Have I Kept My Promises? Well …


Eight months ago I pledged in my blog to keep the promises of The Suicide Survivors Affirmation. It has been just about nine months now since my husband Martin’s suicide. I cannot say that every single day I was able to keep these promises. However, I can say that I have overall kept my promises. And yes it has been incredibly difficult.

Martin and I used to agree the best way to get things done often enough is do a little at a time, consistently. And that seems to be just what I’ve been able to handle over time. And the first year is by far the most difficult. For me thus far, the holidays were excruciatingly painful and somewhat overwhelming. But I’ve made it through. As Winston Churchill said, “If you think you’re going through Hell, keep on going.” True … indeed.

I am stronger today than eight or nine months ago by far. Yet I still have much to do to heal – and now I know, I will. It will take much time. But I am resending my original post as food for thought and to show that with much patience, kindness to oneself, counseling, support, family and friends we can make a difference in our lives even through extreme tragedy.

 

  Posted eight months ago:   

You know that I’ve had some very rough days, culminating in sheer and very real exhaustion. I’ve lost nearly 10 pounds in 14 days. Pain, sadness, not hungry or feeling sick when I eat, tears and the emotional roller coaster of it all takes a horrendous toll on your body it seems.

Today I read something that ‘finally’ struck enough of a chord to give me a goal. I’m not saying all is well in my world or that I can now focus on anything I put my mind to. On the contrary, it will be very difficult to achieve even this one goal – but I’m going to hold myself to commit to this one thing — for now.

I’m going to copy below for you but know that in this same manual for survivors, it is said that for most, it takes a year to get over the toughest parts and a year or two more to truly feel ready to live again. So if you all can muster a whole lot of understanding and patience with me, I’d be most grateful for mine is a slow and arduous journey no matter how you look at it. I was told recently, last night, to be kind to myself. This manual also speaks of being kind to myself. It’s hard to do that and I’m not really sure why. Perhaps because of the pain I cannot imagine any reason for kindness, but I must.

So here is the affirmation below (written by someone else). I just hope I can be strong enough to uphold my commitment to this.

So I give thanks to everyone – I do love you. Without you I absolutely could not make it through this!

The Suicide Survivor’s Affirmation

Someone I loved very much has ended their own life. I will never truly know
all that was happening in their mind that brought them to that tragic choice.

However, there are things of which I can be reasonably certain…
— If they were here, even they could not fully explain their mindset or
answer all of my questions.
— In their state of mind, they could not have fully comprehended the
reality of their own death.
— They could not have fully appreciated the devastating
impact their suicide would have on the people in their life.

As such, by their last act, they made their most tragic mistake, unknowingly
creating unparalleled pain in the hearts of those whom they most loved.

The person I lost is beyond my help now in every way but one:

I can help them by working to ease the pain they have caused
and by not allowing their most enduring legacy to be one of
tragedy.  They benefit from this help whether or not I perceive them as
welcoming it, in the same way that we help the aggressor whenever we nurse
his victim—by minimizing the damage he has caused.

As a result, each and every day, I can help the person I lost by…

  • …enjoying life.
    …smiling and laughing.
    …not dwelling in feelings of sadness or remorse.
    …loving others.
    …taking new steps in life toward positive new horizons.
    …helping those who feel their loss to do the same.
    …and, in short, not letting their mistake continue to create
    sorrow, neither in the world around me, nor in myself.
  • 

I’ll try to picture my lost loved one asking me to do this every day – to  please help undo the damage they caused in whatever little ways possible.

 

And I promise that I will.

 

 

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I Survived Dog Training Evaluation (and I’m healing too?)


 

Do You Know The Healing Qualities of Your Dog ?

Let the dog training begin!  Actually, there is more to it than that.  Before the dog training company (in my case All American Dog Training Academy) begins their training of your dog(s), they do an evaluation to establish what program is best suited for you and your pooch.  This evaluation runs approximately an hour to an hour and one-half and it can be in your home.  What a delight for me that was as I have two beautiful female Boxers, or a total of 100 pounds that I do not have to tote from my house to their company. 

The training evaluation for my Miley & Casey was performed by two young men in my home and my two girls were put  to the test.  The dogs were pretty worked out after the evaluation but they knew what was expected of them.  A very good evaluation! 

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“The potential for animals to be another form of alternative medicine is enormous,” says Elspeth Ritchie, a former Army colonel who just retired as one of the service’s top psychiatrists.

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After the Dog Training Evaluation, what’s next?  Well their motto is, “An education that will last a lifetime for you and your dog(s).”  They even guarantee this in writing.  A company I recognize as after my own heart. 

Now here’s another part of the having a well-trained dog, even just a good dog by your side.  I’ve talked in my blogs of the tragedy I suffered at the loss of my husband through suicide.  What you may not realize is that I was the one who found him and, thus, through this trauma have suffered some PTSD.  It is only after much research, and after I had already rescued and adopted Miley and Casey from a shelter / sanctuary that I discovered another important plus in my life. 

As researchers test high-tech PTSD treatments (such as hyperbaric oxygen chambers and virtual-reality exposure therapy), a low-tech alternative is emerging in the form of man’s (and woman’s) best friend.  Although the government has been providing service dogs to troops who have lost their sight or suffered other physical injuries, it is only beginning to look into whether these animals can improve the lives of those who are psychically injured.  The need for good treatment options is enormous:  some 40,000 troops have been physically wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, but 10 times as many exhibit symptoms of PTSD.  Now this is a specific situation:  veterans with wartime PTSD and service dogs are required and used for these soldiers. 

However on a much smaller scale, my PTSD has had a dramatic effect upon me.  I have lately had good days – thus the reason for being able to rescue/adopt my two loveable Boxers.  But recently I had “one of those evenings followed by another one of those days” and it is dreadful, I assure you.  My girls are your normal variety type of loving canines.  And unfortunately I yelled at them for one of their slightest offenses, quite normal for any dog.  Almost immediately I began crying, wailing really and they instantly came up and kissed (or licked really) my arms and cheek.  I just fell into them, hugging them endlessly.  And I opened up to them telling them just why I felt this way, as if they were ‘human’ friends able to clearly understand.  And I felt better with my canine friends, although I sat a big pile of exhausted muscle and tissue. 

And I’ve been able to step out of my home more with the dogs rather than frightfully inside unable to do much of anything.  This is the same behavior apparently that soldiers are exhibiting with their service dogs, though on a much higher level. 

There is so much more too.  For instance, mental health experts have been looking into canine-centric therapies for years.  Sandra Barker, a psychiatry professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (and yes, she is used to all the jokes about her last name!), published a study in 1998 that found psychiatric patients’ anxiety dropped twice as much after spending 30 minutes with dogs as it did following standard therapeutic recreation involving art or music. 

And in March she published a study detailing the “buffering effect” dogs have on the stress experienced by their human partners, as measured through cortisol levels, heart rate and blood pressure. 

Given her findings, it’s not surprising that Walter Reed and other military medical centers have started stationing dogs on hospital floors to help calm patients.  “The potential for animals to be another form of alternative medicine is enormous,” says Elspeth Ritchie, a former Army colonel who just retired as one of the service’s top psychiatrists. 

Are you convinced yet of the healing quality of your dog?  I am!

Guilt Versus Happiness


 

Some people feel guilt over being happy or feel they don’t deserve to be happy.

Happiness is an experience we all long for and deserve in our lives. We wish for happiness that comes with a much-needed and well deserved vacation or an exciting new love affair. Yet when the actual experience of happiness emerges, we may be overcome with guilt and sap our joy. Sometimes guilt is interfering with our ability to feel joy. Maybe we can find relief by looking at the beliefs we hold about ourselves and what it means for us to be happy.

Guilt about feeling happy can arise for different reasons. Deep down you may believe you don’t deserve to be happy because you hurt someone in the past, had more than others growing up, or maybe you received a mean comment from someone you admired. For me feeling happy after my husband’s suicide was unthinkable. I never fathomed how I’d ever learn, or earn, the ability to smile, laugh and actually survive my guilty feelings in order to be happy again.

For you, perhaps it once seemed that painful experiences always followed happy ones. Now whenever you begin to feel happy, you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop. Happiness may even just feel uncomfortable because you’ve gotten so used to feeling down. The truth is that when you feel too guilty to let yourself enjoy positive emotions, you are denying a part of yourself that has a right to exist.

But by limiting our life experience to just the negative feelings, we are cutting ourselves off from the fullness of life – which includes all of the positive emotions as well. We all deserve to be happy. Shouldn’t we embrace happiness rather than denying ourselves?

Fortunately, we can begin to shift the way we respond to happiness. After nearly nine months since my husband’s tragic death, I found myself smiling again during my days. Whether it was with girlfriends catching up on their lives, or reading a funny joke, or finally enjoying a comical movie. More recently, I adopted two white female Boxers who are sisters and have made my life, well … happy! I look at my girls’ adorable faces, embrace their unquestioning love and devotion and realize these adoring creatures MAKE me happy!

This is not to say that my evenings are not fraught with sadness or loneliness. I’m saying my girls help me get through it. And because of them, I am healing my heart and recognizing the beginning of happiness again for the first time in nine months.

What are some of your guilty pleasures? Great food, music concerts, plays, watching a sunset, a day trip? By easing ourselves into one of these pleasurable events, we are taking the first step towards being joyful again. Imagine yourself with a beautiful smile, enjoying what you thought you never would again.

