I think I sold myself short last week when I said that I had only mastered “surviving” the holidays. Thanksgiving was wonderful. Thanksgiving weekend was full of quality time spent with my daughter as well as friends. The house has been enthusiastically decorated for Christmas inside and out, and I find myself embracing all that the holiday season has to offer. That’s when it occurred to me that I was beyond surviving. I had found my inner Mary Sunshine. Read more
This post is meant as a complement to what I wrote in August about ways to survive and thrive after the loss of a spouse. Holidays obviously can be difficult for anyone dealing with loss. Admittedly, even this year, my fourth holiday season since my husband died, I’ve really only mastered “surviving.”
Last Thanksgiving I hosted “Friendsgiving” (read about it here). That alienated my daughter. Not knowing all of the invited guest very well, she opted to spend the holiday with her friend’s family. So that didn’t feel right either. This year I asked her what she wanted to do. She asked that we cook a meal together (anything but Turkey) and put up the Christmas decorations.
What have I learned about at least surviving the holidays? Read more
This is another week in which I wrote something that will be saved for publishing another day. When I work with clients, sometimes it becomes apparent that there is an emotional issue we need to work through before we can focus on anything else. The term we use for that is clearing. Sometimes the client needs time to be in that moment…to be angry, sad, concerned or even celebratory…before they can focus on next steps toward their goals. So as this week unfolded, I realized I couldn’t just publish what I wrote last weekend. And honestly, it has taken me all week to process my emotions.
Americans are absolutely right to be outraged at the toll of guns. Just since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than all the Americans who died in wars going back to the American Revolution (about 1.45 million vs. 1.4 million). That gun toll includes suicides, murders and accidents, and these days it amounts to 92 bodies a day.
We spend billions of dollars tackling terrorism, which killed 229 Americans worldwide from 2005 through 2014, according to the State Department. In the same 10 years, including suicides, some 310,000 Americans died from guns.
This is National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). We all know what suicide is. We hear about it. It’s something that happens to other people. I remember being touched by a documentary called The Bridge many years ago. I thought about it a lot when I had the incredible opportunity to run over the Golden Gate years later. I could never have imagined then how I would be touched by suicide.
WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.
Several of my friends have lost their spouses over the last couple of years, and I’ve lost a few Facebook friends as well. You naturally assume that when people get to a certain age, this would not be an uncommon occurrence, and therefore expected. But we are not of “a certain age.” These were people in their fifties or sixties with presumably years left to live.
How does one go on after losing a spouse they had planned to be with for years, if not decades, to come? When I was the CEO of Gilda’s Club (a cancer support organization), we referred to our members – people living with cancer – as the experts. The idea was that the experience of someone with cancer, or living with the reality of a loved one’s diagnosis, made him or her an expert in living with that experience. The medical community was certainly experts in treating the disease, but without the experience of actually “living with cancer” they were not experts in living, only in medicine.
So why am I telling you this? Well, after an eight-year period in which I lost both of my parents, a close aunt and uncle, four jobs, my dog, and my spouse too, I consider myself an expert of sorts in managing grief. So for those of you dealing with this type of loss (and this may apply to someone dealing with an unexpected separation and divorce as well), here is my “expert” advice.