Archive of ‘Coping Mechanisms’ category

How Bruno Mars Shaped My Grief Experience

By Julia Steier

Bruno Mars Super Bowl

My husband passed away the Monday before Thanksgiving. It was also the week of my ten-year high school reunion. I wasn’t thankful for anything, and I wasn’t going to rekindle friendships with anyone. Instead, I found myself talking to the moon, wishing my husband could hear me begging him for help, for guidance, and not to abandon me.

Like any willful widow, I started rummaging through my junk mail to find any missing emails that could’ve slipped away, a long lost note of him professing his love for me before the toxins from his liver cancer stole his mind and eventually his life. There had to be something, anything to hold me tight as the grief held me down and kicked me in the gut over and over again. A message from the other side hidden in-between the Gap special deals, Bank specials, and Livestrong articles. But there wasn’t anything except one new email that wasn’t like the other junk:  Do you want to go to the Super Bowl?

My phone blinked, and I fumbled it before I finally pick up.

“Did you get the Super Bowl email?” My assistant coach asked.

“Yeah. I just opened it.” I replied.

“So.”

“Let’s do it.” I cut her off.

Widow brain made a knee-jerk decision. Widow brain stopped having rational thoughts because all practicality and plans incinerated the day I signed the cremation forms. Was it real? A computer virus would be peanuts compared to the—pardon my crassness— the category 5 shit hurricane the universe provided for me.

“All right I hope this isn’t spam or a porn link,” she said. “I wrote them back asking if they were for real and” she stopped her train of thought for a second and then resumed. “Oh shit, it’s real. Okay, I’m filling out the application now. Call you back in a few.”

Two weeks later, we received confirmation: Drew University Women’s Lacrosse was going to the Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.

The first rehearsal was January 25th. Two months after my husband died.

Universe, you’re a real asshole.

News about the small liberal arts lacrosse team heading to the Super Bowl started to leak into the community. There was a buzz going around, and along with my misery. The young lacrosse coach rebounding after the tragedy, but these events, these things to look forward to offered me a lesson, and it became something I preach today to those going through unimaginable hardships: Your innate ability to find strength will be in the most unlikely places.

In this case, my junk mail. And one lacrosse team. And Bruno Mars.

Two months widowed and I was spending it inside a warehouse following a line of tape. The tape on the ground was to lead us to our rightful places, so on Super Bowl Sunday we aren’t completely lost in MetLife Stadium. We did a couple of trial runs of the introduction with Bruno Mars cranking on the loud speaker, and I couldn’t believe what was swirling around me. My players were giggling, laughing, and smiling along with my assistant coach. I’ve been widowed for two months, and I was enjoying myself with them by my side.

But my elation rested above an undercurrent of sadness and guilt. My husband died, and I shouldn’t be enjoying this. Right? Why am I smiling? I shouldn’t embrace this moment because he’s not here to enjoy it with me. But—but—but— I’m not dead.

A couple of days later, we were on the MetLife field for another rehearsal, and that’s when the enormity of this experience hit me. And when I got to see Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time my icy heart thumped. In an epiphany, I recognized the disastrous mornings of waking up alone were not so horrendous when there is something to look forward to.

Finally, it was Super Bowl Sunday. In the belly of MetLife, we were shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for the signal to go. We held our breath, and we got the green light, and like a cannonball, we shot out onto the field.

The cacophony from the crowd was deafening, and red dots flickered from the cameras. My players were shrieking and taking selfies. This was a once in a life time experience, and I got to share this with them; A group of young women who sent me messages and pictures days after my husband died. A team who didn’t understand the magnitude of my despair but held my hand, and silently reassured they’ll hold me up as I fall apart. And there we were, looking at the flashing bulbs like stars in the sky, and fireworks screaming the into the darkness to erupt in the most magnificent colorful glow.

I was alive. Breathing, thriving, enjoying, and then I wondering– Would this experience be here if my husband was?

I don’t know. I can exhaust myself wondering, but the reality is he’s not here. Racking my brain of would, could and should will never end well. But what I do know is because of him, and the desperate need to confirm my love wasn’t unrequited, I got this unbelievable experience. And meeting him, falling in love, getting married and experiencing the warmth of sharing a life with him, that too was an unbelievable experience. To love someone so much, that even after his death he continues to impact my life.

I am lucky.

I go through this pain and continue to search for him, and in my grief, I’ve found opportunities I never could have dreamed of.

And it led me to cross paths with Bruno Mars.

