"Too often we identify with our labels but labels limit us they are not who we truly are"
Labels Don’t Tell the Whole Story
Who you are is not defined by your name or even what you do in life for you are much more. Too often your self- worth is tightly tied to that of your work role or relationship label.
These are jigsaw parts adding color and meaning to the whole of who you think you are. You wear many roles and hats but they aren’t who you are either.
The Sum of the Whole
It’s through your roles and relationships that form the sum of your experiences that shape you. The cycle of life continues as you grow older and change, 0ften adding new labels as you evolve into the next stage of your life.
Your name is used first to identify who you are and the clan you belong to. You become a son or daughter, sister or brother, girlfriend or boyfriend showing the world more of who you are. Then you marry and a new label of husband or wife is given, followed next by mother or father.
No Longer Five
I’m no longer a girl but my age puts me in the category of senior or elder but underneath I’m still me. The same me I was at 5. Somehow I got buried under the weight of the labels I used to define me or hide behind. Doing so gave me a false sense of self-worth.
It isn’t until death or major loss occurs, the great equalizer and it doesn’t matter which label was used it doesn’t stop the cycle of life from occurring. Underneath we are all too human and with any loss, grief pays a visit and stays for a while, perhaps even a long while. It is during this time that we have an opportunity to shake off our labels as we are brought to our knees, for truly what do they matter?
A Crisis in Identity
We call out “who am I” when the label no longer fits.
A crisis in identity occurs when we allow our self-worth to be defined by labels. It is so important that we take care not to do so as our labels can easily be taken away.
Relationships can define us but we can become lost in them. Often meshing and melding with “others” in our lives to fit in. We do this also to be loved and feel loved. Each time we do so another piece of us is lost.
When someone or something is taken from us we hurt, we’re upset and a temper tantrum at the injustice is thrown. It is now we must learn how to live our lives without the person and our label attaching us. This is your opportunity to rediscover the YOU underneath. The one that got buried living life.
You may feel broken and worn down by this experience but there is a part of you that is always whole, is always you. It is simply waiting to be discovered again, dusted off and brought out into the sunlight to play and to dream again.
This is how grief coaching helps you find YOU after a loss.
If you’re ready to explore – please message me and let’s talk. Your life is waiting for you but needs your participation.
Grief is universal, but individually we all have our own unique way of handling our grief. Liz Ferrara DeStefano found very quickly after the death of her father, her own way was to create poetry. The words would come to and the poems were born.
Liza wonders if she did grieve enough, she feels she did, her heart no longer broken, admits she feels sad and does miss her Dad but the poetry helped her process her loss.
These are some of the topics we covered
How soon after your Dad’s death did you discover your creativity had been awakened?
What is it about this activity that worked so well for you?
Have your poems helped your family members?
How many poems have you written?
You are now a published author
Did you publish them as a legacy to your Dad or as part of your healing journey?
Liza’s poems not only helped her with her grief but have helped others she has shared or written them for. In creating her poems she feels she is connected to her Dad and this brings her comfort
It doesn’t always have to be painful or anguish but a quieter letting go, and into acceptance. When you listen to Liza’s story, you will find that family connection, closeness and supporting each other are what helped this family navigate their loss, their Dad, a husband, and grandfather. They are all changed in many ways and these changes have brought the family closer together.
Dr. Sarah Kerr is a Death Doula and a Ritual Healing Practitioner and in the interview, she shares her work with death & loss and how she helps others in their process at a soul level. Sarah states that “life gallops forward” and she helps to bring their soul along. The body and soul can sometimes get separated especially in times of sudden death, it is a primal shock to the person. It takes ritual or psychosocial support to help the person and soul accept and let go.
Here are some of the topics discussed
1. The scope of Dr. Sarah Kerr’s services at Soul Passages
2. How to have a good funeral and why you need one
3. Why honouring your family lineage is import
4. How parents can help teach their children to be comfortable around death and dealing with grief.
Dr. Kerr speaks compassionately about her experiences with death, dying and illness. Sarah speaks softly and with such dignity when she shares stories from her clients and families experiences. Her very presence of quiet authority, you know she is a person you’d want to support you during this time of transition.
Elizabeth Miller Purdon delighted all who knew or met her. For those who knew her well could say looking back over her long life, that she had loved, she had made a difference and she mattered. She lived by simple rules and lived her life by example.
