sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Posts tagged ‘life after a heart attack’

Powerful and Timely Reading, 6 months later

Tonight,  I sat to write because I knew the grief was getting to me, the persistent cough and illness that would not go away. And after I wrote several posts that no one may never read, or not right now, as I let it all out, frustrations and aggravations I have been feeling for 6 months. I spared no ones feelings, well, this is still me writing, but I really let it out.

And then I moved on to researching something which I decided to share on Facebook as a note and then I read this post, the last note I apparently wrote but it jumped out at me on my screen: my own words needing to be read by me. Here it is unedited, just as it was written in the moment, on my 17th anniversary while my husband was in the hospital recovering from a massive nearly fatal heart attack (much more fitting than “event”).

 

Working Through Anxiety and Panic

by Gina Menzo Grothoff on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 7:04am

Working through the anxiety and panic:

One step at a time.

From the first moment, I was in a place of calm, with my mantra:

The past is behind you, keep moving forward.

 

Recently I have gotten ahead of myself, projecting into the future,

playing the “What If?” game.

I learned fear serves a purpose, it teaches us to come back to now, to the present moment and use the fear to tune into our feelings to make decisions.

I began floating on cloud nine, tuning into my feelings for everything.

I saw signs everywhere and felt so connected.

I knew Don was with me always on this earth or not and felt him talk to me as I walked the halls of Presbyterian Hospital while he rested in his room.

 

I got a bit lost in all of it, and lost my grounding and my focus on the other component of tuning into now: being in your body.

Being in this world but not of it.

I needed grounding.

And so from my adrenaline high, I came “crashing down”

into my body.

Anxiety and panic brought me back to my body and to pay attention.

Yet, anxiety and panic fed into the “Waht if game” along with people telling me, it is normal to have panic attacks after a crisis and hearing “you may have them for a long time, even 3 weeks”.

 

It is all good. I needed to hear all of it.

It brought me to take care of my body more. To stop and refocus.

And then as I took care of my body more, with nourishing foods, going to acupuncturist, drinking more water, paying attention to possible blood sugar issues, and taking some herbs when necessary to help with the anxiety.

And of course the trusting that this is a process, and there will be stages but I can’t pretend to know what it looks like, even if I have “signs” coming to me.

I can say, “Isn’t that interesting.” hold onto the vibration of the positive and stay here and now and not focused on the future.

 

Much harder to do than it sounds.

Tuning in to my other needs, my spiritual connection needs was as important as taking care of my body. I talked to the people who I most connect to spiritually.

It all brought me back to focus and to more energy work.

And the EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) brought me back to myself again last night. After having two nights with panic attacks with me way outside my comfort zone, I was anxious about the night and sleeping.

It all tuned me in to what work I needed to do with EFT, to release my fears and let go of doubt, guilt and limitation. I began to incorporate what I had learned with the anxiety and panic attacks. I had difficulty going to sleep, and so I connected on facebook by posting my truth and checking email and messages to be in the here and now and receive the love and prayers that others were sending me.

When I woke up after short sleep, and noticed I felt dry and thirsty and a bit of low blood sugar signs, I got myself something to eat and drink.

And felt calmer and then wrote more which further connected me.

Back to sleep, still having fears about sleep which I needed to work through and release all the pent up feelings I had been having.

I did EFT while laying in the bed, releasing my emotions with tears, while my three angels slept around me in my room.

It took a bit, but I was able to work through it enough to sleep again.

When I woke, and felt anxious, I allowed the fear to lead me, did research and sought some answers which all brought peace.

 

I woke up with a new greater understanding.

 

You see, yesterday morning, when I woke up, I was ready to see the reality of cardiac arrest.

(more later)

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Living outside of the box in a boxed up world: not for wimps!

How does one navigate in a closed-minded world full of rules and regulations that take on a life of their own when one has chosen to live outside the box?

