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Hi I’m Judy. I’m an author, a grief facilitator and a survivor. My website is chocked full of ideas and activities for you to move forward following loss.
Finding support and creating a plan that works for you is the foundaton for building your new life.
Grief recovery is difficult and very personal. Start by listening to your heart and practice self care every day.
The Module is a general plan that gives you ideas for moving forward.
The Seven Step Module For Changing
Start each day with a positive idea.
Resources help you focus on solutions.
Clarity and support are your mainstays.
Loss isn’t just about what happened to your loved one. It’s about what happened to you.
Schedule in one or more quiet times every day. Healing comes from remembering.
THE BLINK OF AN EYE
On January 8, 1991, my husband died. In the blink of an eye, I became a widow, a single parent and a bread winner. Grief and fear seized me as I thought of our children still living at home. I knew I had my work cut out for me.
Our lives had been those typical of middle class families. My husband was a successful salesman. I worked part-time as an early childhood teacher, and our children were growing up nicely and finding their own paths in life. Our oldest daughter was already pursuing her career in another state.
My husband suffered with rheumatoid arthritis since his late twenties. This is a painful and crippling disease that we coped with daily. As it progressed, the crippling increased, resulting in a diminished capacity to function. There was uncertainty and insecurity for us all, but determination and a positive attitude fired up our spirits. Even when he began to have replacement surgery for worn joints, we geared up and put our best foot forward. I truly believed life would get better, and we would grow old together.
I was 50 when my husband died. The children were 25, 20, 17, and 15. We had life insurance, a 401k, and some investments, which we planned to use for our retirement. I was reluctant to dip too deeply into my resources, but my salary was inadequate, and I knew I needed a better paying job. That blink of an eye completely turned my life around. I went from being a homemaker with a part-time job and growing family to full-time employee and college student. Needing just a few credits to complete my degree, I decided to dig in and graduate.
Making ends meet wasn’t the only obstacle I faced. Binding up wounds was a major, ongoing task. Our emotional well-being was paramount, and I prioritized its importance, both short- and long-term.
A crisis is demoralizing, and leaves us feeling helpless and alone. Our best and worst traits come out in full force. The pain of loss is indescribable; I just wanted to grieve away each day. During bereavement, energy levels are low and concentration is diminished, but my determination took over as I began the mourning process.
Mourning isn’t sitting still. Grief is work and as I faced each obstacle and solved each problem, I again felt my spirit fire up. I sought help when I needed it and always found people around me-sometimes professionals, sometimes friends or neighbors, who had the insight I lacked. I realized we could live with some uncertainty, as long as we took comfort in one another’s love and warmth. We embraced hope and reaffirmed that positive attitude that had sustained our family while we dealt with illness and disability.
Today, I am confident and self-sufficient. My children are mature and independent, and we are amazed at the hurdles we jumped. Fear and dread have been replaced with joy and an unshakable sense of belonging to one another. The family is scattered all over the map, but each Christmas we try to get together and celebrate. We visit one another whenever we can and do Zoom calls in between.
My wish for you is to have that same joy and sense of peace that comes from living each day-not as a challenge-but as a gift. Start to build a foundation today, wherever you may be on your life path.
Resources abound, within and around you. Look inside, affirm yourself and tap into it. Trust your own instincts.
Share your bounty with those in need. Wrap your arms around them and give freely. If we wait until we think we have abundance to give, the fire in our spirit will begin to go out. The foundation you build and share will spread throughout the community, and there will be abundant resources to sustain everyone.
The blink of an eye that pushed me into a new life seemed instantaneous, but was really part of an ongoing process I hadn’t recognized. My coping skills were already in place, and my emotional content lay dormant, to be summoned when crisis struck. Your foundation touches every aspect of your being-mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Build it carefully and consistently. Let others help you and believe, if you wish, that the Creator Spirit is pouring out love and joy.
I remember the pain and anxiety of those first few years of widowhood. The responsibility was overwhelming, and I would sit at the kitchen table and think, “When do they let you cry?” Now I know that you have to let the tears flow. It clears your head and soothes your soul.
In the blink of an eye, I moved from reasonable comfort to what seemed an insurmountable task. But here I am, still designing my new life. My late husband believed life was meant to be enjoyed, not endured. My wake-up moment handed that legacy to me. I live by it, and I encourage you to do the same. I wish you well.
Support is helping, not controlling
When you need advice, where do you go? Who do you talk to? Whose opinion do you trust? Why?
