Losing a loved one to suicide or sudden death

This is a guest post by Emily Boller who lost her 21-year-old son to suicide. She shares this advice for those who want to help when a family experiences the devastation of suicide. Although one reader suggests that it applies to helping loved ones going through any kind of “tragic death.”  

When Someone Dies by Suicide,  What Does One Immediately Do or Say?

First of all, the family is in intense shock. They may not totally understand or grasp the news of what just happened. Initially, in those first few hours, they are in this perpetual state of shock–just surviving–and scrambling to get the news delivered to other family members.Their brains are on overload.

At this point they can’t process a lot of phone calls or texts, except a few from very close friends and family members. If you know details about the death, don’t post anything on Facebook or send emails out to contact lists until the family is talking openly and publicly about it. Give the family time and space to process what just happened.Sit tight for a day or two. Do nothing but pray at this point. Close friends and clergy should come by the house during this time, of course, because their comforting presence is invaluable. (A nearby neighbor brought over warm soup and fresh fruit that first day. Another close friend brought a large salad–and another gave us a wad of cash.)

After a day or two, food in disposable containers, and practical items such as paper plates, toilet paper, tissues, and bottles of water are welcome and appreciated. The family is consumed with funeral and burial decisions, and the last thing on their mind is life’s basic necessities. If you are bringing food, consider foods that promote healing instead of foods that induce additional stress to their already fragile state of being. Examples would be vegetable or fruit platters, bean dips, and hearty vegetable and bean soups.

Monetary gifts, gift cards, and cards of sympathy are also greatly appreciated. (They are also suddenly inundated with an avalanche of unplanned expenses; everything from funeral and burial expenses to crisis-intervention counseling. And especially, if a child was involved, I can’t think of any parents who financially budget for the death of a child!)

Practical helps such as mowing the lawn or taking out the trash are also appreciated. The family is mentally and emotionally overwhelmed and distraught. They may not have the mental capacity to even know what needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to take initiative and just do practical tasks for them–whether they are a close friend or not.

Try not to say, “Call me if you need anything.” Although the kind intention is much appreciated, they don’t have the mental fortitude yet to take the initiative to reach out.

In that first week/month, the family’s routine is completely out-of-sync. Sleep habits are severely disrupted. Everything is upside down in their world. They may not even be able to comprehend or remember anything that is spoken to them. Wounds are profound. Emotions are raw.

Eventually, after the funeral is over and life is a bit quieter for them, visit in-person–but call first. If they don’t answer the phone, take no offense. They may just need space at that moment . . . or they may be embarrassed how messy their house has become in the aftermath of the tragedy. They may want company on-down-the-road. Try again a week or two later. Extend a listening ear without asking a lot of questions. Silence is okay. Just sit with them in their grief. Your presence is invaluable.

And whatever you do, please don’t tell them your grief story. They may act interested, but on the inside they may be falling apart and can’t handle it.

Younger children appreciate getting breaks away from the chaos and sorrow at home. Offer to involve them in your family’s happenings for a welcome distraction–but not for long periods of time–home is still a place of comfort for them. Teens oftentimes are uncomfortable with receiving hugs from adults they don’t know; be sensitive.

Most of all, know that they may suffer for weeks, months, and for many, possibly years to come. Suicide is very complicated to process. It’s not normal grief. Don’t expect a normal grieving pattern.

Most of all, never stop reaching out to the family, even if it feels awkward — and never stop praying for them — even months after the funeral. (The funeral was just the beginning of the long, healing journey ahead.)

Dayspring Greeting Cards

And if you don’t know what to do or say, send a thoughtful card or brief note that expresses you are thinking of and praying for them.

Always remember, love never fails.

Love is what heals a broken heart.

If you have experienced a sudden death, please feel free to share in the comments what helped you the most through those first days and weeks. It is beneficial information for those who don’t know what to do or say–but want to be supportive. (You can do this by going to Emily Boller’s blog here http://emilyboller.com/?p=1840

If a child has died, “The Compassionate Friends” is a wonderful support group for grieving parents. Almost every city in the US has a local chapter.

Emily Boller is a well-known Indiana artist and public speaker whose life was transformed when she lost more than 100 pounds. Please visit her blog at http://emilyboller.com/ to learn more about this inspiring woman. Emily requests that readers feel free to share this post on Facebook or with anyone who might benefit from the message. 

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On another note, if you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please remember the devastation for those who love you is incomprehensible, instead please speak your a clergy or counselor or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at at 1-800-273-TALK or visit their website at www.suicidepreventiolifeline.org

 

Thank you, Emily, for your bravery and compassion in being willing to share the wisdom you learned from your own heartbreak to comfort others. It is powerful advice! Emily and I recently reconnected at the 2017 Taylor University’s Professional Writing Conference.  

