I had a moment. Coronavirus thoughts.

I had a moment last week.

It was a nice day and I was sitting outside reading. Usually, I would feel guilty sitting and reading in the middle of the day. But on that day, instead of feeling guilty, I paused and took a deep breath. I felt content. I felt peaceful. I thought to myself “I could get used to this. This feels like a healthy pace for our family.” 

I had a moment of acceptance. 

It was the moment that I (we) was working so hard to experience. 

It was worth all the hard work. 

I am beginning to accept the fact that I cannot work right now and probably won’t for a while. 

I am beginning to accept the fact that my kids will not go back to school and will be home with me every day for 4 more months.

I am beginning to accept the fact that I can’t meet my friends for coffee, go to the gym or go to Target without a mask.

I am beginning to accept the fact that sports have been canceled, events have been postponed and places of entertainment have shut down. 

I am beginning to accept my new reality and I am starting to see it’s beauty. 

And because of that, I feel like I can finally take a deep breath. 

I don’t want to make it sound like every moment since then has been peaceful and full of joy. As I mentioned early on in this journey, grief is not linear. I still have moments of depression. I am still trying to control my boundaries. I still have moments where I want to retreat to denial and believe that none of this is real. I have dreams about Covid-19 and I wake up hoping it’s all just a bad dream. 

But because I have worked hard and have had glimpses of the peace acceptance brings, I don’t stay in those previous phases of grief very long. I’m lured back to the place of acceptance by the comfort that it brings. 

I have spent most of my life trying to fight against and control my reality. As I have mentioned many times, so much has happened to me that I fiercely fight to secure any sense of control I can. It took me 16 years after my Liver transplant to finally accept what happened to me. When I did that, I truly became a new person. The Lisa that God created began to resurface again. 

I have never been so relieved. 

Feeling the need to control everything is a heavy burden to bear. One I was never designed to carry. 

You aren’t either. 

That is the reason I have been writing and sharing about grief during Covid-19. I want you to learn from my mistakes. I don’t want you to have to wait 16 years, 16 months or even 16 extra days to come to place of acceptance of the new reality Covid-19 has thrust upon us. Striving to control what is out of your control is fruitless and exhausting. 

So let’s keep working.

It starts by being aware. Are you reacting in a disproportionate way to a situation? Do you find yourself lashing out for no good reason? Are you struggling to get out of bed?

Name it. Name the emotion that you are experiencing. Let your reactions be your teacher. 

Claim it. Declare it. Own it. Naming your emotions and recognizing that they stem from a place of grief will greatly accelerate your healing. 

Give it a space and a place

Do you need to just vent? Find a safe person you can vent to.

Do you need to go to bed? Go to bed.

Give it to Jesus. He knows anyway. He created grief as a pathway to healing. Invite him into your process. Lay your emotions before him and surrender. 

Then move on. Do the next thing you need to do. You have given the emotion the space and place it needs, it’s time to move on – whether you feel like it or not! 

Then do it all over again. 

And again. And again. And again. 

And then soon, before you know it, you will be sitting outside on a nice day and you will find yourself taking a deep breath. You will feel grateful. You will realize that all your hard work was worth it for this moment.

The moment of acceptance. 

Because there is more,

Lisa

Do I have to get out of bed? Coronavirus thoughts.

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Over the last several weeks I have been trying to unpack the grief stages in the context of Covid-19. This week I want to take a closer look at depression.

Before I move forward, it is important to distinguish the difference between clinical depression and depression as recognized within the grief process. Clinical depression tends to be a long term battle. It’s onset can sometimes be linked to a particular event. Oftentimes it seems to overcome someone out of the blue. Someone can seemingly have a perfect life and still struggle with depression. It is often a result of a chemical imbalance and medication is helpful.

I believe we need to look at depression in the context of grief through a different lens. Depression in the context of grief is a deep sadness and despair that manifests itself as a direct result of a loss. The feelings are specifically linked to the loss experienced. Because of this difference between clinical depression and depression in the context of grief, it is important that we don’t just look at them differently, we need to deal with them differently as well.

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Let me explain.

When I meet someone who is experiencing clinical depression, I will respond differently to them than I would to someone that is experiencing depression as a result of loss. With someone dealing with long term, clinical depression, I would be incredibly graceful. I would encourage them to see a counselor. I would make sure they don’t feel any shame in taking medication. I would celebrate with them on the days they got out of bed. I would rejoice with each small victory.

But if I knew you were feeling depressed as a direct result of a loss, I would be more forthright. I would be more direct because I don’t want you to get stuck there. Depression in the context of grief can easily lead to long term, clinical depression if you don’t deal with it properly. Because I know it’s a phase and I know that God created a way out, I would challenge you to keep moving forward – to take the next steps. God created grief as a pathway to healing. Each stepping stone, each phase, is designed to bring us closer to wholeness. The stones are big enough to step on, but not a great place to rest.

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I’m willing to be wrong, but I think that as we are experiencing depression in the context of grief, we have to enter into the battle ready to fight and to not let it overcome us. I don’t mean that we ignore it or pretend that we are happy and grateful when truly our heart and mind is full of despair. We need to give it the space and place that it deserves and then move on.

We have lost so much in such a short amount of time and honestly this is just the beginning. WE NEED TO GRIEVE and we have a good reason to be sad and depressed. But decide how much space you are going to give it. Do you need a day to lay in bed? Then lay in bed for a day and then get up. Do you need to take a nap and cry? Then take a nap and cry and then text a friend to catch up. Do you need to tell someone about all the horrible things that are happening? Find a safe person. Tell them you just need to vent. Vent for 10 minutes and then move on.

But this is key, you can’t let your feelings guide your actions for long. You can’t wait to feel like getting out of bed before you get out of bed. You spend your allotted time there and then you get up, whether you feel like it or not. I HATE THIS ADVICE! It is the hardest advice that was ever given to me, but it has been the most effective. Do the next thing you planned to do, even if you feel depressed while doing so. Most of the time we just need to get out of our heads. If you don’t have plans, make some. Go serve someone. Call a friend that you know is alone. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Watch a funny show. Go for a walk. Every time we do that, we win, the depression loses its grip on us and we are able to continue on the path towards healing.

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If you try to ignore the depression, it will consume you. But if you give it a space and a place, I think you will find that you will move through the phase much more quickly.

Right now, in the midst of Covid-19, I am vacillating between depression and acceptance.

A couple days ago I was really feeling depressed. I value feeling purposeful and my biggest struggle during this time is that I don’t feel purposeful. I’m not working. I work hard on my blogs. I write because I feel called to, but I wish I was called to something else. I really want to get a job with a non-profit, but recently I’ve felt convinced that every non-profit is probably going to run out of money and I’ll end up working at McDonalds for the rest of my life (nope, my thoughts don’t spiral at all). I had planned on walking with a friend. I walked into the bedroom and declared to Bryan “I am cancelling my plans and I am going to lay in bed for the rest of the day.” Bryan has gotten a bit used to my bold declarations over the years, so he calmly said “Just let me know what you decide to do.”

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I layed down exasperated in our bed and cried. I laid there for about 10 minutes and realized, although this is what I want to do – this isn’t what I really need. So I got up and got ready for my walk. As I was getting my shoes on, Bryan asked “You’re feeling better I assume?” I replied “Nope, but I decided I didn’t want to be depressed for the rest of the day so I’m going on a walk. Even though I don’t feel like it.”

By the time I got home from my walk, I felt like a new person. I felt refreshed and ready to enjoy the rest of the day

Friends, I could be wrong, but I’ll tell you what, I have grieved well and I have also done it horribly. These things have worked for me in the past as I have navigated my way through the depression that accompanies grief. So if you start to feel depressed, try these things, see what happens, learn from my mistakes. If they don’t help, set them aside. But no matter what you do remember that in the context of grief, depression is designed to be a phase – not a way of life.

So let’s keep on moving forward one stepping stone at a time,

Because there is more,

Lisa

How flexible are your boundaries? Coronavirus thoughts.

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Bargaining has always been a tougher phase of grief for me to recognize in my own life. When people think about bargaining in the context of grief, people oftentimes think of the “what if’s” “What if I had just gotten there sooner?” “What if I had gone to the doctor earlier?” The hard thing about that in our current context, is that outside of stocking up on toilet paper sooner, there is nothing that we personally could have done differently. Everyone I know, including myself, had no idea the upheaval that Covid-19 would cause.

But I think if we pause and look a little closer we can see how much bargaining is playing out in our daily lives. Think of bargaining as the subtle slope that starts to bring us back to reality. Denial and anger keep us outside of reality. When we are in denial we don’t believe anything has changed. Anger is just chaotic. We lash out and we don’t really even know why. All we know is we are angry and anyone who gets in our way is going to be the object of our wrath. Bargaining starts to bring us down to reality. We start to realize that yes, things have changed. We start to get small glimpses of our new reality. But as we enter back in, we try to enter back in on our own terms. We cling to the illusion that we still have a sense of control. We bargain. We make trade offs. We create boundaries.

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As I’ve slowly started to move out of anger, these are a few ways I’ve seen bargaining play out. Here are some of the bargains I’ve made.

-Even though I’m autoimmune, I won’t get Covid-19. I take really good care of myself. I will wear a mask, but only if I go to the store.

-I can’t totally isolate, so I decided to go on walks with someone outside of my immediate family each day.

-I have made a schedule that I stick to each day (I’m not working).

-I have a list of projects to finish.

These ideas and practices are not wrong within themselves. In fact they have served as helpful coping mechanisms for me over the last several weeks.

The question then is, where is the line between healthy coping mechanisms and unresolved grief that I need to process through?

For me, I’m starting to recognize the difference between the two by noting how I respond when I’m asked to step out of the boundaries I have created. Are my boundaries rigid or flexible?

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Let me give you a few examples.

As I mentioned earlier, I am autoimmune and therefore more susceptible to getting Covid-19. I may not be as cautious as some would like me to be, but I’ve created boundaries that are working for me. I still go on walks with people that are outside of my immediate family. I need the social outlet. Some people may not think that is wise and some people have told me so. How I react to people’s comments is telling. Do I respond with listening ears and a receptive heart? Or do I get defensive and angry when people question my boundaries? My response will speak volumes of the state of my grief.

If I respond from a place of anger or defensiveness, there is a good chance I feel like someone is threatening my boundaries. We cling to and defend those rigid boundaries because they have created for us a sense of control.
If I respond with grace and humility there is a good chance that I have flexibility around my boundaries. I take time to consider if I need to adjust my current boundaries (which might mean less physical flexibility) and make changes as necessary.

What about how you use your time? What if you are confronted about that? I feel like people are living in two extremes: they are so overwhelmed by everything they become paralyzed and therefore can’t do anything. Or, people are so disoriented, they can’t stop doing things. The hustle keeps them from dealing with their current reality. I tend to do the latter. I figure if I keep on moving, I don’t have to deal with the deep despair I am afraid I would experience if I slowed down. How do I respond when that is questioned?

Do I get angry and explode and say things like “at least I’m doing something?” Or do I respond and say “Yes, you are probably right, I need to take a break. I need to adjust my boundaries.”

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I would love to spare you some pain. Control is an illusion. I’ve wasted years of my life to try to prove otherwise. For a long time after my liver transplant I thought I had accepted my new reality. I hadn’t. What I had done was create a reality with boundaries that worked for me, a reality that felt safe and secure. But it was all an illusion. It was incredibly beautiful, disorienting and painful when that world crumbled. But I’m so glad it did, because I finally got to see what I had been missing all along.

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The same thing is true in our current context. As we continue on our grief journey and start to get glimpses of our new reality, it will be tempting to try to enter in on our own terms. Our natural instinct will be to create our own world that feels safe and secure, a reality that gives us the sense of being in control. That world cannot sustain us and will crumble under pressure. That world may feel safe, but don’t stay there. You will miss out. Because on the other side of grief, there is a big world waiting. It is a world that God created with all of time in his sight. It is a world full of adventure, sorrow, joy and pain. But we can have peace as we experience all those things, because we know we live in a world that God created and holds in the palms of his hands.

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Because there is more,

Lisa

You can’t control the waves. Coronavirus thoughts.

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Grief is fluid. You can’t summon it, it happens to you. You can’t control it.

Trust me, I’ve been trying.

A big part of why I write is to hold myself accountable. If I pose a challenge to others then I am much more apt to rise to the challenge myself. One of the main reasons I’m writing about grief during Covid-19 is so I will commit to grieving myself.

I have been allowing myself to be in denial, to feel angry and even feel a little depressed. I haven’t been trying to suppress my feelings. But the last several days I have found, as soon as I start feeling those big feelings, I respond with judgement. I feel the big feelings.I know what they are. I name them and claim them.

Then I judge them. I judge myself.

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It’s as if somewhere along the way I decided it was okay to feel the feelings, but only for a few minutes. After that, they are no longer acceptable.

Let me give you an example. One of my struggles over the last several weeks has been the noise level in my house. I am an extrovert and I receive all of my energy from being around people – but I’m actually not super chatty. When I’m home I love being around people, but I am content sitting in silence. That is not the case for Bryan & Piper. They both have to have music on ALL the time. Piper is extremely loud and Bryan loves to tell me every detail about his day every time he gets a break from work. Bryan has set up his office in our bedroom and we have someone living with us in the basement, so I have nowhere to escape to. Yesterday I was in the middle of writing and all of a sudden everyone decided to take a break from work and school and came down to have lunch. I had just sat down, I had just settled into a moment of silence. All of a sudden it felt like everyone was yelling. Bryan’s stirring felt loud. I could hear Cole’s chewing across the room. Every word Piper said felt like she was screaming it in my ear. I freaked out and started going on and on about how loud everyone was and I just needed a space to myself. I started to cry and ran up to my room (which was free only because Bryan was eating lunch).

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I overreacted. I had a big response to a small problem. I responded that way because my anger stemmed from a place of grief. Within moments of ascending into my bedroom, I was mad at myself – I was mad at myself for reacting the way I did. “You know better.” I told myself.

As I spoke those words to myself, I heaped judgement upon my grief.

As I shared this with a friend yesterday, she challenged me to try to respond to my grief and emotions in a different way.

What if you responded to your grief and emotions with curiosity and compassion, not with judgement and shame?

Would that change anything? 

Let’s look at the same situation. When I started to feel frustrated, instead of allowing my anger to overcome me and propel me to overact, what if I took a pause instead. What if instead of blowing up – I stepped back and asked myself gently “What’s going on? Why am I feeling this way?” Your tone as you speak to yourself is key here. Just a simple change in your voice inflection can change everything. What if I asked myself those same questions from a place of curiosity and compassion instead of judgement?

I had an opportunity to test it out today.

After lunch today I found myself sinking quickly into funk. I paused and gently asked myself what I needed. I was feeling suffocated, I needed to go for a walk. So before I could begin to spiral downwards, I put my shoes and left for my walk. I listened to a podcast, breathed the fresh air in deeply and when I got home I was ready to move on with my day.

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You see the more we try to control grief, the more it will take control of us. It is something that happens TO US and we need to learn how to ride it’s waves with curiosity and compassion – not judgement.

Not only do we need to respond with curiosity and compassion to our grief, we need to embrace its fluid nature. As our grief changes, we need to recognize our need to change our response.

One thing I have realized over the last few days is that in different phases of grief, I need different things. The first couple weeks of staying at home I really needed a schedule. I needed to feel productive. I needed to set goals for myself to meet. But as I enter into the next phases of grief I am realizing that I need different things. I am feeling depressed about our current situation. Because of that, instead of a schedule bringing me joy and purpose, when I have something on the schedule – it is actually really stressful for me. If I make a list of people to contact in the morning, the list looms over me all day and causes anxiety. Last week, if I didn’t have a walk or a call on my schedule, I felt lost and fell apart. But as I move on with my grief journey, my needs are changing – scheduling a call feels completely overwhelming to me right now.

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And as I recognize that, I need to respond to those needs with compassion – not judgement. It’s not the time to muster up all the strength I have and gut it out. It’s the time to not only ask myself questions with curiosity and compassion, but respond to myself in kind.

