Sunday 18th August 2019

Women Of Courage. #13. Alicia O’Brien. 86/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #13. Alicia O’Brien. 86/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

I have known Alicia who is 46, for many years thanks to ‘the old world of Australian blogging’ where I was first a reluctant entry into ‘link ups.’ This blogger friend has had a link up called Open Slather for years. It was on Mondays and now she has moved it to Friday. Do join in! Alicia impressed me from the beginning with her images: photos of her cooking and outdoors where she captures nature in her part of Australia so well. I welcome Alicia to share her story today, and love this image, captured by one of her young daughters! 

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

 

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometime courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’. – Mary Anne Radmacher

 

There have many times in my life I have had to call on my courage stores. Plenty of times come to mind when I hadn’t been courageous.

My earliest memory was crossing the rail lines to get to school in the morning. Scared the crap out of me. I may have been a cautious, anxious kid, because it used to frustrate the hell out of mum that I’d turn around and walk back home than to cross the lines.

When I talked to her about it, a true story of courage arose. That of my mum. Twenty four years old with five kids in a small country town, a working husband, no car. She’d walk me half way to school, torn, wanting to take me all the way, but four kids at home on their own. We as women are all courageous, in the way we are responsible for, we struggle and care for our loved ones.

Another time is when Mum asked me get out the car and herd the sheep from behind along the roadside. I would NOT get out of the car. My three-year-old sister did the deed. Gee did mum give me a serve about that. My little sister was the courageous one.

My biggest regret in not being courageous is when as a young mum, I stood in line at the checkout while an older man spewed racist hate at an Asian man who was holding up the line. I could not believe what was coming out of this man’s mouth. My regret was that I never stood forward and said something. No one did. I was angry that my daughters had to listen to such racist filth in this current age. I wish I had of been courageous enough to tell him to stop. Life teaches us many lessons and I will never ever hold back in the same situation again. The Asian man was the one who was courageous.

Most of my calls for courage, I guess anxiety and self-doubt have played a part. I have noticed that calling on my courage stores was easier when I was going through more confident stages of my life.

Meeting new people, taking the step of starting a new job, getting through tough things like my sons’ diagnosis of schizophrenia and the crap that was involved before and after that. It takes courage to keep pushing on in the face of uncertainty.

Even to this day, I must occasionally talk myself into making phone calls or walking into the school gates and be social! I know it’s easy and doesn’t take that much courage, but I let my brain convince me it’s a difficult task!

 

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I am not sure if it has changed me in any way. I guess it’s made me more aware that I can get through things that maybe my brain was telling me were going to be hard. The funny thing is when it’s all over, it really isn’t that bad. It has given me the tools to face adversity the next time and made me realise I am capable and worthy of confidence in myself that I can do the hard stuff.

I feel I am more persistent and resilient in my approach to tasks.

I am often amazed at how well I cope in a crisis. My brain then seems to snap into survival mode, and I push through under pressure. My brain doesn’t have time to talk me out of it. This ability would come after some experience too. It’s the time after that I need a break to re-centre myself.

 

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I learned that no matter how tough you think something is going to be, the courage to get through it is already inside of you. It is not something you have to make, it’s there. Don’t overthink the situation and only cross bridges once you come to them. In most situations, your brain can be your worst enemy, the key is to listen to the positive more often than you listen to your negative talk. Tell yourself, “I can do this!”.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

The more I put myself out of my comfort zone, the more confident I become in facing life’s hurdles. The hurdles are bloody inconvenient, and I often question the universe if it thinks I’ve had my fair share already. They say practice makes perfect!

I am however aware that my problems are dwarfed by others, there are so many who are doing it way tougher than me and I am amazed at how courageous they are. They provide inspiration for me to draw on.

The courage of others always inspires me. I have learned that some of those courageous things are just everyday ordinary things and some life changing. Everyone is challenged by something, no matter how big or small.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

The more steps you take everyday out of your comfort zone and facing your fears, the more able and confident you become in facing fears. Life is hard. I think having supportive people around you to help is important and not being afraid to accept that help. I think it is also helpful to have someone who knows what you’re going through at any time to talk to, so you don’t feel so alone in your struggles.

