Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Return Guest Author Jennifer Scott

Image via Pexels

“Jennifer Scott is a lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression.  A single mom, she writes about the ups and downs of her mental illness on SpiritFinder.org. The blog serves as both a source of information for people with mental illness and a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can come together to discuss their experiences.”

4 Ways to Navigate a Significant Life Change with Your Significant Other

Anytime you and your partner go through a major shift in your daily routine, it can be challenging for your relationship, as well as your individual lives. However, it’s also one of the best opportunities you will get to make your relationship better. Not only does it give you the chance to know each other more deeply, but it also allows you to learn ways that you can better show your commitment to one another.

So, whether you’re self-quarantined for the next few weeks, moving in together for the first time, or going through some other significant change, here are some tips and resources to help you turn it into the best thing ever for your relationship:

1. Get Healthy Together

Now is the perfect time to think about making healthy changes together. This could mean preparing healthy meals, boosting your workout routine, or seeking therapy.

Cooking for Two: 33 Healthyish Meals for You and Your Boo

Use Fitness Trackers to Enhance Your Workout Sessions

12 Ways to Make Your Home Healthier

Reach out to Help for Healing for Compassionate Counseling

2. Make Time for One Another

No matter how busy life gets, it’s crucial that you make time for each other. Here are just a few methods you can try.

Tried-and-Tested Strategies That Busy Couples Use to Spend More Time Together

The Key to Communication in Relationships

Watch a Movie Together To Improve Your Relationship

3. Have Fun

When making plans to spend quality time together, think about activities you both enjoy, or try something new. These resources offer fun ideas including games and hobbies.

Why Laughter Is The Most Important Thing In A Relationship

Top 17 Fun and Romantic Games for Couples

15 DIY Projects for Couples

100 Hobbies For Couples To Do Together

4. Honor the Need for Solitude

Taking some time to yourself is just as important as being with your significant other. If you’re not sure how to go about this, refer to these suggestions.

The Art Of Solitude In Relationships (And Why You Need It To Thrive)

How to Get Better at Spending Time Alone

Things To Do By Yourself

8 Things to Know About Meditation for Health

A significant life change can be the best thing ever for your relationship. Make a point to get healthy together, spend time with one another, add fun to your relationship, and prioritize time in solitude. And if you need some outside assistance, consider taking up couples counseling, offered by Help for Healing. Not only will you be a stronger couple, but you will also be happier individuals.

Thank you Jennifer, and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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Reason, Season, or Lifetime

Have you heard that saying before? People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Sometimes we are surprised by which category then end up in. Mostly I think it’s when we expect people will be our forever friends. We can’t imagine our life without them. Lo and behold, they end up leaving our lives.

When I was looking at old home videos, I realized that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Endings aren’t always painful. Remembering them can be warm.

When I was in elementary school, we had the option of going Wednesdays on the bus to go to the local fire hall. Religion classes were held. Aunt Alice and Aunt Eunice were the teachers. Aunt Alice was this plump woman who exuded excitement. I remember raising my hand to say that yes, I accepted Jesus as my Savior.

My favorite time was the “Bible drills.” Everyone who wanted to play would hold their hand up with their Bible in their hands as Aunt Alice bellowed, “Draw swords!” Then she would ask a question about a Bible verse and the first one to stand and have the answer would win.

I’m proud to say I won often.

Even though my parents took us to church every week, it was Aunt Alice that got me excited about God. I would have never remembered it, but when I saw my 1988 wedding video, Aunt Alice and Aunt Eunice attended. What an honor that they came. I’m sure they have long since died, but they had such a great influence on my life.

Jim Gardner was another fond memory. He was my neighbor. He had diabetes, an artificial limb, and was blind. He was an inspirational speaker and taught about disabilities in several venues. I would clean his house once a week because his wife was super busy and exhausted all the time.

Well, I sort of cleaned. We talked most of the time. We talked about everything. Even though he was an adult, he wasn’t my parent so I could talk with him about life issues that I was afraid to talk to my parents about.

He wrote and recited a poem he wrote about me as the “toast to the bride” at my first wedding. In it, he talked about some of the memorable things my mom did for me. That warmed my heart too. I sang at his funeral a few years after that, but I loved seeing him again and remembering what a big role he played in my life.

Kent and Marci were my youth leaders throughout high school. I went to their house as often as I could. Marci played the organ and Kent read a Bible passage at my wedding. Every once in a great while, I will run into Marci. It feels like the 30 years melt away when I see her. I always wish we would re-connect more regularly, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.

I forgot that my high school friend Melinda sang at my wedding. We were “music heads” together in high school. Every few years we connect briefly. I saw another high school friend Diana recently. We both thought she didn’t attend my wedding but sure enough, we found video footage of her being there.

So the saying may be true. Some people come around for a reason (like a plumber), some for a season (like high school), and some for a lifetime (like your sisters when you realize they are also your friends.) But regardless, their influence can last a lifetime, no matter how much time they spend in person with you.

I’m grateful for all those people who helped shape my life for the better!


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Core Life Issues

A professor once said that our core issues are always our core issues. They cycle around as our life cycles around. Mine has always been not having a partner that loves me.

When I was looking at the video of my first marriage back in 1988, I remembered the years before the divorce. He told me he had not ever really loved me. I would pull out this box of letters from the summer we were engaged but not able to be together.

He wrote to me every single day. Sometimes, he wrote two letters. Seriously, would a guy really do all that if he wasn’t in love?

During the wedding reception, there was footage of our first dance together. You can see us talking but of course, you can’t hear the conversation. But I saw the non-verbals. He gave me a look and then squeezed me a certain way.

HA!! It had “I love you” all over it. You can deny it mister, but you did love me.

But the bigger AHA moment came after that. It was a present AHA as I sat on the couch. My issue isn’t that I’ve never had the love of a man. I absolutely have. More than once, actually. The problem is that love hasn’t endured. It has always changed in some way.

It got me thinking about all the messages I believed as I was growing up.

If love is true, it endures.

True love is perfect love.

Real love doesn’t leave.

I think those are dangerous myths to walk around with. If for no other reason, love can die because your partner dies. I’ve learned that too. Yes, love continues on in some ways, but let’s be honest. It’s not the same.

For another thing, only God is capable of perfect love. And even God turned away when Jesus bore the sins of the world on the cross.

My professor was right. Our core issues revisit it throughout life. But that doesn’t mean they don’t shift as our knowledge and experience grow. I’m working on watering mine and seeing how it develops.


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Enduring truths

Kathy, Oscar; photo courtesy of author

There are studies that show that sometimes even our strongest memories are inaccurate. We could swear such and such but if we had an actual recording, we would be surprised that things aren’t as we recall.

For years, whenever I was asked how I decided to become a therapist, I would tell them the way my story went in my head. I was going to be a missionary. Then I got married and my marriage went south. We started counseling. I was fascinated by the process I went through and what I learned about myself.

Plus, the missionary boards I had researched and chosen no longer wanted me because I was “divorced.” The big D. Also stands for “damaged goods.” Psychology made sense.

Then one day when I was scanning photo albums, I came across a newspaper article that was written about me when I was chosen to be “student of the month” in high school. In that article, I said that I intended to become a counselor.

Huh.

I could swear that went differently.

Now, remembering my story inaccurately is part of my story.

When I was recently watching home movies, I started with 1988 and my first marriage. Most of us girls dream about our wedding day from birth on. And choosing a lifelong mate is certainly an event of paramount importance. We all expect it to be our one and only wedding.

That’s why it cracked me up when I was shocked to find the video. I thought it had gotten lost, through no fault of my own. The minister who performed the ceremony asked to see our only copy of it and he finally came forward, embarrassed, to say he lost it.

Guess I remembered that story wrong because here I was watching it.

After the reception video was done, the wedding video started over again from another view. Oh yeah! We had two videos of the wedding, not one!

Then I had the “correct” memory.

It was my SECOND marriage video that got lost, not my first one.

Had to laugh at my own aging brain. It’s hard to keep all those marriages straight!

Some truths do last a lifetime.

For instance, truth be told, John (husband #1) was handsome back in the day. I had the chance to see him last year and he is still handsome 30 years later. He aged well.

John’s best friend Oscar gave the toast at our reception, just like tradition goes. Oscar was a close friend of mine as well and was the husband of my best friend Kathy.

I couldn’t believe how his toast nailed it. The enduring truths.

“John, you have a love for truth.” This was in the context mostly of faith and Christianity, which he later abandoned because it no longer seemed truthful to him. But Oscar was right. He searched for understanding. And he rubbed off on me. I take some of that passion with me to this day.

The other half of that toast was about me.

“Darcy, you have a love for people.”

Yep, still 100% true 30 years later. I would add that the next logical step is you love being able to help people and make a difference in their lives. It’s just natural when you love them.

Excellent job on the toast, Oscar.

And by the way, another enduring truth. Kathy and Oscar are still two of my favorite people in the world. They still get me in ways most people don’t. I treasure your continued presence in my life, you two!

(Not that they ever read my blogs…LMAO!)


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Home Videos

On a weekend away, I spent several hours looking at home videos. It started with my first wedding in 1988. I was pleasantly surprised that it was mostly a warm experience rather than the mournful one I was expecting.

Mom, Randy

I got a laugh out of my brother. He had very little hair back then. He has had new hair for so long now, I forgot why he got the implants to begin with.

Just a couple of months ago, my former mother-in-law found me on Facebook. We started messenging and she sent several that brought tears to my eyes. She wanted to read my books (which I was honored by) so I mailed her copies (this is why I never make money) and included a photo of us from the wedding.

me, John’s mom; photo courtesy of author

Seeing the actual wedding footage now, I was reminded of how serendipitous life can be. I just reconnected with her. Mom has been gone for 13 years now. I find any mother figure in my life to be so comforting. Glad she is back in my life, even though geographically distant. (Although, isn’t everyone distant, compliments of the pandemic?)

A sad moment was remembering that Mom and I were a bit icy during the event. I can’t even remember why. Was it because at the time I was adopting “another” mom? Was I busy getting to know her and ignoring the one who had birthed and raised me?

I didn’t let it bog me down with guilt, though. I know some mother-daughter conflict is “normal”. Mostly I think, it was because, at the end of her life, we were very close. She was my best friend. Whenever I expressed it, she would lovingly say, “Stop saying that. I’m not your friend. I’m your mother.”

LOL.

I’ve always felt like I’ve got an exceptional support system. It didn’t escape me as I looked at the bridal party and guests that so many people traveled across the country to attend. Even parents of friends. To me, that’s an honor.

As I watched on, the unexpected (and cruel) deaths hit me. First and foremost my beautiful niece, who was still darling despite missing a front tooth. She died in an automobile accident at age 10.

One of our groomsmen died just in the last couple of years. He had a motorcycle accident and then his wife went through several grueling weeks in the hospital, only to lose him.

The life cycle. Who would have thought looking back 32 years would have such a powerful message now.


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Guest Blogger: Sara Bailey

Thanks to Sara for this wonderful article:

How to Plan a Sabbatical as a Couple

Are you and your partner in need of a long-term getaway? When routine starts to feel rote and squabbles turn into shouting, a sabbatical can be just the ticket for refreshing your perspectives. Just as many people take sabbaticals as an opportunity to destress, recharge, and avoid career burnout, a sabbatical can help you avoid relationship burnout. Without the strain of daily life weighing on you both, you and your partner can remember what brought you together, and face your relationship problems as a team.

Avoid financial strain

The first thing anyone asks when sabbaticals come up is, “How could I possibly afford it?” It’s no wonder why. When so many families live paycheck-to-paycheck, time away from work seems like a far-off dream. But other people have done it, and you can too.

