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Archive for January, 2012

When my middle daughter, Nava, was diagnosed as having developmental disabilities, I went through this grieving process intensely; and I could not have done it alone.  I had the help of a wonderful grief therapist, Dr. Ken Moses. “

I ranted over and over again, I emoted intense feelings of rage, jealousy, bitterness and the Why Me theme over and over.   Dr. Moses and his office became my safe dumping ground for one year.  I unloaded the brutally heavy weight of negative feelings and he picked them up and held them all for me, gently and strongly, with compassion, while teasing out strands of thoughts, ideas and questions. 

For me the difficulty was in trying to make sense of the senseless; trying to understand an unknown, a fluke of nature.   I have always felt if I could understand something then I could deal and cope with it better.   Here (my daughter’s disability) was something that had no explanation, no reason. 

And so I went through the process of questioning in search of some meaning to my personal misfortune.  I had to make sense of it.   I was like Govinda in Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha, I wanted “something that I can conceive, something I can understand!  Give me something to help me on my way.  My path is hard and dark.”

Somehow, going through this therapy helped reduce my intense feelings of bitterness, anger and resentment.  There were no ‘real’ answers, but there was a gradual shift in my emotions.  Until I could work through some of these negative feelings, all I could see was darkness and negativity-  all that Nava wasn’t and all that she couldn’t do.  But gradually with the release of the intensity of pain, I started to see and appreciate all that she was-  with her smiley disposition, her hard work with hardly a complaint, her easy-going nature – all blessings of a soul.        

Grieving feelings need to be expressed.  Without giving expressions to them, the pain stays within and there can be little to no relief.  The loss is kept within, oftentimes unresolved. 

It is painful to get in touch with the feelings that arise from a loss, but in the long run it is precisely in allowing ourselves to feel these difficult feelings that healing can occur. 

Grief needs to be shared.  Sharing and opening up to another reduces our sense of isolation.  When we experience a loss that brings forth grief, we can feel like we’re all alone in our situation, which further intensifies the pain. 

Feelings can be so intense at the time, as to cause us to feel as though we’re losing it or going crazy.  Sharing them and having them accepted and validated normalizes them which can be a source of comfort.

Expressing, sharing, helps unlock and release the pain.  It makes the feelings lose some of their intensity.  They begin to crack and move and with time we start to feel a slight shift.  Speckles of light can start to come through.  We’re moving….getting unstuck, getting loosened up.      

We can be there for one another in times of grief and intense pain by:

  • Acknowledging the painful feelings
  • Listening to the expression of them
  • Staying with the painful feelings; holding them and not running away because of one’s own discomfort
  • Allowing for repetition of events and feelings

We all know that even the best of friends probably could not do this for an extended period of time on a consistent basis; it can become too much.  This is where grief counselors come in. 

But for basic, compassionate and helpful skills, we can all do the above to some degree. 

Support groups were created with all of this in mind – to share and express and not feel so alone in the lonely place of loss and grief.   

Thank you for reading.  Perhaps you will Express and Share your comments below.

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This is a follow-up to my previous post on Loss. 

Before we can let go of what was and move on to the reality of what is, we first have to grieve the loss.   It is the confronting and working through of the painful feelings that eventually enables the freeing up of the bond to the loss and the subsequent movement ahead.   

The word grief comes from the Latin verb meaning ‘to burden’.  A grieving person is burdened with a heavy load of emotions.   

To allow ourselves to grieve is the hard part.  Nobody wants to feel these most intense painful emotions.  But it is only in the going through them that we can come through them to a place of healing.  I want to emphasize that this is a process, not a state or product.  It is not linear – boom,boom, boom – as if to say, ‘O.K. I finished my anger, now I can move to acceptance’;  it is fluid and we can flow through many feelings over and over again.  Just when we think we’re done feeling the rage of injustice, something may hit us and we’re back feeling the rawness of anger once again. 

These feelings are all normal and natural. 

We’re afraid that if we sink too low into the pit of the pain, we won’t be able to get out.  But in reality, it’s just the opposite.  It’s in the staying with them, feeling them and permitting their expression that facilitates the eventual healing.

Ram Dass in his book, How Can I Help, says it so beautifully: 

As we play the edge of our pain – gently opening, acknowledging, and allowing – the suffering it has caused diminishes.  If we further dissolve the boundaries, letting ourselves enter into the pain and the pain enter into us, we can see the possibility of going beyond it to where the heart is freer.  We’ve never been so vulnerable, so defenseless, and yet somehow so safe.  The surrender we were so frightened of turns out to be not defeat but a kind of victory.”

