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Posts tagged ‘health’

Here is an excellent, in-depth article about grief, loss, and trauma from Western Governors University.

April 10, 2020

TEACHING & EDUCATION

Helping children with grief.

Sad child face

Grief is the body’s natural response to a loss. Historically, there have been five general stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Going through the five stages can be expected and understood, but the grieving process is individualistic; you can experience one of the stages, all of the stages, or none of the stages because all people deal with loss differently — including children.

According to Bereavement: Reactions, Consequences, and Care, the impact of trauma in children depends almost entirely on the life stage that the event occurs during. The same book goes on to say that imposing adult grieving models on children’s lives has led to confusion and a generalized misunderstanding of how children grieve.

Particularly when it comes to coping with death, children have a unique way of processing and dealing with their grief. Oftentimes the first step to helping children grieve is ensuring that they understand the concept of death, and that there aren’t lingering misconceptions. In an article written by Mark Speece, he indicates that a child’s concept of death varies due to an inability to grasp the following terms:

  1. Universality: an understanding that all things that live and, eventually, die.
  2. Irreversibility: an understanding that once something has been declared dead, the death is irrevocable (aside from personal beliefs such as reincarnation, resurrection, etc.).
  3. Non-functionality: an understanding that when someone dies, the life-defining functions of a physical body cease to exist.
  4. Causality: an understanding of the relationship that everything has an origin: cause and effect.

In order to help children grieve, you need to understand the areas in which they are struggling. The same article by Speece elaborates on the terms of death and why children struggle with these concepts:

  • Universality: children are more likely to think that death is avoidable, and not universal. Overall, an inability to grasp that death can occur at any time, to anyone.
  • Irreversibility: children are sometimes unable to understand that death is permanent, not temporary or reversible through some means of intervention (either medically, or divine).
  • Non-functionality: children may have trouble comprehending that someone — or something — that has passed is unable to perform functions (both internally and externally).
  • Causality: children can oftentimes misunderstand the cause of death by unknowingly creating unrealistic causes of death (i.e. poor behavior), or fixating on specific concrete cases of death specific (poison, precise incidents).

It is important to take an individualized approach to helping children cope with grief. A great way to think of the grieving process is noted in Psychology Today, which says that “grief is like a fingerprint.” Yes, everyone has a fingerprint (like most individuals understand some form of grief) but every fingerprint is unique and unparalleled (similar to how grief varies from person to person).

How to help a grieving child as a teacher.

Empathy and creating an inclusive classroom are some of the top qualities and skills of a good teacher that go hand in hand with helping children cope with grief. While teaching degrees aren’t the same as counseling degrees, it is important for educators to learn how to be attentive to their students both physically and emotionally. Understanding the balance of too much and too little support can seem overwhelming, so creating an understanding of best practices can include the following tips:

  • Help younger students understand what has happened. While it is not a teacher’s responsibility to have the initial conversation, it is important for educators to reinforce the basic realities of death. Avoid using confusing ways of talking about death such as “passed away” or “deceased;” rather, be direct and reinforce the idea of death by using straight-forward approaches to the topic including words like “death” or “died.”
  • Reassure students that they can talk with you. Encouraging students and reminding them that they can speak to you openly can be a crucial resource for a grieving student. Leave the invitation open; by leaving the opportunity open, a child can approach and talk when they feel ready with little to no pressure.
  • Allow students to grieve in the manner that they choose. Some students will want to confide in anyone listening, while others would rather keep to themselves. Avoid making suggestions on how a student should grieve, and avoid telling a student they cannot grieve a certain way. How they cope may be extreme, but there are ways to manage extreme student behaviors.
  • Communicate with parents to get insight into the situation as a whole. Positive parent-teacher communication is crucial for the entirety of the education, but also specifically for insight into how the student functions best. Let the parents know of the various counseling resources available for the students, but also ask questions about how the child responds best, what things may evoke feelings, etc.
  • Provide structure and learning support groups. Keeping a child busy with structured activities can help students grieve while they are also learning. There is a lot going through a child’s mind at any given moment (especially following a loss), so it is important to offer alternative learning spaces such as tutoring, additional support, as well as flexibility surrounding deadlines and normal educational expectations.

How to help a grieving child as a parent.

