Category Archives: Uncategorized

My New Favorite Leg Lotion

Perhaps my favorite part of working prosthetic conferences, with the exception of room service, is the ability to see all of the new prosthetic products available. I am constantly amazed at the rapid advances that are being made. While the focus is often on the computerized, sexier prosthetics, some of the most life enhancing products are often unsung and taken for granted.

During my breaks I enjoy walking through the exhibition hall, talking with vendors and learning about new products. Okay, I also admit that I’m a sucker for samples and freebies. What can I say, conference swag makes me smile! I often come home from the conferences with an extra suitcase stuffed with samples, brochures and trinkets.

Yesterday morning I was hurting. The skin on my limb was beginning to chafe, and a small blister on the side had still not healed. I reached for my go-to tub of Eucerin creme when I remembered that I had picked up a sample of a new product at a conference several months ago. In warmer weather I don’t encounter the chapping and chafing issues that often occur in the winter, so I have never had a chance to try the product. Touted as a solution to a chafing residual limb, I decided to put the claim to the test.

As soon as the lotion was applied, I knew that it was special. It absorbed quickly, leaving my skin soft and smooth. Donning my liner was easy, and I didn’t feel the nagging skin tugging that I was experiencing when rolling on my liner. I stepped into my leg and took a few cautious steps. I never would have imagined that a simple lotion would have such a profound impact. My discomfort was completely gone! Needless to say, I was amazed.

It turns out that my skin has been pulling against my liner. The constant tugging has been causing friction burns that resemble Imagechapping. I assure you I am not a spokesperson for the company, but I couldn’t make this lotion discovery and not share my experience.

After one day I am sold on this product, and I was delighted when I realized that it could be ordered directly by the consumer. (Anytime I don’t have to go through my doctor or prosthetist for a product I am a happy camper!)  If you are having skin breakdown, or feel like you might be tugging within your liner, give Alps Prosthetic Skin Lotion a try. I was shocked that it yielded such profound results for me. Sometimes the simplest products can yield the most profound results!

I Can Finally Curl my Own Eyelashes

Anyone who knows me will tell you, I am not much of a make-up person.  I really only wear it on special occasions or when I am getting professional photos taken. It’s not that I don’t like make-up. Make-up takes a lot of time, time that I could be using to do more important things like sleep. It occurs to me however, that at thirty one, I am approaching the age when I might need to start wearing make-up in order to avoid scaring small children in public.

I am not completely inexperienced in the make-up department, as I said I do wear it on occasion, but when I want to look really good, I usually have to have  my sister help me. I am absolutely hopeless at doing eye make-up. Eyeliner, is a huge struggle but the thing that causes me the most trouble is the eyelash curler. My sister is a firm believer that one cannot wear mascara without curling your lashes first, especially when you have stick straight lashes like me. The problem is, I am terrified of that thing.

Seriously, I think the eyelash curler, high heels and bras were all invented by the same sadistic individual, running an experiment to see just how far people would go to obtain that ever changing idea of beauty.  While avoiding bras is not something I am willing or able to do, I have gotten pretty far in life while managing to avoid the first two. Still, I do love the way my eyes look when my sister does my make-up, so overcoming my fear of the eyelash curler seemed to be my only option. Then my sister sent me this link. That’s right, while millions of people  curl their lashes every day with something that looks like a medieval torture device, heated eyelash curlers exist.

To be honest, I tried this eyelash curler for the first time about five minutes ago and I have to say that thing is genius. If you can apply mascara, you can use this eyelash curler. It uses heat to curl your lashes, but don’t worry, it doesn’t get too hot.

For comparison, I used the curler on one side and mascara alone on the other. In this picture the eye that I used the curler on, is on the right. The lashes on the outside of my eye have a little more curl, but that is because I had a little trouble reaching the inside lashes. This was not because of the curler itself; I always have trouble with that area. It’s going to take a little practice to perfect, just like everything else.

eyes

I don’t know if this eyelash curler is going to motivate me to do my make-up more often or not, but at least now, when I do my make-up, I will be able curl my lashes on my own.

Christmas Cookie Season – Making Baking Work

Growing up I loved making Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters. We would designate a day before Christmas and make cookies all day long. That day was awesome; messy, but oh was it fulfilling…

After my injury things changed. My fingers were paralyzed, baking cookies was no longer easy-breezy fun. Heck, I couldn’t even hold a sugar shaker anymore without dropping it.  It wholly depressed me how difficult my passion had become.

And the worst thing was feeling like baking was the last thing I wanted to do; not at all like “me.” I resented how my injury changed so much about my life and personality. I was determined not to let this new feeling I had towards baking last.

So I made this resolution 8 years ago to figure out how to bake again, and I haven’t looked back. Ever since OT, I always knew baking was possible; they showed me it was. I just knew it was going to take a lot of work, patience and a few adapted instruments along the way.

I started by sticking with just a few simple Christmas cookie recipes.  Knowing your limitations is #1 rule when baking with a disability. This means I nixed a few of the more complicated recipes off my list – Rosettes, Peanut Butter Balls and a few others – and added a few more I knew I could do easily. Anything that required a VERY specific amount of dexterity was removed.

I learned the lesson of knowing your limitations the hard way too, not even thinking of my limitations in the beginning. My first go at it, I discovered midway through baking a recipe I couldn’t finish it (I sure felt silly). The thing to remember is this – always think critically about your skills when creating a list of the Christmas cookies you want to bake this year.

Keep it simple – pre-cut sugar cookies, bars, candy, drop cookies, no-bake cookies – anything that requires minimal dexterity is best. I also began using my toaster oven to bake since it was at countertop level, which made it way easier to put in/remove pans and I still use my toaster oven till this day.

I also created a nifty way to remove pans from the oven when they’re still hot by using an infinity scarf. I just push then scarf around the pan, then lift it up in the center of the pan to take it out of the oven. After taking the hot pan out, I love using My4Hands too, a thick piece of plastic that goes on my lap and protects my skin from hot pans. It works awesomely.

Don’t forget – homemade Christmas cookies make great gifts too. All your hard work is more appreciated this way too, when loved ones can see all the extra TLC you put into their gifts.

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?

Products mentioned

Oster Stainless Steel Toaster Oven

Old Navy Fleece Infinity Scarf

My4Hands

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Comfort Pregnancy Pillow

This May I will be turning 40. Although I never envisioned myself living with a disability (after all, who really expects the accident to happen to them), I can say that I am happier with my life than I ever imagined. I have a wonderful job which affords me the opportunity to help and to interact with amazing people every day. My family fills my life with love, happiness and laughter.  I am truly blessed.

Although I have so many wonderful blessings, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the prospect of turning 40 had been hitting me hard. I simply don’t feel middle aged! Instead of focusing on the looming number, I decided that I wanted to do something utterly amazing to mark the milestone.  Changes are always easier to swallow when you are celebrating with an adventure.

My best friend, who will also turn 40 this year, and I have been talking about several options. We thought about going on a cruise, but something that extravagant is simply cost prohibitive for both of us. I wanted to go zip-lining, but her fear of heights kept us grounded. In the middle of our adventure negotiations I received news which changed the entire dynamic.

Instead of going on a wild adventure on my 40th birthday, I will be in the hospital.  Embarking on one of the greatest (albeit unexpected) adventures of my life, I am delighted to announce that I am due to give birth to my second child on my 40th birthday! I was utterly floored by the news, but we couldn’t be happier to be adding to our family.

As I am embarking on this wonderful adventure at 40 I can’t help but notice the differences between how my body is reacting to this pregnancy.  Firmly in the middle of my second trimester, I am beginning to show. My prosthesis is becoming snug in the mornings, an issue that didn’t occur until the third semester when I was pregnant the first time. My back is achy in the morning and my baby bump was making it difficult for me to become comfortable, especially when sleeping.  In short, my pregnancy at 40 is considerably more uncomfortable than my experience 8 years ago.

My husband, recognizing my growing discomfort, gave me an early Christmas gift last week. I wasn’t sure what to think when I opened the box to discover a large, cumbersome looking pillow. I knew that he meant well, but the practical side of me knew that the immense and awkward pillow was not going to fit on our bed. If I did make it fit, there was no way it was going to be comfortable.

Because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings I felt obligated to give the Comfort Pregnancy Pillow a try. It took me awhile to get it into position, but when I did I immediately felt supported and comfortable. For the first time in 2 months I slept soundly, and when I woke my back didn’t hurt! This pillow may be big, but it is certainly up for the task of supporting both my burgeoning baby bump and my residual limb.

I have been converted, and I am now a huge proponent of the Comfort Pregnancy Pillow. Not only is it great for pregnancy women (the individuals for whom it was designed) but I think it would be great for anybody who suffers from lower back pain or has experienced limb loss. The support provided along the back, and by elevating my residual limb to bring it into alignment with my hip and pelvis, makes this a worthwhile product for any lower extremity amputee.  If you are having trouble becoming comfortable, or find yourself stacking pillows to find the “sweet spot” of comfort, you might want to give this pillow a try.  Like me, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised!

My Keurig adventure …

My granddaughter Amelia once again decided to “spoil grandma” and she presented me with this mini-Keurig coffee maker. She also gave me two boxes of K-cup coffees from Starbucks, one regular and one decaf and a third box of Kazo green tea.

I found it fun and convenient to brew up a cup and I probably drank more in that first week than I usually do just because it was so easy. Of course the time came when I ran out of those cute little cups and I decided to stock up when I next went food shopping…maybe get 3 or 4 boxes so I wouldn’t run out.

Wow…speak about sticker shock. My “stock up” plan was put on the back burner when I saw the prices. Even the store brands were costly. “Oh, well”, I thought, “I’ll just buy one box and cut back to a cup a day”.

It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered that another box had come with my gift. I had completely forgotten it and I found, to my delight, that it was a reusable filter.

I still had some regular coffee on hand so I tried it out right away and it worked beautifully. You first pop out the brewing cup holder on the machine. Then put the K-cup reusable filter into the grey plastic holder, fill with coffee and screw on the top. This gives you an air-tight seal and you proceed to brew just as you would be a K-cup.

There’s no mess and it’s very easy to clean. I’ve done some experimenting since then and it works just as well with loose tea. As you can see it takes a little longer but not by much and the cost per cup is much less expensive than those costly boxes of K-cups …and that’s a big plus for this thrifty old Lady!

Gift Ideas

Shopping, especially for holiday gifts, can be an exercise in frustration. Frequently I am asked to provide gift suggestions for an amputee. Purchasing both meaningful and functional gifts has become a necessity in today’s economy.  Because of the frequent inquiries, I have compiled a list of functional and fun gifts for an amputee friend or family member. Although many of these items are available at a variety of retail stores, we have included links to amazon.com purely out of convenience.

Fuzzy and warm socks are often a welcome gift. The residual limb becomes cold on winter nights so sleeping with a cozy and soft sock over the limb can make the individual more comfortable. I used to sleep wearing my husband’s tube socks over my limb until I splurged and bought a dedicated soft pair for myself. Sometimes the simplest gift will be the most appreciated.

The residual limb often benefits from a deep massage, especially when the muscles are sore. This Homedics Massaging Pillow provides a comforting massage that can be personalized according to an individual’s preferences. Many amputees have reported that their use of this massage pillow has lessened the frequency and intensity of phantom sensations. For me, the massage pillow has eased the phantom pain enough for me to rest without narcotics.

Many lower extremity amputees who rely upon a prosthetic frequently struggle to put shoes onto their prosthesis. A shoe horn is a simple stocking stuffer than can alleviate their shoe donning frustrations. Although a simple and low tech gift, I know from experience that I can never have too many. I can never seem to find one when I need it!

Walking in snow and ice is difficult for those with both limbs. When the individual is an amputee, it can become a terrifying feat. These removable cleats easily slip onto a variety of shoes, increasing traction and safety while walking on slippery surfaces.

For the amputee gamer on your list, you might want to consider the Wii Active Personal Trainer system. This program can be easily adapted to accommodate for limitations due to limb loss. It is also a great way to learn how to put equal weight through the prosthesis, decreasing the chances of developing osteoporosis!

Traveling presents unique obstacles for the amputee. This portable grab-bar is simple to apply and can make any shower accessible. It is compact and fits into the corner of a suitcase. If the amputee utilizes a bionic prosthesis, they may appreciate receiving a power strip to use when traveling. The amputee traveler often must rotate between charging their cell phone, computer and prosthesis due to limited electric outlets in hotel rooms.

If he or she doesn’t travel far from home, they might appreciate a handicapped tag holder. This holder keeps the placard both protected and in a central location, allowing it to be easily accessible. I don’t know about you, but mine is always slipping between the seats or ends up piled under a mountain of “treasures” on the floor.

Slipping on a cold silicone liner can be miserable way to start the morning, especially during the winter. For a “luxurious” gift, consider a towel warmer. The liner can be placed into the heated box to be warmed before it is donned. There is little that feels better than slipping into a warm liner on a cold winter morning!

Although this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope that it has provided some helpful ideas to make shopping a little easier. Do you have additional gift suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

The Mall of America – My Happy Place

twinkly-lights-at-the-mall-of-america

I may not be the luckiest gal in life (points to damaged spinal cord), but I haven’t struck out completely. I live 20 minutes from the biggest mall in the United States – the Mall of America. Oh yes, all of you shopaholics out there be jealous; very, very jealous. This place really is that good.

If you haven’t been here before it’s pretty spectacular. I’ve been going since the mall first opened when I was 12 years old. My dad brought me to the top floor my first time visiting so I could see the indoor amusement park, and it’s been my happy place since; especially after my injury. A lot of things changed after I became paralyzed, but the Mall of America wasn’t one of them.

It’s funny how a giant concrete building full of stores can make me happier than Prozac (I guess that means I would not be happy in North Korea?). The place has so much meaning for me. When I was 17, I would take the bus to the Mall of America with my rehab-mates; newly injured people also looking for a place to forget their problems.

We’d take the number 19, get off and go to the 4th floor to see a movie, then hit up Hooter’s for some wings (yes I was hanging with the guys lol). I even worked at Victoria’s Secret on the first floor while in college.  It was quite the interesting experience selling lingerie as a wheelchair-user, especially in the front room where they put me. Selling bra and panty sets to traveling businessmen for their wives back at home was always movie script-worthy.

And I was there again just last Monday for my up-teenth time; this time to cruise the newest stores before the holiday rush, or shall I say “holiday insanity.” People fly here from all over the world – Europe, Japan, the US – to do their Christmas shopping. It’s a beautiful holiday spectacle, and I know where all the elevators are.

But here’s the deal, I really can’t handle the crowds anymore. I now only go to the mall on Monday mornings, and let me say nothing gets you in the “Christmasey” mood more than going to the Mall of America right now. They have their twinkly lights up, garland up; it’s breathtaking. The whole place feels like a fairy wonderland, and the best part are all the new stores they’ve opened just in time for the holidays.

Tilly’s (a massive skater clothing store from California), A’gaci (a women’s clothing store from the South that has amazing deals on sexy stretchy pants that look great when you can’t walk), Moods of Norway, a free-standing Pink store, Free People, and these are the new ones as of this month. Did I also mention they have the biggest Forever 21 store in the planet, housed in the old Bloomingdale’s? The store is so big it has its own coffee shop. I got lost there once.

If you like shopping, you need to add the Mall of America to your bucket list. As someone who’s been going since it opened, it’s better than ever right now, with more high-end, hard-to-find stores. And the best part there’s no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota, which means all of your clothing purchases are exactly as it says on the price tag.

After returning home from the mall, I unpacked my bags and felt like I had won. There’s nothing like scoring on clothes at your favorite place in the world. $3 and $5 leggings, a $7 “lip” print scarf, sexy off-white stretch pant leggings for $22, a few v-neck long-sleeved tops from Old Navy; it was a good shopping day. I felt pretty and SO excited to get dolled up. I forgot how much escaping to this place can boost my mood.

I will admit though the mall is far from perfect, crowds, materialism at it’s best, but it still holds so many memories that will always warm my soul. Have I spent too much money here? Probably, but I’ll never ever regret it.

Where is your happy place?

Products mentioned

– Stretch pant legging from A’gaci

– Lip print scarf from Wet Seal

– Long-sleeved v-neck tops from Old Navy

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Another little gem …

In our family, October marks the beginning of the outdoor decorating season. I have to admit that I have a weakness for those wind-blown inflatable sculptures that reside on the top shelves of all the home improvement and warehouse stores this time of year. From pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween through the white rabbit holding a basket of eggs for Easter, something is always inflated in my yard during the cold months.

I justify my affinity for the blow-up figures through my son. He thoroughly enjoys watching them blow up each morning, and smiles when we spot them from our road. Although he is easy to blame, the truth is I had a size-able collection of the yard decorations before he was born. What can I say, they make me happy!

Not only do I smile when I see the large and jovial decorations, but they are surprisingly easy to set up. Compared to his peers, my husband has it easy when it comes to decorating for the holidays.  We have perfecting staking and placing the inflatables, finishing the task in record time.  Because our yard I strewn with a seemingly endless rotation of festive figures, we don’t bother hanging outdoor lights or other, more traditional, decorations.

