Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Essential Pain

A friend who is travelling along her own grief journey posted this video about Grief on facebook.  Its an animation by an amazing lady called Megan Devine, you can find much more about her and her story over on her website Refuge in Grief. 

I am sure I have shared before about the complexities of grief.  My journey into trying to understand and feel grief started after the death of my 36 year old sister in 2008.  In fact this blog was started just a few weeks after at the beginning of 2009 when I realised that something inside me was just 'not right'!

I grew up in an atmosphere where I was not encouraged (in fact actually discouraged) to feel emotions.  My mum's life had been a struggle for survival in a world where she felt (and was regularly told in actions and words) she did not belong and her 'feelings' were not valid.  No real surprise then that in her parenting of me there was something missing!!

The grief experiences that I was having were so alien it took a long time and eventually some specialist help to try and understand why I reacted to situations as I did (and still do occassionaly).  Discovering that I had real emotions that affected my behaviour and relationships also made me realise that I was in dire risk of passing on my emotional numbness to my children.

As a society I'm hoping we are moving on from having 'the British Stiff Upper Lip'.  However I can see that we still have far to go in acknowledging our emotions, accepting them in order that we can then continue on our journeys of self-discovery and maturity.  That is what this video made me think about this morning.  How many times have I tried to cheer someone up when all they needed me to do was be along side them.  How many times have I tried to encourage others to 'look on the bright side'? For those that know me well, I think you would agree that I am generally a 'sunny side up' person, my glass is usually half full not half empty.  This is a part of my nature and I really would not like to have to give it up.  It always has and I would like to think that it always will be a saving Grace on more than the odd occassion, helping me to keep my sanity.  What I do need to remember though is that when others are experiencing deep sadness, it is not my job to try and pull them out of it.  They have just as much right to feel their own emotions, just as I have mine.

After my mum died by suicide in 2013, I remember crying out in those raw messy moments following her last breath "I tried so hard to make her life worth living" to the deaf ears of my now estranged brother. The cold flat truth is, we can not make people feel the emotions we want them to feel.  I am now learning that in fact by allowing those we love to express, wrangle and own their feelings and emotions is the most precious (and helpful) gift we can be a part of. 

This video talks about acknowledgement, if you try and acknowledge how someone is feeling you may discover that you are not understanding them at all. That's also okay and might lead to a conversation, moment of better understanding, or even helping someone identify how they are feeling.

So  how can we practically help those who are grieving? I would like to add just a few suggestions of my own that I have felt to be helpful, it's okay to say:

  • "I'm so sorry you feel so bad right now".  
  • "Is there anything I can do to help you right this moment, a hug, a distraction, a walk, etc" - make sure you only offer what you can give!
  • "Would you like to talk?"
  • "Would you like some company?"
  • "Can I bring a meal over for you?" - as long as you make it clear that you are not going to come over and sit and watch them eat it, reassure them it can be put in the fridge or freezer to eat when they are ready.
Of course, these things can be so hard to put into practise when we cannot predict how a person may react to us. This is the risk we have to take if we really want to show how much they mean to us.

Another story I found some years ago was a middle eastern tale -

A man was out with friends when he entered a river and started to panic, his friends kept reaching out to him shouting "give me your hand".  The troubled friend could not do this and the situation got even more dangerous.  A wise man saw a commotion and went to see what was going on.  He heard these friends shouting at their friend and told them to be quiet.  He reached out his hand and said to the troubled man "Take my hand". The troubled man took the hand offered to him and he was safe.  The moral of the story is, don't ask a drowning/troubled man to GIVE you anything, instead offer them something to TAKE.

Thanks for reading my ramblings, have you had any experiences that have helped you through emotionally tough times?

Jane x

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Keeping It Real

Oh how I would love to tell you that I've had another week full of blessings!  Actually it did start rather well.  I realised last Sunday that I was going to be on jury service the week my eldest daughter goes off to university for the first time.  I was so cross that it had me up half the night moaning and whinging to God that it wasn't fair.  I was still sad in the morning but knew I could do nothing about it.  However that God who can do immeasurably more than we can imagine intervened by sorting it all out with the jury service system Himself.  I had a phone call mid morning as I was up to my eyeballs in ironing, it was a very nice man from the courts asking me if I could postpone my jury service until November.  It was so funny, I actually ended up explaining what an answer to prayer his call was! The smile on my face was broad and I felt quite excited to discover what else God was going to do with me this week.

