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Archive for the ‘#grief’ Category

Triggering Old Memories and Unspent Grief

Memories and Grief Dug Up From the Past

https://www.flickr.com/photos/60740813@N04/34504735502/in/photolist-Uz4MJN-7H8hqz-r2covS-8wbGLH-8wcEVv-8weaum-8wcFMc-r2c6ww-r2iYrg-qmL3eU-8w9Dpr-r2jtjr-riJFWH-8wcT7A-8wcK8r-8wbRuV-8wcj84-8wanQx-8waPPT-8w9c4V-8w97ek-r2j3iV-riCAji-8w8skp-r2cTQq-8wfuwo-8waMUv-8wfDJJ-8wdgXY-qZq9cM-8wd2u3-8wfVzw-8wbq15-8w8bJP-8w9Wdc-8wcQdR-riF3r5-riJvW2-8wbTSq-r2cNH1-8wc6wN-r2d6wG-8wcM6o-r2jiHn-8wdexo-riJBiz-8bQ1eC-8wfeYo-riJJHV-8w9YqrWhile reading a manuscript about childhood loss, I was thrown back in time to the day my dad told us his mother was dying of lung cancer. It was the first and only time I saw my dad cry, and even now, just thinking about it unnerves me.

Yet as a child, I followed my parents’ lead when it came to emotional issues, not only because it was all I knew, but because I was often ridiculed for being overly sensitive. Though I was already 12 at the time, I’d  had a few hard lessons about publicly expressing my emotions. I’d continue to experience humiliation from many directions until I learned to switch that part of me off (not the best solution, but all I had for a long time). The little I knew about losing someone I loved was enough to color my first experience with grieving.

So when I started reading about how a child’s grief is different from that of an adult, it threw me back to when my grandmother died. I realized I never grieved her passing. We visited her a few times before she passed, and I think I went to her funeral. But after that, she was just gone. We didn’t talk about her or think about her any more after that—until Dad took his life after being diagnosed with the same disease that killed his mother.

Emotions Buried, Memories Skewed

Even so, it’s taken me years of writing therapy, reading books about other peoples’ suicide experiences, and finally, a book about childhood loss to shake loose the feelings and emotions I buried so long ago.

The first thing I discovered was my faulty memory. In my mind I lost my grandmother when I was 10, but in reality (and after a Google search for her obituary) I discovered I was 12. Researching the date actually helps to put things in perspective as the year she died, 1968, was a pretty eventful one all the way around.

That was the year I was walking about 2 miles to attend a Junior High School that was out of my district. I’d leave the house early to make the 45 minute walk most days rather than having my mother drive me. I remember walking alone and enjoying the solitude. In those days, no one thought twice about a young girl walking alone on a city street. By the time my daughters were born, we were diligent about teaching our kids to travel in groups. Were the weirdos and creeps always there, or has life and disconnection made them more common?

I don’t remember what I thought about on those long walks to school. I don’t even remember having any friends, though I’m sure I interacted with someone during my school days. I do remember bottling up my emotions until they’d come out in a flood at inconvenient moments. It opened me up to the cruelty of Junior High School kids (the worst of all if you ask me) and likely caused me to recede further into myself.

The Festering Cesspool of Unexpressed Emotions

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/8156999698/in/photolist-dqNKPQ-8xXrZz-a2tqF7-ecib3q-aR5rxR-23UMduh-aWLsg4-aQ6X3p-dTTc5c-dcyQ5m-b1FLUp-drS8ZF-bsmN5R-nNhBzE-6ssEeg-9jEcfZ-aVXtzx-j6LK2o-aNpZyT-dCTfD3-dvswdt-b3pgdi-dtXu4B-6LJawW-8CFHEg-8aL7Jf-hDdmuC-anA578-cPoDxo-9qmjuQ-dtXueV-qsdJSm-dqq1i2-2cGG4pp-dqq1sP-hp14Hw-cbnjHE-7bv7xs-chavXC-7uLgNT-8E3GL9-ar7X3y-aai6ME-nt1LXG-gZvg1N-S1DgTf-8kUop7-6532HD-exeWcJ-di6ynQMixed in with those emotions were probably the things I couldn’t express about losing my grandmother. My dad’s example wouldn’t allow it. After her death, I don’t remember any pictures of her around the house except in my parents’ wedding picture which I didn’t see until years later. Her name wasn’t spoken. We didn’t even go visit my grandfather. He visited us once with a cousin he’d married so he wouldn’t be alone. It wasn’t long after my grandmother’s death, and she asked us to call her “Grandma”. My sister and I ran up the stairs to our rooms in tears.

Again, my memory is unclear as a search revealed the marriage didn’t take place until 1971, 3 years after my grandmother’s death. Our grief was clearly lying dormant awaiting an opportunity to be expressed openly—an opportunity which never came.

Other memories of 1968 include horrific migraines (a legacy from my grandmother and father) which had me throwing up in trash cans while waiting for my mother to pick me up from school. But it wasn’t an entirely bad year. It was also the year we moved to Westlake Village after spending the better part of the year traveling back and forth so my dad could do the electrical in our new house himself. He’d made a deal with the builder to reduce the price and allow him to do what he wanted. We ended up with upgraded appliances and far more lighting than the typical tract house enjoyed in those days. We also ended up with avocado green and harvest gold EVERYTHING!

