Tag Archives: grief

Where Does Your Strength Come From?

imageGrieving can and often does involve suffering, sorrow, sadness, hurt, depression, a feeling of affliction, and more. Grief is most commonly related to and thereby put into a category of death and dying.  However, grief covers so much more than our expression over the loss of a loved one.  

I was reading a verse from Nehemiah 8:10 which says, Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Grieving can be an every day part of life for someone with a chronic illness like Parkinsons disease.  The first occasion to experience grief is upon diagnosis.  You realize that from that moment on, nothing will ever be the same.  There was no physical death, but eventually you realize that life from that day forward will be looked upon differently.  Some days will be looked upon with grief in the form of sadness and sorrow while others will be met with smiles and laughter.  Our path will not have necessarily changed, but we will face it with different emotions.

People who live with a chronic illness can be easily upset with life if they feel theyve been dealt a hand they dont deserve or refuse to accept.  This is a form of grieving in the way of anger and of asking why.  Why me? Why this? Why now? (As pondered in the justified mind of a Young/Early Onset Parkinsons patient.)  The whys of life can leave a person grief-stricken, as they can be hard to make much sense out of and/or hard to understand, if not impossible.  This can often lead to a deep sadness or depression and weve learned that depression is one part of the whole picture that patients often have to deal with, (It is wise to seek treatment if you are in this stage of grief.)  You may be waiting for a good day to come and, if youre fighting depression along with all the other challenges PD has to offer, that good day may not come.  


Affliction comes in several different ways through Parkinsons disease.  Pain, tremors, lack of balance, difficulty swallowing – the list goes on and on.  Each day we encounter different tests’ this disease seems to constantly give.  Will you lost your balance and actually fall this time? Will the tremors cause you to withdraw from the social activity you scheduled for the day?  Will the pain rob you of doing what you love?  Will going out to lunch embarrass you should you begin one your choking spells? The list of afflictions doesn’t end there.  We can feel slightly pricked or punched hard in the gut, depending on the severity of the test.  Its a state of misery that leaves you feeling helpless, sometimes hopeless and hopeless is such a dark place to be.  


There is hope.  I started this out with a verse that I had read today.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’  Its not always easy to not settle in with grief as our companion.  Life as we once knew it has changed and some days have been replaced with deep sorrow over what we have lost or may lose.  Anticipation has been replaced with anxiousness and fear.  Fear of the what ifs.  Borrowing trouble from tomorrow.  Thats what the’what-ifs’ are made of. Tomorrow’s un-guaranteed trouble.


Instead of what-iffing ourselves into depression and sorrow, let’s learn to allow the joy that comes from the Lord to be our strength. Let’s replace sadness with hope, sorrow with thanksgiving, grief in its entirety with trust. His joy will build us up through this trial of life called Parkinson’s disease and keep us from falling into the abyss.  And joy is so much better, don’t you think?

Get It Out

imageLast summer, the findings of a study conducted by the University of Houston were released regarding the well being of female breast cancer survivors, specifically Chinese women. This ethnic group was chosen primarily because of the stigma cancer holds within the Chinese community.

“Unlike the Caucasian population, many Chinese have less knowledge of breast cancer and they feel that the cancer is very threatening, and they associate it with immediate death,” said Qian Lu, assistant professor and director of the Culture and Health Research Center at the University of Houston.

The study, which was published in Health Psychology, a scholarly journal, was based upon writing. Each of the 19 participants in the study (based in the Los Angeles area) were given health assessment questionnaires before the study began, followed by three sets of instructions.
In week one, patients wrote about their deepest thoughts/fears/emotions in regards to their experience with breast cancer.

Week two, they wrote about coping mechanisms they used to relieve stress brought on by the disease, and in week three they were to write about their positive thoughts and feelings. The patients who put in 20 to 30 minutes each day regularly (3-4 days per week) for the three week period saw positive change in relationship to their immune system.

The report stated that the purpose of the writing exercise was “to facilitate emotional disclosure, effective coping and finding benefit, which would work together to bring stressors and personal goals into awareness and regulate thoughts and emotions relevant to the cancer experience.” It also went on to say that the “release offered by writing had a direct impact on the body’s capacity to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease.”

So – what’s this have to do with Parkinson’s disease?

I don’t think Chinese women have an edge when it comes to writing about their illness, disease, sickness, heartache, joy and/or thanks-givings. No – I believe that writing is good for anyone’s mind,  soul,  heart, and  spirit. You can scratch down (or type out) your thoughts and feelings and say whatever you choose in regards to how you’re feeling. It’s a release of pent up frustrations, anger, fear, confused thoughts, sorrow, grief – the list could go on and on. It’s a release when no one else will listen or when no one may understand. It’s called journaling. It’s therapy in its least expensive form (besides the one on one sharing of conversation between two good friends).

Journaling (or as the study referred to – writing) will not cure cancer. It will not cure Parkinson’s. But it will allow for a place to dump the stress and walk away, perhaps leading to a feeling of life being a bit lighter. When you’re body isn’t focused on fear, grief, sorrow and the like, it has a greater capacity to “withstand stress and fight off infection and disease,” as Lu stated above. Journaling offers the opportunity to get out your fears without feeling foolish. To release the grief over feeling you’ve lost something valuable. To be thankful for what you do have.

And that last sentence is important…

If you spend your time journaling everything negative about your life with PD, your life with PD will be anything but positive. There are still good and beautiful things to behold in the midst of this journey. So, if you are thinking about journaling your life with Parkinson’s disease, either as a patient or a care giver – release the fears, the unshed tears, the grief and the sorrow onto paper but make sure you include and end with the positive. Always end with something positive.

It’s there. I promise.

When You Can’t Breathe

  Steven Curtis Chapman says it best…

“I don’t even wanna breathe right now
All I wanna do is close my eyes
But I don’t wanna open them again
Until I’m standing on the other side

I don’t even wanna be right now
I don’t wanna think another thought
And I don’t wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I’ve got.”

It was a hard day.

I waved good-bye to my son, his wife, and my two grandchildren as they drove down the street, on their way to Northern Idaho to a new home, new jobs, a new life. Now instead of twelve minutes away, it was fifteen hours.

My two grandchildren, one five and the other – one year old. My two grandchildren, who I had watched almost since day one. Every day. All day.

I helped them learn to walk. Eat with a spoon. Drink from a cup.

I sat in that rocking chair over there, and rocked them to sleep. Sang to them hymns. Read to them about the pants with nobody inside of them. Held them when they were sick or well or when they just wanted to be held.

I sat at that table over there and played games with ‘Boo’, colored, painted, had tea parties.

And then one day, my son announced a new job opportunity and you can guess the rest and that’s why I stood outside one Sunday morning, waving good-bye to a car filled with precious ones.

And after they left, I went to the rose garden and everywhere I walked I heard Boo. I saw her chasing the blackbirds. And I could hear her excitement upon finally seeing the elusive jack rabbit we’ve been tracking for months – if she had been there.

And the next day, I worked in the garden and watered her garden – a garden filled with volunteer larkspur, bachelor buttons, poppies. She is so proud of her garden. I worked out there most all day. I worked out there until I couldn’t move. I worked out there so I didn’t have to think.

And Tuesday, yesterday, I still couldn’t move. I moved too much on Monday and paid for it on Tuesday. I had lost mobility and.. gained pain in its place. I sat on the couch and worked on my pictures and cried. My digital albums are filled with children’s smiles and I could almost hear the giggles behind those smiles.

And then there was Wednesday. At one point I felt like I had been locked in a blackened room – hopeless, lost, empty. And I wept. For something lost. And it felt as if my heart was literally breaking in two. The crack I could live with a week ago became a bottomless crevice. The strength that held me together a week ago had become jello.

And I wept.

God, how am I going to do this?, I whispered through tears I hadn’t spilled out so hard in so long.

My head told me those two little ones were not mine to hold onto. I was not even their parent. Can a Grammy love her little Grammy-grandchildren so very much?

Yes. Yes – she most definitely can.

As I sat on the bathroom floor, I cried some more and through the tears whispered, God, I lived for those kids.

They were my daily dose of laughter, love, smiles, hugs, joy. God used those two little ones to bless me over and above in so many ways I never deserved. I viewed them as my little disciples and we talked about God everywhere we went. In everything we did.

How I found the energy to do it every day, only God knows. I napped with John and napped when they went home. I fought through the pain within my body and refused to not hold my grandkids or change diapers even when I didn’t think I could stand it another minute.

My body was screaming to let go. My heart was screaming to hold on. My head was saying it was time. Time to listen to the body. The disease that strives to claim more ground with each passing day was doing its job. Time to let go.

It was the grace of God that intervened. But oh how it hurt. After all, I lived for those kids.

And then, I heard it. That still, small voice that you can hear when you’re sobbing uncontrollably because your not busy talking and making incessant, unneedful noise and chatter. The comforting, life-giving voice of God.

God, I lived for those kids, I had whispered through tears.

And before I could go on to the next thought of despair, He whispered back.

Live for me.”

The uncontrollable sobbing became controlled. The tears dried up. A tiny ray of sunshine, a tiny grain of hope took hold deep inside my heart and the crevice began to close and return to a crack. A few more tears fell. Not from grief but because of grace. The grace of God. The trustworthy grace of a merciful God.

I don’t know what living for Him looks like in the days ahead with PD – His plans, His dreams for me – but as I live for Him, I will trust Him completely. I’ve been through too much in my lifetime to do anything less.

Like I said, Steven Curtis Chapman says it best…

I don’t wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I’ve got.
It feels like it’s all I’ve got, but I know it’s not
No, I know You’re all I’ve got
And I will trust You, I’ll trust You
Trust You, God, I will
Even when I don’t understand, even then I will say again
You are my God, and I will trust You.

Trust You. I will trust You. 

Even when I don’t understand the physical, emotional, or mental pain, I will trust Him

Trusting Him always,

Facts or Feelings


Morning Glory Buds Photo by Sherri Woodbridge
Morning Glory Buds
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

I used to wear my heart on my sleeve for all to see… and comment on. Not that I wanted to. Who am I kidding? I still wear my heart on my sleeve for all to see… and comment on. Not that I want to.

It is a curse, one might say, to be so vulnerable. It is a curse in the sense that you want to keep the feelings that are so deeply felt, hidden away so no one can see. Really, so they can’t mock or tease or condemn. At least it feels that way sometimes.

It is a curse in the sense that you want to keep those feelings that are so deeply felt, hidden so you don’t have to deal with them. Feelings of loss. Feelings of isolation. Feelings of inadequacy. Feelings you have when you have what others don’t. And you want to keep them hidden because they don’t, they won’t, they can’t understand.

Mulitple Schlerosis.


Pancreatic Cancer.


Breast Cancer.


Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Prostate Cancer.

Crone’s Disease.

Unless you’ve got it, or a disease like it, you won’t, you don’t, you can’t get it. You can’t understand. Not that you don’t want to, but you just can’t. Not fully, anyhow.

You can sympathize, you can pity, you can encourage and support, but you can’t understand. And so, some try to empathize, rationalize, apologize and humorize the situation. But sometimes, it’s not funny, there’s no rational reason one awakes day after day to face their foe in the mirror, nor is it anyone’s fault that they or a loved one suffers with a disease.

I guess I’ve felt a bit frustrated of late, feeling as if some people in my life ‘don’t get it’. I get to the point that I don’t want to even mention PD because it is viewed as an excuse for pain, stiffness, memory loss, or any other ailment I might be experiencing at the time. Sometimes it seems that the fact of my disease, being ever present in my body, has disappeared from sight to the outer world. Yet, I know it is there as it hides within and can definitely be felt moment by moment.

As recipients of a disease or illness, we try when our bodies and our energy levels permit, to do what we are able – garden, write, work on cars, play games, socialize… We have a new vision for the short time we are allotted here on earth and strive to make the most of it. There are some days we feel we could climb a mountain ( a little one) and there are other days when we know we can’t even walk to the base of a hill. It may even hurt to glance upward to look into the sky. These are the days when sometimes others watch us (me) and I wonder if they think PD can’t be so bad. Look at her! She’s digging up flowers! No one with a disability would have that much energy or strength.

To be fair, I often don’t, just as others I know with PD don’t. We push ourselves in the tasks we yearn to function in and finish because it feels good to be used, to be useful, to work, to move. Yes, we push even in the pain because, at least for me, the pain says I’m alive, I can still do it – today. And yes, it also cautions me to take it a little easier, but not so easy that all that is left is to sit and watch life instead of participate in it.

I may wish to hide what’s going on inside, but I’ve never been good at it. I wear a feeling of loss at times, because the fact is, I’ve lost something – control. And I wear a feeling of isolation – a feeling of being alone in the fight. I wear inadequacy by feeling I can’t do, can’t offer what I used to. Everything’s just a little harder to accomplish. But as hard as things may be at times by dealing with something others can’t understand, people mean well. They intentions are honorable and they are trying to deal with this intruder from a different angle: it’s taken a part of the one they love or it’s trying to.

So I guess I’m thankful that sometimes I wear my heart on my sleeve because sometimes I don’t want to give this monster any more attention and talk about it. But sometimes I need to and that’s when someone asks how it’s going and if my answer is a little less than accurate, they glance at my heart laying there bare for all to see and re-examine my answer.

You sure? they ask after receiving a less than convincing ‘Okay’ response.

Fine. You’ve got me. I’ve got PD and no, I’m not okay. Today I just really need a friend.

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