The main thing is to develop a baseline budget. This may be lower than your current budget if you plan to live simply during your sabbatical, but some expenses, like food and health insurance, will remain the same. Then aim to keep costs low while on sabbatical. Consider traveling to a country with a low cost of living, moving into a small apartment, or even trading your home for a tiny home or camper van.

Home sweet home

You could stay home during your sabbatical, but when the point is to step outside of everyday life to gain perspective, it’s logical to say goodbye to familiar surroundings and head somewhere new. An option is to sell your home and use the proceeds to fund your sabbatical, but that’s a lot of work and stress you don’t need right now.

Instead, it makes sense to list your home as a rental. If you own a home in a desirable neighborhood, turning your home into a rental could cover your mortgage with money to spare. Before renting your home, you’ll need to create a lease which will include terms such as length of stay, security deposit needed, and landlord and tenant responsibilities.

What about pets?

It’s generally best to take a sabbatical before having kids or after they’ve left the nest, but what about pets? If staying stateside, BootsnAll notes your pets may be able to come with you. However, if you’re traveling overseas or taking your pets simply isn’t feasible, ask around to see if someone you trust is willing to watch them. If no friends or family members are able, leasing to a tenant who is willing to care for your animals in exchange for reduced rent could save you money over the cost of long-term pet sitting.

Add some income

Decide if you’ll work part-time during your sabbatical or stop work completely. You may find it refreshing to log a few hours doing flexible freelance work, giving yourself a financial cushion in the process, or prefer to stay off the grid entirely.

Once you have a sense of your income and expenses, calculate how much you’ll need to save for a sabbatical. Then, add 20-30%. If you’re not guaranteed a job when you return, you may want to save an even larger buffer — TransUnion recommends saving a year’s salary for a six- to nine-month sabbatical so you don’t rely on credit if you can’t find a job right away. It may take a while to save up as much as you need, but you can speed things up by living minimally in preparation for your gap year.

Making it work in the age of COVID-19

With the world in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may wonder how, exactly, you can get away safely. Fortunately, there are ways you can plan a getaway while taking precautions for your health and security. For example, Business Insider recommends booking a stay at a socially distant hotel or planning a vacation at a privately owned home through a website such as Airbnb. If you want to avoid flying, you and your partner can plot out a road trip that takes you through parts of the country you’ve never explored, all while practicing good social distancing etiquette. The most important thing is to plot out these excursions carefully and plan ahead as much as possible to ensure you follow local guidelines.

Taking a sabbatical isn’t a decision you make overnight. It can take months or years of planning to pull off a sabbatical, especially for a couple. However, when you’re in a relationship for the long haul, the planning is a blip on the radar. The result of your time spent together, on the other hand, will last for life.

Image via Unsplash


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Not Fun To Write

This is not a fun blog to write and I’ve been struggling all week with how to word it. Let me start by saying that I do not blog with the intention of airing my dirty laundry, or anyone else’s. I write mostly for two reasons.

  1. Writing helps me to process what is happening in my life. It is for my own mental health.
  2. It appears to help other people process things in their own lives. Being able to identify with someone who is brave enough to voice their inward thoughts and feelings moves them along in their own growth. That is why I say all this work (the books I’ve written, blogs, my career path) are the lemonade I have attempted to make with the lemons I have been handed (mostly the deaths of the people I loved dearly).

Obviously then, the goal is to heal, not to hurt. I am completely aware that when you post anything on the Internet, you are making yourself vulnerable and subject to criticism. I’ve never been a fan of that but I understand it comes with the territory.

What I find disturbing, is when people use my writing to hurt me, or even worse my family. It has come to my attention that “people” (I don’t know who or exactly how many) have been telling my kids that I write awful things about them on my blogs.

