Monthly Archives: May 2018

Overcoming Major Losses

During our lifetime, we can experience many losses. Some losses are separations, like death, serious illnesses or divorce, wherein we lose a special or primary relationship.  It is a critical time when a parent, husband or wife, child, or sibling passes.  It can be  even equally sorrowful,  if it is a divorce and there is loss of not only the person, but a way of life and perhaps the division of a family.  It is sorrowful when we lose a lover, mate, good friend or any friend ~or a beloved pet ~ who is no longer with us.  Another big loss is a miscarriage. We are numb, shell-shocked, heavy-hearted and grief-stricken. Clear thinking and decision-making becomes blurred; we are clearly not ourselves.

Similar feelings can be felt albeit, at a lesser degree, at the loss of a business, a job, a home lost in foreclosure or fire, or even relocating and losing the old neighborhood.  Loss of personal attributes, such as your youth, good health,  losses  of hair or good looks, surgeries, cars totaled in accidents, academic standing, integrity or even your good name or reputation can take their toll. They are all losses.

We all experience loss and we all express it differently. Some of us keep a ’stiff upper lip’ and others become withdrawn or they could become weepy and forlorn. There are no set rules for us to follow when we have loss issues. But there are some things that can help us heal.

Whether you have parted with a loved one or a pet or a way of life, you MUST take time to grieve. Your sadness does not go away magically when you return to work after a few days. People, in their concern for you, may tell you to ’snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’, but the truth is that it will simply take as long as it takes. It will be different for everyone. There is no ‘expiration date’ here.

As painful as it is, the grief must go somewhere, and the best place for it to go is ‘out‘. Keeping a stiff upper lift may backfire on you, leaving you crippled from the burden of unreleased grief inside you. It’s better to cry — yes, cry — one of the best gifts we’ve been given. Even Jesus cried. Tears are healing. You can cry alone or with good friends, but absolutely, do cry. You’re entitled; you’re allowed; you’re human. Tears release grief and sadness. If you can’t cry, you may want to talk to a trusted friend or spiritual person or counselor to release that grief that is pent up and not released.

As an example, a lovely neighbor of mine died unexpectedly while I was away on a business trip. I did love this woman; she was elderly, kind and caring; a sort of mother to me. It occurred at a really busy time for me and I was called and told about her while I was away. I felt the first stab of shock and sadness, but quickly extinguished it (or so I thought) and carried out my professional seminar and other things at hand to be done.  When I arrived at home several days later, it was the night of my neighbor’s viewing, and I hurriedly dressed to go, still not having fully absorbed the reality of her death.  I have attended many wakes, funerals and viewings, and I felt no feelings of forbearance as I walked in the door. Her grown grandchildren were standing around her casket and I hugged them all and gave condolences, but when I walked over to the casket and viewed her for the first time, reality struck, grief surged and I totally dissolved in sobbing tears. Her grandkids encircled to console me. I had pent up the grief and it had to come out; I wish I had done so in private so that I didn’t cause that concern from them when they were grieving themselves.  Grief has to be given expression; if not, grief can ambush us.

In your grief, be careful with your nutrition; you need your strength. You may lose sleep, be uptight a lot or feel confused, depressed or angry.  You may even be mad at God. He understands.   It’s important to eat well & drink fluids to stay hydrated if you are crying a lot which will help your muscles become more flexible during tension.  Exercise.  It’s hard to even think about exercising while your heart is so heavy, but it is important. Even walking around the block helps.  When my parents died 6 months apart, my doctor told me to continue aerobic exercises every day during their illnesses to regulate my blood pressure.  Blood pressure rises from stress and lack of sleep.  I never felt like exercising, but forced myself and even took yoga exercises which relieves tension in your body.   It helped tremendously; and will help you sleep.  Force yourself.

Lean on your spirituality and faith. God walked me through my rough times, helped me work out my aerobic exercises and was there to hug me in my tears. Let go and let God. He loves you and will help you if you only ask. He is our Refuge and our Strength. He is the Great Physician and Counselor and will never let you down. He did not cause your grief; life events happen to all of us.

