Her 90th Birthday – A Mother’s Legacy

If my mom was still alive, she would have turned 90 at the end of June. Since she passed in early July 2012, I have written different stories and blogs about her. Some were fictional short stories, like the story “The Ring”, which I published earlier this year. Others like “Turn Your Face to the Sun”, “My Mother’s Pearls”, “Your Mother’s Story” and “Perfectly Imperfect Mother” were simply reflections. Writing was my way to process the relationship and the loss, and to continue the bond with my mom.

In our society we learn a lot of myths about grief, including how long one should grieve and in what way one should process the loss. We often forget that a relationship with somebody who passed continues beyond their death. We still think of them, talk about or with them, and when milestones happen, we will imagine what they would say or feel about a certain family event or even what advice they might have when a decision needs to be made.

But not all our loved ones were good at giving advice, or perhaps we were not open to hearing them because of the judgments we held. Undeniably, some of our family members were not the perfect spouse, perfect sibling, perfect parent, or perfect grandparent. We might have mixed feelings about them and there is nothing wrong with that. All relationships have ups and downs, wonderful moments and challenges alike. And some relationships were simply abusive and impacted us greatly.

There are many ways in which we can process a loss and carry on a loved one’s legacy. We can continue doing the things they were good at, or we can even focus on what they taught us through choices that weren’t the strongest choices. In that case, their legacy entails what not to repeat in the same or a similar way in our lives.

Every year on my mom’s birthday, we eat paella to celebrate her and connect with one of the places she loved, which was Spain. In the same year in which my mom passed, we traveled to Barcelona and walked in her footsteps in the city she lived in and loved in the 1950s. My mom spoke Spanish just as fluently as her mother tongue German. She also spoke English and French and could very quickly pick up new languages or regional accents. She loved to dance and laugh. She was incredibly brave in some ways, especially as a young woman, and when she set her mind to something, she was persistent. At 80 years old, she was still going to the fitness studio almost daily and looked like she was 65 or 70. She also carried traumas, struggled with an addiction, and had other weaknesses and flaws like all of us. I have memories of a tender caring mom and I also have memories of a mom who drowned her pain in alcohol.

Processing a loss often includes being comfortable with ambiguity. It does not serve us to bedevil a person, nor to put them on a pedestal. We can have compassion with their struggles, yet also acknowledge how their actions (or non-actions) have affected others around them. Unless we acknowledge what effect something had on us, we cannot possibly be compassionate with ourselves and heal our own wounds.

In their book, “The Grief Recovery Process,” John W. James and Russell Friedman have emphasized the importance of creating a balanced memory. One of the exercises in their program is to draw a relationship graph and fill in positive memories you have with your loved one above the timeline, and negative ones below the timeline. One or the other might be easier to find, but the instructions are to find at least three of each. Even when it feels like the relationship was only filled with negative moments, there were times in which the other person gave us something, even something that we might feel is normal, like food and shelter.

When you sit with the question “What is his/her legacy?” you will come up with several smaller or bigger ways in which they taught us something or embody something worth continuing. Or there are things they have not done that you decide to do differently. That, too, is their gift to you. In fact, both might be the case.

Continuing a legacy could be something simple like showing interest in other people, if that is what your deceased family member or friend was good at, or connecting with nature, if that is what they loved, or staying fit and healthy, if that is what they valued, and so on. They might have shown a character trait we need to embrace more, for example be more outspoken or be more sensitive or be more daring.

However, there also lies great value in what they did not do. My mom, for example, never saw a therapist or made any other attempts to heal her traumas. That was just simply not done in her generation and culture. She also never worked on improving her marriage. I see that as part of her legacy as well. Not surprisingly, helping others to do their inner work and healing their relationships has become my calling and my profession.

 

Online Coaching

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Before booking a session, you will get the opportunity to have a free 20-minute phone consultation.

MARRIAGE: Tired of Arguments and Unsolvable Problems

COVID-19 has created an unusual situation for our marriages and close love relationships. Suddenly many couples were forced to live and work in close quarters, often struggling with financial hardships and worried about their health, about educating and entertaining their children at home and about the future in general. For some couples, having the forced time together has rekindled their love and refocused them and their families on what is truly important: their relationships with each other. For other couples, the close and constant proximity has highlighted their differences and accentuated their conflicts and doubts to a point where the pressure has become unbearably painful.

When World War II started, there was a sudden increase in marriages. Unsure of what the future held and perhaps trying to give their lives some normalcy, hope, and joy, many more couples found their way to the altar. These life and death situations seem to force us to make hard decisions one way or another. They bring up our vulnerability and make us realize that life is short and that everything is transient. These moments might push us into getting married or, the opposite, into giving up on our marriage. Perhaps we are also desperately struggling to find something that we are in control of when life is so unpredictable.