The worst part of that is why the hell someone would do that? What motive do they have? It can’t possibly be for the good of my kids. It only hurts them to think the one that cares for them is not actually caring for them. And how could it be good to try to create division in someone’s home? The only motive that makes sense is that that reader doesn’t like me and wants my kids not to like me either. That is selfishness of the worst kind- hurting others for your own “gain” if you could even call it that. Or maybe the reader just wants to hurt me? If so, congrats! Hurting my kids is about the shittiest thing you can do. Any mother knows there is no worse pain than seeing your kids hurt.

What else sucks is that telling my loved ones that I trash them is completely untrue and false. I do write about the struggles of parenthood at times. I do write (rarely) about things my kids do that are hurtful. But the intent is not to bash, it is to learn and grow and heal from. Any parent recognizes the truth in that. When you look at the big picture of my writing, most things are positive when it comes to them.

When I was approached by one of my kids with this idea that I am “negative” about them, I responded with two things.

  1. I reminded them that a couple of years ago I had a SPECT image done of my brain. (Blogged about that, too.) It uncovered that I have “refractory depression” which means lifelong depression and also resistant to treatment. My “negative” slant in life (my ability to identify often with pain) is part of my hard wiring, not part of a plan to hurt the people I love.
  2. I read an excerpt from my PUBLISHED BOOK that spoke to the high heavens about how I feel about them and the deep love I feel for them, proving that I do not go around trashing them. It was obvious to them at that point, that the sources who were feeding them information had completely misrepresented me. Perhaps in the future, they will ask their “sources” to be silent, or maybe they will read for themselves before assuming the gossip is true.

Although I was surprised to even know that many people bother to read my blog, I do have a couple of things to say to those readers who are doing so in order to hurt my family. First, why don’t you contact me personally instead of hurting my kids? Or better yet, why don’t you post comments on my blogs and see what kind of reactions you get? Just because I share my rawest emotions, doesn’t mean it is easy to be that vulnerable for the world to see and criticize. It isn’t. So instead of attacking me behind my back, have the courage to speak up. If you can’t match my bravery, then stand down.

Lastly, shame on you. My family has been through enough heartache. Stop spewing poison. Whatever reasons you think you have, they are not appropriate. Our family may not be perfect, but we are all here together. We have been since Tim died. We have survived and we love each other. LEAVE US ALONE.


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Holiday Hell

Image result for thanksgiving images

I think holidays must be one of the most immense Catch-22 situations in our society. Everywhere I go, most people find them stressful. Lots of people say they hate them. A few truly enjoy them.

We put so much into them and their significance which is why the letdown is so bad. Yet year after year we do it to ourselves. We keep hoping something great will happen. We try to set a new precedence. We think the people in our lives will be inspired to put more effort into us just because it is a holiday.

Some go off pretty well. But’s let’s face it. Most of us actually act worse because of the dynamics I just mentioned. The high hopes are usually dashed. What a vicious cycle. And I’m just as guilty.

People who live with grief know that holidays are generally the toughest times of the year. Since Dad died, my grief around mom and Tim are also ramped up. I realized last night that the worst part isn’t even mine, even though that is significant too. The worst is watching my kids grow up with parents and grandparents missing. That just doesn’t seem to get easier no matter how many years go by.

Last year was especially tough and this year is proving to be the same. It is amazing how quickly you can spiral down the rabbit hole. Having it be a holiday just makes it all seem worse.

Family dynamics break my heart sometimes. Missing my sister hurts even know we celebrated our own Thanksgiving when she was in town. This is the first holiday I won’t be seeing my beautiful granddaughter because of painful circumstances.

Thanksgiving is for giving thanks. I believe it. I want it. I’m aware of the good things. But damn it, the sadness can overshadow what the whole purpose of the holiday is. Those who made it special are sometimes gone. The very people who are here are supposed to color our lives with love, but sometimes end up coloring our holidays with hurt. Boo!

Oops, sorry. I forgot Halloween is over.


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Estrogen Infusion

In September I spoke at a conference about 3 hours away. I was kind of dreading it because I was on the committee over the previous year and just wanted it to be over with. However, I had a great time and met some great women. I was surprised to hear myself say I didn’t want to go home.

