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Dealing with Loss of a Loved One

Hey,

I hope you are keeping well – more than ever I mean this!

MY LOSS

When I was much younger I lost my grandfather on my mothers side and an uncle on my dads side, I knew and loved them both, but I was also a child who could not fully grasp the magnitude of grief or was I able to build deep meaningful relationships beyond the people I saw daily. I say all this to say I experienced my first real loss of a loved one in 2020. My grandmother had been on and off ill for the last two years and sadly passed away mid-June and my aunty suddenly passed away the day we were expecting her at our house to spend a month, in early July. Both these events are truly devastating on their own – and to happen in such a short time frame was the biggest shock to my system.

Neither one of my relatives passed away due to Covid-19 however, in some strange and twisted way the pandemic has almost acted as a buffer; before they passed, I had seen so many “RIP” posts and sent so many condolence messages that at least the thought of death was not entirely foreign.

Both my aunt and my grandma lived full lives and hearing what people have said about them in the past few months is a testament to that. One lesson I have learnt in my own mourning is that you can be consumed by your perspective. So I have adopted the mindset that my grandma and aunt had to go because they have made their mark and fulfilled their God-given purpose.

“The only way to get over a death is by seeing it as a life completed, instead of a life interrupted.” ― Anonymous

During this pandemic most of us will have experienced and/or witnessed more loss than ever. For myself it has been a journey with a lot of tears but slowly I have been able to laugh again so I thought I’d share some tips for those who may be experiencing something similar. If you have lost a loved one, I am so sorry for your loss, I hope you find comfort and I hope this post is helpful.

“We never truly get over a loss, but we can move forward and evolve from it.”— Elizabeth Berrien

BE IN YOUR FEELINGS

“Be strong for XYZ” “You are so strong” “Stay strong”

While I can recognise these statements are often said with good intent, the truth is they are often very unproductive for those dealing with loss. The truth is when you are in agony the last thing you want to be is “strong” and that’s okay. Take the time you need to grieve and heal, when you spend so much time being strong for those around you… one day your feelings will catch up with you. So start the process and grief the way you want to not what others expect from you.

“While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.” — Samuel Johnson

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:26

TAKE A BREAK

For someone like me who started a new job during lockdown this one was very difficult and frankly I failed. When my grandmother passed I took 2 days off work and still actually worked during one of those days off. When my aunt passed, I took 1 week and 2 days off work. I remember my GP asking me “Are you sure? You’ve gone through a lot I think you need more time”. But I felt so much pressure to just “get on with it”, each time I went back I was flooding my keyboard in tears between meetings and pretending I was okay because I did not want to seem incapable of doing my job.

Truly there is no right or wrong amount of time to take off work. What is important is that you spend this time actually resting – not feeling guilty for it, not distracting yourself, not worrying about work but just resting!

COMMUNICATE

For those people in your life who are yet to experience loss, they may struggle to empathise with you no matter how much they try to. To ensure people are showing up for you in the way you would like… tell them how you feel so they can make informed choices on how best to show up for you. However, I say this with caution; there have been people I have cried to and those I have expressed my weakness to that just left it there, no follow up call or text… nothing, so brace yourself.

Don’t focus on those who are not there for you

As mentioned above, some people simply will not be there for you in the way you expected or would like. No matter how “close” you are to people you expect a certain level of compassion in these times. At first you may doubt yourself, doubt your friendships, doubt everything, but I want you to know you are not alone. In fact, from doing my own research a very common part of the grieving process is getting rid of certain relationships. While I won’t advise burning bridges left, right and centre – life changing incidents truly open our eyes to who has our back and who is just there for once in a while banter. So don’t spend time chasing and stressing over those who don’t show you the compassion you desire and focus on the ones that that do, most especially God.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit – Psalm 34:18

Gratitude & good memories

As mentioned earlier, an important part of mourning is perspective. Focus on all the amazing memories and less on their passing itself. Focus on all the times you saw them happy rather than the times you saw them weak.

 “Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.”– Laura Ingles Wilder

TAKE HOME

There is no manual on how to mourn or grieve, when it all comes down to it we won’t always do everything right especially in the height of our emotions. What we all can do is learn from the ones we have lost and live a life ourselves and they can be truly proud of.

