Losing a loved one

How do you walk ahead when you lose someone you love? How do you pull the weight of grief around day by day when it feels as though sandbags are hanging around your neck? How do you make peace with all the unsaid words? The moments you wished you could have back, the things you wished you could change, the relationships you wished you had worked on? The short answer… you can’t.

So make each moment count. The cliche “you never know when it will be your last day” has been said repeatedly for a reason, because …its so true.

We don’t always get that understanding day by day. We get so spun up in our own little world and responsibilities, we sometimes forget or put off doing the hard work of maintaining relationships. And then…the unthinkable happens.

Death can be a gift… that sounds so wrong to say, but it can mean your loved one is no longer suffering, enduring hardship, or struggling. It can bring about perspective, introspection, resolve to change things for the good.

The pain we feel can be overwhelming, but your loved one is ok. If you believe in a higher being they are better than ok. Or perhaps their death means their spirit was so pure, they had few lessons to learn about living so God called them home. For those called so early this is my understanding.

You will miss them every day, you will think about them all the time, but you cannot stop living because they are gone. Your job is to honor them every day so they will know how much you loved them.

Creating life

As I stood in line at the fertility doctor that morning I was overwhelmed with a feeling of awe, sadness and hope. My husband and I had been trying to have children for almost 2 years. We began seeing a fertility doctor in October, then instantly found out we were pregnant. Unfortunately that little blessing didn’t make it.

So, we began again. We went through the testing that revealed it may be more difficult for us to conceive. We were ready to do whatever we could to create life with the love we have for each other. We prayed and hoped and attended the IVF classes. No matter the cost we would figure out out. Then in June, a couple weeks before starting the IVF process, God answered our prayers with a positive pregnancy test.

So, as I stood in line at my third follow up sonogram to make sure baby is on track, I was overcome with emotion as I realized how much all these women around me wanted the same thing I had growing inside me. I was in awe at the resilience and commitment of these amazing women. To put your body through the hormones, procedures, and emotional roller coaster of producing eggs to hopefully get fertilized and become an embryo then properly implant – well, it’s a process to say the least. I also felt so appreciative that God saved me from that process. I really wanted a baby, but hoped my body would cooperate the old fashioned way. I recall in my younger years praying not to get pregnant, what a mistake, now all I could think about was conceiving.

I felt sadness that so many people around me in this small office desperately wanted to create life, to be parents, to guide and protect and raise fabulous people, while some in this world brutally attack, neglect or discard children daily.

Finally, hope! Glorious hope washed over me that these women will too feel the way I do right now – joyous, nervous, excited, blessed and so in love with this little person growing inside me!

I cannot wait to meet this little miracle!

As an update *** This was written almost 4 years ago. I was nervous to post as many women understand that have had fertility issues, you want it to work and don’t want a reminder it didn’t. I’m happy to report my little guy is 3 and he has a baby sister coming in September. We are beyond thrilled and filled with gratitude.

For others facing the struggle choose hope and faith, they will guide your journey.

Young Love

young_love_wf_04Photo Courtesy of cdn.greenweddingshoes.com

Remember when you were 5, and you had your first crush?  I think back to all the things I did to gain the attention of my first love interest and wondered – what if we used some of these tactics now?  I’m sure we could easily come up with the con list, or lessons learned, but what was the good stuff?  What were the things we did, said, and experienced that could help us now?

Be yourself 

Usually you paired up with someone because you had the same interests.  You started the conversation with comparing your Star Wars lunch box, big rimmed glasses, or artwork. Take notice of people in your circles of interest that you may have overlooked. What’s stopping you from talking to them and comparing your smart phones, Twitter pages or blogs?  Putting yourself out there can be a little unnerving at first, but the reward of being who you genuinely are and having others accept you supersedes the anxiety.  P.S. If they don’t accept you for your true self, then they probably would not add value to your life anyways.

Play

When we were kids we had fun!  We chased each other around, we created high-imagination games, we could play a card game for hours if he was playing.  We shared and laughed and built forts together! A friend of mine joined a softball team after moving to the area. This turned out to be a great way to connect with new friends and crushes. Even on days when he wasn’t 100% in the mood to play softball, the camaraderie and fun of being with others who shared his interests made the activity worthwhile and there was the added bonus of meeting new, interesting women.

Pay attention and make an effort

I remember when my first boyfriend got me a gift for my birthday.  It was a plastic bracelet, but it had a puppy charm on it, and I loved puppies!  I talked about them all the time.  That is the kind of thing that makes a girl feel special; whether you are 5 or 50.  When someone pays attention, and makes an effort to do something nice or thoughtful it goes a long way!

