If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bouncing Back or Not

Not the woman I'm writing about
In the June 1st issue of Time Magazine, there was an interesting article by Mandy Oaklander on resilience and those people who rebound from setbacks and those who can learn to be more like them. I was interested in this because last summer, I’d finally met the woman who I’d delivered meals to for many months. I’d met her husband a few times, and he told me to not knock on the door, but instead to leave the meals in a basket by the door. That first time I met her she was washing her car, and a more miserable person I had yet to meet. One of her two son’s had suffered severe PTSD and committed suicide three years before. She was angry with her younger son because he wasn’t the one who died, and didn’t want him to come home from another state, angry with the doctors she felt let her older son down, angry with her husband for some reason I didn’t understand, and everyone in the community who dared to mention the word suicide, and that people no longer came around. I’d heard she suffered from alcoholism.  On that summer day, I took time from my route to listen to her. I didn’t give her any advice, because grieving people don’t need advice, but I did give her a hug before I left and my telephone number when she asked for it. She never called.

A few days before the storm
I met her again during a horrible snowstorm last January when I got stuck in their driveway. I called for a tow truck, but because of so many cars in trouble, it was a long wait. The husband came out and asked me to come in to wait. Both husband and wife were welcoming, and although she still had the saddest face I ever saw, we talked of many things and even laughed a little over the antics of their little dog and I told them stories about my dog. We were able to discuss the deaths of her son and my son and the fact that we both believed they were in Heaven. We discussed this when her husband wasn’t there. His mother had died the night before, so he left the room often to check on the plane bringing their other son in during the storm. On that day, although she smiled rarely, she looked more normal and she even wanted to fix me lunch. I thanked her, but turned her down expecting the tow truck to show up at any time.

Then a few weeks ago, I saw her for the first time since January. She was outside by a little flower garden and looked totally lost. Her hair was wild with a few rollers in it. I greeted her and said it was good to see her outside doing some gardening. She replied she didn’t know what she was doing and kept staring at the stake or stick she held. Then she looked at me and said, “I know you. You’re the lady who lost her son, but I don’t remember how.” So I spent some time talking with her, but mostly listening. Again, I told her I believed our sons are in Heaven, and she smiled and agreed, and then wanted to know my name again and the days I delivered. Will she remember? Who knows, but it may be many months before I see her again. The one positive note was she told me she was visiting a troubled friend to help her. That is positive.

Dr. Dennis Charny, a psychiatrist and Dean, ICAHN School of Medicine, who with Dr. Steven Southwick, a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, has studied the science of resilience for two decades, and through studying brain images have found that stress has an impact on the brain, including the daily stresses of driving in traffic, problems at work, fights with the spouse or others, and all the daily stresses we go through. Even though we almost all have major traumatic stresses during our lifetime, it’s often the countless, smaller stresses that take a toll which can lead to heart disease and possibly even brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have wondered for years why some people are more resilient than others, especially children, and in the 1950’s Emmy E. Werner, a developmental psychologist and pioneer in resilience research, were gradually progressing toward an answer. In 1955, she and a team from the University of California, Berkeley, began an important study in the field involving a 40-year project following nearly 200 children in Kauai, Hawaii, during the aftermath of WWII. Many of these children had alcoholic parents.  She found a third of the most vulnerable children adapted exceedingly well over time.  She discovered having a tight knit community, a stable role model and a strong belief in their ability to solve problems helped children to succeed.

The article is too long to go through everything, but it advised on how to develop resilience.

1.     Develop a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake.
2.     Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened.
3.     Try to maintain a positive outlook
4.     Take cues from someone who is especially resilient
5.     Don’t run from things that scare you; Face them
6.     Be quick to reach out for support when things go haywire.
7.     Learn new things as often as you can.
8.     Find an exercise regimen you’ll stick to
9.     Don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past.
10. Recognize what makes you uniquely strong – and own it.

One of John's graduation pictures taken months before.
One of the questions my Mobile Meals client asked before I left was “How do you remain so cheerful? How did you go on after your son died?” I remember all too well the many people who said to me after John died, “I could never go on if my child died.” And I always thought, what’s the alternative? Crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head?  I had a core set of beliefs that were only briefly shaken in the beginning, but after a while I found meaning – sort of – in John’s death. I had three children and a husband who were also grieving, and I didn’t want my younger three teenagers to think their brother was more important to me than they were so I tried to walk that line while still showing how much I missed him, too. At the time one survives each day and goes on. A lot of those steps to develop resilience I did without thinking about it.

Prior to discovering my son had cancer, a neighbor and I thought of starting a craft business. A month after he died, we did our first house party at a neighbor’s home. We took the crafts we made – my paintings and many other things – to home parties like the Tupperware parties.  My neighbor dropped out after a month, because I made and sold more things. While sitting with him in the Cleveland Clinic as he went through chemo, I worked on needlework. After his death, working on my paintings and other crafts was therapeutic, although nothing totally takes away the pain. Strangers at the party would ask me how I made so many things, and I was able to tell them about the death of my son, sharing it with people who didn’t feel obligated to do anything more for me after I left. Over five years even during college and my first year of teaching I did 85 of those home parties.

My little scientists dissecting a paper wasp nest. 
I started college a year after John’s death as a non-traditional student to become a teacher. It was the best thing I could have done. I loved the academic world and was that enthusiastic student sitting in the front row. After the first semester, I took an overload each semester because I found so many courses that interested me. Teaching is a healing process, too. One is too busy to focus on losses. I also think nothing can beat teaching third grade. What’s not to love about this age group?

My first day of backpacking with a too heavy pack
Over the years, I tried other new things; clogging, banjo lessons, lap dulcimer lessons, back packing, and eventually writing.

When my marriage of 31 years collapsed, I bought a small farm with a pathetic derelict old farm house with a leaking roof and two basement walls collapsing.  With most of the work done by my second son, Joe, it turned into a comfortable home. Never underestimate the value of ridding oneself of anger by knocking out walls with a hammer and ax.

My son gutting my house preparing to replace the old wiring. 
I’m fortunate that I’ve had a strong family; parents, siblings, in-laws, grown kids, their spouses and grandchildren as well as numerous cousins and at the time many aunts and uncles. They were there when my marriage collapsed, my parents died as well as a six year old granddaughter and three years ago the death of my best friend of fifty years and the brother I was closest in age to and loved. I was also lucky I had months to care for my son before he died, and that he died at home in my arms. The woman I deliver Mobile Meals to didn’t have that to comfort her. So I owe much of my resilience to most of those ten steps without being aware of it at the time. That certainly doesn’t mean I’m hard hearted. I tear up easily whenever I hear of something sad, and probably more so than when I was younger and hadn’t experienced life’s traumas. I recently heard on a TED talk on NPR, that’s common as we age.

How is your resilience?
How could you improve yours?


Jim Jackson said...

I’ve had a relatively easy life and so do not feel able to speak to the issue of personal resilience. However, I do know people who have given up and died shortly thereafter, and I do think (anecdotally) that those with a positive sense of the future do better than those who don’t. I’m reminded of stories of the survivors from the holocaust—they all had positive attitudes.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

As I read the list of ten strategies for resilience, I stopped at the first and knew why it was the first. I think having faith goes a long way to pull people out of tragedy, stress, crises, and failure. One aspect of loss that people experience is mulling over what happened and trying to recreate a different outcome--a symptom of post traumatic stress. My family is big on history. I'm not. I've often felt that must mean I'm shallow. But I've never been able to reconcile the past. Why live in it? The only thing we can do is make sure past mistakes aren't made again. We only have today. If we don't go forward on faith, whatever problems we have encountered are compounded and fortified. It takes courage, but there isn't any other positive choice.

Cindy said...

My resilience at the moment or I should say past year has completely gone. When my grandparents passed 5 months apart in 2001-2002, I was heartbroken and think of and miss them every day. But....

Last July 3, my mother died of CHF and this has been the worst year of my life. Where I always had the unconditional love of my grandparents, with Mom I always felt second to my brother. I live over 1000 miles away and I was the one who handled everything. My brother didn't even pick up her ashes! And he informed me he didn't have any money to help pay for expenses. Dad is in a nursing home with early stages of dementia/Alzheimer's, I don't know. My brother managed to get the very small life ins.policy, her bank acct., And I'm sure he sold the cemetery lots they had. All I wanted was the funeral home expense that I had paid. And I haven't seen that yet and know I probably never will. When my nephews, aunt, and brothers two ex wives emptied the apt., they took what they wanted and threw away the rest. My childhood gone in a dumpster. I wasn't offered anything. In fact, my mother informed me about three weeks before she passed that she wanted her grandchildren and great (1 and 3 year old) to have her jewelry but quickly added that she never was close to my son so nothing for him. I was so stunned. So I guess a 1 year old is wearing the pearls that Mom wore at her wedding 61 years ago! Am I hurt? Am I angry? Damn right. I am very sentimental and have nothing of my mother. It all makes me so sad and maybe I'll snap out of it after the one year coming up.

Sorry to have rambled on so.

Kara Cerise said...

I think the key to resilience is finding a purpose in whatever we're going through, perspective, and humor.

