Saturday, 21 January 2017

Back to Basics...

I know a lot of people who are grieving for loved ones right now... and I'm sure that there are even more of you out there who are dealing with it too. It is a life passage that most of us face at some point.... and thereafter on more numerous occasions as we age and see loved ones pass on. It's an experience that is similar.. but also very different for each person, however, there are a few common things that may help "everyone"  while passing through the hurt and healing. 

A month or two before Heni passed away.... I found myself having to revert "back to basics" in practically all areas of life. In the time that I had as respite, I was trying to work on a number of things in order to try to feel somewhat human and keep going.  Things like diet, sleep, fitness... I had reverted back to a "begin to run program", in hope that it would build up stamina and strength again. It was the same with "weights".... I had reverted to the basic movements with teeny weeny dumbbells or even no weight at all! It was about all I could muster as I was dealing with the consequences  (burn out) that being a long term carer often brings. 
I also found that I was having to rely upon faith.... A LOT .... faith... that first/basic principle of the gospel that gets you trusting and relying on the unseen and unknown.... (a useful principle especially in our circumstances)... having faith that everything in our lives would all work out .... having faith that we would have enough help when we needed it most,  having faith that I would have enough energy to make it through each day. With that faith came a "handing over to God" each days difficulties, and trusting and hoping that He would support and guide each decision that would come along... and learning to  have faith in heaven's plan and timing.

Now in the aftermath of the funeral and in the few months that have followed, I'm finding that life is even MORE BASIC. It feels like I have had to go right back to starting point in a number of things. 
I've joined a local Pilates class (where my body is being stretched and strengthened in all the core movements)..... I'm back to walking instead of running (while my back heals and realigns after so many years of lifting and handling Heni).... and each new day I remind myself to eat properly (by cooking from scratch), breathe and get the sleep my body needs.  Faith is also being exercised in a greater degree than before as I rely even more on the enabling, uplifting help of heaven to overcome the waves of grief, to become stronger (physically and emotionally) and to navigate a way into a different life ahead. I rely on Grace being supplied, as and when the ups and downs of my days may demand (I just love the lyrics in that song...How Firm a Foundation!)  

 It's a certainty that we will all experience grief at some stage and even if its not around right doubt we all have those moments in life when it is just too complex, too fast, too full or too emotionally fraught to find a moment to even think.  It's at times like this, that it may be helpful to narrow your sights, pull in the reins and concentrate on the next step or two ahead... even if you don't know where those steps are leading. 

We are all ultimately trying to "do" and "be" better.... but that is often mistaken for constant frenzied activity that leaves you feeling exhausted.....grief can leave you feeling frazzled too.  You can also find yourself on a guilt trip which leaves you feeling like you should be doing more and more or snapping out of the flunk that you may find yourself in. It's At times like this when greater faith and a heightened awareness of what you need can help.  It's useful to know when you should "cut that extra social appointment"..... "be satisfied with a less than Olympic workout"  and replace it with a walk or a chill out on the sofa.  Its important to tune in to the times your body and mind are screaming out to catch some much needed zzzz'z in a nap .... or when you need a concerted effort to get to bed earlier each night. We all really need to learn how to say "No" sometimes.

And so... we have to reassess  and find our what our priorities are.... and work on those... after all there is a time and a season for everything.... even one to grieve. 
Time does heal... eventually... but it will never be the same...and it often takes a different pace for everyone to find out what that new  "norm" (if there is such a thing) is going to be like. Sometimes people may expect too much from you way too soon..... when it feels like you are still not capable of doing the basics yet.  It is at such moments that it's good to be reminded of the following:- 

 Mosiah 4:27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

 The passage through grief is a time when you have to know (or at least come to learn) your limits,  how to maintain your boundaries and priorities and trust your instincts as to what is needful.  It's important to remember that things will change and can be re-assessed and adjusted as necessary when the time is right. It's unfortunate though, that we  often have to go through these very hard experiences to learn these boundaries and begin to have faith in our instincts!

 Going back to basics is really "simplifying" and taking the noise and frenzy out of life.... focusing on the core essentials, which (like my Pilates) allows you to build up your foundation again before moving on to other things. Simplifying is not however always synonymous with "easier".  Grief is never easy and saying "no" is often not very easy either.
So, If you are  currently navigating your way through the tides of a bereavement... I wish I could first just give you a hug... and then...I'd encourage you to be easy on yourself and give yourself the gift of time to heal. Time to concentrate on those things that are most needful and important at this point in time.
Also I would wish for you the gift of increased faith as you hand over each days difficulties to God, trusting and hoping that He will support and guide each of your decision ... as  you learn to trust in His plan, His timing  and His never ending love and concern for you.


I'd like to  invite you to join me soon to learn more about one of the "basic tools" that I have been practicing recently to re-tame my thoughts and emotions.... in particular regarding Heni and my journey through the process of grief.

Hope to see you back here real soon.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

2017...relaxing in to your own pace... of grief....

