Here at The Calm Corner our mission is to support you with grief resources and support so that you can have the tools to become unstuck from grief and thrive through trauma and after trauma. In a world of chaos we invite you to find your calm corner
The Hidden Gift of Grief
by Erica D. Fulton, MA-Counseling, MDiv., LPC and LCDC
Even though the gift of sadness sounds like an oxymoron, the acceptance of sadness can be a very powerful healing agent during the journey of grief. Acceptance of sadness allows us to embrace the gift of grief. Often, grief is seen as the opposite of faith or an emotion to be suppressed. All occasions can bring grief, even the happy ones. Having a baby, getting married, becoming a mother for the first time, graduations, promotions, and birthdays are examples of occasions that can bring grief because losses accompany them. A feeling of sadness over a celebratory event may seem abnormal to some; however, grief can be a gift that allows us to be human and vulnerable.
In our society, the term vulnerable denotes weakness, but I would offer a way to reframe vulnerability as a source of strength. Because grief makes us vulnerable in some ways, the natural instinct could be to hide it or explain it away as something else. Neither of those alternatives is healthy during the grief process. Grief makes us vulnerable. Grief can make us feel stripped of any power, yet--while we are in that place—not all our power is lost. We can gain strength in a place of vulnerability because vulnerability can leave room for self-reflection, and self-reflection is vital for growth.
Grief can change us for better or worse depending upon how we respond to it. How we as human beings respond to grief can be influenced by so many different factors. Our family of origin, which is the family in which we grew up, gave us lessons about responding to grief. Even our own faith traditions can either help us process our grief during the journey or have the opposite effect. Grief makes each of us a different person, but our evolution can be compared to a flower blossoming if we embrace the journey. Embracing the pain, the uncertainty, the moments of loneliness, the laughter, the anger, and so on are all events that hold the power to transform and reveal the hidden gift of grief.
Grief can be an emotional rollercoaster: It comes in waves and it never tells us when it is coming. The smell of a person’s perfume, a favorite food, certain places, even certain phrases are the causes of the waves. All these loss reminders have an impact on the journey, and they change us. I will use an example from my own journey of loss.
The first year that my husband died, I could not listen to Strawberry Wine without bawling my eyes out. That song initially reminded me of the anguish of the loss. As I embraced that pain, though, I began to be able to unwrap this gift called grief. The song eventually took on new meaning as our marriage transitioned to a precious memory and treasure.
The gift of grief lies somewhere between the pain and the rebirthing that can occur in our souls. Grief changed me, and now I am much better for it. I will go back to the word “vulnerability” because grief can make us examine our reactions. Grief can make us feel exposed; nonetheless, I want to invite you to unwrap the gift. In unwrapping the gift of grief, you can discover the meaning of the journey for you, and that can be a precious gift. Courage is what is required to open up and unwrap the gift. As painful as it initially is, the discovery is priceless. The pearls to be found in the pain of grief can transform us for a lifetime.
The next time you feel the need to suppress grief, open the box, and embrace all parts of the journey. Find someone who will sit with you without judgment while you open your gift and then celebrate that gift with you. Find someone who will not try to predict what you will discover, but will simply be your companion as you unwrap each part of the gift. Find that person who will listen with an open heart as well as ears.
I leave you with a question.
What will you do with your gift? What will you do with your pain? How can that gift influence you and those around you for the better?
The Here and Now
How many of us actually live here, and the ones who do are often misunderstood? We live in such a fast-paced society. No wonder maintain concentration can be a struggle. If we slow down for a minute, we may be label ourselves as lazy or nonproductive. In fact, we sometimes find it hard to unplug from our phones. Have you ever found yourself having a conversation with a friend, but midway through you stopped engaging in the conversation? Basically, you are physically present, but mentally absent which has happened to the best of us. One might ask what does this have to do with living in the here and now. Technology can even be a distraction to being in the here and now. Case in point. Everyone has their phones at the dinner time and interpersonal conversation becomes nonexistent.
I recall one weekend I went out of town. I misplaced my phone, and I had a hissy fit. You would have thought that I lost my arm. I did not realize how attached I was to my phone. I was so consumed with not having my phone for half the day. I am sharing this story to highlight the importance of unplugging from technology to be present.
There are at least four techniques that I want to share that helps one to be present. First, be aware of your emotional state. I recall during my residency, my peers and I had to give each other feedback on our growing edges and this suggestion was and still is one of my growing areas. Another way to stay in the here and now is to practice moments of gratitude. In addition, practicing gratitude moments will help boost your immune system. Finally, another way to stay in the here and now is choosing words that indicate where you are in the present. Living in the moment can appear a difficult task when life is pulling at you. The kids have the homework. The husband’s suits need to go to the cleaners. The kids have soccer and basketball practice. You have a big project due at work when your kid gets sick at night and you find yourself in the ER. Does all this sound familiar? The next question comes how does one live in the here and now when life is screaming for your attention? Suddenly, there seem to be not enough hours in the day. Suddenly, living in the moment seems like an insurmountable task.
Self-care is preventative care that helps us to balance over selves in the midst of life’s demands. I once read a meme, and the meme stuck with me. The meme basically said that some people work themselves tirelessly and take no time to smell the roses. They work and work. Hear me. I am not saying that we should not be productive and fruitful. Often times, we mistake busyness for productivity, and we regard rest as a taboo word. Self-care is an important component of being in the here and now. Self-care allows us to pour into over selves so we can pour into others. Self-care prepares us to be in the here and now. Self-care will look different for everyone. I have a church member who soaks in the tub and uses that as her prayer time. So, what is your practice of self-care? Is your level of care equal to or greater than the demands placed on you? People often confuse self-care with selfishness. These are two different ways of living producing radically different results.
I recall during my residency I experienced what I perceived as a setback. As I reflect on this past event of being away from work for two months, those two months helped me to do the very same thing that I am writing about—fracturing my ankle slowed me down and forced me to take notice of my inner world and reflect accordingly. I recall a couple of months before I fractured my ankle, one of my friends asked me if I ever took time to tend to my garden. I gave her a dumb-founded look. Prior to her asking me that question, we had a conversation about celebrating and being in the moment rather than rushing through life. During those two months, I was blessed with the opportunity to do just that tend to my garden—my inner world and even reflect and celebrate.
Being in the here and now requires that we take notice and deal with what I call our inner world—our emotions and our thoughts because of these two things we cannot escape from. Being in the here and now also requires being comfortable with the unpredictability of the future and not living in the past. It can be so easy to be infatuated with what once was rather than embracing our moments in the here and now. So, take time out this week to be present with your emotions rather they are good, bad, or indifferent. Journal and then find a trusted friend to share with. Take notice of how suddenly you find gratitude in the little things. Remember we can never recycle moments so let us be engaged fully in the present because each moment is precious. So I leave with a daily mediation: “Make the most of every living and breathing moment because these are evil times” (Ep 5:15). This week take some time to think of creative ways that you can be fully present. Maybe unplug from your phone for a couple of hours a day and journal what that was like. I invite you to share your experience on my blog entitled unplugged. We learn better when we learn in community.
by Erica D. Fulton, MA-Counseling, MDiv., LPC Intern
supervised by Robin Exum LPC-S, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
The grief journey is one that can expose our raw vulnerabilities. The more we try to camouflage our grief, the more it sticks out like a sore thumb. The journey of grief is like a rollercoaster for some. As human beings, we are created to grieve. We were not created to house and be filled with toxic emotions. I do believe in intelligent design - that a being consciously created us. I believe the designer knew that as human beings, we would need a way to process loss and express our heartfelt emotions as we live the journey of life.
I liken the journey of grief to taking a long cleansing shower. What would the journey be like, if we redefined grief as a cleansing agent? There is much to be gained in the grief journey. At first, it may feel like being engulfed in huge waves. Everyone’s experience is different. Some individuals experience a release of peace or rest. In both circumstances, a cleansing occurs in the midst of the journey. However, the cleansing is not always a predictable outcome. As human beings, we often want to know the beginning to the end. We often fight against the unknown. For example, it may now be uncertain how the family dynamics will work, now that a loved one is has died, and is missing from the equation. Questions arise, and there are not always quick fixes and fast answers. A waiting occurs in the journey, where we can allow our soul to take a pause. We pause to reflect on what the journey is teaching us about ourselves and our spirituality. As we reflect, we feel an initial cleansing - like tiny raindrops. If you have ever taken shower, you sometimes never turn it on full blast. You allow the water to wash over slowly so that you can fully embrace the calming experience of taking shower. Hence, the process can mirror how taking a shower - how the process of cleansing - can be a healing agent that helps the body to reset.