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For the Love of Ice Cream

July is officially National Ice Cream Month. Until this week, I never knew such a month existed. But what could be more newsworthy? Most folks are familiar with the well-known phrase, I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.”  In reality, this isn’t a famous quotation, rather it’s a song title and lyrics written and first published in the late 1920’s by Billy Moll, Robert King and Howard Johnson. “It was recorded by Walter Williams and Waring’s Pennsylvanians,” states the Website www.culinarylore.com. “This song became a Dixieland Jazz standard, and was favored by such important outfits as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans.” Some sources erroneously credit Woody Allen with composing this tune. The reason is that he used it on the soundtrack of his 1973 movie Sleeper, but “…none of the actual songwriters are mentioned in the credits.”(www.culinarylore.com)

Why is ice cream so important? If you ask many individuals, especially those of the female gender, it’s way up on their list of most desirable comfort foods. In the article, “5 Reasons Why We Crave Comfort Foods,” from Psychology Today by Shahram Heshmat Ph.D., “Comfort foods are typically energy-dense, high fat and sweet, such as chocolate, ice cream, and French fries.” There’s a reason we crave these kinds of foods when we are feeling down, low-energy, or have been dumped by a significant other. “They give distinctive pleasure or make us temporarily feel better,” writes Dr. Heshmat. “Highly palatable foods activate the same brain regions of reward and pleasure that are active in drug addiction.”

This isn’t good news, because in our nation, obesity is at an all-time high. If occasional cravings turn into a routine, the scales can reflect this lifestyle. Something as seemingly harmless as a Turtle Sundae could cause gradual weight gain, if you indulge in one three times a week for years like a friend of mine did. Said friend has to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, but by cutting back her sundae habit she lost quite a few pounds almost effortlessly. Still, this should not negate the delight that can be derived from eating an occasional ice cream treat.

Apparently, ice cream became such a popular part of American culture that “President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month with the third Sunday of the month being National Ice Cream Day” according to www.nationaldaycalendar.com.

People have been eating ice cream for centuries. “Nero of Rome was said to have enjoyed harvesting ice or snow, then flavoring it with honey or other flavorings,” also reports www.nationaldaycalendar.com. “In the summer of 1790, George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream…Thomas Jefferson actually made his own recipe of ice cream, too.” As for ice cream’s origin, “The Chinese are generally credited for creating the first ice creams, possibly as early as 3000 B.C.,” proposes www.foodtimeline.org. Another BBC news Website states that, “An ice-cream-like food was first eaten in China in 618-97AD.”

Honestly, who cares who first invented the incredibly tasty stuff? Most Americans are just grateful it’s been a part of our history for as long as we can remember. Personally, as a little girl it was thrilling to go for ice cream and select a chocolate cone from the countless choices. I could never understand why people ordered Butter Pecan, Black Cherry, Orange Sherbet, and on and on, when they could have chocolate. Today, I’m a much more sophisticated connoisseur with my favorite flavors expanding to include: Sea Salt Caramel, Rocky Road, Cookies and Cream, Turtle, Moose Tracks, etc.

When we were first married over fifteen years ago, my sweet husband would bring home a half gallon of one of my favorites. He thought I would be pleased, and was surprised when I told him that it was too tempting to keep ice cream in the freezer. I am not proud of the amount of ice cream that I can consume when craving comfort food. This confused him, because the poor man mentioned how he had come home on more than one occasion and found me eating ice cream, while watching a movie. Guilty as charged, but it was a chick flick, I’m sure. A girl can’t possibly watch a sappy romantic movie without a Hot Fudge sundae. As the famous song’s lyrics also say, “…Tuesdays, Mondays, we all scream for sundaes, Sis-boom-bah!”

There’s more, but I think I hear the sound of an Ice Cream truck in the distance.

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Her first novel, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife will be released this fall. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Broken resolutions and Life Lessons for 2017

The holidays are over, and life is back to normal. For those of you who made New Year’s resolutions, maybe you’ve already broken some of them. I’m not saying this to criticize. At the beginning of January in decades past, making a resolution then breaking it a short time later often caused me some discouragement.

The website, www.timeanddate.com reports, “…according to some studies almost 80 percent of all people who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them sometime during the year.” That’s why, a couple of holidays ago, I made a resolution not to make any more resolutions. Instead, when I need to change something in my life, I try to work on it right away.

