Publishing stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver - author, editor, and publisher of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan. We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also publish genres of healing and wellness, humour, children's fiction, and rural poetry. Visit our website to learn more about our books.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Getting Through the Holidays While Grieving

For the last couple of weeks, I've been thinking about writing a blog with tips on how to get through the holidays when you are grieving ... but I honestly didn't have the emotional strength to do that until now.

It takes energy to write and even though I've been a writer for the last 35 years, it's been a struggle to put words into order since my husband, Al, passed away almost three years ago. Colon cancer was the cause. Frickin' cancer.

Okay, enough about that. I am fine. Most days. I am carrying on the best that I can while missing him every day but being grateful for the life we had together.

I am fine.

But you might not be.

Grief can be heightened during special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. I learned a lot about grief in my work as a journalist and in my reading and experiences after Al died. I wrote about these lessons a month after he died, and I will repeat some of the ones that are specific to Christmas, New Year's Eve, and other special occasions.

Be kind to yourself. It may be helpful to go to some events so you don't spend all your time alone, but give yourself permission to say "no, thank you" if it feels wrong to attend something on a particular day. For example, I did not go to our church's "quiet Christmas" service this year. I was not feeling sad for a change, so why bring sadness into a good day when I had experienced so many sad moments already?

Breathe. Take long, deep breaths, especially when you feel overwhelmed by invitations or expectations. For the first few months after Al's death, I often stopped walking - just stopped - and concentrated on taking three deep breaths - one ... two ... three - to regroup. There is scientific proof that deep breathing helps our body to release anxiety and stress. Taking some deep breaths is one of the easiest ways to keep going when you think you can't go anymore.

Left foot, right foot. In the early days of my grieving, this is the only way I could function - by telling myself to breathe and to put one foot in front of the other to get through this moment, then get through the next moment. Take one step at a time, make one decision at a time, and don't let others tell you what to think or do or how to feel.

Feel your feelings. If you feel sad or angry or upset or confused, it's okay to express it. It's okay to cry - anywhere. This doesn't mean you will feel this way forever. Bottling it up will delay healing and no one wants that. Do not apologize for how you feel. Apologize if you hurt someone while you are feeling, though. If possible, choose who you are with as you feel your feelings. (See 'Be kind to yourself' above.)

Rest. We concentrate too much on achievement and not enough on self-care. When grieving, self-care is essential. Rest does not necessarily mean getting a good night's sleep. That is elusive when you are in the midst of deep grief. If you cannot slow your overthinking mind enough to have a nap, try sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down for a few minutes. Close your eyes and turn off your brain for a short break. Rest.

Pre-arrange transportation. When grieving, it is important to have some control over your ability to come and go from parties and other holiday gatherings. If you suddenly feel overwhelmed or too sad to stay, have a friend or family member drive you home. Be careful not to drive when in the depths of grief as your mind may not be fully focused on the road. Be kind to yourself and others.

A bereavement support program gave me this helpful brochure:

The brochure's tips from Kelly and Karin Baltzell are:

  • Pace yourself 
  • To say 'No' is okay 
  • Pamper yourself 
  • Tell people what you need 
  • Make new rituals 
  • Honor traditions 
  • Remember your physical needs 
  • Tell others exactly what holidays are important to you 
  • Crying is okay 
  • Make action plans 
  • Consult your family and friends 
  • Lean on your faith
To help ensure our first Christmas without Al was a little less painful and full of dread, I suggested to our children that we each make a donation to a charity that we thought he would like. On Christmas morning, we celebrated his life by telling each other the donation we made, of cash or something else, in his memory and why we chose that charity. The amount of each donation wasn't mentioned. It was not important. We had contributed to a worthy cause in our communities in memory of a great man.

We smiled and even laughed. And we cried, of course. Tears of love.

I wish that for you this holiday season - that you get through it the best way you can while remembering your loved one and taking care of yourself.

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

What's in my Little Black Book?

I have an unusual name. Deana. I've had to spell it for most of my life for most people and on most occasions.

It's not only been misspelled, but it's also been mispronounced many different ways over the years - dana, dinah, donna, deanna, and on occasion, correctly - deena.

I've blamed my mom for giving me the strangest name in our family. All my siblings have normal names that sound exactly the way they are spelled. But not me. Why? I don't know. I wrote a blog post in 2015 about what might or might not be the origins of my name. Like I said, I blame my mother.

The truth remains that my name is unusual, leading to a low possibility of finding any souvenir or other keepsake with my name engraved, embossed, painted, carved, or otherwise embedded on it.

So when my husband saw a key chain a few decades ago that had "Deana" on it, that rare key chain came home with us.

The key chain accessory is rectangular with a little door on the bottom side that opens up, revealing a fold-out piece of paper headlined "Little Black Book", just like the words on the top of the fob.

For years, I used this key chain to hold a set of extra keys to our church, and I ignored the hidden piece of paper inside it.

When I was a volunteer youth group leader, I'd often hand my church keys over to a teenager so they could open the church office or other room to get something we needed for that day's program. Sometimes this hand-off went well. Other times, a curious teenager would ask, "What's a Little Black Book?"

I'd explain that in the old days, you'd keep a list of people you dated or wanted to date and their phone numbers in your private little black book. The youth holding my key chain would stare at me for a second and then immediately start to dismantle my key fob to see what secrets were hidden in my Little Black Book.

I'd quickly grab my keys back and squash their attempts at getting inside the head of their leader.

There was nothing for them to see, of course, but still ... it was more fun to keep them wondering.

A few years into my 13-year stint as a youth group leader, I decided to write something in my Little Black Book - for my own entertainment.

I enjoyed watching the reactions of subsequent batches of nosy teenagers who took it upon themselves to open up my secret book without my permission. They'd quickly become quiet and then smile sheepishly. And I'd smile too. It was all in good fun.

Years passed and I was no longer a youth group leader. My children had all become young adults and I had moved on to other adventures, such as publishing books.

I'd forgotten about the secret of my Little Black Book until one day at church when another woman at a meeting asked who had a key to the church office so she could get something for our committee. I handed her my key.

On her way back from using the key, she noticed the key chain's secret door and opened it up.

She burst out laughing. "You got me!"

It wasn't my intention to get her, but I surely did.

This is what she saw: