Archive for Saying NO! Posts

published in A Widow's Awakening Book, Change, Christmas, Death, Grief, Life After Loss, Saying NO!, Widowhood by Maryanne | November 27, 2018 | No Comment

This the 2nd blog in the Fall 2018 Life After Loss blog series:

Taking Death to Parties – Mentioning Loved Ones Who Have Recently Passed Away

 

Unfortunately, it’s usually up to the person grieving the recent loss of a loved one who gets stuck bringing death to the party. 

’Tis the season for celebrating

But guess what? If you have recently experienced a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, you may be in a rather fragile state (to say the least) and “getting out of the house and being around other people” is not necessarily the wisest option. But if parties do seem to be in your near future, then read on.

If you have recently lost a loved one and this is your first Christmas without that person:

Please be aware that the people who you are spending the holidays with may not realize the importance of mentioning your loved one. Instead, they may think that by not mentioning him or her, this will be better because they don’t want to ‘hurt you’ or ‘make you cry.’

Now, this may be okay with you…

But if it isn’t and you discover, to your growing disbelief, that everyone is politely avoiding the elephant in the living room—the fact that you have recently lost a significant person (or pet) in your life—you have four choices:

#1. You say nothing and internalize the hurt and anger (not recommended).

#2. You say to someone that not mentioning your loved one really hurts.

#3. You bring up a memory of the person yourself and share it.

#4. You leave—either in agonized silence or after a spectacular hissy-fit (highly recommended… please see below).

If you are hosting a party or family function and one of your guests has recently experienced the loss of a loved one:  

Here’s an excerpt from my book, A Widow’s Awakening, that you might find of use (the following scene took place two months after the sudden death of my 32-year-old husband):

“HE’S GONE!” I scream, “BUT HE’S NOT FORGOTTEN!”

Then I run out of my cousin’s front door, leaving behind a house full of family trying to celebrate my mother’s seventy-fifth birthday. However, since there’s a snowstorm on this particular evening in early December, I have to stop at the front door, after my embarrassing outburst, to put on my jacket, mittens and boots. Only then do I charge down the icy front walkway, stomping as angrily as possible in my new ridiculously high-heeled boots. I climb into my car, slam the door and slowly inch my way home on icy roads.

“They didn’t toast Sam!” I blubber into the phone from my living room.

“Adri?” says Dawson, on the other end of the line. “What’s wrong?”

“I was (sob) at my Mom’s birthday and my family didn’t even include him (sob) in the toast before dinner. I just can’t believe them!”

“Do you want me to come over?”

“Could you?”

A few minutes later the doorbell rings. But it’s not Dawson; it’s Dale’s wife.

“So they sent you, huh?” I say.

“Yup.”

“I’m pretty pissed off.”

“Oh, we gathered that.”

“I can’t believe my own family. Not one person mentioned Sam the whole night – not even at a goddamn toast to my mother.

My sister-in-law winces. “Everybody feels just terrible about that but I think we all figured we’d try and give you a break from the hurt.”

“Hah!” I give a shrill laugh. “Well that certainly didn’t work.”

“You’re right. We screwed up and I’m sorry.”

“Mentioning Sam’s name and talking about him,” I say, “is really important to me because if we don’t, he’ll be forgotten.”

“You do know, Adri, that at that dinner table tonight, Sam was on every single one of our minds?”

I shrug. “If no one says anything, how would I?”

The doorbell rings. I let Dawson in.

“Well,” she says to him. “We messed up.”

“It happens,” he replies. “It’s hard to know what to say sometimes.”

“Here’s a tip then,” I say. “Not mentioning Sam is gonna bury him a hell of a lot faster than the dirt they threw on his grave.”

I get the double-goldfish (both mouths drop open). Is the nice-widow façade finally crumbling?

And there you have it

If you are honest and open with the people who love and support you, then most people will try and do better—if they know better. Unfortunately, it’s usually up to the person grieving the recent loss of a loved one who gets stuck bringing death to the party. Even though loss and grief are facts of life; they can be significantly alleviated when shared memories—instead of avoidance—are put on the table.

Because an elephant in the living room should not be ignored.