This philosophy is coming straight from the keyboard of a former procrastinator. After all, one of the most noteworthy lessons I’ve learned along life’s path is that important tasks that we put off, rarely get done. It’s best to tackle an issue as soon as possible to make sure that it doesn’t get lost in the whirlwind of everyday living. This anti-procrastination principle is more significant than some other beliefs that are part of my life repertoire. For example, I’ve also come to believe that a person should never buy a single pair of socks or gloves. The law of probability ensures that when socks are placed in the dryer, frequently they will disappear into what I refer to as Sock Heaven. Solo socks take this mysterious journey into the unknown never to be seen from again.

This theory holds true when purchasing gloves, too, although I doubt there is a metaphorical heaven for missing mittens. Instead my lost gloves are probably strewn throughout Ohio left in restaurant booths or on roadways. Missing gloves aren’t too high on the life lesson priority list, but keeping in touch with family and friends is crucial. In our hectic-paced world, social isolation becomes a daily challenge.

This means taking time to share more than an occasional Facebook “Love you” post, text, or hurried email. Instead chatting with a true friend or loved one over a meal can be exhilarating. Don’t take your cellphone along, as the constant distraction will frustrate the flow of genuine conversation. When we are with folks who truly care for us, we somehow remember who we really are. The pieces of our life fit better, and we can bask in the camaraderie that comes only from authentic relationships, where we are accepted imperfections and all. Still, getting together can be especially tricky in this geographically mobile society where families and close friends are often separated by countless miles for employment opportunities.

Although speaking of not being perfect, another painful lesson that I’ve learned from life is that people won’t always like you. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s true. No matter how hard you try, you fall short in their acceptable category. According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Ben Michaelis about 15 percent of folks won’t like you, if you are emotionally healthy. “If 85 percent of the people you meet like you, you are probably doing something right,” writes Michaelis in an archived  Huffington Post blog, “If everybody likes you, you are doing it wrong….you are probably doing too much to get along.”

The experienced psychologist says that when, “You ignore your own needs in favor of others,” it’s not healthy. Of course, they like you, everybody likes a doormat. Unfortunately, a doormat gets worn out and has to be thrown away after too much use. Yet, if more than 15 percent of people don’t like you, you might actually be too difficult to get along with.

Lastly, there is a life lesson that involves “letting go.” It can be a spiritual breakthrough forged in prayer. Or an internal follow your heart and instincts moment that allows a person to sense when it’s time to cut your losses and venture out on a new path. It might be something as substantial as a job change or having the courage to end an emotionally destructive relationship. To let go and embrace change willingly is a challenging life lesson, because by nature most human beings are creatures of habit who hang onto familiar circumstances.

So, for the first month of this New Year, I didn’t make or break any resolutions. Yet, I did celebrate another year of new beginnings, counting my blessings, and reminiscing about all the lessons learned on life’s path.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

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The First and Last Time

Corsage and CrownThere is a first time for everything. Whether it’s attending a prom, a kiss, buying a home, or watching our children take their first steps, these rites of passage are forever imbedded into our memory. Last winter, a few weeks before Christmas, I witnessed what appeared to be a toddler’s first experience with the simple phenomenon of Christmas lights. I was pretty low on holiday spirit and not looking forward to all the work that the preparation for the season would necessitate. Then just before sunset, I observed a neighbor man stringing Christmas lights with his little boy looking on.

The December darkness had begun to settle in, and there was no traffic on the deserted street. It was cold, but not the blustery kind of cold that produces snow or ice. Still, the toddler was bundled up against the elements, reminding me of decades ago when my now grown son was about his age. The youthful father completed the task of wrapping the green strands of clear lights around the bushes in the family’s front yard. He headed into the nearby garage to switch on his handiwork. His about three-year-old son stood next to the shrubbery by the open garage not moving. When the twinkling white lights came on, his little chubby face lit up in amazement.

Christmas Tree 2015I happened to be walking by at the exact moment when the tiny boy’s uninhibited delight made me reassess my own lack of enthusiasm. It’s this gift that children give us of seeing the beauty and excitement in this world, because often adults take so much for granted. We get buried in the day-to-day struggle, the hectic pace, and the tedium produced by aging, forgetting that there is so much wonder constantly surrounding us.

