My Struggle with Delayed Grief Response

Hey, readers!

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve sat down in front of my computer, moved my fingers along the keyboard, and dealt with the business between my ears.

Over the past two years, this blog has become an outlet for me to work through my struggles while finding a common ground (and create a support network) by sharing my thoughts and feelings on an array of topics.

My Struggle with Delayed Grief Response

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I know I have written posts before about how I decided to get make my health a priority after the loss of my father, four years ago this past October 27th. This is true, just months after he passed away I swapped my habit to sit on my ass while eating and drinking for cleaning up my diet and making fitness an everyday occurrence once again.

I figured that getting healthy would be the best way to honor my father’s memory.  I know that he was always disappointed in how I stopped being an athlete when I hit my teen years and started to believe that I wasn’t really very good at anything.

Great things happened as a result of my healthy living shift.  I gained more focus, became healthier in every way, and gained the confidence to do crazy things like get married and move to another country to live with my husband.

Let’s backtrack a bit, though, shall we?

I grew up in a small town northern New Hampshire nestled between ski resorts that 9 out of 10 people I’ve encountered have never heard of.

It was a town I vowed to never end up in again once I got the hell out of it.  In fact, I used to say the only way I would ever move back to my hometown would be if one of my parents became ill.

Well, in the weeks before Christmas in 2010, while I was traveling overseas, my father got sick. Within a few weeks, after the holidays, I received the news from my dad that they had discovered he had colon cancer.

Within another few weeks, I was on a plane heading home.

I was home for eight months watching one of the most influential people in my life fade away.  That is until October 27, 2011, when my father passed away at the age of 60.

In the weeks following my dad’s death, we had a big memorial service, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas which truthfully are all a bit of a blur looking back.   There was a lot of distraction for the loss in those six weeks following my father’s passing.   After the Christmas tree was down and the “dust” had settled, I decided I needed to stay for a while and help my mother.  As you can imagine, this was a tough time for her.

So, I stayed in my hometown — in my childhood bedroom — for nearly four years.

In those four years, I grew a lot as a person. I held a job.  I grew closer to my mother.  I dedicated myself to being a healthier person.  I even got married to a wonderful man.

I learned a lot about myself.

I did what I set out to do, get my life back on track and start living a life that would make my father proud.

Except I forgot to do one crucial thing:  grieve.

I’m not suggesting that I didn’t reflect on the void created by my father passed away.  I totally did.

I cried on holidays.

I despised those automated emails reminding me of Father’s Day each spring.

I felt an emptiness on my wedding day that my father wasn’t there to give me away.

In the most basic terms, grief is “the emotional suffering one feels when someone or something an individual feels love for is taken away.”

So, you might say that crying over the loss of my father was me experiencing grief.  You wouldn’t be wrong, but I think (as do many experts on the topic) that is very simplistic and not a true way to fully grieve.

However, I thought that I had dealt with my grief.

I was always there to talk my mother back when she would be visibly upset over a memory or a sensitive time of year.  I would often speak of my father to others.

I was able to discuss memories without tears.

I thought I had “mastered” the loss and found my way to overcome the shit hand our family got dealt.

When I got married and received my spouse visa to move over to Scotland, I knew that I was entering an exciting, but also somewhat terrifying territory.  I had just spent the past four years in a metaphorical safety blanket.  Sure, I had lost my father, but I was still living in a home filled with his memory.  I could still feel him very much in my life.  I was also very connected to my family, my home, and had built a sense of comfort that I was about to surrender.

I didn’t exactly look at moving to live with my husband as “abandoning my comfort zone,” by any means, but I didn’t know how this big step was going to trigger the greater underlying feelings of loss that I had somehow managed to suppress all that time.

A whole new territory.

In March, I moved over to Glasgow to live with Luke.  And this might sound ridiculous, but it hadn’t sunk in that it was a one-way ticket and that I was leaving for good.

