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.

 

 

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.

Writing In The Prison, Week 5: No, It Isn’t Like Orange Is The New Black

“So, you work in a prison? Is it anything like Orange Is The New Black? Or Prison Break? Or…

I’ve received this question more times than I can count in the past few weeks. Whenever I tell people about my Independent Study, this is usually one of the first questions I am asked.

At first, I thought it was funny so I laughed it off. But now the more that the question is asked, the less funny I find it.

Is Orange Is The New Black really what people think prison is actually like? Or for that matter, do people think that any show or movie which depicts prison life is 100% accurate?

The women I work with know that they’ve done something wrong, but they want to get better and to start their lives again. The most “attitude” I’ve seen all semester is from the guards who work there.

Why is it that there is such a stigma against prison life? Is it because we as humans are afraid of the unknown, the unusual? There are so many questions, and sadly not enough answers yet.

But I can tell you one thing, this prison (and the people in it) are nothing like those in Orange Is The New Black. There’s not even a theme song!

Please let me know what you think, and share.

Until next time.

Writing In The Prison, Week 4: The Things We’ve Lost 

We’ve all lost something or someone. From old childhood toys to former friends, family members to even lost memories, we, as human beings are in a constant state of loss.

We can lament over the things we’ve lost. We can also hold out hope that we can rediscover for what we’ve lost.

This week the writing prompt for the inmates was to write a story about things we’ve lost.

But what happens if you’ve lost everything?

Many of the inmates in the correctional facility know what that’s like.

These people, whether by their own actions or the actions of others, have lost their homes, their freedom, their families.

They’ve lost their faith and their hope that things will get better. They themselves are lost, and they want to find themselves.

We all want to find ourselves. We want to know about who we’re supposed to be in this world, and what we’re going to accomplish. We want to know from the second we’re born what we’re going to have.

But what does it take to do that? Does it mean we need to lose everything to gain perspective on the world? Does dealing with loss = finding ourselves?

Does it mean that you take things  away until you’ve lost everything? Or does it mean that once you hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up?

And who can experience loss? Is it only those who have something or someone to lose? Or can anyone experience the feelings of loss? I think that a loss isn’t only for the privileged, loss is for everyone. Everyone knows in some way what it’s like to lose something, to lose someone. Some people lose more than others, but that doesn’t mean that the ones who haven’t truly lost anything don’t know what it means.

I think that the things we’ve lost are a part of us and regardless of who or where we are, the feeling of loss is something we can all relate to. And if we have lost everything, the important thing to remember is that the feelings of loss are universal, you’re not alone in your loss.

Please make sure to give other pieces in this series a read, and make sure to share.

Until next time.

 

Writing In The Prison, Week 3: Emotions

A few days ago was the three-week mark of my independent study, Writing In The Prison. This week, something that I noticed while teaching was how important emotions are conveyed through the writing that we do.

It’s not only the inmates writings’ that have emotional depth but ours as well. Every word we write, every story we tell is based on real things that have happened to us. It up to us to show the world what we want to say. What this means is that there can often be deeper emotions behind the words we write.

We’re given prompts to help us along in our stories, but everyone interprets those differently. For example, one of the prompts for this week was “write about an encounter with a bully.”  What I saw in the inmates writing was their real passion; they knew exactly they wanted to tell their story, emotions and all.

It’s because of this passion that I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the class.

Please don’t forget to like and share.

Until next time.

Writing In The Prison, Week 2: Empathy versus Sympathy

Yesterday was the second week of my independent study, Writing In The Prison.

And this week, something that I noticed while teaching was the emotions that were expressed, and how they were reacted to.

Several of the stories this week were deeply personal, and due to their personal nature, it also brought strong emotional reactions as well. Which is completely normal in any situation, but in this particular situation, I wasn’t completely sure how I should react.

This is where empathy versus sympathy comes into play.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
Sympathy : feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
Can we as humans be both empathetic and sympathetic? Or can we only experience one over the other?
In the case of the inmates, it felt as if this class serves as a unique bonding experience for them, as it is allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings with each other. But while the teachers share as well, it feels like there is still a disconnect between us. Because while we are part of the class, we still are part of the “Them”.  Even though we do not hold the same authoritative positions as the guards, we’re still volunteers in the facility. We have the freedom to leave at any time, and we technically do not have to return. We choose to come each week, for different reasons. We do not fit into a proper category because of our freedomswe are not inmates, and we are not workers.
But I know it doesn’t mean that we don’t care. In fact, I would argue in some ways, we are more compassionate, as we only get an hour to learn more about these people, and to learn more about the facility as well. And in turn, the women in the class, and the workers at the facility only get about an hour to learn more about us. Which means the limited time is allowing us to move faster, beyond the bonds of small talk, to really get to what matters.
And I think that is what makes this opportunity so special.
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.

