Living Fearlessly

Giving Hope to those who grieve

Grief, like most life changing experiences, teaches us something. Fully realizing that people I love will one day die and that “those sort of things” do NOT only happen to other people drove home the fact that to live well means to live more fearlessly and to fear less. Forever grateful to Lisa McDonald and her company Living Fearlessly for giving me the opportunity to share my message with subscribers in 145 countries (wow). I am honoured to have my name affiliated with a podcast that interviews some of today’s brightest, most innovative and inspiring newsmakers,business leaders, entrepreneurs, athletes, authors … (you get the picture). the link: Improving How We Perceive & Manage Grief with… Be sure to poke around the site as I’m certain you will find more than a few podcasts you’ll want to download.

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Widow Wednesday #3

Widow Wednesday

Welcome to Widow(er) Wednesday, where I share what worked, what didn’t work and what could work better.

How to support the grieving: Don’t give up on your friends (Part 2)

What about all those friends who disappear after the first few months (or even weeks)? It’s very tempting to say: “Just let them go. Don’t worry about them.” “ This is one of those weird things that happen when people die.” There is a lot of truth in those statements. Many times our lives are better in the long run without some of these people. Death and grief does remove people from our lives and yes, that is more than okay. Yet, for some reason I also believe that we don’t need to give up on everyone who disappears.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we pursue those who disappear during those early painful days, months, etc. Nor am I suggesting we welcome back everyone who suddenly reappears after an “appropriate’ period of time (like that one year mark). We have to be wary of those who expect mourning to be over and that we can simply pick up where we left off. Those of us who have lost loved ones know this is not possible to do. Grief changes us. Coming to terms with the reality that life no longer exists as it once did is one of the hardest things we have to come to terms with; being pressured by others to do this impossible task should at all costs be avoided. So if the person sitting across from you can’t understand that you’ve changed the first time you reconnect, chances are pretty good they’re just not going to ever understand  (or at least until they lose someone they’ve loved deeply.) Until then steer clear of these people.

However, there is still another category of friend. That is the friend who more than likely would have stuck around had they understood that being available and initiating contact would have been helpful, comforting and helped us to heal. Unfortunately, because we don’t culturally know enough about grief they didn’t know this was the better way. This does not mean that those who are grieving need to take on the responsibility of educating their friends. Their plates are full and it is up to the rest of us to do the educating- not those who are hurting. It’s one of the reasons I now blog 😉

But, as our grief becomes lighter and we become better at carrying it, it’s worth revisiting the question of whether or not we want to reach out to someone whose company we’ve missed. It’s better to know than not know whether or not someone is open to reconnecting and rebuilding a friendship, even if that new friendship will both different and similar to the old one. Core values remain the same, the rest really is just details.

The truth is some people drift away because they don’t know they’re needed or because they’re afraid they might make things worse. They disappear, not because they want to, but because they simply don’t know how to stay. These people deserve another chance.

Regardless, I know you’ll be careful and watch to see if your old friend does indeed understand that you’ve changed and that it’s okay. And if they don’t, then you’ll know that time spent with this person will not help you rebuild your life. Self-preservation must always be our top priority. Save your energy and lovely personality for someone who will see your value.

Bottom line: People disappear from our lives after the loss of a loved one for all kinds of reasons. We don’t always know what those reasons are and won’t until we are strong enough to ask those questions. Intuitively, we know which people we don’t want to reconnect with. Intuitively, we also know whose company we’ve missed. Trust that, when you are ready, you will be find the strength to step into that space of uncertainty with those you’ve missed. Remember to always put your healing first.

Giving up on our friends because they were at a loss as to how to help us is something we can fix. After all, they, no doubt, have missed us too.

Looking for “Widow Wednesdays #2- Don’t give up on your friends (Part 1) click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…”  click here

 

 

 

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I ain’t old school

Whenever I need to understand what someone else is thinking, feeling or creating I suggest we have a sit down conversation. If that’s not possible I pick up the phone or set up a FaceTime or Skype call.

I’m not old school.

I simply know that computers and all of their offspring (text, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.) were never designed to replace talking. They were designed as a tool to 1) improve efficiency and 2) support new connections that previously did not exist. Over time technology has morphed into an incredible marketing tool and in many ways an expensive toy. But, no one can argue that being targeted by advertisers or playing a game online are forms of rich communication.

Given this is what I think, it’s not much of a surprise that I believe texts of any type are similar to leaving a note for someone or sending them a card in the mail: great at stating facts, not so great for sharing ideas.

