Sunday, June 26, 2011

Keeping Healthy After Your Loss

The emotional response to grief presents challenges to eating normally. Since everyone has their own way to grieve, everyone also has their own way to respond to food.
Some bereaved parents will say they can’t eat because they are so emotionally involved with their loss. Others use food as a crutch and constantly eat. Neither way is healthy since constant eating is not good for you, nor is starving yourself. Healthy appetizing meals is what will work the best for your body and your healing. Below is a list of foods and practices that can help you in the difficult days ahead.

1. You will not feel like cooking so stock up on pre-cooked meats, chicken, canned foods and soups that can be easily prepared by you, a spouse or children. You or they may also make more food than necessary and freeze leftovers, which are easily reheated.

2. Stay hydrated for your recovery. Many serious health problems can result if you don’t drink enough. Water is the best; you can also benefit from iced tea. You could notice headaches, increased fatigue and the ability to think clearly, if you do not consume enough water. You could also weaken your immune system.

3. Be careful of those comfort foods that can cause weight gain. Try to buy healthy, lower calorie food items to snack on. This can include: fruits, vegetables, yogurt, sugar-free items like jello or popsicles, and celery. Do see a doctor if your weight gain begins to bother you as your clothes get tighter. On the other hand, if you lose too much weight, you might try to eat foods that are rich in calories and nutrients such as peanut butter, cheeses or smoothies. Avoid candy or chips. You can also see a doctor for extreme weight loss.

4. Certain food can improve your mood or depress you. Learn what to choose and what to avoid. Carbohydrates are a good source of energy for both your body and your brain and can improve your energy level. Consuming moderate amounts of caffeine may also help you feel more alert and improve your mood. Try to limit caffeine to morning hours so you won’t have difficulty sleeping or become nervous. Alcohol is a depressant and may make you feel worse by the next day. Avoiding it altogether is best.

These are all suggestions to keep you from a nutritional risk so that your body will keep you going during your recovery. You are stressed enough by your loss. Don’t risk your health during this time in your life. Everything you do will help your through your grief journey.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Some Reactions of Bereaved Parents

We celebrate and honor fathers today- men who have provided their time, devotion, guidance, hope, and sustaining love. If you are a father who has lost a child recently or even many years ago, the love you shared with your child will always be a part of you. Gentle hugs to you as we remember on this special day. And now on to today's blog.

In the midst of deep grief over the death of a child, you may hear many different reactions from bereaved parents. I have chosen 10 reactions and commented on each one, leaving it so that if you don’t agree with my feelings, you can voice your own opinion.

1. “I don’t want to talk about my child. It makes me too sad.” Talking about your child is good for you. It allows you to tell others how you are feeling and they in turn may react differently to you. You don’t have to get graphic or tell too much about how he/she died. Remember the good times and share those. It will lighten your heart to let your feelings out.

2. “I cry and can’t stop at times.” It is okay to cry. Crying is a natural emotion and by releasing pent up emotions that you feel about your child’s death, it will keep you healthy and on the right track.

3. “I am a strong person, and will survive without any help.” You may survive, but end up with no one caring about you, your child, or your feelings. Don’t think you are so independent that you don’t need a friend. Everyone needs a friend to talk to and count on.

4. “I don’t want others to see me upset, so I don’t mention my child’s death.” If you want to talk about your child, do so. Others realize you may cry or get teary-eyed, but they knew your child and realize what you are going through. Give them credit for understanding.

5. “It’s no one’s business, and I wish people would leave me alone.” You don’t really want to be alone. What you want is for this to have never happened, as do millions of other bereaved parents. But it is impossible to change what has happened, so let’s deal with the present. Others just want to help. Let them.

6. “I wish others would talk about my child.” You must let others know that you want them to talk about your child. They don’t want to hurt you by bringing up the child’s name, so it is up to you to tell them that you’d love to hear their name mentioned in conversation and that way, you too, can participate. Your child lived and had experiences that are worth remembering and talking about.

