Processing Grief – less than 2 weeks in

It’s been less than two weeks since my father passed away suddenly, unexpectedly. I have run through the grief cycle with emotions. For about the last twenty four hours, I’ve been hovering in and out of a general feeling of sadness and depression.

Intellectually, I know that I need to feel what I need to feel. I know that I’m going to touch base with all the feels eventually as I go through the grief cycle. Knowing this isn’t making the current step of grief any easier.

I’m feeling very impatient about feeling depressed.

I do not have time for depression. Generally, I cope with anxiety on a regular basis. That’s tera firma for me. I stress about the future and I’m hopeful that I’ll work through it and figure it out.

The depression that caught up with me yesterday started after looking at a pile of pictures. We’d put together a few picture boards for the viewing last week. I was sorting through them, some mine and some belonging to other members of my family. I snapped pictures of pictures (using my iphone) to get copies of some of the pictures I did not have.

When we put the picture boards together, I was concerned we wouldn’t find enough happy, smiling pictures of my Dad.

I was pleasantly surprised that we found a lot of them. It made me happy at the time.

Then yesterday as I was getting copies of these pictures, it struck me that he looked very happy and at the same time was no longer here with us.

I hit a bit of over load with the whole thing and had to move into self care mode. I took a nap, woke up, practice yoga, then went for a run, ate some healthy food, spent some time with his dog (big fluffy dog named Diesel), watched some Mozart in the Jungle with my Mom.

I got a good night of sleep (quantity about 8 hours, with multiple times when I woke up and went back to sleep.)

Today, I got a number of things done, and then around 4pm needed another nap.

The depression I’m feeling is spurred on by my father’s passing, but it’s all wrapped up in my own personal, current crap.

Just before he passed, a number of good things were coming together for me. I was finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

That hasn’t changed, but my feelings about how well that is or isn’t working out feels depressed today.

It’s just a feeling.

I can take a step back and intellectually see that things are still looking up. But the feeling is sucking a little wind out of my sails.

I’m writing this, sharing it as I need to exorcise these thoughts. I do not have time to be stuck in a depressed stage of the grief cycle right now.

I may need to feel the feels, but I need to survive as well. Some of this is going to have to wait to be felt a different day. I’m well aware of this risk. Not working through emotions in the present usually leads to a bit of festering of emotions.

I simply don’t have the space to eat the entire whale of grief right now. I have a few too many other challenges that have to be dealt with or else, the whale of grief will be even more difficult.

So that’s where I am today. Speaking some of my pain and depression, trying to unload a bit of it, get it out of my system, air the laundry of my mind, take a bite of the grief cycle and swallow it. So that I can move forward a bit further, solve more problems and go from there.

Healing from Writing, Listening & Re-Reading

Good Morning!

It is Saturday morning, July 2nd. Just as I started to type this sentence the sun came out of a cloud over my left shoulder and far above the mountain behind me. It is a beautiful day and I can hear kids playing in the distance, birds singing all around me, a woodpecker tapping out a mating call and the woman I love showering about twenty feet away. I just shed more tears for Snuffles after re-reading my own article from two days ago.

Last year, I learned a valuable lesson about healing myself and growing and evolving. Many people, many self-help books and many counselors often recommend keeping a journal and writing down the thoughts and emotions bouncing around in our heads. I started doing this last year when I was exploring brand new depths of emotional pain and despair, but it did not help me very much.

It helped a little but not much.

I needed to connect with people. I did not want to dump and re-dump my problems on them endlessly. I did need to connect.
I also realized that many of my friends and family and loved ones had experienced similar emotional pain and trauma. They had gained a great deal of wisdom and their perspectives and knowledge could be extremely helpful. It was helpful for me to hear it and I believe helpful for many of them to share it.

Their wisdom and knowledge however was their own. I could not ‘take’ their lessons and apply them directly to my own challenges. 

I had to learn to filter out the lessons I could use and those that I could not. I had to filter through the lessons I could apply now and those that might need to wait because it wasn’t the right time for the situation or because I was not ready to do something useful with an advanced lesson.