The journey allows us to grow and even shed tears, which can be an example of cleansing. Tears are also a beautiful gift, and a unique way of how the body releases emotions, happy or sad. I often think about how babies exist before birth, as they form in the womb for nine months. Their first expressed emotion is often crying, as they enter the new environment of the outside, suddenly exposed to light and open air. No one must show growing babies how to express emotion. Psalm 125:6 states, “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.” In other words, the same tears that once represented grief, loss, and sadness can now become a reservoir where hope is rebirthed as a new season is suddenly ushered in.
As the cleansing takes place, emotions come to the surface, and the pain acutely felt in those moments. As we release and acknowledge those moments of grief, we become more aware and informed of ourselves. Our evolution becomes heightened. These are all ideas I have come to realize, as the loss of my husband and grandmother refined me. Though their deaths were years apart, I learned how the journey through the grief would give me new introspections each time. As I allowed myself to find my new normal of living with this grief, I gave myself the grace to grow past the pain, while still carrying their memory - which I consider to be a gift from God. With each grief journey, I emerged a different person, and with a more resilient spirit.
I remember reading a meme that said each level requires a different version of you. How true is it on our grief journey! The cleansing occurs when we make adjustments, take on new roles, and become comfortable with the discomfort. The grief journey can be a place where we transition from a caterpillar to a butterfly. The opposite is true. We can also become bitter or we can resist growth. We can refuse to take the shower and ignore the pain in the journey, which can serve as our greatest place of service.
Sometimes we want the grief journey to be nothing more than a bad dream, so we can return to what was. We need to consider: what if the grief journey is preparing us for our next level in the journey? What if we are fighting the next phase of the journey meant to propel us into our destiny? I mentioned briefly my own losses. They taught me so much about myself; somewhere I became awakened to a strength that lies within through the lens of my faith. The grief journey can put our faith to the test where we find ourselves in what feels like a refiner’s fire. I will acknowledge that the journey can seem long, painful, exhausting, and yet exhilarating. If you continue to press on through the journey, you will find yourself renewed, refined, and reinvented. I leave with a nugget that has carried through the worst moments of pain and what seemed to be the deepest level of exhaustion: “When I have been tried, I will come forth as pure gold” (Job 23:10).
Creating A Calm Corner
by Erica D. Fulton, MA-Counseling, MDiv., LPC Intern
supervised by Robin Exum LPC-S, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
I facilitated a group for children who had lost parents. We were discussing positive ways to deal with anger, which can be a dirty word in our society, and sometimes that word can be viewed as one to be avoided especially in Christian circles. As true as this may be at times, the focus of the article is seen in the statement that the little girl made: “When I get mad I go to my calm corner.” I will discuss the topic of having your calm corner. Her words stuck with me.
We live in a society that is hectic, to say the least. The word, rest, can seem like a cuss word for some. Sometimes we have to do what I call "steal away". Sometimes we have to step away from the noise of our own heads, the voices of others, the demands placed on or the demands we place on ourselves. Sometimes we have to step away from obligations. We do not abandon our obligations, but we give ourselves time to recharge. Sometimes we have to step away from relationships for a season, especially during times of transition. Jesus often slipped away from the crowds to meditate and pray. Moses left the children of Israel to be with His Maker. I mentioned about a calm corner. These individuals in their own way found their calm corner. Mary found her calm corner. She stepped away from the business of life refresh which brings to the question of what is a calm corner.
I love to understand the meanings of words, so I will provide definitions for the words calm and corner. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, calm is defined as being “free from agitation, excitement, or disturbance.” Consequently, "corner" can be defined as “a point at which significant change occurs or the place of intersection of two streets or roads.” These definitions provide us with a significant insight about a calm corner in that our calm corner provides us with the opportunity to make a clear-headed decision especially in the midst of a transition or a turning point. That decision can mean the difference between life and death or blessing and cursing. This calm corner can be the place where we make progress rather than staying stuck. In a way, we confront our own unconscious with what we have suppressed or refused to confront. Many times we are at a crossroads in life and in those times we need to tap into our calm corner.
