Apologies

A mother doesn’t expect to be standing over her child’s dead body. When I was standing next to Tyler I was stunned, inconsolable. There was no sign of the gash in his head that must have been there as he hit it when thrown from his car. He looked perfect. Just like himself.

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I didn’t want to leave him. I sat there on a chair next to him and all I could say was “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” I said it over and over. I should not have left him to move to Ohio. I should have called every week like my own mother called me. How could I have let our relationship lapse?

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I refused to leave, with my grandchildren and daughters waiting for me beyond the curtain, checking on me from time to time. I declared that I would stay until they took him away.

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He wasn’t there, I finally realized. At first I thought maybe he was lingering there above me and that lifeless body. I thought he could hear me. That he had stayed to see his mother. Then it hit me. He’s gone. So, I was able to leave him then.

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I wanted to say something at the funeral. Tyler wasn’t there, his body had been cremated. I was a wreck, so I’m glad the opportunity didn’t arise for me to speak- kind of. I’m not sure I could have gotten through a speech of any kind. I had stood in the reception line with tears streaming down my cheeks.

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I still wish I would have had the courage to talk about him when he was a child- all of the funny things he did and said. I wish I would have brought more pictures and memorabilia, but I gathered those things in a rush, anxious to get to Minnesota to see him.

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DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) has a module on Interpersonal Effectiveness” which includes apologizing when it is needed. How do have an interpersonal relationship when someone is no longer there?

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Oh, I’m sure that Tyler would have been apologizing and loving me if he knew that the last time we saw each other would have been the last time. Relationships go both ways. He once wrote me a letter apologizing for his teenaged behavior.

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So, I started writing letters to him, on a broad range of topics. When I re-read these letters I can see how much pain had control of me. But I also see how I’ve grown, how I’ve inched my way toward acceptance and self forgiveness.

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In one letter I spoke of having a need to go to a big Catholic church and sit. I am not Catholic, but something about the beauty of a Catholic church appealed to my need to connect.  I went to an old church in a nearby town, but it was closed. A man outside happened to give me directions to the new church that was replacing this one, so I got in my car and drove to it.

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How to explain the experience? I sat in a pew of this brand new church right at the feet of this enormous statue of Christ on the cross. I could hear workers in some other area, still putting the new church together. I didn’t want someone to approach me. I had fear that one of the workers would ask me what I was doing there. But they didn’t. This made me think of the fear I had about my coworkers anxiously hoping I would move on and “get back to my old self”. But as I sat there with no one approaching I realized my fear was unnecessary- there was no current threat to me because my coworkers were on the periphery but not currently in my life due to my being on disability. I did not have to be around them right now. I did my best to relax.

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In my letter to Tyler, I described how sitting in that church I felt that the crucified Jesus was a conduit to heaven. I know it sounds strange, but I felt like I was open to Heaven. It was then that I knew that I didn’t need a Medium to help me communicate with Tyler. Jesus was my conduit. I asked Jesus to wash me- to detox me.

“Have faith in Him in all circumstances dear people.  Open up your heart to Him:  The true God shelters us in His arms.”  Psalm 62:8

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It was then that some clarifying thoughts came to me. I was here at this church because God asked me to be here, so He could show me to always trust in Him and not mankind. He would get me through this.

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I knew that I was afraid of everyone on the fringes of my life judging me- but there was no need to worry about it when I wasn’t even working now.

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And I came to the realization that everything happens for a reason and I wasn’t meant to know Tyler in his adult years, but I was to cherish the closeness we had when he was a child. And because of our differences in philosophy of life, it wasn’t just me holding back from a relationship, but it was Tyler too, as he didn’t want to be judged by me.
Lastly, I understood that Tyler was in Heaven. That he sat at His feet just like I was doing now at the foot of this beautiful replica of Him on the cross. I have my direct conduit to Jesus and He is there with his hand in mine every moment of everyday.

“… You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint.”
Isaiah 57:10

My therapist tells me to keep writing those letters, that it will get easier. I guess it’s kind of like getting out of the way of own emotions toward being able to effectively accept what is and what was.

Be with People

The Bible encourages us to be with others and science backs that up as it is generally known that people who fell cared for and loved are healthier and happier. And we all know how isolation is a lonely place.