The irony is that in talking with friends and hearing their truth and their wisdom and lessons, I could not absorb enough and definitely couldn’t always make a wise decision on what to use or not to use.

Combining several things – Journaling, Social Media, Diverse Perspectives & My Own Context

I developed a process that worked for me. In retrospect it worked very well for me.

1. I would write my challenge or my pain. I held back no truth. I held back no emotional pain either. I kept it as real and as honest as I knew how.

2. I shared this writing on Facebook. At first, I mistakenly shared it with everyone. It was a mistake in that it was completely unfiltered. Some of my friends and family were not ready or in a place to hear this, read it let alone provide anything that helped either of us. I was going through a divorce and some family and friends were too close to both sides emotionally themselves.

3. I corrected this by creating a list of ‘confidants’ and only shared my truth through writing with them. I had to ween this list as time went just a bit, but for the most part this worked very well. Around the clock and around the world, I had family and friends that could choose to read my truth or not as they chose. They could respond as they chose or not as well. The result was that I received a wide and diverse perspective. I heard from people that cheered me on. I heard from people that pointed out my blind spots. I heard from people that found flaws and faults in my response to things. I valued and did my best to use all of this diverse perspective. I did not take their responses personally to promote any agenda of my own. I did not take it personally when the responses could have been interpreted to invalidate myself. Here is how I did that…

4. This was a KEY STEP! Before reading each response from people, I went back and re-read my own original writing. I needed to insure I was grounded in my own context before reading their reaction to my writing. I needed to insure I could subjectively view it through my lens and find the useful aspect of their response and not get lost in their own subjective view. Sometimes the responses were written beautifully and sometimes they were rough and raw. I needed my context first so that I could apply the loving intent in the message and not get hung up on misplaced words or emotions from their words that might not belong. As these things went, I could easily find myself re-reading my own article dozens of times. This helped me tremendously in working through my emotions and exhausting the pain of those emotions, while preparing to heal myself and rebuild with the additional love and perspective provided by my friends and family.

Getting the Dosage of the Re-Reading message Right

A year ago, I re-read my own writing every time someone hit the Like button on facebook, everytime someone commented, and everytime a reply to a reply was made. I was very hurt and in lots of pain. I prescribed myself a high dosage of Re-Reading medicine.

A year later, I am in a much better place.
After my Snuffles Article I was feeling some new pain and working through some newer hurt. I did not need a high dosage though. As I received ‘Likes’ for my article and replies, I did not go back and re-read it every time. I had other things to do, life building and business and career things to do. I had healthy things to do. I did them. I am getting better at not allowing life events to throw my life off the rails.

Just took a quick break from writing to play with a chocolate lab that came by to say hello and run through my girlfriend’s garden. Super friendly dog…. 😊


This morning after breakfast, I finally did go back and I re-read my article. The last couple nights as I go to bed, I see Snuffles on the back of my eye-lids as I go to sleep. I knew I had more work to do. This morning was the morning to do the work.

I re-read my article in 4-5 batches. I’m not known for my brevity. I am not concise. The journey to the insight is as important to me as the phrase or sentence that contains the insight. I will never make a meme writer.

The tears came fresh again as I re-read my own article. It had a lot of sad stuff in that article. The sadness is still fresh in my memory as well.

Yet, re-reading it helped me to work through some more of it. Sharon, my girlfriend gave me a shoulder and back massage this morning too. She is an amazing massage therapist professionally. The massage helped to work out some of the things caught in my muscles and joints and system in general.

Hormones and other things from grief can get trapped in our bodies and those hormones are like toxic poison for our bodies, cortisol and other stress and grief triggered hormones are not chemicals that we need to leave in our bodies or brains.

Exercise, meditation, yoga, running, hiking, massage, tai chi, accupuncture and much more, are some of the great ways to get those chemicals released from our joints and the pockets between our muscle fibers.