Life changes, whether initiated by you, or brought about through trauma and upheaval, demand patience and clear thinking. You may want to retreat from the chaos and damage you’re feeling, and this can be done in different ways.
A retreat center offers a variety of services by persons trained and skilled in all aspects of healthy living. Program administrators can direct you to a full Wellness evaluation, or you can choose in what area you need help.
Private counselors and therapists will help you sort out what changes need to be made, and how best to accomplish that.
There are groups specific to aspects of Wellness - such as nutrition, exercise, spirituality - in which a leader initiates discussion, and participants may contribute, ask questions or just listen.
Friends and family - The people in our lives who know and love us often want to help, and will offer suggestions. Unless they are experts on the subject, I recommend thanking them, and then deciding whether to make a change by yourself, or seek professional help.
You’re in charge of your life. You have to do the work, and you reap the benefits.
Check out www.judystrong.com for information about grief, loss and moving forward. There you will find answers to questions and ideas and solutions to the problems of grief.
This Guide gives you a start for creating your life plan. The notes you take should give you good ideas for how you want your life to look. Each step should reveal the general direction you want to take to move forward and design a life you love. Enlarge on the ideas that appear on your worksheet, and evaluate them carefully. Your goal is to arrive at the best step to take from start to finish.
The Seven Step Module For Changing Your Life
This final step should express exactly what you want and how you plan to get it. The path will be bumpy occasionally, but your commitment will keep you going.
As you respond to the steps here, you can print out this page, or refer to it on a fresh page on the computer or with pen and paper.
You can always revise.
ACTIVE GRIEVING A PROCESS FOR HOPE AND HEALING
By Judy Strong
Successful mourning leads to healing, hope, and a sense of wellbeing. For mourning to success, it is necessary to approach it deliberately, because grief isn’t just something you feel; grief is a process, an endeavor, and it’s work.
Let’s look at some definitions to clarify what we mean. First, there are different definitions of grief. Some say it’s an emotional response to the loss of a loved one. It’s been called “holding on emotionally to someone who is physically gone”. It’s also trauma brought on by death and loss, and it causes emotional, mental, and physical shock. It assaults our whole being, including the wounding of the soul. Mourning is the process by which grief is dealt with, restoring health and balance. If one does not acknowledge grief, you can’t mourn. Bereavement is the time frame in which the mourning process occurs. There are no set parameters, although there are guidelines.
What is the difference between passive and active grieving? It’s exactly as it sounds. Passive is inactivity. It’s sitting still, waiting for bad feelings to go away. The aftermath of death and loss is so debilitating, it’s not only a common response, but sometimes a necessary one – to hold still to get your bearings. Energy levels drop and the pain is too great to bear. Total rest is good for body, mind, and soul, but recovery requires action, an initiative from deep inside that yearns and stretches for wholeness and wellbeing. One can sit quietly in a darkened room and wait for the fog to lift, but that won’t result in complete healing. When pain is not expressed, it buries itself deep inside and causes trouble.
The love that exists between two people generates hope and a sense of self esteem to each. There is an ongoing regard one for another, a “wish you well” that says, “You’re terrific”, “You matter”, “I respect and honor you”. Within a good relationship, people want what is best, for the relationship and for one another. And, perhaps, whether it is voiced or not, they want the survivor to heal and embrace new life when one of them dies.
When I lost my husband I still had children living at home. We were in turmoil and shock, but I quickly realized I needed to bind up wounds and stabilize the family. Other responsibilities I faced competed with the time and energy I needed to grieve successfully and to help my children grieve the loss of their father. I not only felt worn out, I was angry.
The mourning process may be compromised while you deal with practical issues. Finances and legal matters take a huge toll on the time and energy of survivors. I was stunned by their demands. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this before? Why didn’t I know the particulars of our money matters, the legal procedures required, the exhausting work involved in settling an estate? In addition, I had to go to probate court because my husband didn’t have a will and we had minor children living at home. To fully, actively grieve, one needs time, energy, and persistence. A simple plan may look like this:
Time – A significant period of time should be set aside every day to comfort yourself, reflect on your loved one, your loss, and the deep pain and anguish you feel. Validating the tragedy of your loss allows you to express your feelings, rather than pushing them down, and gives you significant room to explore exactly what has happened, how it affects every aspect of your life, and how you will manage.