Though there are no hard and fast rules for what defines a calm corner, some common characteristics exist. For example, a calm corner is a place where you are not constantly in what I call "fight or flight" mode. Your nervous system has an opportunity to recharge itself. Think of your phone. It has to be recharged because you use it a lot during the day, if you do not, you will not get much use out of the phone due to a low charge. Many of us walk with a low charge so when stress occurs we instantly rest rather than respond. Our emotions take a front seat in the decision-making process. Secondly, the calm corner is where we take the mask off and engage in what I call emotional honesty. Many times we are not truthful about our feelings, which only hurts us in the end. We often find ourselves getting upset with those closest to us because we lack the courage to name our emotions.
Having a calm corner can be very beneficial. When we have a calm corner, we can make decisions based on wisdom versus emotions. Emotions shift and change, but wisdom helps a person make a decision not solely based on the five senses. Having a calm corner provides us with a chance to acknowledge our anger and deal with it in a responsible manner. Having a calm corner is healthy for what is called our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system which helps us to act in situations where our safety may be compromised. Finally, having a calm corner helps us to remain aware of our emotional state.
You might ask what is a calm corner even supposed to look like. My suggestion is to be creative. My calm corner is always the edge of my bed. I often pray and talk to my Father there. I recall one particular conversation because I had experienced a very rough day. When I walked in, I sense that I was still tense from that day’s activities. So I found my calm corner and poured my heart out to my Lord. This is just one example of how effective a calm corner can be especially during seasons in our lives when it feels like an emotional roller coaster. Your calm corner might be the beach or even the coffee shop. Your calm corner may be a safe space in your soul. Your calm corner may be more internal than external. Your calm corner might be outdoors. Your calm corner might be that favorite chair in the beauty shop where you can vent. Your calm corner might be the basketball court especially if you love what I call b-ball which is short for basketball. Your calm corner might be on the other side of the world. Your calm corner might be a mosque, synagogue, or a church.
The main point is to let your calm corner be reflective of you and your needs in that season. Also, be open to discovering a new calm corner. I go back to the example that I mentioned earlier about the little girl. She had not one but two calm corners. So open yourself to the possibility of having another calm corner. For a long time, I actively practiced yoga so my yoga mat became my calm corner; the place where I destress and just sat with myself. Those were precious and memorable emotions. Having a calm corner is vital to our mental health. We have to remove ourselves from chaos and position ourselves to draw from our spirituality, so sitting with ourselves is necessary for our souls. Furthermore, having a calm corner is vital to our mental health.
I want to present with an opportunity to gain new insight this week. Journal how your calm corner helped to either destress from a situation. Then think about a situation where you did not have a calm corner. Compare the two experiences or share them with a trusted friend.
I invite you to share your experience on my blog entitled Creating Your Calm Corner.
April 2019-to the present
I have written articles for various blogs which include www.dawningphoenix.com and FireWalkerBooks.com. These articles center around various topics related to grief. They are drawn from my personal and professional experience with an emphasis on confidentiality. I use my personal experiences to connect with my readers. Furthermore, I provide examples within my scope of expertise while being mindful of my audience and their different life experiences.
Thank you for your interest in the services. I provide a diverse array of services to help you navigate through the world of grief, provide the tools to become unstuck from grief, and to thrive through and after trauma. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
My own loss and grief have allowed me to connect and empathize with my clients. As human beings we do not go through life untouched by trauma and grief. It is our privilege to walk with you on your healing path.
My contact info is found on my website so do not hesitate to reach out to me.
ADHD Counseling and Coaching
As a certified clinical services provider for ADHD, I assist individuals who struggle with executive functions such as task initiation and time management. Parent-teen therapy is also offered which asists adolescents as well as their parents with tools to help the parent and the child succeed as well.
In addition to the following services, The Calm Corner is also available for speaking engagements in order to educate individuals on the realities of trauma and grief. Knowledge is truly power.
"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves"