Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grief & Bereavement: A Personal Journey

A Good Day in the Life of a Grieving Widower
By: Pierre Milot

Strangely enough, today is a good day, it's been so long since I've had one. 

All bundled up in my  red checkered construction shirt, and discreetly trespassing on my neighbour’s long country driveway, I'm taking my old dog Max out for his morning walk.  Protected from the cool river wind by the bordering woods, I can feel the hot spring sun gently warming my face and shoulders, and can hear nothing else but the birds chirping, the familiar honking sound of the Canadian wild geese flying high in the clear blue sky happy to come back home, and the delightful crunching sound of gravel underneath my feet as I walk.  With an uncertain smile I breathe in the fresh morning breeze, I feel good. 

Strolling along, lost in thought, I marvel at our capacity to recover from what seems at times like the ''unrecoverable''.  How can it be that today I can smile when only yesterday I was in the deepest of sorrows, with little hope for tomorrow.  As I ponder on this, I reminisce, I think back on that dreadful November day, when, as I was holding my wife's cold dying hand
and counting her last breaths, she left me in so much pain and loneliness.  I remember that while I was putting on a brave front reassuring her that I would be OK, I was prompting her to go towards the ''light'' (as if she wasn't  already there, for where else could such a kind
and loving soul be, but in the arms of an angel).

Little did I know then that very soon I would be kneeling on the ground, bent over in gut-wrenching agony, sobbing like a child, and begging for her to come back.  I would have done everything then, change my religion, give away all that I owned, even my life and soul to see and feel her, to be able to one last time delicately run my fingers through her soft silky hair, as I lovingly kiss her forehead while savouring her particular body scent that I've grown to love so much.

But, if the Divine in his infinite wisdom has granted us the gift of growth through sorrow and pain, he has also given us the necessary strength to overcome the same hardships.  So, reaching inside the deepest confines of my being for that slippery strength, I managed to somehow make the pain more bearable, stand up and shakily face the day one more time.   

Now, in an effort to heal my shattered life, I'm slowly learning to redefine my sense of self, my identity in this strange and scary new world without her, to think in terms of ''I'' instead of ''We'', while at the same time keep her memory alive in my heart.

I will make it, I will survive, I will somehow learn to be whole again but in a different way than before, and when the tough days comes back again, I will always have today, the comforting memory of this ''Good Day'' to fall back on.

Waking up from my reveries, I focus back on Max, my only daily companion these days, as he too, healing from his loss, enjoys the day.  His inquisitive nose intrigued by the pungent odour of last fall's decaying leaves, he decides to investigate further and scratches the ground with an awkward paw to uncover the newly grown fresh tender grass shoots, a welcomed sign of the summer to come. 

The never ending circle of life.

Today is made of my yesterdays, and my tomorrow is made of my today.
Pierre Milot

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Stress Management Tips. This month I am specifically targeting ''Type A'' personalities and very busy people.

Type A Stress Relief
Stress Tips For "Type A" Types

People with "Type A" personality traits
can experience greater-than-average levels of stress. Being time-conscious,
competitive, and impatient, as many Type A people are, can create stress in
relationships, jobs, and other areas of life. (Not sure how much you fit the
typical "Type A" pattern?
Take the Type A Self Test
and see.)

Type A traits can also create obstacles for stress management. Some of
the more effective stress management techniques can feel frustrating for
someone who has a more intense personality. For example, the quiet stillness of
meditation can feel difficult for those who are
impatient, competitive, and used to making every second count at work.

However, certain techniques can work quite well for those with a Type A
personality, and other techniques require just a few adjustments to work well
for type a stress relief. While it might be nice to soften some of the sharper
edges of the Type A personality, it's not necessary to change who you are
before you can start managing your stress. The following Type A stress
relievers can work particularly well for those with Type A personalities, and
can be wonderfully effective stress relievers for others as well.

Use Music
Listening to music is a simple Type A stress relief trick that takes little
effort. When you’re driving, put on some of your favorite music (instead of
catching up on phone calls) and you can enjoy the ride (no more
road rage) and arrive feeling relaxed. If you
need to slow down, play slower-paced music; if you need to energize, play more
upbeat tunes.