Then Tuesday happened.  Chronic health problems really do suck, they are very rarely simple and it can feel like you are being run ragged trying to find solutions to a very complex situation.  So Tuesday was full of Why questions (and maybe just a little raging):
  • Why isn't my youngest daughter's physical health getting better?  
  • Why hasn't God intervened already?
  • Why is God answering some prayers so amazingly and then seemingly forgetting the other prayers that I have been praying for so long?
  • Why do I feel like all the fight in me has got up and gone away?
  • Why do I need to spend so much time sleeping to still wake up and not feel refreshed? 
I'm sure there were more but I'm too tired to think about them.

The last two days have involved medical appointments for both my girls. One far more positive than the other.  So does that mean God is blessing one of them more than the other?  It sure can feel that way. I know that at times like this I have to hold on tight to the hand of God.  I need to remember that He never lets go of my hand but my grumbling, moaning and self pity certainly make me lose my grip on Him.

Choosing joy and counting blessings are sometimes just harder to do than other times.  Life is often messy.  Maybe this week I have to just accept that the stumbling I have felt this week, is part of a much bigger picture being painted by a God who does care and who is able to do immeasurably more than I can possibly imagine.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

All Tyred Out

Well hello out there, yes it's little old me! Finally opening up my laptop rather than than just playing away with another game of solitaire (and Candy Crush) on my little tablet.  I am actually quite amazed that this laptop has agreed to be turned on, let alone patiently wait while it updated just about everything which took all afternoon.  So I have decided that I can't just switch it back off again but will thank it's trust in me by writing a little about where we are at.

My last post was at a very bad time, my mental health was taking an absolute battering. My youngest daughter was an in patient at a (thankfully local) mental health unit being treated for anorexia, anxiety and depression.  The good news is she was able to leave after 6 months and though we still have a way to go, progress is gently being made towards recovery.  The not so good news is that her physical health has taken a battering and we are now in the throes of trying to get that sorted out.  Little did I know that the following month from that last post I would be told that my eldest child had been keeping something under wraps unable to talk about it with us for going on 7 years.  Thank fully since opening up I can now embrace my new daughter and we can share the burden that was burying her.  I may write more on our journey through the transgender highway another time.

So did the picture give you a clue about what has been on my mind?  It is actually a real picture, taken by my youngest daughter last bank holiday Monday.  My faith as you can imagine has been taking a real battering through our many trials.  However many years ago when I started blogging I used to love reading blogs by Ann Voskamp about counting your blessings.  I ended up with quite a lot of bed bound time after getting home from an unforgettable journey and blessings began to pour out in my prayers for just how 'blessed' my daughter and I had been.

The picture shows my poor little car stranded between the first lane and the grass verge on the southbound carriage way of the A34.  Moments before I had been doing 70mph on the M40, after coming off and onto the A34 it felt like I was loosing a little power with the accelerator but that seemed to pass and I was soon cruising through at about 60mph, then in a blink there was an odd noise, followed by a clunk and suddenly my steering wheel was desperately trying to shake me off.
I had to hold the steering wheel so hard that I was suddenly slowing down and aware that I needed to let the drivers around me know that I was in trouble.  "Emergency lights" was all I was able to shout to my daughter, the correct term of putting on your hazard lights completely failing to come out.  My passenger side front tyre had blown.  For anyone that knows the A34 it is a horrible road,  prone to some of the most serious accidents as there is no hard shoulder but it feels like a motorway in this particular stretch.  I quickly was able to tell my daughter to get out and behind the crash barrier that was on her side.  Realising that there was far to much traffic for me to try and get out the drivers door I got my very stiff and ailing body to clamber over to the passenger seat grabbing my phone and also getting behind the barrier.  Now here comes the first of my blessings:
  • The day before I had met up with friends and left my car lights on while we went in a tea shop and for a little walk at a favourite beauty spot.  When I returned to the car my battery was as dead as it could be.  It took me 30 minutes to find out which emergency breakdown service we now belonged to - but got sorted and thanks to amazing friends were able to carry on our family visiting and get back to our next hotel stop with hardly any delay.  So where's the blessing you might add - if all this hadn't happened.  I would have been standing in the cold (not wet as it had been the day before - another blessing!!) on the side of a very busy road trying to find out which emergency service we belonged to.  As it was I could go onto my phones log and ring the right one straight away.
Now my youngest daughter is learning to drive at the moment.  She has only had a few lessons but likes to talk about it and mention what the speed limit is quite regularly! Now her beloved saxophone was in the car along with my mobility scooter (okay so she trumps me, her saxophone is worth more) she was getting more and more anxious about it as we watched many HGV's hurtling pass my tiny little car.  She was desperate to get it out but I had to be STRICT mommy, she was not to pass over the safety barrier for anything other than living persons.  Everything else all though terribly important  was covered by insurance!  So along came another blessing:

  • The police contacted me to check we were keeping safe.  They got to us before the breakdown recovery van.  They stopped the whole southband traffic so that we could safely come over the barrier, completely validating my insistence that we did NOT cross over the barrier for anything in the car.  Yes we were cold but we were safe.
My daughter got to ride in the police car with blue lights flashing, keeping the traffic behind him while I sat in the passenger seat of my car and the lovely policelady drove my injured vehicle to the next parking layby, there was my next blessing:

  • The layby was out of sight but really not that far so my inner wheel was not damaged by being driven on with a completely flat falling off tyre.
 Just as we were pulling into the layby the next blessing was rushing to get in:
  • The breakdown recovery man phoned to say he was very close.  This meant two blessings really, the police could go and continue their great work on our streets and roads AND we didn't have to wait long to be recovered .
So you would think that was the end of the story ....... however it was not.  The lovely recovery man asked me if I had a spare tyre and I was certain I did not, remembering seeing a can of the gunk that is supposed to make do for a spare as most cars have these days.  He did some ringing round to find a tyre place open on bank holiday Monday then proceeded to go take my wheel off to take it away to get it fixed.  He needed a key, I had no idea what he was talking about, just that he needed something to get my tyre off.  So along came the next blessing:
  •  I could not think where I would have such a thing stored other than under the floor of my boot where I kept an emergency blanket, etc.  He opened the back up, we had to take some of my scooter bits out which thankfully my husband had put in, in pieces so that I could get it out (another blessing!) under the floor was a tray which made the recovery man do a 'hang on a minute' noise.  He lifted the tray and there snuggled like a babe in a rocker was my spare tyre. This of course meant no trip to get a very expensive bank holiday tyre replaced, instead we were back on the road with 30 minutes.
The life lessons for us both were obvious the rest of the journey home.  My daughter learnt lots about road safety, she was very sobered to see that if we had broken down just a few miles further on there was no safety barrier and we would have had to try and climb (with my poor old body) up an embankment to be safe.  I now have the peace of mind, knowing that she will know exactly what she needs to do if every caught in a similar situation.

Now you would think that one tyre related incident would be quite enough for one family.  However just a few weeks earlier my husband and I had a near miss with a lorry losing a pair of tyres which we watched bounce across the motorway to hit the central reservation so hard that they then bounced back in front of us and UP a slip road.  Despite feeling quite jet lagged having just come off a night flight my hero of a husband kept his cool and we got home in one piece.

So that's all I am going to say about TYRES, except to reiterate that enough is enough, could all tyres just stay on their vehicles for the foreseeable future please!!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Hiding from Demons

I'm frightened of ...........
Starting to cry and not being able to stop.
Suicidal thoughts, despite knowing the pain suicide leaves behind.
History repeating itself for myself and my daughter.
People not understanding my grief and pain.
Being even more of a burden.
The phone ringing.
Unexpected visitors.
Being anywhere that I might unexpectedly bump into people I know.
Small talk.
Deep talk which might turn into verbal vomit.
Leaving my pain for others to endure.

I'm tired of............
Waking in the night and the hours of waiting for sleep to return.
Feeling sorry for my lot.
Causing people to worry.
Having no energy.
Preparing myself for bad situations getting worse.
Not being able to eat properly.

I'm thankful for ..........
A husband who is fighting to keep me safe when I can't.
My two girls being in safe places.
My son's few, but reassuring words.
My church family. Never in my Christian life have I experienced love or a safety net of prayer  like this.
Friends not taking offence when I can't talk or see them.
Those happy to just be with me in silence.
My GP listening and taking things seriously.
Hot baths, that's where I am now!!!!!
My doggie just being there as close as she can be.
Walks by the sea, who cares if it's freezing.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Come on a Gondola Ride in Venice!

What a change to my last post.  I am pleased to say that I managed to get back on top of my feelings, talk to the right people and make a decision on how I was going to proceed with what had happened.  All that counselling and prayer is working!  It needed to, as last Wednesday May 18th was hubs and mine 20th wedding anniversary and we took ourselves off to Venice to celebrate.  My husbands second mum (step mum sounds so scary) came and looked after our 15 and 16 year olds.  It was the first time we had been away for more than one night since my mum died 3 years ago.

