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.

 

 

Stay Tuned…

After several months, a much needed mental vacation, and too many cups of coffee, I am pleased to announce that new blog posts will be going up this week! 

So keep your minds open and your eyes peeled, because I don’t think you’ll want to miss what is in store. 

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, and I do hope you’re looking forward to it as well. 

xxoo. 

Thanks Mom and Dad, For Everything.

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of becoming part of the latest class of college graduates.

But as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, I realized something.

Even though I was the one who was graduating, there was no doubt that without the support of my friends and family, I wouldn’t have been graduating at all.

In particular, there are two people whom without their support and love, I wouldn’t have even existed to get to walk across that stage.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, those two people are my parents.

My mom and my dad are two of the most amazing people in my life, and I’m going to tell you why.

My parents have always been there for me, from Pre-K to college, and have stood by my side through the impossibly tough times. They tried for years to have a child, and when I finally was born, did everything in their power to make sure I would be okay.

They’ve taught me some of my most valued lessons and have helped teach me right from wrong. They’ve taught me to always help others when I could, and the importance of giving, especially when others have nothing.

My parents have dealt with my 2 AM anxiety-filled phone calls and constant questions about how to be an adult.

My parents sometimes struggled to help get me through college, all while working full-time and raising my sister too.

My parents taught me to work hard, but to also take the time to relax and have fun. They’ve taught me that if I have an idea or a dream, I should work as hard as I can and that it will be possible.

They’ve taught me to love pizza, disco, old movies and “All In The Family”. They’ve taught me what true love looks like after 37 years of being together.

My parents are my role models, and there is no doubt that without their love and support, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

So thank you, Mom and Dad, for everything you’ve done, and everything you will continue to do.

I love you.

Writing In The Prison, Week One : “Us” vs. “Them”

This past week, I started teaching my independent study in the correctional facility.

While I was teaching, there was one major thing that I noticed. The “Us” versus “Them” mentality, particularly in relationship between the inmates and the guards.  

For example, in the middle of writing, a guard interrupted the class to check on a specific inmate, which caused some friction between the inmates and the guard. After the encounter, the inmates rallied around the one who was singled out, which served as a unique bonding experience.

They were the “Us” and the guard was “Them”. Which made me realize that outside of the prison hierarchy, we ourselves are constantly dividing outselves into “Us” versus “Them” scenarios.

You and your fellow classmates don’t like your professor? “Us” (the students) versus “Them” (the professor)

Your boss at work is rude and tough? “Us” (the workers) versus “Them” (the boss).

Hierarchies exist outside of the prison system, yet they seem to be one of the most notable examples of authority versus the population.

Might it be due to the extreme environment of working/being in a prison? 

Look back on a psychological experiment, known as the Zimbardo experiment or The Stamford Prison Experiment. In the study, the researchers studied the psychological effects of being a prisoner or a prison guard in a mock prison. Despite the fake settings, what was found was that regardless of role, the participants still divided themselves into an “Us” versus “Them”, which created extreme conflict and a severe social hierarchy. 

If a staged psychological study can produce these results, it doesn’t seem to fair well for real-world situations. Why is that?

I will keep my eye on this throughout the duration of my independent study, because perhaps there is more to the story.

Until next time. 

What To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed. 

10) Try to relax/take some time to take care of yourself. You won’t be able to get anything done if you’re too stressed.

This means taking a few seconds to stretch your body, read a post from your favorite blogger (wink wink), jam to your favorite song, shower if you need too. Whatever gets you out of your head, and relaxing.

9) Make sure you get some sleep. Being exhausted won’t help you at all.

Even if it means quick power naps, or a full night’s sleep, do what you can t0 make sure you’re in the best possible mindset to work.

8) Make sure you eat. If you’re hungry, nothing will get accomplished.

And don’t try to insist that “you’re too busy to eat.” Take 5 minutes, grab a bar, a fruit/vegetable, anything that can keep you nourished, and enjoy. Trust me, your body (and mind) will thank you.

7) Try to make a to-do list for what you need to accomplish.

Get out a spare notebook, a piece of paper, a whiteboard…anything you can write on and something that you won’t forget to check.

6) Accomplish the little goals, that way you won’t be distracted when you try to work on the bigger ones.

For example, take a minute to send an email or make an appointment (small goal), then work on your huge project.

5) If you need help with a task, ask for it.

Whether it’s friends, family, your work partners, your boss/professor. If you have questions or are confused, ask for help.

4) Try to avoid procrastinating.

Speaking from a lot of experience here, try not to procrastinate. It’ll only make you more stressed and overwhelmed, which isn’t what you want. Trust me.

3) If something doesn’t work out, move on.

Maybe you failed an exam, or forgot an appointment or a meeting that you were supposed to attend. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t do, try to move past it and onto the next task. The past isn’t something you can change.

2) Try to get outside if you can.

Taking a few deeps breaths of fresh air can do great things, even if you only have a minute to spare. Fresh air beats stale inside air any day.

1 ) You’re not going to always be overwhelmed.

Sure, you’re overwhelmed now, but there will come a time where all of the stress and anxiety will go away. So instead of panicking about what you have to do, keep in mind that it won’t always be this way. You can do it, I believe in you.

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. 

I’ve Never Seen Star Wars & That’s Okay

Hi, I’m 21 years old, and I’ve never seen the Star Wars movies. And frankly, I don’t know if I ever want to.

If you haven’t stopped reading after this (or passed out from pure shock), let me explain why.

As a kid, it was never really a topic of discussion among my family and friends. My parents haven’t seen all of the movies, and they were alive when the first movie came out (sorry for aging you Mom & Dad!). My sister was only a baby by the time the prequel trilogy was completed, and my friends weren’t really interested in watching that sort of stuff.

Sure, I liked fantasy and science-fiction. But growing up, the first three movies had already been released, which left me with the prequels. By the time the last movie came out (Episode III: Revenge of the Sith), I was only  10 years old.

As a 10 year old, going to watch a movie about space didn’t quite capture my attention. I had other things to do, like watch television , read, and listen to my CD player. And by the time it came out at Blockbuster, I had moved on to other interests, namely camp and tennis

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty big nerd. I can quote parts of the Harry Potter series, I know the smallest Doctor Who details (classic and current). I’ve attended Comic-Con for the past four years in cosplay.

But Star Wars has never appealed to me.

That, and all of the movies have been spoiled for me in some way.

Not on purpose of course, but still. Even the original movies have been in some way spoiled for me, and there’s really nothing I can do about it.

And before you blame technology and social media, I’ve had friends and well-intentioned strangers ruin plot points for me. In their excitement to explain the importance of watching Star Wars, they have shared key character relationships and events.

So I figured, why watch what has already been spoiled? I am happy to live in complete and utter ignorance.

And for the record, I’ve never seen the Lord of the Rings movies either.

But that’s another story, in a galaxy far far away.