Lesson of Confession–"I'm Drowning. Help."

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This past six weeks have been a real beating, including the death of my grandmother. She’d no sooner passed away when I had to step in and care for my sister-in-law who was having major surgery to reattach both retinas. I was in go-go-go mode and I thought, if I could just get some rest, I would be okay.

Well, after taking a week at the ranch, I’m not okay. I didn’t want to move or write or sleep or eat. I felt surrounded by a deep malaise, like blows in the dark yet no idea where the pain was coming from. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but then an old lesson resurfaced.

Confess the Real Emotion—Name It and Claim It

One of the first things that helped me tremendously was when I learned to confess the real emotion I was feeling.

This was over ten years ago, but I recall one day that I just couldn’t seem to get out of bed. It was a really dark time for me. I had lost my career in sales due to a misdiagnosis (doctors thought I had epilepsy), and I was on the verge of eviction and facing having to move in with my mother. I had no energy and no real desire to do much of anything. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was cry.

Some of you may be able to relate to my upbringing. I had a single mother who was doing all she could to keep us afloat. Thus, my brother and I were never angry, disappointed, discouraged, or overwhelmed. We only had two feelings; we were “sick” or we were “tired.” Being ill or needing more rest would never make my mom feel guilty. Thus anything negative we ever felt ended up getting pigeon-holed into one of these two categories.

It was a really bad habit to get into.

So years later I found myself still only having two “emotions”—sick or tired. My mother came over to check on me. It was like ten in the morning and I was still in bed. Not sleeping. Just staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the reasons I was a total and utter failure. My apartment was a disaster and I couldn’t bear to ask anyone for help.  I knew I needed to pack, but I just couldn’t seem to move.

My mom stood in the door, crossed her arms and asked, “Kristen, are you depressed?”

I sat up and said something that marked a moment of change in my life. I said, “You know, Mom. I’d like to tell you that. I have every reason to be depressed. I have no job, no money. I am afraid of my mailbox because it is full of all these bills I can’t pay. But that isn’t it.”

“What is it, then?”

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m drowning. I don’t know where to begin. You know what else?”


“I’m heartbroken.”

By naming the specific emotions I was feeling, I had unleashed tremendous power. I had opened a way to make a plan. As long as I was sick or tired, there was very little I could do to remedy either. And, to be honest, I wasn’t sick or tired. I was just so out of my depth that it was making me sick AND tired…all the time.

I’d lost a lot in three years—4 deaths in 6 months (including my father), my career, my health, my apartment, my dreams. And it was bad enough that I had lost those things, but then I never properly grieved any of those losses.

How could I? I was only sick or tired.

But this day was different. For the first time…I was heartbroken, overwhelmed, discouraged. For the first time I felt connected back to that intimate part that was…me.

This simple lesson was the first major step. Once I admitted that I was overwhelmed, it was easier to break big problems into manageable bites and get busy—-fix what was broken, grieve what was lost, let go of what needed letting go. Once I admitted out loud that I was discouraged, it freed me to dust off and try again. Suddenly, it was okay to be disappointed. I could grieve, feel the pain and then start anew. I have found that life is lived best in forward gear.

From that point on, I made it a habit to name the real emotion. It was too easy to hide behind, “Oh, I am just tired.” It took courage to say, “I am disappointed. You said you would help me with this project, but you haven’t been doing your share.”

It was scary, and still is. I will also point our this is a lesson we are always relearning.

Again, today, I was talking to my Mom. I just wanted to run away, change my name, hide under the covers. Then I realized I’d fallen into an old bad habit. When Nana died mid-October, I got busy. I stepped in to care for my SIL. I cooked, I cleaned, tended the toddler and SIL’s two boys, the dogs the laundry. I did every thing but…cry.

I was drowning and didn’t even see it.

In our fast-paced world, what is the allotted time for sadness? Do I take a day off? A week? I’d been so caught up being there for everyone else, I’d never stopped to cry, to admit I miss my Nana. I didn’t get to see her before she died. I didn’t get to attend her funeral. And I never stopped for five minutes to admit I was hurting.

Just walk it off….

Anyway, sorry if I have depressed the heck out of all of you. I’m doing better. I think there is just something about the three-week mark when there’s a death. It’s like we are so caught in the shock blast of losing someone that our brains and emotions take some time to catch up.

I know when I broke my arm in two places I didn’t feel any pain. ANY. I recall it being so surreal. My arm was in the shape of an “S” but nothing. Doctors later told me it’s because there is SO much pain, the brain kind of short-circuits. It’s only until the pain starts to lessen and the shock wears off that we FEEL what’s happened. I think death is much the same.

We all experience loss–death of a loved one, a relationship, a dream and this is all part of life. But to everything there is a season, even a season to just sit still, cry and admit we are sad and that it is okay to be sad. I know once I did that today, once I had a good cry, I felt a LOT better.

So yes, I am still here. Still alive. Tired and a bit battered but better :D. Thanks for your love and support through all this mess. It is VERY appreciated.

What about you? Have you ever been through a loss and yet it never dawned on you to just call it what it was? To grieve? To get angry? To cry? Were you so caught up in the routine of life that you had a hard time giving yourself permission to just sit? To mourn? To notice you were drowning and needed help?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.


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  1. Wow, Kristen, this is amazing. I feel (name my emotions) sad for all you’ve just gone through. As you say, there’s no “consume by” date for grief, or for any emotion. They need to take their time as they work their way through our bodies, our psyches, our dreams, our hearts. But they can’t move unless we acknowledge them. And an intellectual logic-driven “I am grieving” isn’t always enough. It has to be a conversation with the heart itself. All too often I’ve shoved my sadness and grief into boxes, thinking, I’ll deal with it later. They can’t be pushed away, not indefinitely.

    Thank you for writing so beautifully about it! I hope you can start to find your way back.

      • Cynthia on November 15, 2013 at 5:46 pm
      • Reply

      This came at just the right time. I was asked to leave my critique group after two years. I was the least experienced writer, writing erotic romance.Junk they thought, but I was able to get an agent interested in my MS. I think they think they’re better than me. I can’t help but think I’ll find another group and it will be better. It’s nice to get support and guidance from more experienced writers. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  2. sharing these feelings and honesty can ONLY help YOU and the rest of US out here. Thank you very much. As a spiritual minister, I often help others in the area of grief, and sometimes the “Minister needs ministering ” As well….. currently that is the case in my life as one of my brides just died in her 40’s and I am grieving for myself as well as her family and she leaves a 19 yr old son. This is very difficult for me. Again , thank you!

  3. Boy, I hear you; i’ve had a lot on my plate too; but I’m sort of a buoyant pathos type, bob on the ocean of despair, on the good ship lollipop; but i’ve had to look at stuff too; I know when i come out of these crisis, I love more; and have more compassion; i loved the honestly and authenticity of your piece. We don’t give ourselves time to grieve. Love and best wishes to you. I believe in humanity and think we are like uninjured cells rushing towards the injured part of ourselves or others. thanks for your blog.

    • Jennifer Cole on November 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm
    • Reply

    Last year, I had to work from home for three weeks to take care of my grandmother. (And I hope I don’t upset you with saying this.) She’d been having some medical issues. During that time, my mother told me to get my act together and I had to be strong. I couldn’t break down and cry because we didn’t know what was wrong.

    Finally, she was admitted to the hospital and we found out her pacemaker was at half life battery. After surgery, we went to go see her. When my sisters and I walked into the room, my grandmother was smiling. It was the first smile we’d seen in over an month. We visited her. As soon as I walked out the door, I broke down and cried. My mother told me, “Now you can break down. But you have to be strong.”

    I’m not the strong one in the family when it comes to medical emergencies. No money? Hang in there? No job? Keep moving! Nosebleed? Run for the hills.

    Thank you for this. It really helped. Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2013 19:49:18 +0000 To: jlynncole@hotmail.com

  4. We’re glad to have you back. To answer your end-of-blog questions, I remember going through that not too long ago, which I won’t go into, but what I found most strange is that once I identified the emotion, it left, and I actually grieved. Even though that negative emotion had remained elusive, I mourned for it because I didn’t know how to feel without it. Later, when I was doing edits on the book that’s now published, I used that experience in one of the scenes, which made the scene that much more powerful.

  5. I TOTALLY understand the three-week mark after losing a loved-one. That was precisely when I started my downward spiral after my father died. I think it’s when you finally realize they are not coming back. Ironically, it also seems to coincide with the time that everyone else is expecting you to “get back into the swing of things” and “move on.”

    Grief has no time table. Nor does any emotion. I like the idea of naming it so that you take power over it instead of the other way around. Great post! I hope you will be feeling better soon.

  6. Life can be a whirlpool, sometimes. Glad you are feeling better!

    • Tiffany Pitts on November 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm
    • Reply

    For the past year and a half, I’ve been caretaker and custodian to my mentally disabled aunt as she went through cancer treatment for breast cancer. She passed away on the 18th of October. On the 1st of November, my grandmother had a stroke that did not do much motor-skills damage but accelerated her dementia rapidly. I understand that go-go-go mode very intimately.

  7. Thank you for sharing this important lesson. When I was in cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, we talked a lot about the idea that emotions come from thoughts, and we can’t change our thoughts if we can’t identify them. If we identify the negative thoughts, we can address them. When they’re all an amorphous cloud of blah, we can’t fight that. You are absolutely correct that naming emotions accurately allows us to do the same thing.

    I’m glad you’re seeing a light between the clouds, even if you’re still exhausted and battered.

  8. Have been reading Rise of the Machines and thought I couldn’t appreciate you more. But then you posted this. Thanks for this GIFT. And of course you know that so many of us are holding you in our hearts.

  9. I relate, Kristen. I’m recovering from breast surgery and my mom just went into hospice. My wound won’t heal. Sometimes you can’t process all the emotions that keep coming at you. Drowning is the right metaphor for it. Somehow you keep swimming, but you’re not sure you can keep your head above water one more minute.

  10. This was an amazing post and so timely. I lost my husband 2.5 years ago and am still struggling to acknowledge all my feelings during his year of illness and after he died. It takes time, sometimes I’m shocked how much time.

    I’m glad you are feeling better and working through it. Be sure to rest, be gentle and good to yourself. It’s important. Thanks again for sharing.

  11. I feel honoured to have head such an honest and insightful blog entry. The naming of the emotion rather than pushing it down and hiding it with something else (mine’s usually anger about something minor or other) is something I have to remember to do myself, also. Thank you very much for sharing. Beautifully written, too.

  12. I’m so sorry to hear of all you’ve been going through; I’ve been learning that no one knows how I feel unless I tell them, and I’m the kind of person who’s default answer is always “I’m fine” even when I’m not. After my folks lost their house from Hurricane Irene I moved hell and high water to get the house rebuilt and my folks back home (86 and 84 years old), less than 6 months after they moved back home my Mom unexpectedly died (it’s still hard to type those words), it’s been 6 months since she passed and I’m running myself ragged taking care of my Dad now. I put my own health on the backburner (I have fibromyalgia for a start) because I don’t have time to deal with the symptoms while on the other hand, if I don’t take care of myself how can I help my Dad?
    Sorry to babble, just want to say I understand how you feel, and we all deal with grief and being overwhelmed in our own way, on our on time-schedule.
    Hugs, strength and prayers to you. xox

  13. Sorry to hear about your grandmother. I’m glad to hear things are getting better.

    Admiting I’m drowning (tasks, life, etc.) always helps me. I know where to go from there. If I don’t acknowledge it then I tend to drift at sea…drowning instead of doing what I need to get back on track.

  14. I understand totally. I went through a period two years ago where I was faced with great loss. It almost ended my marriage though my husband probably never completely knew how close the end was. I learned your lesson of identifying the real emotion/issue. It saved my sanity, my marriage, and made me a better person. I grew up in a family of ten with a mom and a dad. As a child I learned to lay low also. It was the only time I got attention!

  15. <<>> And, as always, thank you for sharing in such an honest, identifiable way. BTW, Kristens rock.

    1. Love the owl!

  16. Hopefully, my avatar will put a smile on your face. Nothing like a 50+ year old woman in an elf costume.

  17. *hugs* been there and wallowed in that. When I find myself hiding and not getting important things done I have to take a deep breath and check in to what’s happening and who I feel. In the past few months I realized the first clue I’m feeling overwhelmed- I stop flossing. It takes like two minutes, but I’m too tired, or just don’t want to, or just this once it’ll be okay to skip it. Now that I realize flossing is directly connected to how I’m feeling I have a good early warning system.

  18. Kristen, I’m crying as I write this. I tried to go back to work yesterday after coming back from Oz after the death of 2 friends in a car crash last week. My uncle died last weekend as well. I couldn’t do it. I just can’t cope at the moment. I keep trying to carry on and then I just break down. When we were over in Oz staying with our friend’s family, it was them who were the most hurt, so we were there to love and support and help prepare for the joint funeral. You’re supposed to get closure there. I’ve come back and as the plane landed I just felt sick. I’m stressed at work and stressed about money and stressed about things that don’t really matter in the face of loss. I mentioned I felt sick when I was at work yesterday, but really I felt overwhelmed. Distraught. Broken. I admitted to my boss that I wasn’t just feeling sick but I was stressed and I wasn’t coping. That is what is making me feel sick. That was a release. It’s a real struggle to carry on at the moment, so I really understand what you’re going through. Stay strong and we’ll come out the other side together. Because things can never stay black. Things get better. Thank you for the reminder to be honest. It’s too easy to shrug it off and not admit even to yourself what your feelings really are. All my love xxx

  19. Absolutely.
    I just wish that being able to name the stages of grief, being able to name the emotion or correctly analyze the situation would somehow make it hurt less.

  20. Someone told me recently that we need to allow ourselves to be ‘fractured’ for a while. All the pieces do slowly come back together, but if we try to force it, then we don’t heal. We have to be gentle with ourselves, which is not an easy task. Take care.

  21. Certainly relate to going and going and not taking time out to feel and then the tears building up into that malaise

  22. <3 from Belgium

  23. My best friend’s grief and health problems spiraled her to attempt (more than once) suicide – which, of course, affected my life greatly as we’d been friends for over thirty years. That’s when I began to understand what depression could do to someone – and those who love them.
    She passed away almost two years ago and was the inspiration for my first book (that I’ll soon be querying agents)… how does someone move on after losing their best friend?
    I LOVE that you embrace naming the emotion! And how true, weren’t we all raised to not complain, not admit that things might not be exactly peachy in our lives?
    Thank goodness society now realizes everyone has their ups and downs and I want to just slap the people who smile and say “get over it” because they likely haven’t experienced that spiraling emotion (yet)!
    YAY for you – we are all human and you had the courage to say “this is me right now.” 🙂

  24. Oh, Kristen, hon – so sorry you’ve been going through this. I was wondering why I didn’t see as much Facebook/Twitter stuff from you lately. Glad you are taking the time you need, and that you’ve identified the source of the pain, at least. Spawn is lucky to have such a fab mom to help him when he goes through this!

    BTW, when I broke my ankle in high school – heard it snap but no one believed me because it didn’t hurt right away – I laughed my butt off as the boys were doing pop-wheelies with the wheelchair (and me in it) on the way to the nurse’s office! The ankle hurt like hell later, of course.

    Hang in there. Wish I could do more for ya than a cyber-hug. 🙂

  25. I am amazed that you went through all this and stayed sane. Bless you. You are an inspiration.

  26. Your posts always manage to provoke emotions, Kristen. Mostly I smile or laugh. Right now I’m typing with tears running down my face. I just worked a 15 hour day at the day job I’d do anything not to do any more, after 4 hours sleep, and I feel sick (ear-ache) and tired.

    And then I read your post and it said exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. And far from being a downer I’m feeling okay again. I don’t feel alone. And I am naming it.

    Hello, I’m Romy and I’m overwhelmed.

    Thank you.

  27. PS. Sending big hugs. You are not alone. But I think you know that, don’t you?

    1. Hear hear, Romy. If it’s one thing Kristen’s taught us, we are not alone, so neither is she 🙂 Feel the job pain. Something that helped me with job distress was concocting elaborate escape plans and making moving on a military mission xxx

  28. And now that I’ve caught up on all the comments, I’m sending hugs, tissues, flowers and chocolate (the virtual non-calorific kind) to everyone here who needs it.

  29. In March of 2008 Mathair was in a car crash that almost took her life, and left her with pins and needles in her left leg. Not a month later we discovered that three men in our family were terminal with Mesothelioma. They passed in July 2008, August 2008, and October of 2008. Shortly after my great-grandmother followed them. It was more than difficult, it was unbearable, especially given I’m a classic bottler. Mathair and I learned the best way to cope with things was to sit and write through it. And, thus we became the writing duo we are today, three published books later and one coming in Spring. We feel for you, Kristen and we’ll be keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers. Much love and support to you and yours. 🙂

  30. Day each day as it comes, Kristen. *hugs*

  31. There’s nothing so toxic as suppressed emotions … glad to hear you’re taking time to be with your Self … we’ll all be here when you get back. 😀

  32. I just want to thank you for your deep-in-the-gut honesty. And I hope I get a chance to meet you in person some day.

    • Cyn Rogalski on November 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm
    • Reply

    You have so eloquently described what’s been just under the surface for me…for YEARS. I recently lost who I thought was a great girlfriend, only to discover her excuse of being an introvert made her think my encouragement was stalking her!
    I’m praising God for putting real encouragers in my path, & His speaking to me through posts, tweets & of course, His Word. Thank you for showing your real side.