The chocolate lab just came by again. He had a difficult time explaining before but this time he led me to a small pile of rabbit scat. He wanted to know where the rabbits were hiding. Unfortunately, I did not know the answer to this question, but pointed out the rabbits were not currently hiding in plain sight and he’d have to use his brain and nose to sniff them out. He took off again…

So re-reading my own writing after the feedback and help and love I received also helped me to literally cry out some more of those emotions and hormones. 

The Missing Step 5

5. It is important not to let the process above become all consuming. It is important not to let the process take on a nuclear fusion that ignites and becomes self sustaining. There is only so much processing that the human brain can perform in any given sitting or attempt.

We do not have computer fans in our heads (well breathing does help) to cool off our processor. The more processing we do in one session, the less efficient we become at completing the processing itself. The longer we go at it, the shorter our foot steps become. Each step towards our goal starts to get cut in half, and then cut by 60% and 70% and 80% and 90% and then 91% until an hour of processing emotions yields us almost no benefit.

We have to take a break from it for an hour, a day, a week or a month or more. Then revisit when our processor is cooled down and ready to take a full step towards the goal again. With luck and time we will reach that goal and breeze past it.

So I took two days off, then took several large steps towards my goal today by re-reading my own writing. I feel infinitely better. The tears shed this time truly felt like they had accomplished something good for me. We cry so as not to hold in the negative. Then we cry to heal. Two days ago, I cried to avoid holding in too much grief. Today I cried to heal. I may or may not need to cry again for Snuffles and the temporary separation from my kids for an extended period of time. If I do it will be to heal more completely.

I do not need to feed the grief and allow the processing and a processor that is stuck processing to allow me to fall into despair.

The sun is still shining. As I finish this article and thought, I am working up a healthy dose of vitamin D. I am sweating out some toxins through my pores, probably some of those same toxic hormones that Sharon worked lose during her massage and some of the same toxic hormones from my brain that were released when I had a healthy healing cry and more as I finish putting the bandage on my healing wound with this new article.

I have several new business prospects I am chasing down today. Some of them are coming from a new source that my friend Mike McAllen helped point out to me yesterday. He is an amazingly positive friend and has been a great help to me and an inspiration too as he has worked like crazy to heal and grow from an injury last year and also to heal and grow his own business and career. Just last week, he launched a wonderful new service called Podcasting for Events as he works to leverage years and years of experience in the business of Managing large events and conferences through his original company Grass Shack Media and now through this new enterprise that also adds in his decade of experience as a Podcaster running a great show called the Meetings Podcast.

I met him at a wonderful conference in Ontario California almost ten years ago now called the Podcast Expo. I met a large number of current and amazing friends through that conference, and now he is working to help other conferences achieve some of that same magic through Podcasting for Events.

In his spare time, he turned me on to a handy Marketing match making type of service called Thumbtack.com and I’m using that today to work through some new business prospects that might help me achieve my own goals and not just keep my head above water, but do some of that life building I was hoping for two days ago.

I share all this to let you know and see that I am healing. I’m doing this to share how I am doing that healing in case you can use or morph any part of this to help yourself heal and grow.

I’m ready to continue making this a beautiful day. I invite you to join in and make your own beautiful day! I’d love to hear how you go about doing just that as my way is not the only way, and I definitely benefit from diverse perspectives and hope you can find a way to do the same!

Grief Feeding Anxiety & Depression Feeding Life Sabotage

Its late in the morning on Sunday. I’m sitting on my porch after a rainy night, a rainy week. The sun is out and its windy, but not yet warm. The sun and the wind are blowing away the last of the rainy weather in preparation to start up the pre-Memorial Day weekend roaster.
I’m feeling …. Too much this morning, but none of it heavily. I’m feeling a bit depressed, a bit anxious. I’m feeling a bit depressed looking back at the past of a long marriage that ended just over a year ago. I’ve had lots of reminders of this the last week, many interactions with my ex-wife, the mother of my children. These were positive interactions and some of the best examples of our potential to be co-parents in the future. This is something that I want, but it does not come quickly nor easily.
We do not get training in life in how to be a good divorced coparent. Some people, I hesitate to call them lucky, might have been able to see their own parents become good coparents and set an example. Even when this happens no one wants this for their future, because that infers that we have to get married and then get divorced and then become good coparents.For what its worth, I do think there is a big difference between being ‘coparents’ verses being ‘divorced parents’. In my mind, coparents work together to raise their kids. Divorced parents in my mind are single parents that individually take care of their children, sometimes alternating and sometimes negotiating or through lawyers organize some things. 