Many years ago when I was going through a difficult time, I read Viktor Frankl's excellent Man's Search for Meaning. It's about his experience in concentration camps including Auschwitz. He realized that the way a prisoner thought about the future affected his longevity. Frankl came to the conclusion that it was important to identify a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then intensely imagine the future outcome. Life has meaning even in the most miserable circumstances.

Warren Bull said...

I am fortunate to have family and friends who offer great support. I have twice had bone marrow transplants to treat my multiple myeloma (bone Marrow caner.) Two times I have come back from being too weak to climb stairs and lacking concentration to read a book to fully functioning. Part of being resilient is taking baby steps and being happy with one tiny bit of recovery at a time.

Kait said...

What a wonderfully uplifting blog. I am glad to have followed up with the couple that you had introduced us to previously. I tend to be a glass half full person, and I think that is something you are born with or not. Still, in times of crisis, losing both parents, cancer diagnosis two weeks after my father died, I appreciate your list. What surprises me is that, even though I never heard of the list before, it does represent the way I deal with adversity and grief.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I had an easy life, too, except for the angst all teenagers go through. And then my son died. I really believed God was going to spare him from all our prayers until two weeks before he died when his lung collapsed and they wanted to inflate it and he said, "No more needles, Mom." I brought him home from the clinic two days later.

E.B., I totally agree with you. I couldn't figure out why God had abandoned me until I read Rabbi Harold Kushner's book "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People." It made total sense to me. Also, I had experiences that convinced me my son was in Heaven.

Cindy, what a sad story. How horrible for you and I don't blame you for being hurt and angry. I'm sure I would have felt the same. I grieved for a long time after my mother died, but fortunately my siblings and I were together. There was a little tension when it came time to sell the house, but it all worked out. I hope you have some family and friends to support you. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. And don't worry about rambling. Talking or writing out your problems is good for you - much better than bottling up all that pain and anger.

Kara, you are so right about persistence and a sense of humor. I think both are very important. In fact, as we sat with my brother in ICU on his last day, my sister-in-law,
nieces and I sang to him sometimes sill songs. After he died, when family got together
we told funny Jerry stories and laughed. He had the quirkiest sense of humor, never
cruel or unkind, just funny.

Warren, I've known about your problem long before I joined Writers Who Kill, and so admired your fortitude and courage. Like me, you're lucky in having a supportive family and friends.

Thank you, Kait. You've gone through some sadness and problems in your life, too. I'm glad you've been able to deal with it.

KM Rockwood said...

Gloria, your ability to turn adversity into a positive blog that can help other people is the very core of your personality. You take difficult circumstances and deal with them directly, through both thoughts and action.

Cindy, I, too, was a "less favored child." I did, however, have the advantage of having two brothers who were similarly less favored, so at least I didn't feel singled out. The hurt will never go away, but it can be managed eventually. The money for the funeral expenses is gone, and you have survived. Your mother's things are just that, things. They can have a sentimental value, but it's a value people assign to them, and you can un-assign them, so to speak. The anger will eat you up, while little effect on anyone else (except possibly your son and other loved ones) so that really has to be put in its place rather than being all-consuming. Your mother had to be miserable and insecure on many levels to be so blatant in her favoritism. Think how unhappy a person has to be to try to mitigate her feelings by making her own child feel bad. You, too, are a survivor--recognize this in yourself and give yourself the credit you deserve.

Shari Randall said...

I'm always inspired by all that you do, Gloria. You truly do embody that list of resilient qualities.
I've moved often and each time is a loss - friends, support networks, jobs. Focusing on moving forward - putting one foot in front of the other, making the smallest forward progress - can be enough to keep me going until I get my equilibrium back. I do think that some people have a set point of optimism - the glass half empty/glass half full thing. But we have to remember that, even though it is difficult, we have the power to refill the glass. It's silly, but I often think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Glinda tells her that she's always had the power to go back home - she has the ruby slippers! But we need someone to remind us of that, or we need to remind ourselves.

Patg said...

Interesting because so many people do have these abilities to cope without knowing it. I so agree about swinging an ax or a sledgehammer as therapy. Don't have one, try screaming until you are totally out of breath. Certainly being a murder mystery writer helps when you are being pushed to your limits by another person.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank you, KM. Your advice to Cindy was right on. I hope she comes back to read it and takes your advice.

Shari, I've never moved out of the county I was born in so although people came and went in my lifetime, there were always friends and family around. Also, after the first wave of grief is over, I am an optimist. I love your reference to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Pat, it worked at the time, but the truth is although I get upset or annoyed at times, I rarely get truly angry so I don't need an ax anymore. I think age has a lot to do with it. It mellows one. In fact, recent research shows the older we get the happier we get. Yes, mystery writers do have that option to murder those they're upset with, but the truth is, I've never killed anyone who I know not even by changing their names. I haven't been upset with anyone enough to wish them dead even on the printed page.