Oh wow. Lots of messages there for me to learn too. Thank you so much Alicia. I loved that we have been on-line friends for ages. Maybe one day we will actually meet!

Denyse.

Blog/Website: https://onemotherhen.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alleychook

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/One-Mother-Hen-243699915749847/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aliciaonemotherhen/

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women Of Courage Series. #12 Megan Daley. 84/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #12 Megan Daley. 84/2019.

Some stories here need a trigger warning: this one is for: sudden death.

 

Women of Courage is a series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Megan’s story.  She is 43. I have connected with Megan via social media initially through her #childrensbooksdaily and being both a teacher AND librarian I knew she was someone I would like to meet. Whilst we have not yet done that, her story is one that is such a BIG hug would be in order if we did meet but I hear Megan may not be a hugger. 

Here’s her story.

  

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Those of you who know my blog and website Children’s Books Daily will be well aware that I have experienced overwhelming grief. My brother, my favourite aunt and my beloved husband all died in the space of a few short years, all very unexpectedly, and a number of very dear friends also died in this same period. I feel like my family have been utterly battered by life and death over the last few years and sometimes we do not know which way is up and which way is down. In the very early days of grief if took courage to merely face each day…and not consume all of the chocolate and carbs in the world. Having just passed the second anniversary of my husbands death, courage now looks different. Now it takes courage (and oh so much emotional and physical energy) to solo parent our beautiful daughters and to accept help in doing this and it also takes courage to walk my own path without Dan by my side – in my career and in my personal life.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

The biggest change that I have had to make is to learn to accept help. I grew up with a beautiful community of family friends and we all helped each other and worked tirelessly in the community (technically I watched my parents and their friends work tirelessly in the community  – #samesame). As a young adult I threw myself into volunteer work in the children’s literature community and I’ve always baked for friends or causes in the community such as ‘Baked Relief’ and been ‘that parent’ who ends up on the committees at kindy and school. I absolutely love being with others and being the one to ‘do’. But grief and the realities of solo parenting – the lack of second income and the relentless nature of parenting (I adore parenting but let’s face it, it can be relentless at times!) have meant I have had to accept help, something I have struggled with and continue to wrestle with. I have lost so much sleep over having to accept help – it turns my brain inside out and to mush like nothing else – and I still often just say ‘thank you so much but I’m okay, I’ve got it!’ rather than ‘actually you know what? That would be just so wonderful right now’.

The girls and I have been surrounded by love, care and immense kindness since Dan’s death but, as it should, life does need to return to normal for all involved. There are a few key friends, neighbours and family members who have absolutely not stopped TELLING ME that they are going to do A, B and C for me and they will not take no for an answer – I cannot believe the love they have shown us (without hugging me – I really don’t like hugs). I am really well supported, and yet, some days (many days) life is still incredibly overwhelming. I continue to think that ‘soon I’ll have it together’ and yet I still seem to need so much help just to keep our family unit going. It’s taken courage to accept help…and ‘asking for help’ is a work in progress!

One of changes I did not expect was just how motivated I would be about ensuring that the girls and I still have a great life. Dan’s death and the death of my brother, aunt and close friends has been life altering but I am determined that my grief (which is ever present and will be with me always) will not define me, my children or my family. I just said to my mother last weekend at a family lunch that I am so proud of our extended family. Despite all the loss and sadness we have experienced, we still laugh a lot, are incredibly close and genuinely enjoy each others company. We know that even though we may disagree (even fight – siblings never really grow up!), we are all deeply loved. I am also really fortunate to have good friends. I am very comfortable with being single and enjoying the company of my friends and, in many cases, my relationships with my friends are far richer and deeper.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

This is such a hard question to answer as each persons journey is unique to them. A dear friend lost her husband (a great mate of Dan’s) a year after I lost Dan and I remember feeling at a complete loss as to how to help her and what to say to her. I don’t feel courageous at all. I feel like all I do is put one foot in front of the other, and yet I have become aware that other people use words like ‘resilient’ and ‘courageous’ about me. I feel like I have to summon courage but I don’t feel like I am courageous. I do however, feel like I’ve picked up some ‘Helpful Tips and Tricks for Surviving Grief’ (tips for baking the perfect sponge cake would have been better) and as a teacher librarian, I have spent my career curating information for others, which I think is part of the reason I have blogged about grief so often. I did a post recently about ‘what I have learnt’ and I hope that this is something I can use in the future when people ask me ‘how do I cope with such loss’. You can find it here https://childrensbooksdaily.com/two-years-is-such-a-very-short-time/

 

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Another hard question! You do not know what you can face until you face it. When my brother died I felt that this would be the very worst time I would ever experience…fast forward to two more family deaths and I know now that courage just takes over your being and pulls you through the hottest of flames. Courage for the big things in life is not really something I want to draw upon anytime soon; quite frankly, I worry my lifetime quota of courage may be running low! I would like to now live a really non-eventful life and I would dearly love to know what it is like to feel bored, even just for a short time. I hope to feel courage in the everyday things – like trying something new, breaking a bad habits sampling a new reading genre or learning how one parents tweens and teens (oh my glory).

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

I’m not going to tell you to ‘take care of yourself’ or ‘find time for you’ because I’ve wanted the punch in the noses of people who have said this to me. My message is a little more realistic, in my mind anyway!

As much as possible, steer your own path and be in control of decision making and navigating the journey from tough times to ‘being okay’ times. Sometimes life takes over and all you can do is carefully and consciously walk the tightrope through the darkness. But I promise you, that in darkness there are always moments of light – even if they only start out as tiny pinpricks of light.

 

Thank you Megan. I am in awe of your strength to carry on even though I know many times, that IS the last thing you want to do.

Denyse.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

 

 

Social Media:

www.childrensbooksdaily.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensBooksDaily

Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/daleyreads

Instagram URL: http://instagram.com/childrensbooksdaily

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #11. Kirsten. 82/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #11. Kirsten. 82/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Kirsten’s story. She is 46. Kirsten first connected with me via her generosity when I was sent a gift pack from a group of friends after my big cancer surgery. Kirsten has continued to be a great social media friend too. Here’s her story.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

In 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare condition called idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) It’s a condition I’d never heard of before and it’s one that mimics a brain tumour in terms of symptoms. I was losing my eye sight, suffering from facial numbness, balance issues and migraines prior to my diagnose. I had no idea when I was diagnosed just how courageous I would need to be to fight it.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

It changed me – and my family – completely. I had no idea I was such a determined person prior to my diagnosis. It took me two years to shove my symptoms into remission and the medication I had to take to help make this happen knocked me flat for the first year. But I was determined to beat it. I was also determined to keep life as ‘normal’ as possible for our two kids. I got up every morning, made lunches, took them to school, came home and slept or rested until it was time to pick them up from school in the afternoon. Some afternoons I was so nauseous I’d take a bucket with me in the car – I had a lovely decorative tin bucket in our pantry (I used to use it as an ice bucket when if we had a party) and that was the bucket I’d use. When the kids saw it in the car, I would just tell them I’d lent it to someone for a party and keep forgetting to take it out of the car. It makes me laugh now, thinking of that tin bucket rolling around in the front seat of the car just in case I needed to use it!

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I’ve learned that when it comes to your health – and life in general – you are your only advocate. You can have all the specialists in the world looking after you, but you are the only one who can actually help you. I followed my neurologist, opthalmologist and endocrinologists advice to the letter. I went to every six weekly appointment with each of them for 2 years and did exactly what they told me I needed to do to beat this thing. But I also questioned them when I wasn’t happy with how things were progressing. I asked for more information, I wanted to understand. I tackled this thing head on.

And honestly?At the time I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing. It wasn’t until I was given the great news that I was in remission that I really thought about what I’d done to get to that point. And I guess that’s what courage is to me – pushing through the darkness until you’ve achieved what needs to be done.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I think I’m really good at slipping into old habits! Sometimes old thoughts of self doubt surface and I feel anything but courageous. But I’m definitely more aware of how capable I actually am.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

There’s always a silver lining to every situation. Good, bad, happy sad – the silver lining is always there. Sometimes it just takes a while for it to show up. But when it does, you’ll feel so grateful for not being where or who you were.

 

Thank you Kirsten for such an amazing story of recovery. You inspire me to continue to keep plugging away as part of my own recovery in becoming more active!

Denyse.

 

 

Blog/Website: https://bettyquette.com.au and https://kirstenandco.com

Facebook Page (not personal account): facebook.com/bettyquette

 facebook.com/kirstenandco

Instagram: instagram.com/bettyquette    instagram.com/kirstenandco

It is so good to see Kirsten doing well. Something I am adding now is that there is a great line of oils that she and her husband have developed and now sell. I was fortunate to be given some and latterly I have bought the body oil and lip balm. First known as Skin Boss, it is now Bettyquette. Here’s what some of the products look like….I love her generosity of spirit!

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women Of Courage Series. #10. Tegan Churchill. 80/2019.

Trigger Warning: Self-Harm, Mental Illness.

 

 

Women of Courage Series. #10. Tegan Churchill. 80/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

I have known Tegan who is 31, for many years thanks to ‘the old world of Australian blogging’ where I was first incredibly impressed with her education focus for her son as he entered formal schooling. I continue to be in awe of the time as a volunteer Tegan now gives to her son’s primary school. Her school is fortunate to have her support in many ways. I welcome Tegan to share her story today. 


What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Becoming a parent is still the most courageous thing I have faced in my life. Before I became a parent, I was hellbent on destroying myself. Having a child gave me a purpose and something other than myself to care for. For the first time in my life, I felt that I had a purpose.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Before I fell pregnant I spent more time in psychiatric wards than I did out. My treatment team were preparing my family for when I would take my own life, not if. I was sent to prison after attempting to rob a chemist. I was seeking drugs to overdose on. I had no intention of hurting anyone but myself.

Finding out I was pregnant was a shock. Children were never on my radar. I didn’t want to be a parent. Yet, this small person changed my life in ways that I could never have imagined. He changed my life for the better. He gave me a purpose and a reason to be alive. How could I hurt myself and leave him behind?

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Having a child isn’t the answer. A child isn’t a possession. I know that I was lucky that it was the catalyst that I needed. For many people it isn’t. I wouldn’t change having my child for all the money in the world but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t also the hardest thing I have ever done.

I also learned that courage isn’t doing everything on your own. Courage can also be learning when to ask for help. I learned that courage doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr. It really does take a village to raise a child.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Having a small person to fight for has given me the courage to fight for myself. I realised that in order to give him the parent that he needed and deserved, I needed to help myself too. Fighting for treatment for my son gave me the courage to fight for my own treatment. For many years I had simply accepted the treatment I was given, convinced that it was what I deserved. Being the carer for a child with additional needs allowed me to learn to fight for myself. I realised that I couldn’t give from an empty cup.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Break down any challenge into easy to complete tasks. Give yourself rewards for getting through and be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to admit that you are scared, anxious or that you simply can’t do something yet. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to accept help that is offered. Sometimes our courage is borrowed and that’s perfectly fine too.

Thank you so much Tegan for your courageous account in this post. I am so pleased you decided to share your story.

Denyse.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

 

Social Media. 

Blog/Website: http://www.musingsofthemisguided.com

 

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/misguidedmuser

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #9. Min. 78/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #9. Min. 78/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Min’s story.  She is 55. I have connected with Min via blogging and on social media. Min has been a long-time supporter of this blog and I thank her for that! Here’s her story.

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I think there are many people who have faced far more challenging adversities in their lives than me but there have been a few occasions during my life where I have had to be courageous.  The most courageous I have ever had to be though was with the recent loss of my father and so that is what comes to mind straight away when asked on this occasion when I’ve had to be courageous.