Outside the Birth Box

Since I became a parent, my life has been a journey of exploration and discovery into unknown territory.  I gave birth to my first child in 1997, desiring a natural birth.  Yet, I had grown up in a culture where birth was portrayed as an evil experience requiring strong pain medication.  Just watch any sitcom or movie  from the 1980s and 1990s where there is a scene involving a woman in labor.   I also knew nothing about breastfeeding.  My mother had been discouraged from breastfeeding by her doctor in 1966 when she was pregnant with my sister, her first child.  She was also given sodium pentothal during labor in 1966 and again in 1969 when I was born.   Because I have always been a reader and researcher, I had discovered that having a natural birth and breastfeeding my baby was the best thing that I could do for my child.

And then my child was born, after being induced and then the inevitable epidural after a full day of increasing levels of pitocin.  We survived the hospital experience and the early difficult days of breastfeeding.  When my baby boy was 3 weeks old, I made a decision that would forever have an impact on his life and mine.  I attended my first La Leche League meeting.  La Leche League is an organization that provides mother to mother breastfeeding support, encouragement, information.  I was introduced to the world of attachment parenting and got to observe nursing mothers with babies and children of varied ages.   It was a new world for me.

Flash forward, 4 years later, I attended Bradley Childbirth classes before the birth of my second child who was born by nurse midwives in the most baby friendly hospital in my area and my daughter never left my side during our short 24 hour hospital stay.  I signed several waivers at the hospital to prevent standard procedures that my baby did not need.   And seven years later, my third came into the world in my quiet, dimly lit kitchen assisted by a Professional Midwife and her assistant.  And because he was born at home, we had to provide proof that I was pregnant and drive downtown to file papers to get his birth certificate and file for his social security number.  And if we had not done that, would he then not be really here? Born in my kitchen in North Carolina, but not a US Citizen.

Life Outside the Typical American Diet

Our diet has also evolved over the years. Granted, I grew up eating two veggies, one green, for dinner, fresh fruit and limited sweets.  My mother is 100% Italian and she cooked in way that looks very much like what is now called “The Mediterranean Diet”.  My husband and I decided to stop eating red meat about the time that our first child was born.  He wanted to lower his cholesterol and felt it was a healthier way to eat.  Over time, we eventually eliminated all meat but fish from our diet.  Later, I learned I was eating too much soy and way too much processed soy.  I added poultry back into my diet but we continued to eat many vegetarian meals.  I learned more about the importance of whole foods and over time greatly reduced the number of processed foods in our diet.  My diet changed once again when I learned my cholesterol was low and possibly too low to become pregnant and so I began to purchase grass-fed beef from a known source, yet my husband continued to avoid red meat most of the time.  When my oldest was about 8, he decided to become a vegetarian, not surprising because he grew up eating very little meat.

Life in a smaller, simpler box

When I became a parent, I was the sole breadwinner for our family.  After two years, we took a leap of faith and I reduced my hours to part-time and switched jobs to one with more flexible hours that allowed me to do my paperwork from home.  Our income was nearly cut in half that year for the second time in our married life. The first being when my husband quit his full  time job,  encouraged to do so by me, to pursue growing his business that he had begun a year earlier. We could write a book  on living on less and building savings before you have children.  Yet, most people have no clue about our simplified life and can not fathom how we live on the income we have had over the past 11 years.  I want to ask those people who live in large houses with perfectly manicured lawns, why do you live in such a large house and maintain a beautiful yard when you are never there to enjoy where you live?

The un-boxed life

As I give these descriptions of aspects of my life that are outside the norm or average way of living in America, I realize that it only shows a glimpse of how very different from society my life has become.  We live in a world but we are not of the world.  We drive cars that we purchased used and are now fully paid for; our house is over 40 years old; we have a gravel driveway; we have basic cable television- about 25 channels;  I make my own water keifer and nettles infusion and make smoothies adding green vegetables, fruit and coconut milk.  My first two children nursed until natural weaning- it was well past the toddler years- and I can give you a long list of health benefits for nursing past two years of age.  At my first La Leche League Meeting, I swore I would never nurse my child past the age of one.  We homeschool our children or more accurately, unschool, but I prefer to say we learn through living.  My husband and I have shared child care responsibilities over the years and often have worked alternating hours so the other  could be with our children.  Why would you give birth to children and then send them to someone else to raise them?  Why would you give someone else the joy of watching your children grow and explore the world?