When it comes to preferred methods of communication I consider text to be a step up from not being able to communicate at all. It’s a quick and efficient way to touch base, but that’s about it. Full disclosure, I even consider it to be a step down from passing notes during class. (Do kids still do this or do they just text one another?) Regardless, when a note has been passed or a text sent, at least the recipient can sneak a peak at the sender to see if they’re serious, joking, angry, or just fooling around. That reflex to sneak that peak, to better understand what’s going on, kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

Stay well,

Heike

 

Widow Wednesdays will return next week. Looking for “Widow Wednesdays #1click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

Buy Heike’s book Grief is…click here

 

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Everything is different when we grieve – even Back-To-School

Everything is different when we grieve

 

Re-visiting last year’s Back-to-School post because some things do not change.

The Labour Day weekend marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Bathing suits and beach umbrellas are put away and new jeans and knapsacks donned.

Today I am thinking of those that find themselves surprisingly thrown by how different it all feels this year. I’m hoping their teachers, fellow students and colleagues will realize that below the surface may lay struggle. I’m also hoping they will be patient and kind to these individuals, whether they are children or all grown-up. These are courageous people who are letting go of old norms and fighting to build new ones.

The loss of routine that accompanies grief is yet another one of those things those who grieve must deal with. Things look the same on the outside, but they’re not. As with everything else, new routines become established over time. Unfortunately, part of the process involves continually encountering the disappearance of yet ‘another’ unconscious habit. These reminders are painful.

I wrote the following excerpt during the second Back-To-School season after Richard passed. (We all know that first fall was a blur.) I only now realize how difficult that first Back-To-School was and that is why I write this blog today: to let those of you who are grieving know you are in my thoughts and to remind others of your courage.

Hang in. It does get easier. I promise.

Learning to live again is… sometimes struggling to remember, and reaching in your mind to remember the old routines and rituals. The familiarity and comfort of these unacknowledged rituals are gone. What were the back to school routines for the professor and our daughter? New jeans or khakis, or was it both? I don’t recall. Earlier years, when the patterns were being set, are clearer to see, though the feelings that went with them are fuzzy or can’t be felt. Is the absence of these routines and the emotions that went with them the price for feeling less pain?

Excerpted from Grief is… Thoughts on loss, struggle and new beginnings

~Heike Mertins~

 

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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Widow Wednesday #2

Widow Wednesday

Welcome to Widow(er) Wednesday, where I share what worked, what didn’t work and what could work better.

How to support the grieving: Don’t give up on your friends (Part 1)

Don’t give up on your friends. Invite them repeatedly to social functions.  If they decline or cancel keep inviting them.  If you’re concerned ask them directly if they want you to keep asking them.

Fact: Widowed in my late 40’s the assumption was always that I was either divorced or my husband was at home. When the truth was told, it was the bombshell that ended many a conversation. Run away, run away, feel awkward- it was written all over the assumers face. What was I supposed to do? Lie?

I was having a hard enough time coming to terms with the truth myself without having to lie so that the person inquiring wouldn’t feel bad. I flat out didn’t have the energy. In the end, I became one of those people who steered clear of meeting new people during those early years. No point in poking an open wound.

It’s often difficult to be in social situations when we are grieving. Some remind us of our loss because others are with their loved ones and we are not. Others, especially those that involve meeting new meeting people can be, as illustrated above, downright painful.

However, when I repeatedly declined invitations or cancelled, those doing the inviting often stopped asking. I’m not sure what story they were telling themselves: perhaps it was that I was no longer interested in being their friend. Sadly, this was not always the case. More often than not I was still hurting and didn’t have the strength to be “sociable.”

Fortunately, some of my friends didn’t give up on me. I will forever be grateful to the friend who simply asked me flat out after I’d declined several invitations to his new home “Do you want to come or not? Do you want me to stop asking you?” His directness gave me the opportunity to simply say “No. I really want to come. I just can’t be around a lot of people I’ve never met before yet. It’s hard for me to walk into a room and have to share the story of the last couple of years and to watch them look at me with shock. Please keep asking. I’m sure it will get easier. I do want to come”

Whew! How liberating to simply get it all out there. He heard and respected my truth. He also learned a bit more about what goes on when we grieve and I learned I could explain what was my reality and feel supported. He did continue to ask (because we had confirmed in that one conversation that we still wanted to be friends) and I did eventually make it to his place.

As a matter of fact, it was me who recently pulled the gang together for Sunday breakfast (new people included). It does happen. It just takes time. Good friends help to make it possible.

Bottom line: If someone you love and care about has lost someone they loved, do not stop inviting them to be part of your life. Invite repeatedly. Be conscious of the fact that loss is a hard story, especially in the early years and our lack of knowledge around what it means to grieve can make meeting new people painful. Know that, when they are healed enough they will show up.