I was with him at 1:15am on 2 December 2017 when he passed from this life to wherever it is that we go to next.  He was hospitalised for six weeks before he passed away.  In the beginning there was lots of hope that he would improve and get home again.  Then there was hope for him to stabilise and be transferred to a care facility.  Then there was the realisation that his time on earth was coming to an end and so with that came the need for me to brace and prepare myself for when that time came.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I had to face one of my lifelong fears – the death of a parent.  It has changed me immensely.  I’ve learnt how the flip side to love feels – incredibly deep and raw pain, a huge hole of loss.  I’ve felt the depth and breadth of the love I have for my Dad, and he is worth every bit of the corresponding depth and breadth of pain I feel now.  It’s brought home the fact that none of us are immune.  All of us have to face this loss one day, and none of us get out of here alive.  We all will die one day.  It’s intensified my understanding of how precious our time is and how we should be spending our lives exactly how we want to and in a way that makes us happy.  It’s highlighted what’s important in life and what is not.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I’ve learned that we are capable of more than we think we are.  I’ve always feared the loss of a parent and I never thought I would be able to cope with it or even survive it.  However, here I am – coping and surviving.  There is something within us that protects us and helps us through.  You still cry and grieve and hurt, but there is some kind of primal preservation ability within us that comes out to help us when we need it.  I can’t explain it but I can say that it surprised me, it’s real, and I welcomed it.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

To be honest, I’m not sure.  I think each situation that calls for courage is a new one, with different components, and therefore a completely new experience. The difference now is that I know that there is this primal preservation ability (PPA) within us that will help us when we need it and that does provide some reassurance.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

I guess I would firstly like to wrap my arms around them and let them know that I care and I wish them strength and love and support.  Then I’d like to remind them that though it might seem impossible to believe at first, and very little comfort, the truth of life is that from adversity strength is born and lessons are learned, so these hard times are in fact a part of our growth as humans, and life’s learning process.  I’d also say – just do it your way, not how you think it ‘should’ be done, and trust that you will be helped along by that PPA within you that I’ve spoken of.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

I think it’s important to realise that some things that happen to us are with us for life. I lost my Dad. I don’t think I will ever ‘recover’ from that, nor will my grief ‘end’.  These things will be a part of me for the rest of my life, but as I’ve heard and read from others that have been through this, I believe that with time they will soften, becoming less of the deep wrenching pain.

I believe the most courageous thing we can do in the face of adversity (and after) is to look after ourselves.  After losing my Dad, in addition to grieving, I was actually suffering ‘shock’ and displayed many of those symptoms, particularly weakness, fatigue, and concentration & memory issues.  It’s important to realise that we’ve been through a trauma and to take care of ourselves.

“True courage is being able to smile in the face of adversity while embracing one’s own vulnerability.” ~ author unknown

 

Thank you Min for sharing your story and one that will resonate with many. Denyse.

Social Media: Follow Min here:

Blog/Website:  https://www.writeofthemiddle.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/riteofthemiddle

 Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/writeofthemiddle/

 Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/writeofthemiddle/

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #7. Dorothy. 74/2019.

Trigger Warning: Suicide, Grief, Family.

 

 

Women of Courage Series. #7. Dorothy. 74/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Dorothy’s story.  She is 67. In 2016 I was ‘introduced’ on-line by a fellow art lover to Dorothy who has a Mandalas For A Season Group on Facebook and in that time, we have followed each other’s stories as women of a ‘certain age and stage’ and similar careers. Dorothy’s image is her mandala for Jarrod.

 

This is the icon mandala for Jarrod I created in the week before he suicided.

Dorothy shares her story here:

I am into my 5th year of creating mandalas (from October 2014).

In my retirement from being a Primary School Principal, I began with Kathryn Costa’s 100Mandala Challenge, having dabbled in Zentangle previously. I found as I immersed myself in creating mandalas, the greatest inner peace I have ever known.

Little was I to know that I would be launched into a devastating grief experience in January 2016 when my 36 year old son suicided after 18.5 years of battling multiple complex mental health issues.

My mandalas provided me with solace and comfort and continue to do so.

In the first month I created a mandala for every year of his life, and then on the 20th of each month in the year after he died I created a mandala to honour his life.

I was moved to create a mandala community on Facebook after Kathryn Costa took her 100Mandala Sharing Circle off Facebook.

Because of the value I have found at various seasons of my life, I called the community Mandalas for a Season.

