hold myself accountable, I use:

A Vision Book, which is an A4 sized plastic folder including my routines, goals, affirmations, monthly calendars and other important or motivating pictures, quotes, poems, and pages.

A Daily Journal, which is a simple 9×6 inch, soft-bound, spiral, lined notebook, which is by my side all day. It has my done and to do list, and any notes I make during the day, poems, ideas, etc.

My Morning and Evening and Gratitude Journal. I have a larger, 12-inch notebook for this as I only use it twice a day and I don’t carry it around.

My Monthly Calendar pages for overall planning. These go in my vision book.

Here’s a video by Marisa Peer about vision boards and journaling which can give you some ideas on how to use them.

So, for my monthly update on my goals:

Career: So far I’ve kept to my planned Blogging Schedule.

I’m a week behind my writing schedule because I started using word365, which caused havoc with my previous word documents, but I think I’ve managed to get the hang of it!

Mind: I’ve read  8-10 books this month, including personal growth and fiction, and I’ve also watched experts on life and health on YouTube channels. I’ve been improving my German with audio courses, short stories and a great YouTube channel Easy German.

Body: I’ve kept to a healthy diet, walked an average of 5kms a day, plus my morning exercise routine and some indoor biking, and ping pong, too.

Soul: I’ve kept my gratitude diary, recited my affirmations, I’ve been meditating regularly, still for short periods, but I’m getting there.

Hobbies: I’ve taken plenty of photos, gone for walks in the countryside, cooked some new dishes, and I’ve kept in touch with friends online.

Overall, February has been a busy and productive month and I feel that following my planned routines, has increased my self-esteem and belief in myself, and daily gratitude journaling is helping me stay motivated and on track to reach my goals.

How are your goals coming along?

Do you plan them out months or weeks ahead? 

Let me know in the comments!

January Full Moon #Blogging Goals 2021 #Blogger #amblogging

The first full moon of 2021, on the last Friday of January, with 1st of February just a few days away on Monday, seems like a magical day to tell you about my blogging goals for the next six months.

I’ve been carefully planning away all of January, regarding my personal, professional, spiritual and health goals for the first half of the year. I was more spontaneous up to now, which worked well for me, but I’m approaching blogging more systematically for the next six months, with calendar and topics in hand, and many posts outlined and even written well ahead of time.

These are my blogging goals.

Mondays will still have posts on Personal Growth. I’ll mainly be sharing books, videos and podcasts on this topic which I’ve read, watched or listened to and found inspiring and useful. I’ve been writing these posts for a few months and there’s so much motivational advice from experts on so many fascinating topics that won’t be running out of information to share for a long time!

Tuesdays will be #TuesdatBookBlog day when I’ll share reviews of ebooks, paperbacks and audiobooks that I’ve been reading on Kindle, Scribd and Audible, which are the platforms I use. There will be novels for everyone as my reading is eclectic. I have some Thrillers (techno and contemporary) science fiction, romance (thrillers and romcom), literary, historical, feel good and memoirs and much more, lined up!

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Wednesdays on Writing will be for The Insecure Writers Support Group #IWSG, if it’s the First Wednesday of the month and #WWWBlogs on other Wednesdays I might follow the prompt on Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge and other Wednesdays I’ll be talking about writing with the following hashtags: #WritersLife, #amwriting #writingcommunity #writingtips 

Thursdays are for #Thursdayphotothoughts which are personal posts based on a random Pixabay photo which appears in my email every week.

Thursday is in the exact middle of the week. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have flown by, probably full of work, obligations and general business, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday are days we anticipate with joy, because they hold the promise of some free time for relaxation, friendship, family and hobbies.

Thursday is an ideal day to stop and reflect on the past three days and prepare for the three days to come, or write about anything the image suggests.

I’m not planning on stream-of-consciousness, because although it’s an unplanned post based on a random picture, I’ll edit my thoughts and words.

Friday is a very special day, because I’m very excited to start a brand new series on Rereading Jane Eyre by sharing Flash Fiction rewritings of a chapter every week. But I’ll tell you all about it next Friday.

Saturdays will be for Flash Fiction Challenges. I’ll be taking part in #Writephoto hosted by the marvellous and supportive Sue Vincent, this challenge isn’t exactly flash fiction, but we are asked to keep our entries short, and Carrot Ranch weekly Fiction Challenge hosted by the equally supportive and wonderful Charli Mills, who requires our entries to be exactly 99 words. Check them out and join in!

Finally, Sundays are for #SundayWalks, #SilentSunday, #Photosthroughthewindscreen or #SundayFunday, where I share photos with or without a brief reflection or short poem.

Well, that’s it for my blogging goals. I hope you find something of value or something to enjoy in my posts. Suggestions are, of course, welcome!

What are your blogging goals for 2021?

Do you plan them out months or weeks ahead? 

Let me know in the comments!

21 Ingredients for a Great Novel #MondayBlogs

I’m a writer, but, as I’ve so often said, I’m more of a reader than a writer, because I admit that I prefer reading to writing.

I’m a great reader, which means I read a lot, much more than most people.

I’ve always read a lot, but in the last three-four years, I’ve been reading between eight and fifteen books a month, depending on weather I’m writing or not. Most of the books I read are kindle ebooks, but I also read some paperbacks and a few audio books a month, too.

I read contemporary fiction, especially independent authors, debut authors and some bestsellers.

I especially enjoy reading psychological thrillers, romantic suspense, crime fiction, paranormal (but not vampires etc.), women’s fiction, Chick lit, historical romance, and contemporary romance.

I finish and review almost every book I start, unless I don’t enjoy it. Reading is a pleasure, and life’s too short to read books that aren’t for me.

As a result of all this reading and reviewing, I’ve decided to write a very personal, and therefore totally subjective, list of ingredients that make a great novel.