Bruno Mars Super Bowl

Have You Considered Bereavement Yoga?

By Julia Steier

Bereavement Yoga

“You should really consider coming to Bereavement Yoga,” My grief counselor suggested. She hung on the word ‘really’ for an uncomfortable amount of time while grinning.

I finished explaining to her my mixed emotions about my upcoming move. My husband passed away ten weeks prior, and I was in the process of moving into a new apartment. A place where the memories didn’t haunt me, but more importantly it was as far away from the place he died.

I sniffled and nodded. I’ll be there for yoga class.

Bereavement Yoga Class

I showed up on Monday evening for my first bereavement yoga. When I approached the security guard to ask where the yoga room was, he stared at me like I had a booger hanging from my nose. As if I was back in high school, talking to a boy who was too socially stifled to answer. So I asked again. He shook his head and pointed up the escalator.

He glared at me as I ascended. I pursed my lips, and I waved at him. He glanced away. For some reason, being widowed made me feel like the letters w-i-d-o-w were written across my forehead for everyone to know. Realistically, that’s an absurdity to believe, but everywhere I went, I felt like my tragedies were tattooed to my body for everyone to see and judge.

The class didn’t start on time, which was okay because I was running minutes late. Trailing close behind me was my grief counselor who was heavy stepping and breathing deeply

“I’m so glad you came!” She brushed her hand across my shoulders like I was a kitten she adopted.

Bereavement yoga derailed my grief journey and led me to the life I am currently living today.

I had been visiting my grief counselor once every couple weeks, just like the widow communities encouraged. I wrote in my grief journal when full and agonizing memories ricochet through my skull. And before bed, I murmured my three gratitudes of the day: I’m grateful for my bed, I’m grateful for my family who still loves me, and I’m grateful for Bruno Mars.

I followed the suggestions, the books, the online resources, hell I even read a memoir written by a widow wearing stilettos, or something like that.

But when I stepped foot into that dark, musky room for 45 minutes of yoga, all sorts of bullshit started flying.

I followed a step behind my counselor. “Yeah, well…” my words drifted off when I locked eyes with a woman with coarse white hair, and cavernous crooked wrinkles around her eyes and streamed all the way down her face. I broke eye contact and stared at the floor, and then raised my eyes to see everyone was wide eyed and gazing at me.

I was the youngest by 50 years.

“I’m sorry for running late, everyone, grab a chair for breathing exercises,” the counselor said.

I walked over to grab my chair, and a cold, bony hand rests on top of mine. I saw a man who had a cataract in one eye which gave it a milky appearance. “The chairs are for those who can’t lay down on the ground,” he told me.

I was the only person laying on the floor for the next 45 minutes. But at least I had a blanket covering me. And a woman was kind enough to give me her extra bottle of water. It was relaxing.

But, I stopped going to grief counseling after that. And I didn’t return to bereavement yoga, although I considered one more time.

And I no longer paid attention to the grief rule book and suggestions.

My husband used to tell me all the time I was different. And I became different after he died, and I hated it. I struggled with wanting to be normal. To go back to a time where I felt like I belonged.

But everything has changed. And I needed to change too and accept there was no going back in time. There wasn’t anything I could do to rewind. All I had left of him was the lessons, love, and memories of a shattered life. But I wanted to make him proud of me, damnit. And if he could see me, I wanted him to think “yep, that’s my wife.” So, that’s what I did.

The love I shared with him gives me the strength to heal and the courage to chase a better life. His love, and his fight for his last breath, it humbles me because life cannot get any worse than watching my best friend, and true love consumed by something I can’t see. Those weeks watching him deteriorate, I felt weak, and I didn’t understand death was waiting for him. And I’m angry at myself for it, and I feel like a failure because of it.

But to become stronger, I needed to fail.

Because once we fail and accept those failures, that’s when we get stronger. That’s when new fibers form through the repetitions of life experiences.

Grief was changing me. And as it changed me, I felt it less. But it doesn’t minimize the love I have for him and what we had.

As others believe grief is like an ocean, I do not see the same thing. I won’t stand on a beach waiting for a wave to come or a storm to roll over me. Because why would I wait for a wave or storm to come? Wouldn’t it be in my best interest to do something so when the catastrophe arrives, I’m not standing on the beach unprotected?

I walked out of the yoga room realizing grief wasn’t the storm. I am the storm and see what I can do.

Never Did Say Good-bye

By khadija ali

As a widowed woman who is ten years out and considers herself a ‘veteran’, I thought I knew all there was to grief.