Even though I had spent about two months removing traces of my life from my family home and had said my goodbyes, it wasn’t until I got chatting to the Irish girl in the seat next to me on the plane that it registered that I was moving to another country permanently.

That probably sounds ridiculous, nd I wouldn’t disagree with you, but it’s difficult to describe any other way.

I was fine the first six weeks after my big move.  Luke and I were so happy to be living together finally and not having to contend with things like, you know, having a giant body of water and obnoxious time zone interfering with our relationship.

Then at about two months in, I started to feel an overwhelming amount of sadness.  It wasn’t homesickness.  It wasn’t depression.  It was something so much greater than that.  I think Sarah Silverman described it best when she compared the onset of a wave of mental illness as being “stricken by the flu”.  One minute you’re fine and then next, you’re literally hit by something that knocks you on your ass.

Towards the end of the summer,  I had to go to the doctor for a throat infection, and, of course, being a foreigner my doctor had to ask how and WHY I ended up moving to Glasgow.  I started to talk a bit about my timeline, my father’s death,  my relationship with my husband, and I started to cry.

When the doctor asked me why I was crying, I couldn’t really answer her right away.  It wasn’t really homesickness though I was homesick.  It wasn’t really depression though I was feeling a bit down.  The doctor seemed a bit concerned but said that she thought it was probably just me still adjusting to the culture shock, move, and married life.

Then over the next several weeks, I started having dreams about my father, regularly.  I started to feel things about losing my father that I hadn’t ever thought about before.  I would wake up in tears.  Some nights I would wake up sobbing hysterically without knowing why.

I would wake up and feel like I had to force myself to get ready to meet a client or just to deal with the reality of being a functioning human.  I started having more dreams with my father in them.  I continued to wake up feeling awful.  Here I am, a newlywed with an amazing husband in a new country, and I’m waking up sifting through the talk about personal gratitude that I have with myself each morning.

I also began to notice, when people would talk about their parents it would set me off.  One day a client started talking about how her in-laws were traveling now that they are retired and I had to fight back the tears and thought in my head, “I don’t want to hear this, how rude to talk about this.”  Then I remembered, it wasn’t a personal attack and she was simply making small talk. There was no way for her to have known or to think that talking about something like that would set me off.   I had never had this reaction to similar conversations before.

Then this past October came and it’s my least favorite month of all to begin with.  The weather gets shitty and the days get colder and darker earlier.  However, the worst association by far is that October was the month of my father’s illness that was the most emotionally consuming and also the month of his passing.

I felt unable to function this past October.  I was crying in the middle of the night almost every night.  When I would wake up in the morning, I would stare at the ceiling in bed for hours in silence.  I felt this overwhelming inability to function.  I mean, I kept getting up and doing what I needed to do, but it was often hard to act enthusiastic or happy about it.  It’s really hard to be genuinely upbeat when you feel like at any moment you could burst into tears.

I hadn’t really felt like this before.  It didn’t feel like depression, though as I said, all of my symptoms seemed to point to that being the cause.  I started to research grief and discovered that there are actually ten different types of grief and that those five stages of grief that are listed in leaflets at your doctor’s office can manifest in ways that determine what type of grief you experience.

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Delayed Grief Response

As I mentioned above, there are actually ten different types of grief.  You can get an excellent tutorial on these types here.  As I started to realize that I was struggling with my the loss of my father in such a forceful way, I started to research if this is normal and if it’s normal, what the hell is the reason for it now?

Delayed Grief Response occurs when grief symptoms and reactions aren’t experienced until long after a  death or a much later time than is typical. The griever, who consciously or subconsciously avoids the reality and pain of the loss, suppresses these reactions. (www.whatsyourgrief.com)

In my case, I think it was more of a subconscious effort to avoid the reality of my own pain than a conscious one.

 I was determined that falling back on my emotionally volatile self would be the worst thing I could do for myself and for my family.

I think in all of the years following my father’s passing I never really grieved for my father on my own.  I tried to keep myself very strong for my mother and also because I had been in a volatile place emotionally before my father died.  I was determined that falling back on my emotionally volatile self would be the worst thing I could do for myself and for my family.

That made it difficult to work through the bereavement process.  In being determined to not feel that vulnerability and needing to feel strong for others, I forgot to grieve properly for myself.

It’s been said that grief can sometimes be delayed for a long enough period that when an individual starts to finally experience it, they can’t figure out right away that it is grief or what has brought it on.  In many cases, there has been something to serve as a catalyst for the delayed grief response to come to the surface.  For some people, they feel delayed grief response because another death or significant life event involving loss has occurred.  All of a sudden, that original grieving process that was locked away, comes pouring out.

[Tweet “Have you heard of Delayed Grief Response? Important facts to help heal from loss #MentalHealth #Grief #SelfHelp via @BeetsPerMinute”]

In my case, it was moving so far away from my friends and family that caused my delayed grief response to be so profound.  To be clear, it was not the very act of moving, but the amount of loss I felt when I separated myself from everything and everyone I knew to start a life together with my husband.

“Loss is the remaking of life.”

When we lose someone or something there is a necessity for us to recognize the pain of that loss and reflect on how that loss is going to impact the rest of our lives.  There’s a quote I’ve become very fond of, “Grief is in two parts.  The first is the loss.  The second is the remaking of life.”

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In my case, the changes in my life (getting married, moving overseas, etc.) pushed me into the inevitable separation from the life that I had been “remaking” for myself during the last several years at home.  Once I had left home, I began to feel the significance of the loss of my father in a way that I had been subconsciously delaying for nearly four years.

The last few weeks have been very cathartic for me.  Allowing myself to have that time to feel emotional and to understand that I was feeling the things that I needed to feel and have been needing to feel for years, has made all the difference to me.

It is so important to embrace grief when it calls, and also to understand that there are many types of grief and it won’t always be obvious why you are (or are not) feeling the way others in your life might be feeling about the same loss.

Also important, is the ability to understand the five stages of grief and how to allow yourself to process those stages as needed and to practice self-care.  It’s not a sign of weakness and it’s not wallowing in self-pity, it is a necessity for emotional and physical survival.  

[Tweet “Grief is not a sign of weakness or self-pity it is a necessity for emotional and physical survival. #mentalhealth via @BeetsPerMinute”]

If you ignore grief it will manifest itself in ways that will not be healthy and will not allow you to practice optimal self-care.  Life goes on even if it feels like ours is at a standstill when something horrible happens.  As important as it is to recognize the life that continues isn’t the same as the one before the loss occurred, it is imperative that you allow for your grief to unfold.

Allowing the grieving process to unfold is the only way to begin the healing process and the “remaking” of the life that goes on.

Four years later, I have felt what I needed to feel and started the important steps for my life to go on.  It’s never too little and it’s never too late.

Grief is a bill that unfortunately comes due for us all at some point.  It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone and that we will get through this.

Resources used to help create this post:

http://www.whatsyourgrief.com

http://www.comfort-for-bereavement.com/

***************************I’m linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud***************************

Have you ever experienced a grief response?

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Workout Quickies:  Burpee Burner

Heyyyyy, Everybody!  As I was typing the “hey” out, I started to crack myself up.  I often do this, and lately, it’s while I’m in public.  Last week, my friend Jenn introduced this web series to me called,  Whine About It with Matt Bellassai.  (NSFW)  You’ll get the “hey everybody” reference once you watch these.

You must watch, btw.  Omg.  So hilarious.  You’re welcome.

Anyhoo, today we’re talking about quickies.  Workout quickies.

Who doesn’t love a quickie?  A workout quickie.

No one, that’s who.

Who doesn’t love burpees?

Almost everyone, I think.

That’s why it’s good to wham bam and be done with them and know you got a total body workout, am I right?

Workout Quickie #1:  Burpee Burner

As with any exercise I recommend on my blog, please check with your physician before performing.  Burpees are extremely challenging, so if you’re new to them, I advise you to start slowly and build up to this circuit over time!

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I have included examples of some of the exercises for your reference!

180 Burpees

“Frog Hop” Burpees 

Half Burpee (Alternating single arm for an extra challenge)

One-legged Burpees (You can omit the plyo jump to modify)

[Tweet “Need a “quickie”? Try this burpee burner workout #hiit #fitfluential #sweatpink via @BeetsPerMinute”]

What’s your favorite “quickie” workout to fit in when you’re busy?

I’m linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud! 

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Good morning, Fitfam!  It’s been an entire week since I’ve posted anything, and besides the fact that you probably didn’t even notice, I’ve just been super busy.  As I’ve mentioned before, I am building up my own training and coaching business, and things are off to a great start.  I love being able to be busy, help people better themselves, and also never get bored!  So, this week’s topic at #TheFitDish with Jessica and Jill is “A Day In The Life:  A Photo Collection“.

First, a confession:  I have many weaknesses as a blogger, but one of the worst is my lack of photo taking skills.  My inability to take photographs is true in real life too.   I can visit a country and take 6 pictures!  Believe me, it infuriates many people!  So, with this week’s topic being a photo-centric post, I made an effort to take some photos to document what my Mondays look like!  Mondays have become a very busy day for me, I have different clients (and deadlines) at different places throughout the city.

So, without further delay, I give you…

A day in the life

5:30 AM — I’m up!  Getting in some water, stretching, and packing up the bag to head out the door!

6:30 AM — I’m on the train, on my way into City Centre  to meet my first client!

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7:15-8:30 AM  — My first client of the day!  We did some suspension training and cardio — woot woot!

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8:40 AM — I head to the subway to head over to the West End to meet my next client!

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9:15-12:00 — I headed to Loch Lomond ( about 20 minutes outside of Glasgow) for an outdoor workout and walk with a client who just wanted to get out of town and be in nature!  It wasn’t as sunny over there, but it sure was beautiful!

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12:00-12:30 PM — Caught the subway back to City Centre to start my venture home!

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12:30-1:30 PM — I decided to walk back to my apartment from City Centre!  Whilst on my way home, I took a shameless Instagram #OnAQuest photo of my S’mores Quest Bar!

https://instagram.com/p/6w80LkpU8w/

1:30-2:00 PM — LUNCH TIME!!  I had a chopped salad:  Spinach, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, corn, and chicken with chili lime dressing and a couple of pickles, because pickles…

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2:00-4:30 PM — I am working with a nutritional therapy client, so I spent some time reviewing notes and getting together some food lists for our next appointment.  I also took this time to go through some emails, and to get together my assessment paperwork for a new client consultation at 6 pm!

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4:30 PM — Time to get back on the train and head into City Centre to pick up some items at Holland and Barrett and a quick stroll outside, because the sun has actually been shining in Glasgow the past few days!

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6:00 PM — Up the giant flight of stairs, to meet with my new client and perform fitness assessments and get her started!

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7:00 PM — Met my husband for a ride back home (seriously, my legs were jelly)!

7:30-10:00 PM — Dinner (spiralized butternut squash noodles and slow cooker tomato sauce), a MUCH needed shower and some quality time with the hubby.  *Sigh*.

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10:30 PM — Goodnight moon!  I am exhausted and I have a client at 7 am tomorrow!

What did your Monday look like?  Are you one to always take a photo?

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3 Steps For Finding A Silver Lining In Any Situation

Happy Tuesday!  I am linking up with Jessica and Jill for #DishTheFit and today’s optional topic is, “An Attitude of Gratitude.”  I had to participate, because I am in the process of getting my Life Performance Coaching certification as well as completing the Robbins-Madanes Strategic Interventionist Program (who doesn’t love Tony Robbins??)  to help enhance my personal training and nutritional therapy certifications.  I believe that all of my specializations go hand in hand, and I want to be able to help my clients break through whatever barriers are keeping them from being healthy and happy.

What’s an attitude of gratitude? It’s living your life from the perspective of being grateful for everything that is.

Including how to find gratitude in things that are less than what you believe you would like them to be.  

Your attitude of gratitude is finding your silver linings on a grander scale.  

A major lesson I am learning in my life coach training is finding a way to utilize all of my failures as a way to make the path for the greater things to come.

We’ve all had times in our lives where something we’ve put a lot of ourselves into didn’t work out.  There are not enough words to describe the negative emotions we feel when this type of rejection occurs, not to mention what it does to our motivation and self-esteem.

The truth is, we can learn to reprogram and internalize these negative experiences and transform the energy associated with them into positive choices and directions.

3 Steps For Finding A Silver Lining In Any Situation

  1. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this situation?”  Maybe you’ve lost your job, ended a significant relationship, or found out some crappy news in general.  Regardless of which end of the spectrum an event is perceived to be on, there’s always something to be learned — whether it’s about yourself, another person, or situation.  Maybe the lesson you learned is that you have to be more or less trusting.  Maybe the lesson you learned is that you didn’t feel happy in the job you lost (I’ve so been there on this one)!  Maybe the lesson you learned is that you need to take better care of yourself or start making your well-being a priority. Choosing to take a bad situation and turn it into a lesson learned will enable you to grow emotionally and spiritually.
  2. Ask yourself, “What am I able to do now that I wasn’t able to do before?”  In any situation, your opportunities will change.  Try to focus on how this opportunity will give you the ability to do something (or many things) you weren’t able to do before.  What skills did you gain from your last job?  If you’re out of a relationship or toxic friendship what time — more importantly energy — do you have to now devote to something that will make you happier, stronger, and more fulfilled?  Maybe now you’re more able to speak up for yourself and communicate what you do and don’t want out a relationship/friendship.  There is no way that you have not gained the ability to do something bigger and better today that you couldn’t have done yesterday.  Discover this, rebuild and go forward.
  3. Ask yourself, “Do I have perspective?”   Not to belittle yourself or your struggles, but if you can step back from any situation and answer yes to any, some, or all of the following, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for:
    Do I have my health?
    Do I have a place to live?
    Do I have clothes on my back?
    Do I have food to eat?
    Do I have a support system and people whom I love, and that love me?

While none of these things may seem like much to celebrate, take some time to appreciate each and every item. Being able to truly appreciate all that you do have going for you is the biggest silver lining of all.

Practicing an attitude of gratitude is all about appreciating everything for what it is, and sometimes that means having to search for that silver lining, appreciate it, and be content with life right now as it is.

Do you look for the silver lining in bad situations?  How do you practice an attitude of gratitude?

Let’s Connect

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Why You Should Read Fat Girl Walking

I have to profess my love for Brittany Gibbons!  I just finished her debut book, Fat Girl Walking and it was an utterly refreshing, laughter-inducing and fantastic read!

I am an advocate for loving yourself and living the life you deserve regardless of your size.  Brittany is a real hero when it comes to this, and I like that Fat Girl Walking explains her journey and motivation to finally stop hating her body and loving herself inside and out.

There are so few of us (if there truly are any) who can honestly say that we have always felt secure in our skin.  I’m not just talking about our body image issues.  I’m talking about the ability to embrace who we are, not just how we look.

However, we don’t get to hear the full story.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about deciding to write my blog is the ability to become more transparent with the issues I have struggled with.  It isn’t always easy to be so brutally honest about past struggles, especially issues as personal as recovering from anxiety, depression and an eating disorder.

Telling our stories is part of a greater conversation.

Why You Should Love Brittany

There are many reasons I love Brittany, and here’s a few…

  1. She’s hilarious.
  2. She’s real.
  3. She wears her bathing suit wherever the f*** she wants (including at her TEDx Talk).