“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” – Anne Roiphe

Another thing we can all do is remember how precious and short life is, and from this learning to live each day to the fullest and not letting the small and petty things of life steal our peace.

“Never take life for granted. Savor every sunrise, because no one is promised tomorrow…or even the rest of today.” ― Eleanor Brownn

Kind Regards,

Sis x

Tool that helped me: Bible plan on You Version Bible app: Finding Meaning in Mourning: Walking through Grief.

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A Tears to Laughter Story #5: Oyin Morgan

Tell us a little about yourself…

Hey! My name is Oyin, I am 26 years young and I genuinely love deep and meaningful conversations. My friends would describe me as passionate, thoughtful and extremely impulsive (though that’s changing this 2020!)

Tell us about a challenging time in your life…

If I could choose a challenging time in my life, hands down the award would go to years 2017-2018; my life (in every area) came crashing! So, to give bit of context, in 2016 I graduated from University. Life was seemingly happy – girl goes to Uni, gets a 2.1, gets the grad job of her dreams and makes her parents proud. What could go wrong? I mean everything seem to be working perfectly, I was making good money, someone’s son was making me happy (for the most part ha) and my skin was glowing. Things were genuinely making sense as they had been for the past 22 years. But then (and I don’t know why) I began feeling anxious. Anxious about everything but mainly about work. ‘You got this job by accident’ and ‘You’re not good enough’ were anthems on shuffle in my head. These words started getting to my head so much that I remember working from home for 4 weeks straight just because I wasn’t prepared to face any of my colleagues. This feeling was new to me, I was confused as to what was happening. Was I experiencing the preliminary stages of depression or was I just lazy? Was it just a bad day? A low mood? Can prayer fix it? and if I share will I be paraded with a bunch of “aww’s”, “sorry’s” and ‘I didn’t know you were going through that’ These were questions I didn’t have the answer to so I pretended it didn’t exist for a while.

So anyway, I quit my ‘good’ job as I thought it was the problem and trusted God to come through. I had no clue I was in for a journey of patience and resilience. For 7 excruciating months I was unemployed and although my savings were going down by the day, I continued to live a life as though I was employed 😂 I went to interview after interview but would always get turned down after the 2nd or 3rd stage. All in all I think I went to about 18 interviews only to be told that I was unsuccessful. Then one month, I received the news I had been waiting for- a company wanted to employ ME! So, of course I grabbed the offer with both hands, I was sure this was my big break. Boy was I wrong lol. Due to the fact that I was still in a terrible place mentally that job lasted for 4 months and there I was back to square one, unemployed again for a further 6 months.

Other areas contributed to the dark space I was in. In fact, I had no emotional stability which was affecting my romantic relationships. I kept leaving and re-entering toxic spaces that weren’t good for me mentally, but it was all I knew and therefore all I kept finding myself in. And as for spiritually? Don’t get me started on where I was with God. I left my Church for about 3 months and questioned nearly everything I believed to be true. I had no clue who I was anymore.

It hurt more because my elder sisters were great role models, they were married, had good jobs and had two kids each. I couldn’t understand why I, being the last girl was so different to them. Why I couldn’t keep a job? Why I was in situationship after situationship and why my relationship with God was on the rocks. It was no surprise that I thought my life was going to be an endless cycle of short-term jobs and failed relationships.

How did this affect you or make you feel?

My depression hit me bad. Many days I spent hours fantasying about being hurt, injured and dying altogether. It got so bad that I began envying people that would have the balls to hurt themselves, like why couldn’t I run in front of a car? Why couldn’t I overdose? And if I couldn’t, was I really depressed. I began telling myself that I wasn’t that depressed, I mean after all I wasn’t self-harming nor was I actively seeking therapy. I didn’t seem to have the qualifications for REAL depression in my eyes and the mismatch between what I was feeling and what I knew to be depression gnawed at me daily.