 

First times can be memorable, but sadly often we don’t know when a last time will occur. I thought about this the other day when I saw the Facebook post, “Cherish every moment and every person in your life, because you never know when it will be the last time you see someone.” Many of you reading this can relate to the trauma created by the unexpected loss of a loved one. Grief is tinged with horror and disbelief. We doubt if we will ever be able to breathe again without feeling a giant lump in our throat, and we silently argue with God about the unfairness of the circumstance. Then regret can take over. We think of all the things we should have said or done, if we could have just had some preparation that someone who meant so much to us was about to be unpredictably ripped from this existence. Besides, even if a terminal illness prepares us, we are never ready to say, “Good-bye,” to those we love. Sadly, some people get stuck in loss. Hopelessness and bitterness swallow them up. For most individuals though, in time—life goes on. Reluctantly, we learn to accept what we cannot alter, adjusting to a new normal.

Yet everything changes in that instant. Then the holidays arrive, and this blessed season can be a reminder of the precious people who are no longer here to celebrate it. Maybe in youth, one can blissfully ignore the chasm death and even geographical distance create. But as we grow older, we often become nostalgic for those who were once a vital part of our celebration, causing us to cling to traditions that are no longer useful. Instead of getting stuck in what was, why not create something new?

After all, there is another recent quote attributed to best-selling author, John C. Maxwell that asks, “When was the last time you did something for the first time? …Or are you still doing what you’ve always done?”  Whether it’s about creating a new Christmas tradition or reaching for a goal that we’ve had simmering on a back burner, Maxwell’s sage wisdom might be one key in moving forward. Of course, human beings are usually terrified to take risks, because risk can result in failure. “Trying new things – and sometimes failing – is one of the best ways to grow,” counters the national leadership expert.

As we wind up the final month of 2016, may we all be more like the toddler who experienced the wonder of Christmas lights for the first time. There’s a whole world of firsts out there, regardless of our age. Let’s go fearlessly explore!

6353664 - CopyChristina Ryan Claypool is a national Amy award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. She has appeared on Joyce Meyer Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life TV program. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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Work martyr: The new workaholic

Hand on KeyboardOur country’s workplace has changed a lot. The day of getting a job right out of school and staying there for four decades is long gone. www.balance.com reports that the 21st century worker will have to switch jobs at least a dozen times during their career. All this change has resulted in some individuals becoming increasingly fearful of what tomorrow will bring. Fear is a formidable foe that can cause us get out of balance in our daily lives.

Long ago, the fear of failure or possible lack was the catalyst for my becoming trapped in the proverbial “rat on the treadmill” syndrome, better known as workaholism. Psychotherapist, Bryan E. Robinson, defines workaholism as “an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work to the exclusion of most other life activities.”

Our culture gives pats on the back to those willing to devote their entire existence to their career. Whether you are employed as a six figure executive or struggling single mom like I was, people-pleasers share the commonality of saying, “yes” when we really want to say “no.” Your health can suffer, along with your family and personal relationships. It can be an especially difficult balancing act for working moms, unlike the storybook family photos on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. According to the Barna Group’s FRAMES project, 76% of women in our nation reported to overall satisfaction in their lives, but this data is a lot like posed social media pictures.

When Barna researchers unpacked the 2013 survey, the reality is that 62% of moms with children in their household are “dissatisfied with their balance between work and home life…Eight in 10 moms (80%) feel overwhelmed by stress…and seven out of 10 (70%) say they do not get enough rest…”

The Best YesNational best-selling author and speaker, Lysa TerKeurst believes that we should learn to say, “No.” In her 2014 book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, she writes, “I misuse the two most powerful words, yes and no. I slap purpose across the face and stomp calling into the ground as I blindly live at the mercy of the requests of others that come my way each day.” I read TerKeurst’s book last year. I wish I could have read it fifteen years sooner, before I fell flat on my face from physical exhaustion and burn out, and couldn’t work for months.

Approximately 10 percent of American adults can be classified as workaholics according to Steven Sussman who is a professor of preventive medicine and psychology at the University of Southern California. Unfortunately, there’s a modern version of workaholism, that of being an “office martyr” which significantly affects millennials. That’s right, millennials, the group of individuals born in 1981 or later who are often accused of wanting to have a workplace voice without paying their dues. Looks like society might have pegged some of these young workers incorrectly.

vacation-photoAccording to Project: Time Off, http://www.projecttimeoff.com/about-us, “Millennial workers are the most likely generation to forfeit time off, even though they earn the least amount of vacation days. Millennials stay at work because they feel more fear and greater guilt about taking time away from the office than any other generation.” Society is concerned about this newest endangered demographic, but not for the right reasons. Instead of being worried about their prematurely high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, or work-related weight gain, the travel industry is concerned that as millennials forfeit vacation days the result is billions of dollars of lost revenue according to a June 2016 Washington Post article by Robert Samuelson.

Still, a vacation can be a good thing. A post on www.bustle.com by Carolyn Steber points to the benefits of time off including: reduced anxiety, increased productivity, better work/life balance, rekindling relationships, and resetting your focus. Some advice gleaned from my own workaholic journey is that if you’re used to always saying “yes,” you might have to say “no,” to everything that’s not a mandatory work assignment, until you reestablish your priorities. If you’re a people-pleaser like me, pause to consider the consequences before committing to a task whenever professionally possible. Also, it’s extremely valuable to be accountable to someone who cares about you. In the end, time is a precious gift, let’s use it wisely.

Claypools - CopyChristina Ryan Claypool is an author and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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The Golden Rule of Good Manners

imageDid you hear the joke about the little boy who came home from a birthday party, and his mother asked him,

“Did you have a good time?”

“Yes,” the little boy replied.“

When you left did you thank your friend’s mother for inviting you?”

“Well, I was going to,” answered the child, “but when I was standing at the door getting ready to leave, the little girl in front of me said, ‘Thank you.’”

“Then my friend’s mother said, ‘Don’t mention it,’” said the boy. “So, I didn’t.”

Maybe a lot of us are like this little boy, we don’t know how to politely respond, because good manners are rapidly becoming extinct in our society. According to the website, http://www.rightparenting.com, “Just surf the net for an hour and you will imagecome across thousands of rude, arrogant and obnoxious comments on major public sites…even in real life, people are often displaying the rude side of their persona without any remorse.”

Sometime ago, I was lamenting over the issue of manner extinction with a friend who is a retired ethics professor. Although she chooses to remain nameless, I can assure you the distress in her voice was genuine when she expressed her concern over the fact that as a nation we have lost “basic respect for all others resulting in the loss of good manners.”

Wikipedia’s http://www.backdrop.net states that the purpose for manners is to “ease the stress of communal living, and mannerly behavior recognizes the right of others to share communal space.”

Once, daily conversation speckled with “please” and “thank you,” courteous listening in conversations, prompt RSVP’s to invitations, and thank you cards for a gift received were commonplace. Today gifts sent often go unacknowledged and RSVP’s are frequently ignored. This might seem minimal in comparison to catastrophic issues besetting our world, but if you are the one planning a catered event this oversight could be expensive.

In addition, what about the grandmother or aunt, who has sent a gift card or item by mail? Of course, most givers would like a formal response acknowledging how wonderful their gift choice was, but many would settle for an email informing them the present wasn’t lost in the mail.

My ethics professor friend assures me that if Americans would return to embracing the Golden Rule this could even help to curtail social issues like bullying. There have been books and essays written about the famous adage to “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” One definition of the Golden Rule is, “…Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them…” (The Message)

List of MedicinesProbably most people reading this column are pretty good at common etiquette. Still, it’s becoming acceptable to bemoan a hectic schedule as ample apology for dismissing social graces, but think about the legacy this creates. If we’re too busy to put our phone down to listen when interacting with others, our children and grandchildren are learning not to give others their full attention as well.

There are folks like famous country singer, Tim McGraw, who seem to realize just how important courteous and respectful behavior can be. Lyrics to his 2016 number one song, “Humble and Kind” tell us to, “Hold the door, say ‘Please,’ say, ‘Thank you’— Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie,” etc.

McGraw felt impressed to share the song’s message, but he didn’t write the words. Songwriter and mother of five, Lori McKenna did. http://www.tasteofcountry.com reports that the lyrics “…sprang from McKenna’s concern over raising her younger children in the age of cellphones and social media, and hoping they understood the proper way to treat others.”

For those of us who have survived parenting, remember the challenge of teaching the concept of “sharing” to a toddler? Often, we taught by example, like sharing dried cheerios from a zip-lock bag. In the end, we cheered when our tiny charge extended their pudgy hand offering us a few pieces of their saliva-soaked cereal.

It wasn’t always pleasant, and it was a long arduous process. So, it is with good manners. It’s an increasingly lost art that needs to be taught and role-modeled. Let’s get off our cellphones, get out those thank you notes, answer the invitations clamoring for an RSVP, and reinstate the Golden Rule whenever we can.

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at http://www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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Why laughter is good for you

 

Paper Towel Holder for blogDid you ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right? I’m not talking about huge problems here, just a string of trivial irritations that add up. Then with a lot on your mind, when a normally minor annoyance occurs it’s easy to get out of sorts. In my little world, the last straw for me on a particularly stressful day was the paper towel machine in the ladies restroom of a public building that refused to cooperate. Concerned about being late for an important appointment, I stood there frantically waving my wet hands in front of the designated detector with no success.

