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Maintaining a positive attitude ( well trying to anyway)

One of the results about too much time spent on my own is that I can get super sensitive.  I am an extrovert so love to be around people, seeking people out in the way of belonging to organisations, going to meetings, etc. Today a friend of long standing said something really horrible to me.  I know you can catch someone on a bad day and although I wanted to make a remark as hateful as what she said I walked away instead.  I will see what the next encounter brings.  We all have bad days and I guess something triggers in us that makes us bitter or just plain nasty and in some cases causes us to make a crack that we should never have said.  I would hate to lose this woman as a friend so will see what happens next.

Today I went to the shopping centre, I met the above mentioned friend and instead of offering me a seat as she usually does when she is having a coffee she let fly at me .  Quick retreat to the other end of the shopping centre for me as my policy is "just walk away".  Got home feeling bad about it but on reflection hope it was just a bad day as I know her illness causes her a lot of pain. And like me when I was first bereaved maybe she is sick of recitations of where her friends have been, what they have done etc and I would have added to that maybe. Maybe I am insensitive and patronizing, who knows?

The problem with our long summer holiday (kids out of school for seven weeks) is that most of what I do regularly either slows down or closes down so there is a kind of blank on the days I am usually really busy. If I had family around I guess that gap in my life would be less noticeable as it is I fill it by reading,being on the computer etc.  Now the rain has stopped I will do some gardening including repotting and maybe do some beach activities as soon as school goes back and the beach parking areas are not as crowded.  It is a problem every year so why I don't plan better I don't know.  Maybe the last couple of years I just enjoyed the peace and quiet, this year I am feeling the loneliness instead.

I had a good holiday with my son out at Broken Hill. Sure it was hot, the sky was so blue it was dazzling, there were small dust storms and one night it was still so hot I got no sleep but it was worth it.  It was worth it to be there on Christmas Day with my three year old grand daughter, it was worth it to share nice meals that he and I cooked together.  It was worth it to have someone to chat to in the evenings. We didn't do "touristy" things but this was my sixth visit so we have been to most places.  We did go to one of the almost abandoned towns nearby, once a rich mining area for silver it is now tumbled down and only frequented by artists and tourists.  But it is a wonderful place to see that broad stretch of sky that our Inland is well known for. It was great to experience that change of scenery and change of culture.

But now I am back home, home sweet home but I am lonely at home too.  It really is wonderful to be back but reality bites and I feel once more that lack of companionship. Why does this keep happening?  I doubt I will ever "get over it" sometimes.  Forty four years of marriage is not forgotten and that sense of loss continues to plague me. I can fill my days with busyness but the nights are still so long sometimes.  The hot weather exacerbates that somewhat as it takes longer to get to sleep than on the cold winter nights when I can snuggle down under a pile of blankets. Then the tossing and turning starts leaving me staring into space and thinking those sad thoughts does not help me sleep.  But as we know this too will pass.

Two days ago I did the funeral service for a friend. at her family's request.  I hadn't done a funeral for ten years although that can be part of my pastoral care role and never at a Crematorium so it was a bit of a learning curve.  Luckily my daughter as a Salvation Army officer has done a lot of funerals so she sent me an outline and I improvised on that. The funeral went well.  I think I talked a little too fast as we did a 30 minute funeral in 23 minutes but the family were pleased and some of the people present were complimentary. It was hard as I have seen a lot of this lady over the past three years and I guess I was as sad as most of those present.  But she and Mum were best friends for a lot of years and I owed it to her to make her farewell special.

Does my role as a pastoral care worker make me sad?  Yes in a way it does. In some ways the people I minister to are not going to get well, never going to get better, would seem to live a life that others would see as not worth living.  But that is not the case.  Some of them can be wonderful, funny, happy on some occasions, sad on others, wise, loving, kind, helping me as much as I help them.  I do the job out of love.  I love to be with positive people but also with those who endeavour in their lives to turn what would seem so negative into a positive, and that is what some of those I visit do.  They are 1000% more positive than the healthy able bodied people I encounter in other circumstances and I love them for that.

Only four more weeks and the summer holidays will be over and life will get back to some kind of normal.  I am sure I will find worthwhile ways of filling the days.  I have a few things to look forward to already this year so I will try to use some patience in my dealing with my world and the people in it.  No-one likes a sad sack.  I need to get that joy in my heart rekindled and whatever the exterior circumstances learn to maintain as positive an outlook as I can manage each day.  As we all know that is what counts.

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Comment by only1sue on January 8, 2016 at 12:27pm

Melissa, you have given me something to think about including when I am seen as just a friend and when I am expected to slip back into the role of pastoral worker.  It is a dilemma sometimes as the two roles do cross over and I do find I am taking that one step back and looking at the problem not the person.  Thank you.

Comment by SweetMelissa on January 8, 2016 at 6:22am

Hi Sue,

You did the right thing in walking away from your friend, sounds like she has alot on her mind. I've read a number of articles that have suggested going out amongst people helps take the mind off of whatever ails a person. The only problem with it is if a person cannot stop dwelling on their issue{s} it might mean s/he is not ready to be in public. She just might have a reckoning day when she finds she's absolutely alone to the point her family can't even cope with her. When the time comes all you have to decide is how best to greet her. Another consideration is she might feel threatened by your pastoral position -she might have thought you would minister her if she responded in kind. I'm really not certain, but I hope these will help alleviate any doubts you have about yourself. And you're right, practicing self control when out in public is best for everyone.

When I was in your time frame I felt the same way. If I wasn't feeling resigned I was feeling hopeless. They're both common during grief. Its like trying to do two things simultaneously -shedding and relearning. Aaaagh! Too many tests! 

Shedding was the first thing that had to be done before I could put things in perspective to accept new changes in my life. The problem with logic vs human wiring/spiritualism is not only are they conflicting, one maintains humanity by not allowing us to become robots. It seems reasonable to think once our spouse is dead we should automatically accept their death, the end of our marriage, etc. What we find is a plethora of emotions need to be processed thoughout our entire being over and over. Regardless of formal training, the brain slows down during grief as well as the memory. We have "aha" moments to information we already have stored in our brain.

As for shedding, I found ways to honor my husband, our marriage and myself. I'd visit the cemetery every Thursday, included my husband in dinner time grace, made the sign of the cross whenever driving by the crash site (still do), jumped on every opportunity to be thankful as well as intensified my studies on my religious beliefs till the strength of its purpose lightened my heart. What I was actually doing was forming a new relationship with my husband, even then it still took time to adjust to it -that was my relearning. At 8 1/2 years out, I sometimes briefly forget I'm single (but not alone). I share this to allow you to know what worked for me, not as a "you have to do it this way" or "its the only foolproof method". We can start with someone elses idea then improvise or add to it or simply come up with our own plan.

In addition, the difference between a priest and a pastor is clergy are allowed to have cathected relationships as well as live day to day as any member of society. Priests need them for councel. Ones own flock needs them to relate to from personal experience(s) as well as interpret/advise on how best to proceed in accordance with their religion. At this time, gaining experience may not be important, however, if you continue with your clergy duties, undoubtedly, someone will need your services in the future. Journaling is good therapy, so you might want to write down all things you've tried whether successful or not.

I hope this helps!

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