How We Remember Those We Have Lost.

loss
Today we all honor another Memorial Day and take time to be acknowledge and be thankful for the many brave men and women who have lost their lives or been injured serving our country. This day also causes me to reflect on ones I have lost in my own life. I imagine this could be true for others as well. Loss has a way of changing one, sometimes in ways you would never have imagined. And I think about the ways each of us memorialize or remember those that were once close to us that have now traveled on. And I know for each of us that the need to do this and the way to do this is different. What is important is that we each do it in the way that will be most helpful for our journey through grief.

I remember when I was growing up there was a local family who had one child. I wasn’t overly close to them or their daughter, but I had grown up with her. I remember knowing they wanted more kids. I think she was 12 or so when her brother, Bobby was born. When her brother Bobby was five his dad took him along on a business trip. The bus they were on crashed and Bobby was thrown from the bus and killed. I remember how tragic this was. I bring this up because I have never forgotten Bobby, or his family. I wasn’t involved enough with this family to attend the services. However, I did go to our local swimming pool almost every day. And at that pool the family planted a tree in honor of Bobby. Of course at the time it was a small tree, however as an adult when I traveled home I visited the tree watching it grow with time. The tree is now very large and beautiful. While Bobby’s family may have done that as their way of honoring Bobby, it was also good for the community.

I realize that the way each of us want or need to honor someone close to us who has died is different. I remember when I experienced my first major loss I lite a candle every night in honor of this person. Also after that first loss I developed an infinity for angles and cherubs. These gave me a sense of hope and comfort. I still collect them today. Some people have rituals of visiting the grave site on the person’s birthday, anniversary of their death and often, Memorial Day.

If you have lost someone close to you I hope that you have ways to still honor them in your life. Maybe you have others that remember this person too so that you can talk about him or her whenever needed. Maybe you have a garden you created to remember this person. Maybe you continue a ministry that this person started. Or maybe you are involved with his or her children as a way to honor and stay connected to your loved one. I encourage you to create or continue healthy rituals that will allow you to warmly connect with your loved one that has traveled forward and left you behind.

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How Do You Compare Yourself to Others?

comparison blog
How many of you are willing to admit that you compare yourself to others in one way or another? I am pretty sure that most of us have done this at some time in our lives if not still. Sometimes I think it can happen so automatically that we may not even realize we are doing it. It is as if we are just so accustomed to it that it seems normal. Do any of you relate?

Essentially it seems to be a form of competition. I am sure this historically stems far back in our history and would be an interesting study, however for the sake of this blog I will just put this truth out there and you can research it on your own. Sadly, today we as a culture carry this generational issue with us in our families, society, education, occupation and relationships of all kinds.

I was pondering the beginnings of this comparing one against another in our own lives. Think back to your childhood. How were you doing this then? Did you have many siblings? That comparison can start right in your own home. Maybe one sibling received better grades than you. Maybe you thought one was prettier. I won’t venture into how parents may contribute, however, I know the comparisons often starts in our own family unit; intentional or not.

In my family I was the oldest with a sibling that was four years younger than me. I was naturally athletically gifted; all genetics. I also had opportunity given to me to use those gifts. I tended to be good at whatever I tried athletically. I was also naturally outgoing. My sibling on the other hand was not naturally athletic and did not have a naturally outgoing personality. The reasons for his comparison to me are many, some natural being that I was the older sibling. Sadly, he didn’t have help identifying his strengths and finding his special gifts.

Then there are the wonderful school ages. Comparisons start early. From clothes you wear to how you look to who your friends are, etc. These travel throughout middle school, high school and into higher education. Assuming one survives those times you then continue this pattern into your adult life. How do you do this in your life today?

I believe changing this tendency of comparing oneself to others takes intentional mental focus. It won’t decrease just because you don’t like it. Most importantly is to become aware that you are doing it. Even if nothing else, that is a significant start in interrupting this automatic process.

I have many creative ideas on how to alter this habit once you are consciously recognizing it, however, for the sake of limiting the length of this entry I will recommend that once you recognize that you are comparing yourself then take a moment and write a reframe or an affirmation. It may be “My name is Nancy not Sue and three things that are special about me are…” This redirects you back to yourself and the positive truths about you. In summary, start recognizing when you are doing this and then shift the comparison to reminding yourself to focus on you and your positive qualities.

For Those To Whom Mother’s Day is Not So Joyful!

wounded heart

You read of those thanking their wonderful mothers for all the unconditional love and support they have received from her. How their moms were such a great example to them. How blessed they were to be loved so unconditionally. And, they truly were blessed to experience the rightful love of a mother.

But this is in honor of the many folks who didn’t have that kind of mother. Those whose mothers where too troubled to be consistent. Mothers that were sick. Mothers who hurt them verbally, physically and mentally. Mothers who abandoned them. Mothers whose addiction overshadowed everything. Mothers who tore them down more than built them up. Mothers who used them for their own comfort. Mothers that left a lasting void that seems to forever linger.

This is for those of you that relate. Those that struggle on this day. This message is a reminder that you are not alone. There are many of us. This is written to affirm to you that it wasn’t your fault and you did nothing wrong. This is to encourage you to remember on this mother’s day that no matter what the injury was that you incurred from your wounded or absent mother, you are good. You deserved the love you hear about. Be kind to yourself today. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that it wasn’t your fault. Seek support from those in your life that are available for you in a loving, consistent manner. You are worthy and you are remembered. You are not alone.

Are You A Good Communicator?

communication
Knowing what you think, feel and want and then being able to communicate these in a clear fashion that is respectful to self and others is a fundamental way of taking responsibility for yourself and keeping off the Drama Triangle that I introduced to you in the last two blogs. With the many books, trainings and workshops available on healthy communication, it still seems to be difficult for many.

To communicate respectfully you do need to be aware of what you want to communicate. Often one responds reactively or what I call defensively. This is a harmful and dysfunctional way of communicating and usually injuries both parties. So first and foremost slow down and take a moment to be clear about what you are thinking, feeling or wanting. Get clear.

Secondly, send your message to the other person in a respectful manner. You can do this and still say what you need to say. It is important to override any fear or guilt you have in ensuring you speak your needs with a clear voice.

When sending your message it is most important to use I statements. It is your needs you are communicating after all! You statements sound blaming and tend to put the other on the defensive. Hear the difference between these two following statements. “You were late again last night. You are so inconsiderate.” Versus, “When you were late last night I felt very hurt and frustrated. It makes me think you don’t value me.” Which one would you be more receptive too?

Another point I want to make about how you send your message is to pay attention to your non-verbal communication. Your body language goes a long way in communicating to the other. Make sure you are displaying an open posture. Eye contact and facial expressions are also important. Your non-verbal messages need to be congruent with the spoken message.

The other very critical part of communication is how you receive a message or response sent to you. We call this listening. In my many years of working with clients I have found this to be the hardest aspect to do well. Most people have never been taught how to listen respectfully. When another is sharing we are usually thinking of our own reactions rather than trying to understand that person’s perspective.

When listening try to stay focused on what the other person is sharing with you. You don’t have to agree with them, but it is important to understand their viewpoint. You can ask clarifying questions, such as, “So, are saying that you would prefer I call before I come over?” You can show you are listening by responding with empathy, “That does sound frustrating.” And before you switch the conversation over to you it would be great if you could summarize what you think the main point is that she or he has shared, just to make sure you got it. Wow all that before you share your own view point! Good communication takes education and practice, but I believe it is worth it!