Our only complaint with the inflatable decorations involved the cumbersome power requirements.  For some reason, the original builders of our house failed to install any external power outlets. (Obviously a woman was not consulted before this decision was made!) Because of this flaw, all of our outdoor decorations must be plugged into an outlet inside our garage.

Needless to say, walking downstairs, running across the driveway (in the cold night air) to turn off the decorations each night became a huge inconvenience. Timers were cumbersome, difficult to program and (for whatever reason) often blew the circuit. After a few years of performing the midnight dash to turn off the decorations, we discovered a perfect solution.

This is a pocket magnifier that I’ve come to rely on more and more. I can’t tell you how many times it’s come to my aid. Even though I have reading glasses there are still many times when that is not enough. Prime examples are reading all the fine print on medicine bottles or trying to find a small town on a large map? Those are just two of the frustrating things that crop up and I alleviate them easily with my pocket magnifier.

This little gem is just an inch wide and 6 inches long and fits easily into my pocketbook. I never know when I will need it so I keep it there all the time. I’ve found it’s really handy when I’m in a low lighted restaurant. Now I don’t have to ask my companions to explain what’s on those (often) hard to read menus …especially the price tag!

Perhaps the place that I value it most, however, is when I go to the theater. Even before the lights go down most theaters are dim and I always had trouble reading those interesting profiles about the performers. I would bring the playbill home, of course, but it wasn’t the same as knowing the facts while they were on stage. Because the magnifier is illuminated I find I can easily read the playbills now and I love that.

 

Decorating- Simplified!

In our family, October marks the beginning of the outdoor decorating season. I have to admit that I have a weakness for those wind-blown inflatable sculptures that reside on the top shelves of all the home improvement and warehouse stores this time of year. From pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween through the white rabbit holding a basket of eggs for Easter, something is always inflated in my yard during the cold months.

I justify my affinity for the blow-up figures through my son. He thoroughly enjoys watching them blow up each morning, and smiles when we spot them from our road. Although he is easy to blame, the truth is I had a size-able collection of the yard decorations before he was born. What can I say, they make me happy!

Not only do I smile when I see the large and jovial decorations, but they are surprisingly easy to set up. Compared to his peers, my husband has it easy when it comes to decorating for the holidays.  We have perfecting staking and placing the inflatables, finishing the task in record time.  Because our yard I strewn with a seemingly endless rotation of festive figures, we don’t bother hanging outdoor lights or other, more traditional, decorations.

Our only complaint with the inflatable decorations involved the cumbersome power requirements.  For some reason, the original builders of our house failed to install any external power outlets. (Obviously a woman was not consulted before this decision was made!) Because of this flaw, all of our outdoor decorations must be plugged into an outlet inside our garage.

Needless to say, walking downstairs, running across the driveway (in the cold night air) to turn off the decorations each night became a huge inconvenience. Timers were cumbersome, difficult to program and (for whatever reason) often blew the circuit. After a few years of performing the midnight dash to turn off the decorations, we discovered a perfect solution.

We now plug the extension cord into a remote controlled power switch. From the comfort of our home, I can turn the decorations both on and off with the click of a simple button on the wireless remote.  We have been using the remote controlled power switch for several years and it has yet to trip our fuse box. To be honest, the only issue we have ever encountered has been our son “misplacing” the remote.

I find it fascinating how a small thing, such as the ability to control lights with a remote control, can have such a profound impact. Because we no longer have to run in the cold, dark night to turn them off, we are both more apt to embrace holiday decorating. I love that we have found a simple solution to an issue which had become a source of frustration. It may sound odd, but the remote controlled power switch has helped our entire family become UNlimiters!

My Friend Sandy Swears By This …

I’ve asked my senior friends to let me know if they can recommend any items that make life easier for us as we grow older. Recently I received a letter from one of them who wrote: “There is one item that I just love. It’s my sticky back roll of industrial strength VELCRO tape.”

03057-industrialvelc

She goes on to say that even though it’s a small item it’s a “must have” for her because she comes up with new uses for it all the time. Here, in her words, are her four favorites:

* You’ve seen the lovely scatter rug that I brought back from my trip to Arizona. It would break my heart to get rid of it although my daughter wanted me to do just that. She was worried about slippage on the wood floor until I put Velcro on the back of the rug in all four corners and on the floor and then showed her how firmly it adhered. (It was actually my very first use of the tape.)

* I was always looking for the TV remote so I attached a small piece of tape to the back of it and another piece to the side of the TV. I hang the remote there when it’s not in use. It’s unobtrusive and I always know where it is.

