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Mother Day Blues

May 12, 2018 at 7:54 pm · · Comments Off on Mother Day Blues

Mother Day Blues

Dr. K.P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

Happy Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world.  It was first deemed an official holiday in 1914 by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. This is a time to express our love and appreciation for the person that brought us into this world.  The word mother ought to conjure up images of hugs and kisses of our boo boos, or a memory of the aroma of a hot meal being prepared or of loving hands mending our clothing.  Yet, many people did not have these experiences growing up as children. Mother’s Day reminds them of what they never had, or what they would like to have.

Hearing such benign words such as “Happy Mother’s Day” can feel like a stabbing in the heart.  Many women avoid going out to public places on this Sunday to avoid the Happy Mother’s Day greeting.  Shopping the week prior to Mother’s Day can trigger bouts of sadness as the reminders of the celebration is in every step you take.  As I walked through town the Wednesday before Mother’s Day, retail outlets were stuffed with gifts for mother’s.  One would have to live on another planet not to know that Mother’s Day is approaching.  The radio broadcast, the television commercials, the news reports and television talk shows all offer their suggestions for Mother’s Day.  Wednesday was filled with person’s running around stressed, not relaxed, and certainly not happy.  The atmospheric pressure was high, and near strangers could be heard asking for suggestions of what to get their mother for Mother’s Day.  A sister was shopping on behalf of her brother to purchase the perfect gift for his wife as a first-time mom. Yes, Mother’s Day is stressful for non-mother’s and mother’s alike.  Relief and balance is restored on the Monday following the Sunday, finally when the dreaded day has passed.

Additionally, even women that choose to not become a mother can experience mild grief on this holiday event. The greeting of “Happy Mothers Day” can feel hurtful than cheerful.  It might bring up feelings of being a failure, being punished or unworthy as a woman.  These feelings are very strong for women that have difficulty conceiving. One thing that remains true is we all have DNA from a “mother,” despite ever knowing a mom, their possible absence or neglectful ways.  Therefore, Mother’s Day might be a painful reminder of the unsatisfying relationship you have with your mother.

With optimism, we hold onto mom as a happy reservoir of the joys of our childhood, the constant unyielding support that will guide us through the myriad of ups and downs that we face in the outside world.  By contrast, for some people, this is a day of mourning.  It is a mourning the mother you needed, wanted and deserved.

Women that suffer infertility, miscarriages, or child deaths may reject the commercialism of Mother’s Day.  For their emotions are not captured in the Hallmark greeting card or the Kay Jewellery commercials.  They must witness the joyful interactions of happy family’s playing together or those who have lost their mother’s must listen to friends plan gatherings to share with their mothers.  These are the dreaded seconds, minutes, hours, or days that can bring on the Mother Day blues.

Let’s acknowledge those mother’s that have mothered but now are motherless, acknowledge her motherhood, as well as her pain.  For that can be the greatest gift for a bereaved mother on Mother’s Day, the recognition of her motherhood, the validation that is often missed.  Friends and family can ease a grieving mother’s pain by a visit to her child’s gravesite, leave a memento and let her know.  Use the child’s name in conversation of a happy moment that you recall.  Don’t worry about opening a wound, their loved one is never far from their thoughts.  This will show the bereaved parent that their child is remembered by others. A story or just wishing the mother a peaceful day could relieve some of her tension. Birth mothers whose children may be placed in adoptive homes often experience a silent and isolating Mothers Day.  Show your acknowledgement of their motherhood with a call or text stating “I am thinking of you today.”

I myself have been guilty of not acknowledging my brother-in-law’s loss of his mother. As I reflect, it never really occurred to me that this could be an especially difficult day for him year after year.  My brother-in-law is in constant mourning, which undoubtedly is evermore heightened on Mother’s Day with the constant bombardment of mother anecdotes and media sentimentalities. Mother’s Day serves as a poignant reminder of what he’s lost.  Additionally, I have been remiss in observing my mother being motherless on Mother’s Day.  I honor her as my mother but am guilty of ignoring her mother day loss, as if her mother never existed on this day.  Well that’s about to change!