Several times over the last few months I have heard from clients, “I am so tired of the same arguments and frustrations. We just don’t seem to see eye to eye. Now it is worse than ever before. All we seem to do is argue. Maybe we would be happier apart.”

Living on top of each other for months is bound to bring to the surface what has always been smoldering underneath. No matter how good a fit we seem to be with our partner at the beginning, no two people are ever perfectly alike in their values, needs, life goals and how they handle crisis situations. It is completely normal for every couple to have similar but also different values and needs. When we are stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, these clashes of values and needs are unavoidable.

Relationship therapists Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman have always empathized that in each partnership, there are perpetual problems. In his research, John Gottman found that 69% of problems couples have are repetitive issues because they are based on fundamental differences in personality, lifestyle, or needs. Daniel B. Wile, the late founder and developer of Collaborative Couple Therapy, phrased it well by stating, “Choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems” (Dan Wile). That means, no matter which partner we choose, there will always be some issues which are easier to solve and others that turn out to be perpetual problems.

If we invest our energy into changing our partner, we are exhausting ourselves with a hopeless mission and we have completely missed the point. If we are identified with opposite energies in a partnership and entrenched in our position, opening up to the other person and their experience is exactly what we need.

Let’s take Stephanie and Chris and one of their perpetual disagreements. Now more than ever, she wants to be consistent with the bedtime for the kids, while he is more generous and willing to let them stay up later. This creates weekly tensions and discussions between them. Each of them feels unheard and misunderstood.

Underneath our conflicts is a hidden dream, fear, need, or value. To find out the dream or the fear underneath our conflict, we need to ask our partner the question, “What makes this so important to you?” We might also want to be curious if there is an experience behind this situation for our partner, maybe during childhood or in a past relationship. Being curious about the story goes beyond understanding just their thoughts and feelings. We want to find out what our partner values, believes and holds dear.

An important key to a happy relationship is to learn to listen without judgement, to acknowledge the other person’s experience and feelings, and to share our own feelings and experiences with as much openness. Without active listening and true dialogue, we end up in gridlock conflict.

According to Gottman, gridlocked conflict does not simply happen. Dr. John Gottman names the steps on the way to this gridlock situation as:

  1. The partners have opposing dreams or values.
  2. They get entrenched in their opposing positions.
  3. Their fears of accepting influence from their partner increases.
  4. The “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling and Contempt) are progressively more present in their interactions.
  5. The partners emotionally disengage from each other.

 

All couples will face some forms of perpetual conflict. But those recurring issues do not need to become gridlocked. What a couple needs is the willingness to explore the other person’s side of the conflict and what dreams are beneath their position.

Stephanie and Chris have different needs. Stephanie feels strongly about sticking to the bedtime for the kids. What this is not about is her being controlling, inflexible or not enjoying her kids, as Chris assumes. By 7:30 p.m., she feels overwhelmed and has the need for quiet time to recharge and for alone time with Chris to connect with him. What this is about is her being able to step out of the role as a mother and feeling like a woman. It is also about her needing and valuing a deep connection with her husband, independent of their roles as parents. She is able to communicate to Chris that her parents dutifully stayed together until her dad passed but were always distant and quite cold with each other. They had different interests, were judgmental of each other and did not share their feelings. As a young girl, Stephanie promised herself to have a different marriage.

And what about Chris being more laid back about the bedtime? What this is not about is him being irresponsible, just wanting to be the fun dad and avoiding time with Stephanie alone, as she suspects. As Stephanie asks why being flexible is so important for Chris, they uncover that family time is about comfort, nurturing and belonging for Chris. He grew up as an only child without brothers, sisters or cousins his age. He has always longed to have a big loud happy family. His parents never seemed to struggle connecting with each other. They were going out three or four nights a week, to the theatre, a concert or to meet with their circle of friends. As Chris contemplates his parents’ relationship, he realizes that the quality time they spend together, and their common interests, were probably one reason why they had a good connection.

After both feel heard and their needs and values were acknowledged by their spouse, Stephanie and Chris arrive at a compromise:  From Monday to Thursday the kids bedtime is strict, Friday and Saturday their bedtime is more flexible, and on Sunday evenings Chris and Stephanie plan to spend time together as a couple. As we are going into phase two of the pandemic right now, they are able to expand the group of people they get in contact with and they are able to ask Stephanie’s mother to babysit every Sunday. They also have set the intention to tackle their other perpetual problems with the same open curiosity to arrive at compromises that meet both their needs.

With awareness and adaptability, perpetual problems do not need to mean the death sentence for a relationship. We can move from judgment to being understanding and accepting, to a dialogue about what values and needs are not met and how to negotiate compromises.

 

What are your perpetual problems? What opposing views are you and your partner entrenched in? Have you noticed how criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, or even contempt, play a role in your interactions?

If you are willing to explore your partners dreams, beliefs and values and share your own needs and values reach out for

Online Coaching

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Before booking a session, you will get the opportunity to have a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can ask all your questions and we can determine if we are a good fit as coach and client.

 

 

What Is Your Story?

Do you like stories about relationships? I love them. Lately, we have been watching old seasons of the sitcom “Modern Family”. It felt like we needed some good laughs. Some seasons are of course better than others, but what I really appreciate about this show is that the characters, even though stereotypical, are easy to sympathize with. They are human, every single one of them, and they take turns being the one who learns a lesson, just like in real life. Nobody has it all quite together and this show reminds us that we are lovable with all our flaws, vanities, insecurities and dreams.

Due to the mockumentary-style of the show, we get insights into the character’s thoughts about themselves and their loved ones. Thus “Modern Family” also illustrates well how we all run a story of who we were in the past, who we are in the present and who we can be in the future, and how our family plays a part in shaping that story. The show provides different perspectives of the same situation or same person and demonstrates that we are not stuck with one view of things.

Our personal life story is never just a summary of facts and events. We as the narrator cannot help but interpret what happened. What is essential is how we integrate the facts and events internally into a coherent story which has characters and a plot line that weaves it all together and gives meaning to the events. Our story, as we tell it in our heads and to others, becomes an essential part of our identity.

Years ago, I had a young client whose story I have told many times as a powerful example for how we do not need to let our story limit who we are. She was the youngest of three siblings. When she was little, her family had a car accident. Her dad died and her mom became wheel-chair-bound and experienced chronic pain. Life was safe and comfortable one moment, and suddenly became a huge struggle. My client could easily have told a story of adversity and hardship. She could have focused on the loss and sacrifice. Nonetheless, she was positive and felt that her experience was not a misfortune but had helped her become who she was. All three siblings cherished their family and supported each other. They worked hard, became professionally successful, and adapted a great attitude towards life. All three of them chose to tell empowering life stories rather than disempowering ones.

But it is not just the tough stories that invite us to shift from a victim story to an empowering one. Sometimes it is the story of a so called “easy start in life” that leave us feeling undeserving. I have heard people tell me “I had two loving parents, who provided well financially and allowed me to explore my passions. I got to do sports, arts and music. My parents weren’t rich but supportive. I had an easy start in life. I never had to overcome anything. Who am I to be a role model to others?”

In my experience, everybody experiences some hardship at some point in their life. Some people as children, some as young adults, others in their 40s or 60s. It is important not to let your story hold you back. The same applies to the “I had an easy start in life” story as to a “hardship” story. How you connect the simple facts with a central theme and what meaning you give the events, is completely up to you.

Before we can potentially change our story, we need to discover what story we have been telling in our heads and to others. As a belief change coach, I work with beliefs and stories on a regular basis. We can explore how our stories are serving us, but also how they are holding us back. Our stories always reflect the beliefs we have internalized about ourselves, our relationships, other people and the world in general.

What’s your story? What is the plot and what are the main characters? Do you see yourself as the hero or villain, as the victim or the fighter? If you are willing to dig a bit deeper, you might be surprised which positive and also which limiting patterns you can discover.

In her book “Loving Bravely”, Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, suggests an illuminating exercise of creating a table of contents for your life story. These are the questions she asks to discover the patterns:

  • What is the title of your entire life story?
  • What chapters are there and how will you title those chapters?
  • Then fill in the details: Who are the major characters? Who has stood in your corner, who has presented you with challenges?
  • What are the central conflicts or major themes in your life?
  • What have been your most impactful lessons?
  • What are your favourite chapters and why?
  • In what ways have you been blessed?
  • Select 3-5 patterns or themes that represent your core issues and capture your life so far.
  • Now select 3-5 themes that you would like to have captured in the upcoming chapters of your life. What needs to be shifted?

 

If you want to explore your story or change your limiting subconscious beliefs, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Right now, due to COVID-19, I have shifted all my sessions to

Online Sessions

Please click on the link and read these testimonials from individuals and couples about their resent zoom sessions with me.

If you are still unsure afterwards, you can start with a

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Doing the Best That We Can

As we had into another week of social distancing measures, I wonder if any of this sounds familiar to you?

