What to do when challenges arise?

I recently had cataract surgery on both eyes. I chose a well-known doctor who does 2,000 of these surgeries every year. Everyone I talked to said it was the easiest surgery they ever had. My left eye was done first and the results were remarkable. A week later, I had the right eye done. During that surgery, the doctor said “I was not able to get all the fragments of the cataract out of your eye. You may have floaters for awhile.”

The following morning when I opened my right eye all I could see were broken brown fragments floating around in my vision. It was as if I were looking through a windshield that was covered with Petroleum Jelly. When I walked into the doctor’s office the morning after surgery. I said, “I’m scared. My vision is not right.” He assured me the floaters would disintegrate and if they didn’t, I could have another surgery. I had a trip planned to the Midwest for a family wedding in two weeks. I asked if I could do the second surgery before I left. He referred me to a retina doctor and I had to wait a week to see him.

During this time period, I had a dream about my father who was visually impaired for the last 10 years of his life. He had detached retinas  surgeries that left his vision impaired. He wouldn’t go out at night no matter how much mother and I begged him. He stayed home and went to be at 8 pm. With my own visual impairment, I felt compassion for my father.  I have not been able to drive at night with this impaired vision. I had to cancel my trip to the Midwest and have another surgery on my right eye. My right eye is healing and my vision is improving daily.

We all have challenges and disappointments in life. The only choice we have is the attitude we choose about those challenges. We can become a victim of life or a survivor.

It has taken me a lifetime to see my challenges as sacred gifts rather than scars to deny, disguise, or project onto others.

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The most grievous loss in life is the loss of our feelings.

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I was so happy on my wedding day. That joy disappeared for 25 years. Little did I know that it was even gone. I went through the motions of living, but my heart and soul were dead. Living in denial and numbness can go on without even knowing it. Life just seems  mundane and routine. No highs or lows, just  a low level of depression. When that goes on long enough the grief takes on a life of its own. I am so grateful I found a way to grieve and now offer that service to others.

Endings and Beginnings

Endings and Beginnings

A few months ago  in February I was in my office at my computer working when I got a Face time call from my brother, Larry. We had a lovely visit and in closing he said, “Excuse me, I have to go now. Pauline I love you.” I leaned back from my computer screen, somewhat shocked at his bold declaration. I grinned and said, “Thank you, I love you too.

Two weeks later I got a call from my other brother, Stan, informing me that Larry had laid down for a nap in the afternoon and never woke up. A family friend commented: “He went to bed in his home and woke up in heaven.”

I smiled when I remembered our last conversation and how we were able to express our love for each other and say goodbye.

Six months later on August 5th I hosted a farewell dinner at for my oldest granddaughter who is moving into her own apartment in southern California with 3 girlfriends on her 22nd birthday.

We had a lovely visit and a friend came over to share some wisdom she had gained when relocating. The party ended at 9 pm and Lexi, and her sister Sadie left. I was surprised that I didn’t cry when I hugged Lexi longer than usual thinking “I have to remember how she feels.”

The next day the sobs came as all the goodbyes of the past came tumbling forward into my present. I remembered telling my daughter goodbye in September of 1987 as I drove away with a U-Haul in tow headed to California for my new job. So many goodbyes in my past and probably so many in my future.

Saying goodbye is an opportunity – to close one chapter of our life and open up a new one – to fill the void left when life forces us to say one more goodbye.

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Changes in 2017

The sun is setting on another year. After a whole year of looking I finally found a home I wanted to purchase. I moved at the end of October and am getting settled as a “first time” home owner in Northern California. I almost waited too long to make this move.

It’s certain that the New Year (2017) will bring change. Many people in my beloved state of California were  shocked by the election results.  California is known as a “blue” state.  Many people around me are fearful, angry,  and despairing. Having lived through a few major political changes in our country has taught me to not get too attached to any particular result. Many of us have lived long enough to know change is inevitable, but we forget. We are drawn to certainty. We feel safe when we know what the future holds.

However, I grow spiritually when I face uncertainty. In the midst of change  I can expand to learn more tolerance, patience and kindness toward people who have different ideas  and values..

I also abide by a deep faith in the benevolence of the universe. I called that benevolence “God”. It has been clear to me so many times that in the long run, there is something good about change.

So many of my spiritual books discuss the value of “living with uncertainty”. The minute I think I know something for sure, I’m often shown that what I think I know is just not so. It makes for a life of flexibility, tolerance and a deepening of respect for the process of how long it takes for human beings to grow and change and the difficulties we must face to adopt new ways of being.

As the teachings of Abraham and the 12 Step Recovery programs have taught me, we came here (into this earth existence)  to expand and along this journey of expansion, we take many steps, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly but in each step, we are looking for expansion.

My favorite prayer these days is “God, help me set aside everything I think I know for an open mind and a new experience.” It gets me through a lot of days with more joy and less fear.

Blessings to you for continued growth, expansion and opportunities to practice patience, tolerance, kindness and love toward all beings.  There  will be changes in  2017 and my belief is that we will all grow as a result of the changes. I must believe “All is well”.

Six days of silence = peace of mind

Mother's Day card from my granddaughter, Sadie. Handmade. (c)2016

My Mother’s Day card from Sadie, my granddaughter. She designed it by hand.

In January of this year, I signed up for a  6-Day Vipassana Residential Retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.  After my big trip to Italy and my 70th birthday in October, I longed for a chance to submerge myself in silence and mindfulness practice – to integrate the experiences of my 70th year.

The first day of the retreat  I cried all day; the second day I was angry. The third day I had the feeling of being held in the palm of God’s hand and sank into that blissful feeling. By the fourth day, my mind was already preparing to leave and return to my life. Poor mind, so restless and agitated.

All the details of daily living were taken care of by volunteers. Delicious vegetarian meals were prepared and served at the same  time each day. All we had to do was show up in the meditation hall for our  sitting meditation practice. I wasn’t accustomed to sitting for 1 hour. My daily practice at home is only 30 minutes once a day. When I go to a meditation group, we usually sit for 45 minutes. So 1 hour of sitting was challenging, to say the least. My back complained but I discovered that if I wore a blindfold, I was able to sit without squirming so much. Seeing 85 other people in the hall, not moving a muscle for 60 minutes helped me to do so.

In those 6 days I witnessed my “wild restless mind”  which is forever making a to-do list and looking for problems to solve. It was exhausting to experience this over and over. I kept telling my mind, “Just calm down and relax, you will not disappear if you don’t have a ‘to do’ list for a few days.” I realized how much of my life and energy is consumed with being a problem-solver both for myself and others. At the retreat, I attempted to take a “leave of absence” from that job for just 6 days. Poor mind does not give up easily.

Yet, by the end of the week, I was filled with joy and happiness. In the weeks since I returned I’ve done my best to maintain that state. Sometimes I’m successful, but sometimes I slip back into the old ways. It was a week of practice and what I’ve learned is that that practice can be continued in my daily life if I make it a priority. But I must keep in mind that practice doesn’t = perfection. That’s not possible in this human realm. What is possible is being content with imperfection and impermanence. So grateful for the teaching of  the Vipassana Residential Retreat at http://www.spiritrock.org

 

Let Your Soul Catch Up

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I love my public library. I always wonder what delight I’ll find there. I was as surprised as everyone else to discover that I was a writer when Grief Denied – A Vietnam Widow’s Story, was published in December 1999.  I’ve done a lot of writing since then; such as blog posts and newsletters for my business but I’ve never completed a second book. These days I feel a strong nudge to write about my 70th year and all the miracles it contained.

When I dropped off a book at the library this week, I wandered around a little and found The Power of Pause – Becoming More by Doing Less, by Terry Hershey. The book is based on the principle of Sabbath, which means to cease and to rest. This book makes me pause, and my perceptions sharpen and I weep because this very act of pausing brings awareness of how many moments I have missed. When I pause, I see more, realize more, feel more, give more and enjoy life more.

I recently took a time management class, which was quite insightful.  I realized how much time I piddle away. Yet I don’t enjoy piddling because I feel guilty because I should be producing. I’m so geared to be productive. What has being so productive cost me?

When I was a child, we honored the Sabbath by attending mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church every Sunday morning. Mom dressed in her finest navy blue dress, high heels, and a hat. Dad wore his only suit, white shirt and tie and his hat, course. All 5 kids were dressed up in our Sunday best.  After Mass mom made a big lunch – chicken and dumplings. I used to beg for a dumpling before she threw it in the boiling gravy.  After lunch, we all packed into the 1955 Chevy for a drive in the country to see our farmland. My father loved pulling a few ears of corn and wheat to bring back to display in his retail store. On Sunday’s evenings we had a light dinner with fried bologna sandwiches, Angel Food Cake and J-e-l-l-o. My father didn’t work on Sundays but as a Midwest housewife mother never stopped working.   The best part of the Sabbath was when mom collapsed into the swing on the porch for a brief rest. She rarely sat down so all five of us would scurry to grab the seat next to her.

In elementary school I had a paper route. Before and after school, I had to fold my papers, stack them in the newspaper bag, get that big bag in my bike basket and deliver them to every home’s front porch. I acquired the habit of being productive very early in life.

My physical therapist tells me to do the exercises she gives me so slowly that I start to cry. I’m not accustomed to moving so slowly and consciously. For this day I will pause, reflect, pray and be still so I don’t miss too many more minutes of my life. And work on my second book. 2016(c) All Rights Reserved. Pauline Laurent, CPCC

 

 

“I don’t do grief…

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The Journey through Grief.

I’ve had so many losses, I don’t want to go back and look at any of them.”  This was the response I received recently when I asked a friend if she had ever read my book.

I didn’t do grief either… until grief …did me… by rendering me powerless. It took 20 years. I couldn’t work, couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t continue  in the same old rut of denial.   Denial is like a blanket we wrap around ourselves. We can’t see the light with this thick blanket wrapped around us and we don’t even know we are doing this to ourselves until we begin to peek out from under the blanket and see the brilliance we’ve been missing out on.

Suppressing grief is like trying to keep an octopus covered with a small blanket; eventually the octopus escapes and scampers down the street wreaking havoc in your life.

Being numb is not the worse state of affairs,” you might say, but there’s no joy, aliveness or magic in it. This is what I know for sure, as Oprah would say. Unresolved grief casts a shadow over everything that is beautiful in life. When you give up resistance to grieving and  work with a grief coach to address your losses, unseen spiritual and human allies show up to lead you. After you excavate the unexpressed emotions, you are reborn with a new vitality and wisdom born out of your courageous journey. You bring back your wisdom to your people. The product of my journey into unresolved grief was my book, Grief Denied A Vietnam Widow’s Story.  http://www.griefdenied.com

Ignoring my losses, one after another, led to shouldering through life, getting through yet another funeral and continuing to bear the burden of trying to hold denied grief inside. I just ran from the many losses by maintaining a busy life. Each loss denied and unexpressed enlarges into a mass, which grows and grows, like a snowball rolling down a mountain sucking everything into its path.

The only way to stop the tidal wave of losses is to stop and face them, welcome grief into your life, ask it to sit with you and teach you the lesson it has brought for you.

A traumatic loss is like a chest wound that needs immediate care. If you try to bandage it, it gets infected and becomes an even bigger threat to your physical and emotional health.

I work with people who are ready to face grief. I invite you to contact me if these words resonate with you for an introductory session of healing and the beginning of a courageous journey.

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