Opportunities to Start Anew

1968, the year I turned 13 brought a lot of changes into my life. I made new friends who https://www.flickr.com/photos/162733867@N08/29086322568/in/photolist-Ljg1m9-8b3Bcq-8dftDn-8mKHGw-kNJinr-7G5qTG-qqkYQy-8diVHq-icq54s-7G1vvv-8wSgbU-icquZX-7G5rPh-icquE8-icqcvj-dumDWG-c2Bg2L-9tJW5E-c2BjJY-dug3Ya-6CY1c7-F2Dn7m-6RgcKS-oTJEvg-myPgtn-5JppCu-b8Mizx-6zQ5G6-8mKTLQ-7KP9jG-dumDnj-8mGTPt-ryq1RH-sve5aR-7KK6Ec-4JjASd-9ATqPS-7KKbkz-8mGXFk-8mL5Ld-7RZ28J-4Jfkoc-8dfkdv-8mGyHH-8mGJdK-8afnPD-6Lg64e-biSy3F-pihYMh-8sRJY6shared my interests and didn’t want to beat me up (a major flaw in my previous neighborhood). We all had to ride the bus to school as there was only one Middle School in the district at the time and it was a freeway ride away. We had teachers who weren’t beaten down by an excessively large school district who actually made learning fun and interesting.

Still, I managed to attract the bullies who did their best to embarrass me at every opportunity. Hard as I tried, my overly sensitive nature and all the emotions I wasn’t allowed to express at home refused to stay bottled up and controlled. I had yet to replace tears with anger, though I practiced at home. My mother and I were already pushing each others’ buttons on a regular basis.

I also got to indulge in a pleasure I still find today with my writing. I had an extraordinary English teacher who gave me many opportunities to flex my creative muscles and introduced me to collaboration.

Learning to Grieve, but Only in Private

https://www.flickr.com/photos/prestonrhea/5236270625/in/photolist-8YHfQ2-4X1dP6-P58XGS-dmtrwi-2pMKC-nC1YD-QxGsf-q4rWqa-8HeDZc-o8pVg-8mXR4g-o7nP7c-8jQqTQ-bPxsQc-dJusGN-78jLU7-98LY1P-dYGYNq-cgtYSu-cgu1F7-7rMJ9R-6z6KQA-6VuMG-6Jfxqk-4bbwMg-dmtxds-9Rf6xQ-v8gDMa-9PqETD-4MsUzv-ptUKap-a2BfLR-4UtU1B-4UtSun-5dBS8k-7eGxtr-7nUbqa-7nUbW8-fBZ3S4-5M1h3P-8DYirc-8E2uBh-6r2V98-7oFgff-7oBon2-7oBpbn-7oBoG6-7oFfRo-vPhUL-jk3BYpThe year my grandmother died was filled with a lot of highs and lows. I learned more about keeping to myself and not letting anyone see the shy, frightened child inside. But I never learned to grieve. Not for my grandmother, not for my other grandparents when their time came, and not for my parents. The only ones I’ve been able to openly and unashamedly grieve for are all the cats I’ve loved and lost over the years.

Each time, I grieve alone, in the safety of my home, spilling tears on the comforting backs of the ones who are still here letting me love them unreservedly. And maybe that’s how I’ve learned to grieve. It’s a whole lot better than holding things in and allowing them to fester.

Today I have friends who are more than willing to help me get over the rough spots, whether it’s grieving or anything else. They talk unashamedly about expressing their emotions (both the men and the women) and aren’t afraid to turn to each other when their own strength needs shoring up.

Though I’m always there for them, and especially sensitive to someone else’s needs, I still find it hard to be honest and open about my own feelings—my own struggles. Old habits die hard but I’m trying to stop saying I’m fine when I’m not. Even that is a huge step for a girl who comes from a family who discouraged expressing your feelings. For a girl who was beaten up, picked on, and humiliated by peers who took pleasure in seeing her cry.

Accepting Ourselves Fully and Completely

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jobber1/36197048070/in/photolist-X9BkiG-6zNVTx-9WcJ3G-dSakbx-dSammr-9TBa8u-6ezpVp-4BqdWY-VXtGBZ-rmenXX-qCVBCH-ebSPFY-on6uCz-7jht6-n98ro-VTXW6M-a1XWoX-aEZ3ZC-GAd7om-aETqXe-5YRvvk-dSfWbY-KEWxyD-7N2mv7-s8WVRA-97x2ND-9FZG7n-kv3uih-7dAKBM-Usjf3C-emcpAz-3EXMtA-U3SSPP-gQb96B-6QtXTY-o36uJj-iwvCcv-54dBjc-opbQb3-7NxyBo-7G7U6q-cS6eML-9FXQcH-ojrwjj-SUbPcQ-7MNAUc-Ee2qD-jZRnbY-a355px-cS691NIt’s a legacy I inadvertently passed on to my daughters. One struggled with the same issues I did, the other became hard and cold. It’s a legacy which has to stop, if not with me, with the daughter who’s as overly sensitive as me. She needs to know it’s OK to openly grieve, whether it’s a friend, a grandparent, or a beloved pet. She and her own children need to know it’s OK to be human.

As humans, anger is the easiest emotion to express. Too often, we use it indiscriminately to mask softer emotions like grief, worry, and insecurity. Unfortunately, being angry all the time as a mechanism for protecting our softer selves tends to make us appear hard and cold. If carried on too long, we start to become the persona we’ve assumed.

We need to accept and own our emotions fearlessly. They are as much a part of us as fear, and deserve to be expressed. Those who try to use them against us are simply not our people. It might take awhile to find those who accept our whole package, emotions and all, allowing us to express those emotions in a healthy manner. We may stumble a few times, and get hurt many more.

Finding those who do accept our complete selves are the rainbow we find at the end of a long storm that seems to thrive on our misery and discomfort. But when we find them, when we’re finally allowed to be and express our true selves, both happy and sad, the trip through that storm ceases to matter. Only the end of the journey will remain in our hearts and memories. And I finally found my soft place to land.

Gratitude Heals Our Wounds

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for friends who accept me as I am, and instead of running away when I’m barely holding on, offer me lifelines.
  2. I’m grateful for for the many cats who’ve traveled through this lifetime who’ve allowed me to be who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  3. I’m grateful for storms because there are rainbows at the end.
  4. I’m grateful for the many layers I’ve uncovered as I travel the roads this lifelong journey leads me on.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance: love, friendship, joy and sorrow, storms and rainbows, all the cats I’ve loved, and those I’ve yet to meet and love, dancing, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Helping the Traumatized or Depressed

Proactively Helping Our Community

You see it all over social media these days: “If you need help coping with {insert traumatic event here} I’m here for you. Just reach out and I’ll be there.”

While I commend people for wanting to be there for their friends, family, and community, I’ve seen all too often that those who need help the most are the least likely to take the hand reaching out to them. The reasons are endless, but here are just a few of the ones I’ve seen, heard, or even spoken myself:

  • I’m fine. I don’t need help
  • Others have worse troubles than me.
  • Everyone is busy with their own lives and problems. They don’t need to be burdened with mine.
  • They don’t understand what I’m going through, and I don’t feel like explaining it.
  • I just want to be left alone. I’ll figure it out.

Showing Up for Those Who Can’t

The reality is, life is a lot like writing. We have to do more showing and less telling. Instead of posting our offer of an ear, a shoulder, or a sanctuary on social media for everyone to see and scroll right past, we need to be proactive. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.

Is there someone who hasn’t shown up lately? Give them a call. Invite them out for coffee, or a meal, or a walk in the park. Whatever you think might interest them. If they decline, call again in a few days and offer again. Or show up at their place and insist they come out with you or at least let you in for a visit. Even if they’re less than gracious about it, deep down, they’re grateful, believe me.

There is nothing worse for someone who is dealing with deep, emotional pain or trauma than to be left alone for too long. Left to their own devices, they’ll talk themselves out of being valuable to anyone. They’ll wallow in their misery and watch it grow bigger and scarier every day they’re alone.

Better by Degrees

We may not be coping much better than they are, but the fact that we can leave the house and reach out to someone puts us in a much better place from which to heal and move forward. If nothing else, the best way to help ourselves is to reach out and help someone else.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against those who make a public announcement they’re available and ready to help their friends in need. I simply think we need to take it one step further and do something. I’ve seen for myself how much healing happens when a few people get together and share their feelings, or do something they all enjoy to take their mind off reality for a little while. Sitting alone and stewing never did anyone any good.

Knowing they’re hurting, we have to be ready to switch gears if they try to change plans at the last minute. They’re not up to going out for coffee or a meal? Bring the coffee or a meal to them. They just want to sit on the sofa and veg? Bring over a couple of movies or channel surf and find something you can watch together. Or talk to them. Carry the conversation until they’re ready to contribute something of their own.

Being the Friend in Deed

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkfjellestad/17408694382/in/photolist-swm7k9-5RUVz2-mJjTbx-5RZcQG-LaVetu-ehWSkL-mJjNaa-mJncXh-UQc1nx-mJkdTR-mJnhJS-UNopBe-TLtd22-UnTzSt-UKUNfQ-TvXc6r-UWzrjN-g9uykn-H7hkTY-27dmuiJ-dPKPg5-StARkr-H28Np7-TLyHW2-SasSyJ-ovj4Jg-TDQz2w-g9v3mc-H7rXSy-UWEf8E-qxwgcP-X7uFem-TyrPG7-g9uRij-g9vmqr-TLF3sZ-683YTJ-4DjRMh-5R69WX-eiwKNy-873BnY-787D4h-g9vKLK-UWGbnj-TytBPA-p92cJn-Ufcsfy-URnUfu-TrXPo4-UMmQvhIt’s funny. This isn’t a new concept. There’s an old proverb that says “A friend in need is a friend in deed”. By taking action instead of just offering to be there, we’re taking the act of friendship to the next level. We can even let them know that their company is just what we need right now to get past all the tragedy and pain we, too are experiencing. Take the pressure off of them to be helped by turning it around. They are helping us by allowing us to try to take their mind off the voices in their heads.

I spent a lot of years alone, broken, wallowing, and unwilling to ask for help. Granted, I’d done a bang-up job of pushing people away or keeping them out entirely, so there weren’t many to choose from, even if I knew how to ask. It was a dark, lonely place, and I would have been happy if someone took enough of an interest; cared enough to brush off all my excuses and help me get out of the funk I’d sunk into. But no one did. No one offered. No one visited. And I wallowed for years in my own private pity party.

Look for Those Who Need Help Climbing Out of Their Funk

I’m one of the lucky ones. I found a way out of my funk. I took a couple of suggestions when Created with Canvathey were offered. I decided I was tired of being miserable, and set out to address my ghosts and invite them to leave. The recent suicides of one of the Parkland survivors and the father of one of the Sandy Hook victims makes it clear there are many who can’t do it alone. And it’s more than likely they’re also the ones who won’t reach out or even accept an offered hand.

