Ruthann Reim McCaffree

Life Coach Personal Counselor Business Management Consultant Author

How to Thrive Through Unthinkable Heartache

By Ruthann Reim McCaffree
September 4, 2012

Published on
YourTango

5 lessons I learned about life from my husband's tragic passing.

What I hate most about April 15 isn't Tax Day. Rather, it's the memory of what happened on that day in 2003. My husband was on our roof checking the gutters when he slipped on his way down the ladder. Quite literally, he was gone before I could say goodbye.

That day, life dealt me a knock-down blow. We've all had them: if you were given an unexpected pink slip, if your lover left without a backward glance, if your trip to the doctor delivered bad news or if your child was cruelly bullied at school. In these moments,


Finding reasons to hope are the handholds that put us back on our feet, help us see bright possibilities in the world and, once more, believe that life can be good.

1. Love with abandon. Silly me, I used to think if I held back some of my love from Terry, it wouldn't hurt so much if something happened to him. Then, I lost him and guess how wrong I was! It hurt so much more.
Since then I've learned to love, no holds barred. This love is not just reserved for my family. I look for every possible way to share a kind word, a sincere compliment or a loving offer of help.
The next time you express love freely, notice how it feels. It's impossible to feel sad when telling the grocer how great his vegetable display looks. Believe it or not, these little islands of hope bring color to the saddest times.

2. Plan something to look forward to.
When was the last time you added something new to your bucket list? Not too long ago, our local newspaper reported about the birthday of a local woman who is 104! For her birthday, she whooped it up with a local Harley Motorcycle Club. They drove their bikes right into her care center. Next year, she wants to go up in a helicopter.

If she can dream big, why can't we? I want to see the night sky where the stars are the brightest and it is easy to find shooting stars to wish on. How about you?

3. Laugh heartily. Even in sad times, there are moments when we just have to laugh, whether it's with a small child, at a funny story or at ourselves.

During the darkest days after Terry died, I remember thinking that if someone saw me laugh, I was being disrespectful to his memory. No, no, no! Life is both sunshine and thunder. Go ahead and laugh — the deeper and richer the better.

4. Say "yes." Look for opportunities to say "yes" when it will bring you joy. You will know what to say yes to and what to put on hold. It's all about staying connected to life in the most choosy way possible.

If a commitment gives you a gentle stretch and leaves you energized, that is a "yes" If a friend weighs you down with this and that tale of his or her woe, you have my high-five to put them off for another day.

5. Appreciate yourself. Revel in all the ways that you are a gift to the world.
Not too long ago, I was listening to an NPR story about Teddy Roosevelt and his legacy of land preservation. Apparently, he found solace in the mountains when he needed to heal from a time of great personal loss. He was so aware of the healing power of the natural world that he used his presidential influence to save as much of it as he could.

Of course, we're not presidents, but we do have strengths and gifts to share. Think of all the unique ways you give balance, perspective and wisdom to the world. Going through crushing times will bring that information to the surface. Knowing your unique gifts is amazingly powerful and important.

Tonight, when you are ready for sleep, think about your day. Where did you offer love, dream about doing something new, laugh at yourself or with a child, say yes to an opportunity or appreciate how fabulous you really are? As you fall asleep, those memories will comfort you, and when you wake up the next morning, you will have a whole new day to be surprised by what you will discover.

Crushing blows, tragic news and painful discoveries take us down, but at the same time, they give us perspective and make even the smallest bits of joy incredibly sweet.

Mending Your Broken Heart When Your 4-Legged Friend Dies

By Ruthann Reim McCaffree
April 6, 2012

Published on
YourTango


Secrets to mending your broken heart when the friend you lost has 4 legs instead of 2.


Max went missing on my birthday. One minute he was begging for breakfast and the next time I looked for him, he was gone, out a door accidently left ajar. What does your heart do to heal when the friend you lost was packaged in fur and sported a tail? If you are a pet owner, you know in your head that your pet’s life will probably be shorter than yours and still the magnitude of their loss can be overwhelming. If your heart is filled with sadness from such a loss, here are some ways to find comfort and give you back some peace of mind.


1. Your heart gets real about the magnitude of your loss. In my case, Max was a wild, orange rebel given to biting at will and leaping onto my indoor hanging baskets to flatten the flowers and swing for the hell of it. The only way I could brush him was to feed him the tail of his catnip mouse as a distraction and brush fast. There’s no good reason why I loved him so much. I just did. When he went missing, I was inconsolable. My heart knew this loss was a big one. You’ll know too, if well-meaning friends try to brush away your tears saying, “He was just a cat. You can get another one,” and you don’t accept their words. He was your friend and you know that he can’t be replaced so easily.

2. Your heart starts to make peace with your part in the loss. Max slipped out a door I inadvertently left open. I didn’t mean to let him out and maybe he would have used better judgment if he knew the dangers waiting for him. But out he went through the door I accidently left open. My heart was overwhelmed with guilt and guilt is an abusive mate that needs to be traded in. I traded for truth: Max died from an awful accident and I could be more vigilant in the future. My cats now love to be outside with me in our vegetable garden, fenced to keep Bambi and Peter Rabbit out. They play in the sun while I weed. They’re safe and I don’t have to feel guilty any more.

3. Your heart needs to talk of love. Just thinking the words didn’t quite do it. So, I wrote Max a love letter and read it out loud by his favorite swinging plant. I told him all the things I loved about him and said that I hoped he was ok. I thanked him for being my friend and for teaching me patience. I imagined what he would have said to me and added those thought to the letter. It felt good. Today that letter and his catnip mouse are safe in my box of precious treasures.

4. Your heart wants to make a place for the memories so what you loved is not forgotten. This part of your healing has some mystery about it. For me, the right way to honor Max took months to make itself known. On one of those spur-of-moment drives, I happened to turn north on Interstate-5 and ended up on Whidbey Island, one of Washington’s beautiful Gulf Islands. Curiosity drew me into a small plant nursery because there was a Mayday Festival taking place. After the dance around the Maypole ended, I walked toward the nursery itself. Along the walkway there sat five small rhododendron plants in black plastic containers and they were named “Max Cat”. The Max Cat Rhody has beautiful flowers and my heart is happy every time I see those wonderful blooms because, of course, one came home that day with me.


5. Your heart knows that it will take some time to mend so don’t feel in a hurry. Take all the time you want and need. Again, some eager friends wanted me to rush right out and get another cat but I needed to wait a while. The wait was worth it when a beautiful black and while Norwegian Forest Cat named Humphrey Bogart, affectionately called Bogey, joined our family. He wasn’t Max and that was fine. He was filled with love aqnd his purrs were a happy comfort to my welcoming heart.
Breathe in the power you have to move forward after even the most difficult challenges and start living again. Make this ending real, with nothing left undone and you’ll be free to experience the happiness you deserve.

How To Keep Going When You'd Rather Give Up

By Ruthann Reim McCaffree
April 6, 2012

Published on
YourTango


When fear has you paralyzed, here are 7 key ways to take your power back and set you free!


On an Outward Bound in the mountains of California, I hugged the rock ledge and refused to look down. One hundred and forty feet of sheer granite cascaded to a hard landing on more granite and I wanted to hire a helicopter to rescue me. I’d never been so afraid, trusted less or felt less confident I would survive this challenge. Imagine my surprise at the thrill I felt when I forced myself to take that first step over the cliff and loved it. Cancel the call to the helicopter. I found my own power and so can you. Life surprises us with these opportunities to see what we’re made of. What was your big challenge? It may have been that your job was eliminated, you got the bad
news that your loved one loves someone else or your child is being bullied at school. No one wants to be challenged in such harsh ways but within each challenge is wisdom and the freedom to take charge of your own life. . If you’re feeling stuck and instead want to move your life forward, here are the keys to taking back your power and starting to live again.

Key # 1. Breathe. When we’re afraid, we tend to take in shallow breaths that do a poor job of getting oxygen to our brains. You want all your neurons firing so getting them adequate oxygen is the critical first step. Take your time. Let your breath calm you down and make you alert.

Key # 2. Feel the ground under your feet, giving you strong support and a steady base. Imagine the strength of the whole Earth holding you and making sure you have what you need. With such strong support you are not alone.

Key # 3. Now, start assessing the situation to determine what is really happening. What are your choices? What do you know that can help you? If you weren’t afraid, what would you do? When I was huddled on the cliff, there was no helicopter even close and a storm was coming. If I played to fear, I might have been killed by lightning and that was a fact. Plus, I was not there by myself so I was putting other people at risk. Was the truth starting to get my attention? Absolutely.

Key # 4. Stop and challenge the fear with your truth. Ask what you’re afraid of? On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is it to happen? I was afraid of falling to my death and on my scale, given the fact that I was completely harnessed and guided by a seasoned leader, the likelihood of dying was probably a 1. If I stayed put, the likelihood of getting struck by lightning was much higher.

Key # 5. Put your imagination to work. Imagine how you will feel when you retrieve your power and beat back the fear. Feel the pride of accomplishment and take it in.

Key # 6. It’s time for action. What is the first step you can take to move off your cliff and get on with your life? It might be putting on your tennis shoes and actually getting outside for a walk. Maybe you’ll sign up for a class and start working toward a new career. You might visit your child’s school and ask the tough questions instead of staying home worrying about a bad situation that likely could get worse. Be brave and just do it.

Key # 7. Celebrate your new beginning. You just put out effort and you want it to continue so find ways to reward that effort. How can you be kind to yourself? Flowers, a latte, warm bath, time with a friend are just a few ideas. Imagine a long list of ways you can support yourself so your first step is transformed into the beautiful journey of your life.

6 Ways to Say Goodbye When You Can't Do It Face-To-Face

By Ruthann Reim McCaffree
March 27, 2012

Published on
YourTango


When a traditional ending is no longer possible, powerful ways to create your own goodbye.

Healthy endings set us free. They let us get ready for the next relationship, the next job, the next wonderful adventure. Healthy endings don’t have ragged edges, devoid of the chance to say what is in our hearts and what we need someone else to hear. Loved ones can die suddenly or too far away. Jobs can come to a screeching halt with no warning. Tornados can wipe out towns turning whole lives upside down. Sudden endings happen, leaving us with words unsaid and unheard.

Here are six ways that you can make your goodbye real and give you a healthier ending. The words will be said, the actions taken and they will set the stage for your new beginning.

1. Create a quiet space for yourself and write a letter expressing all the love, the important statements, the unanswered questions and the big ideas that you wanted heard. Then, in your quiet space, read your letter out loud. Listen to your voice and pay attention to your body as you read this important message. As you honor your words, respect for their message will settle around you and you will find some peace.

2. When my husband fell from a ladder at our home and died, the saddest place in my world was the bit of concrete that took his life. A most profound and powerful part of my goodbye happened when a friend offered to come to our home and bless the place where he died. We lit candles, played music, remembered the good times in that place and embraced the beauty around it. From that time on, I was free to walk out that door, down the walk and into the rest of the yard. What can you do that will help you transform the place of tragedy and let you move freely around it? Who will join you? When you take deliberate and loving actions in response to the sadness, it loses the power to hold you hostage.

3. If you have lost your job and were given no time to tell co-workers or even the place goodbye, take time to make contact with those former co-workers. Write them e-mails and tell them how much you valued knowing them, what you most remember about them and that you wish them well. You may even want to meet the most special ones for coffee or a drink after work as a way of celebrating your friendship and finally getting to say goodbye.

4. Plant a tree in the spring or bulbs in the fall. Do something today that will be part of your future in a beautiful way. When you want to feel connection to what was lost, go and sit by your tree. When you need some hope, watch the tiny green shoots coming up where you planted the bulbs. They will remind you that the world also has beauty and you helped bring some of it into your life.

5. Create some kind of sacred place in your home where you can honor what or who was lost. You can adorn it with flowers or put items there that bring a smile to your face. It will signal to you that what you lost was real and won’t be forgotten.

6. Remember that most likely other people were affected by the sudden loss as well. Reach out to them. Send them a card, write them a note, give them a phone call, invite them to your tree or be the listening ears for the words they need to say.

Breathe in the power you have to survive even the most difficult challenges and to start living again. Make this ending real, with nothing left undone and you’ll be free to move on with your life.