10 Tips for Handling Grief During the Holidays

The holiday season can evoke sadness or depression for anyone in the midst of grief or loss. Here are some suggestions for handling grief during the holidays, getting through them in spite of it all.

1. Anticipate “moments.” Christmas music in stores can trigger sadness when your heart is heavy (earplugs don’t help much). At home, choose your own music or let there be silence.

2. Be flexible. Plan time with family or friends but don’t over schedule. If you need to cancel, do it. Be self-supporting. After my son’s death, my mantra was, “I can get through this day.”

3. Support yourself. Too much merriment might not fit this year. Set aside “alone” time when or if you need it, without guilt. If someone tries to impose guilt on you, refuse to participate.

4. Things are different. Things will feel different because they are. Asking “why” can be self-defeating and bring up unanswerable questions. Consider how you can adjust to this new normal with as much support and self-care as possible. Be gentle with yourself.

5. Make a gratitude list. Write down what still matters to you, what you feel grateful for. Keep your list handy; add to it and read it often, especially in the morning or at bedtime.

6. Help someone who needs it. If you’re up to it, do a good deed for someone to get you outside of your grief, reinforce your gratitude, and remind you that you’re not alone.

7. Trust your instincts. The first year following a loss is tough. As one woman said, “In time, things aren’t necessarily easier but they are less hard.” If you need sentimental time, take it. Write a letter to yourself or a loved one. Pay attention to what your inner voice tells you.

8. Take good care of your mind, body, and spirit. Try to sleep. Walking can help, especially in a quiet place. Listen to relaxing music. Read what brings you solace or peace. Add any healthy self-nurturing practice that’s comforting. Pray. Meditate. Write. Journal. Sing. Dance.

9. Make a ritual. A friend kept her deceased pet’s bowl in the kitchen for several months as a remembrance. A family whose father died in the fall lit candles daily during the holidays. Some military families hang a symbol or ornament representing a deployed child or sibling. Some families have a place setting at the table with a photo of their loved one. Do whatever works to handle grief during the holidays.

10. Maintain your faith. The words “time heals” sound like a cliché when you are deep in the throes of grief and loss. But passing time is a merciful salve, please trust that it will do its work.

517.253.8918   Box 956, East Lansing MI 48826.  Web: LeslieCharles.com Feel free to share…

© 2019. Compliments of C. Leslie Charles, speaker, author of All Is Not Lost: The healing journey through crisis, grief and loss.  

Firm Up With Affirmations

Following the two worst things that have happened to me (the death of my son Robbie Kuripla in 1984, and my partner Rob Carr recently ending our 35-year relationship), positive affirmations helped me recover from my grief, accept the New Normal and move on. You’d smile at my apartment walls; they’re littered with affirming posters and reminders.

If affirmations aren’t part of your life I encourage you to embrace the practice so you can reprogram yourself and steel your resilience, trading the stress of self-sacrifice for self-support. Here are some guidelines:

1. Use positive words. Envision what you’re working toward; write a positive one-sentence statement that reflects how you want to feel and behave. Example: “I choose happiness.”

2. Use present tense. Write your affirmations as if they’ve already been accomplished. Example: “I accept reality as it is.” Future tense keeps you “in the future” while present tense influences your “now.”

3. Create positive images. Hold these pictures firmly in your mind; vividly imagine yourself engaging in the new behavior(s).

4. Write down your affirmations. Record them on your business card or small pieces of paper; carry them with you. Post them on your bathroom mirror, car dashboard, or walls. Make posters as I do (it’s fun) so you’re surrounded with attractive reminders.

5. Memorize and repeat. Read or recite your affirmations constantly. Visualize your images. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Say it, see it, and you will be it.

Affirmations work because your brain absorbs what you think, say, and even imagine, accepting everything you tell it as The Truth. An affirmation may sound like a lie but that’s only because you haven’t accomplished it yet. You will; be consistent, be patient. World class athletes and astronauts use this process to improve their performance; it’s called simulation.

If this idea is new to you, start small. Keep it private at first so no one discourages or teases you. As results unfold you’ll gain confidence. Affirmations and visualizations have not only helped me survive my two biggest traumas, they’ve empowered and enabled me to heal and grow, reclaim my life, recreate myself, and thrive (even flourish) once again.

Simple Action: If you need a mental kick start, a change of direction, or to recover from a hurt or trauma, begin affirming your life and yourself today. Reach for the stars and soar to new heights; you never know until you try.

Source: WordPress

Five Secrets to Loving Life

There are days we wake up bright eyed and bursting with positive energy but there are other times we’d rather just turn over and do a day of “sheet therapy.” Here are five ways to stay in love with your life and yourself.

1. Be Grateful. It’s easy to notice what’s wrong, broken, or boring, but instead, consciously focus on what’s right and what’s working. Each night, review the good things that happened that day and smile. On a small card, write down the 5 most important things in your life. Carry your Gratitude List with you at all times and if you have a “moment” haul out your card and read it for instant perspective.

2. Be Kind. Be nice to yourself and others. Say “please” and “thank you,” even to your family. Be patient with people who appear rushed or pressured. If you start feeling stressed, breathe in relaxation and send it out to the world with your exhale. Do one good deed every day. Things get better when you keep the “kind” in humankind.

3. If You Make a Change, Start Small. If you made such a lengthy list of New Years resolutions that you’ve already abandoned them, simplify the process. Don’t go for a miracle makeover, simply pick one behavior to work on for the rest of the year and keep at it. For once, time will be on your side. This “annual practice” has changed my life.

4. Fake it Till You Make It. You’ve heard this a gazillion times but it’s true. Want to be happier? Act happy! Use the body language of a happy person: smile more, laugh, be friendly. Your brain treats whatever you think or say as “the truth” and interprets your body language as “how you are.” Act “as if” and that’s what you’ll become.

5. Treat Yourself With Loving Kindness. Flight briefings remind us to put on our own oxygen masks before helping others if cabin pressure is lost during a flight; this is a good rule to generalize. Nurture, care for, and indulge yourself in healthy ways, especially during difficult times. Give yourself the gift of living each day as fully as you can, even if things suck because sometimes they will (I hope that made you smile).

Simple Action: Several times a day remind yourself that living and loving start on the inside and work their way to the outside. It all begins within, and why would you want to be without?

Source: WordPress

The Power of Words

Last year, my friend Janelle Barlow, author of “A Complaint is a Gift”, ended her e-mail with the words, “May your day sparkle.” I thought it was the coolest way of closing a note I’d ever seen. Months later, I still can’t get her words out of my mind. Aren’t we lucky when a friend sends us a message that sticks?

Even though my days weren’t so sparkly at the time (serious relationship issues had surfaced), I clung to Janelle’s words. They reminded me to look for the good even when things felt so bad, when I felt so bad.

Well, my days are getting brighter again, with moments of gleams and glimmer; the sparkle is coming back into my life. The season helps. Winter in Michigan brings mornings where ice on the trees turns the world into crystal, where falling snowflakes look like diamonds in the sunlight, and a blanket of white glistens in the angled rays of winter’s cold sun.

I found more helpful words last year: “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.” ~Marie Beynon Ray. These words, capable of bringing tears to my eyes, are on my computer desktop and I read them every day.

If you’re going through tough times I encourage you to find the words and the people that will encourage you and bolster your spirit. I encourage you to rediscover the wise, knowing part of you; trust that it will tell you the truth, even if it hurts. These external and internal resources will help you revive your true self and renew your faith in who you are so you can rebuild your existence.

Life is dynamic, unpredictable, and filled with hills and valleys. The latter is where the truth and our life lessons lie. Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing,” and facing our “adventures” forces us to be in the moment. Living in the “now” keeps us from dreading the future or clinging to the past. It’s not easy but the present is the only place where we find the words, the sparkling insights that bring us courage, strength, and clarity.

Simple Action: If you have issues that have forced you into the shade, address them now so you can once again find the sparkle in your day, and in yourself.

Source: WordPress

Shake it Up, Baby

For many of us the new year rides in on a shiny, glimmering wave of hope and determination. In my last post I welcomed the new year (anew) and I’d like to take this theme out for one more spin before it goes back in the garage or wherever ideas go when we lay them to rest.

The word “anew” appeals to me, suggesting change, evolution, self-improvement. While a whole year, 365 days, may feel a bit daunting, we can bring it down to a manageable portion: think one day at a time, each day anew. Can you get your head around keeping a sparkle on each new day?

You can do this by shaking things up, revising your routine (perhaps radically), and finding new ways of doing old things. It doesn’t have to be huge. For example, try sleeping on the other side of the bed.

Rearrange the furniture. Try new restaurants, new cuisines, new recipes. Try doing everyday tasks with your non-dominant hand and see what happens. Sign up for a class: something you’ve never done before. Though I’m not a dancer I took up Zumba in November (very fun!) and discovered that my left foot takes longer to learn dance steps than my right. Who woulda thunk it?

‎”The best cure for a sluggish mind is to disturb its routine.” ~ William H. Danforth

Years ago, I started switching my turbo mouse from right hand to left to see if I could do it (I can). Last summer I was forced into playing disc golf left-handed, thanks to an injured right shoulder and the results are quite impressive. I now vacuum and occasionally brush my teeth with my left hand. The latter is still a challenge, but switching hands is good for the brain.

Back to disc golf for a moment: I took up the sport in 2005, despite my lack of coordination and infirmities. I totally sucked when I began, but I now play tournaments and hold a world distance record in my age category. So what’s the point? Shake yourself up. Try something new, unfamiliar, and maybe a bit intimidating. And stick to it for awhile, even if you suck.

Simple Action: If you feel wedged in by routine, free yourself. If you yearn for a change, do it and enjoy the results. Break the mold before you harden. Try something new—the sky’s the limit.

Source: WordPress

Time to Renew You

As 2010 rolls to a close, like an unhospitable guest or milk that’s spoiled, I’m happy to see it go. If I may be candid, 2010 was a rough ride. Like a turbulent, trouble-laden flight where you end up feeling frosted, accosted, and exhausted, that describes my year.

But like you, I am an ever-changing, continually evolving human being. Yes, I have my moments of regression, recalcitrance, and resistance. Yet somehow these times of truancy pass and I shrug off my petulance and plunge forward. These things are on my mind because I’m in the midst of my annual ritual of reviewing the old year and planning for the new.

My company logo is that of a butterfly because nothing else on earth experiences such a radical transformation. In transitioning from caterpillar to butterfly, there’s a period when these creatures are “nothing.” They’re a mash and mess of protoplasm that has no shape or form, yet bearing promise and potential as they shift into the next stage of their life cycle.

You’re no stranger to transitions; you’ve had times where you felt so mashed and messed up it felt as if you’d lost yourself. Things felt so bad you weren’t sure you’d ever recover but you did. You picked yourself up, absorbed the experience, learned your lessons, made new plans and promises, and got back on the path. Good for you!

Let’s face it. We are imperfect creatures trying to make our way in an imperfect world. We try to do our best but we screw up. We make mistakes. We get hurt, we hurt others and even ourselves from time to time. We sometimes find ourselves in the middle of a mess, yet at some point we hose ourselves down, forgive our transgressions (or transgressors) and move on.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions but I do create a theme for each year and there will be more on that in the near future. For now, I’m wiggling my way out of a mess, sorting through my lessons learned, and drying my wings so I can fly again. If you’ve had a tough year, I hope you’ll do the same. Indeed, there are kinder, gentler days ahead.

Simple Action: Renew you, from mess to mastery. Like the butterfly, you can reinvent yourself, transform hardship into happiness, and let your spirit once again soar as you shift into the next stage of your life cycle.

Source: WordPress

Handling Holiday Loss

The holiday season conjures images of connection, celebration, and endless cheer but that’s not how it is for everyone. The season can be very sad if you’re facing loss, grief, or other challenges. If your holidays won’t be picture perfect this year, or you know someone in that situation, here are some ways to cope.

1. Anticipate ups and downs. For a start, those stirring Christmas songs can trigger feelings of sadness, reverie or loneliness, even in good times! Avoid that dripping sentimentality when you can, and opt for upbeat music or silence.

2. Put you on your “gift” list. Do what works for you. Take one day at a time and don’t over schedule yourself. Create a positive affirmation such as, “I can handle this,” repeat as needed. Don’t feel obligated to celebrate; too much “merriment” may not fit this year. Set aside time for yourself, not to be lonely, but to be solitary.

3. Accept reality. Things will feel different because they are, so don’t try to make life feel “normal.” Instead of asking “why” help yourself adjust to your new circumstances. We human beings are remarkably adaptable and resilient, even in the toughest of times. It helps to realize that you can accept “what is” without having to approve of it.

4. Focus on gratitude. Create a gratitude list and add to it as new realizations come. Keep your list handy, review it often. Read an inspirational book or buoy your spirit by volunteering; helping others can boost your gratitude.

5. If you need to, give yourself some grieving time. Keep it healthy. If you’re missing a loved one, write a letter to him or her and save or dispose of it as you see fit. Or put down in words what a loved one might say to encourage or comfort you. These are ways of tapping into your innate wisdom.

6. Attend to your mental, physical and spiritual needs. Get adequate sleep and some moderate exercise. Nurture yourself. Avoid unhealthy self-indulgences such as binge eating, drinking, or grudge shopping.

7. Try a healing ritual. Some families light a candle for their loved one in the military or one who’s deceased to signify their presence. Others buy or make a special holiday ornament or symbol. Do what works for you and yours.

Simple Action: Maintain your faith. It sounds like a cliche but time is a powerful salve. Be kind to yourself through the holidays and beyond; let time do its work.

Source: WordPress

Holidays or Holidaze?

The holidays are once again upon us. Thanksgiving comes first at a nice pace, those early decorations start popping up, and then you hear that initial Christmas carol. But after that, things start ganging up on us: crowded stores, long lines, obligatory parties, gift exchanges, family gatherings, and overspending on an already anemic budget. This is where people start thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa” instead of ho, ho, ho.”

Avoid the mental maze of the “holidaze.” You can put the skids on those negative impulses; no shopping rage for you! Yes, Virginia, you can make your holidays more cheery and festive instead of chaotic and frustrating with a little bit of awareness and a lot of fortitude.

1. When you head for the mall, prepare yourself with a “reality bite.” There will be traffic, people, and few choice parking spots. There will be lines, too, but getting cranky about these inconveniences won’t thin the herd or make those lines move faster. Turn waiting time into rejuvenating time: smile, regroup, take a relaxing breath, imagine your favorite vacation spot, check your shopping list, visualize your next good meal, or do a few toe taps to renew your energy.

2. Restrain your gift buying. If you’ve been affected by the economy, instead of overextending, choose gifts that reflect thoughtfulness. Consider “gifts of self” for those you love involving “together time” instead of physical possessions. Price tags can’t be placed on gifts that include a personal dimension.

3. For workplace gifts, consider charity donations. If you exchange names at work, find out what charity your recipient most values and make a donation in their name. With this approach, everybody wins.

4. If you must deal with cranky customers at work, remember that this too shall pass. These irritating individuals may be grappling with grim circumstances. Be grateful you only serve them and don’t have to go home with them.

5. For family visits, put a soft lens on your heart so you can perceive your loved ones with compassion instead of criticism (if they haven’t changed by now they probably never will). Be grateful you don’t have to go home with them, either.

6. For the entire season, slow your pace when you drive, walk, and talk. Don’t get swept up in the rush; be an observer, not a participant. Smile more, breathe and relax, look for hopeful signs instead of hassles. Remember the words “good will to all.”