  33. I think pretending we are strong when a situation has left us heart-broken is the worst thing we can do – and not just to ourselves. Sometimes others perceive that “strength” as coldness and then they don’t offer support because it looks like “we got this.” But as you said, we’re drowning in emotions that we aren’t allowed to feel. That’s what I’ve decided is the truth behind “being strong.” We are stuffing our emotions in a closet and locking the door. It’s bad for us on every level.
    I am not strong. I prefer to pretend everything is fine and not think about the painful things. Then I crash. It’s ugly and I never manage to fall to pieces in a remote wilderness so no one else gets caught in the fallout. I end up hurting other people.
    Feel the heartbreak. Embrace the pain with tears or songs or writing poetry or whatever helps you express those emotions. None of us are strong when grief hits us between the eyes. When we pretend we are strong, we’re on a slippery slope.
    I really missed your posts, but I understand that sometimes our first responsibility has to be to “número uno.” Take care of you – we really love her.

  34. I am really sorry for your loss. And I know how it is when things just pile up on you and it seems like it can’t get any worse, but then it does.

    Year 2008 and especially 2009 had been that period for my husband. July 2008 he lost his mom, August 2009 he lost his brother (died at 32 from a massive staff infection that nobody caught in time). November 2009 his dad moved in with us because he was too sick to live on his own. December 2009 my husband learned that because he had diabetes, he was getting out of the military, so he lost a job he loved. For the next two years I watched him floundering, barely staying afloat, never stopping to grieve for all the loses in his life. He is getting better, but it took him a long time.

    I think it’s part of the culture to just bite your lip and pretend you don’t feel anything, like grieving is shameful… But it’s not. You can’t move on if you didn’t allow yourself time to let go.

    Wow, sorry for the long rant.

    1. Don’t be sorry. This is central to the WANA culture. WE ARE NOT ALONE. We struggle. We lie to ourselves and say we are okay because we don’t want to “let anyone down.” We put on a brave face when we are falling apart and this is a place and time that all of us can come together and say ME TOO! I know how you are hurting. This is my story, but LOOK, the valley doesn’t last forever! Thank you for sharing your own story ((HUGS)).

  35. I’m so happy to know you’re doing better. It’s crucial to keep in touch with our authentic selves. Once we stop doing that, it creates a schism within us that breeds resentment against ourselves and the people whom we hold responsible for “making us” act against our own authenticity.

  36. You didn’t depress me, but you did affirm that certain decisions I made years ago were the right ones for me. You hit it on the head, as soon as you own your own stuff then you can take charge and start moving forward again.
    Thanks for sharing your story and your wisdom, you’re a brave woman and have my deepest admiration.

  37. Thanks for reminding us about the value of our emotions and how important it is that we understand, acknowledge and dive into them when we have to–without fear of being ‘wrong’ somehow. I know the emotions you are talking about and I’ll know them again and again when faced with plain old life in the years ahead. You’ve taken all the right steps to start healing and getting back to living the life you want to live and to learning to be patient with yourself along the way. Sending some virtual hugs.

  38. Thank you for sharing this personal and scary story. I do know what you mean,and I have felt that same way and had a similar epiphany. Just know, everyone out here is rooting for you. I was beginning to worry about you and your lack of presence on the web. Take all the time you need. We’ll be here when you’re ready! hugs.

  39. Everyone grieves differently. I am similar to you when somethings wrong I tend to hold it in. I wasn’t always like that but the worlds problems have always been bigger than my own until I was left broke, homeless, and desperate, with nothing to call my own except my beat up old saturn that I finally claimed my feelings as mine again. i wish you the best and hope you learn to let yourself feel again.
    I am also sorry for your losses. I understand how you felt as if you were drowning. I often have felt as if I’m drowning this past decade. I’ve lost parts of me that I never let myself mourn for. That to me was the saddest part. Losing myself in the midst of everything.
    Stay Blessed =)

  40. Talking is hard, but it helps so very, very much.
    Some three months after the birth of my son I finally managed to say to my husband: “It traumatised me.”
    I had been feeling weak, less of a woman for feeling as such, and I kept it to myself. But it was true. I had a long (several day – nearly week long) labour, which had to end in a c-section, after I had been planning and prepping for a homebirth. I had to mourn the loss of my hoped-for experience, and deal with the one I’d had. It took time, and it probably wasn’t something I should have tried to go through alone.

    Feeling safe enough to talk about anything like that, though (depression, sadness, even trauma like rape or other assault), is a huge thing. It’s not always easy to tell when you will be heard.

  41. I too tend to feel sick or tired when I’m actually experiencing an emotion. It used to take me three days of “coming down with something” before I realized I was actually angry or multiple days of tired before I discovered I was actually sad. I’d like to say I know right away when I have an emotion, but while the time is now shorter, I still don’t recognize my emotions the minute I have them.

    Our society doesn’t respect the time and space needed for grieving, which is unfortunate. I encourages all of us to shed a tear, but then to get on with life as though nothing has happened, nothing has changed, and we aren’t feeling anything. I remind myself that grieving is a long process, and that I will probably cry more than once over a serious loss, and try not to let the unrealistic and unhealthy (at least for me) expectations of our society to keep me from doing what I need to do.

    Sorry this has been such a hard haul for you, Kristen. I hope you get the time and space you need to grieve and heal. One thing that helped me when I was unable to get to an important family funeral was to write a letter to say goodbye. It was some focused crying time that included the things I needed to say to my grandfather, and it really helped me to move forward with my grieving. You can burn the letter or drop it in a river to “mail” it.

    • christineardigo on November 14, 2013 at 5:01 pm
    • Reply

    I am glad you are ok. I was driving to work this morning thinking about you. Thinking that i havent seen a post from you in a while, wondering if your SIL was ok, wondering what was going on NOW. It was so happy to open my emails just now to see this post. Your “Sick & tired” story i read years ago, and reading it again today puts things into perspective. Thanks for sharing. <3

  42. That was beautifully expressed, and I loved hearing your soul just then. There is nothing harder than dealing with grief. After my mother died unexpectedly, I was in shock for weeks…then came the hard part. Eight years later, the feeling slips back in from time to time. Just plain ole sadness, and I’ve learned, too, that sometimes it’s just okay to be sad. Take care and take all the time you need!

