My New “Calm the -Bleep!- Down Club”

Since earlier this year, when significant challenges flooded in, I realized what I really needed to do was to calm down. So, I started telling myself to calm down. And it helped–magically and immensely. Then, as dear girlfriends and I discussed that phenomenon of “those moments” of feeling so overwhelmed, so angry, so sad, so frustrated, so _____, I started proclaiming that I was starting a new club called the “Calm the <bleep!> Down Club.” One of my dear friends immediately wanted to be vice president.

Here’s what I realized: In those moments when we feel intense emotions and anxiety, we really can get our bearings, return to clarity, return to breath… when we calm down.

But can you hear those words when someone else says them? That trigger when someone tells you to calm down? I usually don’t like it, either.

So, train yourself to tell yourself to calm down and follow up with peace-creating, grounding actions and thoughts. When we need new patterns, and, as I found through extensive research last summer about trauma and habits, we don’t “break” a “bad” or unhealthy habit–we replace it. What different approaches and responses to stay calmer, especially in the face of those intense times, are you willing to “try on”?

try these steps to ground, be in the moment and feel safer_may2016

What the heck is Erika talking about? I really like the grounding approach in the image above–one great example.Lately I’ve been talking more to my clients about a “spiritual tool kit,” otherwise known as the sweet, personal collection of practices that keep you grounded, calm and authentic, no matter what may be happening around you, and I encourage people to also have a portable version. For example, no matter where I am–at home, my office or traveling far from home, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or even to get ahead of and prevent difficult and stressful moments, I have my go-to spiritual practices. And my travel grounding and self-care kit contains my yoga practice, my journal, certain mantras and small rituals… and my breath.

BREATH needs to be in all of our calming kits. So portable, too! In seconds, just by putting your hand over your heart, which essentially says “I am here–in this moment,” and slowing down the breath, adding intention to the breath (ex. “I breathe in calm; I breathe out and release fear”), and taking three deliberate and slow breaths, you can feel the calm within you and surrounding you. Start there. Start here. Make calm accessible and access it.

I want to support more calm, peace and joy in your life–and sincerely enjoy doing so through my sessions and services. With or without me, give some thought to that spiritual, grounding, calm-inducing toolkit–before the next time life throws another zinger, or you find yourself in some intense anxiety. Planning ahead can make all the difference. Even if you write the words featured above in “For help during an anxiety attack, try this technique….” for some lovely guidance and keep it somewhere accessible. Or, take a picture of the image on your phone! Keep it close.

Do something, however small, to promote more calm in your life. Then, you’ll invite ease and clarity with navigating your life, moment to moment.

© 2016 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved.

The Dead Parent Club and Four Big Things I’ve Learned in 15 Years Since My Father Died

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My dad raced stock cars sometimes

I believe we join an interesting club when we lose a parent through death. Until you join this club, it’s a tough journey to understand–and no one else’s journey will be exactly like yours. Today is the 15-year anniversary of my father’s passing; he died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 48 of a heart-attack… that’s an age that is eight years away for me and tough to imagine.

I’ve learned so many valuable things through my father’s passing and through several other losses, I keep returning to my experiences on this journey, what I usually share with people willing to discuss and listen, and what I’ve been finding important to my grief coaching clients. There are multiple learnings, but I continue returning to the following four.

1. Be at peace with where you’re at with your parents.

This is probably the biggest one. If your parents still on the planet, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? If they’re on the Other Side, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? I can’t tell you what this may look like exactly for you. And it may not even involve actually talking to or seeing them. But how can you choose peace?

For me, it took telling my dad that he was a “shitty father sometimes”–on the, unknown to me, last Father’s Day I would share with him. It might sound awful, but in the last several months we had together after that Father’s Day, not knowing those were our last, something shifted. We actually talked more, and I was invited over more. Throughout my childhood and teens, I wrote him letters and expressed in phone calls what I needed to. I definitely wasn’t perfect in all I did, but somehow I feel I had a larger feeling of “no regrets.” Sure, I still have regrets. Overall, I sincerely tried to do and say all I needed with him to feel at peace. And I know how much he loved and supported me—he was my biggest fan with my writing, my calligraphy pens, my drawing, my crafting, star-gazing, camping and appreciating Nature.

