Grief in the Workplace and at Home, A Male’s Perspective

There are many accounts of how the death of a loved affects us judging by the number of books available on the subject.  It seems the very act of writing about our experiences is a way to not only help us make sense of our journey.  The real motivation to us is giving hope of helping others.

This was true for author R.Glenn Kelly, who has written the following books: I cried in the Shower; the Grief Case, Grief Healing 365 and Grief in the Workplace

Our Interview

During our time together we got to hear about Ron’s personal grief, and how he was finally able to move into his grief after his conversation in a dream with his son 6 months after he died.

There are not too many men willing to talk about their emotions, however, in this interview, Ron gives us this insight.  Yes, indeed Men and Women do grieve differently.  Ron himself was once accused of not loving his son enough because he appeared not to be grieving.  His insights and words can be helpful and healing to any man.

During his research into grief, he discovered stats outlining the high cost to Companies.  Stats such as $100 billion in

lost productivity and how 1:4 employees could be experiencing grief.

His Mission and Legacy is now to help other Companies understand the effects of grief on its employees and how leaders can create compassionate and safe workplaces that don’t cost a dime as he says.  A startling stat he discovered during his research was the cost of grief in the workplace costs annually $100 billion.

Other Topics Discussed

  1. Nature versus Nurture
  2. Disenfranchised Grief
  3. Loss Productivity Stats
  4. AEP Programs Underutilized & Why

To learn more of what was discussed tune in to the latest Episode of Let’s Talk About Grief

Good Grief It’s Christmas Time

12 Helpful Tips to Help You Cope

Good Grief its Christmas time indeed. I’ve prepared these 12 tips to help you survive the holiday season. This is the last thing you want to be facing when you are grieving. I’m sure you just want to pull the covers up and go back to sleep until it is all over.  Even worse, the stores are in full-blown Christmas, mode.  Happy, smiling people on TV commercials every five minutes with familiar Carols on every radio station, it’s impossible to ignore the season. The countdown is on to party time, bright lights and having fun.

Normally, you too would be among friends and family enjoying the frantic beauty of the season. This year you are dreading the season, especially now you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. My heart goes out to you. I know what it’s like to lose a loved one at this time of year.  Both my parents passed away in November. Even though it’s extremely difficult, you can survive the holidays. In this guide, I’ve listed several things that helped me to cope with my losses and it’s my hope these tips will help you, too.

1. Accept Where You Are. Just for now

If you’re experiencing grief, late November until the beginning of a new year can be very difficult. It’s a challenge for everyone to navigate, especially when you are grieving, it can feel like climbing a mountain. You may have noticed that your energy is low and it’s hard to get enthusiastic about anything during the holidays.

Everything seems like such a chore. You may find it’s hard to stay focused. These are all normal feelings for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one. You may already dread facing the biggest holiday in the calendar year without that special someone. If you had your wish, you might just hibernate until Groundhog Day in February.

While hibernation may not be possible, choosing to skip the season with all the emotional triggers and potential pitfalls could be an option for you.

It is great that you have at least noticed your emotional state and for now, perhaps you could accept these feelings just for the moment? By not accepting how you are feeling and pushing through anyway, you may experience even more pain and anguish.

Just know it’s natural to have thoughts like “I have to be brave” or “It’s expected of me. I always host”, or “The house always looks so wonderful, how can I not participate this year?” These thoughts can send your flying into planning mode and then you may totally exhaust yourself long before the big day. You may even create arguments with family members or friends because you are frustrated, hurting and overwhelmed.

Grief work is exhausting and its main function is to stop us in our tracks so that we’ll take the time to deal with our emotions and reflect on our loss. In today’s fast-paced world this is a lovely dream but often it’s far from our reality.

Grief is about a broken heart and not a broken head. This is why we can, at times, push through using the sheer power of our minds. Your heart hasn’t caught up to your head. Your heart needs time to process. Your heart isn’t in the task so you will find yourself pushing yourself using sheer mind power – and this is exhausting. Instead of muscling through, stop, take a deep breath and settle your mind.

You may still be outwardly mourning and please know this is normal, most especially if your loss is a recent one. You want things to remain the same because there is comfort in routine. The feeling you are experiencing could be fear which can cause your resistance to the many inner changes brought about by a loss. Just know that by resisting you are holding on to the past, which is only natural. After all, who really enjoys change? However, accepting that there will be many changes may be helpful. Perhaps guilt is holding you back.

