Self Compassion Paves the Way For Self Help

The only sustainable path to achievement and happiness is to cultivate self compassion. Nick Wignall, Clinical psychologist

In writing a self help book about mother loss, I’m asking readers to consider ten steps to help them move forward after loss. Pursuing self improvement by reading books, attending groups, or watching youtube is a noble pursuit.

However, as Wignall says, cultivating self compassion must go hand in hand with self improvement. In order to have lasting growth and change, we must learn to be gentle with ourselves, participate in positive self talk, and treat ourselves as we treat our friends.

Affirmation: I travel the road to self improvement by being gentle with myself.

Coaching questions: In what ways do you embrace yourself as you pursue change in your life? How can you improve your inner dialogue? 

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Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Symbols Matter

Symbols are the imaginative signposts of life. Margot Asquith, author

Pink carnations have always been special to me because they were the flowers on my mother’s casket and one of the few memories I have from the months following her death. I think they were randomly chosen but perhaps my dad chose them for their meaning. I’ll never know.

In the Dictionary of Flowers at the end of the book, The Language of Flowers, pink carnations (Dianthus Caryophyllus) mean I will never forget you. According to Mr. Google, it’s believed that pink carnations first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary’s tears, making them the symbol of a mother’s undying love. It’s no wonder they have always held a special place in my heart. 

Affirmation: I honor the symbols in my life.

Coaching questions: What symbols do you hold dear? What do they mean to you and why? How do they help you keep your memories alive?

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Feeling Anxious? Check the Facts

Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. Arthur Somers Roche, American author

In my experience, most daughters who have experienced early mother loss are significantly impacted by the anniversary date of their mother’s death. Many have anxiety and are fearful that they might die early like their mother. Others, feel guilty that they are surpassing how long she lived.

One thing daughters may find helpful to ease their feelings of anxiety around the anniversary date is knowing that scientific research suggests that the parents’ longevity doesn’t correlate directly with the longevity of their children. James Vaupel of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, writes, Only three percent of how long you’ll live, compared with the average, is explained by your parents’ longevity. By contrast, up to ninety percent of how tall you are is explained by your parents’ height. Even genetically identical twins vary widely in life span: the typical gap is more than fifteen years. 

Affirmation: I accept the facts that help me face my fear and anxiety.   

Coaching questions: What causes you to feel anxious? How do you keep this trickle of fear from creating a channel in your mind? If you’re coming up to the age your mother was when she died, how will you deal with your anxiety and celebrate your future? 

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Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

Finding Success In Work You Love

If you love your work, if you enjoy it, you’re already a success. Jack Canfield, author

This week I interviewed Sarah, a daughter who lost her fifty-six-year-old mother to breast cancer when she was twenty-one. I went to college with her mother and fondly remember her. Here’s part of her story.

“When mom died I asked myself, What can I do to make myself happy? What would mom have wanted? I decided I wanted to share her value of doing work she loved. One of my mom’s great gifts to me was the love of books. By giving me this gift, she gave me what I needed to survive without her and be happy. I am a journalist and I love my work.” 

Loving her work has translated into success. Sarah is a James Beard Award nominated freelance food writer, editor, and recipe developer. She’s been a staff food editor at Food & Wine, Parade, and Food Network Magazine. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Martha Stewart Living to name a few. The Fall of 2017 she published Adventures in Slow Cooking (see photo) and she’s currently completing a book about premature birth experiences. 

Sarah discovered a way to move forward after her loss, honor her mother, and create a satisfying work life for herself. Her mother would be so proud of her.

Affirmation: I will do the work I love.

Coaching questions: Are you doing work you love or, if retired, activities you love? If not, what’s keeping you from it? 

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Have You Told Your Story Lately?

My mother memories that are closest to my heart are the small gentle ones that I have carried over from the days of my childhood. They are not profound, but they have stayed with me through life, and when I am very old, they will still be near. Margaret Sanger, American nurse and activist

As I was leaving the Marco Island Writer’s meeting last night, a man I hadn’t met asked me about my book. When I told him it was Mom’s Gone, Now What? and about moving forward after mother loss, he was quite interested. As we walked out, he said his mother was smart, funny, caring—in short, a wonderful mom. By now we were standing in the cool evening as he told me how she had a stroke and suffered for several years. He was by her side at the end when she awoke from a coma to say lovely last words to him. As he repeated the words, I knew they were his treasure.

This stranger seemed pleased to have an opportunity to tell his mother loss story and I was pleased to hear his precious tale. We went from strangers to friends in the time it took to leave a meeting. 

Jerome Bruner, psychologist, wrote, “The eagerness to tell one’s story signals a desire to live.” As we tell our mother loss stories, we affirm, not only our desire to live, but to thrive. We share so others can benefit from our experience and we learn about yourselves in the telling. 

Affirmation: I eagerly share my stories.

Coaching questions: When did you last share a story about a meaningful, personal event? What difference did the sharing make to you? What difference did it make to the person you were telling? 

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Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

 

Why Not All About Death and Dying?

Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim. Vicki Harrison, author

You might wonder why a blog called motherloss isn’t all about dying mothers, distressed daughters, or grief. First of all, if that were the case, Dear Reader, I’m sure I would have lost you long ago. Second, I believe that recovery is the focus of any mother loss discussion. Third, recovery is lifelong and all about learning to, once again, live life to the fullest. 

For these three reasons, this motherloss blog is about a variety of topics, including grief recovery. As I approach my 365th consecutive blog post, I’m planning to scale back my daily communication. However, I still plan to blog a few days a week on topics related to life; life full and running over. I hope you’ll stick with me. Let me know what’s important to you. Ask questions. Go to the blog site and become a follower. I’m looking forward to another year together.

Affirmation: I strive to live life to the fullest.

Coaching questions: Has this blog been meaningful to you? If it has, please let me know what topics were most important and what might be helpful or interesting in the future. How do you define recovery? 

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Photo by J W on Unsplash

Tell Your Story to Another Lonesome Animal

We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say—and to feel—‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel.’  You’re not as alone as you thought. John Steinbeck, author

Sharing your mother loss story with a trusted person is a first step towards recovery. Not only does sharing important stories from our past help us feel less lonesome, as Steinbeck says, it also helps us move forward after challenging life events. As a friend listens, nods, understands, and perhaps, relates to our story, we feel validated. We begin to understand how our experience was not only meaningful to us but also to another person. 

Invite storytelling into groups in which you participate. Use a Getting to Know You question or share a story related to the topic at hand. This can happen in book clubs, Bible studies, planning committees, wherever caring people congregate. Tell your stories and invite others to do the same. 

Affirmation: I benefit from telling my story.

Coaching questions: To whom can you tell your story? What difference will it make?