Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mother’s Day Blues

Mother’s Day – it’s the advertisers dream when we are surrounded by pictures of happy kids bringing their mum breakfast in bed, cards, chocolates, their favourite perfume and flowers.  What a beautiful image as the mum kisses and cuddles her kids, smiles and laughs as she begins her day. 
But what if that’s not you?  What if –like me – you are a bereaved mother or if your own mother is no longer with you.  How do you cope with the happiest day of the year for mothers?

I remember two mothers’ days in my life that were extremely difficult.  The first one was in 1998, four months after my wonderful mother in law had been knocked down and killed as she crossed the road outside her house.   I remember standing in the card shop looking at the mother’s day cards trying to choose one for my own mum.  I was overcome by a black raging cloud that engulfed me – the emotion of the previous months burst like a dam and I recall running from the shop weeping.  It was a real low point for my husband and his siblings, especially my sister in law who had recently become a new mum herself.  

The second mother’s day that was even worse was in 2008, six months after my son Calum had died aged 12 from meningitis.  I recall going to his grave, to give him flowers instead of him bringing me some.  I remember thinking how could I celebrate Mother’s Day again?  I was very grateful to have my daughter Kirsten but the grief and loss of my son exploded in full combat style that day.   It was brutal, real heartache – the pain in my heart was physical. I grieved hard for several days – weeping, cuddling Calum’s clothes, retreating from the world.

It was also the point at which I understood I needed to care for myself, if I didn’t then I would be no use to anyone and my husband Sinclair and daughter Kirsten needed me.  Many of you will know that I am an experienced NLP (neuro linguistic programming) practitioner – I had used many of the techniques on myself already to help me cope with the trauma, to shift the images that were in my head of the tragic events that led to Calum’s death.  But we all need help from others and I turned to my trusted friend and NLP professional Liesha to help me.  Together we let go of guilt and sadness that was overwhelming me and created a gentle route towards a happier time in my life.  I wasn’t over Calum’s death but I had released the really difficult emotions that threatened to keep me stuck in a difficult phase of grief. 

Mother’s days did get easier (like all special events and celebration days) and now as I face the 7th one without him I am grateful for Calum’s life, for being his mum and I keep both my children connected to me through their love.
I do this by writing to Calum – I started it just after he died and have filled several journals now.  I write about my days, sharing our family life with him and sometimes I “hear” him laugh at the stories and even reply!

I happily talk about my son with family and friends, we share the memories and the good times. I have a memory quilt that celebrates his life and I love to look at this and think about what each panel represents – his interests, his friends, the stories and family traditions that he was part of and the very essence that made him the wonderful son he was.  I continue to raise awareness of meningitis and fundraise for Meningits Now but I focus more on Calum’s life than on what caused his death.  

On Mother’s Day I will bring out one of the cards that he made me and place it proudly beside the one that Kirsten gives me.  I am proud to be the mother of two children – one who is now a beautiful teenager and another who is in spirit. 

We will also remember my wonderful mother in law with a smile and share a story about her.  

If you are dreading Mother’s Day I send my love to you, if you are deep in grief then let it flow you will come out the other side. Acknowledge the loss but also find some time to remember the joy that you had with your child or your mother in your life.  A few minutes of joy can lift your spirits and give you hope. 

If you are looking for more suggestions on coping with loss or grief, you can read more of my journey in my book From Heartbreak toHappiness.  I have had such wonderful letters from people telling me that my book has really given them hope that they too can cope and feel happier. 

To mothers everywhere I wish you peace, good health, love and happiness, so take some time for you and recognise how wonderful you are.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Having a bad day? You can stick your Happiness Club ......

We all have bad days - me included. I thought I would share a little about a positivity challenged day for me recently.
 It started with a late  call off by a client, ok nothing major but meant reduced income for the week.  As the sun was shining I decided to head out and enjoy a longer walk with my dog so I came home feeling happier.

Next I had a difficult call from a colleague raising issues that left me feeling angry, upset and confused.  Much harder to shift this stuff - I knew I had to vent the anger so I stomped around, did some EFT then told a trusted friend about it. When her response helped me to laugh I felt much better.

Then came the techie challenges - getting things arranged for Happiness Club sessions I had wanted to share some video footage as part of the training for the evening.  Computer problems, sound issues and my IT guru not home!  OK use the logic and fault find - no change and now time was slipping away arrgghhh!  Hubby arrives home - "I may have to rebuild it "  NO! don't have time for this.   He fabulously sorts an audio version of stuff for me as I scrabble to print off a revised idea.  Guess what?   Printer is  out of ink.  Back to old fashioned paper and pen so the day is saved!

I know that this was not a major event - it was a series of irritating things. The Happiness Club night was all about Positivity - exploring optimism v pessimism and how to focus more on the positive.  But after the day I had boy did I also need it!   The night spent with the group sharing ideas and insights,  talking about how we spend our time, what we give our attention and focus to and how find ways to focus on the good stuff had restored my natural happy balance.  I had used my core strengths of optimism, hope and humour and felt a lot happier. 

Full of good cheer and wanting to share it with the world  - I posted on my Facebook page a thank you to the Happiness Club for returning my good mood.  But the day was not over yet.  Back comes a comment from someone who was clearly having a very bad time - much more serious than my minor grumblings, and she vented her anger telling me where to stick my Happiness Club!!!


Life throws lots of stuff at us. Sometimes its little things but when they come together we can feel hard done by and annoyed. Sometimes life gives us huge challenges to face - death, job losses, relationship breakdowns, serious money problems and  illness that can really pull the rug from under our feet. 
Our reactions are not the same, the problems can affect the intesity of our feelings and one solution does not fit all.  I know that finding ways to let go of the bad feelings, the anger, hurt, sadness  and frustration we experience is needed before we can focus on the positive stuff.  I understand why that lady told me to shove my happiness club.  BUT here's the thing I know for sure - directing your anger onto someone else doesn't help.  Recognising that we can take responsibiilty for what we do next - for how we react to the situation is key. 

Do you stay a victim and blame everything and everyone for your difficulties or choose to learn and move on, to do things differently and change patterns.  The lessons shared at this month's Happiness Club from Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, shows we can change, we can learn to be more optimistic, to focus our attentions elsewhere and create more positivity.  

I know this to be completely true, having experienced the loss of my son Calum I chose not to remain bitter and angry at the world. I vented the emotions and then focussed my attention on bringing happiness into my life again. ( You can read more about this  in my book From Heartbreak to Happiness)  I used simple things to begin with and you can do the same.

March to Happiness Challenge.
March 20th is the second UN International day of happiness. Last year I was presented with a Happy Hero medal for my work on spreading happiness - I can't believe it's a year already! My medal was passed on to my happy hero who then passed it on to another and so on.

I had been thinking how I could spread happiness further this month and have created a FREE March to Happiness Challenge. I am sharing some easy tips to boost your mood and feel happier each week this month. It's really easy to do and can even boost your business and your health!
Each Monday and Friday in March I have produced a short video sharing easy ways to focus your attention on the positive stuff, to boost your mood and feel better.  You can join in and see how these simple things can make a difference to you.
Here's the first video

Join me on my Facebook Group : and let me know your thoughts.  There are 2 other videos on there too.

 Are you ready to give it a go? Feeling happier will not magically change your circumstances but I know that it can help you look at those circumstances from a new perspective. You may even find answers to things that you thought were impossible. You may find that your bad days may not be so bad anymore.