Archives for posts with tag: loss

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I was working on my How To Be Happy journal that my lovely daughter gave me for Christmas.  Like me, it is a work in progress. It has made me question “what is happiness?” and more importantly, “what is happiness to me?”  I realize it is not the same for everyone. It can actually be quite different. I also understand happiness, at least for me, isn’t really about things, not even people, places or events.  Happiness is about feelings.

I began thinking about why and how some people lose happiness completely. How do they lose sight of everything hopeful and only see hopelessness, only feel fear and pain? How can we share the same basic reality but view it so differently? A friend recently pondered this.

“Lots of times I wonder what makes people end up the way they do? Why do we have the feelings, desires and emotions we do? How do you become truly happy? Which leads me to wonder, what makes up happiness?”

Depression surrounds us, an invisible presence most of us are blissfully unaware of.  We walk by people, sit with them, talk to them and we don’t see a mental illness, their pain, their need. I know this to be true. But what makes up happiness?  How do we find happiness when we’ve lost it?

I started Rise Like Air because I wanted to be part of a change, part of making something better.  I wanted to help people, even if it was just one person, realize that there is hope and that they don’t have to give up.  I wanted to share success stories and struggles to inspire people to keep trying, to embrace their own beauty and abilities, to empower them to love and live fully, to extend a hand to let them know that when they are hurting they aren’t alone, even if we can’t understand it all, there’s a place they can go to be unconditionally accepted.

Like many ideas that simmer slowly, a catalyst occurred to move it forward.  Six years ago this weekend we received word that Todd, a family friend we knew who had been experiencing severe depression took his life. It was the classic stereotypical situation with all the whys and how could have he’s. He had so much to live for, family that loved him completely, children to watch grow up, a good job he liked.  Sure there were setbacks, but how did he lose such complete perspective, lose all hope, lose all desire to live? And how did it seem to happen so quickly?

I remember what I was doing when we got the call.  I remember how everything suddenly became surreal, time slowed down, my heart started to race and I started to feel detached. And I remember the distinct feeling of I should have been able to do something. No, really I couldn’t have, I knew it then, I know it now. But it was what eventually moved me to start Rise Like Air. His mother,  Joyce, has been one of our greatest supporters. When I was almost ready to quit because I questioned the value, it was her wisdom and kind words that made me realize no matter what, if I’m only inspiring one person, that is more than enough.

She has taught me so much on this journey, including how important it is to talk about your loss and pain as you heal. Speaking of the people we love, sharing memories is a way of not only grieving, but keeping that person with us. So when you are tempted to say something, but don’t know what or how, take the leap. Your support will mean the world.

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I was out with a severely depressed friend a while ago.  I watched the interactions they had with others while we were together. They smiled and laughed, they chattered, they went about their business.  There was no sign that said, I feel like I’ve died inside, my body just hasn’t caught up yet. There was no indication that they needed a friend, needed help, or that they were anything but a “normal everyday happy” person.  I knew the truth and was shocked at how invisible it was on the surface, except when I looked into their eyes.  Eyes that no longer held any joy, hope or life. They were already dull, empty, pained. You can train your body to lie, but the eyes are much more difficult to hide.

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Depression is an invisible demon that revels in slowly sucking the joy, hope and life out of people so quietly that often, no one else even knows the deadly stranglehold is in play.

WHO, the World Health Organization, says in October 2015 that

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

Even when we do realize that someone needs help, often what we try to do to help is completely counterproductive.  Depression is not simple sadness. Often the very things we say or do trying to help actually make it worse, make them feel like they’ve failed, are a burden, are hopeless and helpless. However! This is not a reason to stay quiet or give up.  It’s a reason to learn what to do, how to be a positive support. How to save lives!

If someone had a broken leg we wouldn’t say, “well it can’t be that bad, just get up and walk on it!” We’d do all the things that have to happen to fix the leg and support the person while they are healing.  Why? Because we can see the injury, we can see and hear the pain they are experiencing. Visible or not it does not change the severity of the dis-ease.

But there are things we can say and do that are helpful.  There are resources that can make us part of the solution instead of part of the problem. We can be supporters who help others heal.  We can help save lives.

You never know what word, smile, conversation, text or email will be the thing that makes a small or big difference in someone’s life, that might save their life. When you listen to people who have been saved in their moment of despair, it often was something very small that saved them that day, gave them the strength to carry on.   It can be as simple as asking “Are you ok?” as in the case of Jamie Harrington, from Ballymena, Dublin,  who explained about meeting a man in his 30s sitting on the edge of a bridge and about to jump off it.

If we can help a person see through the clarity of our eyes instead of the clouded vision of their own, we can be the beacon of light they need until their own eyes clear.

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Project Hope Exchange is an organization committed to bringing hope to people everywhere.

Give hope. Get hope. All in 30 seconds! What if we could do just that and start spreading hope around the world? We at The Adversity 2 Advocacy Allianceand Life Vest Inside believe we CAN, and we’re thrilled to be partnering to offer you this unique and powerful opportunity. Through Project Hope Exchange, we are collecting, aggregating and sharing 30-second audio messages fromindividuals who have survived some kind of adversity to others who are currently facing that same adversity. And at the heart of our exchange are real human voices. We hope you’ll add yours!

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I have learned kindness, patience and unconditional love can make all the difference in helping people.  Life Vest Inside is an organization that  helps me and many others find their way through tough times by simply providing a safe, positive place to just be. Their video The Kindness Boomerang went viral a number of years ago and has been a catalyst for many to change their lives in positive ways.  So that is what I leave you with today, something positive, uplifting and hopeful.  We all have the ability to make a difference in people’s lives every moment of every day.  Do not waste your opportunity to help make a life better.  It just might be yours.

If you are experiencing depression or any mental health issue, please do not give up. No matter how long it’s been, how desperate or numb you feel, there are people who care and want to help. Please reach out.  There is a life vest.  All you have to do is hold on tight.  This is a dis-ease I truly believe we can beat together.

In memory of

Todd Pidhorodetsky April 21st, 1970 – March 6, 2010

You are loved, you are missed, you are treasured

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Loss is a tragic thing, hard to understand, even more difficult to cope with.  The loss of a child is unimaginable.  My palms grow sweaty and my heart pounds at even the thought.  Maybe that’s what makes it hard to know what to say or what to do when someone loses someone they love.

I love words, writing them, reading them, thinking them. When it comes to grief and grieving my words almost always fail me.  “I’m sorry” is honest, but seems so empty and hollow.  I want my words to fix things or to make a positive difference, but instead they are left hanging.

I know people who have lost children and today, one of them passed this article along. She said that she could relate to every point in it. With that recommendation I thought it was a good place to start. I hoped that it would help me in future situations and I believe it will.

What I Wish More People Understood About Losing A Child is a short but excellent guide to supporting people who are going through one of, if not the worst experience in their life.  It’s not only the loss of a loved one, but the loss of their child. As parents, none of us start out by thinking one day our children will leave this earth before us.

Paula Stevens lists 5 things that we can do to help those who are suffering with inconsolable grief.

  1. Let them know that you remember their children, and celebrate them.
  2. Know you can’t fix the grief, but you can be a patient friend.
  3. Birthdays and the anniversary of the death will always be tough days that they will always mark and struggle with, even if they don’t talk about it.
  4. Happiness is a struggle every single day, even when wearing a smile.
  5. Accept that their grief probably makes you uncomfortable, and that’s ok. It’s not supposed to be comfortable.

We will never forget our child. And in fact, our loss is always right under the surface of other emotions, even happiness. We would rather lose it because you spoke his/her name and remembered our child, than try and shield ourselves from the pain and live in denial. Paula Stevens

Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness.  It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love.  The only cure for grief is to grieve. Earl Grollman

Maybe putting words together doesn’t have to be as hard as one might think.

“Your child was a sweetheart.  Everyone who met him just could not stop talking about him.  He is going to be relentlessly missed by everyone.”

And when words fail us, hugs and quiet company seldom do.

Edit 25Mar2015

The Kindness Blog shared a story today called When a parent loses their child, there’s really not much, if anything, that can bring them comfort.  It’s about what one family did as part of their grieving in order to honour their little boy who passed away.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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I looked at my blog list this morning and realized the last few titles were completely depressing!  Now, I must admit the subject matter itself while serious, wasn’t full on depressing, I actually hope some of it in the end inspired and helped give some hope.

But let’s face it, the subject matter does sound rather grim: eating disorders, suicide, loneliness, crap ideas, losing a child, and being over 50.  When I look at it in that way, it’s not a cup of tea I’m suddenly wanting…

In truth though, they’ve really been addressing using control in a positive way, finding your way back to living, patience, trusting yourself, turning grief into something more and liberating yourself.

I hear myself saying, “Words matter, perspective is a choice”.  

My word choices reflected the seriousness and gravity of the subject matter, but not with the lighter and deeper point that I was really getting at.  When I saw the list of titles to be completely honest, even I didn’t want to read them, I certainly wasn’t rising like air.

It dawned on me that’s really what the point is, to help people feel power, the energy of  goodness and kindness, and at least here, I don’t want to make them wait until the end of the story to experience it.  The more we all learn how to bring kindness and goodness to ourselves and each other we really will see those same things take hold and grow bigger and stronger in the world.  Slowly the beliefs that don’t serve us will begin to drop away.

With that in mind, I’ve decided, it’s time for a change.  We commit to remaining conscious of the words we use even when choosing our titles to interest with a feeling of hope rather than resignation.  Yes, change is feeling good.

Hmmm… that tea is sounding rather refreshing again.  I think I hear the kettle boiling.  Earl Grey anyone?

The power of words is in their selection, not in their number.  Ernest Hemingway apparently once one a bet writing a story of only 6 words capable of making people cry.

“For Sale:  Baby shoes.  Never worn.”

Always remember, wield your power wisely.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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Eating Disorder Services: "MIRROR" Print Ad by Clemenger BBDO Wellington

Eating Disorder Services: “MIRROR” Print Ad by Clemenger BBDO Wellington 

Believing is Seeing.  What are your beliefs showing you?

A quiet killer, often hidden by baggy clothes and popularly supported in the dark recesses of the internet.  An addiction to being thin at any cost, even their lives.  When the line to good judgement has been blurred, the spiral begins.  This is an illness that has created a community that doesn’t help each other get better.  Instead, they help each other get sicker.

Antonia Eriksson has traveled this path herself and is recovering.  Her opinion of thinsperational accounts is clear.

“They’re really dangerous,” she says.  Eriksson is now in recovery from anorexia, and runs an Instagram account and blog focused on fitness and healthy eating. But back then, she was easily triggered into unhealthy behaviour by those images. “It would help me in my eating disorder, like in the most negative way… It would keep me sick,” she says.

via Pro-anorexia, bulimia communities thriving online – Health – CBC News.

I’d like to say this trend comes as a surprise, or that I’d never even heard of such a thing but of course that’s not the case.    I worry about my own children and their self image and how these sites and associated hashtags influence them. Trying on a pair of skinny jeans the other day my daughter lamented, “But my calves are too fat!”   She is in perfect physical shape and size for her body.  I reminded her that she’s just fine.  The jeans were just made for a different body.  Let’s face it the very nature of skinny jeans is a challenge.  It was obvious her first thought wasn’t that the jeans were wrong, it was that her body was wrong.

On one hand, when it comes to “thinspiration”,   it seems obvious that anyone with “half a brain” would “know better”.  But that’s not really what it’s all about after all. Whether a person is spiralling into a gloomy pit from an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, PTSD or abuse there is one thing that everyone has in common.  They’ve crossed a line from the reality of  “normal” most of us know to a reality the rest of us don’t share. You would think they should be able to simply step back over that line but it doesn’t work that way.  Slipping over the line to illness seems so easy, but taking that one step back sometimes feels impossible.  Spoiler alert – it might be the biggest challenge you face in life but it isn’t impossible.

These thinspo accounts are like putting a line of coke in front of an addict, it’s fills the need and there is almost no way that the addict will be able to resist on their own, at least not for long. In my opinion this is like an unrecovered alcoholic being the sponsor for another alcoholic.  Pretty much doomed to failure.  Instead of helping each other they are actually encouraging and empowering each other to continue the spiral into the disease.

The good news is that I see more and more sites and resources that are dealing with recovery, self care and hope. Healthy is in, skinny is out.  Unless of course you are naturally skinny, which some people are.  Then rock it and love it.

I’m glad that many social media sites are trying to make things better.

Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest have also attempted to circumvent users’ access to material that promotes self-harm. -CBC article

Dr. Rebecka Peebles, co-director of the Eating Disorder Assessment and Treatment Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia… found that nearly 40 per cent of the sites included pro-recovery information. Many of the troubling Instagram posts also include pro-recovery tags: #EDrecovery, #ANAwarrior, #BeatANA.  She believes that reflects the nature of the disease. “Part of you wants to get better, and part of you wants to stay sick.” – CBC Article

We all know that there are different body types.  Within each type there is an infinite number of slightly different shapes and sizes.  They are normal.  They are healthy.  They are beautiful.  Instead of embracing this fact, we watch the photoshopped ads, the models that have countless groomers and preeners fawning over them, that have been selected because they have this very specific body type.  And don’t kid yourself, even though they are “perfect” in our eyes, the industry tells them they aren’t quite good enough, they have the same qualms and self doubts as all of us “average” girls (and guys) out there.

Don’t ever fool yourself that any of these images are put out there because big business really cares about you.  They care almost exclusively about making money.  Really, most of them don’t care at all about you.  I mean honestly, not at all.  Those ads with all those beautiful people are meant to do one thing.  Get money from you.  Period.  They don’t care if you become prettier, smarter, fatter, skinnier, healthier even if their fake smiles seem to say otherwise.

We all have our moments, or maybe lifetimes, of wishing “something” was different about us or our lives.  No one is completely immune.  Unless.

Unless you make the conscious choice to begin loving yourself AS YOU ARE TODAY.  With all your perfection and all your flaws (which by the way, are almost always your own opinion).

We are all perfectly imperfect.  Quit fighting it!  It’s a battle you will never win, and were never meant to.

No matter what you do, unless you can love yourself (or at least like yourself) as you are, nothing you do will satisfy you for long.  You will always come from a place of lack.  You don’t have to.  Just start seeing your own good, your own beauty little by little.  Trust that it’s there and you’ll find it.

I really do recommend taking time every single day to look at yourself and tell yourself you love you!  Find the little things that you can love.  Maybe it’s your smile, or a dimple, or the way your one eyebrow raises when you smile. Maybe it’s how you can make your mother laugh or your little sister asks for your help.

Like any addict, or someone with a habit that needs breaking, do it one step at a time.  And don’t beat yourself up for every single little misstep.  Work to stop following the propaganda and start following things that inspire you and give you hope to be all you can really be.  Ask for help.  Then ask again, and again and again.  Do not give up.  Be kind to yourself and others.  It’s a start, and that’s what has to happen first.  A start.  A very simple start.

Life and love are so much more than thigh gap, or protruding bones, or the vision of outer beauty.  

If that’s all you can focus on right now you are missing out on so much, actually all the wonderful awesome stuff. Need help?  That’s ok.  Recognizing it is the first step.  We all need help for something at sometime.  Don’t give up.  Keep looking, keep trying.

If you are overweight an unhealthy amount, and I do mean unhealthy, not your own jaded opinion, then yes, do something positive and constructive to move yourself to a place of health.  But do it because you love yourself and you are worth it.  And if you don’t believe that right now it’s ok.  Believe me.  You are worth it.  Change your focus from one of controlling yourself and your weight to one of loving yourself and working together with your body towards wonderful health.

If you still need some convincing, I encourage you to listen to Maya Angelou explain and read her poem “Still I Rise”. Never doubt, that you too can say, “Still I rise.”

Eriksson was once an #ANAwarrior. She started an Instagram account, which has since grown to nearly 40,000 followers, the day before she was hospitalized to document her six-week in-hospital treatment and recovery.

What she calls her Instagram family helped motivate her recovery. “I wanted to show them that it was possible,” she says. “So I just kept fighting it.” – CBC article

As Eriksson reminds us,  it is possible.  Don’t give up.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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It’s tough to make middle schooler’s cry, but it took less than 4 minutes for Marc Mero to do it.  Marc was a professional amateur boxer and professional wrestler, who wrestled not on only in the ring but in his personal life as well.  He experienced drug and alcohol abuse, success and failure as he lived his life pursuing fame and fortune.

During this video Marc speaks to a middle school audience about how his choices affected his life.  His words and experience obviously make a resounding impression.

Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.

Marc warns the students that the influences they have today will shape where they are going in the future.  His words have impact, he speaks from experience, he’s walked that path.

Mom wouldn’t go to bed until she knew her son was still alive… All she wanted to do was talk to me.

Mothers know that dreaded fear, that delicate balance we attempt to achieve as we watch and cheer out children growing up and gaining independence while still wanting to be a part of their lives, to simply talk for awhile whether it’s about life changing things or mundane everyday things.

I no longer live in time.  I live in moments…

We have to deal with time.  We have to live with time.  That’s balance in our reality.  But living In the moments, that’s where Life really is.  That’s where the joy is.  That’s where we find the Land Of No Regrets.

We’ve all heard it, too many of us have learned it from personal experience and many of us have chosen to protect ourselves by forgetting the lesson.  Life is precious.  It can be dramatically changed or taken away in a moment.

It’s not what’s in your pocket, it’s what’s in your heart.

Even Scrooge and The Grinch managed to figure that out eventually.

Love is only a word until someone gives it meaning.  You are that meaning.

Don’t take it for granted.  Let the people who are important to you know it.  Don’t wait to find out you missed the boarding call for passage to the Land Of No Regrets.

Fear less, hope more

Eat less, chew more

Whine less, breathe more

Talk less, say more

Hate less, love more

And all good things are yours.

— Swedish Proverb

Please note all quotes are from Marc Mero’s speech.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Grief Is Like An Ocean Image from the Web

Grief Is Like An Ocean
Image from the Web

We said goodbye to an incredibly special man last week, a man who I have been proud to call “Dad” for over 30 years.  He was a man who accepted me into the family without question and with a smile and open arms.  I think my own dad felt a little better knowing that when I was miles away from him, he could count that there was someone else who I could turn to.

My father in law suffered a stroke nine years ago. Even though he was no longer able to do all the things he had before, the importance of family never faltered. We realized how fragile life really is and how quickly things can change.

We were fortunate to be able to visit him and enjoy each other’s company the afternoon before he passed. At the time nothing seemed any different. We joked and visited. Knowing the comfort that church gave him I even attended service with him and mom. We all bid farewell promising to return later in the week.

The following morning everything changed. It wasn’t completely unexpected but it was still a surprise. A big one.

Later that evening as we hugged and cried and shared our grief in our own ways, my daughter put it in perspective for me.

She said that she was glad she went to see her Grandpa as often as she had. She’d made each time special just in case it would be the last time.

And as I look back that’s exactly what she did. There are no regrets, no hugs not given, I love yous not said.

And that my friends is how we should treat every encounter we have every day. Not because we are dwelling on the possibility for sadness or loss, but because we honour and are grateful for every experience we have, every special person in our lives.

We owe it to ourselves and everyone else. Seize the moment. Seize the day. Just don’t delay. Tell the people in your lives how you feel about them. Do it now.

No regrets.

The “After” of Happily Ever…

No longer a person in his place,
Yet it is far from empty.
Love and memories fill this space,
For breaking hearts a remedy.

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There are many ways we can remember those we’ve lost.  Bonnie, From Memory Bears by Bonnie, creates beautiful stuffed bears out of favourite pieces of clothing from loved ones.   A keepsake to hold and hug no matter what your age. The idea touched my heart so I’m sharing a link to her blog for others who may decide this is a perfect way to remember and bring comfort to those who remain.

If you have found other unique and comforting ways to remember loved ones please share and I’ll be happy to add any links.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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image from WikiHow

Things change around us all the time and for the most part we really don’t take that much notice.  Until it’s a big change.  Or the change affects us very personally.  Or when it’s unexpected.  Or when it’s unwanted.  We can’t outrun it, we can’t hide from it or ignore it for long.  At some point we have to wade in and get through it; one hand over the other or one foot in front of the other.  Either way, it’s up to you to make the first move.

Hand Over Hand

I never thought, “it won’t last”
But it shattered like fragile glass
Slowly, the shards began to fall
Cascading, refracting a piercing call

Silence cries a deafening roar
So desperate once again to soar
But then the bottom drops away
And I can’t keep the demons at bay

The darkness holds tightly to me
Nowhere to hide let alone flee
To the depths I feel myself slide
Never dreamed I’d be on this ride

Grab hold and breathe deep
Hand over hand I will creep
Out of these depths, this black abyss
I rise whole again, even from this

December 12, 2013 ©J Fries

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©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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