Parents have a steep responsibility in helping their children grieve. While a parent cannot take away feelings of loss, they can help build healthy coping skills alongside being a key figure to confide in. If you have more than one child, it becomes exceedingly important to keep in mind that grieving may look different between children. Regardless of how young or old the child is, it is important to consider a variety of coping methods that can help. Parents should consider the following:

  • Be direct and honest. Anything less than the truth and the absolute truth can cause more harm than good. Just as stated above, children often misunderstand death, so it is important to be literal. This does not mean you have to do so in a blunt, inconsiderate manner, but rather avoid euphemisms that downplay or muffle the concept of death. If this is the initial time that the topic of death is brought up, this is especially important.
  • Be developmentally considerate. How you approach helping a 17-year-old may look entirely different than how you attempt to help a 10-year-old.
  • Encourage questions. One way to help get an understanding of aspects that a child is struggling with, is to encourage them to ask questions. Encourage them to always ask questions as they arise.
  • Encourage feelings. It is important to encourage children to express their feelings. Since everyone grieves differently it is important not to critique the manner in which someone may choose to grieve. While it may not make sense to you, the child is vulnerable, and criticism may make them feel like they are wrong in doing so.
  • Validate feelings. When a child expresses anger or frustration, support and acknowledge their feelings and reiterate that their feelings are completely okay, valid, and maybe even shared. Creating an atmosphere where feelings are normal is critical.
  • Communicate with other adults. Explain the current situation to others when the child(ren) is out of your care (e.g. teacher, dance instructor, coach, etc.). Creating an open communication channel for people in authority can give them insight into why behavior may be happening, as well as giving the individual time to prepare ways they can help the child grieve. When you don’t communicate these things, you can be doing your child (and whoever the individual is) a disservice.
  • Lead by example. Do not try and hide your grief. Be expressive, and grieve alongside them. Acting tough and avoiding the pain you are feeling can make a child feel that they need to do the same thing. In some cases, it can be reassuring for children to see that being upset is okay. This also gives you the opportunity to show a child (or children) healthy ways of dealing with grief.
Help Parents Homeschool Kids

Grief in elementary age children.

Elementary-age children — typically ages 5 to 12 have unique emotional needs when it comes to dealing with grief. Although teachers with elementary education degrees are trained specifically to work with children in this age range, not every adult is. During this period, a large hurdle can be introducing the concept of death. Children struggling with grief within this age group may ask questions about the deceased individual such as “When is ___ coming home?” or “Where is ___?” so it is important to be ready about how you plan to approach that conversation. Some tips to consider when helping elementary-age children cope with grief are:

  • Reiterate that the death happened. Sometimes elementary-age children need to be reminded time after time that the person isn’t coming back.
  • Avoid half-telling, or half-truths when talking about loss. The time is confusing enough, so be direct.
  • Pay attention to children that are grieving by distancing themselves.
  • Encourage children to talk about it, or ask questions. Create an understanding that it is important to talk about death.

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief in elementary-age children, regardless of the type of loss:

  • Anxiety
  • Clinging
  • Developmental regressing
  • Academic struggles
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Focus issues
  • Guilt
  • Change in energy
  • Imaginary beings
  • Isolation

Grief in middle schoolers.

Middle school-aged children become more and more fixated on observing how other people are responding to death. They may pose questions such as “Are you okay?” and “How are you doing with everything?” while worrying less and less about themselves. It is common for individuals to mimic the mannerisms or role that the deceased individual had. They also may ask extreme questions surrounding death such as “If I do ___ will I die?” or “What if ___ happens?”

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief for middle-school children regardless of the type of loss:

  • Emotional extremes
  • Expression troubles
  • Blaming
  • New interests
  • Humor
  • Isolation
  • Guilt
  • Easily molded
  • Developmental regressing
  • Academic struggles

Grief in high schoolers.

It is common for high schoolers going through the grieving process to isolate themselves; in fact, they may appear like their normal self. They feel that expressing a certain emotion is a sign of weakness. This can become exceedingly true if they have younger siblings, or are considered the “man” or “woman” of the house. They feel new responsibilities, and will oftentimes distance themselves both from their feelings and people. Phrases such as “I’m fine,” or “Stop worrying about me,” are common.

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief for highschool children regardless of the type of loss:

  • Removed
  • Lack of academic drive
  • Bullying
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Trouble in school
  • Confrontational
  • Moodiness
  • Emotional outbursts and extremes
  • Irritability/short-fuse
  • Displaced anger
  • Lack of motivation
Father and son

Loss of a friend.

The loss of a good friend can feel the same — if not worse — than the loss of a family member. It is important not to downplay this death as anything less than the loss of a family member. If the death was sudden and unexpected, a lot of questions can arise, and a child’s stress level can spike drastically. When a child loses a friend, it is important to address the situation. Call attention to what happened, then use your body language, and verbal language to indicate that you are there to listen, to answer questions, and to be a shoulder to cry on.

Loss of a family member

The loss of a family member can oftentimes be one of the hardest and most traumatic experiences that a child goes through. The important thing to consider is the relationship of that family member, and how close they were (both locationally, and relationally), can make a large difference in how to cope with the death. You can expect that when a mother — that is part of the child’s everyday life — dies, it will evoke a different response and set of needs than when a great aunt that the child(ren) had only met once passes. Be direct when having conversations about the family members death. Be okay with silence. You do not need to force conversation, and giving time to process things can give children time to feel, ask questions, and express themselves.

Loss of a pet.

The relationship between a child and their pet is something that is truly unique and one-of-a-kind. In some cases, the pet may have been their very first friend in life. Many children feel guilty for the death of a pet, and they obsess over things that they could have done differently to avoid the death. Sometimes the loss of a pet can be a more intense grieving process than the loss of a human. There are some things you can do to help a child with their pet loss, these include:

  • Avoid downplaying the loss of a pet. This may be the first experience with loss, and this type of loss can be deep, personal, or could be emotionally hurtful for a child.
  • Talk to the child about their feelings surrounding the loss. Ask questions, encourage the child to ask questions as well
  • Create a memorial (e.g. burial ceremony, sit around telling stories, make a memorial clay paw mold, etc.).
  • If you choose to get another pet, let the child know (no matter how long ago the death occurred) that the new pet will never replace the old pet.

Loss of a classmate or teacher.

The loss of a classmate or teacher can be a very traumatic event for a child. Whether in high school or preschool, these are the faces that they spend the majority of the day with. Teachers and classmates can both have big impacts on the life of a child, so it is important to treat the loss of a classmate or teacher like any other type of loss.

Be direct and be patient, allowing them time to think and to ask questions. Encourage conversation, ask them about their relationship, and just be there for them.

Talking about suicide with a child.

When a child loses someone as a result of suicide, there are specific, unique concerns to bear in mind that vary depending on the age of the children. The importance of mental health awareness in schools is crucial, and so is talking about mental health awareness at home. In an article titled “Experts Explain How to Talk About Suicide With Kids By Age, Deborah Dilboa claims that it is important to talk about suicide with children for three reasons:

  1. Children deserve truth. Lying or hiding the truth from children in order to protect them can cause more harm than good in the long run.
  2. Mental health conditions can be genetic, so if a family member takes their own life, it becomes exceedingly important to talk about mental health, and give children accurate information.
  3. Hearing (and talking) about suicide and its impact on others is something that is good for all individuals to talk about — regardless of whether a suicide has pressured the conversation.

The same article goes on to give tips and suggestions for talking about suicide with children by age. The breakdown goes as follows:

  • Preschool – Kindergarten: Stick to the basics and keep it simple. Providing the foundations of what suicide is, and the specifics of the occurrence is not necessary at this age unless they are explicitly asking.
  • Ages 7 – 10: Offer truthful, concise answers. This is still considered an age group that doesn’t need all the details, but this is a good time to introduce suicide as someone dying from a disease, or an illness stemming from depression. This age needs truth, but not an overwhelming amount.
  • Ages 11 – 14: Be more direct and concrete. Talking about suicide during this age is more crucial because pre-teens are starting to become more aware, and some are experiencing mental health issues, or mood dysregulation that elicits some sort of coversation. Enter the questions by asking the child what they understand about the situation, and enter the conversation where they are.
  • Ages 15 – 18: This is the age where you switch from hypotheticals. Using phrasing such as “if you or a friend” changes to “when you or a friend.” During this age, teens are often distant and do not want to talk to parents about this, but so it becomes important for parents to let teens know that their feelings are completely normal, as well as offering resources available to them (e.g. counselors, family friends, prevention centers, etc.).

If you — or someone you know — are at risk of suicide, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “TALK” to 741741.

Coping with the trauma of witnessing death.