If you feel it doesn’t seem right that you should be enjoying yourself or even laughing and having fun when you’re loved one has just passed away please know this is normal. Many in grief have expressed the same sentiment. But if you think about it, wouldn’t your loved one want you to laugh and have fun? It is hard on the body to be constantly sad and grieving. Laughter is a way of balancing the body’s emotions. Give yourself this gift. Laugh when you feel like laughing. It will release some of the tension along with some natural endorphins.

Regardless of where you are in your grief process, perhaps this is the right moment to sit down and relax. Start by taking a few deep breaths in and out. Begin by sitting for at least five minutes. Find a quiet place with no distractions. This will bring your mind into the present moment and once it is focused there you can start to think more logically and plan how Christmas will look like for you and your family this year

2. Make your Christmas Season Plans

Have your calendar handy and look ahead at how you would like the holiday season to unfold. Armed with this information, you can move through the season with less pain and anguish.

If you always host Christmas dinner, decide if you want to continue to do so. Perhaps ask another family member take over just for this year. If that is too much change, then start by discussing your thoughts with other family members. They may be having similar thoughts and this way you can support each other through this tender time.

Consider Scaling Back

You may decide to scale down the decorations. Perhaps you would still enjoy this activity but on a much smaller scale. Decide if it will make you feel better or worse. Try to be honest with yourself and don’t feel guilty about whatever choice you make. You may decide to hold a decorating afternoon with a few family members a few weeks before Christmas day to help you from getting too overwhelmed or tired.

Once you have a better idea of what you would like, you will be able to start taking small action steps each day to make it a reality. You will know once you begin, just how much energy and desire you actually have. Know it is okay to tell the family if you are unable to do the tasks you thought you could do. Ask for help.

Should you decide to host, you could ask some family members to come early on Christmas day to help you with the meal preparation. Even better you could ask who would be willing to cook certain items of the meal. It may be hard to give up control of the meal this way but it is just for this year. Accept the additional help.

The hardest decision of all will be whether or not to set a place at the table where your loved one used to sit. Again it is much better to decide what you would prefer before the day. Discuss this concern with your family. Doing so will put you and your family members at ease. If you chose not to set a place, you may want to mention the deceased by name before the start of your dinner.

Your family may hold back from wanting to mention the person for fear of upsetting you. Don’t worry – mention them, it will be such a relief to you and your guests. The unspoken has now been spoken and everyone including you can relax.

3. Choose a New Tradition

As you plan for the holiday season, take time to recall if there was a specific thing you did with the person who has died. It may be this thought that is holding you back from wanting to make plans. Perhaps it was the tree you chose together or decorating the tree together. Recognizing the activity that made it special for you and your loved one will help you avoid a potential trigger point.

Allow yourself to feel this emotion and when you have finished, decide if there is a new tradition you could now create for yourself. Perhaps you could buy a readily dressed tree. This could help save you much time and energy.

Speaking from personal experience, going to the Candlelight service on Christmas Eve with my family was the tradition that held the most emotion. The year my Dad died I found the idea of attending the service just too emotional for me so we didn’t go.

Instead, we spent time relaxing rather than rushing our supper in order to get to the service. It turned out to be enjoyable and much more relaxing for us. We created a new tradition. So give yourself permission to try something different instead, something that will work for you.

4. Ask for Help

Much of this has already been covered however it bears repeating. When you are in grief, your energy is not optimal and you may find most things, even thinking, can exhaust you, especially if the loss is recent. Even after many years, the holidays can still hold emotional triggers so be kind to yourself, recognize your limitations and ask for help.

It is such a gift to those who have already volunteered when you do call on them for help. This is the perfect opportunity to do so. Make sure you ask them well ahead of time so as not to be disappointed. The holidays are a busy time for most of us, so, it is important to make your plans early in order to see just what help you need and who could potentially help you.

Accept and allow yourself to be helped. Receive it with an open heart. Too often we close people down by shutting out their offers of help. Give yourself an early gift and them also. Remember it isn’t always better to give. I am certain you have given help so many times that you have built up a giving balance by now – it is time to redeem it. Just for this year anyway.

5. Avoid the Sugar Highs and Lows

If you decide to attend Christmas parties over the holidays, please be careful with the sugary treats and alcohol (sugar). This is hard to do at the best of times but when you’re grieving you are already on an emotional roller coaster and adding more sugar, or alcohol, to your diet could make your emotions worse. Where your emotions are concerned, you do not need the additional sugar rush to help you peak on the highs or lows because you are already doing so. Mourning has enough ups and downs.

