What No One Tells You About Grief, Part Two

When I wrote my last post, I realized that I neglected to mention a few of the positive aspects of grief.

You may be asking, “Is there anything positive about grief? About the grieving process?”

I believe so.

Grief can empower you. 

When faced with a difficult situation, humans have an instinctual reaction that is known as “fight or flight.”

Now, there is absolutely no shame in “flight.” There is no shame in taking time to help yourself physically, mentally or emotionally. It doesn’t make you weak to address your emotions. There is no shame in taking time to grieve and to mourn your loss.

What you may not realize is that your grief has the ability to empower you. While grief can drag you down, it can also raise you up. It can remind you of your morals and values. It can show you who and what are important in your life.  Grief can help you to “fight.” Grief can show you the path to heal and recover.

And I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it will be hard. It will not be painless. It will not be easy. You may fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I promise you, it is there. And if you’re having trouble seeing it, have other people light your way.

Grief can spark passion.

This post (and every post I write) is a product of my passion. This particular post is also a product of my sadness, my anger, my myriad of emotions. By expressing myself here, I am allowing myself to grieve. I am allowing myself to understand who I am, and what I want to fight for in this world. These words are allowing me (and hopefully you too) to empathize and connect with others. We may all live different lives, we may have different values, but we all experience grief at some point in our lives.

But passion is something that we can also all experience. How we harness and express our passion is unique to each one of us. Our passions can allow us to get to know ourselves better, and also connect to others who might share our passions.

Grief can allow you to experience things that you typically do not. Grief can expand your ideas, your creativity, your mind’s view. Grief can help you to give back – to yourself and to the world.

Grief can free you. 

It can free you from the banality of everyday life. It can free you from some responsibilities and obligations. It can also show you what you need to get accomplished. It can be the kick in the ass you require to get going. It can spark revolutionary ideas. It can produce change. It can help connect you to your community.

The only thing I ask you to really consider is this. Do not let grief consume you. Do not let be the only thing in your life. Do not let it prohibit you from moving on and fighting for what you believe in.

Grief is unpredictable, unstable in its nature. Grief provokes powerful reactions and emotional fluctuations. However, your grief should not immobilize you. If you choose to wallow in your grief, you may never truly see the bigger picture. If you choose to shy away from what’s uncomfortable, you may not see what exactly it is you have in your life to value.

Grief can empower you, it can spark passion, and it can free you, but only if you let it.

I urge you to let it.

What No One Tells You About Grief

Recently, I received the unfortunate news that my grandpa had passed away. In between crying and dealing with this huge loss, I realized a few things about grief. When a loved one dies, it’s awful. It’s terrible. A confusing mix of emotions that abate at a moments’ notice.

Here are some of those things:

1) Everyone reacts to bad news differently. You may cry or you may laugh hysterically. You may sob in front of people or in solitude. Whatever your emotional reaction, it does not mean that you don’t care.

2) If you have a loved one who doesn’t cry often, or if you yourself don’t cry often, those crying fits may be alarming or overwhelming. For me, one of the most difficult parts of this was seeing my father cry. It’s okay to take a second to breathe and let the emotions out. If you’re a person (like me) who can bottle things up, that’s also okay. Express it at your own pace.

3) You will have people ask you how that person died: were they in pain, was it sudden and so on. They will also ask “how are you holding up?” If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably say something along the lines of “I’m fine” or “I’m doing okay.” Whether it’s the truth, or you’re lying through your grief-stricken teeth, these types of answers will usually get people to leave you alone (if that’s what you want). Talk as much or a little as you want. If people judge you, pay them no mind. Your grief is yours and yours alone.

4) Along with people asking you questions, you will probably receive a fair amount of hugs and kisses. If you’re the type of person who is not comfortable with physical contact, let people know. In the same regard, if you crave hugs and kisses, tell people. In this heightened emotional state, being around people may be therapeutic; or you may revert back into your shell. If you’re an introvert like me, you may resort to hiding out upstairs on your phone, or reading a book until you feel comfortable enough to interact again.

5) If you’re craving distraction from the news/grief, you may find yourself wandering in and out of random stores or scanning aisles in the supermarket. Personally, I cleaned every room in my house and reorganized my bookshelves in alphabetical order by authors’ last name. To each their own. Find your comfort in ordinary things.

6) If you’re someone who eats when you are stressed (*raises hand*), you may feel hungry and completely full at the same time. I also recommend not eating a ton of junk food before a long plane ride. Otherwise, you may spend five hours of the flight wishing you hadn’t eaten that last lemon square. Even though it was delicious at the time, turbulence over the Rocky Mountains can change that feeling quickly.

