Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year - Further Along the Journey

Resolutions by Kurt Olson

Each year millions of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. Most are forgotten before January is over.  However, some actually use this day as a marker to take a different direction in their life.   These people have one characteristic that is different from the masses of people who forget their resolutions; they are incredibly tired of something in their lives.   Something has hit them so hard they finally resolve to do what only they can do and take action.   

When we experience deep loss, basic life decisions are difficult enough, let alone contemplating a new “resolution.”  But, I would like to suggest that is exactly what you might need to do.  What is this you ask?   It is choosing to devote the time to confront your loss with renewed passion.  I discovered that when I tried to ignore my grief and pain, it got much worse and depression began to settle in.  However, as I confronted my loss and emotions head on, I realized I could actually keep going.  The pain did not go fully away, but as each day passed my life began to ease a bit and gradually became more manageable.
How does one “confront” their loss?  Here are some suggestions that worked for me.

1.       Keep a pad of paper by your night stand. When you can’t go to sleep, jot down what’s keeping you awake. The same thing applies if you wake up in the middle of the night.  Write down what you are thinking about.  What I want you to do next is say a quick prayer that you will be able handle this in the morning when you have gotten some rest.  Then try to sleep.

2.       Journal your thoughts every day. The pad of paper described above is for quick notes about why you are not sleeping.  Those involved action types of ideas such as did I do this or that, did I call someone?  A journal is different because it is where you write your feelings.  It is writing about what is going on in your head that maybe no one else is aware of.  In the early days I wrote in my journal about all my random thoughts and emotions.  Later on after months of writing, my approach changed. I would read my Bible first, sit in silence waiting for the Lord to arrange my thoughts, and then write in my journal.  A journal is also a good way for you to see how far you have come.  You can read about where you were a month or more ago and you may observe forward progress and healing.   (Note: If you are not experiencing any progress, consider that you may need professional help.  Contact the church and ask for a Care Pastor.   They can help you sort through next steps and provide a referral to a qualified therapist.)

3.       Dive deep into the material that you receive from Grief Support.  Read the lesson, read and listen in solitude to the Bible verses.  Write your thoughts about the question of the week that is in the handout.

4.       When the workshop is in session, connect with your fellow group members in meaningful ways during group time. Your grief journey is not meant to be done alone.  Take a risk and share something that you wrote on your note pad or in your journal from points 1-3 above.  Share something that impacted you from the lesson.  If someone in group shared something about their journey that impacted you, take a risk and tell them how it helped you.

The first three steps are the work that you need to do to help figure out where you have been and where you are in your journey.  This is the hard work in the trenches that doesn’t get a lot of attention but is so helpful to integrating your loss and connecting (or reconnecting) with people in a more meaningful way.  That’s correct; these are activities that will make your connections with others more significant.  If you talk about weather and sports in your group, you will not be encouraged or experience truth in a way that might help you release troubled thoughts that might be plaguing you.  In a very similar way, if I share something off the top of my head it will be very hit or miss on its impact on your life.  But if I take time to really figure out an issue in my life, it is much more likely to be meaningful and impact you in a positive direction.  I still remember some conversations from my first group that changed my life; they were able to put words to my feelings that I couldn’t name at the time.  What a relief that was for me!

When you put all four of the steps into play, you cannot help but change the trajectory of your grief journey for the better, for yourself and for those around you.   But it is up to you.  Is it time to make a “resolution”? 
If you are viewing this through the email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of www.griefslinky.blogspot.com   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holidays III - Further Along the Journey

Traditions by Kurt Olson

“Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can’t even describe or are even aware of.”  Ellen Goodman

If you attended our “Handling the Holidays” session, we talked about examining your past traditions and explored making a new tradition for you and/or your family. Noted author Ellen Goodman points out that traditions are hard to put words to and sometimes we are not even aware of them. Traditions touch your very core, your soul, and are sometimes very elusive. Take some time to think about the tools we gave you to better manage your holidays. Then you will have the tough job of implementing them.
My thoughts ranged all over the map when I was trying to make a plan for my family’s new tradition. I came up with a couple of questions that helped me define what I was after, and maybe they will be helpful to you too.  Then I’ve listed a couple of other things you might find comforting.

  1. What are the one or two things you would like to do this holiday that you did in the past with the loved you lost?
 It can be something you do with friends or family, like cutting down a live Christmas tree where you tell stories of past Christmas’. Or it can be private; one friend of mine sits down and has a cup of strong Irish coffee, which is something she did with her late Irish husband. She hates Irish coffee, but every holiday while he was alive she had a cup with him because he liked it. For her, the tradition is drinking her coffee alone and remembering the times together with her husband. It heals her soul a little each holiday.

  1. If you could honor your loved one in some way, what would you do?
From the panel discussion, each of us did something different to remember or acknowledge our loved one’s character or passions. For me, it was to give a goat to World Vision because of the pain Pam felt when our World Vision child lost his goat. It reflected her heart for those who have less. Donna included photos that her husband Kurt took in her Christmas letter. (He was a professional photographer.)   Barb writes letters or notes to her daughter Laurie and puts those in a special Christmas stocking hanging on the fireplace.

  1. Take out your Bible and see who God says you are.
 You will see that God loved you so much He sent His Son to die for you. God views you as precious in His sight. Read about how he well he knows you in Psalm 139.

  1.  Take time for you.
 This is the time in your life where you get a pass on all of those “HAVE to do” lists. You don’t HAVE to send out Christmas cards to everyone. You can do some, or skip a year sending out cards, or as in my case, skip a decade or so of sending them. J

This is the third in our series of three Holiday posts.   If you are viewing this through the email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of www.griefslinky.blogspot.com

Friday, December 6, 2013

Holidays II - Further Along the Journey

What Do You See? by Kurt Olson

Do you normally tend to see yourself as an optimist or a pessimist in life?  My tendency is to be a glass half-full type of guy. I tend to try and find the silver lining in things. I am also drawn to people who are optimistic and see what others can’t.

Back in school I remember reading about Chester Nimitz, a very famous U.S. Navy Commander who isn’t well known today. I remember him because he led the United States World War II efforts in the Pacific after Pearl Harbor, against incredible odds. Recently, I received an email about him that reminded me why I admire him; Chester Nimitz saw things others didn’t see. 
December 7, 1941 was one of the most tragic days in our United States history.  We were reeling from the shock of being attacked, because we didn’t think it could happen to us. We lost 3,800 men in that attack, as well as many of our battleships. But when General Nimitz surveyed Pearl Harbor, he made some interesting statements.

On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and Navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere you looked. As they returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, "Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all of this destruction?" Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, "The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?"  Shocked and surprised the young helmsman asked, "What do you mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?"  Nimitz explained:

Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined up in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed the dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make, or God was taking care of America.”
My dad, who was drafted because of this war, joined the Navy where he served on the battleship USS Washington.  He talked about a Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz and what an inspiration he was to the men he led. When Nimitz asked his men for more effort to get the ships that were destroyed at Pearl Harbor back into action, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work alongside all of his men and it encouraged the troops.

I never served in the armed forces so I don’t know the horrors of war. But my dad told me a number of stories of this man that he observed from a distance. How he led his men against incredible odds and turned the tide of the war. He was the optimist of all optimists in the face of trials.
So what about you - where do you see yourself? Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person when it comes to trials in this world?

Take stock of where you are on your grief journey and what you need to do to keep on going.  How is your attitude toward life?
Side note:  December 7th also has special meaning for me personally, because on that day back in 2002, my father passed away. Every time my dad and I talked when he was alive he told me that he loved me. He is one of the reasons I am so comfortable with who I am and my abilities.

For those who have served in the armed forces, I would just like to say thank you. I know it’s usually done on Veteran’s Day but can you really thank someone enough for putting themselves in harm’s way for our freedom?

This is the second in our series of three Holiday posts.   If you are viewing this through the email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of www.griefslinky.blogspot.com