Instead, make sure you eat throughout the day and please do not think that by not eating during the day you can enjoy more food later. When a person is grieving the body needs fuel to keep you going so don’t shortchange yourself. If you aren’t able to eat much because you just are not hungry, be sure to go easy if you have a glass of wine or a cocktail. It is not a good idea to have alcohol on an empty tummy.

Remember to eat something before you have a drink. Make sure to keep your body hydrated by drinking water. In grief, the body requires more fluid due to all the tears that are flowing. If you do decide to drink alcohol, have a glass of water in between.

6. Remove the Pasted Happy Face

You may unknowingly put on a Happy Face to help yourself feel better or to help put others at ease. Please don’t force it. It doesn’t serve you but instead prevents you from truly feeling your emotions. A Happy Face is a mask and in many instances, people around you can tell what you are feeling just by your body language. Your face and body are giving two different messages. Being authentic and true to yourself will help you move through your grief process more easily. Masking your feelings only lengthens the process.

Remember:  the only way through grief is to feel it. When others ask you how you are it is much better to let them know you are not doing well. Be honest. There’s no need to elaborate but if they press you, it’s okay to let them know right now isn’t a good time and suggest another time, after the holidays, to talk.  On the other hand, if you feel like talking, express yourself. This way you’re acknowledging what you are feeling and not discounting what is going on inside.

I have found by recognizing what is coming up for me, acknowledging it and giving myself permission to cry later or tomorrow works nicely. This way I can schedule in some time by journaling or reflecting and allowing my emotions to bubble up. This is all part of good self-care

7. Decide to Speak About the Deceased?

The thought of mentioning the deceased’s name can be upsetting and you may not be comfortable doing so. Your family members and guests may be uncomfortable as well and not know how to deal with the subject. Speaking about the person first will help to put you and everyone else more at ease. You will be addressing the “elephant in the room”.

Acknowledge the deceased person and invite others to do the same. You may find you will hear more stories that you were not aware of and be happier for the sharing. It could be emotional, to begin with, however, it will help you the more times you can talk about your loss. My mum and I were never good at this and in the beginning, we both avoided mentioning Dad. As upsetting as it was for us, I am sure had we decided to talk about him we would have better comforted each other, instead of being mindful of not upsetting the other.

If you chose not to speak about your loss you may find yourself feeling ill at ease and on edge in case, their name is mentioned in the conversation. It is so much more freeing to share and allow yourself to be supported.

8. Going to Parties

This may be a good year to cut down on the number of parties you attend. As mentioned earlier, your energy levels will be lower than normal. This is why planning out what you would like to do this season will help you with these decisions. It’s ok to cancel; your hostess will understand. Do not feel obliged to attend because you agreed to months ago.

Decide if smaller parties would be more manageable. In my grief, I couldn’t attend the larger parties as the mere thought of large gatherings was too overwhelming. But smaller gatherings were more manageable and it felt good to go as it was a nice change of pace.

Often in grief, we can get caught up in the guilt of “I can’t enjoy myself right now. It isn’t right”. Sometimes a change of scenery and pace can do a world of good for boosting the spirits. If you decide to attend one or two perhaps by thinking ahead you could plan your exit strategy should you feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable.

You may decide to only spend a couple of hours and have a friend make sure to check on you at a specified time. Make sure to bring separate cars or book a taxi if needed. Speak to the hostess before the party and let her know you will attend but may need to leave early and coming to find her to thank her may not be an option. This way you can safely leave with no guilt.

9. Christmas Shopping

Christmas shopping is challenging enough even if you’re not grieving. Perhaps you are the organized one who shops all year for the perfect gift for your family and friends. However, too many of us, myself included, leave it to the last month or moment. This is another great opportunity to add shopping for gifts to your list of growing activities.

You may feel overwhelmed by the mere thought of it so if this is the case perhaps online shopping could be your answer. This way you are not using your precious energy to battle the crowds or parking lots.  Thank yourself for being aware of your feelings, take deep breaths. Have a cup of tea and start to plan your list of who you would like to buy for and what the gift idea may be. Go to your computer and start your shopping in peace.

Perhaps decide that you will take this opportunity to cut back and simplify your gift giving. This is what we did as a family when my Dad died. We introduced the idea of secret Santa and put a price limit on the gift. Our children are all young adults however, they are either starting out on their own or still at school so they never seem to have sufficient funds. This way we all only had one gift to buy, cutting down the stress financially and mentally thinking of and then purchasing the perfect gift for everyone.

One Christmas we decided to each name a charity and send money to them instead of gift giving. It is still lovely to have the gifts under the tree so we do both but keep it simple. I hope this will give you a few ideas.

10. Self-Care

You now have your plan, or at least, a much better idea of what action you can take each day. Don’t forget to add one action item in there for yourself. Self-care is so important and something we all need to focus on especially during times of grief.

Take time each day to do something fun for yourself. This can be as simple as a five-minute breathing exercise before your day begins, taking a walk in nature, reflecting over a cup of tea or coffee or all of the above. Scheduling in time to see your hairdresser, have a massage or pedicure can also do wonders for you.

When you are grieving, your energy is low and you will need to take care of your emotions. The urge to do nothing is always strong, however, it is essential to practice self-care each day together with some action steps. These simple actions will help you gain some control over your life and that will help to reinvigorate your confidence as you complete them.

Balance in everyday life is always a good way to live, however not easy to accomplish. This is even harder when you are grieving and are a part of the workforce. Finding ways to take care of yourself is even more essential and will help you better deal with your stress levels.

Ensure you practice doing something for yourself each day. You may feel you do not have the time, however, everyone needs a break. Take two minutes for yourself, close your eyes and slow your breathing down by taking three or four deep breaths. This alone can help you balance your stress. You may find you are more alert after you have taken a little time out.

11. Water is your friend

Drink plenty of water. This is so important especially in the early days when tears and weeping are more constant. Weeping takes more fluid from your body than you may realize. Our bodies work well on six to eight glasses of water and waiting until your thirsty is a sure sign you are dehydrated. Instead of reaching for more coffee, why not put the kettle on and have a cup of hot lemon water if you are not a fan of cold water.

If you need a sugar fix, add honey to the lemon water. Hot water with a slice of ginger can help warm you up. If you workout, you may need to add additional water just to keep your body working optimally. It is not only our bodies that require water our brains do as well. In grief, our brains can feel foggy so by not drinking enough, you could be adding to the brain fog.

Our brains cannot retain water so need a ready supply in the body to function optimally. Remember to drink and as a reminder, have a glass of water around your work area.

12. Give Yourself Permission

Congratulations! You have made it, you have your plan and you know what your holiday season and Christmas Day will look like. You have your list of who to call for help and you also have an idea of which holiday parties you would like to attend. The presents have been decided or you have a clearer idea of what your gift giving will be this year.

Now is the time to leave guilt and judgment at the door and give yourself permission to laugh and enjoy the season with your friends and family members. You will be relaxed and may even be looking forward to it instead of dreading it. You will have your wobbly moments but with your plan, you will have a way to take care of these moments. By planning ahead, you can be comfortable and relaxed knowing everything you have chosen for this year is taken care of and in good order.

One last thing:  something may not go according to plan. Relax, let go and enjoy the imperfect but perfect situation and laugh. You can’t control everything.

Happy Holidays to all

It’s Valentine’s Day – head to the hills. If this is your first thought?

What about….. To Thine own Self be True – Be your own Valentine!

Vintage of pink tree heart shape ,paper art texture

Vintage of pink tree heart shape ,paper art texture

When you are in love, who doesn’t love Valentine’s Day? Perhaps you have become jaded and don’t need a special day to remind you of the one you love. It may be you are alone this year with no special person in your life? Perhaps the person you loved has died and this day is one of those commercial reminders of what you have lost?

Regardless of your circumstance it is yet another painful time of the year. It is as if the world becomes coloured in red – the colour of love and everywhere you look is just a constant reminder of your relationship status. Yes, it is easy for you to start to berate yourself and tell yourself that you are not worthy of love, not good enough or any other old story that you have told yourself repeatedly.

Too often you can focus on what isn’t right in your life or what you are lacking way too much that it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. Instead, focus on what you can do to change your circumstances. What would you like your life to look like? It is when you do the inner work instead of always looking for the lack in your outer world; can you connect to yourself, be your own best friend, mentor and take care of your own needs and desires. Fall in love with yourself. Make this day about getting to know you again. What do you really enjoy doing and plan accordingly. Love flowers – buy your own and enjoy being able to do so. Have a romantic meal just for one. Take your time and eat it slowly savoring each mouthful. Put on the music, dance and have fun.