The difference I suppose is working together for the good of the children verses working individually or working together out of forced legal obligation.

The Conscious Uncoupling movement offers up a way to help make coparenting and ending relationships more positive and more healthy for everyone involved, but its very new and through the ever snarky media has been much maligned without any actual critical evaluation of what is involved.

Today, this morning for myself, I have not gone through a conscious uncoupling experience. I’m doing my best to try and move from being a divorced single parent to a coparent someday.

As I started going through the detachment from my ex-spouse, whom I still loved, I worked to detach with love. I was codependent and didn’t realize it until after we decided to divorce, but I did need to detach for my own health and well being. 

I did not want to detach using anger to fuel my break away from her. I did not feel that would serve me well and I definitely did not feel that it would serve my children. I did not feel that it would be healthy for them to see their father go through a process of ‘hating’ their mother. I do not hate their mother. I never have. I never will. She is a wonderful person. She is not perfect, but I have never dwelled on her negatives. We all have our negatives. I am no where near perfect. 

I do not think I am very bad either. I like myself. I am happy with who I am. I am happy with where I am going. I am happy with how I am getting there. To use a rock climbing analogy I feel like I am part way up a mountain, climbing up a cliff at the moment. A year ago as I climbed, I suffered a bad fall and injured myself. I am still healing from that and part of that healing involves the fear of the fall or the event itself. But I am on this cliff now, climbing and when I look back that takes my focus away from the handholds I need to maintain now. I can see this cliff that I dangle from is very difficult, but I can also see another section higher up that is inverted and even more difficult!  

My past fall and the setback it caused, represents my occasional depression. Some of that depression is something I am feeling this morning. As I dangle from my handhold now and wonder whether I can keep hanging on and move further up, this represents a piece of my anxiety about my future. Will I slip and fall?

As I look to the inverted ledge that I have to navigate in my future, that too adds to my anxiety about the future. 

Will I be able to do something even more difficult than what I have already done?

Sabotage

I need to do some basic things today. I need to do some work. I need to move myself up and forward. I have no time to reflect and dwell on the past and feed my depression. I have no time to be distracted by my anxiety over what might happen in the future.

Yet, these are real feelings. They are in touch with real pain that I have. Shutting this pain and these feelings out is a mistake as well. If I attempt to simply block them, this is the seed of a problem… I’ve done this before, ignoring this type of pain and it came back to bite me in the form of divorce.

We have to deal with these feelings and emotions and pain. Otherwise when we are trying to live, these things might creep up on us and surprise us and cause us to slip or trip or fall very hard right when we needed to move safely.

So that’s what I am doing right now. I’m raising this up in my consciousness. I’m dealing with it in part by writing about it. I’m chasing away my inner storm by casting light on it with my inner sunshine just as the sun outside is burning off the storm clouds from last night. Each breath I take and each word I write helps to blow the remaining clouds even further away.

I am working through the grief cycle. Its been over a year since this started for me. The grief cycle takes as long as it takes. I was married and in love for twenty three years. It might take me twenty three years to fully put all this grief behind me. It might take twenty three more days, or twenty three months or however long it takes. In the meantime, this does not stop me from living, from moving on.

I fell in love again this last winter. I did not stop loving my ex-wife, but that relationship was not my love. The relationship burned up over night (from my perspective) but the love did not. I fell in love this winter with a new person in my life named Sharon. We have been building a new relationship with each other every since. 

I view these two relationships of mine like growing a forest. In the first case, I grew a beautiful forest for twenty-three years. It burned down in a forest fire and there are only smoldering remains of tree stumps left.