“I am so tired of hearing how this COVID-19 situation is a blessing. I am spiritual but I swear I will kill the next person who tells me that I should be thankful that we are all healthy and that it gives me more time with my husband and kids! I feel constantly anxious and overwhelmed, trying to juggle work and the kids. My work hours and my pay has been cut, but I am supposed to be grateful that I still have a job. I might get fired any day! I can’t sleep at night and during the day I walk around in a mental fog. I have lost it several times with my kids and husband. I am a horrible mother and wife! And the house constantly looks like a bomb exploded. I’ve put on 15 pounds because I don’t get to exercise much, and eating is my only excuse to stop and take a break. All I wanted for Mother’s Day was a break and to forget about this nightmare. My husband did not even manage to get some flowers or make a card with the kids. I know he is tired and overwhelmed, too, but I just wanted one day of being appreciated. I got in my car and just left them. I drove to the lake to just sit there by myself. I feel horrible for not having my shit together!”

This client of mine echoes what so many are experiencing. During the first three weeks of social distancing and isolation in our homes, we might have still coped quite well, but now we’ve started to realize that this is not a sprint, but rather a marathon to get through. We can certainly say that the entire world has been affected and changed forever, and in some ways, it helps that we are all supposedly in the same boat. Whether we still have a job or not is not due to individual failure, but often luck. There are—at least in Canada—emergency rescue benefits by the government that provide some relief. Yet, despite supposedly being it the same boat, we have to be aware of comparisons and giving advice to others, because the effects of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic are quite different for each individual person.

For some of us, it has locked us in with family members that we never had to spend so much time with before. Having young children is especially challenging right now. We have limited privacy and outside activities, and it naturally brings out the issues and magnifies the triggers in all our relationships. As a relationship coach, I would be the first one to tell you that this is an opportunity to work through issues, but that is not always easy or possible. I have seen positive stories of couples taking this time to work through their issues and teenagers opening up and interacting with their parents, but there are as many people who are stuck with a partner not wanting to do the work or a teenager not ready to connect. Being locked in together also does not allow us to escape the anxiety or depression our partner or family member might be experiencing. That can be quite draining. It leaves us helpless and discouraged.

For others, this situation has brought the experience of too much space because they live alone and are going through intense loneliness and grief for their situation as a single person or widow(er). For others yet, it has brought a tragic loss, for example by not being able to be present when a loved one passed away.

Our experiences range from simple inconveniences to financial loss to relationship challenges to personal tragedies. The situation has allowed some of us to experience a much-needed reprieve from a life that was too busy before, for others it has become a desperate attempt to keep everything normal and to adapt to never expected circumstances.

Accordingly, our feelings range from finding relief or inspiration in this unusual situation to feeling depressed and anxious. Even though we are all in a storm on the sea, we are not really in the same boat. Some of us are in little canoes, others in little motorboats with only so much fuel on board and others, in big solid yachts. We must not make the mistake of comparing our experience with the experience of someone in a different boat.

One of the most common denominators seem to be that these tough times bring out the Inner Critic voice in many of us. This is that nagging voice inside, which is trying to protect us by letting us know in which ways we are “faulty” or not doing enough. No matter how well we are doing, the Inner Critic will find something that apparently needs to be improved. And the Inner Critic loves situations of adversity, for example when we get a bad grade, fail to reach a goal, gain some weight, lose a relationship, when others seem to be doing better, or simply when we are tired, exhausted or feeling vulnerable. And, oh boy, does it love the present situation with all the unpredictability and changes!

In a phone conversation with a good friend and fellow practitioner a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned that he has been noticing that the Inner Critic seems to be coming up in all his sessions right now. That is exactly what I have observed for my client sessions and—as I just fully realized—for myself as well.

Over the last two months, I have been going through a whole variety of emotions myself. I have felt worry and fear for my own situation as well as for my children; I have felt annoyed and angry at family members who seem to be better off due to having a stable job and paid-off mortgage and who—meaning well—kept sending photos of joyfully working in their garden; I have felt exhausted and resigned just getting through another day; and I have, of course, also found amazing gifts and opportunities in this situation and had many days where I felt positive and inspired. But in order to see those gifts and appreciate them, I had to be my own coach and talk myself through releasing stuck emotions and shifting my perspective. Some days I was doing my best to go with the flow while breathing through and meditating on the more vulnerable emotions which the unknown always triggers for us. Other days I did not do so well and would not have gotten out of bed if I didn’t have to, thanks to my side job forcing me to get up at 5:00 a.m. most mornings.

Over the last two months, I have shifted all my coaching sessions to Zoom and I have had lovely sessions with individuals and couples, but many of my clients have lost their jobs and have been postponing sessions. Instead of coaching, I found myself getting busy with German lessons. At the beginning, I was looking to fill my time by accepting many more lessons than I usually do at the online school I work for on the side, but after a few weeks, I also had private students reaching out wanting more classes now that they’re stuck at home. Suddenly, I was totally booked up with teaching German classes and coming up with new grammar exercises for my German website in any free moment.