Feel your feelings

What about the feelings that we had?  Remember the hot cheeks, the butterflies, the awkwardness, and shy moments?  Over time we can get desensitized to these feelings because of previous unsuccessful relationships.  After years and years of dating and one break up or heart break after another, you may force yourself to overlook those feelings and cues.  It is important to reconnect your body and emotions so you can keep your mind open to a person who may be a potentially good fit for you.  Those feelings tell us we are into that person, that something about them makes us want to know more.

Hone your inner child and have a little fun with your partner, your crush and yourself!  Hopefully your partner is your crush or your crush becomes your partner.  When we were young we wished we could quickly grow up, but now that we have, we understand the fallible logic of that thinking.  Cherish the fun, spontaneous moments you have with your loved ones that bring back the feelings of childhood.

Would love to hear your love stories and ways you keep love young.  Please share!

Terminating the client-counselor relationship

Courtesy of tagxedo.com

What is the best way to end the counseling relationship?  A counselor’s hope is with the client in a better place and with a higher level of awareness.  Of course we want to know that we made a difference, but that’s the tricky part of working with humans.  We are all unique and results are measured differently.  With one client a certain level of progress may not seem very significant, but with others that same type of progress may be just enough to leave a lasting effect.  No matter how significant the results, terminating the counseling relationship is just as important as beginning it.

When meeting with a client, I like to be as proactive as possible.  The more information my clients have the better, that way there are no surprises.  Counseling is a very intimate relationship.  People don’t generally put their whole selves along with their secrets on the table for all to see, so developing the counseling relationship is instrumental.  Part of gaining trust comes with informed consent, making sure they know what to expect from you, and ending treatment in a respectful way.  Carl Rogers theory, person-centered approach, is drilled into your counseling education for a reason.  The three aspects Rogers believed are critical to the counseling relationship are unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness.  If your clients feel that you are present-engaged- participating- and you care, they are much more inclined to do the work.  Get them started with an understanding that there will be an end within a timeline. This gives them a metaphorical carrot to chase; an outcome to look forward to.  One caution – you can be a part of the journey without getting on the bus.  Meaning, maintain your differentiation to prevent transference and countertransference.  It takes practice, patience, and diligence to confront your own emotions after a difficult session.  Be sure to take the time to meet with a supervisor or peer to process the session, your feelings and move through it.  We must constantly take care of ourselves, spend too much time giving all you have to everyone else, and there is little left to work with.  This work helps you and ultimately makes you a better counselor.   

The interesting part of counseling is when your clients surprise you.  Sometimes we can make termination such a big deal in our heads, and admittedly feel a bit disappointed when they are not nearly as bummed as we are to end the counseling relationship.  Bottom line…Inform them, Rogers them, and give them a loose outline so they can take you on an incredible journey!

Transformation is an experience that few of us have a front row ticket to, get in that mosh pit, get engaged, and take it all in. It will change your life as well.

Happiness…

Courtesy of weheartit.com

I found this picture and it makes me think of happy times.  I grew up in Florida and I was married on the beach, so it is one of those places that feels like home.  The sound of the waves crashing into the shore, the birds chirping, the sound of kids playing and laughing, and the ever flowing water.  Remembering these things instantly makes me happy.  So, how does it happen?  Where does happiness come from?  How can we all get a slice?  I did some research and it looks like happiness means something different to all of us, but a recent study shows 56% of happiness comes from mental attitude, 25% from love, and incredibly only 4% from money, the other 15% comes from accomplishments and creative activity.  So, if it’s true – that the majority of my happiness comes from me, how can we all
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Ying or yang? Finding balance through your inner dialogue.

Picture Courtesy myepiclove.files.wordpress.com

I found a poem about balance that I wrote many years ago.  It is a great lead into the topic of finding balance and appreciation in all aspects of life.

sometimes the sun shines on my life, it makes my whole world glow. 
i love to feel the warmth on my skin, on my soul.
other days the rain pours on my heart and overflows into areas that are saturated.
every part of life needs this balance.
without sunshine, my flowers will not grow.
without rain, my garden would dry out and die.
i am grateful for both the good and the bad. 
those opposite forces bring balance, contentment, appreciation.
~Melissa Cooper

 It may be hard sometimes to find anything positive when unfortunate events occur, but this way of thinking Continue reading

Having a baby – you want me to do what?

