Girl School for Grownups

Like having a big sister, but better because I can't boss you around!

Thoughts about death

In January 2013, Tim’s dad died. In August my mom died. And in January 2014 my dad died. In the last week, two of my much loved friends have lost parents. In honor of my friends, and for anyone who has lost someone they love, here’s something I wrote shortly after Troy died.

For most of my life I’ve known virtually nothing about death. I took a course in college titled “Death and Dying” and I learned about the five stages of grief. I knew what I learned in Sunday School and what the Bible taught about death and heaven and hell. But I’ve rarely experienced death in a way that touched my everyday life.

My father-in-law died 3 weeks ago.

Troy was a vital part of our lives. He and Margaret lived 10 minutes away from us.  He worked until a month before his death. He celebrated his 60th anniversary last June. He loved his family and friends and wanted to live. He was one of my favorite people ever and I know he loved me. I miss him like crazy. And I hate that he’s dead and that awful people are still alive.

I don’t know much about death and grief, but here are the things I’ve learned so far:

  • Every time someone says “I’m so sorry about Troy” it eases a teeny tiny bit of the pain. So I will always acknowledge, in person or by sending a card, the loss of a loved one. 
  • Sending food is one of the best ways to help people who are grieving. The people who are alive still need to eat. I will always bring food when I can. It’s a tangible way to express love.
  • Talking about the person who died is good. One day shortly after he died, I had a wave of sadness that came out of nowhere. I was driving home from Trader Joe’s and crying, and I thought “I’m going to call Margaret.” Then I was scared because I didn’t want to make her sad. Decided to call anyway. She answered and asked me how I was doing. I said “I miss Troy so much.” She said, “Oh I miss him too” and we talked and it helped.
  • If you pay attention, you can find a way to help. In January we practically lived at Troy and Margaret’s house. And we used our house as a pit stop. One of my friends, unbeknownst to me, snuck into our house while we were helping Margaret and cleaned our kitchen. (I still get tears in my eyes when I think of this.)

As far as my beliefs about the afterlife, again I don’t know much. I used to think I knew some stuff. But in the last 4 years it’s like everything I thought I knew was stripped away (which is not a bad thing, but it’s a hard thing) and every belief has been challenged. Here’s a little list of what I think I know for sure:

  • There is a God.
  • I am not God (if I was, things would be a LOT different around here!).
  • God knows and cares beyond what I can possibly imagine.
  • Troy has a new body that works perfectly.
  • There is a balcony. I read a Joyce Meyers book years ago where she said that people who die can be in our balcony. And we can choose who’s in our balcony. I like to think of the upper deck seats at a Giants game, with people leaning forward and cheering, “You can do it!” I think Troy is in a lot of people’s balconies.

I loved Troy. You would have loved him too.

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Thanksgiving tips

I have nothing to say about the food or the tabletop. But I have two important reminders that may help this to be the best Thanksgiving yet:

  1. You know how sometimes your parents (or your brother or your sister) can do something and you’re immediately upset? Like you try to act calm on the outside but inside you can feel your blood pressure rising? Take a deep breath. If that doesn’t help, take another one. And remember the words of my oh-so-wise therapist friend, “Of course your parents/family can push your buttons. They’re the ones who installed them.” Truth.
  2. I wrote about this a few weeks back, but it bears repeating: if they’re is unhappy, put them in water. This statement originally referred to children, but consider applying this to yourself. If you’re feeling stressed out, take a shower. Take a bath. (Of course this won’t work if you’re at your aunt and uncle’s house. Random showering reads crazy.)

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

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My depression story, part 3

I don’t really know how to wrap up my thoughts about depression. Before I started writing, I had an idea of writing 3 posts and I’m pretty sure I had some thoughts about what each post would cover. Now? I feel uncertain and very unqualified.

(inhale, hold, exhale, hold, repeat)

(breath retention is a technique I learned in yoga classes and it’s very calming and centering. yes, i did just stop and intentionally breathe. maybe it will help.)

Perhaps dealing with depression is something like what i just experienced. I didn’t know what to write, and the temptation to just step away and not write anything was huge. But then I remembered something that sometimes helps, and even though it didn’t seem like it would work, I tried it. That really is how it feels when I have my own personal rain cloud following me — as though it will never get better and nothing I do can change it. But that’s a lie. Here are some truths:

Everything changes. The good and the bad.

Everything matters. Even small actions can yield big results.

(just took a break to read my old weblog. i was hoping to find a free verse poem called “recovery in 5 parts” or something like that. instead started reading what i’d written. felt a lot of self-compassion, which is a very good thing. if you want to read from my previous blog, you can check it out here.)

Found the poem. Thanks Google. Will there be a part 4 to these posts? Dunno. For now I leave you with a thought and a poem.

The thought: My yoga teacher, Megan, says this at the end of her classes “Remember, if you are breathing in and out, there is more right with you than there is wrong with you.” Together, let’s say it: amen.

The poem:

Life in Five Short Chapters

CHAPTER 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

CHAPTER 2

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It takes a long time to get out.

CHAPTER 3

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there, and still I fall in.
It’s a habit.
But my eyes are open and I know where I am.
It is my fault and I get out immediately.

CHAPTER 4

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

CHAPTER 5

I walk down a different street.

By Portia Nelson

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From the heart

When I was growing up, I desperately wanted a big brother. The thought was that he could introduce me to his cute friends and I could date them! But do you know what I could have really used? A big sister. But maybe not an actual real big sister, because real people have their own real people issues. But an idealized big sister who could gently guide me through all the twists and turns of growing up, and could help me learn from her mistakes. Someone whose feedback I could trust and who would encourage me when life felt oh-so-tough, as it often does.

As a newly married girl, I would joke with my husband, saying “oh, they teach you this stuff in girl school and that’s why you don’t know it!” (Tim grew up in a household with no sisters, so there are lots of girl things that were new to him.) This line could come up when I was refolding napkins before having people over for dinner, or … oh, I can’t remember other instances, but it’s been part of our lexicon for years now.

This blog is a combination of these two ideas. My hope is that Girl School for Grownups will be a source of enlightenment and encouragement, where no topic is off limits. The subjects will range from serious (I’ve got some real life experience with depression and can share strategies that have worked for me) to silly (why having a collection is so much fun) and all points in between (let’s talk desert island beauty products!).

But here’s my big concern: what if this comes across like I’m a big know-it-all? So from the heart, please know that I want to share what I’ve learned so that your life can be better. And a valuable lesson that I keep re-learning is that what other people think of me is none of my business. So perhaps this will seem like shameless self-promotion to some. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take in order to reach those for whom this works.

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