It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to wish things hadn’t happened; that lives hadn’t been lost or homes destroyed. But we can’t change the past or make it better than it was. We can, however, change the future by taking action now.

It’s the Little Things

Gather with friends. Visit memorials. Bring soup to a friend like someone did for me not so long ago. Even let someone help you even if you don’t feel you need it.

I recently called a friend to change some light bulbs for me. I could have climbed on a ladder or chair and done it myself, but he’s tall enough to reach without either. He helped me by preventing a potential fall (I’m a well-known klutz), but I got him out of the house for a little while too. Win-win.

My point is, we could all use help once in awhile, but tend to blunder along on our own rather than ask. If someone shows up on our doorstep it’s harder to make excuses, turn them away, or even do without. Sometimes, we might even enjoy the company or a break from our usual routine. We truly are better together than alone.

Gratitude Attracts More to be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful there were caring people around to help me emerge from a decades-long funk.
  2. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the people who’ve reached out, and those who’ve allowed me to reach out to them. We all heal in the process.
  3. I’m grateful for choices. Sometimes we really do need to be alone, but too much of anything is not a good thing.
  4. I’m grateful for lessons I’ve learned and people who’ve been there when I needed an example or a teacher. I might still have made progress, but it would have taken much longer.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; new clients, new projects, new opportunities, progress, inspiration, motivation, productivity, joy, love, dancing, positive indifference, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

What Do You Do When Your Happy Is Gone?

Author’s Note: I wrote this in that often dark time between Christmas and New Year’s when so many people suffer from depression, and feel lost and alone. I wrote it for myself to help me start climbing out of my funk, but also for anyone who also experiences sadness and loneliness, not only at this time of year, but any other time too. We all have someone who cares, even if we don’t think we do, and we need to reach out to them when we’re feeling down. They want to help, but don’t always know we need it, or will even accept it. I urge you to let your friends and family see when you’re hurting instead of feeling like you have to hide it. You’ll be glad you did.

Nothing to Be Happy About

I’ve lost my happy. As I mope around the house, sometimes for days on end, I’m disinclined to even change out of my pajamas unless I’m going to the gym or to a relocated dance night. Even then, I often have to argue with myself before I get dressed and moving. I haven’t used the word “fantastic” or even “great” when someone asked me how I am in what seems like ages. The best people get out of me these days is “OK”, and it’s because I’m anything but. I see no reason to drag anyone down by telling them the truth. For those who know me, “OK” says it all anyway, as they keep checking in on me.

I know it started the night we lost 12 beautiful souls at the hands of a troubled young man; the night we lost more than just 12 innocents who were known for making this world better for many. We lost the place where we gather, where we unwind, where we de-stress, and where we knew we’d give and receive many warm, heartfelt hugs twice a week without fail. We lost our home.

The owner of the club is still talking about re-opening, some way, some how. But when, or even where is still a huge question; our own elephant in the room.

Insidious, Unseen Happiness Thieves

If this single event was the thief of my happiness, I might have found it by now; in the strengthening bonds, the shared hope, the resilience of our family, and the extraordinary heart and spirit of the families who lost children, brothers, husbands, sons, daughters. But it goes so much deeper for me right now.

My world is turned upside down by many things. I lost my sweet girl, Munchkin in December. I increased my debt significantly, but my income is still falling far behind. The 25th anniversary of the day my mom’s unhappiness got the best of her; the day she got tired enough of being unhappy and left us forever, came and went without a single thought until days later. A quarter of a century without my mom. Most of the dissension we shared is long forgotten, or at least the reasons we were so at odds. I don’t exactly miss her. I miss having a mom though. The mom I didn’t really have.

Empathic Cats Offer Comfort Wherever They Can

Even seemingly stupid stuff is getting to me now. I curled up on the guest room bed because I felt lousy and didn’t feel like doing any of my usual things. I didn’t have the energy to clean or the focus to read or even watch TV.

Pyewacket and Tiana

As I pulled the soft blanket Heather got me for Christmas up over my shoulders, I felt tears prickling the back of my eyes. The last time I did that, Munchkin came bounding in, her little bell jingling, knowing there was snuggling ahead. A little over a year ago, she’d have been joined by Toby stomping all over me until he found a good position laying across my body, and Dylan who’d walk across my pillow and lick my cheek. Now, only Dylan is left of the older cats, and he’s doing his best to comfort me when I’m not really ready to let go and be comforted.

Mulan and Dylan

Fortunately, the cats understand better than I realize. Pyewacket joined us, crawling under the blanket and snuggling for a little while. Mulan came in too and even refrained from stomping all over me, demanding attention. She simply curled up beside me, offering comfort. Even shy, skittish Tiana who I often mistook for Munchkin until I got a closer look has found a jingle ball and plays with it in the middle of the night, as if to remind me Munchkin’s love lives on in my heart and home. I love and appreciate those who are still here, but I miss the two who brought so much love into my life, and died way too soon. I can’t help missing them, any more than I can stop the tears from flowing whenever something reminds me of all they gave, and all I’ve lost.

I know Dylan feels the losses as much as I do. He hardly leaves my side any more, and seems distressed when I leave the house, even for an hour or two. We spend a lot of time sitting together, comforting each other, and grieving.