A friend recently asked me to write about expectations of a man and a woman when having a baby. Well, we talked about expectations a bit in my recent blog, so let’s reframe that to, understanding the relationship transition with a newborn. When two people decide to have or are blessed with the joy of children, there is a 9 month delay for good reason. Even with adoptions, the process takes time. Being a parent is an awesome responsibility and notably the hardest job on the planet. When embarking upon this new life, it may be easier if you are able to prepare more than 9 months out.

Discussions about values, beliefs, and family rules are a great way to start preparing. Just like navigating the rules in the relationship, new patterns and processes will be an important aspect of your new family dynamic. There will be some things that are extremely important to each parent as your child develops. Having the conversations about what is most important to you, prior to pregnancy, may help alleviate future disagreements or misunderstandings. And then, there are those grand ideas you may have that just don’t work out the way you envisioned. Establishing open, collaborative lines of communication will make future decision making easier.

Written and unwritten or verbal and nonverbal rules exist in all families. A written rule may be – we shower before bedtime, no eating in the bedrooms, saying please and thank you, or no feet on the furniture. An unwritten rule might be something that children observe about the way to behave or what is accepted in the family. Children look to their parents to know what is right or wrong. For example, if the child normally goes to the grocery store with mom, but this week goes with dad, the child may inform dad that they are picking the “wrong” items. The mom never said Cheerios were the “right” cereal, however over time, the child observed the mother’s behavior and determined what was “right.” This concept is extremely important to embrace as a future parent. You have the single most important influence on this little person, more than any other person will have. Have you looked at yourself? Have you thought about the legacy you want to leave behind? Have you identified the issues you struggle with so you can change them, so your children don’t inherit those same behaviors, thoughts, or beliefs?

I grew up knowing that dating outside my race wasn’t acceptable. Nothing explicit was said, but there were comments made that implied it would not be accepted. I didn’t believe the things I heard about other groups of people, and was fortunate to attend school with a diverse student body who I came to know for who they were, not only by the color of their skin. This experience helped me understand how important it is to teach my kids to evaluate people on their characteristics, and to not pass judgment based on what I see.

The hard part was taking my new knowledge of people and weaving it into my family dynamic. The implied or unwritten rules just didn’t make sense anymore, and if my parents were wrong about this, I wondered: what else were they wrong about? It is the little things that are seen and heard, kids don’t miss a thing! As a parent, I know there will be times when I make mistakes, but I truly hope the legacy I leave with them is to love and care for people, to constantly learn and ask questions before they make decisions about people, situations, or their own actions, and to become responsible engagers in the world around them.

So, the day arrives, Mom successfully delivers a healthy baby and you ecstatically, yet almost neurotically bring your bundle of joy home. During this time Mom will be experiencing the effects of her changing body, a very different schedule, and responsibilities will multiply and change.

All of a sudden there are a million more things to do, you’re nervous, worried, in awe of this little person you created, and exuberant all at once. Tasks like who will change diapers or get up in the middle of the night are important questions to negotiate.

Answering those questions will help you both identify which roles each parent will take on. Some partners may not be able to take much time off, so mom is home alone all day. Partners, be sure to help mom out when you get home from work and be patient with the transition.

Expectations may begin to seep in and get in the way of this beautiful journey. The lack of sleep doesn’t help things either, and Dad may feel dethroned, or left out. Making time for each other may seem like the last thing you can squeeze into your busy schedule, but even taking a few moments a day to see each other – not just exist side by side, but see the love of your life, and remember why you got into this relationship may help smooth out the rough parts.

Some parents prefer certain activities over others, but a partnership is the most realistic way to go so both parties don’t feel unappreciated or overworked. The most important thing is to talk to each other. When one person in the relationship feels angry, overwhelmed, depressed, uncertain, scared, or any other range of emotion and does not share it, that is the beginning of a slippery slope. I liken it to a funnel cloud that in time will turn into a tornado, unexpectedly wiping everything in its path.

If you say it out loud, then you can do something with it. Counseling may be a great way to learn effective negotiating strategies during this time of great transition, even if only Mom gets a chance to talk to someone, it may be incredibly helpful. Many moms experience the baby blues due to hormonal rebalancing from 4-5 days after delivery until about 14 days post delivery. If you do not notice an improvement in your mood, you may have postpartum depression. Please seek help from your care provider.

As stated previously, parenting is a lot of work, the folks who do it on their own definitely deserve some type of award nomination. I mean — how do you do it? Single parents – you are amazing people, give yourself a break, you are doing the best you can. As long as your kids know you love them – you are doing it right!

Helpful websites for new parents:

babycenter.com app available for smartphones

thebump.com app available for smartphones

parenting.com

dr.spock.com

parents.com app for the magazine available, have to pay for the magazine

Please share your tips and comments on parenting!