The benefits of making that goal.

I had a goal this week to write one blog a day, even if it was a sentence and a picture. Here’s the last blog and my goal is complete, for now.  Remember that goals should be a constant part of your life.  If you have a direction you’re going towards, you are less emotionally reactive, have greater emotional stability, and a better sense of your own power to change the world around you.  When you react to whatever the day throws you, you will be on the defensive constantly.  When you have a clear idea of what you want, you’re already thinking through the obstacle in front of you and moving on to the next checkpoint.

Making goals and reaching them is like exercise.  It needs to be a regular part of your life.  It works as an anti-depressant. It helps your brain stay younger.  You look better, feel better, and react to changes in your situation with greater flexibility.

Happy goal setting, I’ll be back in a week with another series of blogs on a new topic.  My goal for the intervening week will be work on my fiction novel for bored middle aged women.  I figure I’m part of the demographic, so I’ll be able to write what I’d like.

Have a great Thanksgiving,

Lorinne

Don’t be so responsible, at least not for everyone else!

Who are you responsible for?  Most adult women don’t know the answer to this question.  They think they do, but they are taking care of everyone else around them, not taking care of themselves, and then resenting someone else for the state of their lives.  Plenty of men are doing the same things and talking about how they can’t ever get out of a job they hate.

If you’re going to have a goal, you are the only one who can truly make that happen for yourself.  You are even responsible for who and how you ask for help.  But that’s help, not take over and make my dreams happen for me.

Prince or Princess Charming is not coming to make your better life appear.  You will have to take the responsibility for yourself and start letting a few other people’s needs slide.  That’s right, you need to get a lot less responsible.  Go nuts, let the dishes sit, mow the lawn after you’ve written your bucket list, let the other people in your life have the control.

Yes, control.  You need to control you, and let other people get into their own trouble or success as the captains of their own ships.  I’m not saying let your 3yr old make major life decisions.  But you’re teens could definitely do their own laundry.  And if they mess that up, let it be a learning experience.

Never be so dependable that you never get a chance at your own dreams.

Be less responsible, go play, go dream, let everyone else pick up the slack for once while you make something happen for yourself.

Goal setting never works for me!

 

Every now and then some helpful soul will give me a new set of how-to-plan forms.  In the past I’ve even tried to use them. Then always felt like I was this failure, because they never worked for me. Well, I’m not a line.

I don’t think in a linear fashion, which is often true for people who have any kind of ADD, ADHD, or other differences in how they process information. If you’ve tried and failed at planning software, paper forms that are supposed to help you get organized, or felt frustrated with the well-meaning but ultimately ineffective methods you’ve seen, the real problem may be the method.

Most planning forms have you start with one large goal and then break that down into steps that you are going to use to achieve it. This makes lots of sense, only it doesn’t work. Your brain is far more likely to be thinking in leaps and jumps, interconnections, and what would look more like a series of bubbles with lines in between them.

Toss your old forms. Bring out a blank sheet of paper, and draw a large circle in the middle of it, about 2 inches in diameter.  Write a word or sentence that describes what you want in that circle. Draw a line away from the circle an inch or less. At the end of this line put another bubble. Whatever comes to your mind first, put in that second circle. Go around your larger circle putting new lines, and new bubbles with anything and everything you can think about in connection to that topic.

Repeat step one for all of your smaller bubbles. Some bubbles are going to just a singular thought.  Some you will have a lot more to say about and they may even surprise you.

But you’re probably wondering, okay great now that my brain is on paper, how does actually help me achieve a goal? The goal setting comes when you put the bubble up at the top of the page, and start drawing out what you’re thinking, followed by ways to achieve it, followed by steps you can take today.

This technique is especially effective for goals that you have run into a dead end on. If you’ve always wanted to lose weight, but find yourself never being able to actually achieve this. Do a bubble map.  Draw your circle in the center of the page, and then put what you want in the middle of it. If your first impulse is put the problem in the center of the page, we may have found your problem. Bubble mapping allows you to see what your actual focus is, and all of the associated thinking processes that go along with it.

Put the positive outcome you want in the center. And then go to town on what your associations with it are. If you had a difficult time achieving your center bubble, there will be a lot of sub bubbles with negative thoughts. Don’t be scared of these. You need to know what’s been stopping you from getting to your goal. If you don’t know the obstacles that are in your way, you will not be able to plan for them.