* Remember when you almost landed on the floor when the cushion on my kitchen chair slid out from under you? It won‘t happen now, I promise. I’ve placed strips of Velcro on the chairs and on the cushions and now they’re secure. I’ve done the same to the chairs on my deck.

* I had saved a set of 4 pint size glass jars (originally filled with fancy jams & jellies). They have screw tops and were the perfect size for this fun project. I adhered a 12” strip of Velcro under a shelf in my pantry. Then I applied Velcro to the top of the jars. I then labeled the jars and filled them with herbs that I‘d dried myself. I love opening the pantry door to show them off. They look lovely and keep the herbs fresh.

So there you have her 4 favorite uses of the Velcro tape. Thanks, Sandy.  Her choice for these was the Industrial Strength sticky back tape but Velcro comes in many shapes and strengths. Any hardware store is sure to have a Velcro display where you can choose the one that is most suitable for your task.

Any ideas using Velcro? I’d love to hear about them.

Knee Cart

Somewhere deep in the dark abyss also known as my basement I have a collection of medical equipment piled in the corner. From bandages to crutches, wheelchairs to portable grab bars, I have certainly acquired a lot of assistive devices over the years. Although I haven’t had to use much of the equipment for years, I hesitate to part with anything. I know all too well that my mobility needs can change quickly. When and if that happens, it is comforting to know that all we have to do is move the boxes out of the way and dust it off.

I have saved one special item from the basement, opting instead to keep it in a location which is easier to reach should the need arise. My knee cart (commonly referred to as a knee scooter) has come to my rescue more times than I care to acknowledge. During times when I cannot wear my prosthesis because of injury, or even when I am simply too lazy to don it (like in the middle of the night) I can hop on my cart and get around safely and efficiently.

I suppose I could use crutches, but I am not nearly as swift. Besides, my son’s army men and Legos have become a minefield of plastic obstacles on my floor. Ever crutch step on a Lego in the middle of the night? Trust me, it isn’t pleasant!

Although it can look intimidating, the cart is brilliant in its simplicity. I simply place my knee (on my amputated side) on the padded cushion and push with my sound side foot. It is as simple to maneuver as a child’s scooter. As a matter of fact, my little boy often tools around the house on it for fun.

I highly recommend the cart to all below knee amputees, or individuals who have a foot and/or ankle problem. My mother-in-law had bunion surgery last year. She is a slight woman (probably weighs 100 pounds if she is carrying a basket of wet towels) and did not have the strength to utilize crutches. Upon my recommendation she rented a cart from her local medical supply company for two weeks.

Despite compromised strength, she was able to maneuver around her home and her community on the cart. She wasn’t limited by her inability to walk because she was able to push herself around. Maintaining her independence during her recovery helped not only physically but also psychologically. The cart helped her so much that she ended up extending the rental for 2 months. By the time she paid the fees she could have purchased it and saved money.

From below-knee amputees to the elderly recovering from foot surgery, the knee cart has proven an invaluable tool in our family. While I hate being without my prosthesis, I know that I’ll be able to get around without compromising my safety or health. With the help of my knee cart, I continue to be an UNlimiter, even when I can’t utilize my prosthesis.

SURVIVING “SURVIVAL GUILT”

“Survival Guilt” affects all ages. It is the type of remorse felt by people who manage to survive while their friends or loved ones do not. The events that take their lives do not have to be traumatic. They can be the result of a long illness or even old age. The common denominator, however, is that the survivor feels a tremendous guilt at being able to get on with his or her life.

We seniors are especially prone to experiencing survival guilt. So many of our friends and family members have passed away and we are often the only one left. Many of us have spent years tending to a loved one and the relief that we feel when they finally die is overshadowed by guilt.

With the help of a dear friend (who luckily for me happened to be a grief counselor) I was able to face the loss when my husband died and to experience all the emotions but not have them overwhelm me. After a few months she convinced me that it was crucial to get “out of myself” and, literally, get out of my house. I decided to look for volunteer work where I could make a difference.

Now I put in two days a week at our Free Care Clinic and I’ve found work that I enjoy and a whole new set of friends. One of the nurses and I found out that we had very similar political views and a fondness for the same type of books. We have become fast friends and she even sent me a “Mother’s Day” card with a note that said she thinks of me as the mother that she never had.

So, if you are experiencing survival guilt be kind to yourself. Chances are that is what your loved one would want for you. Get up and get moving and just remember that the longest journey starts with the first step.

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