Simple Action: Keep reminding yourself that the holidays aren’t about presents; they’re about presence (yours). Wishing you peace and joy…Leslie

Source: WordPress

Fit Bits: 10 Easy Ways to be Healthier and Happier

Want to be in better shape but you don’t think you have time? Well, think big, but start small. These ideas, excerpted from an article I wrote for the Women2Women Michigan magazine, can enhance your health without your having to join a gym or go into therapy.

Hint: something is always better than nothing. Just like calories, exercise is cumulative. “Move more, eat less,” is the secret to shaping up. Add some self-nurturing and you have a winning formula. It’s easier than you think.

1.  Reach for the sky. Start out your day with five or ten minutes of yoga or gentle stretching to prepare your body and mind for the day.

2.  Go for the burn. Choose “bad” parking spots that force you to walk more. Leave the choices spots for the lazy or physically impaired. The more steps you take, the more calories you burn.

3.  Get out. In the middle of a busy work day take a short walk, get some air, refresh your body, and clear your head.

4.  Move up. Climb one or two flights of stairs (or more) when you can rather than always relying on elevators.

5.  Leave yourself some wiggle room. If you have a desk job, get up and move often. Find a few office yoga techniques or stretches to perk up your body and brain.

6.  Get wet. Stay hydrated; drink more water and less caffeine. Avoid carbonated beverages and “energy” drinks.

7.  Look up. Be positive. Smile more; your brain will think you’re having fun (your body tends to feel the way your face looks).

8.  Eat neat. Eat more fruits and veggies. Avoid comfort foods (the gooey, the chewy, the crunchy, the munchy, the salty, the faulty). Eat only when you’re hungry, quit when you’re full. Eat smaller portions; eat slower, too.

9.  Get your move on. Find an exercise you enjoy and do it regularly for at least ten minutes. Often, by that time, you’ll give yourself another ten minutes or more.

10. Get your groove on. Nurture yourself, especially when the chips are down so you don’t reach for the chips! Read something inspirational every day. Take bubble baths, try aromatherapy. Sit for ten minutes in a quiet space with relaxing music and chill. Savor a piece of good chocolate, or whatever else works for you. Enjoy at least one small indulgence daily; you deserve it.

Simple Action: Practice these small life-enriching Fit Bits faithfully and they will make a big difference for you.

Source: WordPress

Lessons My Horse Taught Me

My childhood dream was to someday own a horse and it was a privilege to make that dream come true. I was a horse owner for thirty years and after hacking around for the first ten, I began pursuing the art of dressage. Here are a few of the many lessons I learned during those hundreds of hours in the saddle.

1. Just as with life, dressage is an exercise in continuous improvement. If you want to learn, enhance your skills, and enrich your existence, you have to focus on what you want and make a long-term commitment.

2. What feels “natural” isn’t always correct. For example, when leading a horse, if it rears up or jerks its head back, instead of following your instinct to pull, move toward the horse and then give the lead line a jerk. Use your brain to control the situation whenever you’re outweighed, outmuscled, or overwhelmed.

3. Ask for what you want in a way that it can be easily understood by the other party. This one needs no example.

4. Accept constructive feedback and adjust your behavior accordingly so you can be more effective. You may be tempted to condemn an unusual idea or get defensive when criticized, but instead, listen carefully, keep your mouth shut, and consider the merits of what’s being said.

5. We’re often inclined to take the easy way out, but in life as in riding, the most effective strategy is often the hardest one. Don’t cheat yourself. Suck it up and put forth whatever effort it takes so you can learn to do it right. Once you internalize the skill it’ll be yours for as long as you live.

6. We are all driven by our own agendas. Dressage is challenging and complex, and just as the rider needs to do what’s difficult, so does the horse, and sometimes the pair will be working at cross purposes. This also happens in personal and work relationships. Reread items 1 through 5 for inspiration on this one.

7. Instead of wishing for miracles, take the initiative; create your own. You can’t expect another person (or animal, or situation) to change for the better till you do.

Simple Action: While you might never find yourself on the back of a horse, every day you metaphorically ride out to meet your day. Which of these lessons I learned in the saddle most “speak” to you and how will you let them enrich your existence?

Source: WordPress