If you experience multiple losses, you may feel overcome with grief that it is difficult to function  A counselor explained this:  “When you have loss issues, your body remembers how it felt when you lost them. When you have additional loss issues, although you think you recovered from the previous ones, your body and mind may remember them and ‘mingle them with the loss you currently have’.  If you have had deaths, divorce, illnesses, etc., in the past, a significant “loss remembrance” may bring these previous losses back to the surface, and you will feel all of them and wonder why you are feeling so grieved.”

The counselor showed me how to separate my loss issues individually and give each one its own expression of grief; and then put it away or put it in God’s hands, not to be taken back.  Again, let go and let God.

And I did. Once I did that, and understood why, I was readily able to function within a short period of time without that overwhelming feeling of loss.   If you are experiencing grief, talking it through at a support group can be very beneficial.  There are many GriefShare programs in our area.  To find one near you and when they are offered, go to www.griefshare.org for one closest to you.

Marie Coppola © Revised May 2018

 

Mothers are Forever

Plagiarizing the words of writer Louisa May Alcott, “What do girls do who haven’t any mothers to help them through their troubles?”    Looking back, sometimes our mothers were our troubles telling us what to do, what not to do and how come you haven’t done it already?

I’m finding as I near the ages my mother went through that  I have a maternal kinship with her that wasn’t there as we kids were growing up.    I was kinda scared of her as a child because she was the family disciplinarian – she was a stay-at-home mom – and having rules being obeyed were high on her Mother job description.   Being Italian, we learned that not behaving was begging to have the old wooden spoon brought forth.   The spoon rarely made contact, and we never tried to negotiate with it.   Along with her ‘weapon’ was the threat of our Dad coming home and taking his belt off to spank us.   Which never happened – our Dad never had to do that nor could we picture him doing it.     We listened.

I didn’t always agree with Mom – she was strict and hands on – but when I had children of my own,  I saw her with different eyes ….and still do.   I understand many of her ways now and how truly unselfish and generous she was.   She put Dad first and  she was a good role model for us.   A happy marriage brings forth happy kids.

We weren’t far behind in her attention and love.   She celebrated all holidays by decorating the house and filling it with wonderful aromas of delicious food that she provided.  Sometimes she would have something different to eat from our dinners, explaining that she felt like a hamburger instead when we finally realized when we were older that there wasn’t enough in our family of 7 for her to join us with more expensive cuts.

She made religious holidays special although Christmas presents weren’t abundant and sometimes not given at all.  But we four daughters  and one son remember the magical feeling surrounding these festivities.

She was the daughter of immigrant parents who had eleven children.  Mom  went to school up to the sixth grade as did her husband.    His asset was math & numbers and he worked hard all his life.   She was his strength at home, leaving it only to cook for the priests at church.  She also crocheted their linens & altar cloths.   Her proudest achievement  – the priests asked  her to ‘teach home economics’ at the school.   She put her heart and soul into that – one day she told me, “I was one of 11 children and the only teacher”.    Her recipes were printed in the hometown paper – she never sought the attention she got.

When I became a mother, she was my greatest asset.   She taught me so much about babies that aren’t in baby books and they thrived.   She didn’t baby her own daughters – she taught us to be strong.   When the doctor told me once that I had ‘tired mother’s syndrome’ – I called her and she said, “Eat a piece of cheese when you are tired – you aren’t eating properly and you need protein.”   It worked.  Somehow, the hardships of being a parent was offset by her humor – being silly and laughing.   Sharing laughs make a happy home.  And both parents laughed and got silly with us often.

This was my mother who watched over each one of us like special house guests, bought us occasional presents on the family credit card which was used rarely but a big deal for the receiver when she did it.   When we all eventually  left the family home, she was our biggest fan.  Up until the time she passed away,  whenever any of us visited, she placed a big brown shopping bag near the door to put things in as we visited.   When we left. it was filled to overflowing with food, gifts, clothes for us or the kids – and her touch, too,  with anything made with love for us to bring home.   I send brown bags home now, too.

Sophia Loren, the Italian actress, made the comment, “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts.  You are connected to your child and to all those who touch your lives.  A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”

Our mom did a lot of thinking about and for  her 5 children.    We are forever grateful for her caring, sharing and the love she shared and never asked for anything in return.    As I reach each birthday milestone, I am reminded of that same  birthday milestone in her life and see her with an appreciation  for each one – that I hadn’t realized before.

God couldn’t be everywhere…so He created Mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Marie Coppola   May 2018