For childless mothers and motherless children honoring the spirit of their perished can be a soothing endeavor.  Begin with creating a new tradition, perhaps make a candle, wear a huge brim hat, donate to a charity in their name, plant a tree, wear a white carnation, create artwork, create a scrap book.  You might read her favourite author, watch her fondest movie or throw a themed luncheon with her favorite sound track.  For gone children, name a star after your child, cook a favourite meal, release a balloon with notes to him or her on the balloon or perhaps insert a note inside a bottle or balloon and let it drift out to sea or float high into the sky.

Lastly, if you anticipate Mother’s Day to be difficult because you desire to become one or have suffered losses, plan to honor and safe guard your memories or dreams;  Remember your own self-care by having a massage, enjoying solitude, journaling, have a spa day, walk in nature or climb a big hill, reach the top and scream out loud into the vast space.

Happy Mother’s Day to those so fortunate to have been and to those that are-

365 Days in a Year

January 15, 2018 at 5:22 pm · · Comments Off on 365 Days in a Year

365 Days in a Year

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

What will 2018 have in store for us?  We are generally in anticipation of what the new year will bring.  It seems to be starting out with a ‘strong,’ ‘social, ‘justice’ focus, such as “The Times Up!” Movement.  This is a great cause highlighting the endemic and systematic mistreatment of women in the workplace.  More broadly, it focuses on the mistreatment and harassment of women, men, people of color and the LGBT community.  During the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, the “stars” all dressed in black to show support for the cause.  This was an empowering moment.  By contrast and disheartening, news quickly filled the airways about the horrific mudslides in California that triggered the destruction of homes and multiple deaths.  On the heels of that disaster, within this second week of the New Year was a threat warning that a missile was headed toward Hawaii. This caused pandemonium for the residents of Hawaii. They thought their lives were in peril.  I can’t imagine what their outlook for the rest of 2018 will be?  Will they perceive this year as a second chance?  Will they view it as the day they escaped imagined death?  Will that experience alter the way they live and perceive each new day? Is this the sign of the times?  Is this the new normal?

I wonder if I should simply retreat to my cozy, comfortable, welcoming bed during this unstable 2018? Perhaps, if I’d stayed in bed on the second Saturday afternoon, of the 2nd week of the New Year, just might have served me well.  I say this, because it is only the second week of the New Year;  a Saturday afternoon as I am coasting along in my car, only to hear the raging sirens and flashing blue lights of a police officer on his motorcycle gesturing me to pull over to the side. Yep, it’s the beginning of the New Year and no sympathy here…as I was written up and ticketed for speeding!  I offer no explanation as I seethe under my cool demeanor. This is what my New Year will look like?!  What a real bang it is living up to be! Is it too late for a New Year Resolution?  “Obey all traffic laws.”  It begs the question what will the rest of my 350 days of 2018 look like?

In any given year we have 365 days to do something new, eat something new, learn something new, feel something new, see something new, achieve something new.  There will be many things that occur that will be out of our control.  This may trigger feelings of doubt, fear, sadness, bewilderment or perhaps a sense of futility.  Remember there are ways to take back a bit of that control.  We must find a way to feel a sense of accomplishment, delight, happiness and pride each day of the year.  Typically, with good intentions we set goals to exercise regularly, eat better, smile more, work more, work less.  Unfortunately, daily routines and obligations thwart our best efforts at developing more Zen in our lives.

Despite the unpredictability of life, the current tensions of todays civilisation….; There is still something to say about “taking one day at a time”.  I could let the speeding ticket I received yesterday really pull me down.  Or I can say “lesson learned and there’s always tomorrow.”

Most of us falter on our New Year Resolutions that result in feelings of failure, shame and despair.  However, here is a simple task that if followed daily will result in you being rewarded by the end of the year.  That is, select bits of change (i.e. nickels, dimes, cents, quarters) you come by daily, set aside $1.00 in a jar each day for 365 days of the year.  At the end of the year, those coins will total $365.00.  Take those coins to the bank in exchange for bills.  Then rejoice for your small bounty that you can treat yourself with or donate the funds to a charity.  Either way, you can smile and feel good inside for this one accomplishment if all else fails throughout the rest of the 365 days of the year.

Happy New Year!

Bah Hum Bug!

December 19, 2017 at 2:19 am · · Comments Off on Bah Hum Bug!

