Prayer Warrior

It’s a typical Hospital Gift shop, although more beautiful than most. I’ve been in gift shops where things are crammed into a small space and you have to dig around for what you’re looking for. Not so, at the hospital that I volunteer. It’s bright, with wide aisles that accommodate wheel chairs and walkers.

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Most of our customers are either hospital personnel or family members choosing a gift for a new baby or flowers for a loved one, but many of them are just killing time while a loved one gets a test of some kind.

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The most amazing thing about this gift shop, to me, is that it is a battleground for prayer. Every single day there is at least one story that I am told that prompts praise to God for a cancer that’s gone, or a test gone well. There are also people filled with fear and anxiety over crucial physical problems.

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My job entails stocking shelves and cashing people out at the register with their purchases, but my main job- not written in the list of duties, but one given to me by God, is to talk to every person, hear their story and pray- hard.

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When I ask customers how they are doing, or what they have going on today, they are open with the truth. “I am stressed because…” “We are joyous because…” I ask questions and they open up more, they look me in the eyes, and I see their need for human and divine contact. I have never been rebuffed and am always thanked for asking- for caring-for praying. I think that lots of people need an outlet for this emotional tidal wave that has hit them.

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The other day, a family of women of various age walked in. They were looking for a cap for their mother who had lost her hair from chemotherapy in her fight against breast cancer. As we spoke, their story came out about the rough three weeks they had lived through- not with their mother’s cancer, but with their father who was in a room in the hospital.

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The father had come into Emergency, been sent home, and then came back because he was desperately ill. One daughter told me that they had been planning his funeral as the doctors had exhausted all tests and he had not improved. Then, one doctor thought to try just one last test, a thyroid test. And as miracles happen, this doctor found the problem and the man was healed, ready to go home in a day or two! We praised God together! He lined up the steps of that doctor with this man’s needs.

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On the same day, some customers were looking for a gift for their grandmother who had just had surgery and had been pronounced cancer free! I praised God with both of these groups. It was so joyous! And these types of stories happen daily.

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Earlier, a woman came in, disoriented, just browsing, picking up this and that and putting it back down. As is my norm, I asked how her day was going. She told me she just found out her husband’s cancer was back after he had been in remission. She could barely think; she was so distracted. “I don’t even know what I’m doing,” she told me. I touched her arm and told her I would pray for her and her husband. She readily gave me his name- a believer who wanted God’s healing power on her loved one.

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I only work once per week as a volunteer in the shop, but every day I work there is prayer to be done. Sometimes I write down the names of people to pray for and sometimes, I just remember them. I am still praying for “Margaret” who was in cardiac arrest and was going to be taken off her respirator. That was a few weeks ago. I don’t know what happened with Margaret, but the Lord continues to urge me to pray for her regularly.

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I do not work, because of health problems, and that situation has given me a great deal of anxiety. I often ruminate about what I will do with my life, day in and day out. But recently I read a scripture in The Message (my favorite Bible version).

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“So be content with who you are and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God. He is most careful with you.” Peter 5: 6-7

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Miraculously, in me, when I spend time with these folks, I can’t ruminate about my own problems. Jesus replaces the focus from myself to others and ultimately to Him.
The Holy Spirit has given me this Prayer Warrior position. Is this my promotion?

Values

I have this re-occurring dream that I cannot find my car. I think it is in a certain parking lot, but there are barriers to me getting to that area. I walk around trying to find a way to get in and when I do, my car isn’t there. In these dreams there are lots of obstacles that I find in my way. I just want to get home.

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I think the interpretation is that I don’t have a way to get where I want to. I am feeling trapped. Now that I’m not working, I have had a feeling of being untethered and have aimlessly been going through my days deciding what to do when I feel like doing it. I realized that I wasn’t feeling productive and I was lonely.

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“True to your Word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.” Psalm 23:3

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What I need are values to live by. Tenets that help me to determine the things I should and want to do in my life. Value are ideals or principles that are important to us. It’s not like you choose your values and set up an action plan and do it and it’s over. It’s setting up the ideals that you want to live by and creating actions that exemplify them. It’s living the good life with some self-direction!

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God should be a part of this exercise because who knows you better than he does? His guidance and direction can lead you to see things that you can’t see for yourself. I started me values list with a mindfulness exercise asking God to show me areas in my life that need to be fulfilled. Values are our guiding compass and those of us who love God know that He is in charge of that compass. If we live like Jesus we will be fulfilled.