Coping with loss when an individual has witnessed death takes special considerations, tips, and approaches. Regardless of age, children may experience the following effects from the trauma of witnessing death:

  • Fear
  • Clinginess
  • Immobility
  • Nightmares/night terrors
  • Unfounded fears
  • Irritability
  • Academic struggles
  • Sleep troubles
  • Flashbacks
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Suicidal thoughts

Coping with these various effects requires extra reassurance and support following the traumatic event. Helping children cope with trauma should include the following considerations:

  • Minimize media exposure: The media can often cover material in a way that is more traumatizing for children. Avoid exposure to graphic images and videos, and if your child seems interested in the media’s coverage, watch alongside and fill in contextually as needed.
  • Engage your child: While you cannot force a child to talk, you can provide structure in order to be a key part of emotional healing. Provide ongoing opportunities to talk and encourage conversation while validating feelings. By and large, create a safe area to feel, express, and ask questions.
  • Encourage physical activity: Burning off adrenaline, and releasing endorphins (caused by physical exertion) can help children sleep better at night as well as help taking a child’s mind off of the traumatic event.
  • Create a healthy diet: Nourishing the body in a healthy manner affects an individual’s mood and ability to cope with the stresses of a traumatic event. Cook more meals from home to promote whole, minimally-processed food. In doing so, more opportunities for conversation arise, and you can promote healthy food choices by eating the same diet.
Child playing on tablet

Addressing the emotional needs of a child.

A death — no matter the type of loss — can be emotionally draining, confusing, and frustrating for a child. While addressing the loss of a relationship, you need to address certain feelings. It becomes exceedingly important to know of the different emotional needs of grieving children to be aware of. Like dealing with all types of grief, the emotions that children feel following loss vary from person to person, but the following are common emotional needs of children that warrant addressing:

  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Sadness
  • Stress

Acknowledging and validating these feelings is important to help these feelings turn into something positive. As current research evaluates stress and mental health of Generation Z, it’s obvious that mental health is of vital importance and it’s crucial to learn to validate and accept emotions to help younger generations. These are the feelings that they are experiencing following the loss of a loved one, so it is important to normalize them, be mindful, and encourage conversation surrounding each.

Healthy management of childhood grief.

There are many efforts that a parent, teacher, or another figure of authority can do to help a child who is experiencing grief. Each grieving process is individualized, and ongoing, so it is important to be aware of the ways you can contribute to the healthy management of childhood grief.

How to have a conversation about grief.

How a child reacts to having a conversation about grief will always vary, so regardless of how children grieve, there are ways parents and other adults can support them. According to a document written by American Academy of Pediatrics, “After a Loved One Dies — How Children Grieve and How Parents and Other Adults Can Support Them,” they write that while explaining death to children:

  1. Speak frankly and directly. Use word choice such as “dead” or “died.”
  2. Check back with your kids after giving them some time to process in order to make things exceedingly clear.
  3. If a child seems reluctant to talk, respect their space and check back later.
  4. Encourage feelings and questions.
  5. Allow all expressions.

Coping with loss in the short-term.

Coping with loss in the short-term may entail things such as conversational coping. The beginning stages are generally focused on creating understanding, grieving, and processing. These short-term stages are the foundational pieces that create the basis for healthy coping mechanisms, and for the groundwork leading into long-term coping strategies.

Coping with loss in the long-term.

Long-term coping strategies for loss are focused on moving on, healing, and creating normalcy. This stage is less involved with creating the foundational pillars, and focuses more on moving on. This phase often includes counseling, new hobbies, reminiscing, re-visiting a gravesite/spreading ashes (if applicable) and other steps towards letting go.

Resources.

There are various resources that are important to be aware of when learning how to manage childhood grief in a healthy manner. Some examples include:

If you’re studying to become a teacher or if you’re a parent, it’s important to be as prepared as possible to help children. Particularly when it comes to grief and death, these situations can creep up unexpectedly, so it’s important to be prepared before that happens.

 

Getting Care As You Age

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How to Get the Care You Need in Old Age.
Very useful guest post by Harry Cline.

Most Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point as they age. That could mean residing at a nursing home or seeking home care, both of which are among the wide variety of solutions available to meet the needs of the elderly. The problem is the costs, which can be frightening.

A private room in that aforementioned nursing home? That runs an average of over $8,000 a month, while a home health aide would set you back over $4,000. In some extreme cases, the total price of such support and services grows into the millions. Wow.

So, what’s a financially-responsible person to do in the face of such financial challenges? Plan. Here’s a breakdown on how to assess your basic needs and pay for care.

Do Your Research

The first step is learning what services are available. The most basic level is visits from friends and family or custodial care at home. There’s also adult day care, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. What you need depends on your level of health along with whether you suffer from a chronic condition and its severity.

Assess Your Health Risks

It’s tantamount to looking into the future. However, the likelihood of certain diseases can be gauged based on your lifestyle, current overall health and family history. If you have a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s, for example, you are more likely to develop this form of dementia, and the same goes for some cardiovascular conditions.

Make Lifestyle Changes

The risk of falling ill can be reduced through exercise and a better diet. There’s no simple recommendation as far as what to eat, though Elders’ Helpers recommends nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains. As far as getting your body in motion, choose something you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, cycling or long walks on the beach.

Modify Your Home

This not only prevents injury, but allows you to stay there for longer and save money on costly assisted living and nursing homes. Some adjustments include installing railings on both sides of the stairs as well as automatic lighting to avoid nasty falls when you wake up in the middle of the night. You should also remove loose rugs and carpeting to enhance mobility and safety.

Now, we’ll move on to how to pay for all that. Bear in mind that the earlier you start, the better, and some options aren’t even available after retirement or a diagnosis with a severe medical condition.

Get the Right Insurance

Specifically, long-term care insurance. As implied by the name, it covers the cost of home care, assisted living and nursing homes, though the premiums can be high, averaging $2,700 a year, according to information cited by the AARP. That could be a worthwhile investment, though, if there’s a history of serious health conditions in your family.

Use Your Living Benefit

That means the living benefit rider in your life insurance, if you have one. If not, your insurer may be able to add one to your policy, in which case you would be able to draw from your death benefit to pay for medical expenses. Again, this could be a great option to have if you’re at high risk of chronic illness.

Put Money In Savings

Take this step before retirement with a health savings account. Both you and your employer make contributions, but the money stays with you when you’ve finished working. It’s tax-free when used for medical expenses, making it an attractive option along with high-deductible health plans.

Tap Into Your Property

You can do that via a home equity line of credit. This financial instrument allows you to withdraw money with your property serving as collateral, and offers a simpler alternative to a reverse mortgage, with lower associated costs. Both are common means of securing cash for long-term care, and which one’s right for you depends on your circumstances.

Planning for your care is not always easy, but you’ll breathe a sigh of relief when you’re done knowing that your future medical care is assured. Get started as soon as possible.

Image via Pixabay.

I Couldn’t Breathe

Anxiety Girl by Lacy London.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Some people’s reality as fiction, and fictional fears may become reality. Anxiety Girl is told by Sadie Valentine, as her world feels like it is falling apart. She describes her symptoms to the pharmacist. “My chest became really tight like someone was squeezing me from the inside. My head started to pound and I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t catch my breath, it was like I was drowning. I really thought I was going to die.” Ms. London’s imaginary character is a reflection of what many experience.

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The author states in the prologue that she wanted to write a fictional story that dealt with a real-life situation, one that she has experienced herself. She does so with insight, interest, and flare. Sadie is lucky to have a close friend, Aldo, who is also her roommate. He sticks by her through thick and thin, as she begins to feel as if her world is turning upside down and she’s going to fall off. She thinks everything is fine, and that it is the breakup with her boyfriend that triggers her intense fear and helplessness. It’s not.

Characters in the story seem like people you might know if you live in Chelsea (London), and have the luxury of time on your hands to be creative, hang out with friends, and go out dancing and drinking every night. That is what Sadie attempts to do after the breakup, with one man after another, and one drink following the last one. No matter what she does to avoid, or numb, her feelings, takes a toll, and it doesn’t work. After a scene in a restaurant, she begins to spiral downwards, and doesn’t know what to do.

Degrees of anxiety and depression are experienced by countless individuals throughout the world. It is nothing to be ashamed of, yet too often we are. Ironically, we have no problem telling someone, or seeking help for, a broken arm or flu, but when it is our mind and emotions that are effected, it becomes hush hush. Mental health is just one aspect of our overall health. With Anxiety Girl, Ms. London gives us a story that can help us know what anxiety feels like, that we aren’t alone, and that help is available.

RESOURCES:
Anxiety Anonymous
Work of Jodi Aman
Book by Constans

It Has Its Own Shape

Good Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss by Dipti Tait.
Review by Gabriel Constans.

411Up78mHJLGood Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss is rich with personal insight, and emotional intelligence. The following quote alone is worth the book’s weight in gold. “It’s a natural process, like the tides that come in and out on the shore of the ocean of your consciousness. Some are high; some are low. It’s about learning how to surf the waves of grief and not drown in the intense sorrow of loss.” Ms. Tait shares the story of her experiences and reactions to her mother and father’s deaths, and how she has learned to not only ride the waves, but to help others stand up on their own board.