When life puts you in a box

And then, my husband, Don, had a heart attack, May 4, 2011,  Cuatro De Mayo.   We had to survive in the system.   I was grateful to the hospital and all the people we came in contact with from the medics who arrived at our home and continue to be grateful.  Yet, after my husband was in the hospital over a week and we were looking to his coming home, I found myself feeling alone and lost.   Don was on continuous cardiac monitors for the entire 12 days he was in the hospital and only the last few days was he up walking around, his unit only.  He could not leave his unit.  Yet, they sent him home, unmonitored and with only a home health nurse who came 3 days per week and  because I insisted on that.  I even had to call the home health  company once we got home because somehow the hospital failed to inform the home health company that he had been discharged from the hospital.   Luckily, I had worked in home health care and knew what to do.

I was ashamed  to cry while I was in the hospital room with him.  I quickly wiped tears from my face when a nurse  came into his room.   Why is that?   Reality did not look anything like Gray’s Anatomy.  I saw him briefly in the emergency room before they wheeled him up to the “Cath Lab”.  And then I was led to an empty waiting area where we sat, me, my children and my good friend, for over 2 hours wondering what was happening and wondering whether Don would live.    A nurse finally came by to inform us that things were going well and if they continued to go well, he would be moved to the CCU and someone would come get us.  She had thought it would be about 30 minutes,and then an hour past and my fear intensified that something was wrong.  Thank goodness for my friend who was not in shock and knew to call the front desk and asked if he had been moved to CCU ~which he had.   There were no doctors holding your hand and standing by as you grieved and felt the emotions of the trauma you were going through- especially for me, the family, the wife of the man who had the heart attack. They treated my husband and took good care of him.  Yet, his heart attack happened to more than him, it affected his entire family, his wife and three children- aged 13, 9 and 2.

It was a traumatic experience for all of us and in some ways more so for us than Don because he has little to no memory of the initial events.  No memory at all from the time he went unconscious on our living room couch until he was awake in the CCU.  At home, when he was having increasing pain in his mid back and his neck, it never occurred to him that he might be having a heart attack. I knew and my 13-year-old son did too.    And those early days in the CCU are very blurred and foggy in my husband’s memory.  Somehow we survived and even became closer as a family those 12 days Don was in the hospital.  And then the bigger challenge, his coming home and continuing to recover in a home with three young  children.  And now, 4 months later, here we are.  Our life greatly altered on some levels and in other ways it looks as it did before.  Life will never be the same, experience changes you, changes your perspective.  My children never again will have the full childhood innocence of feeling like your parents will live forever.  Watching your father have a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest is not a typical experience for a child of 2, 9 or even 13.  The hospital staff kept saying that many 50-year-old men have heart attacks but what they failed to see was not many 50-year-old men have a 2-year-old child.   I personally did not grow up seeing family members have a heart attack in their 50s or any age really, other than my uncle who just two years prior to my husband’s heart attack, suffered a dissecting aorta at the age of 47.

Re-negotiating life and moving out of the box

We continue to navigate in the healthcare system and now the financial assistance system in our county and state.  I have come to realize that part of my angst comes from living a life outside the box yet needing  these systems that exist in our culture.  Systems we were never a part of before or not to the extent that we are now.  They want to put us back in the box but there is not a box that fits us.

Navigating in this world, in the American culture of  this millennium, while pursing life from a spiritual perspective is not a task for wimps.  I have learned that I do well under pressure and that I am a survivor in a crisis.  Adrenaline is addictive but one  can not continue to live with high levels of adrenaline running through your system.  Sometimes, the more difficult part of life is not the early trauma, but the getting back to regular life part, when the flood of support and assistance tapers off and when you are faced with the complexities of life and the new challenge of helping a loved one with a new medical condition to recover and live again.

Over time, aspects become easier but other factors emerge as stressful and challenging.  It is a process, a continual process of recovery.  I do not know how long the process lasts nor how long the intensity remains, yet here I am 4 months later, still feeling strong feelings as I recount and relive the experience.   It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs occurring within a life already full of uneven terrain.  I have moved closer to and further away from my spiritual side throughout the process.   I  have grown stronger, and more in tune with my spiritual self through my writing.   When I do not write, I often fall away from my true self and have found  myself sitting in the bottom of a lonely box.    Sometimes , I get up out of the box and other times, I need to just sit alone in the bottom of the box.  I see now that  I am a strong woman, even when I am sitting in the bottom of the box.