Unfortunately nowadays, too many of us look for the quick and easy way out, of pain.  We numb, avoid, distract ourselves.  These inhibiting acts just push these {grieving} emotions further inward where they fester and eventually return later, sometimes camouflaged and possibly giving way to a worse condition. 

We need to promote: 

patience for the process –  there is no time table, no calendar, no date of completion.

permission to ourselves and others to experience and go through this most natural, normal and inevitable part of life known as grieving one’s losses.

When my middle daughter, Nava, was diagnosed as having developmental disabilities, I went through this grieving process intensely; and I could not have done it alone.  I had the help of a wonderful grief therapist, Dr. Ken Moses. 

My next post will be about just this:  expressing and sharing our grief. 

 

How have you handled those painful emotions?

Thank you for coming by.  Please share your thoughts/feelings in the Comment section.

 

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As you know, I am fascinated with how people respond to adversity.    We all have our share of ‘stuff’, some seemingly more than others, but it’s in the How we go about living through it that is of great interest to me.  As I once read in a book called Why Me by Pesach Kraus, “some people become bitter, others better.”   Therein lies the challenge.  Change around one letter and you’ve got the key difference:  some succumb to the pain and get stuck in that deep dark well, others find ways to go on and grow and make something of their life despite/because of/ and through the pain. 

Turn back the clock just a bit-  I’m 18.  I remember the scene well.  It was a pleasant summer day at the park.  My friend and I were sitting by the water grappling with the question of how so much adversity could befall one person, his mother.  She had a son born with cerebral palsy who died in his early twenties in a car accident; one mastectomy followed by a suicide attempt; and years later a second mastectomy.   

We of course talked about the age-old philosophical dilemma of bad things happening to good people. 

But in light of the good life she eventually created for herself in her later years, our talks centered on her growth and positive outlook that she had been able to develop.  I was struck by how she could do it; how she could take all that bad and turn it around to develop positive directions in her life.    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to know her long enough to really explore this with her.

When I now think back to when this interest of mine began, I go back to this scene and to thinking about this woman.  This was one of those defining times. 

She suffered so much loss and yet she was able to rise above her misfortunes and build a good and meaningful life.

Loss and pain can stimulate growth and change.  It is this growth in the light of loss that can be inspirational and uplifting. 

Loss hits in many ways.  We commonly think of it in terms of a death but it encompasses anything of value that is taken away.  Divorce where the marriage has been lost, illness where one’s health has been taken or compromised, unemployment where one’s job is gone, a major move where one has lost his social network, familiarity and overall security attached to a home are all losses.   

All these require adaptation.  We have to move from what Was to what Is.  It’s here that growth and change come into play. 

But we first have to grieve the loss.  This concept of grief will be expanded upon in my next post.

The movie, The Artist, is a wonderful example of man’s tremendous difficulty in adapting to what is from his loss of what was.  The end of the silent film was a huge loss for him.  When everyone else was moving ahead to the world of talking movies, he remained stuck, couldn’t adapt to the new, couldn’t deal with the overwhelming feelings of grief and spiraled down into self-destruction.   (See the movie for the ending.)

What losses have you had that have been difficult to adjust to?   How have you managed? 

This is my specific area of interest so if you are in need of some extra support or help in adapting to a new reality, I’m only a phone call, skype, or beach/coffee shop (if you’re in my neck of the woods) away.   

Thanks for stopping by.

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Today I am the interviewee of life coach Laurie Wallin who specializes in working with parents of children with special needs.  I invite you over to 5 Minutes for Special Needs to read the interview in full.

 

Rebuilding Life – An Interview With a Pro Who “Gets” Us

Written on January 17, 2012 by Laurie

You know those stories we all tell about our kids’ care team professionals who don’t have a clue? The ones who clearly don’t know at all what life is like outside their 15-minute office visit with our child and her challenges? My guest today is NOT one of those professionals! Harriet Cabelly is a Life Coach who’s also a mom of a grown child with special needs. She specializes in helping individuals and families rebuild their lives – and grow into even better ones – despite challenges they face. I’m excited to introduce her to everyone here today!

Click here to continue reading:

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“Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.”  Leo Buscaglia

Part of building and rebuilding one’s life is helping one another do the same.  

But what does Help mean?   Does it mean doing For someone or helping them attain the skills and tools so they can do for themselves. 

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb

I’m not sure how and why this phenomenon of protective parenting started.  The better term for it nowadays is helicopter parenting.  Also, bubble wrap parenting.  Both of them are great visuals. 