  43. All I wanna say, Kristen, is that you’re one helluva woman. You’re like the gal I married. Both of you have some serious cojones. Just remember–life is cyclic. It goes up and then it goes down. And then, if you’re really unlucky… it goes even further down. Wait! I was going to cross that out–where’s the crossout function? Let’s see, you hit Enter and… wait!

  44. And, I hope you know I just did that to get a grin out of you… Life always come back up, Kristen. I know you know that, but sometimes we just need a little reminder. Love ya!

  45. Great article, and thanks for sharing it. I’m sure it helped many, judging from the responses…B

  46. You have so been on my mind, Kristen. Lots of “stuff” going on here, too. I have stayed current with your posts and while it has been some time since I commented, I have kept watch. You have done so much for me as a blogger, as a writer, and as a person. In these past two months, I have found myself asking, “What would Kristen do?” So many times, your words have given me the courage to face or to make choices. This post is yet another time that you help me clarify a situation.You are a constant in my life, dear friend, and I thank you for it.

  47. I’m crying for everyone here who has known such heartache and grief and the depths of depression — I have been there before, and am there again now too. I’ve been trying to fight my way out of the valley, and your message helps. Kristen, I wish I didn’t live a bunch of states away and could bring you a casserole and a hug!

    1. Just remember, the valleys are dark and scary, but nothing grows on the mountaintops. BOY ARE WE GROWING :D! Lots of love ((HUGS))

  48. Kristen, I’m so sorry that you have had such a rough time of it lately. It’s at times like this when people who care about you “worry/suffer” as well because we have no idea what the right words are (how funny is that when you think about it my fellow writers), and we aren’t sure what to do. We only know that we empathize and feel your pain and wish that we could take it all away.

    You and your family have been in our prayers. I hope that offers some comfort. 🙂

    • jan@deedspublishing.com on November 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm
    • Reply

    Wow! The most real response I’ve heard in a long , long time. Thank you for opening a door for so many.

    Sent from my iPhone

  49. You didn’t depress me. Instead, you warmed my heart because you recognized your need and addressed it. Often it seems as though there’s a drug for everything, but too often we deny ourselves the most important drug: time, time for introspection, time to grieve, and time to recover. It’s especially important when we must absorb multiple blows. It was difficult enough losing my mother on Mother’s Day, 2003, but then the rest of my world came crashing down in 2005. Or so I thought. An infection in my lungs in 2009 nearly took my life, and though I survived, the doctors painted a bleak future. Now? I’ve shed the oxygen feed and drugs. I’m working again. I’ve returned to writing and am relocating in just a couple of months. My future is bright because I’ve again taken control. I just needed time to recover. When we lose those we love their final gift to us is to make us stronger. We just know it right away.

  50. This is fantastic. I plan to practice doing this.Just reading the idea made me feel good. Thanks 🙂

  51. Hi Kristen.
    Your post resonated deeply with me. Many years ago I was in a similar position.
    My father died, and I think the entire family went into denial over the circumstances of his death. I had to be strong, for my mother, my brother. The family was counting on me. I didn’t sleep much at that time. I threw myself into any and every activity I could when I wasn’t at home, ensuring my mum wasn’t left alone. I did this for 8 months. I was exhausted, existing. But I wasn’t feeling.
    Then one evening I was walking with a friend and the floodgates broke. I cried for the first time. It was the first moment I’d allowed for myself, to grieve, to accept that I was sad, I was heartbroken, and that I was allowed to feel that way.
    Many years later I allow myself to feel emotions. And I agree with you – giving them a name is so important. When something has a name it is identified, and if we know what it is, then we can begin the process of dealing with it.
    Thank you so much for your honesty in writing this post. It was a valuable reminder to me, and something I hope I am and continue to instill in my children so that they never go through what I did.

    • nikkifrankhamilton on November 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm
    • Reply

    Oh, this sounds so familiar….I feel guilt…I know underneath lies pain, sorrow, agony, fear, loss…But I swallow all of that and let guilt hang out, like my best-friend, or a lover. Working on it…guilt is so heavy! Thanks for your words, I am not alone, mining deep to figure out how I feel!

  52. In 1987, I buried my mother on Christmas Eve morning. She died suddenly of a heart attack. It mimicked the flu for a day and a half. Classic for a women (a word of warning to all of us out there!) My father, who was not in the best of health fell to pieces. For the next 17 years, I took care of him running to the doc, ER, tests, hospital stays and on and on and on, raised two children, made sure dinner was on the table every night for my family, kept the house running…but I didn’t once cry. I couldn’t let my father see me cry. I think I’m still paying for that now. So good for you for naming what’s going on and not being afraid to say what it is.

  53. Your transparent sharing is therapeutic for us all. So sorry to hear you’ve had such a rough time and my prayers are with you and your family re the loss of your Grandmother. Stuffing things is never healthy, glad you realized that you were doing that again and stopped it 🙂 And thanks for calling it to my attention too. It is a trap so many of us fall back into.

    • Diana Stevan on November 14, 2013 at 8:30 pm
    • Reply

    I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother’s passing and your sister-in-law’s troubles. It’s not surprising that you would be feeling very low. Who wouldn’t be in your circumstances? And how caring of you and generous to share how you need to get through this time and what you’ve learned from the trials you’ve had before.

    It’s true what you say. I was a therapist for 25 years, and coming to grips with what’s going on is half the battle. To admit to feeling lost, not knowing what to do, is the first step in dealing with grief or any anger that’s holding you back. We all go through this. Some more than others, depending on what life throws you. Because you are such a giving person, you may carry a heavier load than some. Be good to yourself. Go for a walk, take a break from work if you can, have a long bath, read a good book. Thank you again for your generosity of spirit. Sending you a hug. And best to your family.