Coupled with the unpleasant thoughts, I stayed in my room A LOT and being so susceptible to my emotions, my room was the only safe place for the state I was in. I couldn’t afford to accidentally cry when I was watching TV with my mum or dad so I tried to avoid both parents at all costs. In fact, texting my parents who were just downstairs to confirm ‘I had already eaten’ was the norm for me. I had no energy to do anything- my room would be a mess for days on end and I’d sleep with clothes on my bed, books, my laptop- anything. My room was a complete reflection of my mind- cluttered, hazardous and in desperate need of a tidy up.

And although I’m not really a foodie in general nothing could prepare me for the lack of appetite I had over this period. I hardly ate and dropped two dress sizes. People noticed and kept asking ‘Oyin, how did you do it’ as if I had been on some amazingly life changing diet and I had to brush it off with ‘I don’t know’ when I fully well knew I weren’t eating.

I think the worst effect of all is that I actively self-sabotaged every potential relationship that came my way. There would be times I believed I was happy enough to date, so I would. I’d get to know someone, like them but when it started becoming real and by real, I mean they had a duty to check in on how my job search was going, I’d literally want to terminate the conversation. At the time, my emotions were all over the place and the last thing I wanted to do was talk about being unemployed for more than 20 seconds. But of course, due to the caring nature of who I was talking to, they would probe and press to see how my mental state was. Looking back I can see why any loved one would do this but the truth is, it really just made me feel embarrassed and powerless. So, as a result, every talking stage ended in ‘I don’t think I can do this right now’

Are you in a better space now? How did you overcome this? 

A much better space. I am at PEACE.

If I’m to be honest, I think it all happened so fast that I’d be lying if I said I knew the day things got better. However, I do remember having a deep conversation with my Pastor in which I just cried. Literally there were no words just tears (he must have thought I was mad lol) but he literally encouraged me that all would be well. That week I must have had extra faith boy because I went from having 0 offers to 3 offers and even one from a job that had previously turned me down. I’ll spare you the details but the takeaway from here is that I knew that my story was about to change because my job breakthrough came with such heavy vengeance.

I had seen the results of faith so this allowed me to further trust in God even though areas in my life still needed improvement. I went back to my church, I got involved in serving and committed to coming every week despite how I felt. Low moods became manageable because I realised, I had power over it and it didn’t have power over me. Having a job gave me an in-explainable confidence boost because I was interacting with people for 7-8 hours a day again and not to mention how the pay rise made me feel lol.

My family and friends played a HUGE part in my growth too because they constantly encouraged me, were patient with me even when I was unresponsive or snappy. They took time to educate themselves on what was going on with me and I can honestly say every single person in my life was helpful in their own little way.

What good came from your challenging period? 

Now, I can honestly say I am genuinely happy with where I am in life, I mean I have my ups and downs as any human would but I’m honestly in a great place. I’m in a better space with God, love my job and I’m in the process of healing from emotional scars. That’s a sentence I thought would never come out of my mouth!

Upon reflection, I learnt that I had to be patient with myself and let God do his work in me (Read Philippians 1:6). I didn’t create myself so I was sure he had the manual for ‘fixing’ me. As unsettling as it sounded, my job was just to be STILL. I didn’t need to force conversations about my situation or update people on how I was feeling because that  wasn’t therapeutic to me – and that was OK.

A big one for me was I had to unlearn my impulsive nature. I verbally told myself “you can’t just quit a job because you aren’t feeling it Oyin”. I pushed myself to ‘dig deeper, what don’t you like? What can be done to improve how you feel?’ Because in life, you’re gonna face trials and sometimes it be your own personality type preventing you from overcoming.

All in all, I learnt that with depression, the help you receive is so dependent on how well you can communicate your pain but many people (including myself) do not understand their pain let alone know how to articulate what they’re feeling to someone else. They just know it’s heavy, it’s real and can’t seem to get out of it. So I put together some bullet points for anyone going through a hard time below.

What advice would you give to someone currently going through a difficult time?

  • Tell your loved ones to be present but not intrusive
  • Write down things you’re grateful for and make it visible
  • Don’t force yourself to be happy (You’ll be frustrated at yourself)
  • Take a social media break for at least 28 days (Too much of social media when you’re depressed is unbelievably damaging)
  • Most importantly PRAY (I can’t stress how much this changed my life- God hears and cares)

Remember: what you’re feeling has an expiry date

Any last words?

