Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Normal: Absent Friends

When people speak of times of profound sadness and upheaval, the story is often full of accounts of people coming out of the woodwork to offer support, assistance and love. 

When my Mum died five months ago, we were very lucky to have many caring people, both family and friends, around us. I don't know what we would have done without each and every one of them. From their warm remembrances in their mailed cards, to special deliveries of chocolate chip cookies and offers to take our dog so we could do 'what we had to do,' the willingness to pitch in was amazing. 

On the other side of the coin, what was equally amazing was that a number of friends disappeared. Vanished without a word... no phone calls, emails...poof! Gone.

Death is an uncomfortable milestone. At times it's hard to know what to say, what to do... often people just don't do anything - except go AWOL. Thankfully those who were there (and continue to be) for us outnumbered the people who weren't but still, I do find myself reevaluating the people in my life now. If someone who has been there for all the giddy, happy moments can't find it in themselves to offer a hug, or just a simple 'I'm sorry' at the worst of times, well I don't really call that friendship in the true sense of the word. 

I've been told this type of friendship appraisal is a common occurrence when a death or tragedy happens. Sometimes the people that you thought were *there* for you in the most true sense of the word, aren't while others on the fringe of friendship cannot do enough for you. It's funny how loss can make you see situations and the people around you much more clearly. I'm still hoping that the folk that disappeared into the abyss will show up sooner rather than later but as the days fly by, I'm starting to wonder...

(photo by: Sang Rose Revoir)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coping: Cookie Monster

So much for my return to eating somewhat normally back in June

The past week...okay, it's been a bit longer than that, I've been an eating machine. Worse still, I'm turning to products that I haven't eaten in years. I'm talking Pop-Tarts...yes, the sweet strawberry filled pastries doused in opaque white icing and colourful sprinkles. I also have another kid-friendly stand-by, ice cream sandwiches lurking in my freezer. Back in my cupboard, there's Wagon Wheels hanging out along with the requisite Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, devilish Kit Kat bites and bite-size Oreos. 

It's a problem.  I *know* that part of my issue here is that I'm trying to placate myself, or give myself a boost by devouring comfy foods that I love and enjoy. I could eat a whole package of Chips Ahoy in one go, I know that I could but it doesn't mean that I should. I haven't gotten that far yet and I hope that don't, but this automatic response of eating treats in order to feel better just isn't working for me. My stomach may be full but I still feel empty.

It's almost like I'm trying to return back to my childhood hoping that all the other aspects of that happy time will be there too - especially my Mum. 

I'm trying my hardest to get my eating habits in line but it's so difficult right now. What's most frustrating is how they can be semi-ideal for a spell and then totally dissolve into a bingefest that leaves no box of Cadbury Fingers untouched. I just wish in these sad times there was a way to feel better without such crazy actions. At least things could be worse I suppose... at least I'm not a drinker, smoker or a fan of prescription drugs. There could be worse scenarios than numbing the pain with sugar, right?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coping: Easy Living ~ Coping With Grief

One of my favourite magazines, Easy Living -- a British publication -- features a wonderfully moving essay in its September issue.

Written by Bella Pollen, 'Coping With Grief' focuses on the different ways bereavement is dealt with in our society. She writes that in the early 1900s, deaths of loved ones were part of everyday life. It was normal for people to die at home, and those left behind to sport black clothing for a period of time. People discussed death. People didn't avoid friends in the throes of grief - they mourned together. Death wasn't feared. Unfortunately, the situation clearly changed only a few decades later. In the 1960s, sex, the previous taboo subject, was replaced by death and in many respects, passing away still remains an off-limits topic even today.

Pollen recalls how her own mother back in the early '70s was not allowed to fully grieve the death of her sister -- and by not dealing with her mourning, her mother in essence shut down. Certain emotions became absent, and the pain she carried lasted a lifetime. If only people were free to grieve without perimeters, without someone uttering a common phrase, 'it's time to get on with your life', we'd all be better for it.

Anyone who would spout something so cruel, so heartless has clearly never lost someone so precious and dear. Grief is not something easily to "get over" or "move on" from. Grief sticks. 

I cannot read Bella Pollen's article without tears being summoned - even after multiple reads - but it's a beautifully written piece, that deserves to be read.