  54. Well amen mywana sista! I hear your pain. Been there, done that and doing it again. It all gets to be too much sometimes. We don’t get just one thing at a time to deal with anymore. We are pummeled with negative stuff that over-whelms our emotional equilibrium. And pow, we’re off center. It takes a while to recover. We need to give ourselves enough time to heal before we fly again. Thank you for making it real Kristen. {{Hugs!}}

  55. Kristen – truly enjoy your honesty and willingness to bare all — that is the only way we can get to the fecund root from which we can create the best life for ourselves – this is my experience and I have bee where you have been many times, with a string of close deaths and multiple disasters, coming to the point of death a couple of times in the most bizarre situations. And no one to count on in several of those scenarios. Stay strong! Everything changes — as you well know — love, M

  56. I know it’s hard right now, but you’re recognizing what’s going on and I think that’s half the battle. I am so sorry for all of your losses and all the pain you are in. Just take time for yourself, as much as you need and allow yourself the freedom to be honest about how you feel and to grieve. (((hugs and strength)))

    • Austin's mom on November 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm
    • Reply

    Firstly, I’m very sorry for your loss and struggle with coping. We try to be such “do-ers” that we feel helpless when something happens to knock us off our feet and there isn’t an action or process that will take care of it. “Out, out, damned spot!”

    I’m an only child of a single mother. Like you, I totally identify with the need to be strong for someone else from a very young age. I get migraines when there’s too much to cope with. (Hmm, interpret that one.) However, in my old age (fifties) I’ve come to the conclusion that nature (God, Mother Nature, Allah, Yahweh) causes us to be stunned so that our brains can cope with stress. In times of strife t’s important to do nothing. It’s like sleeping; we don’t actually know why it’s important. It just is. Take good care.

  57. I enjoyed reading your post today, Kristen-
    Grief takes time and mourning is the healing medicine. We must let it be part of our life; otherwise, we aren’t fully alive.
    My deepest sympathy regarding the loss of your grandmother.

  58. I think something that’s difficult about losing a loved one is the aftermath. Not the next day or the next week, necessarily (when your brain might still be in that “short circuit”; I do think it’s an appropriate analogy), but the next month. The next holiday. The next time you hear a song that you remember them liking. And it’s difficult when the people you spend your time with haven’t felt the same loss, and so they acknowledge that it happened, sure, but seem ignorant of or unable to understand persistent emotional upheaval.

  59. Hello Kristen, I do not know you but your post has truly moved me. I have been depressed for a period of time and in fact, receiving psychotherapy now just to cope with life because many times, I felt like giving up so I didn’t have to feel the misery, anger, resentment in me. I am glad you have not given up despite going through so much in your life. It just inspires me to be strong, be good to myself, embrace life with optimism and welcome every tomorrow. A friend recently shared this quote with me. “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ? Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. You are definitely one of these beautiful people. Keep going. no matter how much time you need. Live well and smile. Take care.

  60. Great article. You’re very transparent Kristen, and it’s so relatable. I think we can all find something in this that effects us. Best of luck. My prayers headed your way.

    • Patricia Sands on November 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm
    • Reply

    Grief is never easy. I’m keeping you in my thoughts, Kristen. You do so much for everyone else … accept the love and support coming your way to help carry you through the dark times.

  61. Sorry for your loss. Glad you’re hanging in there. 🙂

  62. I just love you,every time I think I really know how marvelous you are, you surprise me yet again. Just so you know, I have decided to make you my official “sister” to replace the whackjob nature saddled me (and the whole family)with because ,well, you’re just better ! (and you can successfully fire a weapon!!!) .I have coped with losing my grandmother by placing her picture and that of my beloved Aunt Katherine on my computer desk. They are each holding a grandchild of mine and smiling with pure joy and that keeps me going. Big hugs and do what you have to in order to survive and heal!

    • Joanna Aislinn on November 14, 2013 at 10:41 pm
    • Reply

    Funny how we go go go and never stop to think about us, or just push feelings aside. Life has moments when it just beats us up. It. Hurts. So does acknowledging the pain and the depression that comes with big life events, especially those you didn’t see coming. Thank God for support, in all its shapes and forms. Hugs, Kristen. May God continue to heal, strengthen and bless you with peace.

  63. Hi Kristen: I recently joined your blog because I did purchase your book, Rise of the Machines. First I wanted to get the kindle, but then purchased the paperback from Amazon. I am very impressed by your cinsere and wise advise to the writers. Just finished the Twitter chapter – yes, I am learning a lot about social media!!! I am sorry that you recently havad some emotional setbacks in your life, but – WANA – right?
    Stay well and bright!

  64. ” I didn’t get to see her before she died. I didn’t get to attend her funeral. And I never stopped for five minutes to admit I was hurting.

    Just walk it off….”

    I think that’s when I started sobbing … for you, for Nana, for all the times I just walked it off. For all the times I had to be strong for someone else. For all those important moments I missed when I didn’t know they were happening already. I know it’s a part of life, but definitely one worth shedding a tear or several hundred over.

    You’re strong, Kristen, and stronger for the tears. But you already know that. Thanks for reminding all of us.

  65. I think there’s a case to be made for bringing back the Victorian tradition of mourning periods: different lengths of time (depending on how close the loss) during which you are visibly and socially designated as In Mourning, and people’s expectations are adjusted accordingly.
    These days we try to rush or skip the uncomfortable process of mourning, and it backfires badly.

    1. That’s a really interesting idea.

  66. I read this when it popped up in my email today, and had to comment because I too went through similar experiences (multiple bereavement, job loss, bad coping mechanisms instilled at a young age, single parent upbringing). I can therefore empathise with your words completely.

    I also have to remind myself I have the right (and need) to express my feelings, to fail, to grieve, to flounder and even wallow on occasion. As Sinistra says, we often rush through bad times wrongly believing the stronger person doesn’t/shouldn’t linger in sadness. They get on with it. Especially in UK! But that’s not the case; it takes a stronger person to own their emotions and to allow them all the privileges of time.

    I still grieve my brother (died 2004), my father (died 2005), my grandma(died 2005), my grandfather (died 2003), my mental health (diagnosed bipolar in 2005) and my career in mental health care (2004). As a survivor of life (and not a victim) I still acknowledge all of the hurts and try not to push them aside when any or all are aroused afresh by some life stimulus or other. I’m no robot, and I’m humbled that you found the strength to be open and honest with us here, and illustrate that neither are you. That’s why your readers care enough to rally around you.

    Cyber hugs, Kristen. X

  67. Thank you for sharing this. I struggle with recognising and naming my emotions too, and it’s caused me a lot of trouble in recent years. Reading how just naming them out loud has helped you gives me more hope.

  68. *Big hugs*

  69. Hi,
    Thank you for sharing. From 2001 to January 2004, I lost seven people (including my mother and father) that were extremely close to me. So, I know what you’re going through, and I agree with what you’ve written here.

  70. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your pain. I have learned grief can be suppressed, but not avoided. And yes, I learned it the hard way. Prayers for you and your family.

  71. I’ve been feeling like this recently as well. I’ve had a weekend just lying in the dark. Like you know accept your feelings; admit that you’re feeling them and embrace the bits of your life that bring you joy. I’ve started writing and planning a new novella. Find something and hold on tight. *Big hugs*

    1. When I have those days I always go to this hill nearby where I can see the entire city. It helps me put things into perspective.

      1. That sounds beautiful. I have been walking more often recently, and that also seems to have helped. Maybe I should try going to a favourite spot and clearing my mind there as well.

        1. Walking definitely helps!

  72. We get busy thinking about and caring about others and we forget about ourselves, until ME comes in and sits on our chests and says, “What about ME?!?” I was a single parent with a full time job dealing with three teenagers. I would spend all my free time just sitting and thinking nothing, for many months. I don’t remember what finally snapped me out of it. But I did.
    Thanks for sharing this. It wasn’t depressing at all. Back to my novel, now.

  73. Do you know I was worried about you when I read your post about stepping in to help your Sister in Law – it concerned me that you seemed to be taking responsibility for everything – apart from grieving. My husband is depressed at the moment. He watched everyone at work around him fall apart from stress or get angry or leave – and he thought he was OK. He wasn’t OK, he just wasn’t in touch with his emotions; he was pushing them down, assuming he was coping. Take some time to grieve and feel and rest and let others take the strain for a while. It’s scary to stop but you need to.

  74. I think a lot of us don’t know HOW to grieve. Especially when people around us really, sort of want us to get over it and just look happy again. We’re not comfortable with pain and mourning in our midst.

    But you’re right. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need — time and self-permission to grieve. And that grief can take different lengths of time depending on the person and the event. Yes, of course, it can get too extreme or go on too long, but that’s not most of us; most of us have the opposite problem — not comfortable with prioritizing that time to sit still, cry, remember, scream, or whatever, to work through our loss.

    Prayers for you, Kristen. I am sorry for your loss, or rather losses with so much happening your life, and I hope you can take the time you need.

    1. Julie, that’s an important observation – a lot of us don’t know how to grieve. I don’t. And I had an unexpected loss in October. I’ve been in a tailspin ever since, which now includes health and financial issues.

      But how to grieve? No clue.

  75. Kristen, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and all the stress you’ve been under. But you are an amazing person. Just by knowing you need the time to care for yourself is half the battle. We live in a world where we think we have to be on all the time, especially as women. It’s a bill of goods. No one can run on empty without recharging. My health suffered recently for that exact thing. Take care of yourself. And thank you for all your wonderful posts!

  76. Thank you for this post. I needed it. You made me name the emotion eating away at me. You’re my hero, Kristen 😉

  77. So sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. I can imagine how hard that would be. This is an amazing expression of honesty about the hurt you are going through and so eloquently expressed.

    I can’t think of anything in my life that has left me with that level of emotional shock. I’m hoping I never do. But life is life and time will tell.

  78. There’s so much power and truth in this post. Thanks for sharing and being so real. Also, you’re an amazing writer!

  79. Look after yourself, Kristen.

  80. I think this post probably hit home for a lot of writers. We are so accustomed to compartmentalizing things and putting things into categories that we don’t stop and think about it sometimes. Also, strong people have this problem. They feel they have to be strong for others, that it’s a waste of time to wallow, that it’s best to just move on and keep going. And I always feel kind of iccky and weak if I talk about this stuff or even admit to myself sometimes.

    When my dad died (he was my hero) I didn’t have time to grieve because my sisters needed me. And my step mom. And ironically my mother lost her husband the same week. There were lots of phone calls and long talks but I did most of the listening and not too much talking. I guess nobody thought I needed to talk about it.

    It’s still the same way today for me. When I talk about things that bother or how I feel it makes others uncomfortable – apparently it’s my job to cheer people up, or encourage them or listen to them. It’s weird. I don’t mind most of the time.

    When I need to ‘talk’ I have a document on my computer where I just rant about whatever is happening. It actually helps.

    Anyway, thanks for listening.

  81. The last year has been really hard for me and many other people I care greatly about in many ways (including the deaths of loved ones in my family and those of my friends). I’m trying to get out of a pretty deep low myself that has been exacerbated by illness and the like. I feel for your pain and I hope it does nothing but get better going forward. Hang in there. 🙂

  82. Being real, there is nothing more precious you could give.
    Reverence, Kristen.

  83. I think you’re very brave, Kristen. When bad things happen, I think many of us try to go on as though nothing has happened. I’ve done that. But, like a piece of elastic, life snaps us back to reality at some point and – you’re right – we start to heal once we’ve faced and accepted the grief. Thanks for sharing!

  84. Thank you so much for posting this. I, too, have been drowning for quite a while and it’s tough to not just acknowledge the situation, but also find ways to constructively find a way to stop drowning, or at least break the surface every now and then. You are so brave for posting this, and I think you from the bottom of my heart for sharing and putting to words what I, myself, have been unable to do so.

  85. My parents always told me that “no one wants to hear someone complain. Only hard work will get you through.” Sure it may be somewhat true but bottling your feelings up and not asking for help is a bad way to go.

