It’s Funny about Grief…

1 Comment

I have my Bachelors degree in Accounting, my Masters degree in Sport Administration and my PhD in Greif.

The first two I earned with hard work and money at an accredited institution of higher learning. The last I earned through life, no formal classroom training required.

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s funny about grief…

To say you never get over the death of a loved one is true on the facts only. Of course you never get over the loss, how could you? But you do learn eventually how to deal with it and incorporate it into a full and happy life.

They say happiness is a choice, anyway, right? And I completely agree with that statement. We choose how we view any situation and equally, how we are going to react.

Each loss is different, as well. I have lost a child, parent, sibling and grandparent in that order. On its face that’s messed up, if you ask me. Leave it to me to start big…

It’s funny about grief…

We both lost our son…same person…completely different approach.

But there is no right and no wrong way to feel and react (except if you harm yourself) and I think it is actually brave to get help from someone who does not know you and is trained to guide you through the labyrinth of emotion.

It’s funny about grief…

For as many times as I have experienced it I have never really gotten good at it. And, I think that is good.

Grief, for me, starts with a light blocking Kevlar blanket covering me and shielding me from the piercing cuts of sadness that permeate from the outside. Under its cover I can safely deny the depth of emotion and reality in front of me. You are never actually protected but the impenetrable veneer gives me at least the pretense of safety.

Then the Kevlar makes me hot and sweaty and I can barely catch my breath. Its presence makes me remember the reason for its existence and I fall into a deep depression, often removing myself from any type of social situation which would make me uncomfortable…which would be all of them.

Then, eventually the Kevlar is gone and a heavy wool blanket takes its place, still covering me with heavy protection all the while allowing at least a glimmer of light. The wool is itchy and makes me angry. And, I’m angry with everything.

A clerk wishes me a nice day and I get angry. How can I have a nice day?

A friend is expecting a child and I have to go to a baby shower to celebrate. But how?

A father is teaching a child how to ride a bike and I am filled with rage. How can life be simply going on?

It’s funny about grief…

The sun comes up every day. And, it sets every evening. All around the world life is going on.

Then, one day, I notice I am bouncing down the stairs. When did that happen?

I notice I wish the clerk a happy day in return.

I look forward to shopping for baby things and showering the expectant mother with love and best wishes.

I appreciate the simplicity of a father teaching a child how to ride a bike and feel the warmth reaching my heart.

It’s funny about grief…

Then, on an ordinary day, many years later,

I hear Mike and the Mechanics sing “All I Need is a Miracle” while driving and burst into tear laden singing at the top of my lungs.

“All I need is a miracle…all I need is you.” In context I know it’s a love song (or a lost love song) but in my own context it represented my greatest hope for a miracle which was not to come.

I am singing so violently that people can not only hear me through the sealed car but start to look with a mixture of worry and fear.

But then…

It’s funny about grief…

It’s because as quickly as the song enveloped me with sadness and memory, the vicious emotion passes and the moment of malaise is over. I dry my tears, brush off and move on.

If I have learned anything these past 25 years it is to allow myself the luxury of these strong emotions because when I actually feel them, feel the grips of despair, I know they are as fleeting as the shape of a cloud on a windy day.

Eventually, if you get past the denial, get help for the depression and allow the anger to dissipate into acceptance and acknowledgement, you will feel happy again. Even that bouncy happy that fills your heart with joy. Choose to be happy. I know you can do it.

About these ads

Giving up on Perfect…Is

4 Comments

The table is totally trashed…linen, glasses, cookie crumbs…the post holiday table at it’s finest. The only difference for me is that this picture was taken on December 26th, not Christmas night. image

Now, my mother has given me much sage advice over the years and she has proven to be 98.76% correct. That other 1.24% includes never go to bed with a messy kitchen.

First off, if I took that advice I’d die of sleep deprivation.

Second, who exactly is harmed when I don’t clean up? If the little fairies don’t come in during the night, who else will see it?

And if the little fairies do come and they don’t clean up then what good are they, anyway?

I have discovered that what would take me 2 hours at night will only take 30 minutes in the light of the next day.

I was not struck by lightening last night. All that happened was a good night’s sleep.

Have a yummy day!

In The End…We Cry Alone

7 Comments
English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When was the last time you experienced deep emotional trauma and you instantly perked up based on what someone said to you at that moment? Likely never.