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While I don’t do as much as I did before Tyler died, I’m trying to make an effort to get out of the house. As much as I hate doing it, human contact always lifts my mood. I want to be able to help other people as well, so maybe some days I lift someone else’s mood just by being with them.

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When I stay at home by myself, I find my depression is worse. And it’s a catch-22 because I don’t want to do anything, yet I can’t stand living in my own head all the time! On one hand I don’t have the energy to go anywhere or do anything yet on the other hand I am bored with myself!

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My therapist prescribes “Opposite Action.” She tells me that the times I don’t want to do something is the time to do it! Opposite Action is a coping skill in DBT’s (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) Emotion Regulation module, but it has a lot to do with our ability to interact socially. There are many different reasons for not wanting to do something, but if you look at why, you would probably find a specific emotion behind your lethargy.
I am usually pretty happy to do things with my husband, but of course he works full-time which leaves me by myself for several hours a week. My husband and I plan things to do on weekends and sometimes week nights. I feel comfortable with him, with his support and strength. On my own I feel disconnected.

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To do Opposite Action I first took a hard look at why I don’t want to go anywhere and came up with depression, of course, but DBT says to name the emotion. Is depression an emotion? It’s definitely a mental illness, but what is the emotion that is holding me back? What do I feel? Insecurity without my husband to lean on. Disappointment in myself for being so weak. Hopelessness that I won’t ever be able to have a job again because I can’t go to it.

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These are sadness words. So I guess my overall emotion is sadness. DBT then tells us to “Check the Facts” by asking ourselves whether an emotion intensity and duration fits. Yes, in the context of my son’s death I am sad, but in the context of going to a meeting or church, sadness is not the culprit- it’s fear of being stuck somewhere that I don’t want to be.

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This fear creates the “Action Urge” of my wanting to hang around the house instead of going out somewhere. My urge is to wander around the house and yard aimlessly waiting for something to peak my interest that I might like to do. The urge is to stay in depression rather than get up and do something.

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The next step is to ask Wise Mind (God) whether acting on this urge is effective or not. I know it’s not! Inactivity is a depression maintaining behavior so of course it’s not effective! I know that God doesn’t want me to be depressed and do nothing. His word calls for me to be with others- in community. To focus less on myself and more on helping someone else.

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This is where I pray. I pray to have the Lord show me what I can do to help someone else. I pray for god to give me the courage to step out and commune with others- to put someone in my path that needs me. Maybe it’s a clerk at a store that needs a bright smile and kindness or maybe God will match my steps with someone I know who invites me to do something or asks for my help.

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It is up to me to identify what the opposite action will be. I don’t want to leave the house, so I might go for a walk around the neighborhood. I don’t want to go volunteering but I go anyway. And when I do this opposite action, DBT tells me to do it “all the way” fully participating, and to keep doing it until my action urge goes away.

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Often times I feel better after I have done something. The meeting wasn’t so bad and I enjoyed being with people. The walk was beautiful and the wieners found all kinds of fun stuff in the park. The clerk at the store was thoughtful and pleasant.

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My relationship with others has improved since stepping out a bit, but I have a long way to go with it. I can do this with God’s help and my supportive family!

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:5

While I was Grieving-They were too

While I was grieving, others were grieving too. My daughters were grieving the death of their brother. My husband was grieving ME. Where was I in this? Caught up in my own grieving!

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DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) spends a good amount of its “Interpersonal Effectiveness” module on getting what you want from others, but it seemed like I was pretty good at doing that. What I wasn’t good at was giving to others that are hurting as well.

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My grief immobilized me. I was despondent, hopeless, despairing.
Meanwhile, my husband was trying hard to navigate around me. He was hopeless, despairing as to how to help me. Walking on eggshells as they like to say. Would I try to commit suicide again? Would I stay in bed all day? Would I keep coming home from work, hours early, to sit and stare?

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He was grieving our life together. Grieving the things we used to do together, dining out, shopping, concerts. I didn’t want to do any of those things anymore.

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My daughters were hurting. They lost their brother and now they were watching their strong mother fall apart. Would they lose Mom too? Their brother was gone- just gone. How could that happen- that someone could just disappear? And when did they see him last? What had they said and why didn’t they know it was the last time? What would they have one differently?

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My sisters and brother were far away in Minnesota, unable to see my day by day destruction but catching glimpses of it through phone calls. They knew I was getting help, but to what extent? How could they help me? Should they get on a plane and head South? Should they put their lives on hold and get me through this?

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Research suggests that when you are grieving you will most likely experience both physical and mental health issues and you will be less able to cope socially. Believe it or not, there are not people who are “stronger” than others. Even so called “strong” people will find themselves having problems coping in difficult situations.

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It was described to me once as an analogy with a rain barrel. Stress builds up with everyone like drops of water in that barrel. If you are not relieving your stress, the barrel just keeps filling up. Maybe your barrel is almost full and some seemingly small bit of stress overflows it, sends you off the edge so to speak. So, it’s not a matter of some people being stronger than others, their rain barrel just isn’t as full.

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I had no idea how full my husband’s barrel was because I was oblivious to all this. My daughters needed a Mom. My family needed me, but I didn’t see it. It was Me, Me, Me– and by the time I did see it, it was hard for me to do anything about it. Then my DBT class began to work on Interpersonal Skills. In my homework, I had to think about listening and understanding others. I realized that I hadn’t even thought about it.

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By this time I had begun to use the Bible with my studies and was trusting God with all my heart trying to break through. I came to a verse from Hebrews:

“Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love…” Hebrews 10:24

I have children who are alive! What is going on with them? We are not close anymore, because I push everyone away! What does it say about a mother who thinks constantly about her dead son and not of her other kids? I don’t mean to say that I ignored them or that I wasn’t there for them when they were in trouble-but I wasn’t there for them! Nor was I there for my husband either, as he struggled through the bleakest hour of his own life: caring for me, thinking he was going to lose me. My youngest daughter was fretting over possibly losing her mom- her touchstone.

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Psalm 127 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

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In DBT, we are taught to look at another person’s perspective and acknowledge their emotions, thoughts and behaviors. And to seek to understand the other person’s suffering and difficulties. My goal in class was to “Stop people from worrying about me” and to “Make an effort to find out how they are doing.”

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It begins with describing a situation in which I was non-judgmental and then used validation, in my daughter’s instance it was acknowledging how my grief was taking a toll on her and telling her how I understood that she was going through pain too. Afterward I felt grateful that my eyes were opened to her pain- and my husband’s and other daughter’s as well.

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For the first time, I really saw what my son’s death and the aftereffects was doing to my family. I pledged to myself that I would be more mindful of them. That I would make an effort to really see and listen to their difficulties without passing judgement on myself for being so self-consuming.

Storing up Positive Emotions and Experiences

“She needs a lot of hand-holding.” We’ve all heard that phrase and probably regard it as a negative. It’s someone who is needy and can’t do things on her own. But is it really negative? Who hasn’t needed a hand to get something done? And the positive is that in the Gospel of John, The Lord tells us that He will never let go of our hand. God wants us to be needy- but not needy for people to hold our hand- needy for His Hand.

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Build this up as a positive experience with God. When He holds our hand we are blessed- and who would ever call a blessing a bad thing? Store up His blessings in your mind and call upon them when you are down. Write them down if you need to. Keep a list of gratitude’s- anything that works as a tool to remind yourself of the good things.

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That’s what storing up positive experiences is all about. They can be used to make your mind move on from a bout of sadness or to become one of your coping strategies when you are burdened with problems.

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When my girls were little they used to color little posters for their sisters. They would start by asking, “What’s your favorite color?” Then in the middle of the page they would draw the name of the sister and using the favorite color palette they would write and draw and use stickers to represent all of the things that sister liked to do “Loves dogs” “Loves to read”, along with positive attributes about them like “Funny” “Pretty” and favorite food “Ice Cream” “Broccoli” (ha ha) etc. The recipient would then hang that poster in a wall of their room. They were so cute!

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In my journal I made one of these for my son after he passed. I wanted to remember everything about him. I colored his name in the middle and surrounded it with his hobbies, things he was good at like fishing and car mechanics, and what he was like- “Awesome Dad.” It wasn’t so artistic- that’s not one of my gifts, but I liked it, and that’s what counts!

Tyler positive poster
What if God made a poster for you? It might say things like “Redeemed”, “God’s child”, “Loves Jesus”, “Like an Eagle!” Try it. Make your own replica of a colored page of what you believe God thinks of you- keep it completely positive. Hang it up in your bedroom or office or just keep it secret in your journal. You can always go back and look at it when you need to give yourself a lift- Even if it’s just to laugh at your drawings!  This is mine!

What God says about me (2)

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If you’re having trouble thinking of good things about yourself, meditate on it- read the Bible about what God says about His children and allow Wise Mind (God) to show you how much He loves you!

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”
1 Corinthians 6:19

 

 

 

 

Shine it on Me Jesus!

DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) tells us we can regulate our emotions (the unwanted ones) by accumulating positive experiences and be unmindful of worries. I have also heard this called Emotion Management, but I like to call this Emotion Leveling. This can be done by regularly participating in pleasant events. By doing this, you can build up a bank of happy things. It helps you to get out there and enjoy something. But you don’t even have to leave your house! Do fun things at home, by yourself or with others. Just do things you like to do or be creative with new things!

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I wonder if, when we are at our lowest, that is when God shines us with realization of creativity or potential. He shines up the spirit we have inside of us to do new things, new talents. My Dad was ill for a few years with emphysema, he was later healed, which I will tell you about later. His name was Marvin, a self-employed accountant, and in his late sixties his disease hit him like a ton of bricks. He couldn’t breathe without oxygen tied to his back and he was so exhausted he didn’t work much.

My Mom was a stay at home so she had no money coming in to supplement the household. I am the youngest and I was out of the house, so they didn’t have any children to support, but it was very difficult for them. Their church and their friends were amazing! Often times my Mom would find anonymous cards with money inside in their mailbox. Looking back, I don’t know how they did it!

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When my Dad was sick, he began to putter around the garage and started to make wooden plaques from scraps of board. He would find these odd shapes and somehow, like a puzzle, put them together to become a picture. Then he would stain them. He didn’t sell them, but gave them away, so this didn’t increase their income at all, but it gave my Dad a sense of accomplishment and the realization of a talent he never knew he had!

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God did that!

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Later, we found my dad’s typewritten testimony in his Bible. It was all about being positive and focusing on the good. God healed him, and he felt that the grace God gave him to have a positive outlook and a sense of gratitude was instrumental in his healing. He later died of an unrelated illness- Diverticulosis.

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My brother Robb started wood working and making lamps from pipes when he was coping with his Leukemia treatments. He now has a huge workshop with all kinds of fancy equipment! He created a beautiful memory plaque inscribed with my Dad, Mom and son’s epitaph together engraved on wood. Having this outlet, this woodworking, allowed my brother to do something other than focus on his disease and treatment.

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God did that!

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I am writing. Something that has always been my passion. I feel like God is guiding me, inspiring me and, yes, pushing me, to create this memoir that could possibly help others who are grieving, depressed and lost, to find Him again, like I did. And I am so excited about writing! Somedays I can hardly wait to open up the laptop and pluck away at the keys!

Gratitude’s for Emotion Levelling

DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls it “Emotion Regulation” but that sounds harsh to me- so I like to call it Emotion Levelling. I hate the thought of regulating emotions and it seems to me that it would be softer, gentler, to level out or balance our emotions. I like the thought of unwanted emotions drifting away from me and the word “regulation” doesn’t really fit with that soft drift. It’s the same concept though, I just changed the title.

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The Bible tells us to be grateful and full of thanks even in times of distress. A few years ago, I attended a DBT class every day, all day for two weeks. The requirement was to write out 20 gratitude’s every morning and every evening. This morning I took out my notebook from that class and looked over all of the gratitude’s I had written twice a day.

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I was surprised and thoughtful as I looked through them. My dog must have been having problems with her paw and each day I noted that I was thankful she was getting better and better. I also wrote some funny things like, “Bandit went outside effectively” ha-ha! We were potty-training him! Every day I catalogued the things I was thankful for and it came to me as I read them that my mood lifted significantly as I pored over them.

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“Give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourselves in.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

I remember some days trying hard to get to 20 but reading back I don’t see any gratitude’s that were insignificant or stupid. They all made sense. Put in perspective of time, this class was shortly after my son’s death, the darkest part of my life- but every day I had 40 things to be grateful for. It was Winter, so I regularly wrote that I was grateful I had a car with heat.

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You can take any notebook or even scrap paper to write your gratitude’s, but I have provided a simple template Gratitude’s Printable PDF that you can use if you like. I find it helpful to write the date on the sheets. It’s interesting to go back and look at them with a date providing context.

Making Gratitude’s work for you:

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When you are complaining: Complaining makes your mood worse. You’re being willful when you refuse to stop complaining. Gratitude’s shift our mind from what’s wrong to what’s right.
When you’re depressed: Depression causes us to focus on ourselves and our problems. Gratitude’s help us to focus on satisfying and good things in our lives.
Gratitude’s are Bible Based: God wants us to be happy. The word JOY is mentioned 102 times in the Bible, PRAISE 222 and depending on what version you read LOVE appears between 310 and 538 times. PLUS, there are about 35 verses in the Bible about gratitude and thanksgiving.

“Come face-to-face with God, and give thanks; with loud and joyful voices, praise Him in songs.” Psalm 95:2

Gratitude’s can change our minds: Regularly writing out our gratitude’s can plant seeds of content in our daily lives. We switch our thoughts from those negative clingy ones to the positive. We even begin to recognize, in the moment, things to be grateful for so we can add them to todays’ list.
Gratitude’s help us sleep: Writing out our Gratitude’s in the evening can lower our stress levels and give us calm sleep according to research done by the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida.
I’m sure that if you give it a try, you’ll come up with a lot of personal benefits of being grateful and keeping a journal about it.

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“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” ―A.A. Milne

Gratitude’s Printable PDF

My Yoke is Easy- Mindfulness Exercise

I close my eyes and see all of my negative thoughts swirling around me

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My head is bent under the weight of it all

I breathe in “Praise
I exhale “Jesus”

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“Come to me,” Jesus says, “all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

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Breathe in “Praise”, breathe out “Jesus.”

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Meditate on God’s creation, the moon, stars, skies.
Listen to creation, the wind, rain, birds.

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As I continue to breathe I feel my yoke lessening.
I begin to relax and enjoy the present moment. I am one of God’s creations and I belong here- for now-amidst creation’s glory.

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Jesus has replaced my heavy yoke with one of feathers.
I feel them, soft and light on my neck. I am free.

A joy filled heart is a curative balm

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I have found rest for my soul.
I stay here for as long as I like.

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light. Matthew 11:28-30

Half-smiling and Willing Hands

Half-smiling is a kind of a trick for your mind, like it’s harder to be angry when you’re smiling. And Half smiling gives me a posture of joy when my inner being is feeling despair. An open posture, chest out and hands open, is often used in Yoga and meditation. DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls this Wiling Hands.

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It’s an attitude adjustment. Gratitude. Grace + Attitude = Gratitude

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When my parents were middle aged they began to frequent a Pentecostal church. At the time, I was newly married and pregnant with my son, Tyler, so I really didn’t have anything better to do on Sunday nights, what with my friends being partiers and all, so I joined them at the worship service.

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Wow! People were holding up their hands in praise during worship songs that seemed to go on forever. At this church there was new music that would compel you to just “be” in the presence of God. Some people just bent their elbows at their sides and cupped their hands up to receive and give blessings and praise.

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I connected this memory to the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of “Half-smiling with Willing Hands.” The process is to relax your face, let both corners of your mouth go slightly upward, and adopt a serene facial expression. Drop your arms to your sides, bent slightly at the elbows and unclench your hands turning your palms up with your fingers relaxed. This posture is very close to the congregants at my mom’s church, heads bent upward smiling with open hands at sides, facing Heaven.

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I’m not able to lay on the ground next to the physical being of Jesus like Mack did (see last post), but I can raise my tulip face to heaven and let Him light it up! I would smile if that happened, so it comes easily to think of that and get my face in the Half-smiling position. The willing hands comes so easily to me in this pose. I want His hands in mine and I readily make mine available. Then, I just bask in it. In His Glory.