Healthy Routines Aren’t Always Enough

If that wasn’t enough to make me struggle to regain my former happy, cheerful self, I learned my blood pressure is now in the unhealthy range. I informed my doctor’s PA I would, under no circumstances take medication to reduce it, so I’ve had to make some significant changes to my eating habits instead. The hardest has been giving up my morning coffee. I’m hoping it’s only temporary. Green tea is OK, but it doesn’t have the strength of a good cup of coffee.

Scrappy Doo

Scrappy Doo

More exercise would help too, but getting myself out of the house for anything but my pre-set routines is nearly impossible. Lately, my laundry consists of workout clothes, pajamas, and the shorts I wore on the few nights I did dance. And cat purrs. Lots and lots of cat purrs.

Dimming My Light

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/8156999698/in/photolist-dqNKPQ-8xXrZz-a2tqF7-ecib3q-aR5rxR-23UMduh-aWLsg4-aQ6X3p-dTTc5c-dcyQ5m-b1FLUp-drS8ZF-bsmN5R-nNhBzE-6ssEeg-9jEcfZ-aVXtzx-j6LK2o-aNpZyT-dCTfD3-dvswdt-b3pgdi-dtXu4B-6LJawW-8CFHEg-8aL7Jf-hDdmuC-anA578-cPoDxo-9qmjuQ-dtXueV-qsdJSm-dqq1i2-2cGG4pp-dqq1sP-hp14Hw-cbnjHE-7bv7xs-chavXC-7uLgNT-8E3GL9-ar7X3y-aai6ME-nt1LXG-gZvg1N-S1DgTf-8kUop7-6532HD-exeWcJ-di6ynQMy bright colored blouses hang on the rack collecting dust. When I do go out, I’m either wearing a black t-shirt commemorating the fateful night, or something else that lets me blend into the crowd. Wearing bright colors doesn’t feel good right now.

When I do go dancing and talk turns to next year’s line dance cruise, I feel even more alone and left out. My current finances won’t allow an expenditure like that, or another much-needed writer’s conference, for that matter.

That’s not to say things aren’t improving a bit, but it seems like for every windfall, I’ve had extra expenses as well. And when I have a large expenditure like Munchkin’s vet bills, there’s no offsetting gain.

I know a lot of it is my mindset. Although I’m starting to attract more notice and more interest from my target audience (read, people who could use my particular type of writing skills and can afford to pay for them), the process is slow since I am still learning the marketing ropes. Again, I know I’m improving with a lot of help from my coach. But the holidays and Munchkin created a hiatus of nearly a month so I’m going to have to recapture some of the momentum. Still, the negative voices, imposter syndrome, and sheer ennui keep getting in the way. I stumble over my own feet too often.

Temporary Down Turns and Lights in the Darkness

I’m grateful I recognize this unhappiness as not only temporary, but uncharacteristic. I know I can fix it, and that I don’t have to fix it alone. Right now, I feel adrift, alone in a storm mostly of my own making, But I also know I won’t remain here, if for no other reason than I won’t allow it.

I see the lack of appetite as an asset as it’s helping me lose some of the weight I’ve put on because I’m not dancing as much. The high blood pressure keeps me from eating the salty snacks I was eating while mindlessly glued to the television. Without them, I rarely eat after dinner even if my stomach starts to growl. I’ve had to find a recipe for the amazing lentil soup I was buying from Trader Joe’s, but which has too much sodium for my new lifestyle. I’m looking forward to adding to my freezer stock soon. In spite of myself, I’m developing healthier habits again, and I know I can re-balance my system without artificial and potentially harmful means.

Being Sad Without Guilt

Right now, I’m allowing myself to be sad. I’m establishing new relationships with the younger cats as they do their best to fill the enormous holes Munchkin and Toby left. I also realize the best way to help myself is to help others, and am looking for ways to do that.

I know the pain, the hurt, and the loneliness I’m feeling right now will ultimately fade and I’ll find my happy again. I’ve learned it might take time, and it can’t be rushed. Times of pain and sadness are part of our process; part of our evolution. We have to walk through the storm in order to find and appreciate the sunshine. I guess I’ve yet to tire of the storm enough to move towards the sunshine. But I will. I always do.

Gratitude: One of the Best Healers

  1. I am grateful for friends who understand that “OK” isn’t a good place for me.
  2. I am grateful for my cats who demand little and give so much.
  3. I am grateful for my writing as it gives me an outlet for my deepest, darkest places so they don’t fester and become toxic.
  4. I am grateful for all of the people who are finding ways to keep us together and dancing.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, laughter, friendship, vulnerability, caring, sharing, giving, receiving, introspection, opportunities, challenges, inspiration, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Not Another Suicide!

The Dance Community is Loving and Giving, Yet We’re Not Immune to Suicide

The word came out yesterday that another member of our dance community took his life. Of course those closest to him are devastated, and many who knew him are baffled. This was another guy with a ready smile and so much to live for, or at least so it appeared to the world outside his own head.

I find it especially disheartening in a community where, at least to the naked eye there is so much love and affection. Many of us share our humanity, our broken pieces as well as our shiny, sparkly ones. Perhaps we need to be more conscious and aware of those who share only the sparkly ones and not the ones in desperate need of a polish.

I didn’t know the most recent casualty, and even the one before him, I knew only on a superficial level. Did either of them share their troublesome thoughts, their feelings of unworthiness, or the belief that everyone would be better off without them? Did anyone notice when their ever-present smiles didn’t reach their eyes? Or did we all accept the image they portrayed of a happy guy with a perfect life?