Our own emotional filters are built for survival. If they were not, we would be crushed under the weight of our experience.

Wakes serve several purposes, as I see it. They are to allow people to express their sympathy and to help the grieving experience support from those who care.

I remember talking to my husband on the way back from Children’s Hospital after our son died. Absolutely no wake. No way. Not happening.

Then we had a wake.

My uncle convinced me to do it and I will be forever grateful. He said that if we did not do it then we would be denying those who care about us the opportunity to express their sadness over what happened. Every time we went to the grocery store we would have to “receive” someone who is seeing us for the first time. That could last years.

He was right, however there are only a few moments of those days I still remember with clarity. I remember when his team of cardiologists came in. They were crying more than us. The impact of their emotions is something I will never forget.

I remember when the three wonderful priests who married us eight short years before offered to concelebrate Mass. It was a huge honor.

Last, and this is the part I share that still stirs my heart even after all these years, I remember the absolute peace I felt walking out of the church singing How Great Thou Art at the top of my lungs. I don’t remember a single soul in that packed to the rafters church. It was just me and my God. Who knew it would be seven long years before I felt bouncy joy again?

I pity those who don’t have faith in a greater power…although they may pity me…who knows?

We go to wakes and funerals to express kindness and love to those who are grieving but I truly believe the people we call on are actually secondary to our purpose. Yes, we hug them, buy flowers and express condolences in cards and gifts but our tears are way more personal.

We most often cry remembering our own loss…when a friends child passes its like my heart getting ripped out of my chest. I feel that cold sweat sickness and am zoomed back in time.

Sometimes we move on as quickly as it takes to stop for coffee on the way home from a wake. But there is someone in that room that won’t feel that same bouncy joy for sometime to come.

I also know the way someone passes only matters at the beginning of the journey. The shock and horror at what happened in Connecticut is indescribable. They made their child a sandwich and sent them off to school. Gone in a flash.

But, after the shock passes, the end is the same.

My son’s death was like watching a horror film in slow motion. I am here to say, however, you are never prepared for it. You may see it coming but you are never prepared.

In the end, you are alone with your emotions and the inevitable reality that somehow, sometime you must move on.

I am not pompous enough to predict how another person will feel as they go on their journey of grief. I know it took me seven long years to have the bounce of joy back. Others may come from a healthier place and progress more quickly.

The holidays are upon us. We can turn the TV off and move on. Those folks touched by the tragedy have years of sadness ahead of them. The cameras will move on to another trauma. Set a reminder to yourself in six months to pray for them. Pray that someday they get their bouncy joy back.

Joy does come back. Believe it will.

Meanwhile, we all cry alone.

Life With a Lap Band…It’s Just Food!

10 Comments

20121007-085147.jpg

Before you go all crazy on me for proudly showing a heavenly glazed coffee roll and coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, let me tell you a story.

Three years ago I began contemplating surgery to help me lose weight. I tried everything imaginable including hypnosis which cost nearly $2,000. It started out well but ended up only helping me fall asleep…during sessions!

I was actually cleared for it once but couldn’t pull the trigger and let the six month window close. I could do this on my own, damn it! So I tried a few more things then started seeing a nutritionist named Maria Weber.

I wrote about my personal epiphany here. You don’t really know when the moment happens until it is past because it may seem familiar to others that preceded it.

20121007-091218.jpgThis is my dad and I the day of my senior prom. I was almost 18 years old but for my entire teenage life I was convinced I was fat. Look at me. Am I fat?

I was never skinny and my nearly 5’2″ body could never look like the models in Glamour Magazine. But fat? I had to rethink all that I KNEW to be true when my mother gave me a photo album when I turned 50 and got my Master’s.

Picture after picture I just saw a dark eyed curly haired girl having fun. How did I allow myself to think this? Then, it became a self fulfilling prophesy.

This is the last picture that set the course of my life. Here I am, October 2010 at a swim meet at Fairfield University.

20121007-090837.jpgI see this picture and no longer feel sad and defeated.

It was time.

I went back to my doctor with an entirely new mind set. To say I was fully invested almost undervalues the actual change I went through. Eventually I put food into its rightful place. Something to fuel my body, enjoy cooking and sharing with friends and something cool to get to write about. It no longer rules my world. It brings me joy.

20121007-092512.jpgHere I am today. I’m pretty darned happy with the way I feel and look. I am going to lose another 20 pounds before I go to France next summer.