I thought this was going to turn into be one of those humiliating moments when a couple teens were about to mock an uptight baby boomer. You see, two attractive teenage girls were looking on in amusement at my plight, when one sympathetically said, “Don’t you hate when that happens?”

And then I laughed. It was the kind of belly laugh that comes from deep inside when pent up emotion is finally released. The teens chimed in laughing with their girlish giggles sounding like a rippling melody. It’s that simple, I laughed, and suddenly the whole world seemed brighter. Decades were spanned in that moment of laughter too, and camaraderie forged between the generations.

In that instant, I was reminded that sometimes the young are just as afraid of not being accepted by us mature adults, as we are of them. I also realized that it had been awhile since I had heard the sound of unrestrained laughter. Instead, lately I have noticed the stoic faces of human beings everywhere, assuming the continually charged political climate, back to school blues, or unusual summer weather might have been taking a toll.

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Still, people need to laugh. There have been many studies that provide documentation for the medical benefits of laughter. For example, on the website www.moodwatchers.com we find that, “Research has shown health benefits of laughter ranging from strengthening the immune system to reducing food cravings to increasing one’s threshold for pain. There’s even an emerging therapeutic field known as humor therapy to help people heal more quickly… ”

An April 2016 post on the Mayo Clinic website www.mayoclinic.org, “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke,” reports that laughter can, “Stimulate many organs…Activate and relieve your stress response… [and] soothe tension.  Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.” We have known that laughter is healthy for us dating back to Biblical times. To quote the famous proverb, “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones,” which remains a common saying in our everyday language.

Many of us could use some relief from stress, but we won’t all find the ability to laugh through the same method. Recounting humorous events, telling funny jokes, reading the comic section, watching slapstick TV, or viewing a comedic movie might result in a few chuckles. If all else fails, you could try tickling a loved one. I wouldn’t tickle a co-worker though, because you will probably find yourself unemployed.

Speaking of employee etiquette, I used to have to endure colleagues who relished telling dumb blonde jobs before the advent of political correctness or lawsuits for workplace discrimination. I never enjoyed being the brunt of the joke having had blonde hair all my life. I was deeply touched once when a co-worker asked for my forgiveness for telling a rather harmless dumb blonde story sensing my discomfort. That’s why a word of caution is necessary, because humor can be based on cruelty. That’s why a word of caution is necessary, because humor can be based on cruelty.  Hopefully, most folks mature into understanding that it’s never appropriate to make fun of other people, unless you are a presidential candidate of any party. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But it is good to laugh at ourselves when we are taking life too seriously.

Baby Singing

For me, on blue days watching a couple YouTube videos of babies laughing or pets doing funny things usually lifts my spirits. Click on this cute baby’s photo and I’ll bet you that you won’t be able to not smile. Yet it is those spontaneous happenings when someone in a conversation or group does or says something that is so hilarious that you can’t help but bust out laughing, no matter what else is going on, that’s best.  Think about it. When was the last time, you had a good belly laugh? So good that you wiped the tears from your eyes and ran for the nearest restroom? When you get there watch out for the paper towel machine.

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

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June weddings, anniversaries, and children

Bride and Groom Cake TopperHistorically, June was the month when most people wed, and there are some interesting reasons for this. “During medieval times a person’s annual bath… usually fell in May or June, meaning that June brides still smelled relatively fresh…but just to be safe, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odor.” This informative fact is from the website for the Topeka and Shawnee [Kansas] County Public Library. Another reason in the past for the popularity of June weddings from a Huffington Post blog by destination wedding planner, Sandy Malone, is that “the tradition dates back to the Roman times when they celebrated the festival of the deity Juno and his wife Jupiter, who was the goddess of marriage and childbirth, on the first day of June.”

“On a practical note, others chose June in order to time conception so births wouldn’t interfere with harvest work,” the same Topeka library reports. It’s not very romantic to think about smelly summer brides or babies scheduled around a farmer’s calendar, but weddings continue to be planned to allow newlyweds and their families to arrange work vacations.