Prioritize this period every day. This is key. You may break it into two or more periods, but allow enough time in the segment to do valuable grief work. Remember, it is work – something active. A general routine that’s flexible is a good option. Remember, cognitive abilities are compromised during grief and it may be hard to focus and concentrate. Choose a space that’s warm and inviting, surround yourself with comforting things, such as music, reading material, tea, a small blanket, and allow no interruptions. Cry, write, read, and think, letting your mind take you where it will. Or just rest. Journaling is a positive and beneficial way to grieve. You can write in paragraphs, incomplete sentences, poetry, draw pictures – do whatever is comfortable. There’s a study that says healing takes place quicker and more thoroughly when someone journals. It engages the brain, and it also gives you a diary to track your progress.
Energy – Even when you’re not consciously thinking about your loss, your subconscious mind and your body are grappling with the blow you have been dealt. Energy levels will be low for some time, and conserving it for the really important things is essential. Decide for yourself what is essential, write them down and review your list often. Dismiss issues that can’t be changed. Note what can’t be handled by you alone. Your own needs should be at the top of the list. Try to get help caring for minor children, if even for an hour. If handling the finances is difficult, seek advice from your bank or financial advisor. A short talk can yield surprising shortcuts or methods for better and simpler money management. Daily responsibilities can drain you of all energy and motivation. Even if money is scarce, remember to have fun. Don’t pass up an opportunity to laugh and relax with friends.
Persistence - This is that quality that keeps us going despite adversity, setbacks, and hardship. In spite of loss, persistence motivates us to strive, to start over, and to tough it out. For persistence to kick in, it takes a deliberate choice. It requires putting yourself on the track to wholeness and life balance and working through your grief. Put inspiring, motivating messages to yourself on cards and post them around the house. Buy one good book about overcoming adversity and read a chapter every day. Rebuilding your life, by accident or design, is the revelation I had when faced with this daunting task. I knew I had to move forward. I had a family to raise, I needed to make a better living, and I wanted to set an example for my children. It dawned on me that a magic plan wasn’t going to fall into my lap. I had to figure out what I needed and wanted and how to make it happen. And I knew it started within.
A wonderful, positive gift you can give yourself is to begin to set aside time now, today. Those things we talked about earlier, taking time for you, is essential for life balance and wellbeing. If you are in grief now, this is essential. If not, then prepare now. Procrastination prevents us from being prepared for any calamity that befalls us. Design your life- building plan and prioritize its practice. Make it simple enough to manage on your schedule and thorough enough to derive good benefits. You’ll start to feel better about life and about yourself. Confidence, growth, and knowledge increase with practice. You’ll begin to see adversity as an opportunity for change, not just a problem to be solved.
If you are reading this, perhaps you’re thinking of making changes to your lifestyle. Whether you want a significant overhaul, or a few tweaks here and there, be assured you can do this.
Life events can destroy parts or all of your life overnight. The Pandemic has certainly done this. Jobs, housing, family life have taken a beating. At the same time, we all make changes to our everyday routines in hopes that we can make things work better.
If you want or need to change your life, this is the place to start.
Like everyone else, I’ve made changes over the years. Becoming a widow at age fifty, with children still at home, was major. It took years for me to get everything done, that either was required, or that I thought would benefit my family. As I struggled and implemented new ideas and habits, I discovered I was striving toward something called wellness.
What Is Wellness?
A general definition of wellness is that it is not just surviving but thriving. It’s healthy habits, practiced daily for better outcome in all aspects of living.
What impacts you, motivates you, brings peace and joy into your life, and structures your habits and decisions?
It’s a path that gives you independence and peace of mind. Not just tweaking little things for immediate comfort, but finding ways to create sustainable methods for the long term.
The Path To Wellness
Evaluating your life and creating a life plan should reveal what’s good and what’s not working. Finding your way to wellness is a path you walk every day.
This is the method that helps you heal, gives you purpose, relaxation, a positive outlook, confidence, contributes to physical and emotional health, stimulates ideas and instills peace of mind.
It’s the road to independence, an Aha moment that lets you function on your own intentions and abilities.
It doesn’t have to be mind boggling or back breaking.
Millions of people are making significant changes to their lives. Yes, it has some risk, but what are you risking by living with habits and responsibilities you don’t need or want?
And if you knew a change would make you happier, how soon would you do it?
Why Make Changes?
The reasons for wanting to make major changes in your life are many, and may include:
Your Life Plan
Self evaluation is the key to making a major overhaul, or just tweaking a few problems.
New Life Plans advice - care about yourself, find purpose, consider diverse ideas and interests, figure out what you're looking for, your individual roadmap.
From Indeed Career Guide