Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Day To Remember

There are so many days that trigger grief after the death of a beloved person in our life. Some days seem predictable like a birthday, anniversary or date of death but other days seem to come out of nowhere, sneak up on us and catch us unaware and unprepared. The first year after my son died I prepared for the predictable days like his due date (the day he should have been born) or the dreaded Mother's Day and Father's Day, days that I knew would be more difficult to celebrate. The days that I was not prepared for were days like New Years Eve, (leaving the year that Flynn had been born and died seemed unbearable) or my birthday that year because it reminded me that I was a year older and yet my infant son would never celebrate a birthday or blow out a candle. These unassuming days became days when my grief sideswiped me and knocked me off of my feet (on my birthday that year I did not answer the phone or allow anyone to wish me a "Happy Birthday"). They were days that the people around me did not recognize as triggers and yet how could they? I was just as unaware that any day could be a grief day no matter how far past the death I was. Acknowledging that these days exist and being gentle with ourselves to take the time that we need will help to recover from the days that knock us off our feet.
There are also the days that we can see coming and they need our attention too. I always talk to my families about "the plan," the preparation that they can make for the upcoming day that they appreciate will be hard. Knowing how they want to spend the anniversary of the death, for example, can make that day a little more bearable. It can help to ease the anticipation of that date (which is usually much worse than the day itself) and giving permission to scrap all plans if they just seem too hard, once that day comes, is also a good way to manage what these triggers have in store. Having a plan can mean many things; from finding a way to memorialize your loved one, to planning something for just you, to doing nothing and giving yourself permission to do nothing. I tell my families to take time to think about what they want to do, to make it realistic for their energy level and commitment and to have appropriate expectations for themselves and the people surrounding them (for example if it is the first anniversary and family is involved in the day, they may not be make the same commitment for years to come and will that be okay?).
Remember that these days are hard because they remind us of the death and how much we miss and love those who have died. The day will pass and hopefully the moments that we remember our loved one will bring us some comfort on these hard days.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Importance of Self Care

Just a short blog.
I think it is so important to incorporate self care into your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routine!
It is amazing how often we put ourselves and our cherished loved ones last on our list of priorities for work, for that promotion, for that better way of life, for that education, that prestigious degree because it is for them, they will appreciate all the things we can give them, that these things will afford. But where are they in the equation? Where are we?
Usually we are exhausted, running on little sleep, poor nutrition, a sense of panic at the fast paced life we are trying to navigate. We are not even in the equation and the loved ones we do it for, they would rather have us with them then the things that we could give them. Of course with age comes wisdom and our priorities change, but why not now?
It warms my heart when someone decides to put them self and the person/people they love first, to prioritize self care, to seize the moments we have!
I know why we work hard, strive for better, compete against ourselves and against time. But it needs to be balanced we need to take time for holidays, unscheduled days off, quiet moments because those are the days that will be remembered.
Bora Bora sounds beautiful and I hope above all hope that the sun and beach can be enjoyed and will be a cherished memory.

H1N1 and the lack of Blog

Until SARS hit Toronto it was hard to fathom what a pandemic truly meant. Since the 1918 influenza pandemic our country has not experienced the life threatening panic of a strain of flu that indiscriminately spreads and possibly brings death to those infected. Of course until SARS I did not even know that there had been a pandemic in 1918 that killed approximately 50,000 Canadians, most of whom were between the age of 20-40.
Call it naive or ignorant, our mortality seemed protected by our intellect, good hygiene, as well as accessibility to a great medical system, I think it may have been a combination of both!
Now we as a society are hypersensitive. We seem to be a culture of extremes, either we completely ignore possibilities or we focus on every minute possibility and panic over these rarities to point of neurosis and the media feeds this neurosis with stories that are written as the common experience rather than the outlying possibilities. I am talking about H1N1!
I am not saying that we should not be aware, to practice good hand washing, to stay home when sick, but I am saying that not every sniffle is life threatening, not every fever will result in a diagnosis of H1N1 and even if it does, it does not mean that the influenza will result in life threatening conditions. I am more concerned about some of the irrational panic then I am the flu.
I had a very sick little boy last week, he had fevered for days. After 4 days of fever we had called Telehealth with his symptoms and were reassured it was just croup. After a week of fever we took him to the hospital and there we were told that it was the flu (not H1N1) and that we would have to wait it out. When friends and family found out that he was sick, I started getting emails about the difference between H1N1 and the flu, I had people suggesting that he might have the dreaded influenza, all with the best intention of course, but it kept me aware and as much as I tried to remain level headed about his condition, panic was taking over my thoughts, my sleep, my dreams. When the thirteen year old boy died in Toronto, I received several calls, emails pointing out this piece of news, making me feel like I was not advocating enough for my son's health, or that I was missing something. It made me feel horrible.
I feel for that family, the parents and the brother of that young man, how untimely and sad, and by the sounds of the reports they did what they could, they took him to the hospital, they had him rest but something went wrong for him and tragically he died. It is important to be cautious with this influenza because like any flu, it can result in death, but his story was written by the media to create panic, it was written to make this influenza appear a death sentence and what it has done is created a burdened medical system; hospitals are experiencing 12 hour waits, clinics are closing the doors half way through the day to accommodate all the people in their wait rooms and even Telehealth has a two hour wait to talk with a nurse.
I think we need to be aware, keep up with our good hygiene, stop pushing our kids to go to school when they are sick, stay home ourselves when we are ill, but we should not overreact, start diagnosing ourselves with H1N1, start panicking that we are all doomed, stop buying in to the way the media packages the info surrounding this flu.
My son ended up having pneumonia as a side effect of the flu he had and with antibiotics he is 100% better. When I said to the doctor that at least it was pneumonia and not H1N1, he pointed out that pneumonia is just as and sometimes more serious and he was right. I was being blindly affected by the media and I needed to tune my awareness to the present and not the possibilities. I do have to thank H1N1 because the panic sent me back to the doctors on the 10th day of fever only to get the pneumonia diagnosis in time, for that I am thankful.