Now days, Malone finds that even destination weddings occur almost as frequently in most summer months since there are reduced rates available in the off-season. As for 2014 statistics, it appears June (15%) is still the most popular month, but October (14%) is a close second from www.prnewswire.com. May through October are all strong months, with December gaining ground. But I admit that having a June wedding myself fourteen years ago, found me nostalgically reminiscing about the life-changing event that a wedding is. After all, wedding anniversaries serve as a tangible reminder of the love story that two people share. Even the most unromantic of folks would have to admit that reliving the beginnings of their relationship can rekindle the wonder of how they found their way to each other out of all the human beings in the world.Bride bouquet

Yet the day-to-day grind, hectic schedules, and trying to constantly share, can leave even devoted soul-mates perplexed at the concept of doing life together. In many ways, perhaps, this is why statistically speaking, marriage is on the way out. That part about, “Until death due us part” has lost its luster for younger folks who see how poorly those of us of former generations have done it as indicted by the divorce rate. “After decades of declining marriage rates and changes in family structure, the share of American adults who have never been married is at an historic high,” reports a September 2014 column from the Pew Research Center. Specifically, they cite about one in five adults over 25 equating to 42 million American adults as having never married, although they frequently marry later. The opinion about “the role marriage plays in society” is a vital factor as Pew Research also finds, “…with young adults much more likely than older adults to say society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.”

Still, children are being born, and experts say that they fare better when they live with parents who are married. “Children raised in intact families have, on average, higher academic achievement, better emotional health, and fewer behavioral problems,” states www.familyfacts.org. Other websites also confirm that married parents are usually at an economic advantage, and have more time to spend with their children. It appears whatever month a wedding occurs in, it is more than a union between two people. It is also about their offspring, extended families, and society in general. That’s why a wedding anniversary is such a milestone. It is a statement of celebration and hope.

Larry & Christina If we do make it anniversary after anniversary, there is an incredible reward in having someone know us better than anyone else. Hopefully in also having that same someone in our corner during the rough times and celebrating the good times. Marriage isn’t anything like a romantic novel or movie, which creates unrealistic expectations. Admittedly, it would be pretty impossible for an ordinary man or woman to live up to the leading characters in a Nicholas Sparks’ film.

Love isn’t movie-script predictable. It’s always a risk, and sadly divorce can happen to anyone, rendering emotional heartbreak. Yet hearts heal, and anything worth very much in this life is generally a risk, but some risks are worth taking. That’s why an anniversary can be a wonderful reminder of the miracle of real love!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

 

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Nurse Ratched’s Caregiving Advice

 

Nurse Ratched and Patient LarryEverybody is talking about the results of the 2016 Oscars. But four decades ago, the classic 1975 movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” won all five major Academy Awards. The poignant drama chronicled the plight of young Jack Nicholson’s character Randle McMurphy who was confined to a state mental institution. This was not a Utopian facility where the nurses and doctors were lovers of people, or even keepers of the Hippocratic Oath. Instead, this description of life in a psychiatric facility vividly depicted the horrors of the treatment of some patients before mental health reforms.

Especially noteworthy in the film was actress Louise Fletcher’s 1976 Oscar winning portrayal of the brutally hardhearted and dictatorial Nurse Ratched. This fictional character is everything a good nurse would never want to be. The American Film Institute designated Ratched as the fifth greatest film villain of all time in their series 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains. Today, her criminal treatment of patients would be grounds for a medical malpractice suit of dynamic proportions.

Although I don’t think I’m as bad as Mildred Ratched, I must confess that I possess no aptitude for medical practices. I have a queasy stomach, and am rather lacking on the virtue of patience. Therefore, caregiving was definitely not at the top of my list for life tasks. Yet a decade ago, while caregiving for my husband following his third major surgery in eight months, I received an email addressed to “Nurse Ratchet.” The sender, a longtime friend had misspelled the sadistic caregiver’s name, but I knew instantly who she was referring to.

Despite my lack of nursing skills, like many other spouses and adult children, the lot of temporary caregiving had fallen on my shoulders. In light of this, I promised a registered nurse who really is a modern day Florence Nightingale, that when I made it through my season of caregiving, I would compile a list of practical tips for others facing the daunting task.

First, a caregiver must determine to maintain his or her sense of humor, be organized, and carefully prepare for this awesome responsibility. If possible, find a way to make the room where your loved one will be recuperating as dark as possible during daylight hours. This does not mean that you cannot shower your “sickie” with sunshine if they desire. But when pain or discomfort has kept them up during the midnight hours, window coverings will help simulate nighttime so they can rest. To avoid unnecessary expense, you can purchase used drapes to cover windows at a thrift store or garage sale.

Second, check with your physician’s office about the medical equipment that will bePill bottle required. If a hospital bed is necessary, have it in place before your charge arrives home. Stock up on other supplies such as a walker, cane, crutches, shower seat, etc. and even prescriptions. Fill your cupboards and refrigerator with non-perishable groceries since it might be quite awhile before you will be able to leave your patient unattended. Prepare a journal to record administered medications, treatments, and even meals to avoid confusion.

Then there is entertainment to think about since the most difficult patient is a bored patient. Make sure a television with a remote can be readily viewed from the hospital bed. Plan a pre-op trip to your local library, to check out interesting books and make a must see list for videos. When consulting with medical professionals write down the questions that you want to ask and request any resources that might be available for your situation. Don’t try to be superman or superwoman, but whenever possible ask for assistance from relatives, friends, or your church by communicating your specific needs.

List of MedicinesThe caregiver has to get out and you can’t allow self-imposed guilt to keep you from taking care of yourself. Exercise, eat right, sleep whenever possible, and remember that “this too shall pass.” Most of all, forgive the world for moving full speed ahead and forgetting your difficult situation. The flowers, cards, calls, and visits will probably trickle off rather quickly, since life goes on. If you are a long-term caregiver like millions of Americans, finding a support group could provide a vital network to alleviate the stress and isolation this responsibility can create. But if you become severely depressed seek professional counseling. After the caregiving season ends, some caregivers also experience a temporary depression unsure of their next purpose. Hopefully, this won’t last long, because life has a way of continually presenting us with new tasks and adventures.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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The Danger of Distracted Driving

Highway at nightI recognized the small truck right away. The logo on the vehicle’s door represented a local company that I respected. One that I had done business with in the past. Driving next to the pick-up on a two lane highway outside of town, we were stopped by a red light in adjacent lanes. The sun had set over an hour earlier. Even though it was dark, the light from a cellphone clasped in the hands of a young female driver illuminated the truck’s cab. Her long hair obscured most of her face, because she was glancing down glued to her cellphone screen instead of the road in front of her. Not only that, but when the light turned green, mesmerized by a text or Facebook post, she didn’t move.

After driving about a half mile down the 50 mph highway, I looked in my rearview mirror concerned that she would get hit from behind. The mother in me frantically wanted to warn her to start moving. Thankfully, she finally did. At the next red light, it happened all over again. The distracted girl remained oblivious to her surroundings engrossed in the phone. A second time the truck sat still when the light turned green. This time when I glanced back, the mother in me wanted to take her car keys away.

As a nation, we are justifiably concerned over the possibility of another terrorist attack. Yet in all probability, it’s a driver more interested in their iPhone than safe driving practices that could contribute to our demise. A September Wall Street Journal article reported that traffic fatalities surged 14% (NSC statistics) in the first half of 2015 blamed on more drivers, cheaper gas, catastrophic weather, etc. But famed Berkshire-Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet says that he believes distracted driving could be an “overlooked contributor.”

In reality, we have no idea how many auto collisions occur annually due to our addiction to our phones, especially with the invention of the Smartphone. According to a USA Today article last year, “Cellphone use causes one in four car accidents” by Gabrielle Kratsas. “The [2014 edition] of National Safety Council’s annual injury and fatality report, “Injury Facts,” found that the use of cellphones… [caused] 26% of the nation’s car accidents, a modest increase from the previous year.”Directions

Although this report doesn’t include all the incidents where drivers did not divulge that they were on their phones. For example, can you imagine anyone reporting, “I was on my cellphone not paying any attention when I plowed into your vehicle.” Nor did “Injury Facts” name texting as the primary culprit, since in 95% of the cases investigated, drivers were using hand-held or hand-free cellphones.

Fourteen states currently ban hand-held cellphone use while driving, but Ohio is not one. If we are honest, most of us have difficulty doing more than one task at a time. Especially, when that task involves use of a cellphone while travelling 70 plus miles an hour on the interstate. It’s not just at high rates of speed either. How many times have you been stopped at a red light when you observe a preoccupied motorist like the girl in the company truck? It’s even more frightening to be moving along and spot another driver’s neck in the downward dog yoga position fixated on their phone.

End of Road signNot long ago, driving a car was a privilege that came with weighty societal responsibility. Today, young drivers are at increased risk due to their lack of experience. The CDC reports that “they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.” But older drivers are guilty too. Distracted driving includes: cellphone use, texting, applying makeup, programming a GPS, eating, arguing with a passenger, etc. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that, “In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver…an additional 424,000 people were injured.” If you’ve ever fought your way back to health following a serious wreck, you realize that those numbers represent countless individuals whose lives have been severely impacted by someone else’s possibly careless behavior.

We all want to use our Smartphones, so many of us are contributing unnecessarily to the problem by looking the other way. There are Ohio laws against texting, but the National Safety Council advises folks who want to be part of the solution to “Support Cellphone distracted driving legislation… for bills banning cell phone use-handheld and [even] hands-free-while driving.” This might seem a little drastic, but what would be a good solution to stop distracted driving?

Christina DrivingChristina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. 

 

 

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