Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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GUEST BLOGGER: EMILY GRAHAM

We haven’t had a guest blogger in awhile. Hope you enjoy this!

How to Connect as a Couple When Baby Makes Three

If you’re a new parent, you know that having a baby changes everything. You’re exhausted, up all hours of the night, and probably a little overwhelmed just trying to stay afloat. It’s all worth it for the little bundle of joy you love so much, but what about the other love of your life? Just like everything else, your relationship with your partner changes after having a baby. The most important thing you can do as a couple is to understand these changes and find the time to reconnect while working through them.

You Worry About Intimacy

Intimacy is both physical and emotional, which is why it’s very common for new moms to worry about sex after having a baby. There are the physical concerns: you may worry about sex being painful, you’re exhausted, and probably touched out. Then there are the emotional changes you’re going through at the same time. These concerns are all perfectly normal, but it’s also a struggle you can work through. One thing you can do is check out this guide that has advice and solutions for some of the issues many new parents run into when it comes to romantic intimacy.

You Have Disagreements

There’s no doubt about it: change is hard. Besides the grumpiness that comes along with being tired, you may have more disagreements while you’re figuring out how to adapt to these changes. According to Parents, couples with new babies often disagree over domestic responsibilities, parenting styles, and concerns over money (just to name a few). You have to smooth things over in order to really connect as a couple, which means you have to make time for finding solutions.

The good thing is that solutions can often be time-savers. For example, if you fight over household responsibilities, create a schedule for who does what and when. This may sound incredibly dull, but it eliminates the feeling that one person is carrying a heavier burden and may help you both stay on top of your chore list.

You’ve Changed as a Couple

Parenting is a job where you’re on the clock 24/7. If you’re able to communicate about what you expect from each other in terms of household chores and parenting tasks, you’re more likely to get along. The downside is that the way you interact sometimes changes. Fortune describes this as more of a businesslike interaction, because so much of your communication revolves around parenting and running a household.

To counteract this tendency, try to be very intentional about setting aside time where you each focus on how you’re more than just parents. Some couples benefit from dedicating just five minutes each day to connecting. Set some ground rules, and during that time, don’t talk about the baby or the house! Even though it’s just five minutes, make this time special too. Pour a glass of wine (if you aren’t too tired) or enjoy a yummy treat together.

When you can, it’s also crucial to spend a little more time together by having a date night. Getting out is always nice, but you can also have a home date night while the baby’s asleep. The important thing is to turn off the parent role just for a little while and focus on yourselves as individuals and as a couple. (Of course, if you’re home, you may have to turn the parent role back on if baby wakes, but that’s ok.) Date night is the ideal time for intimacy, but remember that doesn’t always have to be physical. The point is to focus on connecting with each other – even if you’re just cuddling on the couch watching a movie.

Sometimes, the smallest things you do as a couple end up making the biggest difference. Grab the spare moments to reconnect, and set aside time for dealing with the bigger issues too. Just as the late night feedings and countless diaper changes are worth it for the joy your baby brings, the changes to your relationship and the work they require are worth the effort.

Image by Tanya Patxot from Pixabay

Emily Graham is the creator of Mighty Moms. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, mightymoms.net, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.

Emily Graham | emily@mightymoms.net


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“Stuff”

When you are helping someone downsize their life, or sorting through someone’s things after they have passed, it is quite an experience. My new client has been keeping me very busy!

I was talking to a dear friend this morning who has been slowly going through his mom’s things after she passed away last month. He got a bit teary eyed as he talked about the things he is finding and the realizations he is making. Often times, even though we know someone is a great person, sifting through their things raises your appreciation for them even more. He brought back many memories of when my own mom died. Lots of increased admiration for her, even though I already thought she was an incredible person.

My client is preparing to leave a fairly large home and move into assisted living. Her house reflects a life time of “stuff” and also that of an aging woman who couldn’t get around so much anymore. People are often very emotional about this process and I was expecting this feisty woman to be a difficult person to work with.

She has been anything but that. She is ready. I recognize that tired look and sound. Yes, I was this amazing professional for years and years, but I’m done now. I’m a bit worn out. And I don’t need the boxes and boxes of work I did. It’s not necessarily a sad thing as if everything you did was a waste. It’s just a recognition that the time has come to close that chapter.

I’ve found incredible amounts of bank statements and paid bills. She sure loved L.L. Bean! Years and years of carefully folded and stacked papers, all in the recycling bin now.

Talk about bittersweet. The sadness is obvious. But there is a peace that also comes with making your environment ordered and simpler. When you get older, you realize that the really meaningful things aren’t in any of those material objects. I know it sounds cliche, but it is completely, 100% true.

I just have to throw it out there. (OOOO, great pun!) You don’t have to be “old” to experience the relief of simplifying your life. Get rid of the clutter now. You won’t regret it!


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Vitamin D

When you are coming off a crummy spring like we had, it makes you appreciate the sunny days. It is no secret that it is much easier to be more motivated and less depressed when the weather is pleasant and the sun is shining.

This weekend was a lovely one. I have been working hard at relaxing more. If that isn’t an oxy-moron, I don’t know what is! Saturday night we had a fire and had an exceptionally good turnout. There were 16 of us and it seemed as if everyone had a great time. The highlights of the night were Mike’s fire dance (which I am unable to provide video of, sorry to say) and the discovery that Tiffany is capable of making the perfect toasted marshmallow.

Seriously, isn’t that amazing? Of course, it looks ginormous in the picture…

Sunday it was another lovely day and it progressed as it usually does around here. It started out with me and then the calls came in. Some friends stopped over and lounged in the pool. Then my granddaughter Callie called me. She melts my heart when she wants to do something with me. She came over and played in the pool, then took a walk with me and Taffy by the creek.

I’m hoping Mother Nature remains kind to us. I like to like life!


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The “Wow” Experience

Last weekend I started my first client managing/advocacy job. My initial meeting was in a hospital. It’s a large place with 16 floors, 71 rooms to a floor. As I found my way to her room, I had goosebumps. Out of the 1,136 rooms available, my client was in the exact same room my dad was back in December of 2017, 8 months before he died.

I’m not gonna lie. It was hard at first. I still miss him terribly. I’m anticipating Father’s Day soon and I know it will be hard. But I also had to admit this was more than coincidence. I was meant to be there. This is what I’m meant to do.

I was relieved because in my experience, this was one of the best hospitals I have interacted with. Now I have to take that back. It was an awul weekend and the worst was Monday (so you can’t blame it on the “weekend” staff).

The social worker, PA, secretary… virtually everyone we talked to with the exception of one male doc and one male guy at the desk, was nothing short of combative, argumentative, and downright wrong in what they were saying to us.

No matter how confident I am, when that many people beat you down, you start to question yourself. Thank God that night, my former spiritual director who was there with me, called to debrief. She said, “Wow! What WAS that??” I told her sadly, that was the typical medical experience. I was grateful to know she saw it as horrifying too.

That night I was in tears as Tim and I talked. Was this a mistake? Did I spend 18 months to get this job only to discover I didn’t have the guts to do it?

Thankfully, my client was transferred to rehab. I was nervous because it was the same company where my dad was at, but an entirely different location. When I arrived, it was clear that several mistakes had been made. Some insignificant, some more serious.

However, to my surprise, every person I asked to speak with showed up within 10 to 20 minutes. Every one of them- unit manager, physical therapist, aides, and especially the social worker- were respectful, listened, and appeared to want to follow through with what was discussed. (We will have to wait and see if things actually get done.)

I was so relieved. I’m not crazy. I can do this. I do know what I’m talking about. I’m not an agitating person. When you are dealing with folks who aren’t defensive and actually listen to what you are saying, it’s a peaceful environment. And that is certainly better for the patient.

Thanks to the staff. I can’t name you, but I pray your kindness will come back to you this week!


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Another Twist on Grief

My clients gave me persmission to write about our work together. I have been seeing them about a year and a half. They were referred to me because I am a “grief expert” and I have been on their journey with them as they grieve the loss of their daughter.

She was killed in a tragic car accident. As if that wasn’t enough pain to bear, she was also in her last weeks of pregnancy. If the accident hadn’t happened, she would have given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

I have to laugh at the “expert” piece when I miss really obvious things that later hit me smack between the eyes. The mom has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), the latest name for Multiple Personality Disorder. It wasn’t until last week that I even thought to wonder about how that might be effecting her grieving process. And not just hers, but her husband’s as well.

I have only encountered DID twice in my practice, and once in my social life. While we were talking about other traumas they have faced together as a couple, many stories about the DID came up, which has happened in several other sessions.

People who are grieving are often afraid of letting their emotions really go. People who are working through past traumas are often afraid of letting their emotions really go. They are usually afraid the intensity will be too much and they will get swallowed whole. It is my job to assure them of the safe place in my office and reassure them that they will not emote forever.

I’m not so sure that is true with DID. Personalties or “alters” are often formed to cope with specific traumas in a person’s life. The alter bears the brunt of the experience, or develops a coping mechanism. The alter actually IS the coping mechanism.

As my client and I were talking, the mom was saying that she keeps her grief at a distance. The more we discussed it, I realized that there is a possibility that if she embraces it fully (which I am always encouraging in grief work), she literally may not ever come back from it. It truly might not be safe for her to take on the loss of her daughter and granddaughter with all its force.

I couldn’t believe that I didn’t take all that into account before then. Some expert, right? Then it also hit me. I asked the dad if perhaps he might be holding most of the grief for both of them? He is wondering now too. Not that any dad’s grief wouldn’t be intense from the loss, but his may be even greater as he unconsciously tries to “hold” it for both of them.

Wow, my lesson (which I relearn from time to time) is to never, ever stop learning. Is there ever really an “expert” on anything in the dynamic, changing world we live in? As is often the case, I grow more from my clients than they do from me. Oh, and please pray for this couple as they navigate this incredibly difficult journey they are on. They are two of the bravest, most resilient people I know.


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Duh Moments

The “duh” moments just keep increasing. Let’s see. I sent a payment in the mail except it returned in my mailbox. Good thing I had my address and stamp on it so it came back. The only thing missing was the entire name and address it was going to. Nice.

Then there was Tim’s hunting/lawn chair. I took it to Dave’s track meet and forgot it there. One of the parents took a picture and texted it to me. He brought it back which was nice because it was an hour away. Fast forward to another track meet. That parent laughed and said, remember when you forgot that? Yep, I will never do that again. Of course, that very same day, you guessed it. I left the chair. Only this time there was no one there to rescue it. I drove back the next morning but it was gone. My cousin started #prayfortim.

My favorite one was coming in the house to ask the boys what the heck happened to the basketball net. We have two in our driveway. Now they are big, and with all the wind we get they tend to fall down. I was passing by the yard and noticed only one of them was on the ground. How could anything so big go missing?

Timmy did his usual blank stare and Dave asked what the heck I was talking about. He goes over to the window and says they are both there. I go over to the window and point out there is only one laying on the ground. He points out that the other is standing next to it in the upright position, just like it’s supposed to be. OMG, I really am losing it.

One thing I did get right though. Dave has a small room off his closet. It has slanted roofs so the space is difficult. It used to be a playroom but at 16, it had become a dumping ground for hockey equipment. Tim and Timmy got on the mission and designed this lovely thing.

It looks like a professional locker room if you ask me. (The picture looks like the shelf is slanted up but it’s actually not.) Do you think it might not smell as bad if that equipment is hanging like that? One can only hope. Kudos to the men in the house for deisgning and building in a difficult space.

Sometimes my brain works.


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Yearly Physical

I have my yearly physical in two days and I’m dreading it. Let’s see…

I had foot surgery seven months ago and my foot pain is worse than ever. It’s taken this long to end up in a situation where I have an appointment with a second surgeon who is probably going to tell me I need a second surgery. That’s ok, but frankly it should have been last December. Seven months of nonsense and chronic pain.

I do want to pick her brain about the latest treatment the FDA just released in February for chronic, refractory depression. It made sense to me to wean off all the meds I take for that so I can develop a baseline. I’m doing it properly- very slowly over time. I already see a difference though. There’s an increase in crying and a decrease in tolerance for stress. Not a surprise, but I wish I had something happier to report.

My guess is I’ve also gained twenty pounds since last year and believe me, you can tell. I’ve weaned myself off my supplements to get a better baseline for that as well. I was intending to eat more healthy and get off the pre-diabetic status. I’m going to plead with her not to even test my blood. I’ve gone the opposite direction. I can’t even imagine what my levels are like, but my weight is an indication of what it would show.

Sigh.

I’m hoping that Tim has off work though so he can go and meet my doc. She will be thrilled about that. Last year we had fingers crossed that he was going to stick around and continue to be who he seemed to be. That is the one bright spot I will be happy to report on. He treats me like a queen!

Future blogs will probably discuss the new treatment out there when I have enough information to write an educated paragraph or two. In the meantime, I will just keep hoping to somehow make some progress on these long-term issues I have. Gotta love the aging process!