When you’re ready to put the information into an achievable form, start with a new page and a new circle at the top of the page.  Put your goal in the circle and draw lines radiating  downwards with new circles on the end of each, write out your thoughts in each of these circles both good and bad. Radiate more lines and circles down from the second level, and fill these in with achievable goals related to each of the thoughts above. Your third radiation of lines and new bubbles is for results you can achieve today.

Remember, the goals that are small, that you can work on today, and that will help you build for success later, are the most effective.

  1. Grab a sheet of paper and draw a circle.
  2. Write your goal in the circle.
  3. Radiate out lines that have bubbles on the end of them.
  4. Write whatever comes to mind in each of these bubbles.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 for each of the new bubbles you create.
  6. Repeat on each new bubble ’till you run out of space.
  7. Does your original goal still hold true?  Sometimes you discover it doesn’t.
  8. Take a new sheet and put a circle at the top with your goal statement.
  9. Put bubbles beneath it with at least 5 related thoughts both good and bad.
  10. The next level down is bubbles that are goals associated with your thoughts.
  11. Last level of bubbles will be results that are small enough to achieve today.
  12. Repeat weekly.

When multi-tasking isn’t getting that task done!

 

There’s all these studies I won’t bore you with, that state that multitasking  does not work.  The same studies go on to say that no one really multitasks. All of us toggle back and forth between different tasks wasting energy and being less efficient. The people who did the studies ought to have a few kids. Because let me tell you, if you’ve got kids you multitask.

You are doing the dishes, and making sure nobody dies in the next room. You are on the phone, and making evil faces to at least one child to get some quiet.  This works well for keeping the species alive, but not so much for you reaching your goals.

For goal reaching you really do need a toggle switch. Because if you had unlimited time and resources, you wouldn’t need advice like this on how to make limited time and very limited resources work for you. Actually, if you had that first set of things you’d be on a beach and you wouldn’t care about goals.

A toggle switch allows you to go from one task to another with equal focus. It’s the process by which I get done with a client, and then use the 5 min. in between clients to write part of this blog.  I’m not doing two things at once, I’m switching focus so I can use very limited amounts of time.

This won’t work if you have multiple goals. Toggle switches move between two points and that’s it. So if I have one goal, to get my blog done for the day, and one basic job, see clients, the toggle switch works great. Even if I have several jobs, but only one goal, I’ll still be able to toggle.

Find your most important goal and only work on that. Once you get it done, you may be able to move to something else. Or you could take a break and get one of those little fruity drinks with an umbrella and imagine you are already at the beach.

  1. Pick one goal to work on.
  2. Set up your computer, equipment, shoes, whatever you need to accomplish that goal is ready to go.
  3. Switch your focus to the goal whenever you have 5min or more.
  4. When you’ve accomplished your daily goal, reward yourself.  I’ll be having the fruity drink.

You need your Yoda.

There’s plenty of people who will get in your way, tell you it can’t be done, yada, yada, yada, when you really need Yoda.  You need that person who will respectfully tell you you’re full of it or genuinely help you celebrate success.  You pick them, you let them guide you, and they get the joy of mentoring your success.  Now where can you find them?

The internet has blogs and info pages about everything these days.  You can find a pod-cast or a you-tube channel custom made for your goals.  Your Yoda doesn’t have to be in person.  Listening to people who are respectful and helpful will also fine tune your antenna.  You could use more of these people, but if you’ve picked bad romances and lousy friends, start on the internet and develop a sense of what the good ones actually sound like.

Take a class.  Whether you find one that you have to pay for, or a one time freebie at your local library, you will get in touch with other people who share your enthusiasm.  You’ll also find a teacher that you can ask questions and get ideas about other places to research.

Hire a coach.  This could be a personal trainer, an adult baby sitter, or a life coach who’ll ask about your goals and how you’re doing.  If you’re goals are physical, I would especially recommend hiring someone to take over the planning if you’re just getting started.  You can concentrate on effort and not puking, while they figure out which muscles need to hurt tomorrow.

Use the mentors you already have access to.  If you belong to a religious group, a social circle, or a family with a few healthy members, you may already have met your guide and just not know it.  Ask some questions of the people around you.  At my church, there are Nurse Practitioners, Doctors, Carpenters, and the guy who survived a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  There are marriages that have held together for 60+ years, and a few people that have survived brutal divorces.  Somewhere in that group, I could find people to read manuscripts, research history, or give me parenting tips.  And that’s just one group.  Think of the groups you belong to and find out what resources they have.

