Re-investing in Life (Moving on)

Franschoek Mountains

In my last post: Woman, heal Thyself – find it here: https://africandream01.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/woman-heal-thyself/

I spoke about coping mechanisms and gave you an idea of where I am on the “coping with grief” scale.

Last week (Wednesday) I celebrated my first birthday without BOTH my parents. My dad has not been physically present for my last twenty (or so) birthdays although he was still alive but I had my mom and sister to share it with. With my mom dying in October 2014 and my dad in January 2015, this was now my first birthday as an “orphan”. I’ve given myself the nickname of “Orphan Annie”.

French Huguenot Monument, Franschoek, Western Cape

SLOWING DOWN:
As I progress on this journey of grief and mourning, I’m finding that I’m spending a lot of time re-evaluating my life – how I spend my time, what I spend my time on, relationships I have (those relationships that serve me and those that don’t). I’m doing a lot of thinking (meditating some call it), taking time to “smell the roses”, slowing down – trying to stop being so busy with being “busy”.

EXERCISE:
Throughout my fourteen months as primary caregiver to my mom, I managed to maintain my exercise routine with my Personal Trainer three days per week (for one hour each). This definitely helped neutralize the stress hormones which helped me cope with the physical, mental and emotional challenges I faced during this period. Exercising also gave me the opportunity to focus on something other than what I was going through.

TEARS CLEANSE THE SOUL:
Having suppressed my emotions for fourteen months, I am now allowing myself to cry irrespective of when it happens (mornings, evenings, on my way to work, on my way from work – whenever it happens I allow the tears to flow freely). It has been said that there is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love. Tears are definitely giving me a release of my emotions (like a pressure-cooker letting off steam).

Rickety Bridge Restaurant, Franschoek

FEELING MY EMOTIONS:
I am no longer blocking my feelings. There are times when I feel deeply sad about the loss of my mom. I’ve postponed my feelings for fourteen months and it is now time to let it go – no more denial or covering up my pain. I am with my pain now – living in the moment – everything else can and just has to wait. I’m giving myself the time I need to heal because the sooner I allow myself to feel my emotional pain, the sooner it will pass.

The word “emote” is Latin in origin and it means “I move”.

WRITING LEADS TO HEALING:
I don’t keep a daily journal so I write through this blog. Using this blog to write helps me gain understanding and insight into what exactly is happening in my life – through sharing my story with you, my readers. This blog is my outlet for my thoughts and feelings. Writing is a powerful and highly recommended exercise in recovery.

JOINING A BEREAVEMENT GROUP:
I have nothing against joining a bereavement group but I believe that there is a time for this to happen and it just is not the right time for me right now. When the time is right and if there is a need, I will definitely find one to join.

Dessert at Richety Bridge Restaurant, Franschoek

HONOURING MY OWN TIMETABLE:
As Executor of mom’s Estate, there are certain tasks relating to the winding up of the Estate that has to be taken care of immediately and that is where my focus has been these last few months. Sorting out mom’s personal belongings is something I am not ready to do right now so her room is exactly as she left it the day she died.

Clearing out mom’s cupboards of her personal belongings, scattering her last remains etc. will have to wait a little longer. When the time is right, this will be done.

PUTTING OFF MAJOR DECISIONS:
I will continue to live in the house we shared until I can no longer live independently or until circumstances forces me to make a decision about alternative accommodation.

DANCE TO MY BROKEN HEART:
Grief can last years, but my nervous system needs a break every now and then. For now it is shedding the tears I need to shed when I need to shed them and going for a nice long drive afterwards. I feel an enormous sense of relief afterwards.

Dancing? Well, that will happen when it needs to happen.

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Find more information here:
Grief Survival Tips (http://funeralguide.co.za/coping-with-grief/grief-survival-tips/blog.html

View from table_2015-02-04 14.05.06

Recommended Reading:
“Man’s search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl
“Beyond Grief” by Carol Staudacher
All books by author: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron

All these books are available here:
Shop at Amazon.com! http://www.amazon.com?_encoding=UTF8&tag=african09-20

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Woman, Heal Thyself . . .

Starting today, I need to forget what’s gone,
Appreciate what still remains
And look forward to what’s coming next.
– Anonymous

In my last post I wrote about grieving, mourning and bereavement because this is the stage of life I am in right now. Everywhere I go, everyone wants to know how I am coping with my loss so this week I’m focusing on coping – how am I coping? Am I coping?

Ways of Coping:
Research has taught us that various approaches used in the coping process are grouped into eight coping factors:

Confrontive Coping: describes aggressive efforts to alter the situation and suggests some degree of hostility and risk-taking. (Anger)
Distancing: describes cognitive efforts to detach oneself and to minimize the significance of the situation. (Denial)
Self-Controlling: describes efforts to regulate one’s feelings and actions.
Seeking Social Support: describes efforts to seek informational support, tangible support, and emotional support.
Accepting Responsibility: acknowledges one’s own role in the problem with a concomitant theme of trying to put things right. (Acceptance)
Escape-Avoidance: describes wishful thinking and behavioral efforts to escape or avoid the problem. Items on this scale contrast with those on the Distancing scale, which suggest detachment. (Bargaining)
Planful Problem Solving: describes deliberate problem-focused efforts to alter the situation, coupled with an analytic approach to solving the problem. (Acceptance)
Positive Reappraisal: describes efforts to create positive meaning by focusing on personal growth. It often also has a religious dimension.