From now on, when happiness begins to blossom in your heart, try to accept it, relish in it, ask it to stay. It’s okay to feel happy even if you believe you don’t deserve it. Feeling good is an expression of your wholeness and your connection with life and living life is far better than merely existing. The next time happiness appears for you, try not to feel guilty about it. Instead, welcome your happiness in like a long-awaited friend.

My Favorite Things


Maturity and time seem to make us nostalgic.  While we are purportedly mellow and somewhat wiser, a longing for days gone by consumes our thoughts.  Mostly what I remember are things I yearn for in my life as a mature adult.  Stuff which mirrored my happiness as a child growing up.  Remember summertime Carnivals and Fairs?  Those rides you eagerly awaited in line for to ride over and over again were happiness in motion.  The Tilt-A-Whirl was one of my very favorites.  Several kids held the single handle to the ride which was built like a half shell for your back.  The ride itself swirling about on a spherical track, while approximately 8 – 10 other half shells did the same thing on a larger sphere-shaped track.  

Oh and there’s Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia where the Summer Olympics were held in 1996 and I was there!  I never dreamed I would ever have the chance to view the Olympics live and up close.  It is definitely on my WOW list.  Even though there had been a plan devised to cancel the Games by creating a pipe bomb in a US Military Field Pack which did kill one and injured 111 others, officials and athletes agreed the Games should continue as planned.  And we all agreed as well.  We had awaited the very best of the best athletes who pursued their entry at the Games with vigor and spirit, and attendees were not going to let them down.  We also continued with spirit at each event we were so blessed to attend.   

Remember mom and dad reminding us, before we left the house to go play with friends in the neighborhood, to come home before the street lights came on?  Those were the days when parents didn’t worry if you played with your friends in the neighborhood.  There weren’t any kidnappings back then, it seemed.  Life was simpler, easy-going and more fun.  We rode our bikes, skateboarded (of course not anything like the skateboard of today) on what were usually homemade slats of wood with roller skate wheels attached to them.  We didn’t have the Wii or PlayStation or any other computer type games.  What we had was our own ingenuity and our friends.  We made do because we seemed to know what happiness meant to us back then. 

But in our 12+ hour workdays, two working parents’ households, the stress levels are sky high.  Happiness is often an ill-fated dream.  Whatever happened and when?  The transition seemed to grab hold before anyone ever realized.  I remember dad telling me, “One day you will look back and see our life today as better than anything you could invent in order to have fun.”  I never realized what he meant.  I just laughed it off and went outdoors to play.  Today, however, I covet those good ol’ days and the great fun we all had together. 

These are but some of my favorite things.  I could offer more, and I’m certain you all could share countless others and please feel free to share them here with us.  My wish for us all?  To never forget that adulthood and maturity do not stand for sedation and lack of adventure.  We still have that same spirit of the child within.  Let’s reach deep and rely upon it now and then.  How else can we release the stress of our days and show our children what it’s really like to act like kids again.

 

The Power of Love


When I look back at my journals from the beginning when my Martin completed suicide, through and during my healing process for which I am still engaged, I am amazed at how transformed I have become thus far.  Although there was and is counseling, medication, therapy, prayer and so many sorrowful days and nights, one thing rings true throughout this time.  Our love – Martin and mine – which has stayed with me.  I believe it is this love that has actually seen me through. 

It did not cost money or require connections or great privilege.  It was love: just simple, plain, easy to give and easy for the world to see.  In all our photos together one thing rings true throughout, say our friends … our mutual and adoring love. 

Love is primal.  It is comprised of compassion, care, security and a leap of faith.  I believe in the power of love to transform.  I believe in the power of love to heal. 
Although I know there is much further to go, I’m delving into uncharted water still … trying to make my way back to the light from the darkest of forests.

Which brings me to another stepping stone.  Last Friday, I took a lovely drive across the striking Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  With temperatures at 60 degrees, the sun glistened across the taxi-cab yellow of the bridge’s expansion as I drove the calming 5.5 miles to a Shelter & Sanctuary in Bradenton, Florida.  It was there that I felt a tug at my heart.  Two white boxer dogs, sisters named Miley & Casey, stood their ground for what seemed like five minutes as we merely stared at one another. 

That afternoon Casey, who is deaf, and her sister Miley, rode home with me and we all found a bit of love again.  Friends of mine are so glad I have company and love.   A friend of mine wrote to say these girls will help to heal my heart.  I believe her!   

No love can ever, nor will ever, take the place of the love Martin and I enjoy.  When I look at these lovable creatures, I feel the warmth and closeness of Martin.  And that, my friends, is what helps these days to see me through.