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In DBT this practice is used when you realize and accept that you are in a situation that you cannot change, like my feelings of regret. In my daily life, as God brings me closer to him, I often read something in His Word that makes me break out into a smile. I call these thoughts up as I get into my Half-smiling posture.

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“Have faith in Him in all circumstances
Dear people.
Open up your heart to Him;
The true God shelters us in His arms.” -Psalm 62:8 VOICE

Regret is an emotion that I don’t want to keep around but it’s tough to eradicate. I’m reminded of my Mom’s own battle with regret. Before she passed, I got a very small peek into her heart when she was in Hospice. One day a Psychologist came to see her and knowing how important this was in the dying process, I tried to offer her some privacy by excusing myself into her bedroom as they spoke. I wasn’t listening in, but my Mom’s apartment was small, and I heard the doctor ask my Mom if she had any regrets. My Mom answered that she regretted she could never please her dad.

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I was astounded! My Mom was 82 years old and her dad passed decades before. Could she really still have regrets about that? It was quite a learning for me to realize there are some things that stick. Negative things can stay a part of our inner monologue for a very long time, even for our whole lives. These are things that may not be able to be changed. Certainly, in my Mom’s case, those events from her childhood could not be re-lived. Oh, how I wish I could have taken that feeling away from her!

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I guess right now what I am doing to help me with my regrets is to focus on Tyler in Heaven knowing how much I loved him. The facts are clear, I made certain decisions and I can’t go back and change them. Refusing to accept that will only keep the guilt fresh. And by re-reading what I’ve written I see a lot of “what ifs” and “If only’s.

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This clues me into the idea that I may be making a lot of assumptions about how Tyler saw everything.

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If I had changed the timing of my move, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now. The girls’ lives would be different, I would be different, my husband’s life would be different and I won’t assume to believe that means better. God tell us that we are where we should be. He attends to our pain and he walks it with us. I need to be willing to allow him to heal my regret. I wonder if a part of me really doesn’t want to let it go? I can see that a long term project for me might be digging into that with my therapist.

“I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 30:17 NLT

The Great Sadness

This Spring, I bought this tulip plant at the grocery store. It was one of those type of plants that have a root ball and you are supposed to rip off the cardboard surrounding the root and plant it. The problem was that we hadn’t passed the intermittent frosts, yet, so I was afraid to plant it.

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Tulips are my favorite flower and it always bugs me that they have such a short life as a flower! Sure, it’s a bulb so wherever you plant it, you know it continuously comes back every year, but you have to wait a whole year to see it again! Who has that kind of patience?

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But when it flowers again the following year, it revives with even more blooms and deeper greener leaves- a better version of itself. So I put it in a crock and some water in the pure sunlight of my kitchen window.

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In this fashion, God plants us here on Earth and loves us, talks to us, gives us lots of His light and waits to see what we’ll become. I imagine we are similar to the tulip in that we are one way for a time and then we change our course and turn out to be a bigger better version as the seasons of our lives pass.
I choose to look at my set of circumstances this way. I am going to become a better person now, than I was last season.

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Jesus responded, “Beloved daughter, your faith in me has released your healing.
You may go with my peace.” –Luke 8:48

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To me, becoming a better person means coming out of my “Me! Me! Me!” state and helping others. It means living each day excited to see what God has in store for me and making the most of it. It also means taking some old clinging feelings and digging into them, so they can leave me. I can say with assurance that Grief is one of those feelings, but the worst one, which in my case is always paired with the grief is Regret.

In the book “The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young, Mack is struggling with the loss of his daughter and he is filled with regret for not being there to save her from her horrendous suffering then death. Mack calls his emotion “The Great Sadness.” I can relate to this. Although the circumstances of Tyler’s death are very different from Mack’s Missy, I have “The Great Sadness” just as well.

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Although I worked a lot, I took time to meet with Tyler’s teachers frequently, sometimes once a week to see what I could do to help him succeed. And I prayed. I prayed and prayed for him. I wanted to get out of the marriage, but I didn’t know how, and I thought I should be yoked for life. I remember reading about being un-equally yoked which I understood to be a Christian woman married to an Agnostic man. So, I prayed for my husband to find God, to come with us to church as Tyler and I went every week. But that didn’t happen, and instead of finding my way out of the marriage, God blessed me with two more children, Hillary and Kendall. With the girls around things changed a little bit and my husband was less antagonistic.