These two guided her:
“If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it”
“Put a smile on your face, no one wants your troubles for they have plenty of their own”
She rarely complained about the life she had had nor as her health slipped in her advanced years. Instead, she lifted her spirits and those around her with her cheery disposition. I believe that is why she was so loved. She was a fighter, resilient, and a warrior woman but most of all was her big heart.
Family was so important to her and she strove to give her “girls” everything she had not. Mum did have a big family until the age of 6. Her mum died, her dad unable to cope with the two youngest, mum and her brother Jimmy discovered an orphanage was to became their home. She did lose touch with her brother but he did come to find her along with his best friend. The best friend later became our Dad.
The Past Remained There
Mum never spoke about her past, preferring to keep it locked away in her own personal vault. Her past being too awful to share so she didn’t. She could have become angry and bitter instead she chose to be happy and to share her big heart and not close it down.
She lived “the law of attraction” long before it was known. If you want something you have to give it to another first. She became a children’s nurse and loved the sick unwanted children in her care, and they loved her back.
It’s Never Too Late
Mum was fiercely independent and went out to work at a time when women were considered homemakers. She would return to school, teaching us “that it is never too late”. Her new career ended after many years when the car industry collapsed in Coventry but that didn’t deter her, she found a new passion.
She turned her love of children, telling stories and crafts into a new position – it was to help single mums with young children to sew and learn to interact with their children. Mum was even featured on the BBC telling her beloved stories to children as they acted it out with the characters from the book she had lovingly made.
Another Country and New Life
Mum was selected to come to Canada as a young child but fate intervened and she never did get to go but it had stirred a longing in her heart. This longing would be passed onto me for when I came to Canada the restlessness I had always felt inside had gone. Ever courageous, mum and dad immigrated to Ottawa after dad retired.
They were always hopeful my sister and her family would join us but circumstances intervened and that didn’t happen. She never said if she regretted that decision but I know it was hard for them both to have their children in different continents.
Memory Loss Takes Over
As she advanced into older age she could be heard telling anyone that
“She had been there, done that I wrote the book.”
Mum also claimed other’s accolades as her own. Again, saying
“She taught them everything she knew.”
These two would become her social graces as she slipped more and more into Alzheimer’s. Mum was amazingly good at covering up her memory deficits and only those close to her would know. She would ask about each grandchild and we would patiently and lovingly answer her questions over and over.
“How is their love life” she would ask us. However, there were times when she would ask the person themselves and at times this didn’t always go down well.
Using Age to Her Advantage
If she forgot something or couldn’t do it, she would say “I’m nearly 90 you know”.
Mum drove us all crazy with her refusal to wear her hearing aids and missed out on many conversations. It was sad watching her world became ever smaller. She did delight us and the staff by actually agreeing to wear them and for about two weeks life was pretty good until the hearing aids went missing. Never to be found!
Holding Hand after 60’s Years
Mum and dad could be seen walking to the mall hand in hand – everyone remarked “how sweet” mum would reply, “no, not at all, it was necessary – we hold each other up”. When Dad died, mum agreed to using a walking stick. How about a walker we would suggest. “Oh, no they were for old people”.
Mum lived her life and when met with challenges she accepted them with grace and turned them around.
End of an Era
The good Lord as she called her maker came to get her on Halloween, a perfect time. A time for children, treats and fun – which is what she was all about.
She was the heart and the pull to home. This will be felt no more. No more tales to tell her grandchildren, no more “hows your love life” heard.
The little women with a big heart is now silent. We will all miss you mum and nan.
Yes, indeed, there is life after A death. I’m sure you were curious to know if I was going to have some conclusive evidence to share with you. I’m pretty certain there is but that is not my topic for the moment. Let me explain…….
My Life Changed
November 17, 2011, began as a regular workday just like any other. I would drive to the office, say my hellos as I settled down to work. This began by me unlocking my computer and while I was waiting, the phone rang and I answered it. I then drove to the hospital to meet mum. Then two hours later we emerged, arm in arm numb and in shock. It was that one phone call, that would forever change our lives.
Once outside into a cool, overcast November day, pausing to see the traffic on the highway speeding by. With passers-by walking and talking all going about their business. To my mind, it seemed all wrong. Then this urge to scream “STOP, don’t’ you know my dad has just died bubbled up! It was confusing, their world got to continue while ours had stopped. I would swallow hard, being British and knowing how mum hated scenes I couldn’t create a fuss. Instead, I clutched her arm and stoically marched to the car. It was in that moment that I realized no one was coming to rescue us or take charge. We were on our own.
Our life from that moment on became one of business, no time to stop or think. Just endless To Do lists, “I’ll put the kettle on” would be mum’s mantra. I can’t even recall drinking any tea, but the kettle went on regardless.
Pivotal Moment #1
On the day of the funeral, it snowed, making everything look clean and fresh. Odd I recall thinking, it is only mid-November; had snow even been in the forecast? Perhaps this was a message from dad letting me know he was Ok and not to be sad. We were entering a new beginning for us all; a fresh clean page. I certainly found it comforting and it allowed me to get through that day.
After the Funeral
There was a certain comfort in returning to work, I had my routine back. My new routine would include a daily phone call to mum to see how she was. It was after the family returned to their own lives that I began to have trouble sleeping at night. I no longer had the multiple distractions, instead, I’d awake tired and restless for the day. Eventually, I sought medical help, thinking that perhaps sleeping tablets were the answer. This visit resulted in me being placed on medical leave. I felt so guilty and wondered if there was something wrong with me. Perhaps I was losing grip on reality or even malingering? A few of my colleagues had gone back to work after their parent’s funerals and appeared to be fine.
I would later seek the help of a psychologist to help me understand what was happening to me. It was the feelings of guilt that had me looking for answers. Unfortunately, this wasn’t helpful as he couldn’t understand why I was looking for help so soon. Good question – I was looking for answers that I didn’t have questions for. I just needed guidance to help with the guilt and ease the pain. I didn’t get any there. Apparently, everyone’s grief is different and it takes time. Even the books I read didn’t help much, as they also agreed you never get over grief? Rubbish, I thought and muddled along.
It didn’t take long for anger at feeling so helpless to show up. Finally, my boss, a surgeon gave me a clue. He called to see how I was doing, when I told him, his response was ”sounds like a reactionary depression”. A lightbulb moment, if there was a name for it, others must have experienced this as well. I was normal! My healing journey continued. It seems people can get so busy with all the arrangements that there is no time to grieve. This could result in your emotions getting blocked resulting in depression.
Many months later I found a coach to help me further. A friend had recommended her, she apparently could see spirits. How could I not go to her! She did healing sessions with angels and then we would look at my core value, my needs, and my beliefs. This work helped me connect me with me. Once I had a plan in my hand I began to feel hopeful and more myself.
My Healing Journey and Pivotal Market #2
Later that year I went on a retreat with my friend who is intuitive and works with flower essence. Interesting, believing I was healing, my friend would take me deeper into my grief. It seems music and art are a good way to release any lingering or deep-seated emotions. The exercise was to relax and listen to music as I was drawing. The music she chose was jazz. My dad had loved jazz and he was an artist as well, so a fitting exercise for me for sure. How could it not work?
After a few hours, I needed to move and went for a walk by the ravine behind her house. There is a bridge to cross and you can see a small stream that eventually flows into a pond. All was peaceful and still as I walked around. I heard all this commotion on the way back and saw it was the geese honking and flapping their wings. I wasn’t sure if they were practicing for flight or deciding who would lead. As I paused to observed they all took off and flew overhead. In that moment, I asked the geese to take my grief with them. I had decided it was time to let it go and return to the land of the living. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but that was the 1st anniversary of dad’s death. What a coincidence or was it?
Life Continues – Pivotal Market #3
A few months later I decided to retire. I realized that dad was not there to be disappointed by my decision to leave a good job with a pension. That was his belief that and it had worked well for him but not so for me. I retired and 4 days later my next career found me. I would become a grief coach.
There is Life After A Death
As part of my online study course, I received free tickets to an event in LA that my mentor hosted. My daughter, living in London agreed to go with me and we would meet in LA. It was on the last day of the event, after listening to death regrets stories and doing the exercises, I made a decision. I announced to the room that I wanted to go on to do the certification program. Life indeed was too short and I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. I had seen my parents put off things in their lives.
Coincidence at work again? For this would be the 2nd anniversary of my dad’s death. It felt right and that I was on the right track.
Remember when I said earlier that my world had stopped. Well, it had in a sense for that chapter in my book had come to a close. The next chapter in my new life without dad had yet to be written. Perhaps this was why I couldn’t make sense of my life. Now the next chapters were getting ready to be written.
The snow, the retreat, saying yes, was that Dad giving me comfort and helping me. I believe Yes, there is life after death and life after A death – I’m living proof of that.
Now, I am happy to say as a grief coach, I can help you find your life after a loss. If you’d like to find out more, please email [email protected] and let’s connect.
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