The realizations of grief’s depth and width within our lives is written with clarity, honesty, and compassion. The author’s realization that loss is variable and unique to each individual, based on a myriad of factors and conditioning, is vital for acceptance and healing. “A grieving period is individual to the person who grieves. It has its own shape, form and identity based on belief systems, personal experiences and our own unique programming.” This is so true, and yet we often want a cookie-cutter method of how to proceed and navigate loss, without taking our uniqueness into consideration.

This book shares many aspects of grief that we may feel, or think about, but often do not acknowledge, let alone process. There are chapters on loneliness, guilt, shock, stress, and the reality of loss in our daily lives, as well as the possibility for growth. Ms. Tait provides a number of ways to work with our emotions and thoughts that surround grief. These include journaling, the Three P’s (Positive thought, Positive Actions, Positive Activity), moving into emotional intelligence, and the “No/Yes Principle”. “The self-healing process begins when a person can recognize that they want to change.”

There is little doubt that Good Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss is well worth your time and attention. You may also find that it helps you live with the pain of loss with a little more understanding, and acceptance, and provides that bit of support that perhaps you had not have realized was needed, or available. In addition to getting a copy of Good Grief, by Ms. Dipti Tait, you may also wish to take a look at my book Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter. It is similar to Ms. Tait’s, but told through the eyes of a number of people experiencing the death of a loved one, as well as my interactions with them.

More Alive Than Ever

Love: The Beat Goes On by Lynda Filler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51JCGXkVO9LHer life was flying, her heart was dying. Lynda Filler had a new job, loving family, and an almost too good to be true newly acquainted man she called “my cowboy”. There’d been for-warnings, “messages”, shortness of breath, but nothing really stopped her in her tracks (literally) until 2008 when she is told she has a form of congestive heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. Doctors told her it was a death sentence and she must “get your affairs in order”. Nine years later, after driving alone for many months between Canada and Mexico, visiting a shaman in Sedona, New Mexico, and realizing, “I was the change that needed to happen in my healing”, she wrote Love: The Beat Goes On. She’s more alive than ever.

I worked with hospice and bereavement programs for many years. Most people I met was dying, or had had someone die. Whenever I heard about someone having this or that “terminal” disease (or as the author calls it “dis-ease”), I accepted it as reality and tried to help them (and their loved ones) prepare as much as possible, and live whatever life was left to the fullest. Ms. Filler not only didn’t go along with the “program”, but somehow trusted something inside, and outside, herself. Against medical advice she took her own road. Her journey was not random. She learned to honor her intuition, take some risks, and, pardon the clique, follow her heart.

The chapters in this journal are most fitting and include – “The Widow Maker”, “Every Breath I Take”, “Swollen Heart”, “You Are Not Your Diagnosis”, “Red Rocks and Thunderstorms”, “Doctors and Doctorates”, “Is it a Miracle?”, and “It’s a Mind Game”. There is a perfect mixture of describing an event, what her personal reactions, thoughts, and feelings were about the experience, and her understanding and actions (if any) in response. Even though this pattern progresses throughout her writing, Lynda also becomes acutely aware that she is not what she writes about. “I have huge respect for all who survive anything, but I am not my story.”

Love: The Beat Goes On isn’t melancholy, or sanguine; it is as real as real can be. I know of few people who have learned to believe in something beyond themselves, willingly take steps into the unknown, and trust their own gut, as has Ms. Filler. Her life is example number uno of how to live a life of genuine belief and faith. Not in a religious sense, but with practical down-to-earth actions and spirit. This memoir is interesting for personal reflection, and provides a number of suggestions on how others can use what Ms. Filler learned for their own challenges. She doesn’t claim that her way is the only way, but her still being alive gives a lot of credence to what she has to say. “When I walked down from that vortex, my step was light. My heart beat normally again… and I knew it.”

 

Yadda Yadda Yadda

Just Sit: A meditation guide for people who know they should but don’t. By Sukey Novogratz and Elizabeth Novogratz. Illustrations by Niege Borges. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

412a0ezS86L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_If the writers of Just Sit could do so, they would reach out from the page (or screen) grab you by the throat, wrestle you to the ground, and hold you there until you started meditating – metaphorically speaking. That is what it seems to take for us to stop with all of our excuses (real and imagined) and actually do it. The Novogratz’s do everything in their power to convince us – joke, explain the benefits, teach us the fundamentals, and answer every possible question. “10 million Americans meditate, 6 million of them because their doctor told them to.” Let’s just pretend our doctor told us to and start doing it.

Whether you are just beginning, or are the oldest living meditator on the planet, the insights and instructions within make a lot of sense. It includes steps for how to meditate, questions that arise once we’ve started, and why we are reluctant to begin in the first place. “Meditation is a way of training your mind to slow down, to be responsive, not reactive, to bring you into your life and out of the constant chatter that’s going on in your head.” It is often this chatter, and mind-fuck, that keeps us from paying attention to our selves, or side-tracts us once we’ve begun. One of the most practical, and enlightening aspects of this book, is how to work with such thoughts, feelings, and actions. How to “observe” our experiences without believing we “are” our momentary experience.

Here are some of the questions people ask. If some of these sound familiar, join the crowd.  “I feel like a fool. How do I get past it?” “How does just sitting there help me train my mind?” “My mind is sharp already. So why would it need training?” “Can anyone meditate?” “What can I or should I expect?” “I understand prayer, but meditation seems a little out there for me.” “Can I do meditating wrong?” Here’s the crazy part. The answer to most of these questions is, “For meditation to work, you actually have to do it.” Go figure. What a wild idea. “The biggest secret to meditation is all you need to do is show up.” Like exercising the rest of the body, the mind needs attention. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes practice.

The introduction says, “Meditation Is Not for Sissies”, which reminds me of another book “Growing Old Is Not For Sissies”. In other words, it’s not always a bed of roses (though that could be quite thorny). One of the reasons people avoid meditation is because we begin to see what’s going on, and what we are telling ourselves about what’s going on (with our body, emotions, and thoughts). It isn’t always pleasant, but it is what it is. Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz invite readers to watch whatever arises. “In order to deal with your shit and have a way better life, you’ve got to be willing to show up and sit in the much.”

So, there you have it. Grab yourself by the scruff of the neck (gently), get a copy of this book and Just Sit. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s hard. It’s difficult. I don’t have time. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what to do.” Yadda yadda yadda. Stop believing you are what you think (or feel), and take a chance. What have you got to lose? As the author’s state so simply, and brilliantly, with one of the headings, “WARNING: Conditioning impairs freedom.”

P.S. The illustrations, and layout, match the words, and greatly enrich Just Sit with clarity, wit, and wisdom.

Down to Earth

41QaxKjEXjLFruits for Life by Dr. Amrita Basu
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Dr. Basu takes us on a journey, from A to Z, through the health benefits of fruit. “A guide to knowing what to put inside your body for a healthy you.” This ear, nose and throat MD, and medical college professor, provides just the right amount of information, without going overboard with complex descriptions and scientific jargon. It is also understood that she is only sharing information on what has been backed up by research, and clinical experience.

Fruits for Life is based primarily on foods available in India, and many are labeled in Bengali, and Hindi, as well as being written in English. Most of the primary fruits described however are accessible throughout the world in some form or fashion. Chapters include: Banana: Goodness in fruit, flower and stemFigs the miracle fruit: Younger youMango Malda and MeNuts About Nuts: To have or notEggplant and Allergy: Fruits you should knowIndian Gooseberry;  and Watermelon Wellness.

Regarding apples, “Packed full of fibers and micronutrients that keep your skin, teeth, heart, lungs healthy.” Speaking of figs, “What’s not to like about a fruit which prevents aging, keeps your rain, heart and bowels healthy?” Referring to figs, “Very high in vitamins C, E. K, foliates, carotenoids, potassium, fibre and antioxidants.” The benefits of citrus skins are highlighted, “Peels are storehouses of phytochemical, which can decrease blood pressure and prevent cancer, if research is to be believed.”

One of the benefits of Fruits for Life is the down to earth, next door neighbor, feel it has to it. Even though Dr. Basu doesn’t sound preachy, or snobish. It’s more like you’re sitting down for tea and you happen to ask her a question about apples, guava, or mangoes. She provides suggestions for how much fruit to eat, and how often, as well as some personal stories about her home village, husband, daughter Rai, and family. If you have any curiosity about the health benefits of fruit, this book will quench your thirst, and fill your belly, with mouth-watering morsels of information and knowledge.

Spice It Up With Heart

Nothing spices up a relationship like romance. Whether you’ve been together ten days, months, years or decades, sharing your love and desire for your partner is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Everyone wants to be adored and appreciated. You don’t need a lot of time and money or a doctorate in sexology, to keep the sparks flying. Here are a few ways to re-vitalize, reawaken and jump start your partnership.

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Place flowers that are visually stimulating on the table and change them several times a week. Roses’, tulips, daisies, forget-me-nots, gladiolas, sunflowers, carnations and orchids are just some of the vast array of plant species that provide sensual images of curves, softness, rising, opening and merging.

Take a TO DO list to your office or place of work. On the list write down special, thoughtful things you are going to do for your partner every night when you get home from work. Help with the dishes, finances, dinner or childcare; massage their neck and shoulders; stop and get them a card or gift; pick up a movie they’ve been wanting to see; or just telling them how much they mean to you.

Get up early in the morning, while your love is still sleeping and make them breakfast or go out and buy breakfast. Serve them breakfast in bed, with accompanying flowers and coffee.

Ride bikes, run, walk and/or hike together in the woods, meadows, valleys or parks. Keeping fit maintains your health and increases the odds that you will live longer to enjoy one another’s companionship.

Allow time for each of you to be with friends and family separately. Friendships outside the relationship are vital. Nobody can be everything or fulfill all your emotional or creative needs. Give your partner the freedom to interact and connect with others. Talk with your partner about your friends and family; let them know about their ups and downs. Though your time with others can be special, don’t keep secrets.

Join a club, church or civic organization together. Get involved. Help your selves and your partnership, while helping others. Remember that your marriage is dependent on many factors, including family, friends and community. Your relationship doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Honor the connections and lend a hand.

Give your partner a massage, from head to toe or vice-a-versa. Apply hot towels and massage oil. Try different scents and oils until you find one you both enjoy. Take your time. Intimately explore every muscle, curve and crevasse. Ask if you’re applying too much or too little pressure. Trade giving and receiving massages if you have enough time or alternate evenings for one, than the other. A good massage can be as sensual and pleasurable as any sexual act, especially when it is given with attention and care.

If time alone was the main ingredient for a loving partnership, than everyone would be in bliss at a specific given moment, but the spice that really keeps the fire’s burning is attention and care. It is the time and attention that make the difference.

If you feel that you aren’t getting the same kind of thoughtfulness in return, talk about it, don’t let it slide or take it to bed. There is nothing wrong with conflict, as long as you learn how to work with it and accept your differences.

Take a pause from thinking about your self and help your partner with their coat; give them a hug and kiss before you leave and when you return; check in throughout the day and ask about how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking; become an emotional barometer that tunes into your love’s weather station.

Remember what brought you together and attracted you in the beginning. Think about your deepest intentions. What do you want from your relationship? If it is money or sex, it will never be enough; if it is security and safety, you will never feel completely safe and secure; if it is to love and be loved, there is a good chance you’ll find it. Whenever you forget why you’re together, return to your heart.

Every Child Deserves Care

Because every child deserves care, love and hope.
From The Rwandan Orphan’s Project

The ROP is an orphanage and a center for street children located just outside of Kigali, Rwanda. We provide housing, clothing, food, health care, education and many other needs to nearly 100 vulnerable children from around Rwanda. We are able to provide these needs solely through the donations of individuals like you. The ROP has no corporate or foundational support and relies on the charity of ordinary citizens to achieve our goal of providing a safe place for children, free from desperation and the dangers of life on the streets.

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At the ROP we believe that education is our children’s best hope of escaping the strong grip of poverty. Because of this all of our children are either enrolled in our in-house catch-up school or go to secondary or vocational schools around Rwanda. We feel all children, regardless of the hardships they may have endured in the past, deserve a chance to make something of themselves.

Being a small, privately funded charitable organization we struggle every month to raise the necessary funds to provide for our boys. There are many ways you can help, detailed in our How You Can Help section.

Shona’s Sun Salutation

Shona’s Sun Salutation
by Gabriel Constans

This smoothie is one of our son Shona’s favorites. It is good for small children, since the ice-cold water helps to relieve some of the pain of teething. It also gets your motor running in the morning. It has a good aftertaste and “tickles the mouth.” Sunflower seeds add just the right amount of sweetness.

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Yield: 4 cups

2 cups ice-cold filtered water
2 large bananas
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup raisins

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Pour into glass or cup, drunk up, and stretch towards the sun.

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