Here are my ingredients, in no particular order.

  1. Good editing is basic. I don’t mean random typos, which I may not even notice, I’m talking about grammar, syntax, register, clichés, repeated words, too many dialogue tags, and punctuation.
  2. Not too wordy. I don’t enjoy reading too much information, which adds nothing to the plot or characterisation. I don’t mind an occasional ‘red herring’, but I’m not keen on plots that go all over the place and confuse me.
  3. Good writing, which means it’s pleasant to read. This ties up with the previous points. I really appreciate, clear and precise prose, which gives me the information I need to feel I’m part of the setting and get to know the characters, like Girl in the Ice. 

ice

  1. Short chapters and short paragraphs are easier to read. I’m very busy and sometimes tired, as most readers. I read for a few minutes here and there, often while commuting or travelling, on a lunch break, between chores, at the end of the day, etc. I don’t enjoy rereading long paragraphs to try to understand what the main point is.
  2. Not too long (although it can be part of a series). In general I prefer books between 70 and 80 thousand words, which can be read in a few afternoons or evenings. I don’t mind occasional cliff hangers, as long as part of the story is complete, otherwise I feel frustrated. I don’t mind reading part of a series either, I fact I quite enjoy it, as I’ve become invested in the characters and want to know more about their story, such as The Detective Jack Stratton books. (There are exceptions, by exceptional authors such as Ken Follet. I don’t mind how long his novels are!)

detective-jack-stratton

         6. Not too short (unless it’s a book of short stories). Most short novels I’ve read feel incomplete. I prefer a longer story.

          7. Engaging characters. Characters don’t have to be likeable, in fact I’m attracted to flawed characters, but I need to be interested in what’s happening to them and what they’re doing. Ideally, they need to be having a hard time, and I need to care about how they cope with their issues, such as ‘I Let You Go‘ in which a woman is coping with the results of a tragic accident she was involved in. i-let-you-go

           8. More than one viewpoint. Life isn’t monochrome, and although I have nothing against stories told from one point of view, I prefer at least two distinct voices. It makes the story more complex and I feel as if I have all sides of the argument. One person’s vision or viewpoint is necessarily limited. I love two first person narrators as ‘Gone Girl’.

gone-girl

          9. An overall meaning or message. It’s especially rewarding to read a novel when the events or feelings are part of something bigger than the story itself, for example a universal event, in which we could all experience, such as the overcoming the pain of the loss of a child, or a divorce such as ‘The Ladies Room.’

ladies-room

          10. Surprises or plot twists every 6-10 minutes. Sometimes novels drag because nothing much happens for pages on end. I need things to happen constantly to keep me turning pages. This needn’t big huge plot twists, it can be a change of scene, character, some news, anything that moves the action forward and stops the slow or dragging sensation, like Matt Cairns, Cold Blooded, which wastes none of the reader’s time in this gripping thriller.

Cold Blooded 2 (1)

          11. Unexpected big twist right before the end. I love this. When you think everything’s sorted out and there’s another unexpected turn, which makes you sit up. The last 10% is as important as the first 10%, because it’s what will stay in my mind and convince me to buy another book by the writer, such as ‘The Sister’.

sister

          12. Not too many main characters. Two main characters are often enough, although I prefer a few more, but too many can be confusing, unless it’s a complex family or historical drama.

        13. Defined secondary characters. I dislike lifeless secondary characters. All characters in the novel should all come to life, even if their role is secondary. Imagine watching a film where only the protagonists are good actors, but the rest are amateurs. The film wouldn’t be much good, would it? The secondary characters need to support the main characters, and they’re often entertaining and vital for moving the plot forward, like The Photographer’s Wife.

photographers-wife

         14. Concentrating the present-time action (narrator time) in a short period, for example a few days, helps me to focus on the plot, even though back story will also usually be included in flashbacks or conversations, such as The Ventian, which takes place over a weekend in Venice.

venetian

         15. Gradually including back story. The back story is usually necessary for the plot to develop and to get to know the characters, but the way in which it is gradually told will build suspense and add unexpected plot twists.

         16. Surprising angle to an old story. Most plots are familiar. So many stories have been told in so many ways that it’s hard to be original, but when it happens, it’s riveting! For example murder from the dead child’s point of view as in ‘The Lovely Bones’, or telling the story of a millionaire falling in love with a poor girl, set in the early 20th century between a fake medium and a railway baron, as in Baron.

baron

            17. Romance. Love is an important part of everyone’s life, falling in love, staying in love, overcoming relationship crisis, moving on, second chances, are all situations I love to read about, such as The Hollow Heart.

a-hollow-heart

         18. Humour. I enjoy reading comedies, occasionally, but a touch of humour is often enough. A humorous situation or character, lightens the drama, and it makes the story realistic; we all come across witty people, who liven up our daily lives. I love romantic comedies told from the point of view of men, which are often very amusing, such as Emma Chase novels, especially, Sustained.

Sustained cover

        19. Drama. I love reading about events which make me feel strong emotional reactions such as anger, fear, sadness even. I cried at the end of Who We Were Before, but I loved that the writer was able to provoke that emotion.

who-we-were

          20. Extraordinary things happening to ordinary people. I love it when what happens to the characters could happen, or could have happened, to me or people I know. It’s credible so I feel drawn into the story. For example a computer programmer who is targeted by the Russian mafia, as in Kissing my Killer.

Kissing My Killer 600x900

        21. The setting. I love it when the setting or a specific place in the novel becomes as important and unique as the plot or characters, not just the background. This can happen if it’s a city, village, or an idyllic landscape, or country house, such as in ‘Eclipse Lake.

eclipse-lake

Do you agree with (all) of these ingredients?

Can you suggest any other ingredients to include?   

 Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think!

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