7. “Why did this happen to me and my child.” You were not chosen, nor was your child. To try to explain “why me” is not realistic. There are no answers, and you shouldn’t waste your time thinking about it. It will not change what has happened. What you should do is say to yourself, “Okay, what am I going to do about this and how can I move forward?”

8. “I try to smile and laugh, but feel as though I should not want any happiness after what has happened.” Don’t feel guilty for having a good moment or a good day. Smiling and laughing is a healthy feeling and when you start, your whole body will respond positively.

9. “I don’t want to see friends. I have to mourn my child.” Friends are the best source of having someone to talk to about your child. Let them help you; let them take you out; let them shop for you or clean your house. After a while you will feel better, but at first, friends are necessary to help you as you start your grief journey.

10. “I must be strong for my spouse and other children.” You know others are depending on you, but remember, pretending not to hurt can be counter-productive to your life now. Try to explain how you feel to your family, what you can and can’t do right now, that there will be good and bad moments, and that you need their support.

There are many other reactions out there. If you’d like to share your experience, send me a comment and your reaction, and I’ll print it in a future writing.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Monuments, Memorials and Memories

Eloise Cole worked for Hansen Mortuary in Phoenix, AZ, for many years as a grief specialist. Her son died many years ago. Eloise died a few years ago from lung cancer, but her writings and poems live on to inspire us, make us think and hopefully, help us through the worst of times. Below is one of the poems she left us.

Of Monuments, Memorials and Memories

Eloise Cole

The cemetery is crowded with monuments…
a stone or marble or bronze reminder of a life once lived.
He was born; he lived; he died.
Perhaps a cross or rose adorns the monument.
Who was he – on the inside?
What statement did he make?
What lives did he touch?
All there is left of that life is the engraved nameplate.
Memorial plaques dot the walls of hospitals,
libraries, museums everywhere.
Contributions in memory of …
The gift provides equipment, funds, or perhaps an object of beauty.
An extension of the love for one who was born and lived and died.
What statement did he make, what lives did he touch?
When my son died, engulfed by pain,
I often wondered how I could survive.
A world without his presence seemed meaningless and empty.
“What is the purpose of all the pain?” I would ask myself.
As the days went by, I came to know
that the memories of him are still close.
The warmth of his unique and special ways
are as close as quiet reflection.
How important it has come to be
to survive, recover and reach out.
In my remaining days,
I am a monument, a memorial, to my son.
I want it to be a positive one,
to reach out and help others.
Monuments, Memorials and Memories…
How important they all are.
Reaching out to say,
“He was born; he lived; he died.
His legacy is a special one.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dealing With Others Grandchildren

My best friend’s daughter recently had a baby. It is her first grandchild. I am very happy for her and her daughter.

I have known the daughter her whole life, and she seems quite happy in her second marriage. I magine my surprise when my friend said to me the other day, “I understand how difficult this is for you, knowing you will never have a grandchild of your own, and it breaks my heart.”

It was a good feeling to know that, indeed, she did understand because she knows me as only a best friend can, and yes, it does break my heart also. But I can’t dwell on that. My friend is entitled to the happiness that only a grandchild can bring, as is her daughter, who is almost past child-bearing age and has already suffered one miscarriage.

I wanted to buy something special for the baby, and I love those small silver containers that hold baby’s first hair and first tooth, or whatever you want to put in them. I had the child’s name engraved on it, since they knew it was going to be a boy and had picked out a name.

A shower was planned; I was out of town at the time and breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to go and sit there thinking about my daughter, who was also married, but did not get a chance to have a child before she died in a car accident.

To this day, 17 years later, I still have trouble going to weddings, baby showers, listening to my personal friends talk about their grandchildren. My eyes tear over, but I try to be positive in an impossible situation. All these people have every right to talk about their happiness, but sometimes I think to myself: thank God they don’t know and hopefully, will never know what it is like to feel so empty when you miss out on all these happy events you always dreamed of sharing with your child.

Those of us who are bereaved will continue to put on a mask for the outside world as we continue our daily struggle to survive and move on with our lives as best we can without our child.