Apart from engaging fully in the mandala journey, the nurturing of this community for each member has deepened and grown, and I have developed wonderful friendships through this community.

I am not a professional mandala artist – for me it’s deeply personal, and an amazing healing and encouraging experience.

 

I have learned that the grief journey is messy, non-linear, and has no end.

It’s not a matter of getting through it. It’s a matter of continuing to breathe.

I never knew that in grief love grows.

I never knew that I would miss my son more as the days pass.

I thought that in the immediate aftermath, life would go on and the pain would dull.

I am a member of several support groups for the “bereaved from suicide”. I gain perspective from other people’s sharing and it’s been reassuring that my aches and pains, days of lethargy, a feeling of the cloud hanging low, are not unusual.

I have learned that each member of the immediate family experiences the grief differently. For one stoicism is the pattern; for another distancing oneself is needed at times, for another detaching is the way.

I have learnt not to expect that anyone else can meet my needs – that the courage to go on comes from within me, and through my mandalas.

 

Dorothy, I am honoured that you have chosen to share your story about your son and the journey with mandalas.

Thank you for your heart-felt words and telling us how it is and has been.

I am including Lifeline’s 13 11 14 here.

Denyse.

 

Follow Dorothy on Social Media:

Instagram: dorothy_heartfulmandalas

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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Women Of Courage Series. #6. Annette. 72/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #6. Annette. 72/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Annette’s story.  She is 51. I have connected with Annette via her blog and on social media thanks to our mutual interest in art and creativity.  

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

When I think of times I’ve needed courage in my life, two things spring to mind.

The first is that as an adoptee, it has taken me many small steps of courage, over many years, to come to a place of peace and self-acceptance. Adoption promises happy endings to all involved. The reality is that adoption begins with loss and creates trauma. Working through how I feel about being adopted has been the most courageous internal work I’ve done in my life, so far.

The second thing that I’ve experienced that required courage was being diagnosed with heart failure. It took courage to accept my diagnosis and then make changes to my lifestyle.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Adoption has impacted everything about who I am, but it isn’t who I am.

I used to believe that I was broken or defective in some way. Why wouldn’t you think that when all you’ve been told as an adoptee is that your mother gave you away; that love equals abandonment. That’s a messed-up message, and in many cases was not in any way the truth of the circumstances around adoptions in this country.

As for my health issues, that changed everything for me, from what I eat, to how much I can drink every day, to realising that no, actually we’re not immortal. It’s been a good life lesson.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Courage is not waking up one day with the confidence of a superhero.

Courage is incremental.

Courage manifests itself in tears, in trembling, and in the smallest actions. Often those actions begin in the mind, where we have to decide if we are going to act or hide.

Courage is accessible to all, though many of us don’t believe it.

Courage is believing you can act to change the circumstances, then following through.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Yes, I’m practised in courage, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy or automatic.

The deeper the fear, the harder it is to draw on the courage you need. But it’s there. It’s there in all of us.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Believe in yourself, and have COMPASSION on yourself.

Courage takes time to stir up. It can be an emotionally trying process. It can make you want to run away more than you’ve ever wanted to.

The tiniest, almost invisible to the naked eye steps you take towards courage count. Everything counts, not just what is seen or celebrated as courageous.

Courage isn’t about big things, it is about meaningful things. Learning to say no, being willing to say yes, making peace with yourself, loving the person you are, believing in your completely unearned worthiness; these are acts of courage.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

I believe in people’s ability to grow. I believe it because I’ve seen it in others, over and over again, and because I live it.

 

Thank you Annette. My life is richer from getting to know you too. I enjoy our conversations on-line about art and more.

Denyse.

Connect with Annette here on Social Media

Blog/Website:     www.igiveyoutheverbs.com

 

Twitter:    www.twitter.com/theverbsblog

 

Facebook Page :  www.facebook.com/IGiveYouTheVerbs

 

Instagram: www.instagram.com/igiveyoutheverbs

 

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women Of Courage Series. #5. Kirsty Russell. 70/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #5. Kirsty Russell. 70/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Kirsty Russell who is 43. I am delighted to share her story as we have been blogging friends since 2012! 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

There have been many times in my life when I’ve had to be courageous and, to be honest, it takes courage every day to keep going. There have been three main challenges I’ve faced in my life where I’ve needed to draw on every ounce of courage I possess:

  • My kids’ diagnoses (albinism, autism, anxiety, sensory processing disorder) and my ongoing fight to support them in every possible way
  • A stress induced health scare five years ago (I thought I was having a stroke) which made me question everything in my life
  • The death of my parents (my Dad in 2015 and my Mum in 2018)

Each challenge forced me to rebuild my life, reevaluate my priorities and face my fears.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Following my kids’ diagnoses, I had to change the way I think and adapt how I live to meet their needs. I had to learn to advocate for them, which was hard for someone who avoids confrontation. I had to learn to think differently, to try to understand their behaviours, their anxieties and their challenges. I had to cultivate more patience (still working on that one!) and I had to open my mind to new ideas. Since my eldest son was born 15 years ago, I’ve been undergoing a transformation. It’s challenged my beliefs and hasn’t always been easy but I know I’m a better version of myself now, having gone through everything in that time.

Following my health scare, I had to re-evaluate my life, my priorities and my career in order to put my health first. I was working in a job I loved but could no longer juggle the stress of managing contracts and leading staff in part time hours while also being there for my kids. I’d drop the kids off at school, drive 30 minutes to the office, work for 5 hours with no break, then drive 30 minutes back to pick up the kids and take them to therapies and appointments. There was no time for me, let alone to breathe or think. While I left with sadness, 5 years on I know it was the best decision I could have made. Although I wish it hadn’t taken a near death experience to urge me to take some action…

Most recently, I had to dig deep to support both my parents through their separate cancer diagnoses and help them find peace, while trying to adjust to a new normal without them. Having to take the reins of their lives, while watching them fade away is something that has forever changed me. There’s nothing that can prepare you for that. You just have to be strong because there’s no alternative. Also, I never expected to be parent-less so young – there’s a burden of responsibility which sits on top of the weight of loneliness. I’m the eldest and I know I’m not alone but it feels like I am. Not having them here to celebrate the highs and to support me with the lows will never be okay but I have to find the strength to be at peace with it. To be honest, I’m still working on that.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

You need to believe in yourself and in your ability to adapt and meet each challenge. Most things in life are thrust upon us but in rising to these challenges, it proves that we can rise to others of our own making. Life is too short to live in fear – that’s something that each of these experiences have taught me. Choose to look for the positives and make the best of each situation because none of us know what’s around the corner.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I’m about to take a huge leap of courage and launch a new business to help fellow parents and educators to find connection and work together to achieve better outcomes for students. I would never have considered taking this leap a few years back – I’ve been ruled by fear for most of my life. But the challenges I’ve been forced to face in the last few years have shown me I’m strong enough and brave enough – I just need to take a chance and start.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Lean into the situation. Don’t run from it. Face things head on. If you make the decision to face your fears and make the best of the situation you have a better chance of overcoming whatever life throws at you. That’s the only way I’ve been able to deal with all the challenges of my life and I hope it’s enough to see me through whatever comes next!

Thank you Kirsty for sharing your words. I am impressed with how much you do to advocate for many. I always enjoy our catch-ups too!

Denyse.

Follow Kirsty here on social media:

Blog/Website: https://positivespecialneedsparenting.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PosSNParenting

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://facebook.com/PositiveSpecialNeedsParenting

Instagram: https://instagram.com/PositiveSpecialNeedsParenting

Kirsty just added this…at my insistence!
I’m about to embark on the biggest opportunity of my life, presenting 2 sessions and being part of a parent discussion panel at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference in Singapore from June 20-22. I’ll be sharing what we’ve learned advocating for our son at school and providing information for professionals on how to more positively engage with parents of kids with autism. I’m equal parts proud, nervous, terrified and excited but I’m grateful to have the chance to hopefully make a difference.
Here is the link and I am sending her my congratulations and best wishes for this event! I do not believe this will be her ‘last’ appearance!

Next week’s Woman of Courage is Annette.

Annette is a blogger too but we have only met ‘virtually’.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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