Bah Hum Bug!

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

So tis the season of joy, laughter and be merry! Just walking through the malls, you can get drawn into the festive season. But that’s the point isn’t it. There’s the pretty Christmas lights a twinkling, the joyful Christmas carols streaming through the air, the smell of fur tree pine, a whiff of marshmallows, hot chocolate and peppermint candy scent in the air. I’m feeling excited, energetic, with my Christmas list in hand. I’m almost in a trance as I prance into the store to purchase my first gift. I take one look at the price, my long list of names and in an instant my cheerful disposition is replaced with anguish. Bah Hum Bug its Christmas!

The reality begins to seep in. The bells that sounded so jingly now sound like a loud metronome, reminding me that time is not on my side. I begin to feel the dread, the stress, the burden and intense pressure. I must get the right gift, I can’t forget anybody, what about the dinner menu. I begin to ruminate, my mind in a swirl, my empathy grows for Ebenezer Scrooge and Mr. Grinch at this moment.

The holiday season is portrayed as a joyful occasion filled with sugar plum fairies, pleasant memories, stress free and pure relaxation. Conversely, for many it is one of the most stressful holidays of the year. There are the get-togethers, social engagements, concerts, plays, what -to -wear? How about my hair? This is the time for many, when the level of stress increases rather than decreases during the holiday season. With good intentions, there is the goal to create the best holiday ever for the family.  Albeit, the commercialism of the holidays puts added pressure on individuals to shop, shop, shop. This emphasis on expensive gift giving may lead to credit card debt by the new year.

Additionally, people feel stressed about meeting family obligations that involve spending lots of time together, not letting work obligations interfere with time spent with family. Then there is the worry of falling behind at work.

During the holidays, people are more likely to suspend their healthy habits of taking care of themselves. They are more likely to sit, watch television, eat, drink, smoke, and sleep to cope with the overwhelming stress of the holidays. Alternatively, this is a time that some folks renew their faith, attend church and feel blessed.

The holidays can be hectic with shopping, cooking, and celebrations. The added responsibilities…the increase in stress detracts from the celebrations and downtime. We must remember to take care of our own wellbeing. Get enough rest, sleep, and exercise. The added responsibilities can have a long-lasting impact on our body and mind. It all begins with the nagging question did I choose the right tree?

In the 1965 animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie is displaying depressed symptoms, despite it’s the start of the festive season. He attempts to direct a neighborhood Christmas play, but does not get the support of his friends. Charlie Brown cannot understand why he is so depressed given it’s the season for Christmas presents, Christmas cards and decorations. His depression deepens with the show of commercialism, as he takes note of Lucy’s ecstatic demeanor at the psychiatric booth. She is full of glee by the sound of jingling money, rather than jingling bells. Charlie Brown’s disillusionment deepens when he notices his own dog entered the ‘dog house’ into a light decoration competition with the hopes of winning money. Moreover, he seems to become mortified by his sisters’ letter to Santa Claus that outlines a list of particular gifts or a willingness to accept large sums of money as a substitute. Then there is the suggestion to purchase an aluminum, big, shiny pink tree for the play. Charlie Brown goes against the mainstream and chooses a tiny sapling for the Christmas tree. He is determined to remain faithful to the true meaning of Christmas. Unfortunately, he begins to feel hopeless when the tree ornament is too weighty for the tree. He believes Christmas is ruined. To his surprise, his friends had come together and resurrected the tree that twinkled in the night sky. His grief turned to disbelief, joy and peace.  His sapling was magnificent. It seemed to represent a symbol of hope.

I’m reminded of a recent past, when I purchased my own “Charlie Brown” cedar sapling for $5.00 at a school fair. I recall the lady saying I don’t think its going to make it. There were other naysayers, but I was determined to have it planted. It now is quite wide and stands about 20 something feet tall. It is my beacon of hope whenever I feel discouraged. Perhaps next holiday season I will don the tree with a bright star ornament!

The festive season ought not bring about undue physical and emotional stress. It is a time to cherish family, remember goodness, and sing together in harmony. Bah Hum Bug, tis the time to reflect, relax and destress. Rather, lets rejoice!

Happy Holidays!