18 days and finding my way

The back story…

Do you have a period that can be attributed to losing your footing in this world? Mine started in the 18 days between Nathan’s last admission into the hospital and the day he died. I thought we would go in, get well and as soon as we could get home celebrate his seventeenth birthday. He was admitted on the thirteenth of March, we skipped celebrating his seventeenth birthday on the fourteenth except for a stuffed animal from the gift shop, some ice cream, and a promise to do something big when he came home. The promise was a ride in a limo around Dallas with the top down. We imagined the fun it would be with his brothers, feeling the wind and seeing the night lights. I’d never have made that promise if I could see into the future.

It was frustrating being in the hospital in Dallas. They didn’t treat Nathan with the same urgency as the staff and doctors at the University of Minnesota. Because of that, I feel like Nathan lost time. I’ll never know how much time was lost and I usually don’t dwell, but if I do, it’s the time between March 13 and April 1. Either way, a few days seems a moot point since he still wouldn’t be here today. It was while in the hospital, without an immune system, needing pain medication for shingles, Nathan developed pneumonia. Within 18 days, I was forced to honor Nathan’s end of life wishes. He was seventeen years and 18 days.

Knowing Nathan’s death was inevitable didn’t make it any easier to let him go. I still felt like I was hit by a baseball bat, my chest ached and the pain of taking a breath unbearable. The only thing that saved me was the automated ability of my body to shut down when the pain was too great.

Anniversaries pull on my heart strings. It’s been 15 years now that I wished we would have celebrated Nathan’s last birthday. I think about those 18 days with less scrutiny now but also reflect on the journey since his death.

Finding help…

Within a very short period after Nathan’s death, I quickly learned no one I was in contact with had a clue about how to grieve in a healthy way. No one knew how to let me dialogue without saying something stupid. No one knew how to just let me hurt without trying to fix me. No one knew how to support me in a way that paved the way for me to adjust with one son missing. It was frustrating but was of no fault of my friends, family or community. And for the most part, it seemed, of no fault of therapists or support groups. The bottom line seemed to be that death wasn’t a favored nor comfortable topic and there wasn’t a lot of helpful information. Not that I could find anyway.

Online support communities, especially those targeted for bereaved parents were scary. They are still very depressing to me. The insistence that a parent can “never get over” the loss of a child was not helpful. I didn’t want to get over losing my son. But I did want to learn to live without the unbearable pain of losing him.  Even saying I would someday get over losing my son, felt like a betrayal.

I did read a lot of books where authors aimed to share their story of heart-ache after loss and pass along hope. I read books that had a spiritual focus, meaning less intellectual or emotional, but I needed more.  I needed more than online or in-person support groups, to pray, say affirmations, journal or work with a therapist. I did all those things and to some degree all of them contributed. But, it wasn’t all positive. Sometimes what I found is what didn’t work for me. In the process of reading, I did learn about behaviors and attitudes that have been scientifically proven to be helpful. Incorporating those that appealed to my sensibilities and lifestyle have been helpful.

Holding onto hope…

My family did find a new normal and I had accepted my son’s death and I adjusted. I didn’t really feel the comfort I wanted deep within, but I became very adept at keeping the raw emotions of loss related to my son at bay. But, still, in quiet moments or amid chaos, I wanted to feel better. I wanted to be free of the heaviness the loss of my son had on my being. I doubted anything more than what I had already learned would help. So, I settled with excepting that the passage of more time or perhaps changing perspectives along the way may help.

More than anything, action helps…

Twelve years after Nathan died I was introduced to a grief specialist who facilitated the Grief Recovery Method® created by John W. James. I was curious. The Grief Recovery Method® was an 8-week program, so if I did participate, I would know within a short period of time whether the time invested was helpful. I decided, why not. To my surprise, the program had a profound effect on me. I was shocked more than anything about how I felt afterwards. My ideas about grief shifted, my understanding of living with grief changed and by taking the actions as instructed, I experienced actual relief while honoring my son’s life and our relationship. It was like a heavy bolder was lifted. My head was clear, the deep-seated pain no longer the same and I felt lighter. I felt better for the first time in over a decade. And it has lasted. I was left with a set of tools proven to be effective and that I could also use with any loss in my life.

Using the Grief Recovery Method® has made a difference for me. I think it can be helpful for anyone that is willing to invest 7 – 8 weeks. The program is not geared towards any religious or spiritual affiliation so is open to anyone. An appeal for me and important to my willingness to become certified in the modality. What’s important to know is that being open to new ideas and being willing to act is a key component to feeling better.

If you don’t know me…

When I found the Grief Recovery Method, I was shifting from a career in IT to that of a wellness coach. After 28 years in IT, I was ready for less stress and something more fulfilling. Along with health, wellness and life coaching, I am a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® (now Advanced) and I facilitate the Grief Recovery Method®. I wanted to add grief recovery as a modality because I found more and more that loss within a person’s life was a huge derailing factor. And the method, created by John W James, has been around for over 30 years and has helped thousands of people including me.

I am a Life Coach because with or without loss, life can get messy and we can lose our way or become ineffectual at having more of what we want. I help people achieve personal goals, improve relationships, adapt after loss or do what it takes to pave the way when life becomes muddy.

Peace, contentment and happiness are often elusive or hard to come by. I hope there are moments today that are good. And I hope you reach out and get the support you need.

To learn more visit my website. Next class times are available.

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