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Death Is Inevitable!

It is better to learn early of the inevitable depths, for then sorrow and death can take their proper place in time, and one is not afraid. Pearl S. Buck, author

As the author of a book about loss, I’m a member of several on-line groups for folks who have experienced loss. It seems that many of these participants are completely surprised by the fact that someone died; that they are now orphans, or their elderly (or not so elderly) parent or other close relative has died. Many say they don’t want to continue living without this person in their life. 

Perhaps it’s time for someone to say, “Death is inevitable!” Hopefully, you believe in some kind of after life (Heaven works for me), but life as you and I know it on this planet will end—even your mother’s and father’s. In fact, parents hope their children outlive them. 

So, if you’re reading this blog because you have recently experienced loss, I empathize with your pain. But know that you’re not alone. If we live long enough, we ALL experience loss. In fact, it speaks to the fact that we are blessed with life. 

Affirmation: I have come to terms with the fact that death is inevitable.

Coaching questions: How can you incorporate this universal, if painful, truth into your life? How will it help you be less afraid (as Buck suggests)? 

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Lest We Forget!

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row. 

From the WWI poem “In Flanders Field”, written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D. while serving on the front lines in 1915.

On May 13, 1938, a Congressional Act was approved declaring November 11 a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day. On September 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during WWI. 

By the 1950s, millions of Americans had served in World War Two and in the Korean War. So, in an attempt to be more inclusive and honor this younger generation of veterans’ service, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954.

This Friday, November 11, we have the opportunity to honor all veterans and rededicate ourselves to the cause of world peace as we consider those white crosses strewn across fields of red poppies years ago in France and Belgium. 

Affirmation: I remember!

Coaching questions: Who will you think of and honor on this Veteran’s Day? What will you do to work towards world peace? 

Remember—

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields. 

A Day When We Get It Right

Halloween, a day when we get it right. Strangers come to us—beautiful, ugly, scary—and we accept them without question, compliment them, treat them kindly and give them good things. Why don’t we live like that? Steve Garnass-Holmes, retired pastor

I love this metaphor for living with love and acceptance. With hatred growing at an unprecedented rate in the United States, we need a simple reminder to be kind to our neighbors, to those who don’t look like us, and to people who are in need of “good things.”

Whether or not you have trick or treaters today, I hope you’ll take this Halloween message to heart.

Affirmation: I am kind.

Coaching question: How will you translate this message into November first and beyond?

Photo by Łukasz Nieścioruk on Unsplash

What Reminds You to Stay True to Yourself?

Dragonflies are reminders that we are light and we can reflect light in powerful ways if we choose to do so. Robyn Nola, artist and believer in the power of affirmation

In almost every part of the world, the dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization. The dragonfly’s body and wings are iridescent which is associated with the discovery of one’s abilities and getting in touch with our true identity. 

Discovering and embracing who we truly are is an integral part of our maturity. A friend of mine who is a recovering alcoholic has a dragonfly tattoo on her arm as a symbol of her transformation. To her the dragonfly stands for hope, change, and love. A powerful daily reminder that she embraces change and remains true to herself.

Affirmation: I am true to myself. 

Coaching questions: In what ways have you changed and become more of your true self in recent years? What symbol would you use to prompt you to reflect light and embrace self-realization? 

Photo by Ashish Khanna on Unsplash

Unfinished Grieving? Have a Funeral in Your Heart

The few trees still upright were stripped of their branches, lonely flagpoles without a nation to claim them. Mike Mullin, author

Three weeks ago, Hurricane Ian ravaged parts of Florida and other states. Many people are in mourning for their possessions, their way of life, and the idea of life being the way they wanted it to be. Every day we are thankful that our southwest Florida house was spared as we empathize those who lost so much. 

In Asian philosophy, this mourning of the loss of how we thought life would be is called Ego Death. Those who have lost their homes, possessions, livelihood, and/or their way of life must be willing to have a funeral in their heart. 

Grieving the loss of our expectations, as well as possessions or even loved ones, is an important step towards recovery. There is no way around grief. To move forward, the path is straight ahead. 

Affirmation: I accept the importance of grieving no matter what the loss.

Coaching question and request: What have you lost that you have yet to grieve? This could be something less profound than a parent, child, or spouse. Perhaps it’s your innocence about the world, the loss of a friend, your most prized possession, or your way of life. Take a moment to think about your unfinished business around grief. Then do the work of having a funeral in your heart. 

Pushing Past Awareness to Acceptance

I wouldn’t change you for the world, but I would change the world for you. Unknown parent of a child with Down syndrome 

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with three copies of chromosome 21, instead of the usual two. Although children born with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions, many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.

In fact, the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades from twenty five years in 1983 to sixty years today. People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, have meaningful relationships, vote, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways. 

All these facts help us become AWARE of Down syndrome. The broader goal, however, is ACCEPTANCE. How accepting are we of persons with differing abilities? As we champion quality educational programs, good health care, and give positive support to family members, people with Down syndrome have a greater opportunity to live healthy, fulfilling lives.  

Affirmation: I accept and champion persons with Down syndrome

Coaching question: When given the opportunity, what will you do to show awareness and acceptance of someone with Down syndrome? 

My sweet friend, Delaney, walking the runway for a fashion show.

October, Baptize Me With Leaves!

October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace! Rainbow Rowell, American author

What a lovely ode to October. I guess if your name is Rainbow, you have no choice but to become a poet. Right? 

This is the first time in several years that I’m experiencing the beauty of fall. Health concerns and a hurricane bearing down on Florida kept us in Northern Illinois this year. I’m reveling in the colorful trees, the cool days, and the general hum of fall. 

With so many tragedies happening all around us (I’m particularly thinking of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian), we must grab the gold ring of October and, if we are safe and whole, be thankful for our blessings and do what we can for those unable to celebrate. 

Affirmation: I am grateful.

Coaching question: How are you celebrating Fall? What can you do for those less fortunate? 

The Tides of Life

When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in. Kristin Armstrong, Olympian

Speaking of tides, my thoughts go out to my fellow Floridians and others affected by Hurricane Ian. Yesterday, as I imagined the possibility of our beautiful Marco Island, Florida home and the homes and livelihoods of many others being swept away, I was grateful for the outpouring of love and support from friends and family all over the country. My husband and I are safe in Illinois and, over the course of the storm, we determined that our friends in Florida were safe as well. 

I was anxious, of course I was, but as I focused on gratitude, the tide of love rushed in. Through all the ups and downs of my life, I’ve made an effort to remain grateful for the love that turns fear, loss, disappointment, and heartache into manageable feelings. 

Affirmation: I am grateful.

Coaching questions: What are three things you’re grateful for today? When has gratitude ushered in a tide of love in your life?

Photo by Pamela Heckel on Unsplash

Are You Feeling Lonely?

Ah, look at all the lonely people. The Beatles

A recent report found that 50 percent of Baby Boomers, 71 percent of Millennials, and 79 percent of Gen Z respondents reported feeling lonely. You’re not alone in your lonely feelings!

Loneliness can increase the odds of early death by 26 percent which is an influence comparable to smoking and greater than that of obesity. Loneliness isn’t about being alone. It’s about how we FEEL in the world—whether or not we’re surrounded by other people. 

Stephanie Cacioppo, PhD, director of the University of Chicago’s Brain Dynamics Laboratory, suggests strategies to help you cope with feelings of loneliness.

—Start with exercise. “When the body feels better, the mind will feel less lonely,” Cacioppo notes. 

—Practice gratitude. Ideally, journal about what you’re grateful for everyday.

–Give back. In order to regain a sense of worth and take the focus away from yourself, find a way to serve others. 

—You have a choice. “Understanding that we have some choice about how we feel is important,” says Cacioppo. Control what’s controllable and make good choices. 

—Seek therapy. If your lonely feelings are chronic, get help. Talking about how you feel goes a long way towards moving away from loneliness. 

—Show affection. We feel less lonely when we receive affection but we benefit even more when we give it. 

Affirmation: I will do what I can to dispel my feelings of loneliness.

Coaching question: If you’re feeling lonely, which of Cacioppo’s suggestions will you start with? 

Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Upsplash

The Willow Bent In The Storm– Be Like The Willow

The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived. Robert Jordan, American author

Trauma and extreme stress require us to tap into our resiliency—the capacity to adapt in the face of adversity. The loss of your mother (or other loved one), health challenges, job loss, divorce, a pandemic, or an unexpected move—all require resilience if we are going to move forward in a healthy way.

In my experience, I’ve found that those who demonstrate resilience generally have these six traits in common: 

1. The ability to sustain supportive relationships with family and friends.

2. A strong self-image and confidence in their strengths.

3. The ability to accept change as a part of living rather than seeing it as insurmountable. 

4. Good communication and problem solving skills.

5. Practice good self care.

6. Build on their past experiences and trust that what they survived made them stronger.

Affirmation: I am resilient.

Coaching questions: If you’re learning to flex your resiliency muscle, which of the six traits do you need to work on? What will you do today to build resiliency for the future?

Photo by Darion Queen on Unsplash