Welcome to My World . . . Wish You Weren’t Here

Social Distancing

Flattening the Curve

Pandemic

The Coronavirus has thrown the entire globe into a surreal existence. Anxiety, panic, and fear rule our days. This new reality is fraught with trials as family, friends, and neighbors are forced to rearrange lifestyles. We cannot gather in restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and gyms. We cannot pamper ourselves in hair salons, nail salons, or massage parlors. 

Our focus is shifted toward “social distancing” and “flattening the curve.” Concepts that were foreign just days ago are now firmly entrenched in our lexicon.

Major sporting and entertainment events are being cancelled or postponed. That’s awful but nothing compared to the millions of little ways this crisis hits home. High School Seniors will not experience rites of passage such as prom and graduation day. They will not enjoy carefree trips with their classmates – one last time before heading off to college. Will they even be able to “head off to college?” 

Engaged couples are forced to postpone ceremonies, many of which have been in planning for months. Family and friends are limited in their ability to travel to participate. Travel aside, most areas now restrict gatherings to a maximum of 3 to 10 people.

As bad as all of that is, it gets worse. Many patients now and in the coming days are dying alone as hospitals impose restrictions on visitors. Those same restrictions that make wedding receptions impossible place a heavy burden on the ability for family and friends to say their last goodbyes to loved ones.

Funeral homes are limiting the time allowed for services. The limited number of seats are spread to allow at least six feet between each one to comply with recommendations/orders for “social distancing.”

The world is in complete upheaval. The constant barrage of bad news takes its toll. We don’t know how long it will last. When it does eventually end, we cannot predict what our new “normal” will look like.

Anxiety. Fear. Panic.

Welcome to my world . . . wish you weren’t here.

For those of us whose worlds have been shattered by profound loss, this current state of turmoil doesn’t hold a candle to the personal strife we juggle on a daily basis. We already live in a post-apocalyptic world. The main difference between now and just a few weeks ago – it was easier to find toilet paper last month.

Now that you are here (and it doesn’t look like your are leaving any time soon), there is some good news. Your grief friends know the lay of the land.

We live in a silent world of extreme change. We daily battle stress invisible to the naked eye. We’ve grown accustomed to living a life that doesn’t look like the one we would have planned. We have developed some survival skills.

The key to survival in a world of extreme change and stress – maintaining mental, physical, and spiritual health.

There is a perfect storm brewing. The Coronavirus takes direct aim at weakened immune systems. Extreme stress weakens immune systems. We are currently restricted from the ways we typically reduce stress.

From someone who has been meandering around an upside-down world for a while now – here are my two keys to maintaining your sanity in these unsettling times. First, adhere to a schedule. Second, do not let “social distance” become “social isolation.”

Right after Brooke was killed, my husband and I were relocated from Louisiana to Minnesota. We were isolated and distanced from our family and friends – our support system. Though my husband had work to keep him ticking along each day – I didn’t. I had to create a routine. I cannot overestimate the life-saving power of a schedule – no matter how loosely-defined. 

When life as you know it is crashing down around you, it is so easy to bury your head under the covers only to find yourself still in bed come lunch time. 

Set an alarm. Get out of bed.

If that is the extent of your schedule – it’s a start. Over time, you can add to the schedule.

. . . Eat. 

. . . Eat. Sweep the floor (insert your own ideas here – organize a drawer/closet; exercise; update your birthday calendar; water the plants)

Keep adding day-by-day. Eventually, your routine should include activities intended to boost your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Here are a few ideas.

Mental Health: Watch what you feed your mind! Turn the news off for good chunks of the day. A twenty-four/seven diet of mayhem is not healthy for anyone. Monitor your social media time. Social Media is a great way to connect. However, like medicine, the right dose is healing; too much is toxic.

Physical Health: Watch what you feed your body! Once you’ve blown through the “apocalyptic-the-world-is-ending” snack pile, buy some apples. After you’ve soothed the soul with comfort foods, become mindful about meal choices that will keep you healthy at a time when just about any illness other than Covid-19 is being asked to take a backseat. 

Get moving! There are sooo many free workouts available on YouTube. It doesn’t matter where you are in your physical conditioning – you can find something that fits your need.

Spiritual Health: Watch what you feed your soul! Say a prayer. (They say it takes about 20 seconds to say the Lord’s Prayer. Perfect for timing all of the extra hand washing you are doing these days.) Meditate. Sit in silence watching leaves sway. Paint a picture or color pages. Rake sand. Take a bath. Like the body needs sleep to heal and rebuild; the soul needs silence. 

If you are a person of faith, do not be surprised if doubt knocks on your door. In fact, it may knock loudly and persistently. I tend to battle these things alone and here’s what I’ve learned. Don’t try to battle doubt alone. The battle can be won, but it will last longer and take more energy to win. Instead – phone a friend. Chances are they’ve been tested by doubt or they are hearing the same rap-tap-tap at their own doors. 

The second point is critical – you must avoid social isolation at all costs. Avoiding isolation may be key to maintaining health in all these areas: mental, physical (with proper distancing), and spiritual. 

