I am not sure who gave the commonly accepted advice that after a major crisis in one’s life, major decision making should be deferred to after 6 months. We have all seen the results of a failed/broken/terminated relationship and ‘on the rebound’ the person walks straight into another one, only for it to to terminate some months later. When we walked into the house, 1 month after Mike died I wanted to move. Today I would struggle to move and leave the memories. Let time take its course and my emotions to get an even keel. Someone said the other day that its better to wait 1 year before making a major decision and I would tent to agree with them from my experience thus far.
The following is Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ model of grief stages, with comments on our ability to make decisions during each stage.
- Stage 1: Shock and denial. It is common for people to avoid making decisions or taking action at this point.
- Stage 2: Anger. Making decisions at this point is difficult because all one’s energy gets put into the emotion rather than problem solving.
- Stage 3: Depression and detachment. Because it’s hard to make decisions at this stage, consider asking a family member, friend, or professional for help if important decisions need to be made.
- Stage 4: Dialogue and bargaining. People become more willing to explore alternatives after expressing their feelings.
- Stage 5: Acceptance. Decisions are much easier to make because people have found new purpose and meaning as they have begun to accept the loss.
Whilst I agree there are some sound principles, time lines, context, personalities etc bring a dynamic that effect each situation in a unique way. Today we are close to 9 months on from Mike leaving us and I am still not in a position to make some major decision. What is becoming clearer is that time is a wonderful gift of God. If we are willing to trust God, to accept that nothing comes into our lives without His permission, if we have absolutely surrendered our lives to Him, if we are seeking Him on a daily basis, then in His time, he will reveal to us next steps. In my case right now I am beginning to realise that at this juncture in our family life, there is not a sign post, its more a slowly unveiling of the picture. Change if unnecessary should be avoided. Stability in every area will help the healing process. The danger I have seen is to ‘run’, to move to a new situation and not have the loss in your face. But with time, you make friends with the pain and loss. You make friends with his room, his music, the sofa he sat on, his bike, his guitars, the road he walked down every day, the chair he sat in at church.
So being a dosser, I think procrastination and avoiding decisions that will lead to work, are all good health warnings to me right now!
Cabin 227 has remained impregnated in my mind for 30 years. This was one of the first cabins I lived in on Doulos with 4 others. For some reason we refered
to the cabin number amongst ourselves for many years. Although I had various cabin mates in there, Mike and Sigfried are the two I have had continuing contact with, in fact I had lunch with Mike last week in London.
With the Doulos coming to an end, my dear friend Harald asked me if there was any item I would like as memorabilia. Cabin 227 represents a very special time in my life where a young 19 year old had his eyes opened, his values challenged and his world turned inside out.
When life is ‘normal’ we pass over humps with little thought. They are small practical challenges that we look at and think through alternative solutions or just simple tasks that need to be accomplished. When we are emotionally ‘not normal’, those humps are seen as hurdles. That phone call that you just cannot make, those emails that are so hard to open never mind respond to, that job that you just keep putting off, that task that requires small creative alternatives but your stomach churns at the very thought of having to think. Time is a wonderful gift and healing takes time. Those hurdles will become bumps again!
Well its time to venture out of the safety of my hole! I havent been to the London Book Fair for about 7 years, not since I passed the Literature Department job over to John Satterly. With the pace of development of the e-book, I want to have a look at where the book industry is heading and the speed at which those in the trade think it is moving.
Imagine visiting one of our ships with a very reduced selection of physical books, because publishers now only produce them in digital form.
A book that hit the headlines many years ago “Who moved the Cheese” is very relevant in these days of fast change. Wish my weight would shift a little faster, but lost 8 kilos, 1 stone, 17 pounds in two weeks. My goal is 22 kilos. Lots or running, cycling, no booze, little food…..burn more than I put in!
In 2008, Akila ended up in hospital for 1 month, having woken up with numbness down one side of her body and a swollen and blue arm. At the end of multiple tests and no clear results, she was informed that it was psychological. Fortunately, a couple of days later they did in fact find evidence of a virus, but during those two days, both she and I expressed a lot of emotion.
I wrote the following at that time;
After almost a month in the hospital, a gizillian tests, Akila was being discharged and we were told her problem with lack of mobility and feeling down her right side were physiological. Boy did that make me and her depressed. The symptoms were far from the mind, they were real and we could all see it. I needed space and so left Akila early that night. When I arrived at the ward the next day the doctors wanted to talk. To their surprise an “abnormality” had shown up. Clearly a virus had attacked her Central Nervous System. Both Akila and I were relieved; at last we could put her condition in a box.
Over the past month, there has been a growing awareness that “grief”, the process of accepting loss, is the main issue I am dealing with but not the only one. In many of the books I have read, there is something omitted but I could not put my hand on it. I searched the internet and still could not find what I was looking for. This morning I finally found the ‘box’.
I have talked to Kathy about that morning. In truth, the further in time I get away from that morning, the uglier it is getting. Early on in the ‘grief process’ I said ‘no father should have to experience what I have’, but there was a lot more to that statement than I realized. To-date, ‘shock’, is the most fitting word I have found to express my experience. To walk into Mike’s room, see him lying on the bed dead, walk over and shake his dead body to see if what I am looking at is the correct interpretation, carrying him off the bed at the emergency services instruction and pumping his chest with all the horrific gurgling noises, when I know he is dead, is just utterly horrible.
I have become more aware that there is a section within the story that is separate to the ‘loss of Mike’ and I wanted to identify, categorize and process that. Descriptions like, ‘an event or situation that causes great distress and disruption’, ‘a response by normal people to an abnormal situation’, have been a start.
I then came across Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which sounds very dramatic but the more I read; the more I identify symptoms and words that I identify with. When we are confronted with a horrible sight, that causes us to ‘replay the tape’ over and over again and the imagery is shocking, when we find detachment from the world around us, when we sleep only a few hours, when we loose purpose for life……whilst these can be also a part of grief they are also symptoms of PTSD.
So I think I have stumbled across a box or framework that may help me to process my emotion and move on to becoming ‘healthy’ again in this area.
Someone asked me yesterday were we staying in Carlisle because of Mike. OKAY time for another one of those honest blog’s that I would rather keep private, but I have seen the benefits of being open.
As you know, Kathy is from Australia. For years she has dreamed of returning to her home and for us to relocate there. She along with me have not felt God has been leading in that direction, which at times has been a challenge to understand Call, Choice and Conviction.
Just before Mike died, I was at the point of being very tired. For 7 years I have given 120% to my work and the project of Logos Hope. During those 7 years there had been growing organisational tensions which involved me, not always directly but as one of the leaders its hard to not be effected. As the Logos Hope sailed out of London, with great satisfaction I stood on the quay side very proud that the work my team needed to do was completed. As I stood there I realised metaphorically I had a bleeding nose, broken ribs and a few bruises. My boss, who I had worked with for 28 years was a casualty of the massive project. We had not had time to mourn his departure as a leadership team and the reality of that started to hit. Two more of our close leadership team moved on. Both very personal friends with one couple having even sung at our wedding. At my initiative I had been able to pass on to a far more cable pair of hands the Finance responsibilities with the appointment of a CFO, but that left a huge space in my work, and then Mike dies.
So as I walked with Kathy in the park some months ago I said “Kath its all about endings”.
For those who have not experienced the loss of an immediate family member, you may not be able to relate to the numbness and paralysis that comes, the inability to make decisions, the nausea at even the thought of having to venture out of the security of the hole you are in, the inability to talk to people, the emotional barrier to not be able to return phone calls, the inner frustration that you are not where you were, have no idea where you want to be and have no emotional capacity to think about how to get out of the situation.