Learning to Look for Signs

I know from experience that constantly showing the world a cheerful, unblemished exterior takes its toll.https://www.flickr.com/photos/swampa/8512656992/in/photolist-dYeAm9-5MBAS5-4wH48T-5M2k2z-9j9QT2-8RVu1X-6juK2V-a18M9W-5taS34-fMS1SQ-cDQLUb-6GZmA2-oUv5Wv-5AvF8V-paqKFx-4LicMW-s48LVr-57gaP7-39DFEc-nu6Svm-bCRkBB-21uvr7L-7H9fXU-h4hoeh-8kP7PC-3F7yE-AXQ82E-RCHfaj-ftXr8F-6agM2v-pCAFRA-57uGKU-5qGnVx-gYU9Q-6aCF6B-7SC734-5hDawR-6pT1cL-58x9Gg-7tPaUX-pfNVHB-7BnSAE-a56YeV-83T4NJ-6wgZex-e58EmP-9tnDYY-gmjSdW-55pwGE-4CCrfb I’ve traveled down that road where I began to believe the world would chug merrily along whether or not I was there to provide some momentum. In fact, there were times when the only thing that kept me getting up every morning and putting one foot in front of the other was the two little girls who depended on me.

As the latest victim had a child, is it only mothers who feel that responsibility to their children? I don’t think so, given the number of mothers who either suicide or simply leave their families.

For those who do find a reason to stay and protect their young despite the miserable world their mind has drawn for them, what happens when the responsibility is gone? Children grow up and move away. They start craving their independence from a fairly young age, at least in my experience, long before they understand the responsibilities which accompany their independence.

I was one of the lucky ones. I found my way out of the depths of unworthiness before I got sucked completely under. Through a fortuitous combination of luck, kicks in the butt from my daughter, friends who were willing to pull aside the curtains and see the sometimes ugly mass of protoplasm I tried to keep hidden, and most of all, my writing, I was able to escape from my wallow and learn some painful but healing lessons. Too many lack the right combination of factors with which I was blessed to help them climb out of the hole they’ve fallen into.

Helping Each Other Dispose of the Masks

https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsexagesima01/3612047773/in/photolist-6vbFXK-7mfHK5-82q4rd-7Ku82r-7xTufQ-7xTvNm-noV2nx-8v7yLg-7xTtxw-b5JoM-awiDbx-74ofjQ-4xTEyL-aFUvSc-2nJqV-pnUS3J-UZSY-KSCvY-q54hFw-74jkL8-57r2Za-rXWSV-RAqoKt-wCAn3-74jkCt-459Ltf-8VkKtr-jrTTpy-7Mx4vz-9gJ6Hm-q2BAZF-A1eTBs-4sLmnj-7hJteh-nDn5BQ-98W5r7-4oJBHP-FUYqD-66WsR1-aaLTe-9gF1wt-7AibaD-cof4ks-bKGrY-7pamwZ-9yY17Q-2QEkGc-qtnpn9-qUrb5H-5EB1gvThe question is, if we noticed, if we looked into their eyes and really searched for the person behind the mask, would we be able to help them before it’s too late? Would we, could we be the lifeline they grabbed to haul themselves out of their personal pit of despair? Could we or anyone convince them it’s all right to let the smile slip sometimes and show what they, what we believe is the ugly underbelly where life isn’t perfect? Would we be able to make them believe people want to see their soft, imperfect side? Could we convince them people need to be needed and that by only helping and not allowing themselves to be helped, they’re denying others the opportunity to give?

Too many of us have been raised with a hearty dose of independence. We believe we are only valuable and worthy if we stand on our own two feet. We are taught to look down upon those who are so weak they must seek help outside their own insular world, and in the worst cases, even scorn those who, in reality are strong enough to let others see their imperfections.

Finding Engagement in Our Communities

Yet we all seek some kind of community, even if we fail to share the most integral part of our being. Whether it’s church or, like me, the dance community, or one of the other interest groups I see my friends involved with; jeeps, dune buggies, horses, charitable groups… we all need to be near those exuding human kindness even if we haven’t figured out how to allow it into our own lives.

These days, we’re even more detached as we build communities virtually. We come to the dinner table with our cell phones, and play games or text friends rather than talking to the people in front of us. If we do share, it’s either a rant about someone or something far removed from our own inner demons, or superficialities meant to keep the conversation light and falsely cheerful. In some ways, I believe this is the single biggest factor contributing to the increasing suicide numbers.

Detachment is More Deadly than Disease

According to the World Health Organization, 9 of the top 10 causes of death worldwide in 2015 were related to some kind of organ failure (heart, lungs, brain, etc.). The 10th was road injury. If you ask me, the largest cause of death has nothing to do with our physical body, except as it’s affected by our mindset. The question is, how do we measure the deterioration our minds are doing to our bodies? How do you quantify how detachment sends us into a downward spiral which all too often ends in suicide?

Save.org offers a chilling menu of statistics on suicides globally:

  • 10th leading cause of death in the US
  • 2nd leading cause of death worldwide for 15-24 year olds
  • 4th leading cause of death for ages 18-65
  • 1 death by suicide every 40 seconds

On a lighter note, 80-90% of those seeking treatment for depression find success with the prescribed medication and/or therapy. But how many don’t seek therapy because they either don’t see they need help, or have been conditioned to avoid asking for fear of being perceived as weak?

Again, neither of these sources is able to measure or quantify how our mental state can cause deterioration which leads, if not to suicide, to death by mindset-induced disease.