Writing In The Prison: First Experience

This past Thursday, I had got my first opportunity to go visit the correctional facility in which I am conducting my independent study. I won’t begin teaching until after I am back from Spring Break, but here are some of the things that I learned and noticed while on a tour of the facility.

  • Street clothes instead of uniforms

The inmates in the correctional facility are allowed to wear their regular clothes, as compared to jumpsuits. I found this particularly interesting, as it makes the facility feel less like a permanent place for the inmates, as their stay time is usually 18 months maximum. It also helps to add a sense of personal expression and identity, whereas in a larger prison, individuality is often taken away.

  • Lesser Crimes

As this is a correctional facility, not a prison, many of the inmates are there for smaller offenses, usually drug or alcohol related issues or crimes (i.e., DUI, DWI, drug possession, petty larceny) However, for some of the male prisoners, they may also have domestic offenses. If that is the case, they will not be placed with the female inmates in most programs or classes. At the present moment, there are about 200 people (excluding personnel) in the facility, with roughly 45 of them being women. I will be predominately teaching some of the female inmates during my time there.

  • More freedom than heavier security prisons

Many of the prisoners are part of a work track, meaning that they are able to leave the facility in order to attend job interviews or their outside jobs. They will also keep these jobs once they are released from the correctional facility.

There is also a variety of programs and classes that the inmates can attend, from alcohol and drug counseling, to GED preparation. The creative writing class that I am teaching with is also part of the list of programs, in which the inmates can either be placed in, or volunteer to attend.

However, there are still some restrictions. All food and items that are brought in must be checked by the guards for contraband, there are cameras in almost every hall or room (including the bathroom), visitors are required to sign in, and the guards are armed. While the inmates do have more freedoms as compared to the larger prison, the facility is still a secure place, and there are rules that must be followed.

Overall, my first time going in the correctional facility can be best explained by the facility’s program coordinator.

“When they leave here, we want them to be better off than when they first arrived here.”

And with that, I cannot wait to start teaching soon, and I can’t wait to tell you all about my experiences with the writing group, and in the facility in general. Until next time.

Why You Shouldn’t Procrastinate (But You Will Anyway).

Because the more you procrastinate, the less you’ll get done. That’s just a fact. 

This post took me over two months to write, and the only reason that I’m writing it now is because I’m procrastinating on the work I’m actually supposed to be doing. Instead of killing two birds with one stone, I’m killing no birds, with no stones.

When you actually feel motivated to do your work (or whatever you need to focus on), you’ll have nothing to do. Trust me. 

There’s always more work to be done when you don’t want to do it, and then there’s no work to be done when you actually want to get it completed. It’s karma at it’s finest.

If you avoid working on important things (like job applications and blog posts), people will be concerned about you. 

More than once, I have been asked by family and friends if I’m sick or in trouble, solely because I avoided my responsibilities. This is often accompanied by a lame excuse on my part.

Examples:

“I totally meant to write today…it’s just that (insert show here) was finally added/updated on Netflix, and I needed to watch it.”

“I was going to do my homework…but then I thought it would be a good idea to bake cookies instead.”

or my personal favorite (and most used):

“I meant to do (insert task here), but I got distracted by (insert stupid distraction here)”.

In my case, it’s usually pictures of cute animals and/or random YouTube videos.

The more you avoid something, the more it comes back to haunt you later.

Waking up in a panic at 3 AM because you totally forgot to complete an assignment that’s due that day is a real pain in the ass. Especially because you know you’re not going to get it done. You think you will, but trust me, you won’t.

You have a list of excuses that you use everytime you procrastinate. But no one is buying them.

“I was going to but..”

“I’m working on it now…” (You’re watching Netflix in your pajamas eating Nutella out of the jar with a spoon. Don’t kid yourself)

“I was too tired/hungry…” (One of my most popular excuses)

“I went out last night…” (Just because you’re hungover, doesn’t mean you can’t get work done.)

These may sound like great excuses, but your friends/family/etc. have heard them before, and know what you’re up to. So don’t bullshit them, or yourself.

And finally…

Procrastination on important things won’t help you in the long run

Sure, it’s great to kick back and relax, but running around like a crazy person later on is not worth all of the trouble. You’re trying to get 5 months of work done in 5 days, and let me tell you, all of the to-do lists in the world won’t help you now.

Just do what you need to do, and then you’ll actually have the free time later to chill out and not worry about everything you’re supposed to be doing. Simple as that.

Tell me, what are you procrastinating on right now? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll happily procrastinate completing my work to respond back.