Near that forest, I am growing a new forest with Sharon. It is full of beautiful new growth, new trees and plants and is full of light and good things. 

The two forests exist near each other in my heart. I can even look upon both at the same time. I can love the beauty of the old forest before it burned and the grief of that destruction for what was lost will be with me for a long long time. I can love the beauty of the new forest and the hope that it represents and the beauty of all the good it offers in the present.

Getting Through the Day

Each day I work through these feelings. Somedays I have to work through them more than others. Some days I am so busy as a single parent that I can barely focus on putting my shoes on and other days I the emotions or feelings build up to the point where I have no choice but to confront them, to work through them and deal with them. I have to raise them up and take them on and clean the wounds and dress the wounds and allow them to heal. I have to work my soul through physical therapy, through psychic therapy. It takes effort.

In the meantime, I also have to rebuild my life around me. That is what I have to do next. I have work to do for my clients. I have work to do on my business as a WordPress Consultant and Web Presentation Architect and as a Writer. I have work to do on my household and with my family, with my children and parents and brother and my wonderful friends and clients, all of which are part of the family that I am growing in yet another forest in my heart.

I can only do one of these things at a time. I can gaze out from my cliff at the vast collections of forest around me, all the relationships. I can walk through those forests and care for them pruning and weeding and watering and growing them each.

I can rarely work on them all at the same time, but I can care for them. I do care for them.

Writing this warms my heart, just as the sun is finally starting to rise to a point where its rays now touch my skin, starting to warm my shoulder and back. In the reflection of my iPad I can see the wind chimes that my son purchased for me for my birthday. I am reminded that his language of love is spoke with gifts. My language of love is spoken by doing things together. I need to remember to consciously speak his language of love back to him. This is part of the way that I can help care for this section of forest.

So many forests to care for. So much life sustaining beauty and purpose that can be added to my life when I do these things well….

I breath in deeply and out again, blowing away more of the minor depression and anxiety whisps that were in my system when I first put my fingertips to my keyboard. I feel infinitely better. I’m ready to move higher up this cliff as I reach for another handhold and lock my fingers on it.

This is going to be a very good day. I’m going to make it a very good day. I trust that you will make your own day very good and care for the forests in your own heart!

🙂

Today, The day I get my shit together, again!

Good Morning! Today is the day that I get my shit back together, again.When I started this week, I had no idea that my shit would fall apart.


Life has a way of making us adapt. This week I have learned a great deal. I learned that I was carrying something that did not belong to me. Something I picked up about a year ago.

It was a truth, and it was a truth that I could not carry any longer.

Let me get back to that and unveil how this all came to be this week.

I entered the week fully recharged and energetic to take on the world. I cleared a milestone on a large project early in the week. Tuesday evening I went to a support group meetup for people that are going or have gone through a divorce or separation. For me, it has been almost a year. I went thinking I would pay it forward for the people in the group that were fresh into things.

I felt confident that I had my shit together. I could help others.

During the meeting two things happened simultaneously.

First, my personal life intruded on the meeting as I received angry text messages from my ex-wife accusing me of violating her personal space, coming onto her property and working on her broken down van without her permission. This flabbergasted me as I did no such thing. It upset me as not only had I not done this, but I couldn’t conceive how she would even think that I would want to do such a thing. I am not a secretive, sneaky random mechanic that enjoys or even is capable of working on someone’s broken vehicle when they least suspect it.

Second, as a member of the group attempted to share their truth, a different member of the group interjected and tried to tell the first person to simply just let it go and be positive. I felt that his words broke the rules of the group that should allow anyone to share their feelings in turn and do so without someone else telling them their feelings were wrong. I am not a trained therapist and was not ready to stop him in time. Fortunately, another (new) member of the group, was a trained therapist and stepped in and did stop him. Damage was done regardless.

Later that evening it gave me a chance to talk with the lady who had been interrupted. We had talked before at past meetings, but we connected more this time. She was upset and I felt rightly so. I also could empathize with the gentleman who had interrupted her. His interruption was not a good thing to do, but he is human. Human’s make mistakes and I felt he had an opportunity to learn from his mistake.