Get Exercise
Those experiencing Type A stress may find it difficult to slow down for stress
relief—so why not speed up? Exercise carries many health and stress management
benefits. (Read about
stress and exercise here.) It’s perfect
for those with Type A traits because it offers a paradigm where the more you
rush (on a treadmill, for example), the less stressed you'll feel. Specific
exercise regimens like martial arts, running, or even dancing can provide a
great aerobic workout and a sense of accomplishment. Exercise classes can offer
social connection as well as a little positive peer pressure to push you to
stay on track.

Try Expressive Writing
If you have a Type A personality, you probably like to be more active than
passive. An active way to examine and express your thoughts is to start a
journaling practice, or start expressive writing regularly. Writing about your
feelings—especially if they're intense and it’s done in a time-limited way—can
help you to get them out of your head. (See more on
this type of expressive writing.)
Writing about your plans to fix a situation can also help you feel less
stressed and more able to let go of worries. (See more on
journaling away your worries,
too.) Writing in a
gratitude journal can help you to
maintain a greater focus on the positive events that happen throughout your
day. There are several ways to use writing for stress relief, and they can be
helpful for relieving Type A stress.

Take Time For Hobbies
One issue that Type A people run into is a difficulty balancing work with
the rest of their life. It can be difficult scheduling in time to just relax,
but scheduling enjoyable activities can be a way around the tendency to
over-schedule to the point of being over-stressed and lacking in balance.
Scheduling activities you find relaxing can, out of necessity, require
letting some things go,
so this can be another route toward forcing yourself to cut out things in your
life that don’t serve you. If you tie your hobbies into a
group structure, it will be more
difficult to decide at the last minute that you're "too busy" to take
the time for your hobbies. Start a knitting circle, take a painting class, or
join a band. Make hobbies part of your plan.

Stay Connected
Being Type A can mean you're so busy with work that you don't have as much
time to enjoy the people in your life. But being socially isolated can cause
stress, and having a few supportive people in your life can sometimes work
wonders Type A stress. Making it a point to stay connected with people doesn't
have to take a lot of time, and having people "there for you" when
you need it is well worth the time invested. For those with Type A traits,
sometimes being connected means working on
communication skills and remembering of the
value of relationships. It can also mean just taking the time to
meet up with friends, or reminding yourself
to take a few minutes to say hi to the people around you. This is a stress
relief technique that may not feel like one, but it's an area to focus on that
can really help.

Do Some Yoga
If you really do like the idea of
meditation, but just can’t bring yourself to
sit quietly for that long without feeling stressed from all your thoughts and
your need to stay active, I suggest trying yoga. Yoga brings many great health
benefits, and can incorporate some meditation features (as well as
breathing exercises), but may provide
enough activity and focus that it feels calming and quieting, but without the
type of silence that feels deafening. Also, going to a yoga studio provides a
group environment that may make it easier for you to stay focused and continue
making the time in your schedule to attend regularly.

*If after all these tips,  you still need
something to efficiently calm you down, try the following breathing exercise
that I teach in my Stress Management workshop.  

It is very simple and easy to implement. You can do this exercise discreetly in front of your computer, at the dentist, stuck in traffic, etc...

The Rhythmic Breath

Without crossing your legs, sit down
comfortably on a chair, hold your back straight and let your hands rest on your

Close your eyes and direct your thoughts on
the air that is coming in and out of your lungs while directing the breathed
air towards the top of your nose in the olfactory zone.

Now, start breathing slowly while counting
from one to three.  Then, hold the air in
your lungs while you count another time up to three. 

Once this is done, breathe out slowly while
counting up to three again, then exhale slowly to force out the air left in
your lungs.  In order to accomplish this,
contract your stomach muscles to compress the diaphragm, then start breathing
again up to three, and start once more from the beginning.

At first, start with 3 to 5 minute sessions
and increase the length gradually to reach 15 to 20 minutes sessions.