Candlelight

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her 1969 book On Death & Dying (http://www.amazon.com/On-Death-Dying-Doctors-Families/dp/1476775540) described the following five well-known stages of grief:

Denial— “It can’t be happening.”—Ignore or discount the evidence.
Anger— “Why me? It’s not fair!”—Highlight the injustice. Blame someone or something else for the loss.
Bargaining— “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”—Negotiate a better deal, gain time.
Depression— “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”—Act helpless.
Acceptance— “It’s going to be OK.”—Acknowledge the problem, understand and accept what you can and cannot change, and move on.

Responses at each stage that illustrate each of these styles could, for example be:

Confrontive coping approach: Shouting a profanity, slamming and kicking the refrigerator door before blaming someone (self, spouse, bad luck, always happens, the dog)
A distancing approach could be: reading the newspaper, turning on the TV, shining shoes, or doing other things to delay and distract from acknowledging the problem.
A self-controlling approach would be telling yourself: “now stay calm, it’s not the end of the world”, “it’s really no big deal” as you calm down enough to take problem-focused action.
Seeking social support – you might ask your spouse or significant other for sympathy, understanding or help.
Acknowledging approach – you accept responsibility for your actions which leads quickly to accurately recognising, acknowledging and solving the problem.
Escape-avoidance approach – you might shout “help me” with the vague hope someone will hear and respond to your call for help.
Planful Problem Solving – leads to the alternatives and solutions originally described above
Positive reappraisal – you may remind yourself that “whatever does not kill you, makes you stronger” or that God is testing you with this challenge/problem/struggle.

Health & Wellness Fruit Basket

Coping requires resources:
Our ability to cope depends on the resources (human and financial) we can apply to solving the problems. What might be trivial to someone with the necessary resources can become a matter of life and death to someone who does not have the necessary resources.

Resources to help in coping may include: intelligence, education, experience, creativity, money, tools, materials, social skills, emotional competency, perspective, perseverance, resolve, tranquility, serenity, tolerance, rest, supportive friends and family, charm, health and energy, optimism, time, patience, confidence, courage, judgment, ingenuity, and other personal strengths.

If resources are unavailable or become exhausted then coping becomes less effective, suspends, or stops altogether. Coping may resume if resources again become available.

A simple example of this is regaining strength and resolve from a good night’s sleep and hearty breakfast. A more complex example is the long wait for relief aid that refugees may face.

Stress is the word we use to describe the resources consumed by coping; these are the resources required to counteract a stressor.

So, how am I doing? I think I’m coping for now.

Life is not what it’s supposed to be
It is what it is
The way you cope with it is
What makes the difference.
– Virginia Satir

Two Aspects of Coping
There are two main aspects of coping:

1) Solving the material or physical problem (fixing what’s broken, in the case of illness – healing the person or moving heaven and earth to find a cure for whatever is causing the illness/pain/discomfort)
2) Addressing the accompanying emotions (an emotion-focussed coping approach) – this kicks in when the person who is ill cannot be cured/healed (chronic illness)

Effective coping accurately recognises what you can change (your behaviour/attitude/make the sick person as comfortable as possible etc) and what you cannot (you cannot cure/heal the sick person).

Ineffective coping confuses the two.

Table Mountain, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Table Mountain, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

So, how have I been coping?

Well, I’ve been trying to get out into the wonderful South African sunshine as often as I can. I’ve been going for long drives along our coastline – my drives, however, are limited to weekends because during the week Monday – Friday I have a full time job which keeps me stuck in a concrete jungle for eight to nine hours per day.

One of the longest drives I’ve taken in the last few weeks has been to a little town called Darling.

Welcome to Darling

Welcome to Darling

Next, I visited a cousin on my mom’s side who lives in Gordon’s Bay . . .

Gordon's Bay on a cloudy day

Gordon’s Bay on a cloudy day

This was followed by a trip to Simonstown . . .

Just before entering Glencairn on your way to Simonstown

Just before entering Glencairn on your way to Simonstown

The last drive taken last week was to Hout Bay . . .

View from The Lookout Deck Restaurant in Hout Bay

View from The Lookout Deck Restaurant in Hout Bay

When something bad happens you have three choices.
You can either let it define you, destroy you
Or you can let it strengthen you.
– Anonymous

References
Stress and Emotion: A New Synthesis , by Richard S. Lazarus
Coping Theory and Research: Past, Present, and Future, Richard S. Lazarus, Psychosomatic Medicine 55:234-247 (1993)
http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/coping.htm