And, guess what? One of the ways I have done it is to have the above pictured coffee roll every weekend. I’m just living life?

Have a yummy day!

20121007-092806.jpg

Cerebral Palsy: We Fear What We Don’t Know

4 Comments

20120918-072835.jpg

Two days after my son Tommy was born we learned he had a serious congenital heart defect. Prior to his diagnosis he had what a young British intern described to my husband as “a bit of a fit.” It was his first seizure and what could have been called a stroke in an adult.

We believe that was his traumatic brain injury that caused his cerebral palsy.

Did you know that cerebral palsy is NOT a disease? You can’t catch it.

What is cerebral palsy (CP)? Cerebral palsy, also referred to as CP, is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or during infancy. Thus, these disorders are not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. Instead, faulty development or damage to motor areas in the brain disrupt the brain’s ability to adequately control movement and posture.

“Cerebral” refers to the brain and “palsy” to muscle weakness/poor control. Cerebral palsy itself is not progressive (i.e. brain damage does not get worse); however, secondary conditions, such as muscle spasticity, can develop which may get better over time, get worse, or remain the same. Cerebral palsy is not communicable. It is not a disease and should not be referred to as such. Although cerebral palsy is not “curable” in the accepted sense, training and therapy can help improve function.

Tommy didn’t progress physically like other kids but since he was my first child and had such a rough beginning we just thought he was delayed. When he was 14 months old, even after we brought him back to Philadelphia for his one year follow-up at CHOP and his heart got a “looking good” by his cardiologist, he had a massive seizure. Once he was stabilized he was brought to Buffalo Women’s and Children’s Hospital he was diagnosed with a seizure disorder and spastic diplegia.

Did I know spastic diplegia was a form of cerebral palsy? Nope, I did not. Did I know what CP was? Apparently nope, I did not know about that, either. We told our parents and tried hard to explain it to them, too. When it was time to tell my grandmother my mother suggested I actually use the term spastic diplegia rather than CP because she would be afraid of the term CP.

Can cerebral palsy be treated? “Management” is a better word than “treatment.” Management consists of helping the child achieve maximum potential in growth and development. This should be started as early as possible with identification of the very young child who may have a developmental brain disorder. A management program can then be started promptly wherein programs, physicians, therapists, educators, nurses, social workers, and other professionals assist the family as well as the child. Certain medications, surgery, and braces may be used to improve nerve and muscle coordination and prevent or minimize dysfunction.

As individuals mature, they may require support services such as personal assistance services, continuing therapy, educational and vocational training, independent living services, counseling, transportation, recreation/leisure programs, and employment opportunities, all essential to the developing adult. People with cerebral palsy can go to school, have jobs, get married, raise families, and live in homes of their own. Most of all people with cerebral palsy need the opportunity for independence and full inclusion in our society.

We are often afraid of what we don’t know.

Tonight I am attending Niagara Cerebral Palsy‘s Annual Awards Gala. Since Tommy’s death my husband and I sponsor an award given to someone at Niagara Children ETC who lives the mission and shares it with all the students. it is my annual opportunity to thank them for the profound impact the school had on our family and on all of those they serve.

NCP is just another example of why my glass is half full!

Have a yummy and inspired day!

20120918-073501.jpg

Vacation is just living life

20120611-204954.jpg

For several weeks I was planning on writing today’s Foodie column about calamari. Just so you know, this column is not about calamari although calamari probably has some contribution to its content (you will understand this soon).

Becoming “The Foodie” is an ironic twist for me because for the last 18 months I have been on a journey of a lifetime. I “struggled” with my weight for at least 40 years until I took responsibility for it. We all have excuses, reasons why we are the way we are and act the way we act but the simple fact is, if you eat healthy portions of good food, move your body more and try to minimize stressors that control you, you will eventually become healthier, look better and perhaps even lengthen your life.

It may be simple but it is not easy.

This column is not about weight loss, the answers to all of those burning questions we have about diet and exercise. It is about my own experience with just living my life.

As the months have passed something really special happened, quietly creeping first into my subconscious then into the daylight. Food made the beautiful transition from the thing that drove me to a thing that brings pure joy. There was a time when I would plan my day around food. What was I going to eat today? Where was I going to eat? Did I have enough cash for the drive-through or would I have to go to the cash machine. Are you going to finish that? I have to clean my plate.

