Last night was the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower. I am always intrigued by space and the heavens, so I stood out in my front yard at 11pm last night, hoping to see something special. As soon as I picked a spot away from the porch lights I saw a blazing “shooting star” directly in front of me. It was big and shimmering- bright and slightly orange falling across my neighborhood sky. It was so exciting that I immediately wanted to see another one. I stood in the yard for almost an hour, spotting some small streaks and momentary bursts of white trailing shimmer, but nothing like the beautiful burst I had seen in the beginning.
After going back inside, the lure of seeing another meteor like the first one took me back outside. As I stood gazing at the sky, now getting a crook in my neck, I had a strange thought. The amazing star I saw streaking across the sky when I first came outside reminded me of my first pregnancy. It was joyful and mesmerizing- a new experience that was exciting and big. Until it ended. Until I found weeks and months after it all began that my baby’s heart never started beating. My incredibly beautiful star had gone out. The shimmer was gone.
I waited to try again, prolonging the possibility of that 2nd shimmering star. Anxious, afraid, unknowing. And when I finally did become pregnant again, the star wasn’t as bright as the first one. Fear creeped in and my blazing light was a smaller streak now. But I still had hope.
When I stood in the yard for the 2nd time last night, not one streak appeared. I didn’t want to give up to easily- I really wanted to see one more. Finally, I decided I had to go in- my eyelids were giving out- it was well after midnight now. As I slowly worked my way back to the front door one more star trailed above my head with a white shimmer. I smiled. It was just like the hope I had to try one more time…wait a little longer…have some faith. And just like the final star that streaked above as I was giving up, my healthy baby girl arrived- shiny and perfect. And it was even more unbelievable another star appeared and my 2nd baby girl brightened our world.
Last night was such a great reminder that we all need hope. Whether you are waiting to see a shooting star or to find love, or to stop hurting or to have a baby. We have to keep our hope alive, so remember to look up.
Just this week, I heard someone say that when dealing with loss you have to choose your attitude. He said, grieve and then choose to move on. While that sounds good, it can be tough to do. Guest blogger, Jessica Kane has some helpful advice in dealing with loss, in her article, “5 Techniques for Coping with Death.” My favorites are numbers 3, 4 and 5, but I hope you will try them all.
5 Techniques for Coping with Death
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult challenges that people face in life. According to the National Institute on Aging, prolonged mourning is unhealthy and can lead to anxiety and depression. It is important to take appropriate steps to proactively cope with the grief and pain. Below explains 5 ways to successfully cope with the loss of a loved one.
1. Understand Who Grieves the Most
The National Cancer Institute has detailed research on risk factors for grief and bereavement outcomes. They have found that those who lack social support, have a history of depression, a lower income and are pessimistic tend to suffer more. In addition to this, those who had an insecure or an ambivalent relationship with the deceased tend to experience more negativity and grief. People who tend to cope through overthinking almost always have higher levels of stress and depression. The younger the age, the more difficulty after a loss. Understanding your personal situation and being aware of your risk factors will help with coping.
2. Social Connections
Social interactions are very effective with normalizing emotions, improving mood and enriching overall quality of life. Socializing engages the mind, reduces stress and provides opportunities to bond with others. An active social life can actually improve nutritional intake because people tend to eat more when they are around others. In addition to this, being social can help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and reduce the symptoms of depression. Sometimes those who are grieving tend to withdraw, avoid others and become sedentary. However, researchers at the University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Institute have found that socially inactive adults are 70 percent more likely to experience cognitive decline and related health issues compared with socially active adults. Being socially active results in excellent emotional and physical benefits.
3. Active Choices
According to the National Institute of Health, exercise and physical activity reduces stress, improves mood and prevents and delays disease. Being active is a key to dealing with the stress and grief while doing something productive. Physical activities can be simple things like gardening, dancing and housework. Exercise can be regularly scheduled specific physical activities such as jogging, cycling and lifting weights. Exercise has been proven as an effective treatment for improving cognitive functions and reducing the symptoms of depression. Exercise also decreases the likelihood of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Even walking 30 minutes a day will improve health and sleep quality while relieving anxiety and depression.
An ancient Chinese idiom says that traveling is better than reading 10,000 books. Many people coping with grief tend to withdraw and fixate on the past. However, travel forces us to be active, adapt to new situations and exposes us to the wonders of the world. Traveling forces us to engage others and experience life. Traveling locally or even internationally are excellent ways to leave the painful comfort zone at home and embrace the beauty of the world around us.
5. Spirituality and Religion
Most people only turn to religion during holidays or special events. However, there are benefits to both spirituality and religion. While there is great diversity with spirituality, yoga, tai chi and meditation have proven benefits for stress release and health. These aren’t just exercises, but actually ancient methods of spiritual practice and purification. Religion can play an important role in coping. While there is limited empirical research on the benefits of religion, studies have shown that religion is very helpful with coping because of the social support. Religion also provides a belief system that helps to understand and cope with death.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Legacy Headstones, a leading Ohio-based headstone manufacturer and vendor.