Doing Our Part to Help Humanity, One Person at a Time

Admittedly, we are not our brother’s keeper, and yet, we are all part of the same pool (some may, at this point call it a cesspool) of humanity. So wouldn’t we be helping all of humanity if we started paying attention to those pasted on smiles? Wouldn’t taking time to look beneath the surface and offer a heartfelt hug to those among us who, for their own reasons aren’t ready to share their pain be an act of kindness the entire world would feel?

I don’t know about you, but if I could prevent a single suicide by looking deeply into a friend’s eyes and letting them know I’ve wallowed in the depths a time or two myself; that asking for help was the strongest thing I ever did, I’d do it every chance I saw. If I could save other families and extended families the pain of losing someone to suicide even once, I’d drag my introverted self out of my self-imposed hermit hole and do everything I could to help educate, to inspire. Kind of like I’m trying to do here, but on a much more personal level.

Yes, I write extensively about suicide and especially how it affects those left behind with a million questions, a grain silo full of blame, guilt, and regret, and a gut-wrenching sorrow that seems to have no end. But I know the real solution lies in connection and community. Without them, we will all find too much time to wallow in our own misery and believe the voices in our heads telling us we are unworthy, unloved, and undeserving.

Think about it, and spread the love.

Gratitude Helps Me Find My Way Out of the Downward Spirals
  1. I am grateful for my friends who have learned to see past the masks I still try to wear.
  2. I am grateful for my daughter who continues to encourage me.
  3. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life to teach me asking for help is not a weakness.
  4. I am grateful for the people who make me think really hard about who I am and what I want to be when I grow up, and who give heartfelt advice even when they know it isn’t what I want to hear.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, joy, sorrow, dancing, love, humor, laughter, community, challenges, lessons, opportunities, new directions, stretched limits, peace, harmony, health, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write your expert book with you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

For Love of a Very Special Cat

Toby aka Mamo-cat: Always in My Heart. Gone Way Too Soon.

Toby Conaway, 10/27/2006 – 9/20/2017. He was a part of my family so briefly, but when he died last night, despite a day filled with cuddles and what we both knew were good-byes, he took a huge piece of my heart. His passing left me sad, angry, hurt, and altogether miserable. How could he have been perfectly healthy in February, and terminally ill by August? How could that illness take him so quickly from a gorgeous, healthy, 19 pound ball of fluff with a purr that quite literally filled a room to barely 13 pounds with a badly matted coat and a body so wracked with pain that his feline instincts could no longer mask it?

Toby loved attention, but on his terms. He didn’t care if I was working, eating, sleeping, or trying to get ready to go out. There was no ignoring his massive fluffiness or a bat from his Labrador feet. His deep, throaty purr lulled me to sleep on countless nights. Until lately, and one overnight stay in the hospital due to food poisoning, I never went to sleep without my Toby cuddles. When he grew too weak to jump on the bed himself, I tried putting him there, but when he jumped down during the night, I ceased trying as I didn’t want him to hurt himself jumping down.

Life Ain’t Fair, and Especially, it Seems, for My Feline Kids

I’ve been cursing ever since I got the diagnosis, praying for a miracle that would make the illness and the masses go away. Instead, they burst Friday night, flooding his already weakened body with toxins. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, he didn’t have much more time. Yet, in true Toby fashion, he tried to give his energy to me instead of himself, making me reassure him over and over that I’d be fine, that he needed to save his strength for himself. I spent the last few days begging him to eat, tempting him with several choices and finally squirting bone broth into his mouth with a syringe. I knew the best I could really do was to keep him as comfortable as possible, love him all I could, and assure him that it was ok for him to leave me. I wanted only what was best for him, and a life of unbearable pain wasn’t best for him by anyone’s definition.

I grieve for Toby as I would grieve for a child, as I grieved for Scooby and Patches and Loki in the last few years. As I grieved for so many others I grew close to and lost. But like Scooby, Toby didn’t even get 11 years. Both boys were the sweetest, best boys I could ever hope to find. And both crossed the rainbow bridge way too soon.

Despite the cats who still remain, including Dylan and Munchkin, the last of what I call my older cats; the cats I’ve had since Heather still lived at home, there’s an eerie silence in the house tonight. Toby’s room-filling purr is forever silenced. I’ll never hold his big, fluffy body in my arms and bury my face in his fur again.

Grief is Grief Be We Human or Feline

It’s hard to say whether Dylan and Munchkin are grieving too, or just reacting to my grief. I know they recognized far sooner than me that Toby wouldn’t be here much longer. Maybe they just disconnect before the actual time comes to leave. I don’t really know as I haven’t found a way to ask them yet.

I’ve lost humans in my life, most notably, my parents, yet I’ve never felt the grief I feel when I lose one of my beloved cats. Maybe it’s because their lives and their health are my responsibility. Maybe it’s the unconditional love I’ve never found in a human. All I know for sure is that huge chunks of my heart are on the other side of the rainbow bridge, chasing bunnies and butterflies with no more pain or physical limitations. Sometimes I find myself wishing I was right there with them, but there are others who still depend on me, support me, and love me.

The Loves of My Life Who Remain and Offer Their Own Brand of Comfort

Dylan-man, my soul cat. He chose me at an adoption day at Pet Smart when he was about 1 1/2. I picked him up, he put his paws on my shoulders and licked my cheek. And to this day, he greets me every morning the same way, with morning kisses.

Munchkin came into our family to give Scooby someone more energetic to play with, and gave him quite a bit more than he expected. They were a bonded pair until his untimely death at the age of 10 11/12. She is my sweet little girl who loves snuggling into my shoulder and purring loudly and proudly. She single-handedly kept all of the boys in line until Mulan moved in, supposedly temporarily.

Pyewacket joined the family a few months after Scooby left. He’s a clown with a heart as big as the sun. He makes me laugh with his antics and has taken to joining the nighttime cuddle routine. As big as he is now, I suspect he’ll be quite amazing when he finishes growing. And I do love big cats.

Scrappy Doo moved in with us along with Pyewacket. We’d lost Loki before Scooby, but knew she’d been living on borrowed time with her kidney disease. I wasn’t planning on bringing two new cats home, but couldn’t decide between the two boys. Scrappy was so pitiful with his bandaged tail and cone of shame. He was so grateful for attention when they handed him to me. He just snuggled into my arms. He’s a brat and I swear he’s channeling some of Scooby’s more annoying habits, but he’s sweet and affectionate. He just loves to sit in my lap, no matter where that lap might be, or what I might be trying to do.

Mulan came to me as a foster. She was meant to live outside as part of my colony, and escaped shortly after she got here. Pet's SakeBut when the weather got cold and rainy, my little Siamese princess decided she was not meant for the hardships of outdoor life. After meowing at the back door for a few nights, she got locked inside when Munchkin snuck out, and has never regretted it. She now joins Munchkin in helping me settle in at bedtime. She was also madly in love with Toby for the short time she got to know him.

Flynn is also a foster and one of Mulan’s siblings. He’s a beautiful silver tabby who is getting comfortable with me a little slower than Mulan, but if I catch him at the right moment and location, he just loves his belly rubs. He has the softest fur I’ve ever seen on a short-haired cat, and he’s going to be a real love-bug when he gets a little more used to humans.

Tiana is the third foster sibling, and though she’s made a lot of progress, is still very much a scaredy-cat. She’s a sweet brown and gray tabby but has retained more of the feral tendencies than her brother and sister. My hope is that when she does finally settle down, she can be adopted with her brother. They are very close and can often be found cuddling together in one of the cat trees.

Yesterday was undoubtedly one of the worst days of my life. Toby and I both knew it would likely be his last and spent much of the day just cuddling and saying our good-byes. When I had to finally leave the house to go to the gym and run errands, I set him on a blanket on my den floor, and he whimpered as if to say “please don’t leave me now”. I didn’t leave him again until he passed in my arms.

He lay on my desk where I talked to him, petted him, and kept telling him I wanted what was best for him. I told him it was ok for him to leave me. I’d be ok, but would always love him and never forget him. I promised him we’d be together again some day. All the things you’d say to a human.

Many might think me strange, but I know my words gave him comfort, and let him stop trying to hold on for my sake. He needed to hear them, but more, I needed to be convincing so he believed them. In the end, I believe he died knowing my words were true and from my heart. And he died in my arms instead of on a cold metal table at the vet’s office.

We humans carry our regrets like precious cargo, but cats (and probably dogs too) don’t even know what a regret is. They live and die with a clear conscience, caring only that they did the best they could for their humans. I don’t regret bringing a single one of the cats who’ve passed through my life into it. I only regret not being able to give some of them more easy, comfortable years than they got. It’s far easier to get past the death of a cat who had more than 15 years to live with me and be spoiled. I’ve had a few of those, but more often, they’ve had 12 years or less.

I keep asking myself why there’s such a high incidence of cancer in my cats. Is there something in my house that’s toxic? Do I not clean enough? Am I feeding them something that weakens their immune system? I don’t know the answers, nor why some live for as long as 18 years, and some so much fewer.

I know I grieve more deeply for some than others. Some like Toby and Scooby simply fastened themselves to my heart with stronger glue. Others like Missy got me through some of the toughest times in my life, and went on to live a reasonably long life. Maybe it’s just the newness, but Toby’s death seems to be hitting me harder than any previous one ever did. Even Rascal, Scooby, and Missy who were my hardest to this point.

Driving home last night, I found myself thinking how much it sucked to be going through this alone. Then I realized I’m never alone, even if there isn’t a special human in my life who can help me through tough times like this. I have a house full of four-footed, pointy-eared love every minute of the day. That doesn’t make me miss Toby or any of the others any less, but it does make me feel loved.

The outpouring of love and concern from my friends has been another reminder that despite my hermit life, I’m really not alone. One friend even took time out of her busy day to stop by for a few minutes and give me some much-needed hugs. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give almost anything to have him back with me, happy, healthy, and pain-free, but I guess that’s part of the grieving process. You’d think I’d have it figured out by now…but I don’t.

I hate losing my sweet, loving babies who deserve nothing but a long, happy, healthy life. I will never come to terms with whatever powers that be decide they get less years than normal, or that they have to endure any amount of pain over a period of time before they let me know they’re ready to go. As always, I’ll spend the next few days, weeks, forever loving the ones who are still here even more emphatically, and by the way they’re hanging close, they’re quite all right with that.

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I am so grateful Toby came into my life, even if he had to leave much sooner than I’d like.
  2. I am grateful to those friends who have been checking on me all day, knowing just how hard I take the loss of any of my cats.
  3. I am grateful I work for myself and have been able to take all the time I needed while Toby was so ill.
  4. I am grateful for my alone time to curse and wail and bawl and whatever else I need to do to grieve the loss of my sweet, fluffy boy.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love.

Love and Light

 

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. She specializes in finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information.

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