I like to motivate you…help you see the glass “half-full;” feel good about yourself; see the positive. Well, today’s post is meant to motivate us all…including me. Why? Well, mainly because the holidays are upon us and they are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed with the ones we love; however, many of you might find it a little difficult to celebrate the holidays. There are a number of reasons why any of us might feel a down during this time of year. Financial challenges; long distances between you and your loved ones; health challenges; or, the ending of a relationship, could be some of the possible curve balls of life that you may be facing. One thing that I fully realize is that, whatever, your particular circumstance, it is real and it is important. I think that we all agree that one of the most common reasons for holiday doldrums is the life-changing event of losing a loved one.
You see, on October 24, 2017, right around 12 noon, I received the dreaded phone call that we had lost our Father. We knew that it was coming. Daddy had suffered from the debilitating effects of dementia for more than four years. I will never forget that day in July 2010, when we laid my Grandmother (his Mother) to rest, after her long battle with dementia. It was later that day, when Daddy, my son, and I sat in his living room talking about how much he was going to miss Grandma, that he told me he thought he might be in the beginning stages of dementia because he could not remember anything. Over the next several years, he fought a valiant battle, but it was terribly difficult to see the once active, independent, hard-working, tall man, with the commanding voice, start to forget conversations, lose his independence, stop speaking, stop walking, etc. Daddy’s health had taken a marked turn for the worse, so we knew that he likely not be with us for much longer. I had been watching my phone like a hawk over the past couple of months. So much so, that when my stepmother dialed my number by mistake in the middle of a workday, such an indescribably-terrible feeling of dread came over me that I went into panic mode. While I was relieved that she had dialed me in error, I could not help but wonder how I would react when the call was not a mistake. The emotional roller coaster had become too overwhelming, so, I consciously decided to carry only my work cell phone with me as I ran from meeting to meeting on that fateful Tuesday.
At 12:26pm, when I darted into my office, between meetings, and saw that I had missed calls from my Mother and my Brother, I knew why they were calling. We laid him to rest on October 31, 2017.
Later that same day, I received another dreaded call. This time, it was to let me know that my dear Mother away from home had passed that afternoon from complications from breast cancer. We had adopted each other fifteen years ago when she joined my church’s ministerial staff. She had three sons, no daughters, and I was living four hours away from my Mother, so we adopted each other. I remember when I went to her Oncologist appointment to help her sort out the direction of her treatment. I had just visited her that previous Thursday evening, at the rehab center, before leaving town on Saturday, to see my Father. I had no idea that she had been rushed back to the hospital on Sunday, so when I returned to the center that following Monday after work to see her and take back some items that I had laundered for her, she was not there. Despite my calls to her cell phone and her home phone, there were no answers. Now I know that when she asked me during my visit if I knew that she loved me…that was her way of saying, “Goodbye.” I will miss her witty humor; her compassion for others; and her melodic voice that often moved us to joyful tears during Sunday church service. Her memorial service was on November 2, 2017.
The past several weeks have felt as if I have been stuck in a horrible dream and can’t wake up. Unfortunately, it is no dream. I really lost two precious people on the same day.
To say that it has been difficult is an understatement. Needless to say, I am relying heavily on my faith to guide me through this trying time. I truly know that God makes no mistakes. I also know that Daddy and Rev. “C” were weary and that they both fought the good fight. They both are now in a better place.
So, no matter what life challenges you may be facing right now, I ask you to join me in making a conscious decision to not let your circumstance get the best of you. Try taking the following steps to lift yourself above your feelings of sadness this holiday season:
- Have a good cry – Regardless of the reason for holiday season celebration damper, you are in a state of grief. You would be surprised how cleansing and freeing a good cry can be. Shed your tears so that you can begin the healing process. Let the tears wash away feelings of inadequacy, sorrow, loneliness, fear, anger, complacency, disappointment, and any other happiness busters.
- Be thankful for the awesome opportunity to live another day – Every new day that God allows us to witness and to be a part of, is a new opportunity. Take a deep breath and let your attitude of gratitude shine.
- Do something nice for yourself – Many times when we are feeling down, we fail to treat ourselves to pick-me-ups. Get a massage; read a good book; take a free online course; have lunch with your best friend;
- Nurture something in your loved one’s memory, if losing a loved one is one of your current challenges to a joyous holiday season – for me, I find that nurturing a plant in my loved one’s memory helps me heal. By doing so, you will always feel as if you have a part of them with you.
- Allow yourself time – You won’t feel better overnight, but if you take one day at the time, you will eventually get used to your “new normal” and find the mental and emotional strength to push on.
- Talk to someone – Talk to a friend or family member about the feelings that you are having. This can be quite freeing and refreshing as well. Talk to someone at your place of worship. If you know someone else who is struggling to have a blessed holiday season, try to encourage them. It is often therapeutic to take our focus off ourselves and focus on trying to make another person’s life better. We often also gain great fulfillment from making them feel better. Another great solution could be to take advantage of your employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). They are a valuable resource that is often a free benefit.
- Make them and yourself proud – If your motivation to make long-lasting consistent changes is to live a healthier life…do so as a tribute to those whom we have lost. Step out in faith and give it a try. Be proud! By continuing to live, you are honoring your loved one. Be proud of yourself for doing something to be proud of.
So, in loving tribute to my Father, the late William Wilson “Bill” Benjamin; and my other Mother, the late Rev. Andra Corinaldi, I will live the full life that they would want me to live because every new day is truly a blessing.