It takes strength to live in this world and each challenge makes you stronger unless you choose to stop and not move forward.  Unless you become permanently and completely dysfunctional and unable to care for yourself in any manner, you do become stronger.  The decisions you make and the life that follows are a matter of your perspective but know that you do become stronger,  you become more of who you choose to be.

Four o’clock in the morning

It is 4:00 in the morning.

Sounds like the beginning of a song.

It has been awhile since I have woken around 2:30 am, unable to sleep and have come to the kitchen to my lap top.

Today, I went to my email not sure why I was doing that, seamed so frivolous, like I needed to do something of more importance like write but wasn’t feeling in a place to write.  Good decision as I came across the link to my husband’s Blog, “My Spiritual Spot”.  His most recent blog post called

Fickle Fart

I had to read that.

And so I did and then I read more and more

And found myself wanting to read things he posted prior to his heart attack as well as just after it.

I commented on his posts and finally in my last comment, found myself writing

delving deeply into my own thoughts, reflecting and expressing

For some reason, I am now frozen, unsure of what to say next.

I could say how reading other inspiring posts, helps inspire myself and helps me reconnect to who I really am and to remember who I am and my purpose here.

Maybe this blank feeling, this unsure of what is next, is only

space

breathing space

It is ok to be in the question

to just sit in the stillness

the quiet

the space between the words

this early morning time is space between the busy moments of my life

breathing space

and breathing is essential for living

August 2011- Turing Points Update

I recently re-read my post from January of this year entitled: Turning Point, a new start for 2011.

It was powerful to read the message I wrote at the beginning of this year and ever so relevant to my life now, 7 months later.  The end of my entry I quote part of a song from David Wilcox, taking my favorite lines.

And so I will start this post with those lyrics and my closing remarks in m post.

“Your compass is within you

You’re holding out for something real

How long the distance

Getting by and getting through

Your heart’s strong insistence, says nothing else will do

But it’s hard to breath inside some cheap disguise”

-David Wilcox, Turning Point

I make no resolutions or promises in this new year to do or refrain from certain things.  Instead, I take the oath to continue on my journey of life and self discovery, aiming to be a better version of the person I strive to be.  I accept my shortcomings and mistakes as part of my journey.  I strive to focus on my strengths and tune into what I do want to see in my life to draw more of the same to my life. I aim to spend more time writing and thus working on myself which is key to helping anyone else in my life.  I must first put on my own oxygen mask before I put on my child’s.

Every moment in my life is a turning point.  I make a decision in every moment, a decision  of who I now choose to be.  My only goal is to be “the grandest version of the greatest vision ever I held about who I am”.*

Changes in my life….a brief overview

August 24, 2011

I moved here almost 19 years ago, after graduating college, started my first full-time job in my chosen profession,  got married over 17 years ago, had my first child nearly 14 years ago, moved to this home over 10 years ago, had an early miscarriage over 10 1/2 years ago, had my second child 9 1/2 years ago, was able to stay home full-time when my husband sold his business and got full-time work, 4 years ago, he lost his job 3 years ago, had my second child 2 1/2 years ago, returned to work outside the home 1 1/2 years ago,  started writing my mini books for the movement of change almost 1 year ago.

My daughter has had OCD for at least a year and a half.  We have had our dog for almost 10 months.  It has been almost 8 months since I hurt my back.  It has been over 3 months since my husband had his heart attack.

All these experiences in my life have been turning points.  They have been changes in my life that have had positive and negative impact upon my life.  And with most if not all of these experiences, there has been an opportunity in each challenge and the decisions I made, further impacted my life from that moment on.

I will now  relate my own experiences as they relate to the lyrics from this song.

“your compass is within you”

The answers are within me.  I must tune into myself to see them.  In order to help my child who has been experiencing OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an anxiety disorder, I must first look at myself and be in tune with my own feelings, beliefs and my authentic voice.  Sure I need to research and reach out to others to help her but just as important, I need to turn inward and use my own intuition and consciousness to know the best decisions to make and the path to follow to help her recovery.

“You’re holding out for something real”

I pause as I read this one.  What first comes to mind is my writing.  And really living the life as I choose to live it, working from home and doing what I love and earning a living from it, spending my time  doing what matters most to me.  Yet, as I write even that, I know there is something deeper to this.  I am holding out. I haven’t realized my dream of earning a living doing what I love, writing, parenting, finding a path to earn income from my writing.

Ah-ha!

I was holding out,  with my writing, and then I found the Message of Change program and dove in head first and immersed myself in the process for over a month writing a mini book to share a message of truth with the world.  In fact, it was after I enrolled in that program August of 2010, that I finally started my blog here and begin sharing my writing with the world- in an open manner where others could read what I was writing.  Up until that time, I had written many things but had not yet really shared my thoughts , my best writing, with others.

As I write this, I feel myself coming back on path again.  I have just brought such clarity to myself and my writing.  It is time to move forward after being stalled for to long- well, that is a judgement on myself, let me rephrase that- after a delay, to the process of writing my mini book or books.  And I don’t really know what that will look like or how but I know that coming here each week to blog is foremost the best step I can take.

“How long the distance

I am nearly 42, and will begin my 43rd year of life. Everything in my life has brought me to write here and now.

“Getting by and getting through”

Yes, many times in my life I have functioned in this state of getting through the day, getting past where I was from high school to having to work full-time when I wanted to be home full-time with my newborn child and surviving life after my husband had a heart attack.    Lately, especially over the past month or two, as my husband has recovered more from his heart attack and has been able to return to the level of activity he had before May 4, 2011, I have found myself feeling like I was just” getting through life”.  And it was this feeling of just going through the motions that brought me back to myself.  I knew deep within that I did not want to continue to live in this method.  I wanted to live my life more fully and intentionally and with more meaning.

“Your heart’s strong insistence, says nothing else will do”

When my husband suffered a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest, and lived, I knew more deeply than I have ever felt, that I needed to write through the experience.  I knew I needed to write,  I “had to”.  Writing is more than putting words on paper for me, it is the way my soul breaths.

And that thought leads right into the next line:

“But it’s hard to breath inside some cheap disguise”

It is hard to breath, to live fully, when I am not being who I really am, when I am not being my authentic self and expressing authentic self.  Parenting from my heart, living from love (not fear) and expressing my inner truth through writing that I share openly.

 

And I end with David Wilcox’s words again:

“you can live your life completely

that true path you’re hear to find

Or stay scared, leave your destiny behind

It’s right now, here’s the turning point in time”

 

“just one thing can kill this dream

To compromise your vision”

“we find our truth, or live some lie”

“It rides on this decision”

-David Wilcox, Turning Point

Let’s Get Real

…that you cannot find or create a costume big enough

to hide your true self from anyone.

  In truth, we’re all wearing The Emperor’s New Clothes. We parade before the world naked–thinking that no one can see us. Why not just be proudly revealed, and authentically who we are?

And do not worry about being rejected and alone. It is

the real you that everyone falls in love with–and that

God adores.

So I am once again inspired to write after reading my daily message from Neale Donald Walsch.  I did something new today when I was playing on my BlackBerry in the early morning hours after waking up and not being able to sleep, I started reading others blogs and I found some good ones.

I read some  wonderful articles including, Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills and Changing the Paradigm which reaffirmed my beliefs about home/unschooling.

And I read some others where I disagreed which in turn fueled me more to write my own thoughts. ( I thank all who post their ideas and opinions.  I like reading articles that challenge my way of thinking as well as ones that allow me to get a glimpse of how other people think .)

This post, Part2: I homeschool because I am selfish – Homeschooling Five, was by far my favorite. It was my favorite because she was real. She wrote what she was thinking and what I and others have thought. After reading her bio, I read more posts.  She wrote about “owning our words” and “not censoring those who disagree with you” in another post.  That is the kind of writer I aspire to be…one who speaks my truth clearly yet honestly; respectful of others yet without apologizing for being who I am.

So now, in the words of the amazing song writer and performer,  Billy Jonas (no, not one of the Jonas Brothers), “Let’s Get Real“.  Real about what you ask?

Burnout

Not just burnout in the general sense, but caregiver burnout.  Sure, this is recognized like described in the WebMD,  but I believe we need to recognize and deal with this before it gets to the full burnout stage which is basically Depression.