    So currently I am digging myself out of a hole but sometimes I think there could be an easier way to do it. Who knows. Well, at least it makes for good subject matter to write about.

  86. You’re having a tough time, Kristen. I’m so sorry for your loss. Take all the time you need to feel what you feel. It’s important.

  87. I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristen, and thank you for this. I experienced something similar when my mother-in-law died from a recurrence of breast cancer. I was the “support team.” I took care of my husband and his sister. I did the shopping, the errands, the running-around, the making sure everyone else was taken care of and informed of her condition. I even beat myself up for the fact that I was not there when she died because I was, yes, running around. Afterward, I crashed with a fibromyalgia flare. I was exhausted, and lifting even the smallest grocery item into my cart hurt like hell. What saved me, after some rest, was revising the novel I’d drafted after her original bout of cancer. Writing saved me. It helped me see that I was entitled to my grief, that I was allowed to grieve instead of merely the support system for those in the direct line.

  88. All I could think of as I read this post was: at least you had a name for what you were feeling. I spent a good part of the first twenty-five years of my life feeling “uncomfortable.” Seriously. I had no name for what I was feeling most of the time. It took me almost seven years of therapy to be able to say “I feel sad,” “I feel angry,” or “I feel scared.” Being able to name the emotions also enabled me to feel them.

    And you’re right about falling back into bad habits. There are days I have to stop myself and consciously identify what I’m feeling even now.

    There used to be rules for mourning that made things a lot easier. With our fast-paced society and without those rules, we think we should “get over it” and move on much faster than we really can do it. I have a friend who lost a spouse this year and I was saddened by the depth of her grief after three months had gone by. I researched it and learned a normal mourning period is six months to a year. So what she was experiencing was totally normal.

    I’m sorry for the rough time you’ve been having and agree with what others have said. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and take whatever time you need.

  89. Yeh, it’s not always easy to remember that you are human and grief is allowed. For all your saying you got stuck in, there wasn’t much else you could do. So don’t beat yourself up. But now that your sis in-law is on the level again, take some time out, recuperate and let yourself be sad. I hear you about the pain, too. If you rip knee ligaments they tend not to hurt, until the next day.

    Take it easy, take care and don’t force yourself. Balance is hard to achieve and with each change it has to alter. Give yourself the time. Being gentle with yourself is so much harder than being gentle with other people. 😉

    Good luck and god bless.



  90. Thanks for your profound reflections. They help us keep our feet on the ground.

  91. Hi Kristen,
    I was so “led” to this post this morning. It was heart-wrenching and exactly what I needed to read. I am so sorry for the loss of your grandmother and I know there are no words that can comfort. But, hopefully, knowing that there is one person, me, who needed to read exactly what you wrote and who deeply appreciates your sharing the rawness of the emotions you feel and felt, will gratify you. Thank you from my heart.

  92. Hi Kristen. My heart goes out to you for your loss of your beloved grandmother. Thanks for sharing. I lost my dad in 2010, my sister in 2011 (that was totally unexpected) and my mum last year. And my one remaining Uncle (my dad’s brother) died this year. I have done a lot of grieving and still do. I have filled many bathtubs with tears. I agree that naming that emotion is vital, helps a little to start moving forward. What I have learnt is to move forward in one’s own time. Taking time out worked for me. Some like to immerse themselves in work or projects. I just laid low – had enough to do with organizing probate, etc. and other legal matters. My perspective to life has changed. I am finally getting back into writing projects but I needed time out. I don’t have children so of course that is a little different when you have a family but I have sorted out what is important in my life and trying to find that balance. Be gentle on yourself Kristen. You have so many friends and support out there.

  93. Thank you, Kristen. You really spoke to me in this, I have been in and out of this very place myself these last several year. We modern “can-do” Americans have a hard time leaning on others when the way gets hard. We “go big or go home”. Thank you again!

  94. Reblogged this on life at the intersection and commented:
    Ah… I have been here, in an out, for the last several years. Why, as a people, are we so afraid to admit our frailty, our humanity? It is, after all, the very thing which makes this life so exciting, rare, and beautiful. Thank you, Kristen.

  95. What a powerful post – thank you for sharing it. My condolences on your loss.

  96. I’m sorry to hear what you’ve been going through Kristen! And I do recognize a lot of myself within your words, your emotions – and your drowning, yes.
    Even though I do have to admit: Sometimes I’m nearly “too strong”… so strong in fact, that I permit everyone else to grieve and lean on me, that I forget I do have a sad heart as well… and all of a sudden I feel so sorry for myself I push everything and everyone away from me to take my time and dive into self pity. HAHA…
    It happened worst when I lost my Dad. It seemed everyone leaned on me as I was a rock… and at the end I had a complete breakdown.
    But I always will remember my Dad… whenever I was depressed, drowning and heartbroken… he had his own way of “kicking” my butt to get my brains and guts together… It made me smile, move – and it still has the same effect on my – his memory, after more than 16 years.
    My sympathy for your loss Kristen!! My thoughts are with you and I send you hugs.

  97. Kristen, I am sorry for your loss. You are right that we have to name emotion and allow ourselves to feel. Problem is that on average people name 20 emotions and we have 84,000 shades of them. it is important to understand which emotion and what degree is triggering our feelings. You are very brave and inspirational person..

  98. we totally rock people! TOTALLY ROCK1

  99. my parents don’t like me and have stopped talking to me dozens of times in my life. this last time is 16 yrs. i grieve continuously but i heal thru the love of my children and some great friends.. thank you for being part of my healing!

  100. I love a good cry and this most honest and authentic post! We all need to FEEL our way through these times to truly be better 🙂

  101. Kristen, I’ve been like you — always pigeon holing my emotions so as not to upset my mom who was a frantic worrier. I was in my mid 40s before I was able to say honestly the words “overwhelmed,” “drowning,” and even “depressed.” Once I did, it was as if the world had been lifted from Atlas’s shoulders and mine! Your post wasn’t at all depressing — it was honest. And sometimes that’s just what we need to write. Thanks for being upfront and honest.

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