How arrogant of me.

I had grieved my husband’s death, or so I thought.

I was there when he took his last breath.

I was there when his casket was lowered in the ground.

Settled his estate.

Packed away his clothes.

Sold his car.

Bought jewelry to symbolize my love for him.

Raised his children.

But yet I’d never said good-bye.

I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

And so I apologized for the things I did and said.

I asked for forgiveness.

I forgave.

I wrote letters telling him of new developments. Talked to him about our kids. Asked his advise on life.

I watched for signs and confirmations.

I did all of the above.

But never said good-bye….

And then it came time ten years later to go to grief counseling.

I’d avoided doing this like the plague.

It represented finality, as if his death wasn’t sufficient enough.

But as I sat with my grief counselor last friday afternoon and she asked me what I wanted to end our session with;

I knew….

She asked me if I wanted to participate in a ritual called the ‘cosmic post’.

It was a place to write a letter to your loved one and ‘send it to them’.

A place to let go. Release. Express.

The ONE thing I had not done….

Was close the chapter of our time, our love, our marriage.

But Friday I was ready…

I cried as I sat in the chair writing.

I wrote. And paused. Cried. Released.

Wrote some more…

Tissue, pen, paper and tears.

I love you Ali,

I’ll always love you,

But it’s time.

Goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

Crystal Sound Healing For Grief

By Jill Hochman

Crystal Sound Healing

By Jill Hochman

Board Member, Hope for Widows Foundation

 

Have you ever heard about crystal singing bowls or crystal sound healing?  If you ever have the chance to listen to crystal bowls, you may find it so relaxing that you will never want it to stop,  I found it really helpful in dealing with my grief.

 

This is because our bodies are affected by vibrations.  Think about hearing a loud train whistle or the scream of a child.  Or, maybe the calming sound of the ocean or the purring of a cat.  We react to sounds because the human body is a network of vibrational fields and energy currents.  Like we learned in science classes, the vibrations can change the way something moves.  Vibrations can therefore change how we feel.

 

According to Elevia Melody in her blog about why crystal sound healing works, “Each individual resonates at his or her own vibration. Sound is an acoustical wave while color is an electromagnetic wave. The colors of the rainbow correspond to a specific musical note in the same way that each chakra (or energy center) of the body correlates with a specific tone and color. Although there is a tone and color that corresponds to each of the chakra centers, each part affects the totality. This is important to know since each crystal bowl will affect the whole body. You may feel the effects in one section of your body more deeply, but the vibrational sound will also travel throughout your entire energy field. The human body and the entire earth are made up of energy, vibrating at different frequencies. When out of rhythm, disease and disharmony result. Vibrational sound healing addresses these imbalances or blockages of the energy channels.”

 

 

Crystal singing bowls are made from different crystals.  They are different colors as you can see in the picture above.  The bowls are played by rubbing a type of wand around the top edge.  The notes of the crystal bowls are tuned to specific vibrational frequencies (notes) found within the human body.  Kind of like hearing relaxing music.  When the sound moves through the atmosphere and touches us, our cells to move with the sound wave. Depending on the notes, we can be put in harmony with the sound

wave or in disharmony.

 

The music from the bowls doesn’t really sound like music.  To me, it is more like notes moving with the wind.  When I go to a crystal sound bath, I lay comfortably in a room with other people while the bowls are played.  I also find crystal singing bowl music on YouTube.  Sometimes when it’s hard to sleep, I find a YouTube with the bowls and can fall asleep onto the sounds.  When my tears are falling during a grief wave, the sound from the bowls calms me.  If you want to hear them, try listening to Ashana who is a well known singing bowl musician at https://youtu.be/7JMm65BPEH4.

 

There are also several websites and bodies that discuss the benefits of music and sound.  The key to these benefits is with the vibrations.  An interesting video you can watch is on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/magneticsoundart/videos/633824320155750/.  It even discusses the growing use of crystal sound baths to help us heal from physical as well as emotional issues.  I love a sound bath and hope you can have an opportunity to try one sometime.

 

 

 

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising While Grieving

By Julia Steier

Sign up here: https://widowsofhope5k.redpodium.com/widows-of-hope-5k

 

Grief is omnipotent

When we feel tremendously alone, we check in online to vent about our demons. Everyone grieves differently, we know this, we understand this yet we all connect through grief.