To dig further, I think one of the biggest reasons we fail to see the signs coming, is as a society, we fail to acknowledge grief.  Sure,  we acknowledge grief when someone dies but grief happens in many forms and it can happen even when the experience is not as dramatic as physical death.   What about other life changes, big and small, that challenge our way of living and cause us to rebuild or rethink our life?  I have many personal examples I can share.

Five years ago, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, very early stage.  He was still living life to the fullest, continued to work in his self chosen semi retired state, living in his dream home on the lake and active with his hobbies of fishing, golf and woodworking. His diagnosis didn’t  directly affect me, yet because I am an Occupational Therapist and have worked with people in the late stages of Parkinson’s, it had a big impact on me.  I imagined the future, based on those who I have seen in late stage, and this changed my image of my future  including my father’s deteriorating health (Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disease)  and the idea of  no more  family gatherings at my parents’  lake front property, something I had come to really love and value for myself and my kids.  My father had been in good health and was 64 when he was diagnosed. It was a sudden realization of the mortality of my aging parents.  About this same time, my good friend and amazing EFT Master, Jan Luther, was working on  her book, Grief Is…Mourning Sickness.  I had the opportunity to be part of a video tapped session for local television where Jan talked and demonstrated EFT around the topic of grief.  Jan recognized my experience as a form of grief (sure -milder than a more traumatic event, but grief nonetheless).

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first defined The Five Stages of Grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. Yet, theses stages, now well know, most people associate  with tragedy especially with a terminal illness or catastrophic loss, like the death of a loved one.  There are different degrees of grief.  And so when my 52 year old healthy husband had a sudden unexpected heart attack and cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance in Ventricular Tachycardia,  his dark blue  face and  motionless body being forever imprinted in my mind, and even after he was “brought back to life” and in recovery in the CCU 4 hours later and I got to talk to him, one could see clearly that I was in a state of grief.  Looking back, I see how I was both in shock and denial.  The denial  came more when I lingered to call 911.  As I research the word shock, I discovered this information on  “trauma cycle” ( see Phase1. The Loss Cycle).

And so while my husband was in the hospital, friends and family swarmed us with love, prayers, thoughts, help in many forms including caring for our three children, providing meals, groceries, and in so many ways I could write an entire blog about it.

Then, 12 days later Don came home and I continued to ask for help, something that used to be difficult for me but had become suddenly very easy to do when Don was in the hospital.  Yet, as time wore on, and my husband improved, it became more difficult for me to ask for help.  He had survived a nearly fatal heart attack and was on the mend and so surely we did not need as much help now.  Yet, I knew better and didn’t foresee fully how I would slow down in asking for help.  Sure, we were excited that he was home and improving and just plain grateful he was alive and grateful for all the help our family and friends gave us, yet, now we had bigger challenges.

When he was in the hospital, life was simple.  I was either at the hospital with Don, helping advocate and care for him, or I was at home tending to the needs of my children.  Now, with Don at home, we were adjusting to his “new life” with 7 medications (when he was on none before), and me acting as his caregiver, taking his BP and monitoring him as an Occupational Therapist (because I am an OT and I can’t just turn that off) as well as the increased responsibility of caring for the children and home with initially very little help from him which has slowly improved but is no where near the level it was before (Don is a a very involved dad) not to mention the added new financial challenges and juggling doctor appointments.

Yea, that was a rather long sentence and it doesn’t even come close to fully describing how much busier my already busy life became.   And with time, it has gotten busier. Sure Don has been able to slowly do more but by slowly I mean SLOWLY!  We talked about it the other day and as of now, June 27, 7 1/2 weeks after his heart attack, he is at about 50% (at most )of his activity level compared to before his heart attack.

And does anyone still recognize that we are still dealing with grief?  I haven’t asked anyone the question.  I know that as a society, one would assume, that we no longer have “grief” but just ” a lot to deal with”.  Yet, all that I have learned from Jan Luther, I know better that this is still part of the process.  Even as Don gets amazing news that his heart has returned from 25% function to 50% function (near full recovery), our life is forever changed and we are continuing to  process this change and are in fact, going through the stages of grief.