  1. Use the internet.
  2. Take a class.
  3. Hire a coach.
  4. Leverage your network.

Make it easy to keep your goals!

 

I have two times in any given day that actually belong to me. 1. Before everyone else wakes up. 2. After everyone else has gone to bed.  Otherwise I’m between a rock and hard place on finding time for myself and the goals I want for just me.  So I wake up at 4:45 and go work out.  When you’re talking about making yourself a priority in the midst of a busy life with other people depending on you, get ready to do one of three thing; get up early, stay up late, pretend you’re at work.

Most of the same people that won’t respect your personal time will act like your job is sacrosanct.  Use that.  Find a way to put breaks in your work day that you don’t tell anyone about, and use them to write your novel, walk around the block, plan your escape, etc.  Remember that we’ve already talked about making your daily steps to that goal so small, they can thrive in the 5min space that your coworkers are using to slowly walk back and forth from the water cooler.  Write one sentence.  Find the staircase and run up a flight or two.  You really can take your life back one tiny step at a time.

Start with the time solution that you’ll actually use.  The best plan is the one you’ll use.  Getting up early might be great, but if you’ll just slap your alarm around and go back to sleep, it’s a lousy plan.  The mediocre plan you keep to, will get you further than a great plan you can’t stand and won’t use.

Put the time on your schedule and then you’re more likely to keep the appointment with yourself.  If your day is like mine, you’ll miss a number of appointments with you.  You are important enough to reschedule and be persistent.  You’ll win if you keep making the appointment and show up for yourself.

  1. Assess your day for time you can use
  2. Get up early, stay up late, and/or use the 5-15min spaces in your work day
  3. Keep it small so you’ll motivate yourself with success
  4. Schedule the time if you can, and then expect that you’ll have to reschedule
  5. Persist.

How to set a goal you’ll actually keep.

Think small.  Now go smaller.  Go so miniscule that you cannot help but succeed and then you have success to build on.  It’s a simple idea that I’m going to show you works, or prove that it can’t.

I’m going to write a short blog each day for the next week.  It might be a picture and a sentence, but it will be up and it will be on facebook.

I’ve realized that what I’m capable of is not a good measure of what I should be doing.  What I’ll actually finish is what I should be doing.  I’m not only a blog writer who hasn’t put up a blog in a very long time.  I’m a homeschooling mom with a full time job as a therapist dealing with cases other therapists cringe at.  I’m married to a general contractor who doesn’t want to finish our remodel and I have a new side hobby waiting for the police to show up at my house so I can report the latest petty theft from the store of construction items in the backyard.

Obviously my life is not conducive to long afternoons spent at my keyboard with a nice cup of coffee and a cookie.  For success to happen, it needs to get squeezed into small spaces and flourish like it was a weed.

  1. Make success almost impossible NOT to achieve
  2. Start so small you can’t help but win
  3. Be realistic about your time; if you don’t have it now, it’s not magically appearing cause you want it to.
  4. Small successes can be the foundation for larger success.

 

How to save your child!

Last post was on how to ruin your child, but some people do most of those and still have decent children.  How the heck is that happening?

Resiliency.  The ability to come through tough times with your better self intact and growing.  Some children seem to have a natural store of this, while others can get to this state with help and training.  So here are 10 ways to help any child withstand and thrive in their circumstances.

  1. Compliment specifically and describe actions not attributes.  Children think that pretty and smart are states of being that can’t be affected by their own actions.  Complimenting them on these doesn’t leave the child feeling empowered.  Make positive comments about actions children take.  This will point out to them how they change their own circumstances for the better.  When people feel powerless they get depressed, lazy, unmotivated, selfish, and scared.  Compliments about actions can be a protective layer against all the bad that feeling powerless can bring.  You can give a child that protective layer!  Make sure your compliments are about verbs not nouns or adjectives.  “I loved that you tried so hard!”  “Wow, you kicked that ball at the goal!”  Stay away from compliments that start with “You are…”  Those are attributes that children will usually see as unchangeable.
  2. Ask questions and listen to the answers. This works with any age child.  In my practice as a play therapist I shock parents all the time.  I tell them simple things their children have said and people sit back in stunned silence before saying, “She’s never said that before!”  No, she hasn’t, but she never felt that anyone had the time to listen.  Some children will not tell you the important things until you have spent several hours listening to their stories about the latest transformer cartoon they saw.  When children communicate with you they are looking for how you listen.  If you are waiting for the “important stuff” to actually start hearing the words, you will never hear anything important until it is too late.  Try this in small increments.  Spend at least 10 minutes listening to your child and commenting on what they’re saying without any statements of judgement or morals of the story.  Do that several times a week.  That child will tell you something surprising by the 3rd week, maybe sooner.  I have yet to meet the teen who really won’t talk.  They just need to talk about things you don’t find important, so they’ll know if you find them important.  Once they’ve figured that out, they spill their guts.
  3. Spend time.  Kids of all ages are used to being shuttled and cared for but the ones I’m meeting still crave time.  I see adults who don’t know how to let the kid pick the agenda and still remain in control of the situation.   When you know that you are the one in charge of safety and discipline, you can let go of the agenda control for a few hours and everyone will still be OK.  Occasionally let a child set the pace and pick the activity.  Go to the park.  Walk slower.  Look at the bug on the flower.  Watch really stupid Disney TV with your tween and listen to how cool it is.  Look for the perfect shoes for the all important first day of school (without sighing and looking like you desperately wish to be elsewhere).  Do this in lengths of time that you can manage and you’ll discover that it’s actually fun.  Children have a different time frame than we do and the world is still fresh to them.  Enjoy it, you’re relationship will improve and the child’s sense of well being will blossom.
  4. Praise hard work and make positive comments about perseverance.  Luck tends to happen more to the people who give it more chances to happen.  That comes about by hard work, multiple tries, perseverance.  If you want a child to succeed against the odds, praise every time he goes against the odds.  Being smart will not guarantee success.  But put the brains together with a good work ethic, and that kid is going to go places.  Know the value of your own hard work, say positive things about people that work hard, let your child know that work is good by your own attitude towards it.
  5. Give children jobs and insist they finish them.  It’s nice to talk about hard work, but if you’re actually going to compliment their actions, the kids have to have a chance to do the job.  They will not see this as a good thing.  You will hear whining, complaining, mouthing off, “You only had me for the free labor!”  Smile serenely and insist the job gets done.  Withhold the resources the child wants until the job gets done.  You don’t get paid for laying there, why should you teach your child that rewards come without effort?  You are NOT doing them a favor if you give money and rewards unconnected to hard work.  This is basically the same principal of empowerment.  What the child can change and feel control over, will be a protection against depression and negativity.  If a child realizes, “I can make good things happen for myself by my own effort.”, that child will be less likely to feel powerless and depressed.  Put children in a situation where they must work to get what they want.  This teaches them the power of their own actions and immunizes them against depression.
  6. Show gratitude in your own life and point out good things that come from bad breaks.  When you notice the good in your own life, your brain goes looking for more.  You prime yourself to find opportunities out of stresses, and you give yourself a cushion emotionally during bad times.  Do that when the little people are watching and they’ll be able to do the same things.  When kids around you say the negatives constantly, they are crying out for some guidance.  Ask them to stop, take a breath, and notice something good around them.  Don’t give them the moral of the story, don’t stop the rest of the whine down, just keep interjecting the new skill and showing your own command of it.
  7. Teach the difference between responsibility and guilt.  You are 100% responsible for your own life.  You’ve been that way since other people stopped paying for you and making all your problems go away.  Children will someday be 100% responsible, unless they’re constantly fighting the universe on this one yelling, “It’s not my fault!”  No, the guy who ran the red light and crashed your car is not your fault.  But he’s also not around to rehab your injuries, pay your bills, and make the situation better for you.  Guilt is irrelevant to your future.  Guilt is all about the past.  Teach kids to look towards the future and solve the problem for themselves.  Who created it is only important when you’re picking friends and figuring out who to stay away from.
  8. Encourage failure.  I am appalled at the number of bright, talented kids that show up in therapy due to their overwhelming anxiety and fear.  They are terrified of failure, won’t try anything new, won’t plan for the future, and often look for escapes in drugs, alcohol, and stupid behavior.  Failure is a fact of life that children will see as a hiccup or a complete breakdown, depending on your reaction to it.  How do you handle failure in your own life?  Your kids are watching.  Let children fail and encourage them to go for it!  When you help them avoid failure at all costs, you are teaching them that failure will kill them.  They’ll stay safely cocooned in the basement smoking pot to kill any motivation with that belief.  Teach them that trying and failing are GOOD.  Failure is how we learn.  Failure is where we consider and grow.  Failure is how we get better.
  9. Point out upcoming consequences and then get out of the way!  You know your child is heading towards an all-nighter and a bad grade in science.  Do you, A) Step in and make an award winning science project for them, or B) Tell you child that there isn’t a lot of time left and it will probably mean a bad grade if they don’t get started.  If you said A, you are enabling bad behavior that will haunt that kid for the rest of her life.  Point out the consequence in a calm tone of voice with no judgement attached.  Walk away.  Keep doing this until the child hits the wall they’ve been running for.  Ask them what they intend to do differently next time.  Repeat.
  10. Use consequences not anger.  Sometimes your child won’t have a natural consequence for his bad behavior.  You then have to decide what a logical consequence is and apply it.  Screaming, yelling, throwing things, withholding acceptance, silent treatment, and sulking are NOT logical consequences to a child’s behavior.  They ARE a child’s behavior.  If you use your emotions instead of consequences, your child won’t learn to make the connection between actions and consequences.  They may also be left more susceptible to emotional blackmail in later relationships.  Let children feel consequences, not your emotional need to avoid those.

 

There are plenty more ways to encourage resiliency in children.  These are just some of the easiest.  It’s a great topic to do some research on and then incorporate into your interaction with children.  It’s also, never to late to start these interventions.  It can be harder if you start later, but it’s still worthwhile. Good luck and go get started!

 

Picture by jaci XIII from flickr, some rights reserved.

How to ruin your child!

Now I’m aware there are good kids out there being raised right.  I also know there are children who get raised by loving parents doing everything right and the kid still hares off into all sorts of crazy.  There’s also some children out there being raised by well-meaning but not terribly effective parents.  The kids who are terrorizing the rest of the school and making life hard on everyone.  So forgive me if I sound cynical, pessimistic, or really sarcastic.  I’ve listened to too many kids talk about being; raped, bullied, beat up, ostracized, stalked, slandered,  poisoned, drugged, and run over by their peers.

Think I’m exaggerating?  I’ve been a therapist for 17yrs.  You do not want to know what I’m leaving out.

And the kids doing some of the worst behaviors were not physically abused, sexually traumatized, or raised by drug addicts.  These are “nice” middle and upper class children who were more subtly allowed to get warped.  You cannot take all the credit or blame for your child.  He or she has their own choices to make.  But if you are doing one of the following, I can pretty much guarantee problems will be coming for your family.

In the hopes that you will be able to see yourself in some of these and save yourself from the outcome, here’s 10 easy ways to completely ruin your child (and by extension your happiness, any hope of decent grandchildren, and the future of the species.  No pressure.)

  1. Give them EVERYTHING!  Never even suggest they work for what they want.  The good stuff should always be free and a fit should get you what you want.  When this ceases to work because peers and bosses do not find this behavior attractive, your child can experience depression at a much higher rate and be unable to take effective steps to help themselves.  When you’ve never had to help yourself, you don’t know how!
  2. Let them watch adult themed shows with sex and violence.  They’re going to deal with that eventually.  Give them a head start!  Seeing so much death, destruction and confusing sexual innuendo will help your children feel overwhelmed by their surroundings and unable to reach for real intimacy.  They will be more sure that bad things are going to happen and feel less able to take care of themselves.  As a bonus, if they get into porn they will fail to develop any real skills for sexual intimacy and be even less likely to make you a grandparent!
  3. Don’t allow your child to fail.  Failing and surviving will give them skills that might actually get them out of your house.  Fear of failure will paralyze your child into a fetal curl in your basement.  Children figure out that failure must be the worst thing that could happen when you NEVER let them even get close to it.  They will continue to rely on you to save them as long as you are willing to take away their right to learn and grow.
  4. Tell your children they’re smart, constantly, without ever commenting on or asking for hard work.  Your kids will expect problems to be easy and think hard work is what stupid people do to make up for being brainless.  When your child inevitably hits the moment that brain power alone won’t get them through, they won’t even attempt perseverance!  They’ll give up and move back into that sweet cocoon you’ve got set up in the basement.
  5. Helicopter in to rescue them from any discomfort they may face at school, with friends, at church, or on sports teams.  The ability to withstand discomfort and be graceful under pressure takes practice. Don’t allow your child any room to grow in this area and they will still be whining about how people don’t treat them nice when they’re 35.  Better yet, they may feel justified to give in to road rage, screaming fits in public, and any other number of embarrassing public acts.
  6. Completely ignore any issues they have at school, especially bullying and sexual harassment.  Better yet, tell kids it’s their fault and related to the way they look.  Unbalanced reactions that reflect your own need to avoid conflict or prove how right you are, are sure fire ways to screw things up!  Be sure to act surprised when the school calls about your child attempting to seriously hurt someone, the failing grades, etc, etc.
  7. Have an extreme reaction to their emotions.  Either pay so much attention to feelings that they are the center of the universe and a reason for everything, or discredit all of them and act like John Wayne crawling through cactus.  This can include being scared of your child or making sure they’re terrified of you without any mitigating attempts to show love and acceptance.  Your child will learn to either over-emote to an unappreciative audience, or be the unassailable tower of solitude and emotional distance.
  8. Don’t ever teach them any of your values in an attempt to let them find their own.  Obviously, we all slavishly followed what our own parents said.  When you give a child something concrete not to do, they know right where to start their rebellion.  Without guideposts of some kind, your child will just keep right on going with their behavior until they can get hurt.  They’ll also be confused by the multiple choices of belief systems about their own self-worth, their place in the universe, and the worth of other human beings.  Of course they don’t need some way to evaluate all this information and come up with a working model for themselves.  Just let them founder around!
  9. Let someone else do all the work, say a grandparent, without having the power or the long term stability.  That way your child can grow up confused about who’s in charge and acting out against everyone.  If you do this sporadically enough, your child won’t even be able to trust that relationships last and bad behavior doesn’t mean abandonment!
  10. Pick a favorite out of a group of siblings and do a LOT of comparison.  This way everyone can be turned against each other, you’ll completely ruin any attempts at cooperation or group cohesion, and all the kids will suffer equally whether or not they got picked to be the golden child!  The repercussions can last into adulthood as your children perceive all situations as a winner take all grabfest with no room for cooperation!

 

These are all the worst case scenario. Doesn’t mean they can’t happen.  If you see yourself doing one or several of these, get some help.  It’s easier to stop if you have someone helping you be accountable.  And just so you know, number 9 was my issue during my son’s first year of life.  I let him be raised by a caring friend who finally got tough with me and made me rethink the whole set up of my life.  It was NOT pretty!  But I can’t thank her enough for getting in my face about the issue.  Correct these, hold yourself and others accountable to raising children right, and remember that you won’t be perfect.  Just keep striving for effective.

See you back here next time for the blog on ways to make your child resilient and able to live through any of the above!

How to deal with Grief

Just not the typical stuff that everyone always told you about.

This is about the things no one says and most people seem to pretend isn’t happening.  So in no particular order, here’s a list of what you might face and some tips to make the process less painful.

  1. Justification will get you into trouble and you will have a VERY good supply of justification.  Have any old bad habits that have died the good death? Grief resurrects those fast.   You will want comfort.  You will feel justified in taking comfort where ever you can.  And if you don’t set some boundaries and get some help, you’ll be having a relapse into the cigarettes, bad boyfriends, chocolate cake, and self-loathing you used to deal with.  Find a way to indulge that will be healthy for you.  Go to a movie, call in sick and lay in the park, have coffee with friends and take good care of yourself.  Do NOT say you’ll give in to a bad idea “just this once” and think that actually works.
  2. Crazy is attracted to vulnerable.  And we’re all vulnerable in grief.  I would like to think that if I’m grieving, crazy people will leave me alone and have a little respect.  That’s not happening.  Think of these people as vampires that want to suck from your tear ducts.  They are attracted to your pain because they like feeling needed, and they expect that filling any of your needs will give them a license to own your life and your time.  Your best friend being there for you 24/7 is awesome.  But you do not have to accept every offer of help from anyone that comes along.  Your grieving, not destitute.  Say NO and say it often enough to keep your sanity.
  3. One loss will be a reminder of every other loss.  You can’t just grieve them one at a time.  And you’re not crazy because you started crying over the death of your friend and wound up re-living the moment in 3rd grade when the other boys wouldn’t let you be part of their spy kids club.  Grief revives grief.  Expect to be awash in memories and remember to roll with it until that wave passes.  It does pass.  Trying to shove it all back and ignore it will give you an ulcer and probably won’t work anyway.  Sooner or later you will ride that wave.  Set aside some time and let it roll.
  4. You will grieve what you WISH you had, what you SHOULD have had, and not just what you actually experienced.  Death & Divorce are the final blow to our fantasies that change can happen and happily ever after might still exist.  You can hate someone and still wail uncontrollably at their funeral because of the wishes you didn’t even know you had.  If you had the lousy relationship or time was too short with a good one, expect to be raging angry and unbelievably sad.  Both emotions are normal and will need outlets that don’t get you locked up.  Find a place to scream.  Go run until you puke or fall down.  If you can’t run, find some other activity that will get you sweating and exhausted.  Once you’re worn out you’ll cry more and that’s part of the process.  Physical activity is one of the few sure ways to flush all the stress out of your system and give you a fighting chance at a calm tomorrow.
  5. Other people will be struck with a sudden case of stupid and that’s the platform they will attempt to help you from.  I put down my horse a few weeks ago.  I cry just typing that.  Just a few days after it happened someone helpfully told me about a stage 4 cancer victim and her struggle with pain.  Randomly brought that up and spent 10 minutes detailing the horror.  And then he said, “So it could always be worse.  I mean really, you don’t have that much to complain about!”  No, I don’t have stage 4 cancer and I’m very happy about that.  It doesn’t make the pain less that I’m not afflicted with a life threatening disease.  Actually, I just feel totally angry at that moron because he wants me to feel guilty about my pain and shut up about it already.  People will also make judgements about the length of time you should be crying, and how much grief you should be allowed to express depending on a formula of how “close” you were, how long you knew the person/animal/marriage, and how disrupted your life has been.  If you are a Christian or have Christian friends, you will also hear about God’s will.  Please don’t deck anybody.  Do feel free to walk away.
  6. There will be a series of lasts and firsts that have to be lived through.  The last time you saw them, the last Christmas, the last time in the hospital.  It’s like you’re looking through the back window of a car as it pulls away from some place special.  At some point you start looking forward and see your first landmark that you can’t share anymore.  Expect at least a year of firsts that send a shock through your life.  These can be large or small and it won’t matter what you need to get done or where you are.  Surround yourself with people that can hear that same story again, as many times as you need to tell it.  Encourage them to talk about themselves and their own lives even though you might not really be listening.  Connecting with people is important to your long term health but it’s going to feel impossible as you travel through your lasts & firsts.  Treasure people who will know how to do the work for you and re-pay them in kind some day.
  7. Guilt and regret will do their best to find you and kick your ass.  We don’t like the total lack of control that loss brings into our lives.  Guilt is a way of pretending you could have stopped the bad thing, if only…..  There are rare times when we actually caused the problem that led to the loss.  If that’s true for you, accept your responsibility and learn from your mistakes.  The rest of the time we’re fooling ourselves that we could have controlled a situation that was never in our hands.  Regrets are usually centered around the things we meant to do and never found the time for.  No one has any time anymore.  I’ve been to too many funerals where we all said, “It shouldn’t take a death to get us together!”  And then we don’t see one another until the next funeral.   If you are overwhelmed with regret, you have a problem with the busyness of your life.  You will either force a slow down, or live with the next set of regrets after the next funeral.
  8. Time is going to go a little screwy on you.  Your perception of time passing will speed up and slow down with your emotional state.  Other people will not be on the same roller coaster and may “helpfully” try to rush you or slow you down.  If you’re at least aware of what’s happening, you won’t take it as personally.  Wearing your watch may not help.  Grief can make everyday objects and concepts suddenly complex and disturbing.  Your brain will get overwhelmed by the amount of emotion it’s processing.  Make someone else be in charge whenever possible while remembering you’re still the boss.  Do not give up all decision making for funerals, burials, parenting plans, divorce proceedings, etc.  Delegate as you need to but remind everyone you’re still checking the outcome.
  9. Yes, you will be annoying for a while.  And your friends will love you, remember who you usually are, and stick with you.  It’s going to be your turn soon.  You’ll have to listen to someone else cry, hear stories about their family/marriage/pet, and hold their hand until they can go it alone.  When you let people help you, they are more comfortable asking for your help later.  Let people see the full melt-down.  You’re building the trust they’ll need to show you the same someday.

 

You’ve been here.  You’ve known pain and the moments nobody prepared you for.  Please take the time to share any other shocks from your own experience.  Someone else will benefit from your story.

 

The picture is called “Lost Tree” and is from flickr by h.koppdelaney