2. Talk about your burial and funeral wishes, as well as organ donation and end-of-life wishes (ex. Do-Not-Resuscitate order), with loved ones. And get it on official documentation. Now.

My father’s loss is so significant for me, not only because my father left the planet, but also because at age 24-turning-25, I was suddenly solely responsible for all of his effects. I quickly needed to plan a funeral, approve which body parts could be donated, drain my already-little savings to pay for the initial things, prepare and sell his condo, sell his Harley Davidson, sell his car, save his ponytail from his mother who wanted to cut it off for the wake and funeral viewing, refuse his former girlfriend wanting his prized and bad-ass Harley Davidson leather jacket, and so forth. And I was in grad school with three jobs.

He didn’t have a will, and I hadn’t talked with him about what kind of burial he wanted; dealing with probate was challenging. I found a card in his wallet for a lawyer after he died; when I called her and mentioned this card find, she responded, “Oh, yes, your father was going to contact me about doing a will.”

3. Remember that while people can relate and have great intentions,
no one else knows “exactly” what you’re going through.

One of the most comforting things anyone said to me came from the mouth of the funeral director. After several days of managing things, organizing and planning, I arrived at the funeral home for the evening “wake”—an opportunity to allow friends, family and coworkers to view the body in the casket and pay respects to the deceased and the family. My face and body were showing my fatigue, overwhelm and I-will-cry-any-moment-please-watch-what-you-say.

I was still unloading items from a heavy box I’d just carried into the funeral home. My uncle beckoned me with impatience, “Come on, Erika, you and your brother and sister need to view the body now, before everyone else arrives.” That’s what did it. I had held it together all week and supported everyone else. False start as I proceeded to follow said uncle and enter the room where my father lay, when tears arrived like a slap, and I turned to hide the fountain coming from my face. I took a moment. And a breath.

After seeing my dad in the casket, with his ponytail and his dark jeans and a nice shirt with a vest (I also fought for my-father-will-not-wear-a-suit-because-that’s-not-him), the funeral director pulled me aside. “Erika,” he started, now putting his hand on my shoulder, “a lot of people are going to say they know exactly what you’re going through. They have good intentions. But no one knows exactly what you’re going through. Remember that. Take care of yourself.” He was so right, and I’ve loved those words and have shared those words ever since.

Honor your journey with grief. Remember that grief is cumulative.

4. Our parents indeed live on, even in death.

Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife as I do, our parents live on in us, in memories that helped create and shape us. At times we may even mistake people walking by for our deceased loved one. Reminders—maybe you call them “signs”—show up, almost as if to say, “I’m here” or “You have my support,” from your deceased one.

And, like it or not, we have some of our parents’ traits and mannerisms. We know others who exhibit some of these elements, and we’re triggered in painful ways or joyful ones. Spirit is sometimes a tough concept to grasp, but whether it’s God, the Universe, Allah, Aai, Great Mystery or something else, there is something about the essence left by someone who dies. And I believe we can communicate with our deceased ones. And all of us can do so, if we wish, believe… and ask—and know our deceased may not always communicate in ways we expect. Just have the conversation, perhaps whether you believe or not. Why not? Some of my own experiences are noted in the related blog posts listed below.

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of relationship I’d have now with my dad, had he lived. But I do have a relationship with him in Spirit, and it’s powerful. He shows up all the time, and I hear a lot of things from him. Pretty darn amazing and beautiful. I love my dad very much, and I miss not being able to call him about car things and repairs. His death is one of my biggest wounds and one of my biggest opportunities. I attribute his death and my experience largely to why I moved to Colorado (nearly 13 years ago now) and why I am a certified grief coach.

One of the safest places I have ever known was my father’s chest; leaning on and falling asleep on his chest as a young girl, about ages one to three, and hearing his heartbeat comforted me unbelievably then and still resonates safety for me now.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved.