Furthermore, his example taught me a whole lot about the power of a group, the power of employing active listening techniques and the power (negative power) of not employing active listening techniques. I needed that lesson. I think it may have been useful for every other member in the group to learn from the experience too.

During my subsequent talks with that same lady, I realized that we shared some commonalities in our separation and divorce experience. From my perspective, I realized that I had lost trust in my ex-wife and potentially that loss of trust was driving her to distrust me.

My loss of trust stemmed from my learning some things about her that I had not known during our marriage. She did things that hurt me during our marriage, but I did not learn about them until after we decided to divorce.

I am a recovering codependent. When I learned these things, I did not address them with her directly. I had many reasons for this. At the time, the most important one was a legal reason. We were trying to negotiate our separation agreement and my attorney advised me not to bring them up as that might antagonize our very broken ability to negotiate.

For codependent reasons, I also kept the knowledge to myself. I felt that if I told her what I knew, it would hurt her, embarrass her, give her more pain and neither of us needed more pain. I did not address it publicly either as I felt that if I did, it could have a negative impact on her career, which could then in turn harm our children. Anything that hurt the mother of my children, might hurt them and I did not want that.

So I bottled it up, and agonized over it internally for months. We finally finished our negotiations in October and by then, I had accepted our separation and divorce and decided it was not worth bringing up. What was the point?

I continued to carry the knowledge and the pain that it inflicted until this week.

Fast forward to today. My new friend from the meetup group that had been interrupted, shared a gif with me today. It details how a glass of water, when we hold it has a weight that is inconsequential. Yet if I hold that glass for an hour with an arm outstretched, it will feel heavy and our arm will tire. In my case, if I hold it for a week, a month, a year, the agony of the ache in my arm will be unbearable.

The lesson is that we do not need to hold things for long periods of time. We need to set them down and let them go.

I had held the truth and the pain that came with it, the pain of my ex-wife’s actions for almost a year. This week I let it go and set it down and did so by letting her know what I knew. The context and details of that communication are private, but I let it go.

Doing so, caused me to go through the grief cycle all over again. I felt anger, I felt depression, I cried at times and went through everything that I had gone through over the last 11 months within the space of a couple days. It wasn’t as severe, nor as stretched out, but I had to reprocess those feelings again in light of a new context. I apparently had to do this to heal or re-heal some wounds that had not set well the last time.

I went to sleep last night, emotionally and physically exhausted after learning of the death of Prince earlier in the day, which also triggered more grief. I paddleboarded up and down the South Fork River for the first time since last summer listening to Prince songs, which of course have lyrics that are very emotional. I raised and exorcised a lot of personal demons.

So today, Friday morning, I’m sitting here after going through that.

It rained a bit this morning. I awoke thinking, it will be a rainy day. I do not want to be stuck inside all day. I want to work outside. I want to find a beautiful place to recharge me and carry me through the day.

I decided to walk down to a park near the water, just a block away. I figured, I would find a place to write for a half hour until the rain came back.

I envisioned taking that experience of working in the park before the rain came, back and using it to fuel me through my day.

That is what I am doing right now. In the process, I wandered past a repaired fence post.


I walked past some rubber necking geese.


I walked out onto a dock and noticed that someone had left a coke can on the railing despite a recycle bin being twenty feet away.


I emptied and threw away the can. I did not rail against them for being lazy. I found my world as it was and made it a little better. I am thankful they gave me that opportunity.


I noticed beauty as I walked and took pictures to capture the memory.



  
  
I found a little pavilion with two picnic tables. They were dry and they overlooked the water and a small tree with finches chasing each other.


This is my office for today. Today the world ends. Today the world begins.

It does this with every moment, every second. I have found my office for the end of the world and it is beautiful. I hope you find yours today as well.

I am going to make an amazing day today and invite you to do the same!

Dearly beloved,

We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…

🙂

Let’s go crazy!!!!!