Some people grieve by going out, some grieve by self-medicating, while others grieve by becoming reclusive, many grieve by fleeing, a few becoming more active with health and exercising, and then some grieve through self-destruction. However, we all connect because at some point, we may have had those thoughts too.

But did you know grief also weakens our bodies because of the increase in cortisone levels?

It should come as no surprise that cortisone is released when we are under stress. But the problem is when you’re transitioning from wife to widow those high levels cortisone wreaks havoc and weakens our bodies.

Cortisone is a hormone released from our adrenal glands which basically is connected to our fight or flight response. Eventually cortisone should level off, but in the case of grief, it can last for months even years. High levels of cortisone in the blood can impact the effectiveness of white blood cells and falter our immune system and leave us more prone to infection.

Research has showed prolonged grief is also connected to increased physical pain, increased blood pressure and frequent clots, appetite loss, and can even cause the heart chambers to balloon (also known as broken heart syndrome). Grief is not just an emotional response it is also a physical one.

You may not realize it, but signing up for the Widows for Hope Virtual 5k will benefit your health.

So are you ready to learn why incorporating exercise can help heal your mind, body and spirit?

1.) Fertilizes your brain:

When you engage in exercise a protein WITHIN your nerve cells, BDNF, is produced. This is so cool, because BDNF helps the function of neurons and the helps grow new neurons so your brain works better. We all have had it, widow brain is real.

But BDNF has been connected to improved memory, it’s a natural anti-depressant and combats anxiety. It also helps lower your stress levels, because right when you engage in something to elevate your heart rate for a length of time, BDNF is released.

2.) Greater frequency of more pleasant feelings:

Exercise can help assist in creating that elusive feeling of happiness. If your brain is improving because of the increased BDNF that means your neurons are strong and your brain receptors at the synapses are signaling for those neurotransmitters to be received. And those beautiful compounds connected to good overall feelings, dopamine and serotonin, they are zipping around and giving you a full overall sense of happiness and pleasant feelings.

3.) Gives you something to look forward to, helps learn to set and achieve goals:

When you’re in the depths of grief, getting out of bed becomes a task because your previous life and routine has been obliterated. But incorporating physical activity allows for a new routine to be established. The best way to do this is by writing down your goal. Keeps an individual accountable, and by writing it down it gives a visual cue to the brain and helps internalize the importance of that goal. If you see it you can achieve it.

Most common excuse for not writing a goal:

  • Fear of failure

So don’t let fear control you, write it down and hang it on your bathroom mirror: July 29th Widows of Hope 5k

4.) Realizing your strength:

Okay, so yes exercising strengthens your brain function and it will also strengthen your heart so it can deliver oxygen to your cells. Which means it can improve your lung function too. Improves bone density and builds muscles— yes yes yes—we know this, we were taught this in school.

But you know what I believe exercise provides to widows and widowers? The strength to push forward. You’ve already have gone through the worst possible thing that can happen in this lifetime, and now it’s time to listen to that little voice inside of us that keeps whispering you are worth it. Allow that inner voice to start screaming as you put one foot in front of the other and start believing that you are capable of enjoying all the opportunities and beauty this world has to offer.

5.) The ability to accept:

You feel alone. An overwhelming feel that is so crippling you don’t know how to cope with it and the thoughts. Running is lonely too. It’s an activity you can do alone. And you can’t fail at it. Because when you’re alone, no one can judge you, no one can criticize whether you’re doing it wrong. Because you’re doing it alone. Grab your baggage of thoughts and begin sorting through it when you venture into your own world moving along the side walk at your pace. The companionship of solitude can stanch the flow of hurt after losing a loved one. The feeling of pride as you pull yourself up to the top of the hill can provide a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Dancing in a world that only you can understand and is away from those who might not get it, you begin to accept the rapid change of life after loss.

 

5 Week Beginners Guide to July 29th:

Be safe, be realistic, and mindful about where you are regarding your fitness level and health. Talk to your physician if you are unsure if you should be participating in strenuous exercise.

 

Week One: Begin fertilizing your brain by walking 3 days a week for 15-20 minutes.

Week Two: Write down some of those pleasant thoughts you have on those walks. And then when you feel daring, 2 days of the 3, begin jogging for 30 seconds, walk for 2 minutes, repeat 8 times. (20 minutes total)

Week Three: Write down your nonstop jogging goal. For example: I want to run for 5 minutes without stopping. Hang your goal on your bathroom mirror.