Note: Setting up a one on one get together is always an option. When we think about it, it’s not so hard, is it?

P.S. If you’re having a hard time explaining to friends why you’re unable to be your former sociable self feel free to send them the link to this post. Feel free to use my words, anytime.

Hang in

Heike

Looking for “Widow Wednesdays #1click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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I eat ice cream: a philosophical approach

I like good ice cream. I like eating good ice cream. It tastes wonderful and I am happy when I eat good ice cream.

I also like being slimmer. But, when I eat ice cream I do not become slimmer. This makes me a bit sad.

I like being slimmer. Being slimmer in my mind makes me more attractive. If I’m slimmer my love life might improve. Like someone might actually ask me out. This thought makes me happy.

But… this means I would have to stay slimmer to be attractive and that could mean not eating ice cream, which makes me happy. Because eating good ice cream does make me happy.

Am I more attractive when I’m slimmer or when I’m happy?
Is slimmer more important than being happy?
Is slimmer critical to being happy and if so why?

Would I want to date someone who didn’t understand that some things in life that bring pleasure come with unwanted side effects?

Would I want to date someone who wouldn’t find me attractive because I eat ice cream and I am no longer pencil thin?

I think that when the mood strikes me I will eat good ice cream. I will put my happiness first. Because as we’ve established, eating good ice cream does make me happy.

Also, if I don’t put my happiness first then how can I expect someone else to put their own happiness ahead of some other equally inaccurate social belief. And who wants to be with someone who is unhappy because they’ve judged themselves to be not tall enough, muscular enough, rich enough, or slim enough. Unhappy is not attractive.

People who enjoy themselves and like themselves are attractive.
It’s so much easier and lovelier to be with happier people.

Plus, it only follows that if they can’t be happy that I’m happy when I eat good ice cream because it isn’t slimming then my happiness is less important to them than it is to me. I choose happy me, happy people and good ice cream.

* This really isn’t about ice cream (well maybe just a little).

Coming next week “Widow Wednesdays #2”.

Looking for “Widow Wednesdays #1click here

To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here

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Widow Wednesdays #1

Widow Wednesdays

Welcome to Widow(er) Wednesdays. A new way for me to share what worked, what didn’t work and what could work better.

How to support the grieving

Invite a widow(er) for dinner in your home – not for lunch or coffee but dinner. Dinner is the hardest meal of the day to eat alone after the loss of a loved one.

Fact: In the year after my husband died two friends invited me into their homes for dinner. I invited myself into the home of a third friend after a particularly difficult day. I also invited my daughter, the dog and myself to a friend’s home for Christmas Day. I started going out for the occasional dinner with other widows and we cooked for one another (maybe once) during that first year. So, of the 365 days that made up that first terrible awful year I likely ate dinner alone at least 350 nights and possibly more. It shocks people when I tell them this. It doesn’t shock other widows and widowers.

Why your home? It’s a safe place. During that first year I was often reduced to tears. The way something was phrased, a favourite song over the loudspeaker system, a shared disliked song over the loud speaker, couples strolling hand in hand, and couples arguing. Tears could be triggered anywhere and by anything. It’s much more pleasant to feel your eyes well up sitting on a friend’s couch than it is in a crowded restaurant or coffee shop. Grief comes with tears. It should also come with understanding friends.

Note: Extending a dinner invite to a widow(er) with children is also a good idea. If anyone needs a break it’s those who are trying to figure out how to become a single parent when they’re in the midst of grieving.

P.S. If I hadn’t been so overwhelmed by grief I might have thought to ask my friends to invite me over more regularly. But, I didn’t want to impose, I didn’t want to admit how awful things were and I didn’t want to appear like I hadn’t figured it all out in 3 months – because I thought I was supposed to and so did they. * It takes years to figure it out. We can do this better.

If you’re grieving and you could use dinner at a friend’s place but don’t know how to ask, feel free to send them the link to this post. I’m grateful I can look back on this now and be able to share with others how we might do this better together moving forward.

It gets easier. Hang in.

Heike

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Wouldn’t you like to know…

Ever been at loss of what to say to a friend who is grieving? Ever wondered if what you said was helpful? Ever wanted to help but didn’t know how? Ever wondered why you felt this way?

Misbeliefs.

If you’re interested in dispelling some of these misbeliefs and learning about how to better support those you love, then join us.  June 6th, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, 7-9 p.m. RSVP: Torontodeathcafe@gmail.com  This is a free event. All are welcome.

 

 

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