Beyond Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness is a form of freedom. Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese writer

How often do we say, “I forgot….the keys, the sweater, the birthday, a name, a phone number?”  For most of us of a certain age, some forgetfulness is routine. But what about those whose lives are slipping away, those who have passed up simple forgetfulness and are living in a foreign world, one without memories?

As I interviewed daughters for my book on mother loss, I found it particularly heartbreaking talking with those who are losing their mothers to Alzheimer’s disease. One woman said, “My mother is lost to me but not gone.” This mother had forgotten her daughter and everyone else important to her yet she was alive and may live for many more years. One daughter’s story exemplified Gibran’s quote. She said, “My mother used to have great anxiety and worry. As a result, she was often angry and depressed. Now, because of her dementia, she is free of worry and is experiencing joy.” Of course, this daughter knows her mother’s situation will worsen but, in the meantime, she is embracing the moment.

Perhaps you have lost or are losing your mother (or someone else you love) to this terrible disease. I can’t imagine what pain you’re experiencing but I can stand beside you and support you through it.

Affirmation: I’m grateful that my brain is alive and well.

Coaching questions: What does your ability to think, remember, reason mean to you? What can you do to support those who are affected by Alzheimer’s? 

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

Don’t Be Blind-Sighted By Bubble-Ups

So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good. Helen Keller

A woman I spoke with who had lost her mother years ago called her sudden memories of her mother “bubble-ups.” One bubble-up for her was, “My mother had many friends, sometimes I wonder where they were after she died.” One of my bubble-ups is when the University of Nebraska football team takes the field. In that moment, I can’t help but shed a tear because I feel the presence of my beloved dad.

We are frequently blind-sighted by our bubble-ups. A memory suddenly assails us and brings tears, anger, or guilt. Be patient with yourself as the memory comes and goes. “Tis the season for bubble-ups.

Affirmation: I accept my memories as they come. 

Coaching questions: What “bubble-ups” have you experienced? How have you handled them? If necessary, reframe them from annoying to precious.

Treasure Your Memories With Photos

What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce. Karl Lagerfeld, Creative Director of the fashion houses Chanel and Fendi

Although I live in southwest Florida where the temperature is still ninety degrees, it is beginning to feel like fall. For me, summer ended when I left Illinois where I enjoyed playdates with grandkids, lunches with daughters, and special family events like weddings and a graduation. 

Above my desk is a large, wall bulletin board placed there by the original owners. On it I have my summer memories which I can relive in the blink of an eye. As Mr. Lagerfeld says, these photos capture a never-to-be-repeated moment but can be relived over and over in my memory. What photos do you have that help you relive special moments in your life? 

Affirmation: I treasure my memories.

Coaching request: Get out an old family photo album or print out some recent photos from your phone. Enjoy the moments that were captured and acknowledge your past.

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A Tear To A Smile

Every human being must find his own way to cope with severe loss, and the only job of a true friend is to facilitate whatever method he chooses. Caleb Carr, American military historian and author

Yesterday, at John McCain’s memorial service in Arizona, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has known considerable personal loss, comforted the McCain family and friends by saying, “When a memory comes to mind and a smile crosses your face before a tear comes to your eye, you know you are healing.” 

Biden was assuring the gathered mourners that there is hope for recovery from their heart-breaking loss. His words comfort us all. Sometimes memories bring smiles AND tears. All our feelings are appropriate, of course, and we are fortunate if we have friends who honor our process.

Affirmation: I smile when I remember.

Coaching questions: Do memories of your mom bring smiles or tears? How do you measure your recovery progress? Acknowledge the friends who are/have supported you.

No Regrets

Never regret a day in your life: good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories. As seen on Facebook

The older I am, the less I regret any day. I can sense my days slipping away and I want to savor each and every one no matter what they bring. I’ve had my share of experience and lessons but mostly I’ve experienced days that created memories and happiness. I’m a fortunate woman.

How we frame the days of our lives…bad equals experience, worst equals lessons….makes a difference in our overall peace and joy. Each day is a gift, enjoy.

Affirmation: I never regret a day in my life.

Coaching questions: How do you frame your bad and worst, good and best days? What helps you stay in the present and embrace each day as a gift?

IMG_1061 A beautiful morning on Barfield Bay, Marco Island, Florida.

Music and Memories – In Honor of Aretha Franklin

Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It’s up-lifting. It’s encouraging. It’s strengthening. Aretha Franklin, American singer and songwriter, the Queen of Soul.

If we’re ever caught off guard and suddenly brought back to grief, a certain song is frequently the culprit. I was too young when my mother died for certain songs to be a trigger. Although I remember that my parents loved the album, My Funny Valentine. 

I do have a grief trigger song for my former husband, Keith, who died ten months after we were married. Our wedding song, The Prayer, was released March, 1999, our wedding was in October. We played the version sung by Andre Bocelli and Celion Dion…. “Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace, to a place where we’ll be safe.” Nearly twenty years later, this song still elicits happy as well as sad memories. Music, like smell, is a powerful memory stimulant.

Affirmation: I treasure my music memories.

Coaching questions: Are there songs that elicit memories of your loved ones? How do you respond when you hear them? 

Old Treasures Spark Joy

The objects you decide to keep, the ones that gave you the spark of joy? Treasure them from now on. When you put things away, you can actually audibly say, “Hey, thank you for the good work today.” By doing so, it becomes easier for you to put the objects away and treasure them, which prolongs the spark of joy environment. Marie Kondo, Japanese consultant, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

When I returned to our summer-time condo in Illinois yesterday, I experienced what Kondo calls “the spark of joy” upon seeing some of my lifelong treasures. The cane rocking chair in which I was rocked as a baby, the walnut chest made from wood reclaimed from the first Nebraska homestead, my paper weight collection, pictures that my mom loved (shown below) and best of all, the picture that hung over my parents when they were married and then over Ken and I when we were married 16 years ago. In our minimalist condo, these treasures stand out and surround me with lovely memories.

Although these objects evoke memories of the past and my dead parents, they never make me sad. Rather, they bring me joy and gratitude for my family and a long life.

Affirmation: I value things that give me a “spark of joy.”

Coaching questions: What objects bring you particular joy? Are they lost amongst the clutter or do they stand out and remind of you the people you have loved?

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