Incompleteness

Before I got sick with Lymes Disease, I had a lot of hopes, dreams and expectations for myself, especially when it came to physical activity.   Before I met Chris, I was a runner.  I played tennis and was actually fairly active.  Shortly after we got together, we would camp and hike at 10,000 ft elevation nearly every weekend in the spring to early fall.  When we were not camping, we would be planning the next hike or traveling.  We even would camp in the winter on the eastern plains of Colorado in the snow and wind.

In 2001, I woke up from my 40-day coma unable to move nearly any muscle in my entire body.  I couldn’t hold a pencil, talk or lift my hands.  Since the doctors at that time didn’t know why I was so deathly ill, they said I should regain the use of my body.  What they didn’t tell me was it would take many years to get my body back to a functioning level, to where I was prior to getting sick.  The hope of camping at altitude and hiking every weekend was not in my future, at least not for a few of years, as long as I stayed healthy and worked on getting my body back in shape.  So I lived the next 16 years expecting and hoping and dreaming I would be able to be physical once again.  But my body failed me time and time again as Lymes Disease kept flaring up.

When we suffer a loss of any kind, no one ever tells us that we have to change or adapt our hopes, dreams and exceptions for ourselves.  The Grief Recovery Method teaches us to look at these hopes, dreams and exceptions.  Once we can examine them, we can make the changes that need to be addressed.

It’s easy to understand how the death of a loved one changes dreams, hopes and expectations for that relationship.  The person is gone, and all your future changes in an instant.

It’s easy to understand how divorce does the same thing in your life.  You had planned to spend a lifetime with this person.  “To death do us part”.  And yet here you are, sitting with your lawyers, dividing up your stuff, battling over custody and visitation rights for the kids.  So long,  Hopes.  Bye bye, Dreams.  See ya, Expectations.

What you are feeling is grief.

How did your hopes, dreams and expectations change with your loss?

(Coming soon… how “better, different and more” figure into your grief equation.)

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

Loss: Independence

My beautiful, smart and wonderful daughter has a  heart condition.  When I asked for suggestions for this post, she wanted me to talk about loss of independence.  Cee and I know a lot about the subject, as do any of you who have a chronic illness.  It also applies in many ways to those of you who have gone through the death of a loved one, and many other types of losses.  I’ll address it from the angle of chronic illness first, and let all of you chime in.

Chronic illness robs you of your independence.  Period.  You can’t get around it.  In my daughter Nikki’s case, she has to rely on her husband and son to do certain things for her.  She can’t carry too many things, or things that are too heavy, so she needs one of them to go to the store with her, or for her.    She doesn’t travel alone any more, just in case she gets too weak or needs assistance.  She can’t work, so she can’t support herself.  She has to rely on her husband’s income.  She has lost her independence in so many ways.  She can’t go running or get to the gym when she wants.  She can’t go out with the girls, just to relax and catch up with them.  Heart disease as serious as hers controls her life now.

Cee and I know what loss of independence is all about.  After the three times she has almost died, she needed me to do everything for her.  After the coma in 2001, she even needed to be fed because she had lost so much muscle mass.  After each significant bout of Lyme disease, she would lose what little independence she had gained back.  Fortunately, she’s so much better now that she can drive herself around, do her own laundry, and help to clean around the house.  I still support her.  She’s not ready to go back into the work force.  That’s one of the reasons she became certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist.  She’s able to start earning money again while controlling her hours and working conditions.  That, and the fact that she’s darned good at it.

You might not have a condition as severe as Nikki’s, or as complicated as Cee’s has been, but if you have any sort of chronic illness, or a long term illness like cancer can be, you have been forced to give up some of your independence.  It’s just part of the package.

Those of us who are caretakers for someone with a chronic illness also give up our independence.  We have to be more mindful of how we are spending our energy and time, to be there for the person we love.  I’ve given up the hiking and camping Cee and I loved to do together, for example.

A death in the family often results in a loss of independence as one person now becomes the sole bread winner, or surviving parent or caretaker.  It might mean that you have to give up your house or apartment and move in with a family member.