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I referred to the DBT section on Values and created some of my own in order to have a life worth living:
• Choose to be Spiritual
• Attend to family relationships
• Reconnect with friends
• Contribute
• Take care of myself physically

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Carnegie Mellon has a PDF about determining your values, It starts with a very long list of core values from which you choose the ones that apply to you. The thought is to write it down or highlight without thinking too hard about it. Next you group together similar values to make a list of no more than five categories. Than choose one work from each list that best identifies the value you want in your life.

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I used the Carnegie Mellon PDF along with the DBT list to come up with my core values. Now it’s up to me to make sure the things I do each day match up with these values. I wrote out some beginning steps for each of the values and saved the list in my phone Notes app so I can refer to it easily and I shared it with my therapist.

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Being spiritual to me is going to church, doing daily devotionals and reading uplifting and positive books. Prayer also plays a big part in leading a spiritual life. I know God has purpose for me and by praying and communing with Him I can find that purpose. Meanwhile I can take steps to improve my day to day living.

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I can attend to my family relationships by being a support to my husband and providing direction and friendship with my children. I can keep contact with family far away by phone. One of the things I decided to do was make a budget for my daughter to help her navigate her financial life. I am going out to lunch with my daughter Hillary this week. I also decided to meet my husband for lunch regularly and do at least one fun thing every weekend like going to a movie.

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I called up an old friend and set up a lunch date and scheduled myself to work the local food pantry. I’ve been baking more which is something I enjoy, and my family appreciates.

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When I was at church I saw a notice on the bulletin board for volunteering at a local hospital. I took down the number, called it and am now working on my application packet. I went to my doctor to have her fill out her section, I contacted friend and asked them to fill out the references section and soon I will have a complete packet to bring to the hospital for an interview.

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Contribution is a big part of my values. I think if I can give back, have purpose, that a lot of my depression can be thwarted. I also believe that God is leading me this way. My therapist tells me that volunteering is key. That I could find fulfillment as well as create a commitment to which I am depended on.

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I’ll keep you posted!

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“So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. Al the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause.” Isaiah 55:12

Emotion Myths

Here are some emotion myths from DBT:
1. Letting others know I’m feeling bad is a weakness. Challenge: Letting others know I’m feeling bad is a healthy form of communication.
2. Negative feelings are bad and destructive. Challenge: Negative feelings are natural responses. They help me to create a better understanding of the situation.
3. Some emotions are stupid. Challenge: Every emotion indicates how I am feeling in a situation. All emotions are useful to help me better understand what I am experiencing.
4. Extreme emotions get you a lot farther than regulating emotions. Challenge: Extreme emotions can often cause trouble for me and for other people. If an emotion is not effective, emotion regulation is a good idea.
5. It is inauthentic to try to change my emotions. Challenge: Change is itself authentic. It’s part of life.
6. My emotions are who I am. Challenge: Emotions are partly but not completely who I am.

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I like these challenges to the myths. I think they illustrate how to look at an emotion and determine if it is working for or against you.

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When we are stuck in emotion it’s good to analyze what the emotion is doing for (to) us. An emotion may create urges such as withdrawing from people when we’re grieving or arguing with someone when we’re feeling irritated. When an emotion causes us to take action that makes the situation worse is the best time to analyze and understand the emotion.

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It is through doing this that I was able to see my grief as a normal passage in life. A person has to grieve and although grief takes different forms in different people, it is still the path that I am on. I used to judge my grief, but like the myths above I found that I needed to challenge that thought.

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Others didn’t think less of me for grieving, but I felt like they wanted me to be done with it earlier than I was ready. That got me to start judging myself in the same manner. What was my sadness doing to me? It was making me withdraw from others, embarrassed that I was still so sad after the loss of my child. What was my sadness doing for me? Healing me. Grief is a natural progression and as long as I was progressing, it seemed that I could get a grip on my own timetable and continue healing.

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Do you tend to judge yourself because of how you are feeling? Or act out without positive intention making things worse? The DBT process of figuring out your emotions is a little like self-analysis. What is this emotion and what is it motivating me to do? In my case withdrawing from people.

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What is my emotion communicating to others? That I don’t care about them or that I need tender loving care. Since these two things are opposite, I may need to clarify what I am communicating with my emotion. “I care about you, but I don’t want to be around people right now.” Or “Yes, I’ll come over because I need to be with people but just please have patience with me.”

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What was my emotion saying to me? I am so sad. I am alone. No one understands. But when I check the facts, and when I reached out, I found that people do care, they just sometimes don’t know how to act around me.

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These questions can be valuable when trying to change or regulate your emotions. Good communication is key if you want or expect something from others. We all just want to be understood. When we’re able to observe and describe our emotions we can better determine what we want to communicate to others. We can also see better how acting on impulse may not be the best idea.

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When we are emotional our face and bodies show others something. Is it what you want them to know, or is your body saying something different? You can make that determination and express in words and action what you wish to convey.

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Think about the myths and understand that emotions are not bad. They provide a function to alert us to what’s happening. The more we increase our communication, identify our feelings and choose to act or not act effectively, the more level we will feel.

G.I.V.E-ing Relationships

G.I.V.E. is another acronym of DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) which helps us to remember the skills to build and keep strong relationships. When those of us in depression, grief, anger or frustration let our Emotion Mind take over, the results can be damaging to a relationship that we need and love.

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I have learned it is important to try to stay on the middle path rather than the totally emotional or totally reasonable ones. I want to be reasonable by keeping my relationship healthy, but my reason might cloud my mind so that I don’t see or hear what the other person is saying and meaning. Of course, you know what too much emotion mind looks like: arguments, hurt feelings, personal attacks.

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In the skill G.I.V.E the “G” is for “be Gentle.” Like Jesus. I don’t want to say things I don’t mean to a person I care about. I don’t want to try and manipulate someone I love into doing what I want. I am no judge of others, that is God’s business. And I shouldn’t judge myself unfairly. Being gentle means holding the relationship in esteem. If my aim is to keep the relationship, then I won’t say something I would be ashamed of later, after the heat of the moment is gone. I must try to be more like Jesus.

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That doesn’t mean I give in to everything the other person wants and says, it’s more like I am gentle with myself and being gentle means keeping my objective top of mind. The overall objective would be to keep this relationship strong and loving, but at the same time I may want the other person to stop doing something that hurts me.

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I may want my daughter to stop asking me for money, but I don’t want to have a drag-out fight about it, so I do my best to state my point of view and try not to judge her. Saying “You constantly ask me for money” is an exaggeration and could set off an argument, so I would say “I think you’re asking me for money too often.”

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The “I” in G.I.V.E stands for “act Interested.” Don’t interrupt them or talk over them. Listen to their point of view. Another objective of mine is to have a loving relationship with my daughter, to not let my feelings about her asking for money get in the way of the fact that I love being with her. So, I tell myself to be interested in her struggles while not giving in to her.

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“V” is for “Validate.”  I need to see the world from my daughter’s perspective without judging her by what I might think is her manipulation of me. (Judging) I need to resist the need to lecture her, since in our past conversations I have said the same things over and over. For instance, I might say, “I know you are smart, you just need to learn money management techniques. Can I offer you some advice?” Then come up with a plan that addresses her specific problem as I have gained new insight by listening.
“E” is for “Easy Manner.” DBT says to “ease the person along.” Coming into a conversation hard core may result in defensiveness from the other participant. Be light-hearted, use a “soft sell” over a “hard sell.”

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You’re wondering if my daughter has stopped asking me for money, aren’t you? Well, the answer is no, but it’s gotten better. Plus, now I am able to have the conversation without anger or frustration. She knows I don’t want to give her money and I have to say that I sometimes judge by thinking she’s manipulating me, but I don’t say that out loud and I’m working on it!

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I am able to have a calm conversation with her even if I’m stressing inside. I acknowledge my feelings in my mind and let the stress go. I am not perfect, but I try. My relationship with my daughter is stronger and yet, I can still stand my ground when needed.

Why Can’t People Understand?

Everyone goes through grief. Everyone. At some point in your life, someone is going to die. That is the circle of life. When we go through it, some of us look for books, blogs, podcasts to help us to manage our lives through it. I would imagine that the number of people looking to help a friend or co-worker through their grief by looking for books, blogs, podcasts is much lower.

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In general, I don’t think people want to get too close to grief. And the loss of a child, like in my life, is just too horrible to get near. People start make wide circles around you when this happens. The topics of conversation are unnecessarily light and frivolous. You can feel their waiting, waiting for you to get back to normal.

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“my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.” Psalm 88:9

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Maybe they don’t understand that Normal will never again be for me. Those of us going through loss are fiercely trying to grab onto the new normal. Maybe they don’t understand that we want to be that same old person again, but we can’t be. We are forever changed.

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As you would imagine, I’ve found that friends are much better at giving me room to move than co-workers with their downcast eyes and wary tones. When I was working and battling PTSD, I begged my company to do some sort of Grief Counseling with my peers. At one point, I called each of my peers and explained my PTSD. This was so difficult- I felt too vulnerable- but I needed them to understand that there were triggers in our daily work lives that caused me to break down. I desperately needed them to understand. I wanted them to know that more than anything I wished I didn’t have to deal with this.

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It didn’t work, I think they thought I was crazy or something. And my husband and daughters were so distraught about my calling them all. “No one should ever have to do that!” my husband said.
He’s right. And since we all go through grief, why isn’t there some sort of program that companies and businesses use to make grief easier on both the grieving and the co-workers around them? Of course, there are probably many programs like this, but I have personally never heard of this being done as a natural reaction to someone in a company grieving. Maybe in extreme cases?

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I’m not saying that when my son died that my colleagues were unresponsive. When my grief was “fresh” they certainly gave me heartfelt condolences. It was the after effects that they didn’t understand. The lingering traps and triggers, the depression, the inability to think clearly anymore. It’s natural for those around us to think that when we grieve, that tragedy happens, we go though it and then we get over it. But it doesn’t work that way with everyone.

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Grief is a very personal thing and it manifests itself differently in every person.

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I guess my plea is that when someone in your work group is grieving, understand that there are after effects that may continue on for months or years. They may not be as good at their job as they used to be. They may breakdown at odd times. They may say things that don’t sound appropriate or “right.” That maybe the best thing you can do is just say, “Is there anything I can do to help you in your job now, because I know you are going through a rough time. Don’t talk behind their back and speculate whether they are going to “make it.” Just ask what you can do to help.

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“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Mindfulness of Others

Depression and grief can be isolating. After a few years of that isolation, that being alone, I knew I had to reconnect with friends. I knew it would be hard. I didn’t want to be with people, to put on a happy face, and I was worried that my friends would be wary, not knowing what to say to me.

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DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) has a module in Interpersonal Effectiveness called “Mindfulness of Others.” Mindfulness of self and God has definite benefits of well-being and joy, besides the benefits of mindfulness to yourself, mindfulness helps to increase our attention to others’ well-being.

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Mindfulness of Others is different from centering Mindfulness because your focus is to pay full attention to another person. Full connection with someone else can get you out of your own “skin.” And connecting in person, looking into another’s eyes is more rewarding than electronic tweets, texts and emails. It’s a choice to show up and be present.

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Even my wiener Daisy is mindful of others! When we come home, even if only gone for a bit, she greets us with a huge dog smile- gums pulled back teeth bared. When we smile back, she grins more, and keeps it up until we acknowledge her with a scratch of her ear or a hug.

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Around the time I was feeling like I should get more involved with my friends, we were asked to attend of big dinner with all of our friends from an organization we support. This was the perfect time to practice what I was learning in DBT.

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The first step of the module asks us to be observing of others. Pay close attention to what they are saying, stop multi-tasking (put away the phone!) and stay present rather than thinking about what you will say next. Someone told me once that it’s more important to be “interested” instead of “interesting.” This was especially important at the dinner because I wanted people to be comfortable around me again and not feel like they had to navigate around my grief.

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And give up always having to be right. I practice this a lot with my husband and we laugh now as I say, “You’re right, Honey!”

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The next step is to describe. Replace judgmental words with descriptive words. Practice curiosity by asking questions about what the other person is saying. Stay present, open and unbiased. And don’t worry about what others might be thinking of you! There is no possible way for us to know what someone is thinking, so don’t go there (not even afterward when you’re at home mulling over your conversations.)

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Lastly, participate! Throw yourself into conversations, paraphrase what someone has just told you, so they have a sense of your understanding. Make eye contact and when appropriate touch someone’s arm and smile. Go with the flow instead of controlling the show! I read once that mindful listening takes a combination of intention and attention. Listening is a gift and we all know how good it feels when someone is interested in what we are saying!

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The dinner was a success. My friends were happy to see me resurface and I met some new friends too. If you are trying to resurface from the oblivion of depression and grief, I would recommend a function with a few people, like a barbeque, a birthday party, to try out these skills.

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After the dinner one of my friends called me and asked me to help design a float for an upcoming parade. Yes, I was afraid, but I threw myself out there and have been meeting with the float committee for a few weeks now. I have made new friends on this committee and even though there are days that I don’t want to go, I know they depend on me and I always enjoy it when I get there. I can feel a sense of accomplishment at getting out and doing something of value.

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Save the tough relationship until you find your bearings with simple ones. Part of observing is to let go of judgmental thoughts which can be hard in a difficult relationship. Right now, as I’m learning to connect again, I am surrounding myself with positive people

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.