Happy Healthy YOU

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Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU

(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)

In the last 50 years the advancements in our society in North America have been astronomical – everything from internet to microchip and stem cell research to IVF.

Communication has advanced by the touch of a few buttons with email and cell phones. I would say that even our spiritual growth here in North American has made advancement by embracing ancient traditions and practices, holistic healing and philosophies... more and more each day. And while I am sure a few have learned to move with ease through with the death of a loved one, it is not a technique learned without time and hurt, in my experience.

In the fall of 2013, my father unexpectedly finished his life cycle here on Earth and passed over to the "other side." I can feel his spirit. I talk to him. But the ache in my heart was palpable and at times, panicky and overwhelming. My dad and I were close and had a special bond. He was a good man... correction, a great man. The kind of man that no matter where he was (whether his job, golfing with his buddies or carving the family turkey), he was revered with the highest of respect. At his funeral my son spoke a few words on behalf of the grandchildren. He said "some men frantically demand your respect while others acquire it with ease immediately." My son’s 'poppa' and my dad, was the latter. He didn't tell us how to live, he showed us.

I often wonder how my mother does it some days. They were sweethearts for 60 years. They golfed, played bridge and spent quiet Sundays together for decades. I witnessed and felt her heartache when he passed, her disbelief of the new reality and even her anger some days. Over the last year and a half I have watched her heart mend slowly to a different life, never to be the same. All the 'jobs' my father had done, such as banking and investments, were relearned by my brave mother who had to re-invent herself.

As I assisted my family and myself through our grieving process, I heard the whisper "take care of yourself" falling on my ears repetitively. I had to practice what I preach and do things that nurture my being as a whole (mind, body and spirit), as I/we move through the process of loss and the stages of denial, anger and sadness as well as celebration and love.

“Grief is a process," says medical author Lynn Barkley Burnett. "Although we would wish otherwise, grief cannot be bypassed, hurried, or rushed; it must be allowed to happen. We do not go through grief and come out the other side the same as we were before the loss. Grief changes people.”

Indeed this speaks the truth. While the world has advanced and sped up and we have found short cuts and easier means to achieve what we want and need, grief is not included on this list.

Mark Twain wrote, "A man's house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And when he casts about for it he finds that it was in that house. Always it is essential – there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house."

Metaphorically, this is much like the loss of a loved one. Moving through grief cannot be fast tracked through each sad memory, as painful and uncomfortable as they are. For most of us, it is several months before we overcome the most severe emotional stress, and it takes at least a year or more to work through the grieving process. We must weather the 'first' everything (birthdays, holidays, date of the loved one's death) without the person who has died. After all the 'firsts' are played out, the intense low emotions fade and a scar is formed that is always there, reminding us of the loss but in a more tolerable discomfort.

When my father passed, I asked my sweet friend Dawn (who had lost both her parents) for advice. I didn’t understand the full meaning of her response at the time, but do now. “The pain never goes away, it just shifts and changes.”

The little advice I can offer if you are moving through the grief of losing someone you love is to take continuous inventory of you and do what you need to do, to take care of yourself through this archetypal experience. Some days will be allowing a day spent reminiscing and crying. I like to listen to music my dad loved such as Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin and Gordon Lightfoot. Other days you will want to engage in contrasting activities that bring you more joy, which has nothing to do with the person you lost… this is okay too! Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel without judgment. Seek support through loved ones or therapy, when needed. And slowly, with a period of time that can’t be rushed, the grief no longer disrupts our lives so frequently and we start to grow and move forward, the best we can.

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