Tag: Grief

UIO LAUNCHES AUTUMN VLOGGING SEASON

Almost October! It’s hard to believe that Autumn 2021 is here in full colour. Shrouded often by grey to black clouds, still the days reveal deep purples, tantalising oranges and the subtle yet impressive off-whites that we’ve become so familiar with during the season. Not to mention some of the lovely sunsets that seemingly come over the earth just a little bit sooner than expected.

It’s my favourite season, though I can scarcely remember what happened in Autumn 2020! Upon reflection, I suspect it felt more like a time of mourning than a time of changing but in many ways, the two or are intrinsically linked. That’s why I decided to kick off UIO’s new vlogging season with the subject grief. Tough topic but a very important one all the same.

I never feel too far from grief nowadays and though I haven’t gotten cosy and comfortable with it, I have accepted it as a teacher. Check out my vlog on YouTube for 7 lessons learned and don’t forget to subscribe. And for more information on dealing with grief, listen to our podcast with Kristi Hugstad, the grief girl.

Take care of you inside and out and remember it is UIO. Stay tuned for the next vlog coming soon: Navigating the New Normal.

It’s Personal: To Share or Not to Share

Having friends online to share the good, the bad and the indifferent news has its pros and cons. The best part, if you ask me, is being connected to other people, having like-minded people to celebrate with or even to commiserate with during times of needs. Admittedly, however, I am not that comfortable with commiserating publicly, although it works a jewel for some people. I tend to send direct messages if for some reason I am unable to pick up the phone and call or see someone face-to-face. For me the going public with grief  somehow strips away the walls of privacy I need to come to terms with the matter.

Managing feelings when something sad or tragic happens is complicated unto itself without adding the worry of having an audience. I sort of freeze up if you will and can’t process what I am feeling in the first little while and have found it futile to try to express anything sensible to share on or off line.

A few years ago when my sister called me and told me my father had been rushed to a prestigious hospital in Atlanta with very little promise, I reverted to childhood—stopped eating, talking, walking, doing anything. Paul had to call the airline, book a ticket, pack my suitcase and coax me to get up and get ready to get on that flight.

And when my mother died, I didn’t make a public announcement and didn’t want public condolences and to be sure I didn’t get them, I said a quiet word to a friend or two and presto my wishes were respected. Honestly, I felt no judgements there nor have I dished them out on the flipside. For friends and family who are comfy with grieving publicly, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a personal preference.

Still according to Nicola Morgan, guest on UIO: Your Online Wellbeing Inside Out, hearing sad stories repeatedly, which we do online, whether they are in the news, are our own, or in the newsfeeds of our friends, can drive us down a bit. As human beings, we naturally sympathise and empathise with each other and take on each other’s sorrows. I know I do. And when the going gets tough, my mood swings downward, which not only impacts me but also those around me. Ask Paul!

Taking a tip from Nicola, I try to manage my intake of sad news, which is not always possible if it is happening directly. In that case, like people whose job involves dealing with sad stories all the time, such as therapists, clinicians, people working in war zones, I might consider a talking therapy of some kind.

But where I can control how much sad news I take in, I make an effort, as I did in the days of old before the internet. Then it was the television and the newspapers. I switched off or didn’t read, as simple as that.  Of course, it made me a poor conversationalist at parties and so on but I was perhaps the happiest person there. Never mind being ignorant.

So whether you are happy to share sad news online or not or you tend to sponge it up, how to cope with it, manage it, applies to us all, young, old or in between. But as Nicola points out, sad news can have a bigger impact on the mood, emotional health of a more vulnerable person. And certainly when I was grieving the loss of my mom, I was in the vulnerable group and likely still am.

Anyhow, here are my top tips:

  • For every sad news story, read an uplifting one. And in the time of grief, remember the good times.
  • Offer private messages to friends and family when at all possible. There is something about a private moment that matters deeply. Recently I had the occasion to be there in person for some bereaved family friends that I grew up with and reconnecting offline did us all a world of good.
  • And if you do share your sad news stories, don’t spend oodles of time focusing on the negative, pluck out the positives where possible.
  • And finally, avoid checking to see who has responded and how many people have responded. It’s not a measure of how much people care. That’s personal.

But so is the preference for whether to mourn and grieve online or not. In any case, what matters most is that you protect your mental and emotional health. And that is truly personal. Take care!

 

Ready to Work

Readiness is important in many major areas of life: ready for university, ready for marriage, ready for parenthood, and sometimes after a long absence, we need to be ready to do something vital again such as work.

For weeks now, I have not written anything comprehensible, haven’t worked. I am sure this hinges on the loss of my mother. Though I have had much to say, I haven’t had the wherewithal to say it in writing. Let’s face it. Daunted by grief, I quit working for nearly three months.

This is not to brag about it. Nor is it something that I am particularly proud of. On the contrary, I would like to pretend it hasn’t happened. But it has and all things that happen out of order, my silence as a writer, deserve an explanation.

Otherwise, such practices sneak their way into the norm, though I do understand that it is normal to grieve. And that there is no set time when we should get back to work, back to life as we knew it before loss. Of course, the latter never happens since with loss, life changes and often drastically, depending on the degree of the loss. We find ourselves taking on new roles, living in unacquainted space, etc. I know I have, but that’s another blog.

In any case, most of us have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but also to our surviving loved ones to live after loss and often to the deceased one, too.

A friend pointed out that surely my mother wouldn’t want me to quit indefinitely. Spot on! When she lost her father to a tragic accident and then her mother to an illness, my mom felt broken hearted as I do now, but was able to maintain her commitments to family, church, community and work and so on.

On this note, it is fortunate for me that I am self-employed and have a fall back—my husband. Otherwise I am almost sure I would be out of job, not to mention what else I would be out of.

But writers, artists, the likes, do have a history of long absences; dry spells and so on, since the mind is our most valuable tool. And grief, at least for me, has been mind blowing. The tricks of the trade that helped me out of the dessert in the past have been futile —stepping away from the work, running, which normally satisfies my thirst, letting the work rest and going back to it and so on.

Typing for Inspiration
How about typing for inspiration?

This time, the quagmire, whatever you want to call it, was different. As I came to terms with this, I accepted my feelings as natural to the grieving process, although they felt (and still do) rather alien, as alien as death itself, though dying is a natural part of living, I said with a brave face to a dear friend the other day.

With heartfelt remorse, she replied, no it isn’t.

Of course we’re both right. Everyone has to die; there is no way around it. It is the natural end to life, however it comes about. But death is an evasive matter, one that plunges us into the depths of grief. Nothing about it feels natural. Nothing.

Yet, here I am, to some still early days yet, returning to work. To others, I am ever so late. Due to the nature of their work and the way they process grief, they’ve been back for ages, even if their hearts still ache.

But here is the thing that we likely have in common. To some degree, we return to work, do what we need to do, when we are ready. Ultimately it was such words that provided the incentive I needed to write again, coupled with a take away from my church’s Bible in One Year subscription.

In Luke 19: 11-14, Jesus tells The Parable of the Ten Minas, in which a man of noble birth called ten of his servants and gave them a mina each before he left on a journey. When he returned, it was the one who turned the one into ten that received the highest of blessings, precisely because he made good use of his resource.

To paraphrase our vicar, Nicky Gumbel, we are not only supposed to use our money, but also all the gifts God has given us. That means the gift of writing, too.

Hence, I am ready and I hope you are too. Visit sonjalewis.com or sonjalewis.com for weekly blogs on life, on lifestyle, on London, and other relevant topics. See you next week.