Now just before we went my husband let on that he wasn't intending to take me on a Gondola.  Fortunately for me Granny Liz felt as strongly as I did that it was something we MUST do :) .

After a couple of days watching the madness of the Gondoliers working in the very busy tourist area around St Marks Square, I decided I needed to use Google to find somewhere quiet!  I found some great tips on trip adviser,  they advised going in the evening and suggested going to an area the other side of the Grand Canal from St Marks Square.  This was in the Academia area, where all the students live.  What wonderful advise it was, the only other Gondola's or boats we saw the whole 40 minute trip were the few minutes on the Grand Canal.  The rest of the time we could hear birds singing and the ripple of water made by our skilled Gondolier as we gracefully glided down the 'streets' and under the bridges.

As we turned onto the Grand Canal, we were shown where Casanova was born and another building where Napoleon lived for a couple of years.

You can see that although the Grand Canal is so much bigger than the small street canals, after 7pm even that quietens down.
All too soon, we were came to the end.  It wasn't cheap you pay 20 euros more after 7pm, making it quite expensive at 100 euros for the 40 minute ride.  It is however a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am so pleased we did and I'm very grateful to google for helping us to find somewhere nice and quiet!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Heart wounds.

A phone call ends and blood flows from the gaping wound left in my heart.  Eyes stare at those hopes, those much prayed for hopes as they burn leaving only ashes ahead.  Don't ask me how I feel, I don't know...... Angry? Furious? Tired? Resigned? Mournful? Sadness? oh yes, there is definitely sadness, I can feel it flattening me to the ground.  That is something I suppose, I can identify something correctly, practise makes perfect.

Thirty minutes before the phone call I was walking the dog, laughing out loud at her antics as she first got stuck in a stream and then swirled into madness as the squirrels in front of us suddenly all took off in different directions.

Madness....... I wouldn't have been giving that word any more thought now if the phone call hadn't come.  But it did, Madness, Mental health, Self Harm, Suicide, oh yes, more and more thoughts are tumbling out of their neat little boxes in my mind where I can usually keep them tidy AND under lock and key.

I could of course could just quickly vacuum all those horrid thoughts up, get them back under lock and key, hey! what does it matter if they are not neat and tidy in their little boxes. I'm so tempted, that way would be so quick, so.... I might need to wear a mask again for a while but who cares?

Actually I care.  There is also that gaping wound that needs dealing with.  A wounded heart needs attention.  A quick patch up job will fail, I know this and have some ugly scars to show for it.  What this heart needs right now is a healing touch, I need the hands of my maker to come and hold his hand over this wound.  He will stem the flow of blood.  He won't mind the mess, the redness, the rawness.  His hands will work with such care. His patience will be forever enduring. There will be another scar but it will be different. I'm learning from Him to have patience too. No human can say or do the right thing, right now. I shall just wait and wait some more.

New hopes will come too, in their own time.

Luke 12:7  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Something New.

Hellooooo, anyone still there?  I'm sorry that I have been quiet so long.  Sometimes the busyness of life causes us to have to re-evaluate what is essential in our list of daily tasks and sadly the blogging has been very near to the bottom of the list.  I have tried to keep my Mrs Craftypants site going as this is turning into quite a busy little business but writing for pleasure, that was no longer a pleasure.

Something or rather somethings have got my writing fingers itching again.  Firstly I was asked to be a administrator on a facebook page that my lovely friend Katharine runs ........ for writers! Secondly the death of the music star Prince, just 10 years older than myself.  The significance of this making my writing fingers itch is the sudden realisation that i have a lot of stories inside me and if I don't tell them they will disappear for ever!

The book that longs to come out is one I promised my late mum that I would write a very long time ago.  She had a very interesting and somewhat harrowing start in life as a war baby, born to a German mother in Hamburg, Germany who had a brief affair with an English soldier at the end of the second world war.  I have managed to find a few stories of American soldiers and French soldiers fathering babies with German mothers, however trying to even find statistics for the English fathers is near impossible.  The UK government unlike the American government did not intervene with policies to help German mothers, for example giving them a right to become alien citizens.

So the story must be told and I think the best way to get myself back in the writing habit is to have a go at doing a blog at least once a week!  That is my goal for now and hopefully I can use my time wisely enough to try and commit to at least 10 minutes every day to research and write.  Just 10 minutes, that is all I have at the moment, it's so easy to flitter way 10 minutes on nothing, so at least now I will have something to show for those particular 10 minutes!

So, same time, same place next week, bye for now xxxx