Didn’t know before…

I know for me, forgiving myself is one of the hardest things to do.

The definition of forgive is “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake”.

My illness has caused a lot of damage in our lives.  We’ve lost our home, cars, jobs, friends, everything… almost.  I wonder at times how I didn’t lose Chris.  Chronic illness effects every part of your world.  I blame myself for all of it and I struggle to forgive myself.

Is it right to blame myself?  Chris says no, because I didn’t do anything to cause my illness.  But it’s hard not to feel responsible. It’s hard for me to forgive me.

I am learning through my training as a Grief Recovery Method Specialist that I was only judging myself for a lack of knowledge and experience in new or different situations, none of which needs forgiveness.  There is nothing for me to forgive because I did nothing wrong.  I didn’t set out to create an “offense, flaw or mistake” as the definition of forgiveness states.

Sometimes we just have to let ourselves off the hook, to let go of the past.  Sometimes things just happen.  It’s no one’s fault.  It just is.

I’m learning to love myself more, and that feels good.  It makes me smile.

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

 

Better, Different, More

When we talk about Hopes, Dreams and Expectations, we are also quantifying them in our minds.  With any relationship, with any loss, we are always thinking of what we could have done, could have had that might have been Better, Different or More.

Here’s an example:  Almost everyone has had a change in jobs at one point in their lives.  We either move on to another job, or have lost a job, or changed careers.  But whatever the reason, we are always hoping the new position will be better than, different from or more than we had the last time.

Changing jobs, even if it is a promotion, is still a loss of the familiar, of companions and colleagues, of a certain route to work, or pattern in your day.  A loss of one set of hopes, dreams and expectations comes while another set takes its place with the new job.

When we think of that in terms of our deeply personal relationships, like our families, the idea of “Better, Different, More” becomes critical.  If we have a loss of one of them, our grief makes us even more aware of what has changed, and where we had unfulfilled wishes of what we wanted to have be better, different or more.  While we hold onto those expectations, we won’t find peace.

Think of all the important relationships in your life.  Take a moment to reflect on how you can make them better, or different, or more.  Don’t wait for a loss of someone.  Hug them now.  Thank them now.  Take the time to rejoice in the role they play in your life, how they add to it.

Lots of virtual hugs,

Chris

Chris@Cee-Chris.com

Expectations?

In our last post, Cee wrote about Incompleteness and Hopes, Dreams and Expectations.  Many of you had responses to that post.  We have a lot more to say about the topic, but we thought we’d do something a little bit different today.

Here is a picture Cee took couple of years ago of a farm field in bloom.  If you had been there with us that day, what do you expect you would have been feeling?

There is a surprise answer, and you’ll find it in tomorrow’s post.  I hope you’ll be intrigued by it.

(P.S.  If there are any farmers seeing this, please don’t give away the answer.)

(Update:  here is the explanation.)

Hugs and blessings,

Chris

Chris@Cee-Chris.com

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

 

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)

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: Chronic Illness

Cee and I have uncovered a lot of new ideas as we’ve been doing our Grief Recovery work.  We’ve had some huge “Aha!” moments.  But we haven’t started doing a deep dive into the “elephant in the room”, her journey through Lyme disease and the impact it has had on our lives.  That is going to be an epic saga, I think.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done a lot of processing of it through the years.  We couldn’t be the happy, sane, caring people we are if we hadn’t.  But chronic illness has huge ramifications, with many layers of losses.

So what is a chronic illness?  A chronic illness is a health condition or disease that is persistent in its effects or a disease that comes with time. The term chronic is often used if the condition lasts longer than 3 months.  Examples of chronic illnesses are:  heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, COPD (lungs), lupus, MS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and our not-so-favorite, Lyme disease.  These conditions are just the tip of an ever growing iceberg, and often bring with them depression, anxiety, insomnia and a host of related problems.

Chronic illness affects the person with the illness, and also the family members who provide care or live with them.  In general, here are some of the most common losses:

  • mental and emotional wellbeing
  • physical comfort
  • a clear mind, because brain fog is normal with chronic illness
  • personal dignity and physical privacy, as people are always examining you
  • control over your body
  • financial stability
  • the feeling of having a future.  When it’s a struggle to make it through today, tomorrow doesn’t matter any more.
  • friends, as they give up on someone who is always cancelling on them at the last minute
  • independence
  • happiness, as pain and physical struggles replace it in life
  • fitting in, as you park in the handicap spot, or need a walker, or have visible scars on your body, or wear a head scarf to cover your bald head
  • the security of having loved ones in your life.  If you suffer from illness, there is the chance your spouse/child/parent will give up and walk out.  If you care for someone with an illness, there is the fear of death of your loved one, sometimes coupled with the guilt at hoping the end will come peacefully and quickly.

Cee will be applying the new techniques we have learned with the Grief Recovery Method to resolve some of these losses.  I will be working on my related ones as a caregiver at the same time.  We’ll be talking about how it feels, and what it means to get some resolution around these losses.

It’s going to be an interesting adventure.  If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic illness, please join this blog and participate in the discussions we’ll be having.  Feel free to share your own story in the comments below, but please be safe when you do so.  Remember that you are sharing with a lot of people, almost all of whom you don’t know.  Or email us privately.  We will never disclose any communication we have from you without your prior consent.  We treat your privacy as a sacred trust.

Much love and very gentle virtual hugs to all of you,

Chris and Cee

chris@cee-chris.com

cee@cee-chris.com

Loss: Daylight Saving Time

For most of us in the United States, today is the day we “spring forward” into Daylight Saving Time, and I’m sticking it on our Loss List.

Am I being ridiculous?  Is this too petty?  Maybe, but I’m doing it to prove a point.

How many of you are going to be feeling it all week as you deal with trying to get crabby kids off to school?  Or putting up with equally crabby co-workers, customers and bosses?

How many of you are going to be feeling it all week as your body adjusts?

And what about the annoyance of resetting all those stupid clocks?  What about the ones, like in my old car or on my stove, where I can’t remember where I put the instructions?  Major annoyance!

But what really, really bugs me is that my precious cat, Charlie, always seems to know when we have sprung forward.  He is up and pacing on top of me, demanding his breakfast at the new time. It’s 5:30 in the morning by the clock (yes, I’m an early riser) but it’s 4:30 by my body clock and it should be by his, too.  But, no, here he is, standing on me and yelling in my ear.

Time is a human construct.  We invented it, just like the number zero.  Yet it rules our lives with an iron fist.

Ask yourself this, if losing an hour of sleep once a year can upset you for a week, what are all the REAL losses in your life doing to you?  How are you adjusting to them and how long is that adjustment taking?  And what happiness are you missing out on during that time?

Springing forward doesn’t seem like such a petty thing now, does it?

Enjoy the sunshine today!

Smiles and virtual hugs,

Chris

Chris@Cee-Chris.com