Every October I remember the child I lost. I didn’t lose my child at the mall, or get separated at a park. I actually didn’t “lose” my child at all…my baby died. Even all these years later, it is still difficult to say it like that. My husband and I had waited ten years to have children because I traveled frequently and I was finally settled and ready. But our “best laid plans” were about to take a horrible turn.
It was just before Halloween and I was 3 months pregnant with our first child. My two sisters had five children between them and I was finally going to join them in growing the family. I had not considered, even for a moment, that something could go wrong. But something went terribly wrong. Over the next few weeks my pregnancy unraveled and my baby, and my hope for a family, was gone. In the empty space where my baby had been was confusion, disbelief, anger, numbness and incredible pain.
Fourteen years have passed. We now have two perfectly healthy, and perfectly wonderful daughters and I smile and get misty as I write these words about them. But I do still think back to the child I will never know. I wonder what my baby would have looked like and sounded like and what kind of person he or she might have been. I still wonder…but it doesn’t hurt as much now. There was a time that just typing these words would have left me sobbing. Time does heal, but it doesn’t make us forget. I do still think about my baby. Especially this time of year. But now, I can wonder and move on, as anyone who is grieving must do at some point.
If you are hurting from the pain of grief, remember that time will go by. The intense pain will pass and one day you will notice that the daggers of grief are now a dull ache. Your life will return to a new version of “normal” and you will go on. Be brave enough to remember the loss of your past and move steadily toward your future.
- Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. You may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but do not be fooled. Understand that a man in grief will find himself in a difficult position- he will be shamed if he expresses deep emotions in public and he will be shamed if he does not.
- Be aware that men often experience anger differently then women during grief. While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward you or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response, however hostile behavior is not.
- Listen. Remember that some men want to talk, but they feel there is no one to listen. A man may also be uncomfortable putting his feelings into words. Encourage him by listening during those times when he does talk about it.
- Ask what you can do. It is very important to ask what you can do to be of service to a man during his grief, and then do your best to meet his needs.
- Keep an open mind. Remember that grief is an individual experience. Assuming that a man is not feeling pain if he grieves differently than you will only cause strife and misunder-standing.
Amid the gun shot victims, violent patients, life-and-death heart surgeries and general mayhem, I was pleased to see a story on last week’s NY Med episode that showed a couple’s miscarriage. As a loyal fan of the show, even I can applaud the choice to fill a spot that could easily hold another gritty, eye brow- raising piece, with an honest and painful depiction of the couple’s loss.
The story took on even a deeper meaning when the emergency room doctor who was assigned to examine the young mother, shared that she had a miscarriage herself just 2 weeks earlier. She spontaneously shared the shock she felt and the sadness of her husband as she received the same news, at almost 12 weeks pregnant.
It was so refreshing to see a doctor who truly understood what the couple was facing and one who had the guts to share her own heartache on live t.v. in the hopes of comforting the couple. She made a point to remind the grieving mom that the miscarriage would not have any affect on her chances of having a normal pregnancy next time.
As the show wrapped up with a grateful mother who was going home with the new kidney she received from her son and an ecstatic heart surgery patient who received a second chance at life; the final image was even sweeter. The emergency room doctor and her husband shopping for baby clothes. The doc, now 6-months pregnant, was sharing the special moment with all of us who have suffered loss and reminding us that there is hope for the future. May we all have the courage to hope.
The email was from a woman I’ve been corresponding with for years. We’ve shared the pain of her multiple miscarriages and the toll it took on her marriage. We’ve shared the fear of her subsequent pregnancies. And ultimately, we shared the overwhelming joy when her perfectly healthy son was born. She often sends me updates on how he is doing, complete with pictures of his always smiling, angelic face.
Although we’ve never met, we have a connection – a camaraderie and understanding that brought us together at the most human level. And now, she is making that connection with someone else. She’s become the encourager, the advisor, the listener. She wrote to share this with me and to thank me for being there for her.
Reading her words brought me pure joy- I knew that she has reached the final stage of healing. She is now able to reach beyond her personal pain and help others. Her experiences have become a part of her, but they no longer define or “torture” her. She is free.
If you are grieving, may you find peace by reaching out to others who are in pain.
Your sleep patterns may become disrupted during grief, especially in the beginning stages. You may have trouble sleeping, or you may find yourself sleeping more than usual to avoid the pain of your loss.
If you are having trouble sleeping try these suggestions:
- Avoid caffeine or reduce your intake of coffee, colas, tea, and even chocolate.
- Stick to a routine. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day.
- Read a book before bedtime. If a novel keeps you up, find a boring book.
- Be sure the room temperature is comfortable-not too hot or too cold.
- Stick to quiet activities the last hour before bed.
- Avoid heavy meals before bed that can disrupt sleep.
- Turn off radios, TV, etc. The noise can affect the quality of your sleep.
- Exercise for 20-30 minutes at least 4 hours before bedtime. Be sure not to exercise close to bedtime- your body will still be ‘hyped up.’
- Drink warm milk– yes it really does work. Plain milk is a natural sedative.
- Take a warm shower or relaxing bath before bed.
- Try deep breathing and relaxation techniques while lying in bed.
- Visualize a quiet and peaceful place.
- Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills. These are only temporary fixes that can lead to dependency and other issues later on.
The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.