How have you had a loss of independence?

Keep those questions coming!  Feel free to suggest topics!

Lots of virtual hugs,

Chris and Cee

 

Why does the Grief Recovery Method work?

I thought I’d take a few minutes to answer some questions we’ve been getting.

What is the Grief Recovery Method and why does it work?

We have the following information on all of our pages on the right hand side of the screen, but I thought it would be good to post it here, too.

Because grief is such a misunderstood and little talked about topic, it may be easier to start by saying what the Grief Recovery Method isn’t:

It’s not counseling
It’s not therapy
It’s not an alternative treatment

While any of the above routes may be of some little or great benefit, they mainly offer a path to discovery of the thoughts and feelings you have around the loss in your life. The Grief Recovery Institute maintains that discovery is not the same as recovery.

The Grief Recovery Method is an action plan. It is a series of small steps that when taken, in order, by the griever, it leads to the completion of the unresolved business linked to the loss.

What do you do as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist?

We teach the Grief Recovery Method and guide you through it.  We start by giving you a broader understanding of grief, what it is, how it influences your life and how you’ve been trained to handle grief by your upbringing and society, then talk about grief myths (like “time heals all wounds”).  Once you have a better understanding of all that, you’re ready to start working on unresolved grief in your life.  This is a real class.  You will have a textbook, reading and homework assignments.

Every week we explain the steps you’ll take in your homework assignments but you decide which grief event you’re going to work on.  I like that part of it.  Cee and I just act like tour guides, helping you see the patterns in your life, but you control the process and do the work.  It’s all about YOU.

Can I just get the book and do it myself?

Yes, you can, but I have this story to share with you.

When I started working with grieving children nine years ago, I wanted to know everything about grief that I could.  I had read extensively, and the Grief Recovery Method Handbook was the book I found the most valuable.  I now have three different editions of it in my bookcase.  But for all of that, I didn’t make a lot of progress with the Method.  I think the problem with doing it on your own is that we have all become such experts at stuffing grief, we can’t call our bluff when we’re avoiding things that are important.  We stuffed all those feelings for a reason.  We’ve kept them buried for years, and quite effectively so.  We aren’t going to be turning those impulses off in an instant just because we’re reading a really helpful book.

So working with another person is better, provided it’s someone you can be comfortable with and can trust.  A word of caution, however.  You can’t do this work with someone who is involved in your grief.  That’s why I’m not helping Cee work through her unresolved issues around her illness.  I was there.  I’m a big part of that story.  We each have grief because of it.  There is magic in saying things out loud to a compassionate, non-judgmental listener who isn’t normally a part of your story.

The best thing is to work with a trained Grief Recovery Specialist.  We’ve gone through some intense training to be able to do this work.  We have our own support system set up and plenty of resources for when people ask us difficult questions or when we come across unusual situations, like chronic illness and the many layers of losses that come with that kind of prolonged illness.  We also have ongoing educational opportunities and an impressive library of audio and video instruction.

Keep those questions coming!

Lots of virtual hugs,

Chris and Cee

 

Update on Cee’s Chronic Illness Work

This is a follow up article from my Loss:  Cee’s Chronic Illness article.

Me in the hospital, 17 years ago today.

My first Grief Recovery Method teacher wouldn’t touch any of my health issues during class because I was told that my health issues were too complex.  My teacher did suggest I start by doing a chart on my health.  I put together a timeline and chart that covered any type of illness that I had over my entire lifetime, not just Lymes Disease or when I was hospitalized and in a long coma, but also when I had severe bronchitis as a child.  On this chart I included some of the highlights of my life, like when we moved away from Minnesota when I was a child, graduations, when Chris and I got together, etc.  It was easier for me to correlate events with illnesses.  The timeline and chart gave me a good basis to look for patterns.

The one big pattern I found was:

Lyme disease —> No control over body —> brought up childhood issues

What stood out for me for the fifteen years I struggled with Lyme disease is that I had no control over my own body.  Someone (mostly Chris) had to do everything for me.  I was so weak after the coma that I couldn’t even speak or write, feed myself or wash my face.  I got better and could start doing the routine things of daily life, but I still have moments where I need help with things.