You are allowed some time alone to process all that is happening. In fact, we need time to process. (I highly recommend journaling as a way to process.) With that said, we also need to process in community. Here’s where we need to get creative.

We are already seeing creativity. Bands playing concerts online. Actors and authors hosting internet story time. Artists holding virtual classes. Churches are streaming services. My nephew and his fiancé married on Facebook Live with a reception at a future date.

This is the perfect time to take advantage of modern technology. FaceTime, Zoom, FreeConferenceCall, Google Hangouts, and so many other platforms give us the opportunity to stay connected in ways that past generations were denied.

At the same time, everything old is new again. If you live in a neighborhood, pull out those soccer chairs and gather in the streets. Just keep the appropriate distance. 

Dear Father, these are unsettling times. The news is filled with stories of horror rousing anxiety and fear. Overtake this fear with your peace. The world may be upside-down, but YOU can never be upside-down. YOU are sovereign and none of this current craziness has taken YOU by surprise. Let these facts strengthen our faith. May your unfailing love ever be a beacon cutting through this pitch-black world. Let your light shine through us so those who may be lost can find a way.

Bless our leaders, medical providers, truck drivers, store clerks, restaurant workers, and others on the front line of this battle against Covid-19. Bless the individuals and their families who have contracted the virus. Let the hope of knowing that you’ve already won the war give us all comfort and strength to endure these unsettling times.

SDG

Disclaimer: I am not a physician or mental health provider. The suggestions contained herein are based on knowledge gained in the school of hard knocks.

Reasonably Happy: That’s all you’ve got?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change; courage to change the things that I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Most of us are familiar with the “Serenity Prayer” originally penned by Reinhold Niebuhr. It’s a staple for those striving toward sobriety. It’s a quick “go-to” for times when our own patience is running low. It even has it’s own cult-following resulting in humorous internet memes with witty edits referring to coffee in place of courage or wisdom for staying out of jail and/or knowing where to hide bodies.

What I didn’t realize until recently, there’s more to the prayer than the verse most of us can recite by heart. Actually – a lot more.

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Purpose in the Pain

In high school, I was first introduced to the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the five “stages” of grief in the book On Death and Dying. She introduced the stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – in the context of individuals who were facing their own impending death. Later, she and David Kessler published a work, On Grief and Grieving. Both books have been incredibly helpful in understanding this thing called “grief” and for figuring out what’s “normal.”

However, there was still something missing.

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Speak Life

A sad thing happened on the way to the typewriter to write this blog. A news article caught my eye. The son of Christian rapper, TobyMac, died unexpectedly sometime during Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. It’s human nature that we are drawn to those who’ve had or are going through experiences similar to our own. Though I don’t know TobyMac personally, my heart goes out to him and his wife, and their family.

Like so many others, I look forward to TobyMac’s daily #speaklife memes. On March 16, 2017, he posted this graphic:

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Shattered

Have you ever had a rock or a baseball come flying through a window? The thwack of the initial impact is overwhelmed by the chaotic chime of glass hitting floor. The only thing left in the wake is a halo of jagged shards jutting out at odd angles from the frame. Splinters of glass everywhere. It’s a mess. 

When it comes to cleaning up the mess, we tend toward one of two approaches. Some bust out the rest of the glass and sweep it all up in one fell swoop. Others slap a piece of old cardboard and masking tape over the mess until the repairman can get there to replace the pane. We tend take similar approaches to our own brokenness.

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Grief School: Lesson #4 Today, We Remember, Pt. 2

Yesterday was 9/11 – a day when as a nation we stopped and remembered the events of that date back in 2001. Our social media feeds were filled with pictures, videos, and somber graphics. We shared the names of those individuals who lost their lives in the attacks.

Dare I say – our national grief was on full display. Even eighteen years later, we still grieve that loss. We honored that grief by remembering those touched by the events (basically all of us) – especially the heroes and their families who suffered the most on that fateful day.

Yesterday as I prepared a memorial post for this site, I was reminded of a concern that so many grieving individuals face – but particularly those who’ve lost a child – and that is sharing memories of their children.

Bereaved parents recount experiences of sharing a memory on FaceBook or Instagram of their children only to receive negative feedback. They receive comments along the lines of “It’s been three years already. Isn’t it time to move on?”

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Grief School: Lesson #3

Welcome back to Grief School! School is back in session. How do we know summer is over and it’s time for a new school year? Our “news feeds” are blowing up with first-day-of-school pictures! If you live in one of those areas that extends the summer past Labor Day (ahhh, the good old days), don’t worry. It’s coming.

History was never my strong suit in school, but let’s start with a history lesson. About four years ago, Angie Cartwright, started petition through Change.org to have August 30th declared “National Grief Awareness Day.” Change they say is slow and the movement to bring an awareness of grief to the forefront of the societal conversation is certainly no exception. We may not yet have an “official” day of awareness, but how can we not be aware of grief on a daily basis? Grief is the continuous backbeat that pulses through our day-to-day existence.

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