Some parties aren’t worth attending anyway

If you feel obligated to socialize during this festive time of year, do be aware that someone’s casual (perhaps callous) remark might feel rather like that elephant has just sat on your chest. This excerpt from A Widow’s Awakening reflects the ultra-sensitive state a newly bereaved person may find themselves in:

At the Christmas party, I soon realize that being the widow of a fallen officer watching her dead husband’s teammates trying to party is a like a drug addict in rehab, watching other addicts shoot up. I’m not emotionally equipped to observe the reality that life is going on without Sam. So off to the buffet I waddle.

With a heaping plate of food in one hand and a beer in the other, I find a seat in the living room and a woman I’ve never seen before sits beside me.

“And who are you?” she asks.

“Umm…my husband was the police officer who just passed away.”

“Oh now, which one was that?” she says loudly, waving her wineglass. “There’s been so many lately, I get them all mixed up!”

Her callous reference is to another other young police officer who died three months before Sam. He’d been struck and killed by a drunk driver on his way home from work, leaving a young widow and two-month old daughter behind. Both Sam and I had been working the night that officer died. I’d taken a report from the officer over the phone a few hours before his death; Sam had attended the scene of his crash.

“When they pulled him from the car,” Sam had said to me the next day, “and I saw his uniform, it was brutal. I was so angry.”

When Sam had first arrived at the collision scene, it was believed there had been two people in the vehicle that hit the officer. So Sam and several other officers had searched for that possible second person. As it turned out, there was only the one person in the vehicle: the drunk driver who died at the scene.

“So you thought there might have been two bad guys?” I’d confirmed with Sam.

“Yeah,” he’d said, “and I totally wanted to catch whoever had done that to him.”

Recalling this conversation now makes me realize that the ‘bad guy’ isn’t always a person. Just because the drunk driver died didn’t mean there wasn’t a bigger issue to be addressed. One less drunk on the road isn’t the end of impaired driving. I think about the map in Sam’s duty-bag, folded open to the location of his death. Maybe it is a clue pointing me in the direction of the ‘bad guy issue,’ whatever that might be.

After the party, Nick, Angela and I trundle clear across the city to yet another one. I still haven’t mastered the use of the word ‘no.’ Friends and family are obviously concerned about me, judging from the number of social invitations coming my way. But the busier I allow myself to be, the more anxious and upset I am when alone again.

‘No’ is one of the most beautiful words in the English language

Consider giving the gift of ‘no’ this Christmas. If you don’t have the energy to bring death to parties, stay at home and focus on activities that bring you some semblance of comfort and joy.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To subscribe to the Life After Loss blog series, please sign up here

 

published in Inspiration, Saying NO!, Travel by Maryanne | May 4, 2018 | 10 Comments

Non Madame – Parisians Know How to Say No

 

MA in raspberry beret (found in a second hand store), waiting for the Metro

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs!

Parisians know how to say no. I lost count of the times Heather and I were given a polite but firm no over the past ten days.

Me (in a restaurant): “Can we sit here?”

Waiter: “Non Madame.”

Heather (en francais, in grocery store): “Can I pay for my groceries in this line?

Cashier: “Non Madame.”

Random tourist in front of Sainte Chapelle: “Can I go in the church?”

Security guard: “Non Madame.” (fair enough – it was closing for a concert)

Sometimes the reason for the no is clear; other times not so much. But it doesn’t matter. No is no. I love it. As a woman who has struggled with the art of saying no for (gulp) half a century, I loved the ease with which the Parisians could do so – politely, firmly and with no obligation to provide an excuse or reason.

So when the cashier at the boulangerie around the corner from our sweet little VRBO (Mon Petit Maison) tried to give me a tattered and torn 5 euro bill in change, I shook my head, smiled and said, “Non Madame.”

She was NOT pleased. But you know what? That’s just too damn bad. If you can give a no, you can take one, too.

And that, mes amis, is a little lesson on boundaries for today 🙂

Here are some more photos from the ever so lovely (except when the streets are on fire during protests, as they were the night before we left) Paris:

Grande Roue de Paris at Place de la Concorde

Strolling the Jardin des Tuileries

 

Behind the iconic clock at Musée d’Orsay

 

Gorgeous courtyard near Place des Vosges

 

Unbelievably beautiful Hall of Mirrors at Palais Garnier (Opera House)

 

Love this shot of Heathe outside the Palace of Versailles – rather Alice in Wonderland!

 

Gold as far as the eye can see at the Palace of Versailles

MA & Heathe in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles

The back of the Palace of Versailles…here comes the rain!

A few more Paris photos to come in next week’s blog…

Merci!

Related blogs by Maryanne

Salut Mes Amis!

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life

published in Anger, Book Reviews, Boundaries, Depression, Health, Saying NO! by Maryanne | June 6, 2017 | 4 Comments

In Sickness & in Health – When The Body Says No

 

“When we have been prevented from learning how to say no, our bodies may end up saying it for us.”

– Gabor Maté

If you haven’t read Gabor Maté’s book, When the Body Says No; The Cost of Hidden Stress, I highly recommend it. I borrowed a copy from a friend a year ago and read it in small chunks, here and there, as there was an awful lot of content – and supporting case studies – to consider, in terms of the role we play in our own health. It is not a particularly comfortable read but it is extremely enlightening.

“It is a sensitive matter to raise the possibility that the way people have been conditioned to live their lives may contribute to their illness.” 

– Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No

Drawing on scientific research and the author’s decades of experience as a practicing physician, When the Body Says No examines the effect of the mind-body connection on illness and health and the role that stress and one’s individual emotional makeup play in conditions and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis.

Here are a just a few highlights from the book:

“People have always understood intuitively that mind and body are not separable. Modernity has brought with it an unfortunate dissociation, a split between what we know with our whole being and what our thinking mind accepts as truth.”

“Our immune system does not exist in isolation from daily experience.”

“Many of us live, if not alone, then in emotionally inadequate relationships that do not recognize or honour our deepest needs.”

“When emotions are repressed, this inhibition disarms the body’s defences against illness.”

“Repression – dissociating emotions from awareness and relegating them to the unconscious realm – disorganizes and confuses our physiological defences so that in some people these defences go awry, becoming the destroyers of health rather than its protectors.”

“The blurring of psychological boundaries during childhood becomes a significant source of future physiological stress in the adult. There are ongoing negative effects on the body’s hormonal and immune systems, since people with indistinct personal boundaries live with stress; it is a permanent part of their daily experience to be encroached on by others. However, that is a reality they have learned to exclude from their direct awareness.”

“The research literature has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control. All three are present in the lives of individuals with chronic illness.”

“Repression of anger increases the risk for cancer for the very practical reason that it magnifies exposure to physiological stress. If people are not able to recognize intrusion, or are unable to assert themselves, even when they do see a violation, they are likely to experience repeatedly the damage brought on by stress.”

“Physiological stress is the link between personality traits and disease. Certain traits – otherwise known as coping styles – magnify the risk for illness by increasing the likelihood of chronic stress. Common to them all is a diminished capacity for emotional communication.”

“The gut, or intestinal tract, is much more than an organ of digestion. It is a sensory apparatus with a nervous system of its own, intimately connected to the brain’s emotional centres.”

“Gut feelings, pleasant or unpleasant, are part of the body’s normal response to the world – they help us interpret what is happening around us and inform us whether we are safe or in danger.”  

“The repression of negative emotion is a chronic and significant source of damaging stress.”

“Characteristics of many persons with rheumatoid diseases is a stoicism carried to an extreme degree, a deeply ingrained reticence about seeking help.”

“Repressed anger will lead to disordered immunity. The inability to process and express feelings effectively, and the tendency to serve the needs of others before even considering one’s own, are common patterns in people who develop chronic illness.”

“The less powerful partner in any relationship will absorb a disproportionate amount of the shared anxiety – which is the reason that so many more women than men are treated for, say, anxiety or depression. (The issue here is not strength but power: that is, who is serving whose needs?)

“Healthy anger leaves the individual, not the unbridled emotion, in charge.”

“Health rests on three pillars: the body, the psyche and the spiritual connection. To ignore any one of them is to invite imbalance and dis-ease.”

For further information about the book and author, here is the link.

Related blogs by Maryanne:

Anger in the Garden – Pruning Back for Future Growth

When Our Body Says No, We’d Be Wise to Listen

Back Off Baby – You Just Crossed My Boundary

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.