When you focus on yourself and can be happy for no other reason than being; then you will find your energy changes and you can naturally attract that special someone. Chances are you will be in a different space. Sometimes it is when you don’t need a relationship that you find yourself in one – effortlessly.

If the person you loved has died, this day is nothing more than a painful reminder of what you had. It is harder for you to look for another love relationship too quickly and chances are you will not wish to. Instead look to the happy memories you created to see what it was that you enjoyed about those moments. Cry, and know this is very healing. It is when you force yourself to be brave and do what others expect of you that you are denying yourself the opportunity to heal. No need to be brave. So take the time you need on Valentine’s Day to celebrate and remember the special someone who is no longer in your life. Visit the graveside and mourn. Then take time to do what you would enjoy doing. Crying and being sad is fine for the moment but acknowledge how you are feeling, let it pass and find something to laugh about. It is the laughter than can help to change your thoughts which will help raise your energy.

Just for today – Be your own Valentine – spoil yourself!

Hope Springs Eternal – Where Would We be Without It?

amazing-hope-

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blessed.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”
Alexandre Pope

Hope Springs Eternal – Where Would We Be Without It?

Life has many ups and downs but what keeps us going is hope. It is our resilience, that invisible thread that pulls us along. Buoys us up and keeps us afloat. Take away our hope and we are lost. A part of us dies. “Why continue on,” we think? Hope brings in the potential, the possibilities, new beginnings, new learning, newborn ideas, new pathways to follow or new journeys to pursue. The hope that tomorrow our dreams will come true, our “ship will come in”. Hope lifts us like a balloon and can make our bleak situation manageable as long as we have hope. We treasure it and bring it out for those moments of need. We can polish it off and let it shine brightly. We can follow where it leads us. To all those possibilities we wouldn’t otherwise get to see.

It is in those challenging of moments when all hope has gone and we linger in despair. A death, a relationship has gone wrong or even a job loss. All things we hold so dear and pin our fragile hopes for better on. We rush about in the temptation of finding something out there to make it all better. Instead, if only we turn inwards toward that small flame, we know lives deep within us. Without Hope, we loose our vitality, we grow heavy and end up depressed. Even the flame so small it’s barely there, if we nurture it and fan the small spark, it will once more to shine brightly within us. The heat can be felt as the possibilities arise from within, helping us feel lighter, pregnant with new thoughts and ideas once more. Sometimes it takes those challenging moments for us to pay attention to that small spark within. Once we pay attention we can make it burn bright, lighting our way once more. How do we fan that almost extinguished flame? In those darkest of moments, the utter despair if we can find but one element of gratitude for what has been lost. Then build and find more. It is gratitude that can ignite the flame.

Dreams for a Better 

Our dreams can arise on the back of the hope of something better. It is then in taking action and moving forwards that determines the outcome. Humans are born with the ability to dream. This is what has propelled mankind onwards throughout the centuries. The Pilgrims left a stifled Europe to head towards a better life. Following their dreams, they landed and settled. Throughout the centuries man has moved forward in search of food, work, and better opportunities. It has been their dreams that have driven their hope for a better land. So many throughout history have left their homeland, found many hardships but the promise of hope kept them moving forward. Without that hope, they may have turned back.

What is the outcome that is hoped for? What dreams do you have that can propel you forward? With the internal flame well light, you can make your dreams come true. This is where goal setting comes in. Set them and move towards them. Each choice or decision you make can be checked to see if it is the right choice simple by asking “will this bring me towards my goal?” or will it “take me further away from it?” We just hope we make the right decision! Another way to decide what is the right choice is if you feel that internal spark growing larger and bringing with it excitement and hope. Then the right one has been made.

Hope Brought You Here

Where we are today started out as a dream or hope sometimes in the past. How many of your dreams have been discounted as too hard, just fantasy? We had no problems as children in following our dreams. We never thought they were fantasy at all. How many of you had a bed that flew to imaginary lands and took you on many adventures or how many forts have been built, where dreams and imagination knew no bounds? It is only once adults do we turn to face the reality of what we think our lives should be. We work, earn money, stay in jobs long past their enjoyment date if indeed enjoyment was ever there. Or we take jobs because that is what is expected of us. Over the years those dreams, those hope in our youth go dormant and the flame that sparked them grows dim. This is an opportunity to remember those beautiful moments in gratitude, the ones that made your life worthwhile.

Hope is that longing pulling you along, an expectation, a feeling of trust, a security or a reason to keep going. Ah, that passionate desire of your heart that moves you forward towards your goal and your future with hope.