  1. First workout: Jog at your pace for 3 minutes. Walk for 3 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (30 minutes)
  2. Second workout: Jog for 4 minutes, walk for 2 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (30 minutes)
  3. Third workout: Walk for 2 minutes, jog for 3 minutes. Repeat 5 times, EXCEPT on the final jog, go until you cannot go anymore (be close to your house)

Week Four: Begin to raise your eyes to what is going around you. Begin to count the number of dogs you pass, count how many cars pass by, begin to let the light in as your eyes become wider.

  1. First workout: 10 minute jog, 5 minute walk, 10 minute jog, 5 minute walk (how far did you go?)
  2. Second workout: Walk for 45 minutes
  3. Third workout: Jog for 1/4 mile, walk for 1/4 mile, Jog for 1/4 mile, Walk for 1/4 mile, Jog for 1/4 Mile, Walk for 1/2 Mile, Jog for 1/4 Mile (2 miles)
  4. Fourth workout: Jog until you cannot go any longer (how far did you go?)

Week Five: Make the best 1 hour work out mix, take all those thoughts, and hit the road and embrace the streamline of thoughts passing throughout your brain.

  1. First workout: Jog 1/2 Mile, walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, Walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, walk 1/4 (3 miles)
  2. Second workout: 45 minute walk
  3. Third workout: 1 mile jog
  4. Fourth workout: Virtual 5k DAY- sign up here: https://widowsofhope5k.redpodium.com/widows-of-hope-5k

If you want a more concise guide or fit tips, please email me at flippingsteierfitness@gmail.com

Crystals for Healing, Health and Wellbeing throughout your Grief

By Jill Hochman

 

Do you like stones? Rocks? crystals? Do certain ones of them have special meanings for you? Well, there could be reasons why. I am writing this to help explain what many people believe are healing powers of crystals.

Like with other spiritual healing methods, crystal healing is NOT medicine.It can be complementary to traditional medicine or it can just be something to help you cope with overwhelming emotions. To be fair, there are many people who claim crystal healing is pseudoscience.

Here is why I think they may be wrong:

  • Crystals are made up of chemicals and each has a unique structure. Their chemical structure reflects a balance of their electromagnetic fields or their energy. It is like with colors. The colors are the way that light bends when it hits a chemical structure. So if you take it as true that everything is made up of energy, then each crystal’s own energy can impact the energy of the things around it.

 

  • Each of us has energy centers in our bodies. These are called chakras in yoga, Reiki, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative healing. Each chakra has an energy flow to it that needs to be balanced in order for us to feel our best. So, the energy of a crystal can impact our chakras and can have an effect on the way we feel.

For a more scientific explanation, see this from the Book of Stones:

“When we bring the crystal into our electromagnetic field, two things occur.

The electromagnetic frequencies carried by the stone will vibrate with related frequencies in our own energy field through the physical law of resonance, creating a third larger vibration field.

The nervous system is attuned to these shifts in energy and transmits this information to the brain. The frequencies stimulate biochemical shifts that affect the physical body and shift brain function.(Simmons & Ahsian 2005, 28)

Each of our chakras and it’s energy flow is related to a color. These colors follow the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Red is our root chakra located at the base of our spines. Violet is our crown locate at the very top of our head.

The color of each crystal can help balance our energy flows by interacting with the energy of our chakras. If a chakra’s energy is blocked, the energy of certain crystals can help free it or vice versa if the energy of a chakra is overactive. It makes sense that the color of the crystal can be a reflection of the electromagnetic energy flow that it has. Some colors go together well, some conflict. Do goes the crystal energy.

There are lots of books and information on the web about which crystals can help with particular health or emotional issues. I find that a few crystals help me more than others.

 

  • Rose quartz (a nice pink stone) makes me feel less out of control with sadness when I hold onto one or hold it while trying to meditate.

 

  • Amethyst helps me realize my grief is real and that I can let it ce without feeling guilty.

 

  • If a day is especially sad and I feel I need some humor or something to perk me up a bit, I will hold sunstone.

 

Sometimes I put these stones in my pocket or bra (you know that extra picket we have) while going about whatever needs to be done.

Another helpful experience I have had with crystals is going to a crystal sound bath. Crystals can be shaped into bowls and played with a soft flannel type pointer that gets rotated around the top of the bowl. Each crystal bowl emits a different frequency which can help change the energy flowing through our chakras. The sound baths are extremely relaxing and one of my favorite treats.

Feel free to look up healing properties of crystals to see what may help you. Or, take a trip to a crystal shop near you and hold different stones. If one feels right, chances are it is something that might help you feel a bit better.