Why I love Brittany the most, however, is the moment she realized that if she wanted to change the world and start a meaningful conversation — she had to start somewhere VERY close to home.

Brittany didn’t want her daughter to feel the pain and discomfort that she always had when she looked at herself in the mirror.  Let’s face it; we learn a lot of things from those we admire.

Being dissatisfied with what you see in yourself is a trait that can be impressionable for those who look up to you.

Brittany recounts a time when her daughter remarks on how big her [Brittany’s] stomach is and her immediate reaction to reprimand her daughter for using the word “big,” because big meant “fat” and “fat” is a mean word.

“And then it occurred to me that she had no idea that being big meant fat, and that fat was a bad thing.  As far as she is concerned, I’m just mom-shaped and perfect for hugs.  I put a moratorium on the supply of negative body words I was thoughtlessly supplying.  I banned the use of fat as a slur hurled toward myself and strangers.  I’m not saying I don’t see fat; saying that is akin to the people who make grand statements about “not seeing color.”  Seeing color doesn’t mean you’re a racist.  It means your eyes work, but that you are hopefully able to see color not for a discrepancy in normal, but as a beautiful component of diversity …I stopped glorifying women as beautiful only if they were also thin.  In fact, beautiful was the very last thing I decided I would tell Gigi she was each day, after brilliant, hilarious, curious, creative, and daring.  There are so many important things to be in the world, it’s unfair to devote so much of what describes us to our body size.    (P. 159)

 

 

I took a similar stance on this subject in my post Where (I Think) The Latest Dove Beauty Experiment Failed.

Why You Should Read Fat Girl Walking

 It is so important — if we want to change the conversation about body ideals, to empower people to feel worthy, confident and in control of their destiny — that we focus on not perpetuating unrealistic ideals, standards, and disempowering propaganda.

This perpetuation of propaganda not only starts and stops with yourself, but also this conversation starts and ends with yourself.  

One of the best ways to start this conversation is not only to learn how to love your body and self but also to understand WHY it is tantamount to your ability to empower others to love theirs. 

I don’t have a child yet, but I am sure as hell guilty of not practicing what I preach as a professional:

  • I have lectured a client about stopping the negative talk, but then gone home hours later and made a fat statement about myself.
  • I have sat in silence when I’ve overheard an overweight person being judged only to blog about it later in regret.  

Reading Brittany’s book opened my eyes to the areas in my life where I am not only entirely starting a meaningful conversation, but also it reminded me that, we’re all capable of owning our bodies and ourselves.

“My original goal here was to prove to a preschooler that I loved my body and that she should too.  But, as months passed and I stood grudgingly in front of the mirror, the positive affirmations were no longer followed by faults.  In fact, I began to see less and less of them.  I would catch my reflection in the car window or a security camera at the store, and instead of zeroing in on everything wrong with me, I began to only pay attention to the good.  (Page 156)

That’s some powerful stuff, huh?

How To Change Your Conversation

I talked myself into loving myself purely out of persistence and repetition.  I still knew there were things about my body that I didn’t love, but eventually, the good began to outnumber the bad. (Page 156)

How often do we talk ourselves INTO not loving our bodies and ourselves?  It used to be my full-time job (with a serious amount of overtime).

Brittany reminds us all that we can certainly change the conversation with ourselves.  Talk yourself into loving your body, perceived flaws and all.  Start talking yourself into loving yourself today and keep doing it every single day.

Be persistent. Be repetitious. Be fearless.

Change the record and change the conversation.  Start now by reading Brittany’s book Fat Girl Walking.  You can also read her awesome blog.

Seriously.  Now.

You will NOT regret it.

I’m linking up with Amanda at Running with Spoons today for Thinking Out Loud!

 

Do you ever not practice what you preach? How are you changing the conversation?   Have you read Brittany’s book?

Continue the conversation!

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