Friends, grief is like the waves on the ocean. As much as we would love to control their current and movement, that is not our job. Our job is to simply ride the waves. Sometimes we will be able to stand and graciously surf the waves. Sometimes we will have to sit, close our eyes and cling to dear life as the waves crash upon the shore. But however we get there, however we land, our job is to pause, wipe ourselves off with compassion and grace and prepare for the next wave to come.

Because there is more,

Lisa

Is there Me in Team? Coronavirus thoughts.

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I love team sports. I had kids so that I could be a soccer mom. Selfishly I can’t wait to host a carbo load. I love team sports because I believe that they teach kids important life lessons. I would have really benefited from being on a team.

I say that, because by nature, I am not a team player. Because of past trauma, I have a deep felt need for self preservation. My personality also feeds into that tendency. I can get really enamored with my own ideas and I hate to waste time. It is incredibly invigorating for me to come up with a good idea and just run with it.

It has never been more important than now to be a team player. In order to flatten the curve, we need to stay home. If not for us, we do it for the greater good.

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But it’s hard for me to think about the greater good when by 1:00 pm everyday I feel like I’m going to internally combust. I know it seems contrary, considering I have a suppressed immune system, but I’m really struggling to stick to the current shelter-in-place recommendations. I’m also an extrovert and an activator. I feel depression settling in when I’m home for more than 4 hours.

So the question I am asking myself is: How do I survive, or even thrive, in this season with the greater good in mind?

As I ask myself that question, I’m reminded of what it means to be a team player. I’ve heard over and over that there is no “I” or “me” in “team”. I understand what people are trying to say, but I disagree.

I say that because the thing about being on a team is that it is not about you, but at the same time it is all about you.

Let me explain.

Each player on the team has a role. In order to be a valuable player on a team you have to excel in that role. In order to be effective in that role, it is going to take a lot of work on your part. Your team can encourage you and cheer you on, but ultimately it’s up to you to do the work necessary to excel in your role on the team. The team is only as strong as its weakest link.

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So in this season, where we need to be a team more than ever, what do I need to do to excel in my role on this team?

For me….

I need to prioritize exercise. I’ve always valued exercising. But in this season, it is no longer just a priority, it’s a necessity. It stabilizes my mood and emotions. In order to be present and available for my kids I need to be in a good space emotionally. 

-I have to see one person a day that is not my immediate family. I go for daily walks with my neighbors, family and friends. We meet at a park and we walk 6 feet apart from each other. I connect with people this way so I don’t put myself or others in danger, but after I walk I’m able to appreciate my immediate family so much more. I’m just better afterwards. 

-I need to feel productive. I really value being productive, being efficient and adding value to the world. Right now, I can’t do those things in the same way I would like to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do those things at all. I have started asking God to give me names each day of people I should pray for and for people I should reach out to. I’ve also started making lists of things to do. I even put things on there I have to do each day like “brush your teeth”. It is very type A of me, but it also shows me what I have accomplished in a day. Without this I can so easily feel like I have wasted the day away.

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Those are some things I am recognizing that I need to do to add value to the team. Without those things, I am crabby, selfish and depressed – therefore I have nothing to contribute.

What do you need to do to excel in your role on the team?

To many this mindset seems counter intuitive, selfish even. I am not saying that we do what is best for us when it is best for us. That is selfish. No I am saying, with being a team player as the top priority, what do you need to do to excel in your role? What do you need to do to be a valuable player on your team?

You can’t just ask those questions of yourself. A good teammate is always asking his or her teammates how they can help or support them. A good teammate knows that the team is only as strong as its weakest link. A good teammate knows that no matter how hard they train, their efforts will be in vain if they are the only one training.

So take a minute and ask yourself, what do you need to be a valuable member of the team? What you need will not be what I need. After you have a few answers then go to your people, your team, and tell them what you need. Ask if it is something they can encourage and support. Ask for input and adjust as needed. Then ask what they need to succeed in their role. Ask them how you can support and encourage them. Make a game plan and commit to each other as a team.

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We are playing a new game that doesn’t have a playbook. We are learning our roles as we go. We are going to stumble. We are going to step on each other’s toes. But I believe if each day we show up ready to go, prepared to excel – we will win this game.

As a team.

Because there is more,

Lisa