Now I not only understand portion control, I can visualize the correct amount of food before I put any on my plate or begin eating at a restaurant. I have changed how I value food. Here is an example to highlight my new thinking. I want a rack of lamb at a restaurant. It is a whopping $32. In the past I would do everything but lick the plate to get my “money’s worth.” Now I eat a few ribs (meat suckers, as my friend calls them) picking up the bone and enjoying each bite, taste the side accompaniment and call it a meal. I usually bring some home or share with fellow diners. And guess what? That was worth $32 to me. It is no longer about the quantity but the actual food that I enjoy. Who knew?

Another big part of the changes I have made is changing my environment. My cupboards and refrigerator have been streamlined and I have smaller containers to store food. This helps when I bring food to work.

Now, back to my message of the day. I returned home recently from a wonderful, relaxing vacation with my husband. We spent 10 days in the Florida sunshine eating and drinking and playing golf. We went on walks (though I must admit my husband was much more devoted to the effort), spent time reading and shopping and dining at our favorite restaurants. We ate calamari just about everywhere and drank great wine.

When I got home I weighed myself. I gained seven pounds in ten days. And yet, no one died, the world did not end and I did not go into a tailspin. I did not binge eat thinking that I was a failure giving up and not worrying about the consequences.

No, I just kept living.

Eating like this is the rest of my life. It does not end when I reach any goal (which I do not have, by the way, I figure I will know when I get there) nor does it change my accomplishment of shedding 63 pounds (a little less this week ;o).

No, food and weight are not evil. I am not bad because I gained weight (I’ve already lost half of it in four days). Food is wonderful, brings happiness to all around me and gives me something joyful to talk to you about every week.

I’m just going to keep living, writing and enjoying all that we have.

20120611-205029.jpg

Have a yummy week!

NEXT WEEK: Is it the Calamari or is it the Dip?

Confessions of a Culinary Con Artist

7 Comments

It’s true.  I’m a con artist.  I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if I could successfully con other people but the actual victim here is me.  It started long ago but took on a life of its own in this millennium.  Let me tell you, I can talk a good game.  I can say all the right things and get my dietary support staff to buy in with excitement and enthusiasm.

Here’s how the con works.  I reach the end of my rope.  I join/ subscribe/ purchase the latest greatest diet craze.  I create a plan.  I write it down and I create a fancy spreadsheet to quantify my progress and predict the date of completion and success.  I pay hundreds of dollars (the best one was hypnosis for $1,800 in four EASY payments!) then eat to my heart’s content until the first appointment/meetings begin/book arrives.

I am a model citizen at the beginning.  I can say all the right things to the Weight Watchers leader so she anticipates my weigh in every week.  Usually by week four she is already talking to me about reaching goal and becoming a leader myself.  I can film a video with the director of the hypnosis center so compelling that he cannot wait to use it in his advertisements.  I can charm a personal trainer by using buzz words like commitment, lifetime and endorphin.

But I hit my con artist brick wall this past fall.  I started working with a nutritionist in July.  I poured my heart out.  I shared my failures with her.  She took my before picture and gave me great stuff to read.  She cared about me, I mean, really cared about me.  I even admitted to her in August that I am capable of saying all the right things and am good at starting but not very good at follow through.  It was the first time I ever said that out loud and I think it is because it is the first time I began to see the con for what it was.

Con: –noun

4. a confidence game or swindle.

5. a lie, exaggeration, or glib self-serving talk

Eventually, as I missed appointments and slid back to my old ways, I began for the first time to understand my tactics and how destructive they were.  I was embarrassed to go back because I saw something in her eyes which was different than I had ever seen in anyone who was “helping” me before.  She was really, sincerely disappointed.  She really believed in me and the disappointment I saw was like a wet glove being slapped on my face.  That one single look, which she may not even know crossed her face, was the jolt I needed.  I stopped the con cold turkey in January.

Things are different now.  When the con stopped I didn’t eat like crazy until I developed a plan.  There is no fancy spreadsheet although I do keep track of what I eat every day making sure my body is fueled with protein.  I have no date of completion because that would assume I am dead.  This is not a diet.  I will never diet again (that, in and of itself, is entirely freeing!) but simply eat like a healthy person every day.

Would you like to read more about my journey?

Have a yummy week!

Jude

Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie