On Death and Grieving and Supporting Another

Navigating your own grief is challenging, no question about it. In theory, the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, are a part of the framework originally proposed by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, while writing about coming to terms with one’s own death. These five stages have since been used as a helpful framework for anyone in grief.

In my own experience, just as difficult –if not more difficult– than navigating your own grief is navigating grief as a couple.

Note from the Universe 07.11.17
Us:February 2017

Between my partner and I, we’ve lost four people we care about in the past 7 months. In order: my aunt, his dad, my dad, and most recently his grandmother, (just this past weekend) who was also a mother figure to him.

We’ve been further challenged by our self employment. There is no such thing as “time off with pay” when you are sole proprietors. And we’re also navigating a reconciliation period from last year’s 8 month separation while he fished in Alaska.

It’s difficult to balance your needs with your partner’s needs during the everydayness of a relationship, but add grief and extra challenges and this balance becomes even more difficult.

For one thing, the stages of grief have been proven to not be linear stages. You can dance back and forth between depression and acceptance for months if not years. And of course, you are unlikely to be in the same stage at the same time. So when one partner is moving on, the other might be depressed, which creates tension and feeling a need to tiptoe around one another which feels inauthentic.  Also, with multiple deaths in a short time frame, there is almost a sense of rivalry (comparison for sure) at who is grieving the most and when and why, and whose funeral was the best, and how we honored the lives of those we lost. This is ridiculous of course, but human emotions are not always rational, even in the best of times.

Other questions come up:

  • How can I support my partner without losing sight of my own boundaries and needs?
  • How do I deal with my anger and impatience when I don’t feel like being understanding and patient right now?
  • How can I best help my partner process his / her grief while still honoring my own process and continuing to move forward with my own life?

Of course, being me, I hold myself to a high standard and expect to do more than just muddle through. I am still learning to be gentle with myself and accept that I have to take care of myself first in order to be there for my loved ones.

My most relied-upon tools are the same ones I teach my clients.

  1. HeartMath(R) –to transform the negative and draining energy into positive.
  2. Walks in Nature –to bask in a sense of awe and wonder.
  3. Creative Expression –to help process the emotions
  4. A reliance on Spirit –to help when it gets too tough.

But unexpected encouragement that shows up in your inbox is also a big help. This past week was a particularly challenging one for me. I didn’t handle any of it as gracefully as I might hope, although certainly better than I could have.

I subscribe to Notes from the Universe, by Mike Dooley. This morning, here is what it said:

“You’re simply the best, Kristin. You blow my mind. We’re all in total awe. How you hold together under pressure. How you face up to your challenges. And your rebound ability totally rocks. You’re driven, persistent, and strong. Playful, silly, fun. Compassionate, sympathetic, understanding. You’re just plain unstoppable. And you always have time for others. What a package. Soooo…

How ’bout cutting yourself some slack every now and then?

Tallyho,
The Universe”

Beautiful. Thanks Mike. And this goes for all of you as well.

Much love,

Kristin

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Serendipitous Treasures

Since I’m on the topic of serendipity, I became reacquainted with my partner through yet another funeral, back in 2007. The funeral was for the older brother universe soul matesof classmates of ours, and there were many people there that we knew.  At the time I arrived, he was heading out the back door with an elderly woman.  He smiled and waved, and although I knew he was someone I used to know in school, I couldn’t place him.  I sent his face through my mental facial recognition software and came up blank, but I have to admit that I was never was able to fully forget him either.

Finally, months later, he sent me a Facebook friend request, saying that he thought he’d seen me at that funeral. Oh! Of course! It clicked into place for me.  The elderly woman he was solicitously escorting out the door and into a silver Mercedes was his grandmother. When he contacted me, he was living in Mexico, caring for his mother’s property, and was with someone else so I put him out of my mind except when Facebook did its thing.

Several years later, he reached out to say he was back in town, and would I like to meet for a beer? And the rest, as they say, is history. This is what he looked like when I graduated from high school, and again when I met up with him in 2011.

Justin then and now
Is it any wonder I didn’t recognize him right away?

How has synchronicity shown up in your life? Do you have a favorite story of unexpected treasure popping up when you were least looking for it? Please feel free to share in the comments.  It’s fun to hear other’s stories!

Serendipitous Presence

I haven’t written a thing since last October! This is, in part, because I wanted every blog post to be “meaningful” and “perfect.” Of course it never will be, but before I let go of that expectation, it was difficult to start.

To be fair, beyond that self-imposed restriction, it has been an unusually unusual year. Along with Joy and Goodwill and New Year’s intentions, the holiday season folded in three important deaths: first my aunt, next my partner’s Dad, and then my Dad.

I know that the way each of us will grieve and process these three deaths is still unfolding … but the initial impact reframed my chosen theme for 2017 from abundance to serendipity.
Serendipity with dogs in daisies

 

 

You might think that death is an unusual place to find serendipity. But both my father’s death and my partner’s father’s death brought with them reconciliations that were both unexpected and valuable. And my aunt’s death brought both adventure and an opportunity to spend lengthy time with my California relatives. Now of course, I’d trade all of that to have our loved ones back; but since that isn’t how life works, I’m happy to have experienced the serendipitous moments.

Looking forward to sharing more of those with you in the days to come.

Much love,

Kristin

Update on Blue

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Blue went from socially anxious to this snuggle pup soon after our return from the Backpacking Pilgrimage.

I know it has been quite some time since my last post.  Let me first reassure you that Blue is growing into a delightful dog. Ever since spending four days in the wilderness with seven women on my backpacking Pilgrimage, his social anxiety disappeared.  In fact, he spent two weeks with my sister’s family while I was in Alaska with my partner. Last I heard, he was sitting on my nephew’s lap; I imagine a bit like in this photo with my niece from late summer.

 

Blue: Five weeks in …

When I last checked in about my new puppy, Blue, he was starting to feel quite comfortable here Blue.Lyre River.framed.06.16with us, and I was starting to feel quite uncomfortable with my state of “conscious incompetence” in stepping into my role as the “alpha” of our little tribe.

Fortunately, the book came, (you might remember I ordered one specific to Herding dogs) and I found my training collar, which turned out to be in a little used storage bin in the basement.  Unfortunately, the book was assuming that I already knew (or remembered) how to teach the basics, like “sit”, “down”, “heel” etc.  Although Blue and I both mastered “sit”, I couldn’t remember how to teach “down” or “heel” so I checked out another book at the library to refresh my memory.  When I have treats in my hand, Blue remembers quite readily.  Without them, his memory is a little rusty, especially when I request a “down” on the uncomfortable asphalt road.

The first book was great at helping me understand how dogs (especially Heelers) learn, and that just because they seem to have mastered a skill in one place, it doesn’t automatically transfer to another place.  (For example, it could be that he just doesn’t understand that when he is on the asphalt road the command “down” is the same as the command “down” when he is on the carpet at home.  I understand this.  I also understand that it’s uncomfortable to “down” on asphalt, and that he gives me the look that says, “surely you don’t really mean you want me to lie down right here?”)

All in all, the training is going much better for both of us now that I have started to remember my “alpha cues” … (feeding time, going in and out any door, petting time).  I simply make him sit first before he gets what he wants.  I still forget sometimes, but I seem to be holding the “Alpha” title, at least for the moment.

The best news is that Blue’s socialization has improved significantly!  Blue at the lake Fathers Day 2016.framedOn Father’s Day, I took him with me to my parents, where 13 of the 24 of us Halbergs were gathered to celebrate.  I explained to the six kids that they needed to mostly ignore him except when given the okay by me to feed him treats or see if he’d let them pet him.  The adults had the same rules, although I knew they were unlikely to initiate the attention.  Blue was a little unsettled at the beginning and again later when the majority of us were gathered in one spot. He was very jumpy and nervous, but he displayed no aggressive behavior.

He is also more relaxed when I take him on trails and beach access with plenty of people.  I’ve introduced him to bicyclists, and allowed him to be “off-leash” on some of the least traveled trails.

Anytime he encounters something new for the first time his initial response is to simply stop and look.  He met the 102 animals at my sister’s farm with curiosity, but didn’t seem to want to chase Blue meets chickens  & peacocksthem … even when she let the 36 chickens out of their overnight hutch.

I’ve been crate training him, meaning that he gets put in his crate at night and if I am gone during the day.  I crate trained my earlier dogs, and it is a fantastic practice.  Dogs are den animals, so they really don’t mind having their own space.  I can transport the crate when I visit other locations, so he can still have “his” safe space to hang out, and it limits his ability to get into things he shouldn’t and allows me to get a good night’s sleep.

Plus, the added benefit of his bedtime crating is that the cat (Katniss) has started roaming around the house in the evenings again, and even felt comfortable enough to sleep with me last night (with Blue in his crate beside the bed.)

Ahhh.  The training is far from over, but we’ve made it through the first month.

As my dad always says, “Onward and upward.”

What’s in a name?

In my first blog post, I hinted at my new name & business branding … Since re-branding a business is not something you should do lightly, I thought I’d give you a little more information about why I am …

To start with KIC (pronounced “kick”) itself has been an evolution … I first claimed the name KIC about ten yearKIC_Label_As ago, when I left my corporate job and decided to branch out for myself, uncertain yet what form that would take.  K-I-C are my maternal grandmother’s initials, and I wanted a business that would honor her.  I delighted in both the brainstorming and choosing of my first logo, wanting it to both represent something meaningful to me and something that might speak to my potential client.  I still like both the logo and the name, but I’ve learned over the years that choosing a name that gives prospective customers a hint about what you do is important. At first, I simply added Healing to the name … KIC Coaching & Healing seemed a little more explanatory, and the simplest way to tackle the problem.

I also noticed over the years (because I occasionally get requests that seem to be out of my expertise entirely) that there is another company out there in the world that calls themselves KIC Coaching.  It’s a GRE coaching company located in Mumbai.  Lately they must be pouring money into their Site Engine Optimization (SEO) because they’ve been encroaching on my google traffic. For a small business … or any business … this is not good news.  As much as we hate to rely on Google for our traffic, we do.

The combination of knowing that KIC Coaching does not tell you intuitively that I am a transformational coach, and the recent encroachment on my space helped spur along my need.  But I also knew I wanted to branch out and offer more than just coaching … I wanted to offer other transformative experiences such as Pilgrimages, Retreats, and more.  I wanted a name that didn’t limit me to coaching.

I’ve been playing with business name ideas for about a year, but nothing seemed quite right.  Soon after Prince passed away, I was out on a walk.  I didn’t follow Prince’s life or work closely while he was alive (although of course I knew his most widely known songs), but this clip of Prince with the Muppets delighted me.  I love to see the creative process at work, and I am wowed by people who can effortlessly turn anything into artistic expression.

I also completely believe in asking people I admire (living or dead) for advice.  So I called out to Prince (in my head640px-Prince_at_Coachella-630x390), telling him I was sorry I didn’t follow his work more when he was still alive, (this was a longer conversation than I’m including here, filled with justifications and pleas for mercy … ha ha!)  explaining my post-humus admiration and asking if he’d help me come up with a business name I liked that was relevant to the work I do.  In my head he asked me for a bit more information about my work, about my dreams, and about icons that were meaningful.

A few minutes later, The Dream Hatchery popped into my head, and I loved it.  I give Prince all the credit.  🙂  Thanks!  (I also promised to purchase at least a few of his songs for my iPod.  If anyone has recommendations of their favorite Prince songs (ideally that showcase his brilliant creativity) feel free to post in the comments.

Creative Tip:  Stuck on a project?  Think of five people who you admire,  living or dead, and ask them to give you advice.  Don’t be surprised when you get a brilliant idea.  Be sure to thank them for their help.  🙂

Two weeks in …

Blue has been a member of our family for two wBlue rotten wood 06.04.16 framedeeks and two days now.  I have to say he is adjusting well.  Too well.  To be honest, he was easier when he was scared of everything except me. He stuck close to the house, kept me in his sight, and tried very hard to please me.  He still does.  Except when he doesn’t want to.  Sigh.  Now he gets bored –Hank won’t play with him — and finds things to amuse himself with.  Like pieces of wood.  From the deck.  Or the house.  Or a planter. … Or somewhere!!  (Yes, I give him chew toys!!  He likes these other things better.)

We will get there.  When I got him, he’d never worn a collar.  And he didn’t like it.  But by the end of the evening (four – six hours after his arrival) he let me put a leash on him.  I also don’t think he’d ever been away from his home or away from his siblings. His social anxiety was pretty bad.  They call it fear aggression … towards people, not dogs. So one of my first and most important jobs has been to socialize him.  Once I discovered he loves water, I started taking him to the closest beach, which almost always has people. The article I read on curing social anxiety in Heelers said to give him lots of treats so that he associates good things instead of bad things with the experience.  I tried that, but he was too scared to eat. Another thing he really likes is pets from me.  So whBlue 06.04.16 frameden he gets too scared (usually when people are walking towards him) I squat down beside him and pet him.  Then I get back up and we keep going.  Sometimes we’ll talk to the people if they are friendly and sympathetic, but nobody gets to reach towards him or try to pet him.  When we get to the beach, he gets to swim / splash, and he loves it!!  This part of our project seems to be going well.  Today I brought him to my parents place on the lake, and he only growled once even though there were five new people right around him, and others nearby.  Unfortunately, when he did growl, this time it seemed to be a protective growl … him protecting me from my mom’s reaching fingers.

I’m afraid that might be a sign I’m failing at Alpha.

Honestly, I keep forgetting.  I forget to make him sit and wait for me when I open the door (this is big in dog-hierarchy apparently).  I forget that I’m supposed to make him do stuff for me (like sit) before I pet him (when he comes seeking it from me.)  I forget that I’m supposed to ignore him (rather than push him away and say no) when he’s jumping up to get my attention.  (Hank is giving me lessons on this one.  He is an excellent puppy ignorer!!)

But Blue is very smart, and has already mastered “sit”, “come” (both the command and the whistle), “kennel” (except lately “kennel” has been only when he wants to, which hasn’t been often.)  Today at the lake I even taught him to play fetch with a ball.  “Get it.”  “Bring it.”  And even “Drop it,” which is more than Hank will do.  (Hank was trained NOT to drop anything … he grew up in Alaska, and Justin’s rationale was that if Hank held onto a stick, it could then be used to pull him or Justin out of the ice.  Great idea.  Not so great for playing ball.)

As for me, I am in The-Competence-Spectrumthe “consciously incompetent” phase of my Alpha training, and it’s uncomfortable.  I know that it is up to me to socialize and train this puppy.  And I know that I need to figure out the right way to teach him.  So … I did what I always do when I need to learn something quickly: I ordered a book.  “Teach Your Herding Breed to be a Great Companion Dog.”  It should be here next week.  Also, I can’t find my training collar, which I know would help us both pay attention, and make it easier to spend 15 minutes / day completely focused on training.  I’ll keep looking.

Kristin

 

New beginnings …

On this New Moon I’m kicking off my new blog, announcing the beginning of my new business branding, (from KIC Coaching & Healing to The Dream Hatchery, more on that later) and officially starting my new challenge … to turn my recently adopted six-month old Heeler / Australian Shepherd / “who-knows-what-else” mix into a well-behaved member of my family.  (I will also be learning WordPress, so you will see my formatting improve along with my “alpha leadership” …)

I’ll start by introducing the puppy.  Blue 05.25.16 cropped & framed

Three weeks ago, as I was returning from my walk on the nearby beach, I saw a sign posted at Angel Crest Farms, “Farm Puppies”.

“Farm puppies?!”  I flipped a U-ey and went back to investigate.
The owner of the puppies informed me that the pups were now six months old.  “Wha?  How long has that sign been up?”  “Six months,” she replied.  Hmmm.  I wondered how I could drive past the place nearly everyday for six months and not see a sign for puppies.  I could miss a sign for fresh dirt maybe, or fresh cut flowers perhaps, but puppies???  I guess I am more ready now than I was six months ago, even though I have been threatening to get a new puppy this year. Anyway, she arranged to bring two of the male puppies to meet me the following day, also informing me that one of the puppies, (the one she felt was best for me considering I needed him to fit in with our 14 year old Labradoodle mix and our cat) had the markings of a butterfly on his back.  Hmmmm.  Universe?  Are you conspiring on my behalf?

Long story short, I couldn’t take the pup right away because I had to be out of town for a full day later in the week, so I took her number and said I’d think about it.  Meanwhile, I did some research on Australian Cattle Dogs, and asked around.  You need to be prepared to step into the role of the Alpha completely, said all the research.  Fear and doubt came crowding in … am I ready for this?  Do I have what it takes?  I’ve raised well-behaved, wonderful dogs in the past, but it has been ten years since I last had a puppy and none of them required a lot of work to train.  Also, my partner is fishing in Alaska, and I wanted to make sure he approved as well.  “Uh oh,” was his first response when I texted him a photo of the two pups.  His biggest concern was for Hank, as was mine.  Our original plan was to wait until Hank was gone, but Hank continues to be quite healthy, he’s just deaf and can no longer accompany me on trail runs or walks.

Finally after hemming and hawing for a couple more days, I decided to give the puppy a trial.  If Hank hated him, I just couldn’t do it.  And if he passed the Hank test, but harassed the cat, I still couldn’t.  Ironically, stepping into the Alpha role and stretching out of my leadership comfort zone (I prefer Hank and Blue 05.30.16 small framedcollaborative partnerships so I can stay under the radar) is aligned with the other growth edges in my life this year, so I knew that was another “sign from the Universe” to help me stretch and grow.

Hank accepted him right away.

The cat wouldn’t even deign to come out of her hidey-hole for four days.  Finally I had a conversation with her.  (I do this.  All the time.)  “Katniss,” I said.  “That puppy is just a baby.  If you tell him you’re the boss, you get to be the boss.  But if you hide out down here and don’t even show your face, you’ll never even know.”

Katniss 2016I did some introductions while the pup was in his crate and completely under my control, and by the end of the 5th day, Katniss strolled out the front door past him with her tail in the air.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  (And replayed The Stray Cat Strut in my head that entire day with a smile on my face.) We’ll get there.  All of us.  It’s just a matter of time.

Welcome to the family, Blue!