I wasn't really looking forward to Christmas this year... but I did my best on the run up to the big day to prepare for the rest of the family so that we could all hopefully have a nice relaxing and somewhat "fun" time together...However, It's been difficult to get into the jolly mindset when most of the time all I feel is a sense of grief. 
I haven't felt much like writing over this period either....mostly I've just wanted to hide away, be quiet and contemplate... but I did try to spend time with my lovely family ... 

We watched films....ate food.... (and no I'm not drowning my sorrows away in the pic below... its ginger beer!)

 .... we sweated out all the Christmas treats by sitting in The Sauna together (in our new sauna hats that my son and daughter in law gave as gifts...  (we can now officially be called the Gnome family!) 

We visited the lights at Kew gardens 
(A Gift  of light and love and togetherness from Heni to the family....she would have loved it...)

...and  we have been on some lovely scenic walks.

We played games by the fire indoors....

...roasted marshmallows over the fire pit outside...

...and spent some time catching up with a few friends.  Surprisingly,  I also did have that opportunity to hide away and spend some "chill out and contemplate" time enjoying reading a few books.... something I haven't had a chance to do very much of lately.

 One of the books I read was a gift I received for's called the Little book of Hygge (sounds like Hooga but I like to call it Hoogy!) by Meik Wiking.  

I had never heard the term before but as I look around now, it seems to be talked about everywhere. The Danes are experts at it.... and at this time of year (mid winter ..... although the "hoogy" factor can be felt year round) it is particularly good time to practice it.... if that's what you do!? The main idea is one of creating cosyness, comfort and intimacy and enjoying the little pleasures in life... such as the simple experience of drinking cocoa by the fire and being in the presence of people we love .... it is having a sense of atmosphere and the feeling of "home".
 I guess without realizing it... our family, fire and candlelit time this year all created a very Hygge Christmas... the only major Hygge element still missing was Heni (see her story here here and here )... and she was noticeably absent. 

 It was a different Christmas..... I enjoyed the "highs" of all the other "hoogy" moments.... but I was also very conscious of her lack of presence this year... the lack of her rolling in the wrapping paper, her noises and giggles as she would play with her toys while we all opened gifts.... her smiles and hugs and her traditional nap time....sleeping peacefully on the mattress under the lights of the Christmas tree....she taught me a lot about slowing down and being here and now.

 I learned a few more things about slowing down from the other book I managed to read  (one my son was in the middle of reading)....  In Praise of SLOW by Carl Honore.
paradoxically, in my race against the clock and hurry to read the book I would try to cram in a few chapters here and there whenever he left it lying around (before he took it back home again!

 We live in a society where everything is speeding up faster and faster .......Carl points out that we are all becoming overextended in all areas of life as the increasing pace of life is becoming the norm and illness and burnout are on the rise.... as we fill ourselves with the busyness of life there is no space left to take time to look at the deeper questions of life or to check in with how we are feeling.... physically or emotionally.  
We skim over or hide the irritations, frustrations, stress and signs of disharmony and disorder that go hidden... bubbling under the  surface...
With the emergence of today's lifestyles of speed walking, speed dialing, speed dating, speed reading and all other forms of speed.....the reader is reminded for the need and blessings that come with slowing down. 

 Reading this book brought a timely intimation to me that you can't rush grief can't just skim over the emotions that loss and death bring and try not to feel them. Hiding them or boxing them away will only mean they will rear their ugly head again further down the line in the future.  Likewise, everyone's pace is different... and there is nothing wrong with that. It's important to "find your own pace" in grief and move forwards only as and when you are ready. 

So the "Hoogy" and the "Slow" this Christmas was just what I needed to emphasize to me the importance of not feeling guilty, for still "feeling" Heni's loss so acutely. It was a lesson to trust the process, and that just because others may be further ahead than me, it is still very early days... and it's all ok. 
Now, when others ask me how I'm adjusting, I can tell them that I'm going with the flow and taking the TIME that I need right now to move through the various stages of grief... that it's a journey to be experienced and not skipped over and fast tracked... that there is something for everyone to learn in the process and passage through it... and that by going too fast you can miss the lessons
I'm also trying to take the time to look for the many "hoogy" factors and to enjoy the moments of comfort, cosyness and love and togetherness with family and friends... and appreciate and savour the simple pleasures of life that are still all around me. 

Its been a very sad time these past few months for the Trisomy groups... there have been a lot of our children called home (and others who have lost loved ones in the wider community). Amid all the loss however, I hope that you all had a relaxing and hygge Christmas and enjoyed your precious families ...and... I pray that as you move forwards into this new year ahead you can feel confident to live life at your own beat and not feel pressured to move at someone else's pace... 

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, "hoogy" and "slow" new year.

Until next time



Thursday, 22 December 2016

A different kind of Christmas

I've just finished looking through a mountain of photographs of Christmas over the years..... and have been re-living  a life time of fun moments that we have shared together as a family with Heni. I am so grateful to have all of these memories.

This Christmas it's going to be different without her.... and we will be making new and different memories... and in that "different" kind of Christmas celebration I am looking for ways to honour and to remember her in our family festivities this year. 
One of the things I want to do, is for everyone to write a letter to Heni to put in her's still hanging above the fire place...just like usual....
 In years ahead it will become a family history treasure to look back on and read about the things that we have done during the years. It will be a blessing to read of ways in which we have noticed Heni's influence and legacy in our lives.

I can't quite believe that its been two months since I last saw her beautiful smiley face and I can't help but think of her and imagine her reactions as I see the lights and the sparkles that are all around.
I am trying to see things anew.... with new eyes.... eyes that Heni would look see the bright colours, the shiny baubles that reflect the light, to see the toys and the magic. 
Just the other day I had the urge to buy a pink fluffy flamingo because I knew she would  have loved it. Heni enjoyed all of the Christmas presents she would receive..........but more that that, she liked and "preferred" the gift of time and presence.... to be with you, love you and be fully present.

 So with that in mind, I am trying to see people as I think Heni would see them and I try to imagine in my minds eye the smile of joy that would cross her face when anyone would draw near. It was the gift of being "present" that she would bestow on everyone. 

Heni was a joyful soul.... but she didn't reserve her joy for Just this time of year though.... every day was like Christmas to Heni.... she had a smile that was like an excited child awaiting the fun and frivolities and present opening that lay ahead and she gave the gift of her full presence each and every day.  

Capturing joy seemed easy for Heni... if was a gift... a precious gift. One that I wish that I could have  in my stocking this year and switch on at any time and place...  no matter what. 
Joy seems to be counter clockwise to grief... but I am learning that even amid those waves of emotion and pain that lap up on the shore of life... I am noticing that there are still moments of joy and gratitude amid the ebb and flow of the tide.

I am looking forward to the family being together in a few days time..... and in that time,  hoping to practice the gift giving of being present like Heni always did. I am a novice compared to "H" but I am hoping to get a little better. 
I also have a goal to notice the moments of joy that arrive .... and in that, being thankful for Heni's legacy of love that she left behind for us to work and build upon. 

I hope that in your Christmas celebrations this year ... no matter what is going on in your life... you can look out for those joyous moments too.... and enjoy them no matter how fleeting.  Remember to give those you love a hug and tell them that you love them .... and why not give a little "presence" giving  too.... life is too short not to.

I  hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas..... and in your present and presence giving, AND joy noticing, I hope that you will also take time out to remember the reason for the season and look to the source of those gifts.

From me to you, and from my family to yours, I wish you the very best of times...
Have a very joy filled Christmas...

Much love


Sunday, 27 November 2016


This week we enjoyed a family day out to Waddesdon Manor.... a local National Trust property near where we live. We've visited it every year for a number of years now and look forward to it as part of our Christmas traditions and a way of getting us in to the festive spirit. We enjoy going to see the house, trees, lights and doing some Christmas shopping at the wooden cabin "market" set in the grounds around the Manor. 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Equipment quandries!

The hardest thing to cope with after the death of a special needs child is adjusting to the lack of their presence and love being in your home. After so many years of caring for them.... the adjustment to their "void"  and to a different "way" of life is very slow and awkward.
It's made harder by the mountain of equipment that's left behind... a living memorial of that life, each and every day it remains there.
It's not that you don't want to be reminded of  your precious child... you want to remember every smile, every sound, every hug and nuance of who they were... AND be reminded of the joy, the lessons  and the good times that they brought to you. 
What you don't want, is the remembrance of all the fights for care and equipment.... and the headaches and energy spent on trying to source and meet those needs... 
Having to walk daily past a room still full of those reminders is painful.  

Saturday, 12 November 2016

100% ?

 It's the middle of the night and again I sit here not sleeping... thinking of Heni.... analyzing her life and the life we've lived with her over the past 21 years.
Earlier this evening I was looking at photos of the children when they were all younger... reminiscing of old times and feeling a sense of sadness. It was a feeling of having missed out on seeing my babies grow and having missed a lot of their childhood because of the time that it took to care for Heni's needs... especially in those early years. 
I've also been missing her and feeling a sense of guilt for not being able to give out 100% throughout those years to either her or my other kids. 

However, as I have been sitting here, a picture crossed my mind of years earlier (prior to any children), when I would go down to the athletics track to train. My coach would line us all up with a schedule each evening and would vary the workouts on each training session. Sometimes in the winter it would be a slow, longer run to build up stamina. Sometimes it would be a weights session to build strength. As the seasons changed so would the workouts. Sometimes he would give a pyramid of runs (3 x 2oom, 2x300, 1x400  and then back down again) and each run would have a percentage exertion level to aim for. 
As time for competition approached, the training distances shortened and the intensity increased to build speed and agility... but always the exertion level would only ever range between 60-90%.... we were only ever asked to give out 100% effort in the odd sessions during the few month prior to the competition ....followed by a light few weeks.... and then during the race itself. We were never asked to give out 100% effort  for 100% of the time. That would have been totally unrealistic and even dangerous....resulting in  fatigue, burnout and injury.

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