But I saw there was a pattern in my earlier life, when my father molested me.  Despite years of working on incest issues, I found out that no control over my body as an adult threw me back into no control over my body as a child.

So when I met with Cari Dawson this past week so she could work with me on my illness loss issues, I told her my revelation.  We continued to talk for a half hour about my dad and incest issues.  So my homework assignment from her was to do a relationship chart regarding my father.

But I’m finding out that loss of health isn’t that complex.  It’s just one more layer.  I’m learning that the work needs to begin with what is on your mind right now because that appears to be vital.  All losses in our life are connected in some ways.  One thing I’m really learning is that grief is cumulative and negatively cumulative.

Hugs, Cee

cee@cee-chris.com

 

 

 

Faceless Grief

When I think back to when I was deepest in grief, one of the things that struck me was that I became a nonentity.   I had retreated into my own world, trying desperately to slow down time so things would make sense.  People would whizz by me on their way to work or shopping, but it was as if I were standing still, frozen, paralyzed by my broken heart and my fear of what was coming at me next.  I was in a fog.  I was faceless to all of them, those normal people out in the world.  I couldn’t respond fast enough, think fast enough, react fast enough, and so they ignored me.  I had no face, no energy, no presence.

Cee chose the photo out of her archives and blurred the face.  She wanted to show how she has felt during the times in her life when she was working through loss.  She says she felt like even though she was there with other people, she wasn’t part of them.  Like she was separated from them by a thick pane of invisible glass.  Everyone else looked so normal, but she wasn’t there.

How have you felt when you were working through loss and the grief that comes with it?

Chris and Cee

Chris@Cee-Chris.com

Cee@Cee-Chris.com

(Written in response to the WordPress Daily Prompt, Faceless)

Listen to Chris’ Story

Cee and I were tossing around ideas for this post and she suggested that I write the story of how I became involved with the Grief Recovery Method and why I’m so passionate about it.  I thought that it would be better if you HEARD it from me instead of just reading it on the page.  So here you go…

Hugs and blessings,

Chris

 

List of Lists to Amaze and Amuse You

As promised in Chris’ post from yesterday, we wanted to give you a list of feelings to help you get in touch with what is going on inside of you.

We also wanted to feature our NEW Lists page.  You’ll find our Loss List there as well as the Feelings List.

If you have not checked out our About pages, they are newly updated as well.

 

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

From Head to Heart

The longest journey you can ever take is from your head down to your heart.  I know, because I’m a master at getting stuck in my own head.  I can chew things over, analyze, script conversations, and generally make myself crazy trying to figure out how and why some of my life experiences happened.  Some things just don’t have a “how” or a “why” that we can ever understand.  Cee knows when I get quiet and withdrawn that I’ve worked myself into my little mental hamster wheel and I’m running in circles as fast as I can.  And I’m getting nowhere but tired.

What we do in the Grief Recovery Method is learn special techniques that you can use to get out of your head and move down to your heart.  The heart is where the real healing begins.  So many of us tend to hide behind our intellect as a way to avoid feeling pain.  We’re taught that from childhood.  Don’t cry.  Be brave.  Be strong.

Our hearts are broken.  Our hearts hurt and are sad.  We are taught not to listen to our hearts.  We are taught not to feel sad.  We are taught that time will heal all wounds.  But those are intellectual words that take us back out of our heart and into our head.

To heal the heart you have to take a leap of faith, feel what is in your heart, and then you can begin to heal it.  Then you can begin to enjoy life, to live life, to look forward to the new day, to walk out into the sunshine and be happy.  To smile.  Just because it feels good.

Feeling out of touch with your heart?  We’ll be putting out a list of feelings tomorrow that will help you get back in touch.

Hugs and blessings,

Chris

Chris@Cee-Chris.com

Be Human

I think one of the hardest things about dealing with loss is allowing ourselves to feel.  We are so conditioned to be stoic, to not inflict our sorrow on others, to be strong, to stuff things down, but that doesn’t remove the pain.  In fact, it only makes it worse.  It will surface, often when you least expect it and in ways you would never have chosen.

Take a deep breath.  Let it out.  Honor your feelings.

Hugs and blessings!

Chris

Chris@Cee-Chris.com

Loss: Cee’s Chronic Illness

WARNING: Emotional Honesty Being Practiced Here

I believe in the Grief Recovery Method so much that I not only teach it, but I practice it in my own life.  The biggest incomplete loss I have is that concerns the decades of my life surrounding Lyme Disease.  It is a huge topic for me, with many, many kinds of losses.  Up until now, I have not wanted to tackle it because I needed to know that I am on the verge of life instead of the verge of death.  I needed to know there would be another tomorrow.  Chris and I were ready for me to die.  And yet, I somehow always had the strength to stay alive.  In this past year, I have truly come to know I am now healthy.  I need to work on my loss issues to regain control of my life.

I’ve charted out my health history and already noticed patterns of illness in my life. This last week has been a rough one for me. I felt, lonely, powerless, ashamed, unhappy, exhausted, and hopeless.

On Monday, I’m going to start working Cari Dawson on my loss history for Lymes Disease.  So we will start working through those.  I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I will give you an update from time to time.  One of my favorite teachers always says, “Words don’t teach, only life experience teaches.”  I’ll be sharing my life experiences so that I can become a better teacher and also encourage you to start or continue your own journey through the losses in your life.

What I am intending to see at the end of this work is that my soul is lighter, my mind is clearer, and the smile has come back onto my face.

To be continued …

Hugs,

Cee

email:  cee@cee-chris.com

Loss: Grieving Our Pets

(We are thrilled to have our friend, mentor, and fellow Grief Recovery Specialist Cari Dawson doing a guest blog for us today.)

First Love, First Loss: Grieving Our Pets

Sunday night, winter in the Ohio Valley, light snow falling and I’m sitting on my bed half listening to comedy programs on the radio, half doing my homework. It’s the 1950’s. My two younger sisters had gone to the neighborhood store for some milk. My year-old puppy, Toni, followed them, but didn’t see the car coming after my sisters crossed the street. Toni was hit and died immediately.  Of course, I didn’t know this until my sisters came running back to the house, hysterically summoning me.

I grabbed my coat in a daze, as I had been sitting in my underwear, and ran shoeless down the snowy hill. There was my beloved puppy lying in the street. I gathered her up and took her home, placed her on the kitchen floor and held her and wept uncontrollably.  Toni was my first significant loss, much more traumatic than the death of my great-grandfather with whom I grew up, who died about a year before. At that time, I recall my mother quietly shedding a few tears at his funeral, quickly gaining her composure, but that was the only display of grief I saw from her or any other relatives. She had modeled for me how to grieve.  You just shed a few tears and then stuff it. Move on. Something I was having difficulty doing.

It is not surprising in retrospect that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me when I found myself becoming more and more depressed and, embarrassingly,  on the verge of tears for many months after Toni’s death. Embarrassed that I couldn’t control my feelings that wanted to bubble out just as they did when I held Toni on the kitchen floor of my childhood home. I was just entering puberty, trying to blend in with my contemporaries, trying to lead a normal life. And, no one seemed to notice how profoundly this loss had impacted me. No one asked about my feelings. Alone and isolated, I worked hard to stuff this loss deep within my psyche where it lay accumulating and gathering other losses and unresolved grief like a huge snowball over the ensuing 40 years.  In 1995, the Grief Recovery Method helped me delve into those painful old losses, including the loss of Toni, when another major loss—my granddaughter—led me to grief work.

My first significant loss and my adolescence seem quite remote now. In my seventies, I had the audacity to welcome a new furry companion into my life, Pace`.  She reminds me daily of what I know deep in my soul: Life and Love will always include joy and sorrow. We can hold the tension of both. It is worth it!

Cari D. Dawson, MTS, MA, JD, has been a Grief Recovery Specialist for over twenty years. She helps grievers in the Portland, Oregon area. Visit her website is www.transitionscelebrant.com for more information and a link to her blog.