Other Closely Related Blog Posts You May Enjoy,
written in earlier days by Erika M. Schreck

+ “Beautiful and Necessary Grief Healing: Death, Reinvention and Support”

+ “Live for No Regrets… with Loved Ones”

+ “If I Die Young”

+ “Father’s Day is What We Make It”

+ “Sensing Our Dearly Departed Loved Ones”

+ “My Take-Aways from the Movie Hereafter

+ “How Do You Commemorate Your Deceased Loved Ones?”
      one of my most popular posts of all time!

+ “Our Four-Legged Stars”

+ “Taking the ‘Me’ out of Mediumship”

+ “Scary for Some: Connecting to Our Deceased”

+ “Life is a Gift–Not a Given”

Live for No Regrets… with Loved Ones

A friend’s e-mail this morning solidified my intention for my post today, Father’s Day.  Happy Father’s Day if this is your day! Feel the love.

One of the main elements that just ate at me when my father first passed away and in years to follow was regret in feeling I could have tried harder with my father. I distinctly remember, months after my dad had died, sitting in the car with my boyfriend at the time after we’d just picked up Chinese food for dinner. Before I could even exit the car, I was flooded with tears and hiccupping speech, saying things like “Why didn’t I just get Chinese food with my dad more? Why couldn’t I just get over it and visit him at the bar where he usually was? Why didn’t I visit him more?” and then sinking into utter regret and sadness for the next hour or so.

We all “could” have done and “could” do better. Sure. But one of the biggest suggestions I’ve given to people struggling in some way currently with a father, mother or other family member still in this physical plane is to say what you need to say do what will yield the fewest regrets for yourself. Regret, while for most cannot be avoided completely, is the killer for many in the grieving process and one of those nagging aspects even years later. I can easily go there but choose to shift my thinking and instead somehow talk to or honor my father and other loved ones I’ve lost.

Whether we’ve lost someone suddenly (that “no notice” feeling) or had some time with a dying loved one, regret still somehow can creep in. An important point here is that saying what needs saying and doing what needs doing for your greatest peace doesn’t mean you necessarily resolve everything or even anything in the relationship, but your peace and aim for no regrets are healthy goals. On the last Father’s Day I had with my own father, a man struggling with alcoholism and women and relationships with his children, I didn’t know it was my last Father’s Day with him. But after much therapy and increased personal power, I mustered up enough certainty and necessity to tell him, “Dad, sometimes you were really a sh*tty father.” Yes, on Father’s Day. His response? “I know.” But from that point on, I was lucky and admit that our relationship only improved, and somehow it was out, and we were okay—and still imperfect. There were even more “I love you’s” and more phone calls.  Yes, I lost him within the year and didn’t know I would, but I had made a huge step in telling him what I needed and felt such relief.

Not an ideal story, and many of us have those. And I sincerely loved my father, “warts and all.” Now that he’s on the other side, he is such a guide to me, and more than regret I feel gratitude and love—and even a lot more understanding. We’re all so friggin’ human, and sometimes just by saying and doing what we need (even if it’s silence or inaction) that brings us the most—finally, if anything, we have peace within, which is the key to so much in this life. Right?

I’ve learned that we can’t beat ourselves up, getting stuck in the “oh, I shoulda-woulda-coulda done that.” Two weeks or so before my dad died, he’d invited me and my siblings to a Milwaukee Wave (soccer) game, but I had to work. Something inside told me I should maybe see if I could switch with someone, as this invitation was rather rare and precious, but I missed the game and time with Dad. I’m glad my brother was able to share that time with him, though. But that’s an important thing I learned: There is always more time we could have had and time we especially wish we’d had. In trying to sincerely live in a way when we’re in integrity, though, we minimize the regret, no matter what the relationship (even if, like with some of my friends, there is minimal contact and some really tough stuff for serious reasons).

Whatever your relationship with your living or deceased loved ones, enjoy what you can, realize the important things and live for the fewest regrets possible, no matter what that means for you. I just can’t resist: With the theme of regret and practicing discretion, I need to leave with some words from one of my father’s favorites, singer Kenny Rogers: “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away and know when to run.” Don’t hold onto—just fold on—the regret.

© 2011 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved.