“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.” – Agnes M. Pahro

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I wrote this blog a year and a half ago and its seems fitting to post it again during the holiday season. We need to set boundaries with family friends and work. Sometimes that’s even harder this time of year … Happy Holidays! 

– xoxo Victoria

I have an amazing counselor here in North Carolina. I wasn’t necessarily looking for one, but I was referred to this woman by hospice. After a few “lose my shit days” I decided that maybe I needed to go see someone, actually my Dad suggested I go see someone. I mean seriously, I spent two years caring for someone as they died a horrible death, I lost my best friend/ husband, I lost the majority of my friends, my job, my home and life. I sold almost everything and moved across the country to live with and be close to my family who I haven’t lived close to in years. I absolutely needed someone to talk to. HAHAHAHA!!!

Sometimes I see her every week and sometimes every three weeks. I had an appointment on Monday and was crying before I even sat down. I had diarrhea of the mouth. I couldn’t stop. Then she said (not word for word…), “You come in here and seem like you have everything together, you have a plan and you are upbeat and act fine, but inside you aren’t, you haven’t set boundaries with people and now you are scared to. You have an issue with trust.” (Me – Duh) Then she went on to explain trust to me and all the components of it… and suddenly everything made sense. It’s about self-trust and trusting others.

She introduced me to the acronym BRAVING. (I did more research when I got home and posted a 9 minute link below the covers the subject in more depth – it is very interesting.) BRAVING stands for:

B – Boundaries – The limits we personally set in all of our relationships that allow and help us to protect ourselves.

R – Reliability – Doing what you say you are going to do, over and over again. 

A – Accountability – Taking ownership for your actions and words. Saying sorry and meaning it.

V – Vault – Keeping people’s secrets, be a vault, share only your own stories. No drama. Expect the same from others.

I – Integrity – Practice what you preach, do as you say you’re are going to do. “Choosing courage over comfort” – Brene Brown

N – Non-Judgement – Being able to tell others what you need without fear of being judged, and extending this to others.  

G – Generosity – Interpreting other peoples words and actions in the most generous way possible. 

WOW!!! When you break down the topic of trust it is way more complicated then it seems. It isn’t a surface level topic or feeling. I now understand why it is so hard to trust someone once they have broken your trust and when someone disappoints you why it is so hard not to forgive, but to move forward in the same manner. 

Knowing this definition of trust would have saved me so much heartache over the last few years. Sitting there in that freshly painted room, crying my eyes out, I realized I made some decisions over the last three years that were not completely made out of love or trust but were almost expected because I never set boundaries and didn’t hold people accountable for their actions or words. I forgive easily, and then never establish my boundaries, opening myself up for the cycle to repeat itself. I cannot go back and change the past but moving forward I can start establishing MY boundaries. I can start expecting people to do as they say they will and start holding people accountable for their actions. I can start making the decisions about who I allow in. Wish me luck!

SuperSoul Sessions: The Anatomy of Trust

– xoxo Victoria

5 Ways The Holidays (Christmas) Has Changed for Me

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  1. I do what I want, when I want. I’m working on Christmas, so I am able spend time with you on Christmas Eve (before 9pm) or on Thursday before I start a three in a row at the hospital – those were my stipulations this year. Duane always worked the holidays at the fire station.  ALWAYS. He thought it was important for the people with kids to be home with them. And I was okay with that. Dinner at the Fire Station is always good!
  2. No pressure to see anyone or contact anyone. I fell absolutely no pressure to see anyone over the holidays. There are people from my past I no longer speak to and I feel no pressure to reach out or to respond to them if they reach out. My priority now is my peace and my happiness. I will not put myself in a position to be uncomfortable or unhappy.
  3. It is not at my house. I currently do not host holidays in my home. I used to LOVE hosting, having my home full of family and friends and laughs and loves. But not right now. My home is a quiet, peaceful, easy place and I will not invite chaos into it. Maybe in the future I will again host, but for now – Buddy and I will enjoy our peace.
  4. No perfect gifts. There are no perfect gifts. Give out of love.
  5. My pink tree. hahahahahaha I have a pink tree covered in mermaids and fish and glitter and sparkles. I couldn’t be happier with it!

– xoxo Victoria

The Candle Ritual

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I knew the first holiday season without Duane would be difficult. I knew I needed to prepare myself for whatever feelings or emotions that might surface during this time.

I made a decision to seek out help in order to prepare myself. I went to our local hospice for a Holiday Grief group. It was so sad and almost unbearable. But there was a great take away from it. 

The Holiday Candle Lighting Ritual.

The first I read it I cried my eyes out. I loved it immediately. I brought it to my sisters house for Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas. It is a tradition that has been carried out over the passed few years at every holiday. I absolutely love it! It provides a few minutes for you to think about your loved one and focus on the love you shared. It gives you a moment to think about your growth and your journey since your loved one passed. 

I know a few people who have lost loved ones this year. Because this has been so helpful for me I wanted to share it with them. I gave them a little card with the ritual on it and 5 candles. Everyone seemed to really like the idea. 

It’s such a simple thing. But something the simplest things make the biggest difference. 

– xoxo Victoria

Holiday “Rules” With a Terminal Spouse

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Everything changes when there is a terminal diagnosis. Daily life has new challenges, everything takes longer and is harder to execute. Holidays can be exceptionally difficult, emotionally and physically. Here are a few ideas I came up with when I looked back on the last few holidays we shared. 

  1. Don’t have any expectations. Well actually, expect that if something can go wrong it will. This is the best piece of advice I can share when discussing holidays and expectations.
  2. Don’t go anywhere – have people come to you and have them come in shifts. Having a home full of people can be great, warm and loving. But is can also be stressful, overwhelming and a lot of work. 
  3. Don’t cook – order in, or have someone else cook at their house and bring it over. 
  4. Disposable everything. Plates, silverware, cups, napkins. Everything. You can get serving platters and utensils at the dollar store. The expense is worth is it. 
  5. Traditions. Past traditions may no longer be possible so this is the perfect time to create new ones. Add something you have always wanted to do or try. 
  6. No gifts. The exception is young children.
  7. Don’t put any pressure on yourself or anyone else. The holidays are hard even in the best of situations. You have to be prepared to just go with the flow. This is hard for everyone. 
  8. SOAK IT ALL IN. This could be the last one. 

– xoxo Victoria 

P.S. The picture is our tree for our last Christmas, funny, Duane asked me to get one – it was the first time we had had a tree in 10 years! 

5 Things You Can Do To Help A Caregiver That Tells you They Don’t Need Anything

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Surviving as a full time caregiver is hard. Nothing prepares you for it and there are very limited resources to help you navigate this new world. There are no books that describe the daily struggle. There is nothing that shows you how to adapt to your new normal. It is mostly trial and error and error and error and then ohhhhhh that’s how it works.  

Having good people around you makes a world of difference. We were so lucky. We were constantly being visited by friends, firemen and family. We had a ton of support and I still do. I can’t imagine what our journey would have looked like had we not be surrounded by these people who were willing to jump in and do anything we needed – anything! 

Even though we had all these amazing people around us offering to help I never asked. I hated feeling like I wasn’t capable of doing it alone. Hated feeling like I wasn’t doing a “good job”, feeling like I was disappointing people and not living up to what a real caregiver was. It’s a mind boggling experience. 

People always ask me what they can do to help their friends, siblings, neighbors … any one struggling through caregiving. I always say the same thing – show up. The main thing is to show up. Actually SHOW UP. That means, you grab your bag, get in your car, drive over to their house and show up. You don’t call and ask what they need, because more than likely they’ll tell you nothing. You show up and you do. You show up and you listen. You show up and you hug them. You show up and you sit with them, sometimes in silence.

When I look back at my experience these are some of things that really helped me, when people just showed up. 

  1. Food and Drinks. If you know them you know what they like. Bring food. Drop off food. Don’t always expect to stay but if you do, help serve and clean up. Cooking for guests is an added stress that a caregiver doesn’t need. I was very lucky. We were surrounded by people who brought food and came into our home and cooked for us, fed us and cleaned up. Food is something our people are very good at. (If you bring food – also bring disposable plates, cups, silver wear and napkins. – No one wants to clean up when they have a belly full of great food).
  2. Walk The Dog. Grab the leash and take the dog out. Pets are also struggling during this time. The family dynamic has changed and they are just as affected by the new normal. They appreciate the walk around the block. And I know I appreciated it too. It gave me a minute to clean up the dog hair and I loved knowing that Buddy was getting some fresh air and doing his favorite thing.
  3. Take the vacuum for a spin. Seriously don’t worry about offending them. The floor needs to be vacuumed and swept and mopped. Cleaning the floors is at the bottom of the list for a caregiver, there are so many other things that need to be done that actually matter – the floors are last. (Just make sure no one is sleeping when you whip the vacuum out).
  4. Wash their car. Such a silly little thing. Something we all take for granted. Our car got so dirty. We went every where with Buddy, our dog, I fed Duane in the car, we carried boat parts, his wheelchair, extra clothes, supplies. It was always a mes. I never left the house with out him, so there was no chance to do it then. I couldn’t maneuver him and out just for a car wash and where we lived we weren’t allowed to wash at home (water restrictions – but there was no time anyway). So when people asked for my keys and brought me back a clean car I couldn’t have been happier. The car was my safe place. I could make my phone calls and cry and let it all out in the safety of those four doors. Having my safe place clean allowed me to sit and let it all out with out worrying about one more thing I needed to do. 
  5. Take the kids to the park. I don’t have kids. But I’m guessing it would be amazing. Just 30 minutes to have to yourself and to also let them burn off some energy. Caregiving is stressful for the whole family and I have seen families where the children take on some of the caregiving duties and I can only imagine it’s nice or them to sometimes forget about all the responsibilities and just climb and play and be a kid, even for 30 minutes.

I’ll probably revisit this list an make some adjustments as we near the holidays. Are you a caregiver? What have people done that you appreciate? What do you wish people would do to help? 

Let me know if you have any questions or need anything!

– xoxo Victoria