Confession: I took a while to write this because writing in the past has never been therapeutic to me. I used to hate writing and cried as I did it because it reminded me that my pain is real and isn’t just some thoughts I’ve put together. It’s a compilation of my realities and the experiences concerning the not so nice things life has thrown at me; ones I’d rather forget. I also felt at one point in my life that writing made me feel like a baby, a baby for even feeling the way I do, a baby for complaining and a baby for needing help. But writing this has honestly stirred up a well of gratitude in me, I have been able to reflect on my journey through this one piece and hopefully I have given hope to those who are on theirs. It gets better – I promise you.

Kind Regards,

Oyin & Tami

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You Are a Bully!

Hi all,

I hope you are having a great day.

There is a popular principle that originated from a Bible Verse – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31. Simply stating that you should treat others how you would like to be treated by them, under the assumption that people like to be treated well by others. I very much agree with this principle, however, I have been thinking lately that we can expand on this and apply it to ourselves. How about we also treat ourselves how we would treat others? Or we treat ourselves the way we would like others to treat us? 

Constructive Criticism 

Despite my frequent raised eyebrow at the existence of humanity, I think it is safe to say the majority of people still desire to treat others with human decency. With that comes an element of consciousness with what we say to others. In-fact when people fail to adhere to these standards they are often labeled negatively, for example – a bully. I would like to assume most of us were raised with a sense of emotional intelligence in that we should aim not to upset people with our words. The notion of “Constructive Criticism” was introduced to prevent negative feelings or emotions even when what we want to say is not particularly “nice” in other words being able to point out where someone may have gone wrong politely, and potentially outlining how they could do better going forward. Great right? Polite honesty without sugar-coating or rudeness, brilliant. And it works! When this is applied right especially in places like the workplace it saves a lot of negative emotions and conflict.

So my question is, why are so many of us just straight up critical towards ourselves, not constructive at all, just critical? For others we can apply emotional intelligence and think about how our words may affect them but for we say the nastiest things towards ourselves.

I am fat. 

I am ugly. 

I am too skinny. 

I am not smart. 

I have no talent. 

I am not loveable. 

I am not good at my job. 

You are a bully! A bully to your very own self. For any of you who may have unfortunately been bullied, you will know that words said to you can really follow you for a long time, make you doubt yourself, and really hurt your feelings. We want others to have the decency not to bully us but we lose so much power by bullying ourselves. When you say nasty things about yourself it is not productive, it’s harmful.

Constructive Criticism: Application

As human beings, we are all “imperfect” in one way or another and for that reason, it is important to be reflective and see how we can improve on things. With that being said, whenever you notice something you think you can improve on rather than beating yourself up with your negative words and thoughts… stop! Think! How would I communicate this to someone else avoiding hurting their feelings? …Then say it to yourself that way.

Positive Affirmations

A way to combat bullying yourself is by replacing those negative words with positive ones. Many people struggle with positive affirmations as they feel distant to message because they do not believe these things to be true or it just feels more wishful than realistic. But like many things in life we aim to improve, it involves repetition and practice. The same way our physical health may be reliant on CONSISTENT exercise and healthy eating, the same way our mental health is reliant on CONSISTENCY with mind “exercises” that help us renew our mind and transform our thinking patterns for the better.

Positive Affirmations: Application

I recently re-watched Girls Trip (love that movie!), and one thing I really loved is whenever the main character felt a negative emotion she would say the opposite about herself – “I am strong, I am beautiful” and I think that is an amazing way to apply positive affirmations. Although I believe we should not always wait for a negative stimulus before we speak positively about ourselves. If you are struggling to use positive affirmations it is a great place to start.

A few examples:

  • My work will be recognised.
  • I can do this!
  • I am successful.
  • I’m grateful for the job I have.
  • I’m bringing a positive attitude to every aspect of my life.
  • I am happy.
  • I am moving forward.
  • I am loved

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

You can not have a positive life and a negative mind – Joyce Mayer 

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.

“Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

“Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

 

Kind Regards,

Sis x