Anonymous said...

How is my resilience? Well, Gloria, I do have some very powerful role models who set a good example through every day living, and let me talk when they know it's not good for me to keep things to myself. I have often thought that my dearest friends have saved my life at times when I felt I was sinking but hid it with a smile on my face. My faith does help me as well, although often my prayers are more like questions and interrogations but I do believe God is there. Do I bounce back quickly? No. But friends will help me get rolling again, if not bouncing. Gloria, you and your blog and your writing and your friendship have all been an important and much appreciated addition in my life. Laura Byrnes

Marilyn Levinson said...

What an inspirational post. I knew you were a strong woman and that you'd lost your son and had weathered divorce. But that you help others get their meals even in awful weather conditions—you are a daunting woman, indeed!

I think I've become more resilient as I've aged, even though my arthritis and sciatica bother me more and more. Perhaps it's having found love again in my seventies. Whatever it is, I'm thankful for what I have—a new love, children, grandchildren, my cat Sammy, and the writing way of life.

Gloria Alden said...

Laura, I always feel grateful for the fates that brought us together. Your sense of humor even through your pain always makes me smile or laugh. You're poetry is absolutely delightful, and you've been a great friend of mine. Long may we be friends.

Marilyn, I agree with you. I'm grateful for what I have in my life my good health even though my knees ache sometimes, and I'm not quite as speedy in getting things done. My sister-in-law recently found a new love in her seventies, also, and she just glows. He adores her and can't do enough for her and her family. Also, I love the writing way of life. How can any writer ever become bored?

Sarah Henning said...

My resilience was tested greatly this past year. I THINK I have come out of it stronger, but I feel like I'll only know when the next major blow comes. I'm also not far enough away from everything yet to really know.

As Marilyn said, you're amazing, Gloria! Truly amazing.

Polly Iyer said...

I want to be your friend, Gloria. What an amazing blog to go with your amazing strength.

I'm one of those people who doesn't hold much inside. Part of getting over things, in my opinion, is to verbalize them. I have a group of friends I've had for decades, and we are still there for one another. I have very little family outside my immediate one, and we've always spoken our minds, sometimes maybe too much. I'm sorry for the death of a person before his or her time--that is never fair--but death in itself is a natural progression of life, and I try to think of that when someone I love passes. I look back and know the hurts that have molded me and directed my choices in life. I hope I've learned from them.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank you, Sarah. It takes time, and I really believe sometimes it takes age. You will get
through this and come out stronger because of it. Don't give up hope.

Polly, I'd love to be your friend. Well, we sort of are even though we only see each other
once a year at Malice, and I'm not sure if we did see each other this year - so many
people, so much going on there it sort of becomes a blur.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

From when I met you with Judy H. at Malice and then heard you speak on Author's Alley the following year, I was impressed by your grace, convictions, resilience, and energy. Today's blog, from the heart...and brain... confirms what I already believed. Keep writing and being who you are.....it is an inspiration to the rest of us.

Ramona said...

Gloria, this was such a generous post, and your 10 pieces of advice seem very wise.

I have not suffered any untimely losses, but one. I am fortunate that my parents are alive and my grandparents passed away in the natural order of things. But 15 years ago, my across-the-street neighbor and dear friend lost her young daughter in a car accident in our neighborhood. It was so sudden. The world turned on its ear that day, and it has never quite righted itself. You probably understand what I mean. I'm sorry for the loss of your son.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank you for your kind words, Debra. We can never get too many of them. I appreciated
your edits when I belonged to Emerald Shorts, too, but I couldn't keep off with that
list serve. Quite active you all are.

Thanks for stopping by, Ramona. I still get teary eyed when I read of something happening
to someone so young, both for the loss of someone so young and for the family dealing with
it. Over the years I've written a lot of poetry for my son. Someday, I'm going to put the
poetry and some essays about him into a book.

Cindy said...

Dear Gloria and KM, you kind words made me all teary eyed! It is so nice to have someone to talk to that understands. I hope you don't mind that I print your replies and keep them to read over during a bad moment.

Tomorrow will be 1 year, it's been long but yet, it seems like yesterday. It has definitely been a struggle for me.I will take flowers to the cemetery and cry. My husband, son, and my family Dr. I consider my support system. They all say I must let it go and also agree that it is just stuff but still I have bad moments. I wish I had a best friend but I don't. I did grief counseling at hospice which helped but she kept pushing me to do a group and I am not a group person.

Thank you again from the bottom of my heart! Take care.