 We’re swooping down and hovering over our kids constantly.  And we’re bubble- wrapping them so as to keep them from getting bruised, hurt and dirtied up from the daily toils of everyday living. 

Is this stemming from our deep parental love, from our living vicariously through them, from our need for their success (and therefore ours as well) stretched to a ludicrous extreme of unattainable perfectionism, from our own guilt?  Whatever it is, this new parenting style has reached levels of narcissism and parental agendas par excellence.

Where is the child in any of this?

What are we doing to them?

What are we doing for them?

We’re surely not teaching them to live in this world.  We’re preparing them for a utopian world of perfection, silver spoons and beautiful wrappings; a world of entitlement, of “me-me” and of “not me”.  A world where personal responsibility and accountability doesn’t exist; a world where only ‘good’ feelings can be tolerated and bad feelings are submerged under thick layers of addictive wrappings.

What tools and skills are we giving our kids so they can grow up into competent and independent adults who can function well in the ‘real’ world?  

We all need heavy doses of resiliency so we can bounce back after disappointments and hardships and get back on the horse of life, galloping on forward.   We need those resiliency muscles strengthened even more so when we have major challenges and adversities strike out at us from left field. 

In my years of working in schools and giving parenting workshops, this ‘do all for my kids’ parenting style has gotten progressively worse.  I am sad to say that our kids are being raised ‘tool-less’ and ‘skill-less.’  Their resiliency muscles are very weak. 

Yes, media, technology, societal values all play a part.  But I maintain parenting is a key factor.  We have little control over what goes on outside our homes, but we have control over the happenings within our four walls.  It’s up to us what we impart to our children; what’s acceptable and not; what are our limits, our values, our goals. 

Knowing what we want for our children down the road must guide us in how we interact and raise them on a daily basis.  We want them to be independent, we must give them (age-appropriate) independent tasks.  We want them to be competent, we must allow them the opportunities to be competent, struggles and all.  We want them to be responsible, we must give them responsibilities. 

We want them to have life-long skills to manage and function well in life, then we must let them experience the 3 Fs:

Allow them to Feel

Children must be allowed to feel the ‘bad’ feelings and know it’s O.K. and normal.  We must allow for them to feel sad, angry, frustrated.  For it is only by feeling them can we learn to manage them.  And it is only by going through them that we learn we can withstand them.  We can survive the painful feelings and still be whole.  We do not break because we feel badly.

Allow them to Fall

Children need to know they can fall down and get back up again.  They can get dirty and messy, get bruised and can scrape themselves off.  How else will they learn they can have disappointments in life and can get back up and continue on, even with ‘positiveness’.  If we don’t allow them to experience falling down and picking themselves up,  then one big fall later on can be a crusher.  They need to know the world doesn’t end and they can get up and move on.

Allow them to Fail

Obviously this is similar to ‘fall’ but emphasizing again the idea of making mistakes.  It’s not about perfection.  Perfection doesn’t exist.  It’s about trying and maybe failing and then trying again.  If we can’t continue on after a mistake or failure, we’re doomed.  Successes are built on efforts failed.  There is no greater joy than that of trying, trying, trying and finally succeeding.  We all know most times we’re not fortunate enough to succeed immediately.  It often takes many attempts.  If we as parents run in after one attempt or not even one attempt, to do For them so they don’t have to struggle, how is persistency learned (a necessary quality needed for success)?  It’s not.  What’s learned is, “I don’t need to do for myself, someone will be there to do for me.”  And when nobody’s there to do for them, uh oh, they’re stuck, immobilized, crippled, dependent.

The best help we can give our kids is allowing them to experience and feel the emotions of life, with our support and guidance.  But not in our rescuing, hovering and tightly wrapping them in the hopes of avoiding any pain and struggle.

“Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering, and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others.”
Joseph B. Wirthlin”

Note:  Two wonderful books on the subject is,  The Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel and The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine

I’d love to hear your take on this subject.   Thanks for stopping by and reading.

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How Do You Give?

I am pleased to share with you my guest post featured today on Alex Blackwell’s inspirational blog, The Bridgemaker.

 

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”  Anne Frank

I recently heard a rabbi give a sermon on Giving of oneself and doing good deeds (the Hebrew word is ‘hesed’ meaning loving kindness, acts of kindness).

I started off half listening thinking, one more speech on the subject.  But I started tuning in as I heard some new words being emphasized – comfort zone, personal agenda, narcissism.  The sermon was starting to have a different twist.  I leaned forward to listen with extra effort. 

 Click here to continue reading this post at The Bridemaker.

 

Thank you for stopping by to read this.  Please subscribe (if you haven’t already) and please share.  Comments are most welcome on either or both blogs – here or there.

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Rising Above Disabilities

I like to follow up my interviews with a powerful and important take-away idea.  There are many in Michael Hingson’s interview.  

What a gift it is to be able to go beyond one’s disability and not let it be the identifying label.   As we know, labels put us in boxes.  They imprison us and keep us functioning at what the preconceived notion of that disability dictates, and that’s usually an inferior status.   And those ‘dictations’ usually come from society and outside sources.

Blindness is not a handicap; it’s something I’ve always lived with.  The real handicap comes from the prejudice people have about blindness.” (Michael Hingson)

Temple Grandin  said, “Autism is secondary for me.  I define myself by what I do.  I look at myself as a professor, a designer first……   I’m seeing too many kids on the autism spectrum where autism is becoming their main fixation.”

When my daughter, Nava, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 12, my mother began ‘labeling’ her as a ‘sick child’.  That bugged the heck out of me because here she was taking her meds which helped keep the colitis under control (until years later when all hell broke loose) and going about her regular daily life of school and after school programs.   When the mini-flare ups occurred, we dealt with them and moved on.  I  tried hard not to let it define our lives by keeping everything as normal and fun as possible and have not having our mind-set be wrapped around sickness. 

Similarly with stuttering.  Navi is a person who stutters.  (Yes, obviously you can say she’s a stutterer.)  But again, these fine distinctions go a long way.  When we’d go to a restaurant, Navi ordered her food.  Now of course my mother would say, “Harriet, you order for her, it’s hard for her, don’t make her do it.”  First of all, Navi wanted to order and secondly, I always encouraged her to speak up.  Having others do it for her would have given her the negative message of ‘you can’t do it, you know you have a speech problem;’  in other words a message of incompetency.  Over time, this could be detrimental to her self-esteem where she might eventually withdraw.   The last thing I wanted was for her stuttering to effect her wonderfully outgoing and friendly personality.  Then we’d have a double whammy of a problem.  Let her be out there talking with her stutter.

Michael Hingson, in his book, Thunderdog, writes poignantly of this concept:

“I don’t think of myself as ‘blind Michael Hingson.’  There are other descriptions that rank much higher.  I am also a husband, friend, son , brother, cousin, dog owner, sales manager, physics grad, vintage radio show enthusiast, writer, speaker, networker, barbecue chef, ice cream maker, humorist, book lover, horseback rider, man of prayer, technology geek, pianist, world traveler, and dancer.  And that’s just for starters.  Blind man is in there somewhere, but far down the list.  One of the greatest compliments I get is when someone says, ‘I forgot you are blind.’  Then I know for sure that individual is relating to me as a multi-faceted person, not through the lens of my blindness.” 

These differences in perception guide us in how we view ourselves, which impact how we put ourselves out in the world, which therefore effects how we function and live…

Which brings me to the next hugely powerful point of how his parents raised him.  “My entire childhood was about finding a way for me to fit in and function in the community, not separating me and treating me as special or disabled. “   He was treated and raised as a regular kid, playing outside with everyone else, being disciplined and responsible. 

We dis-able our kids when we coddle them and do all for them because of pity and/or guilt.  (This obviously holds true for non-special needs kids as well.) We strip them of their own innate capacities, strength and resources to rise and flourish.  They pretty quickly fall into a dependency role and an ‘I can’t do’ mentality and further down the road it becomes victim role and entitlement.  That’s the last thing we want for our children, let alone someone who already has ‘issues’ to transcend.       

How we view them is how we treat them.  If we view them with pity, we treat them such and that is crippling.  Pity further handicaps.  We want to encourage them to be the best they can be despite whatever issues they have.    

Bravo to Michael Hingson’s parents who seemed to instinctively know how to encourage and raise a child to rise above all the odds that would inevitably be out there in the world.   He is what all parents wish for their children when they grow up –  to be independent, competent,  high functioning, happy,  productive, in relationship, enjoying life and making a {huge} difference; living a life of meaning, satisfaction and joy.  A true success.  And a shining light unto others.   This is a man with Ability on every front.        

 

Anything here ‘speak’ to you-   Disabilities,parenting, perceptions, labels??

Thank you for stopping by and reading.  Comments are always appreciated.  New subscribers are encouraged.  And sharing through Facebook and Twitter is a plus. 

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