Welcome to your last week of Bereavement Boot Camp. I hope that it has been a wonderful period of growth, discovery... and perhaps just a little bit of anticipation for the future. As we wrap up Boot Camp, I want to share a brief story that I hope you will take into your heart and incorporate into your Healing Journey -- remembering your past, embracing your today and looking to your future.
I had been just over a year widowed when my mother gave me very wise advice that I follow to this very day. At that moment in time and in addition to Mike's passing (six days before Christmas and in the middle of Hanukah), I had also endured a year that included the suicide death of my uncle ten days prior to Mike's death, major abdominal surgery (an emergency) three weeks after Mike's death and the death of my father four months after losing Mike.
It was at that moment in time that Mom told me to stop and look back at how far I had progressed... and that is exactly what I did.
In terms of a Healing Journey, one year (especially the first year) doesn't seem very long and with good reason -- it isn't very long. However, when I actually stopped and examined how far I had progressed up to that point (and how far I have progressed since that time many years ago), I began appreciating the healing that I had accomplished. To this very day, I still take those occasional pauses to look back and remind myself just how far I have traveled since that awful season in time when I thought that I would never see light or know love ever again. In that same spirit, I invite you to take a periodic pause to stop, look back and see just how far you have come in your recovery -- whether your loss event was 10 months ago or 10 years ago.
As you continue forward on your Healing Journey, be reminded to:
a. Continually make the choice to keep healing and moving into your future: It seems rather obvious, but believe it or not, many people do not make a conscious choice to begin -- or continue -- the healing process. Remember that just by being here, we are entitled to every abundance, happiness and dream that we want to chase -- but you have to choose to do so.
b. Make time to grieve however you see fit: Most of us don't have the luxury of giving in to grief whenever the spirit takes us -- we are at work, we are running the kids, we are running errands... we're usually running somewhere and if you are anything like me, you are usually about 15 minutes behind. However, if you do not take the time to grieve, your grief will come back to bite you at some point -- that is a absolute guarantee. By setting aside "me" time (that does not include any distractions), you are allowing yourself to actually move through the grieving process in a healthy way.
c. Choose proactive coping vs. reactive coping: We generally cannot control loss situations, but we do have control over our reactions to how things are going to go from here on out. Get proactive about your healing by surrounding yourself with education and community. Going through Boot Camp is a great start, but you need to continue your education afterward and you need to become (or remain) an active part of a healing community.
d. Take conscious ownership of your Healing Journey: If you take nothing else away from Boot Camp, please take that away. Actually own your Healing Journey. Own it. It belongs to you. After you assume ownership of your Healing Journey, you must then convey this message to the people around you. Let everyone know who is in charge of your Healing Journey -- and mean it. As long as you are not coping in a destructive manner, you are meeting your responsibilities and obligations and you are not hurting yourself or anyone around you, however you choose to design and proceed on your Healing Journey is entirely up to you.
e. Embrace your past and do not be afraid to keep the memories alive: If your loss experience involves the loss of a loved one, you absolutely can keep memories alive and part of your present without remaining in a place of sorrow. Encourage school-age children to display pictures in their bedrooms and school lockers. Enjoy reminiscing through family photos and videos. Remember loved ones on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays in fun and creative ways. If the tears come, let the tears come -- that's OK too.
f. Reach out for help: No one, including me, can help anyone begin a Healing Journey "sooner", but we can help you starting right now, today, as long as you reach out.
For those of you who were unable to complete every single challenge throughout the Boot Camp process... it really is OK. If you were not ready to take on any one of the weekly challenges, it simply means that you were not ready at that moment in time. Who knows where you will be next week or next month? The great news is that if you weren't ready for any one (or all!) of the challenges, you can always revisit those challenges and try again.
And yet again.
Wishing you warmth and strength as you continue forward, here is your eighth and final Boot Camp Affirmation:
"I accept that I cannot control the fact that I have suffered loss -- but I can control what I am going to do with the life that I have been handed. Whatever I decide to do or try, I will do so with the understanding that by exploring new opportunities and experiences, I am not casting aspersion or disrespecting my past. I am actually taking control of a situation over which I may have had little or no control by honoring my past without living in my past; welcoming today and designing my destiny and embracing a future of my choosing".
NOTE: If you came into Boot Camp late or if you want to revisit any part of entire course, you can easily do so. Every article is archived and can be accessed by clicking on Carole's name at the top of the article.
Carole will be on hiatus during the month of October. Watch for her return to The Huffington Post on November 11
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
Follow on Facebook at Widows Wear Stilettos
Follow on Twitter: @WidowsStilettos