In October, I went away with 7 of my girlfriends to our annual “Magical Misery Tour.” Some said it was the best year yet. We laughed, sang and danced. There was some intense grief being processed as well. The epitome of bittersweet.

This month, I went to Chicago (I lived there for 9 years) for a death doula training. I spent 5 days with some of my dearest friends, was educated in a very stimulating educational training, and met some super cool women. One of them articulated it perfectly. She said “I’m wholly unaccustomed to quick-witted, loving, likeminded people.  It fed my soul.” I REALLY didn’t want to go home this time. Here’s our crew:

It got me thinking. When Mom died in 2007, she was my best friend. She hated when I said that and would come back with, “Stop saying that! I’m not your friend, I’m your MOTHER!.” True that, but she didn’t have a choice. She was my favorite female in the world. The hole that she left in my life was astounding. I made a decision to find and nurture good female folks to bond with.

When I didn’t have a significant other in my life, I had to rely very heavily on my girls. Now I do have a significant other, I realize how deeply I can just appreciate them and my connection to them.

The last 3 months I have been so terribly fortunate to have those little trips away. Next month I am supposed to go to Florida for work. A friend of mine got me the job and she is on the team with me. I imagine that will be another great experience.

Yay for estrogen! I love my ya-yas, the old and the new. I’m so grateful for every one of you. Every single one!  


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Secular & Sacred

I believe that I have been approaching a crossroads. I am well aware of folks in my life who love and forgive me for mistakes I have made (and I mean big, hurtful mistakes!) I am also aware of a slew of folks that don’t like me. Some might even hate me. The ironic piece is that they are generally folks I have gone out of my way to be kind to, yet that has somehow been twisted in their minds.

In the church I have been recently attending, I have had my heart pierced again with messages of forgiveness, grace, freedom, which of course begins with God’s perfect love and sacrifice for us. I find myself lying awake at night wondering if I should be knocking on doors and trying to repair the broken relationships I have out there.

I went to see Scott, my decades-long therapist. He knows the history and story of most of these people that I am estranged from. Some of them he has even met. He gave me an empathic NO, I should not be knocking on doors of people who have pretty much abused my kindness because of their own brokenness. Why do I have such a deep need for everyone to like me?

He pointed to my missionary spirit. I even got a degree in it in college. I have a vision of love and healing and I am crushed when life doesn’t happen that way. Unfortunately, it rarely does. I walked away thinking that I do not need to assertively push my, “I’m finally walking away from your toxicity” quest, but I also most definitely do not need to assertively walk into a space where I am most likely going to be hurt or abused again. I can be open if they ever approach me with a goal of reconciliation.

Then I decided I wanted to chat with my pastor as well. Would she say forget the world’s wisdom? Give unconditional love and grace, turn your cheek over and over. That is God’s example to us – radical love. Doesn’t that feel more “right?”

She did not say those things. I was shocked to find that such an amazing woman also has “haters” in her life. She talked about God’s vision NOT being that of a doormat. She talked about working hard to accept that we cannot control other people’s response is to us. What God does call us to, is to be who we need to be every day when we wake up. A person dearly loved by God who continues to love and grow.

She then challenged me. What will it take for me to accept that kind of love from God? For me to believe in my heart what my head has believed for years now? To take my own passionate advice when it comes to supporting other people?

I think I have glimpsed moments of that in the last decade of my life. I think as I have aged I have begun to push back when treated badly. I have begun to seek reciprocity. Scott says to sink my energy into the people that love me and desire my company.

There was no big disconnect between the secular and sacred wisdom I sought out. They complemented each other.

I’m sure I will stay lay awake some nights and feel bad about the people around me who have rejected me and the efforts I made to be a good person to them. It will still hurt. But I am also going to seek to turn my energy away from that and focus on my own growth.

And be deeply grateful for the many truly wonderful people who have chosen to love me.