Now put the dynamic of our new family unit into the equation. Laura is completing her schooling and in theory could leave school in July. She has chosen to return and take her A levels. Akila is completing her University in August, she would like to work and clear her student debt. Kathy has her job as Area Finance Officer but that does not take 100% of her time. My job was always to “lay the track for someone else to drive the train down”. Life is not just about me and my job, its not just Kathy and I, we care more about the girls than our job’s and our work with OM Ships. God has blessed us with two very dynamic daughters, both of whom have potentially huge capacities to do very well by earthly measures. Right now Kath and I both feel they need stability to complete their education.
I have several roads I could venture down and explore opportunities and I have been invited to consider three specific roads, I too have faint ideas of other roads.
Its not at all pleasant to wake up and know that the work you had is no longer there, that yes I could sit in the office for 8 hours to give the impression of a full time role, but then I have always lead people to work hard and play hard. I have expected myself and others to work 10-12 hour days when needed and to take time out if there was no work. I struggle with what others think about me being out of the office and the appearance of “dossing” all the time. But then I have no motivation to dream and accept other leadership rolls at this time. Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!!
When and if we leave Carlisle, it will be a very painful process. Mike is planted in the land and his memories are embedded in the physical location. Whilst that will be a hurdle for us all, I dont see it as a mountain.
Since my life changing event at 19, I have saught the LORD’s guidance and looked for his divine signposts. Right now he is not showing us a sign post, but he is giving lots of traffic signs, the main one being “Road Works, work being carried out for the next xxx months, work to be completed by XXXX”.
So life for me right now is all about change and not just small changes. I am at total peace about it all and do not struggle with next steps. A good friend said to us 25 years ago “the next thing will be the natural thing”. The storm has hit both the family and work. We have sat and observed the new landscape as a result of that storm. We sit and listen to what common sense, others and God are saying. We extrapolate out various scenarios and analyse. We commit to being authentic and open on our journey and keeping our eyes open to others pain on their journey.
When I was studying for my MBA I came across the following line in relation to an approach to problem solving. “Watch it happen, help it happen or make it happen”. I realise that in fact that is a good picture of approaches to life.
This week the Christian band Delirious, although no longer together, reached No. 4 in the UK pop charts with the following song;
It appears that God is a signpost person not a map or even a compass! Experience tells me when we come to possible options in our lives, God reveals i.e. gives peace, clearly opens doors, clearly shuts doors, uses others. He wants us to walk by faith that journey until we need further direction.
The challenge is to keep in a position to both see the sign posts and be able to read them! God doesn’t issue maps on his adventures and tell us to phone him when we need advice. He walks with us and helps us with every step. He shines light so we can see and sets our feet on secure places so we won’t slip. He even holds our hand.
Alternatively, we can go it alone and end up in dead end streets!
Various opinions have been given as to what state Mike is in. These are sometimes said to comfort us, but in fact they don’t! The Bible is rather unclear when it comes to the after life, may be because our sinful nature just cannot get our heads around it. 1 cor 2:9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”
Some tell us that Mike is looking down and enjoying what we see. Thats an interesting thought and not one I can agree to. So does he watch me make love to my wife or just enjoy the flowers in spring! Others tell me he is playing the guitar in worship. I cannot find any evidence of that in the Bible. Some say he is dancing.
My own thoughts are that from the teaching of Paul, I can extrapolate that Mike is in the presence of Jesus.
2 Cor 5 v therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7For we walk by faith, not by sight: 8We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
So Mike’s spirit is with Christ. If we remove time, and accept as the Bible says, 1 day is like a 1000 years and a 1000 years like a day. 2 Peter 3:8 then I belive Mike is asleep in the presence of God. 1 cor 15; “though some have fallen asleep” “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ…..” I Thes 4:14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
I believe Mike went to bed on July 31st and during the night Mike’s spirit went into the presence of God. He is safe and asleep and will wake up when Christ returns.