7) You may go through the “5 Stages Of Grief” in a matter of minutes. For me, this included weeping at the sight of a beautiful tree, threatening to run fellow shoppers over with a grocery cart and quietly sitting in my room in silence. It led me to accept that death is a part of life while sitting in a diner eating breakfast. Take as much time as you need to process your emotions and your grief.

The main point of all of these observations is this: Your grief is valid and however/whenever you express that grief is completely up to you. Take some time to take care of yourself and the ones you love. Death may not be something you just get over within a day, it will take time.

 

 

There’s A Thin Line Between Love and Harassment

As I waited in line for my very overpriced coffee in a semi-crowded Starbucks on a Wednesday, I noticed two guys…two men checking me out. As I attempted to ignore their blatant staring, I noticed something else. These two men were old enough to be my father, they were with their young kids, yet their ogling of me never ceased. But my level of safety and comfort quickly diminished. I wondered what I had done to set off their staring. Was it what I was wearing? A quick glance down at my t-shirt and too-big shorts told me no. Was my bra strap showing? Again, no. What was it that I had done wrong that they were staring at me in this way?

Nothing. I had done nothing wrong to attract their very unwanted attention. The only thing I had done was step foot in the store to feed my caffeine addiction and to read my book. That’s it. I wasn’t flirting with them, I wasn’t planning to interact with them in any way besides standing in line, and yet somehow I thought it was my fault that they were looking at me. And this interaction didn’t happen in a new, strange environment. It took place in the white, middle-class suburbia that is my hometown.

Now all of this took place in the span of five minutes, but in that time, I realized something.

How can one tell the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to harassment?

It’s a thin line…one that’s based on communication and societal perceptions. It’s forged from years of harassment and opposingly, years of kind words. The line is different for every person. But the line will always be thin between “love” and harassment.

The question is, is what do we do as a society about that line? Or is it up to the individual to understand their own boundaries? When does one cross the line?

In order to understand the thinness of said line, here are some examples of lines that I’ve heard in the past. Try to figure out which ones are “love” and which are “harassment.”

“Hey girl…oh you don’t wanna say hi to me? I get it.”

“You look beautiful today.”

“Hey, pretty mama how you doin’ today?”

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“You should be flattered that someone wants to compliment you.”

Think you have the right answers?

The answer was that all five of them could be considered harassment when you take into account the context they were in. Two of them included an attempt to touch me in some way (one grabbed my arm, the other went for my ass). Three included smiles and winks, none of which were reciprocated by me. All five produced the response of me walking quickly past them with my head down and my heart racing. See what I mean?

See what I mean?

In today’s society, the line is so thin that we are often hyper-vigilant in our quest to stop harassment. We are so afraid of making a commotion, drawing unwanted attention to ourselves. In the case of many women, myself included, we are wary to speak up against our harassers, because it could very well lead to more abuse or even physical violence.

If we expect this type of backlash and violence, what can we as a society do about it to prevent it from happening in the future?

I believe that we should teach people how to understand the difference between “love” and harassment. What I mean by this is that through education and prevention, we can help prevent everyday sexism and harassment. Of course, this isn’t a task that will be accomplished in a day. This is something that has been happening for decades, and sadly it may take time before we can truly acknowledge the irreparable damage.

Just because it’s always happened, doesn’t mean that it has to continue.

 

 

It’s Not Always Easy Being PC

Recently, I had someone tell me that ” I wasn’t being politically correct enough.” When I asked them to explain what they meant, the answer that I received was “Well we’re millennials, we should always be politically correct.”

And to that person, my response is this.

Just because I am a millennial and a human being, doesn’t mean I will be politically correct 100% of the time. And neither will you.

Political correctness (PC) is a term that is thrown around frequently in society today. It is used in discussions relating to a variety of issues, including (but not limited to) racism, homophobia and other LGBT+ issues, religious bigotry, etc.

While I personally support the use of politically correct terms and the breaking down of systemic institutions and the powers in place, I think being 100% PC may sometimes come at a cost.

By trying so hard not to offend or demean, we end up often confronting or berating others if they are not as socially cognizant as we assume they should be. Therefore, by belittling others for not being hyper-sensitive, we ourselves are not being PC. The original issue/topic gets muddled in a sea of false politeness and the real purpose of the discussion is put asunder.

Now, I am not saying that I think political correctness is without merit, but I do think that some people exploit it is as an excuse to justify their actions and behaviors. Some people simply assume that because they are “being PC”, it means that they are empowered to scold others for their lack of social consciousness/self-editing.

This potentially false sense of empowerment of a higher moral compass may not take into account the other individuals’ knowledge or comprehension about the subject that is being discussed. By not taking into account the person’s background, religious/cultural upbringing or general education, the PC person hinders their ability to construct or support a persuasive argument. You can’t help someone to learn if you don’t know how to teach.

To effectively evolve and create a more socially conscious global community, I believe we must first listen, even if we don’t like what we’re hearing. Mutual respect and growth only comes from those who are willing to feel uncomfortable with the conversation. In my opinion, everyone benefits when we are less concerned with being correct, and more concerned with open, non judgmental dialogue.

It is important to be conscious of the words we are using, but it is also important to be aware of the thoughts that are being expressed.

TRAP Laws, and Why You Should Care About Them

TRAP” (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws single out the medical practices of doctors who provide abortions and impose on them requirements that are different and more burdensome than those imposed on other medical practices. (http://www.reproductiverights.org/project/targeted-regulation-of-abortion-providers-trap)

So now that you know what they are, why does it matter? Why should you care? 

I’ll tell you why.

Because in several states across the US, most notably Texas, this type of legislation is trying to get passed, which will force clinics medical professionals who offer abortion services to have to adapt to these harsh laws, or they will be severely punished. This can result in these places closing, with those in need having nowhere else to turn. 

By having these TRAP laws put in place, having a safe place or a less expensive option for those in need will no longer be available, putting the people in different, even life-threatening situations. 

For many, clinics such as Planned Parenthood are the only medical care that some are able to receive. 

The proponents of these laws insist that they are “trying to protect women’s health.” 

But would you feel safe if the one place you could go to wasn’t able to help you because of these laws?  

I know I wouldn’t.

#‎StopTheSham‬

To Connect Or Disconnect, That Is The Question

Recently, I’ve been inspired to disconnect from electronics. For a little while at least. 

This past weekend alone, I spent over 12 hours staring at various screens,and it was draining. No matter how much I tried to relax and take a break, the screens were always there to lure me back in. 

Even now, I’m using my phone to write this very post. 

The first thing I do in the morning? Check my phone.

Going to bed? Check my phone.

Free time? Usually on my phone or computer. 

It feels like we as a society are glued to our screens, without realizing the repercussions. Instead of going to a library to look something up, we quickly type it into a search engine to avoid making any effort to try.

Human interaction? Why do we need that when we have the Internet to occupy our time?

Now I know this all sounds harsh, but when you really think about it, maybe harsh is the wake-up call we need to get away from our electronics and self-reflect. 

But before I disconnect, let me just Google ” best ways to self-reflect”. 

Prisons And Children 

As you know, I am in an independent study this semester entitled Writing In The Prisons. During this time, I will be visiting a local correction facility and teach creative nonfiction writing.

In order to prepare for this all I had to do was register my course online so  I get credit, and once I begin, I have to sign in, and potentially have my bag searched unless I leave it in the car. All I have to do is look nice and professional while I’m there.

I am also doing other volunteer work this semester with children, where I go to a local school to teach creative writing.

To prepare for this, I had to sign a volunteer sheet stating that I have never been convicted of a crime against a child, a form stating I cannot take pictures of the children, a formal background check, another form stating that I have never been convicted of child abuse, fingerprints, and I also needed to get a tuberculosis shot. There is also a strict dress code that I need to abide by. 

Do you see the difference in how I have to prepare for both of these? Because I sure do.

Why is it that I had to go through all these processes to work with children but minimal processes at best to work with inmates who are already incarcerated, and in the process of rehabilitation?

What does it say about our society as a whole when we’re willing to do everything to protect our children, but provide minimal effort to protect those who are behind bars? 

And before this gets too political, I need to clarify that I take both of these opportunities very seriously, and I look forward to working with both groups immensely. 

I just find it a bit odd that we as an overall society are less caring about those willing to change, but overprotective of future generations. Shouldn’t we care about both equally? In my case, both are receiving similar opportunities to learn creative writing. They will be taught similar concepts (although the maturity will differ), and it is supposed to be an interesting learning experience for all of us.

So why is it that when I tell people about my independent study (which I waited 2 years to take), the response I get is that it will not be safe, and that I shouldn’t go?

Yet when I tell people I am working with children, they are overwhelmingly happy for me, and  are excited to see what I am teaching them.

I am so excited and honored to have both of these opportunities, but I feel that both groups must be treated with the same respect and honesty before I can feel I am doing the best job possible, and that they are all receiving something in return.

Because in my eyes, everyone has a chance to gain something from this. Including me.