Now, you would think that my Inner Critic would be happy with this. Yet even though that inner voice was acknowledging that I was productive and earning money, it was also finding fault with all of this. I found myself thinking, “I am not putting enough time and energy towards my coaching business”, “I should write another blog, record another meditation etc. to support my clients better”, “I should reach out more to individual clients to see how they are doing at this time”, “I should network more with my colleagues” and even “I should have time to clean the house and declutter, what is wrong with me that I don’t?”

From some of my friends and clients, I have heard over the last few weeks that they are using this time to organize the cupboards, declutter, paint or renovate the house or work in the garden. And, as we know, the Inner Critic loves comparisons with others, never in our favour of course.

Over a week ago, I was on a break from teaching online classes and enjoying the sun outside. At one point, as I glanced over at our neighbour’s backyard, I couldn’t help commenting on how impressed I was by all the work they were putting into their garden and saying I should do the same. Our neighbour made a simple but wise comment. “We all do what we can at this time”. I realized how the Inner Critic voice has not just been plaguing my clients but also apparently myself, nagging about using this “break” to get things done.

So here is my new mantra for this week, or how about this entire month, whenever the Inner Critic voice pipes up: “I do my best” (on the inhale) “and my best is always good enough” (on the exhale).

 

Online Sessions 

Please click on the link and read these testimonials

from individuals and couples about their recent zoom sessions with me.

If you are still unsure afterwards, you can start with a

free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

What Is This COVID-19 Induced Activity Frenzy Really About?

Over the last ten days, I’ve noticed how my e-mail inbox is literally flooded with double the number of e-mails than it used to be. Every single company is not just letting us know how they are handling the COVID-19 situation, which is good, but also offering discounts on clothing and products that we really do not need more of right now.

My inbox is also overflowing with e-mail offers for online get-togethers of all sorts: online games, movie nights, network meetings, community meetings, social gatherings and there seems no end to this. How can a social zoom gathering of my pickleball group—who without a doubt is a lovely group that I very much enjoy exercising with on the court twice a week—possibly be a substitution? I play pickleball because it is a fun way to move, so mostly for my health. It seems it would make much more sense to set the time aside for myself to get on my stationary bike, do some Yoga or go for a walk to stay fit and healthy.

Are we so afraid of our own company and the company of our loved ones that we need to flee to online games with strangers and online zoom chats with our sports groups?

While it’s important not to underestimate the immense value that we can find in connecting with people online to maintain a social life and keep from going stir-crazy, especially if we live alone, it’s more important than ever that we take the time for the opposite as well. What would it be like to take more time to slow down, feel the stillness, meditate and reflect on what is going on for us, rather than losing ourselves in meaningless distractions?

In some way, we are, of course, all fighting for a sense of normality. We all still need to make an income and, I am grateful that we can work through Zoom. There are great possibilities and gifts in this experience of having to adapt to the current situation. At the same time, I see among my colleagues a productivity frenzy as they are moving lectures, groups and workshops online as fast as they can. And, I freely admit this, I felt myself being pulled into this for a bit. Above the uncertainty about the future, that we all naturally feel in these times of a worldwide crisis, I also felt the pressure to be that coach who has it all together and just moves everything online right away.

Do we really need to convert our entire overly busy life to a virtual life right now, or have we missed out on an important hidden opportunity, when we do that? What is really behind this reluctance to take some time off? Is it the companies, organizations and sports clubs who fear they will cease to exist if they don’t go with the times and stay in touch with people?

I feel that it is important to give ourselves and our children time to emotionally and mentally adjust to the new circumstances, to ensure we don’t overload ourselves with online activities in an attempt to simulate normalcy. Let’s not forget that the world has for most of us only changed this dramatically in the last four weeks.

Six weeks ago, I was still on vacation with one of my daughters and now she is out of a job, and so is my other daughter. In February, I had clients come in daily, walking through the kitchen and living room area and downstairs to my home office. Now the kitchen and family room areas are in need of tidying up because we have become too comfortable with just letting things be. Or have we? Is this perhaps a time to enjoy that we do not need to go anywhere or have the house presentable for someone coming to us? And how can we cherish taking some time off when we are so busy recreating our lives online?

I am not saying that some of these online events aren’t helpful. The ones which feed your soul will be different from the ones that resonate with me. But more than ever, we need to be aware of not getting caught up in an activity and productivity frenzy. A lot of us have been too busy running around from event to event, as it was. My schedule was always full, and I am sure so was yours. And this applies even more so to families with younger kids. This is an opportunity to slow down and to be in the present moment. It is a chance to feel and to be aware. It is a time to find calm, peace and our inner centre. It is a time to stay fit, laugh and play games—not only online, but especially with the people closest to us who are in quarantine or self-isolation next to us: the family members who we are all seeing far more frequently now than we normally can.