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Finally, when Kendall was four, Hillary six and Tyler fifteen, I asked my husband to leave, and he did. I didn’t realize that fifteen was a horrible age to have such a life changing event in a young man’s life! So, you can see my regrets popping up in this story: Regrets for not leaving my marriage sooner, my regret for not standing up for myself and Tyler at home, and even though I don’t regret sending my husband packing, I regret the timing. Timing is everything.

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Regret is a “Guilt” word. It’s being reminded of something wrong you did in the past, and I can’t help thinking “if only.” Oh, I had always made resolutions to change during my marriage, to be more forceful and insert my own parenting skills into the equation, and once I was on my own with the kids I did that. I can’t help thinking that in Tyler’s case it was too late.

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When Tyler died, I was understandably inconsolable I can pray for release of my suffering, I can continue my therapy and find the DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) skills that work.
Now, I like to think that Jesus has bestowed upon my son a clear picture of my love for him. And He has bestowed upon me that we are always right where we need to be. I know this, but this is my burden, “The Great Sadness” in my life and I am working everyday to relieve the suffering. But I am planted, not buried, and God is opening me up like a flower to show me the good times like sunshine on my little tulip face.

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In one of my favorite passages from The Shack, Jesus is lying next to Mack and they are looking up into the deep night sky. Mack is happy and he is laughing with Jesus:

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“Mack lay there realizing that he was now feeling guilty about enjoying himself, about laughing, and even in the darkness he could feel The Great Sadness roll in and over him.
     ‘Jesus?’ he whispered as his voice choked. ‘I feel so lost.’
A hand reached out and squeezed his and didn’t let go. ‘I know, Mack. But it’s not true. I am with you and I am not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly, you are not lost.

IMPROVE: SELF ENCOURAGEMENT

Robert Schuller said, “It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.”

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Do you love yourself? When you look in the mirror or examine your heart, do you appreciate yourself? I have a hard time with this because I think I’m hard-wired to find flaws in everything, most of all myself. Have you heard the statement that you’re “harder on yourself than you are on others?” That’s me. Lots of self-judgment going on in my world.

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I was in a class once during which we were asked to look at the alphabet and choose one positive trait about ourselves, one word for each letter. After writing 26 different words, we were then instructed to cut out each word separately and place the words in an empty jar. We got arts and crafty decorating the jar, so it would look pretty on a shelf. Sometimes, when I’m being self-deprecating, I pull out a couple traits that I wrote about myself just to remind me that I love myself. Frequently this works for me and other times I think the jar is dumb and it’s just full of a bunch of words.

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I’ve also used my prayer / meditation time to contemplate a particular trait that I want to emulate right now. Using Yoga Nidra, we are asked to make an “intention” and state it three times before mentally completing a body scan. My intentions are positive affirmations of who I want to be today, in this moment, such as “I am smart” when I am feeling the opposite. If you are interested, you can access some guided Yoga Nidra audio on You Tube.
I once drew a colorful calendar in my journal and every morning I wrote down the answer to I am…. “I am Relaxed, Grateful, Blessed, Honest, etc.” The only rule was that it had to be a positive thing. Subsequently I would try to make sure my actions throughout the day illustrated that word I had decided on.

“This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I use the skills for IMPROVE the Moment when I am deeply sad and depressed, tied up with anxiety over things that I cannot control. There are times that I don’t feel like using the coping skills. It’s so much easier just to give in to the negative. In DBT, (Dialectic Behavior Therapy,) this is called being “Willful.” I think this is one of the reasons why I didn’t consult God in daily prayer, as well.
I know that God is in control of what is happening next in my life, what is happening now and what has already happened. When things are really bad, it’s just so hard to believe that. I thought it was easier to stay in bed- to mindlessly watch tv- rather than drudge all that up to God. I also think I was afraid that He wouldn’t answer me. Isn’t it easier to act out instead of confessing?
I thank God that He provided these strategies to help me out of the gloom, as well as the experts who work with me every week.