One of my online German students in Switzerland, who I have always connected with once a week via Zoom even before COVID-19, said to me a couple of days ago that she didn’t have the time to do her homework because she chose to meditate every day and focus on staying calm and centred in the midst of everybody’s anxiety. My reply was, “Good for you!” How important is her German progress compared to the importance of understanding the messages we are getting through this crisis?

This period right now is a grief experience. We are experiencing different losses, concrete ones like the loss of a job and less concrete ones like a loss of safety and security. In reality, life was never predictable, but it felt more so before the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no right or wrong way to grieve! Grief means that we need to allow our individual grieving to proceed in its own way and time.

It is okay if you wake up in the middle of the night, not able to go back to sleep. It is okay if you are struggling to establish a daily fitness routine at home or move your classes or business online instantly. Given time and some grief work, not just our brains, but also our hearts will adapt. We will find completion of what we have lost, and peace in the new situation and with the new opportunities.

But what is most of all needed right now is some self-compassion. Ignore those colleagues or friends who are posting on social media about how well they are adapting or who are flooding your e-mail inbox with distractions. Remember that there is Facebook, and then there is real life, in which we don’t have to hide behind happy pictures or success stories. It is okay to take as long as it takes to adjust to the new normal! In fact, we will adjust faster, when we do not get lost in unnecessary distractions.

So which additional online invitations have I said yes to this week and will continue saying yes to? I have said yes to a Facetime with a young friend who had a daughter last year and who I usually visit once a month. It feeds my soul to see how the little one, who just learned to walk six weeks ago, has changed. I have said yes to regularly meeting online with a former student, who has become a brilliant fellow belief change coach himself, to do exchanges. We as coaches also need coaches or colleagues, as much for our own sanity as our clients do.

I will, of course, continue to connect with my dad, my uncle and my aunt, who are all in their eighties. Their love, wisdom and perspectives after having experienced other crises in their lives are nurturing and enlightening. Letting them know that I love and treasure them is one of the most important things I can do right now. I will continue to connect with other family members and close friends, but I will do it in a way that meets my needs. Rather than spending yet more time at the computer, I can speak to them on the phone while I go for a walk or sit in the backyard, which hopefully will soon be possible.

How different have even our walks become! It won’t be long, and we will all be wearing masks to protect others when we go out for walks or grocery trips, and I am all for that. As the world changes, we will need to relearn how to interact with others under these new circumstances. A nod, a smile and a friendly greeting are still possible with social distancing and more necessary than ever. Knowing how we want to be with each other, all begins with learning how to be with ourselves, our own feelings and fears. We cannot do that if we get swept up in a frenzy of online activity.

This is the time to wrap our mind around the fact that this experience will change us and our world forever. It is not going to be completely forgotten after a few weeks, and things won’t immediately, if ever, jump back to the way they were. Let’s rather acknowledge that we will be changed forever. It is the time to decide how we want to be changed for the better, when it comes to our relationships and our everyday life.

 

from April 1 to April 14

online sessions

for individuals and couples

who are financially struggling

20% off

If you have lost your job or you are struggling because you are self-employed, reach out and talk to me, especially if you are a previous client. I am here to help you and your family through this time.

If you are a health care worker or first responder, your session is complimentary right now, out of admiration and deep gratitude for what you are going through right now.

 

 

You can start with a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Increase in Divorce Rates Due to COVID-19. How Can We Pull Together?

A client of mine, challenged with her marriage right now, said to me a couple of days ago, that when the Coronavirus threat is over, there will be an increase of divorces. Her comment was based on an article from “the New Yorker”. The newspaper reports, “In Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, more than ten million people were placed under lockdown. When restrictions were eased, earlier this month, the city’s divorce rate spiked.” Psychologist and attorneys speak up and predict that the divorce rate will also rise in the rest of the world due to this stressful situation COVID-19 has brought us.

Image by Sally-Kay from Pixabay

As a relationship coach, I want to challenge that statement. Undoubtedly, like any crisis, this challenging time also brings issues to the surface that we can easier ignore at other times. But instead of resigning ourselves to the fate of getting a divorce, we have the choice to examine how we can use this time period to improve our relationships and especially our partnerships or marriages. Naturally, we are going through a period of adjustment as our work situation changes and most of our favourite free-time activities are cancelled. We need to be creative to meet our needs while staying at home. The issues in a relationship might resurface right now and force us to notice and address them. But we also now have more time together to do our couples work, due to the lack of outside distractions and activities.

The strength of our relationships depends on if we can successfully hold each other in the fear we feel. There are fewer outside influences to argue about right now, but a new kind of anxiety has come up. One upset client of mine shared that while she is home with the children, her husband still goes out to have a cup of coffee with clients. She is afraid to question this and “restrict” him, meanwhile she lives in unnecessary anxiety. Their situation requires agreements on what precautions to take and how contacts can be shifted temporarily to virtual contacts.

Another couple told me that they are arguing about how to disinfect the surfaces, wash the food, and how often and thoroughly to wash their hands. Our fear brings up our vulnerable parts and our protective parts. Our fearful parts are triggered more than ever right now and our protectors (protective parts) can look like a “Scolding Parent” or an “Attacker”, accusing our spouse of not caring enough to take more precautions. If you want to read more about our protective parts in our relationships, please got to my article “You Are My Valued Tor-Mentor”.

Operating from our protective parts engages us in conflicts with each other. How can we instead have empathy and compassion with our partner’s fears and show the willingness to negotiate acceptable compromises to reassure each other?

Being home together also requires boundaries and the balance between alone time and time together. It is now, more than ever, important to communicate well. One of the things that seems to work well for my family, is to create a routine and structure, even if it is an artificial one. Have a set time to get up and to go to bed, a time to eat, a time to work if you have work right now, a time to do yoga, or go for a walk and so on.

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay 

As human beings, we need to feel productive and useful. Some of my clients have told me that they are doing some de-cluttering and extra cleaning right now. Or they are engaged in creative activities that they have not had time for in a long while.

Part of establishing a daily routine is to determine how much time we are going to spend listening to the news or reading information on social networks. It is possible that you and your spouse, or family members you live with, are affected differently by the news and announcements. It requires figuring out what your individual needs are and respecting the differences. If you can go to different rooms or use headphones if you need to separate, do so regularly.

If you have small children, the routine and giving each other breaks from entertaining the children is even more important. Clear communication on when and how each of you is going to work and when you are spending time separately with the kids or as a family is imperative. Children need a structure even more than we do as adults. Decide what your daily routine is going to be and stick to it, so your kids have some predictability.

And don’t forget to enjoy this forced upon slowing down that is happening right now. Cherish each moment with each other. There is a lot of cooking, baking and playing games going on in our house. I don’t think I have played as much Cribbage in years as I have played during the last two weeks! My niece and her partner in Germany sent me photos of doing puzzles together while waiting for their test results. I’ve been hearing a lot of “finally we have time together” comments from extended family members and clients.

Puzzles, Cribbage, being together without rush… Without wanting to downplay COVID-19 being a real threat, it almost sounds a bit like a trip to the cottage in the summer, doesn’t it? I can’t help but wonder what we can learn and gain from this experience. When you contemplate the short-term and long-term benefits and advantages of what is unfolding right now, a lot of promising developments stand out.

Whole neighbourhoods are pulling together, offering each other help with the supplies individual families have—yes, the much laughed about toilet paper, for one. We are reaching out and phoning or texting family and friends we might not have talked to in a long time. It brings out kindness, compassion and taking care of each other. Despite or because of the fear we all feel, we continue to come together like never before.

What is happening right now is a general refocus on what is important: partnerships, family and relationships with others. The situation we find ourselves in due to COVID-19 is unprecedented, not only on an economic and societal level, but also for our family relationships. Self-isolation and extended time together are sometimes welcome and harmonious, other times they bring great challenges. But that is a good thing! When problems come to our attention, we can do something about them. The couple can work on it alone, or they can reach out to a coach or therapist.

Image by Gracini Studios from Pixabay 

Most of us coaches and counsellors are working remotely right now. A session through Zoom or Skype is as beneficial as a session in person. If the technology aspect makes you nervous, I understand, and I promise, that I will walk you through the steps to connect virtually.

As many of you are faced with uncertainty right now, I am offering an online session discount:

from April 1 to April 14

online sessions

for individuals and couples

20% off

For a start reach out for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

How to Get Through the Holidays When We Are Grieving a Loss

It has been imprinted on our psyche from an early age that holidays are the time to spend with our family and loved ones. In an ideal world with complete happy and well-functioning families, that is a wonderful thing. However, what if we are still grieving the loss of a family member who has passed, or we live in a split-up family, or we cannot seem to make the dream of a family come true due to fertility issues or not finding the right partner, or we are experiencing another loss, like the loss of our health, our job, our pet, our home and so on? There are so many situations in which the holidays can deepen our sadness and magnify our pain.

The loss of a family member—whether loved or not so loved—or the break of the original family unit, tends to bring out in families what already existed under the surface but could be ignored until the loss occurred. Those relationships which were struggling prior to the loss now become obvious. Missing bonds, hurt feelings, dysfunctional family patterns are suddenly right out in the open. The loss of one family member or the split of the family into two separate units naturally changes the dynamics between everybody. Coupled with the grief everybody is feeling and expressing differently, the issues which were already part of this family’s interactions are multiplied. Suddenly, family members are triggering each other into emotional responses, and the ideal of the harmonious peaceful holiday time seems to go up in smoke.

  • There is the young woman who has been trying to conceive for eight years now and who is supposed to spend the holidays with her in-laws and with not just one, but two pregnant and much younger sister-in-law’s. The soon to be grandparents, who do not know about her struggles, are ecstatic. Her own pain is equally big and seems unbearable, but worse is her Inner Critic that tells her not to be so selfish and that she should be happy for her sister-in-law’s.
  • There is the son, who always felt that he couldn’t measure up to his brother and compete for the love of his mother. After the death of his father, he feels even more isolated, has a fallout with his mom, and chooses not to spend Christmas with his family.
  • There is the widower whose wife used to be his best friend, his lover, his one and all and who is still trying to come to terms with her dying from an aggressive form of cancer within only a few months. He has no children to help him through this first Christmas alone and will need a friend to reach out to him.
  • There is the daughter, who felt she had to side with her mother against her father in a divorce and did not get another opportunity to have a relationship with him as she was growing up. She learns the limiting belief that men can’t be trusted and that close relationships with men are unavailable to her. She chooses to get back into an unfulfilling relationship just before Christmas when it is the hardest to be alone.
  • There is the granddaughter, who was very close to her grandmother and experiences her being replaced by her grandfather’s new girlfriend soon after. She feels deep sadness and starts to wonder about men and their loyalties. When she invites her grandfather for Christmas Eve as it is their family tradition, he refuses and spends the evening with his new girlfriend; her beliefs are confirmed.
  • There is the widow, who forces herself to do everything as usual to be strong for the kids and she shoulders not just her former workload but also the one of her deceased husband. By the time Christmas Eve arrives, she is taken to the hospital with a lung infection she has ignored.

These are all real people I am referring to and I could go on but I would rather share some strategies of how to get through the holidays when there is a recent or unprocessed loss, whether that is the loss of a person, or a relationship, or a dream.

The first decision to make is, do you even want to go through the regular Christmas routine? You can change the routine to something more normal like ordering in food and watching a movie together. Anything that feels too overwhelming, you are allowed to skip. The big holiday decorations, the festive meal, sending holiday cards, buying gifts for people beyond your immediate family, spending time with family members that trigger your sense of loss… Whatever it might be that makes you feel like you are simply going through the motions, give yourself permission to drop. There is no right or wrong way to do the holidays. In fact, loss has a way of encouraging us to evaluate what parts of the holidays feed our soul and which parts don’t. It is even okay to cancel the holidays altogether and to go away. Often a change of scenery is exactly what you might need.

If you want to spend the holidays in your traditional way with your family, be gentle with yourself and compassionate with others. We all grieve in a different way. What might look like anger or even destruction can hide a lot of pain, what might seem like indifference might be an equally strong protection from feeling the loss. We are literally not ourselves when we are grieving. The first time to make major decisions is right after a big loss when our emotions are flying high.

Nobody asks to experience a loss, or as a client of mine phrased it: “The splitting up of my family was never what I wanted, never what I imagined, never what I dreamed of.” Yet, at the other side of the grief we realize that we are not alone. Everybody experiences losses at some point in their life. We can always reach out to the Greater Power and asked to be carried through a time like the holidays. Remember that we are all connected.

Allow others to help. There is no shame in needing help, on the contrary. Accept their practical help at this time of the year, and share with them what is going on for you internally. Let them know they are not expected to fix anything, but that it helps to simply vocalize your thoughts and feelings. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Love and support?

Remember that crying is okay. You do not need to be strong for others. Acknowledging your own sadness and grief can help others to do the same. Make sure you talk to kids as their grief can be overlooked or forgotten. Explain to them what is happening and why you feel the way you feel. Often children have a healthier attitude towards death than we do as adults, but they still need to process the loss of a loved one who passed or the loss of their family which broke apart.

If you are getting together with your family and you want to remember the family member you have just lost, communicate beforehand how you would like to do that. Allow everybody to partake or also to not partake, keeping in mind that we all grieve differently. If it feels right, you could light a candle or share memories or photos of your family member. Consider what this person’s legacy is and how you as a family want to continue living this legacy. Were they perhaps a charitable person or known for helping others? Were they musical or loved telling jokes? Did they like arts and crafts? Where they a good listener? etc. You might then decide to donate something to charity in their name, bring in the music or jokes, make a holiday ornament in their memory, adopt your loved ones listening stance and so on.

And last but not least, if you have been putting off getting professional help and for example seeing a coach or counsellor, now might be the right time. The holidays are tough to get through. Reach out to get the support you need.

Contact Angelika for grief work or fertility work 

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you want to read more about how grief accumulates you can read the article “Recovering from Our Losses”.

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