Author Rick Lauber: 5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change
Prioritize self-care. Coincidentally, this is the same advice I frequently share with caregivers who routinely overlook their own health and well-being as they prioritize the health and well-being of a loved one. Whether you are caring for someone else or not, you must take your own care seriously to reduce the chances of burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, and so on.
The world seems to be reeling from one crisis to another. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social turmoil. Then there are personal traumas that people are dealing with, such as the loss of a loved one, health issues, unemployment, divorce or the loss of a job.
Coping with change can be traumatic as it often affects every part of our lives.
How do you deal with loss or change in your life? What coping strategies can you use? Do you ignore them and just push through, or do you use specific techniques?
In this series called “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change” we are interviewing successful people who were able to heal after a difficult life change such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or other personal hardships. We are also talking to Wellness experts, Therapists, and Mental Health Professionals who can share lessons from their experience and research.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Lauber.
Edmonton-raised Rick Lauber is the published author of two caregiving guidebooks (Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide), an established freelance writer, a bi-monthly newspaper columnist, and a caregiver’s advocate. Rick’s interest in writing about caregiving stems from his personal experience helping and supporting his aging parents. Learn more about Rick and follow him on social media through www.ricklauber.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Moscow, Idaho but my parents both accepted University teaching jobs in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada so the family moved. I grew up in the same house, enjoyed family vacations (specifically downhill skiing and hiking trips in the Rocky Mountains), and attended school. One highlight had to be spending six months in Cambridge, England … my parents took a working sabbatical so we lived overseas — getting used to a new home, schooling system (including having to wear a school uniform …), friends, and the English accent all required some adjustment time! Following my high school graduation, I wasn’t completely sure of my career path, so I explored various options including radio broadcasting (the job isn’t as glamourous as it may sound — working in five small towns over seven years was enough for me!), bartending, retail management, and marketing. It wasn’t until my parents grew older and became sick (Mom had Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia while Dad had Alzheimer’s) when I committed to a Professional Writing program through a local University. I had always been interested in this area and shown some aptitude for writing but had never pursued it seriously.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have come to greatly appreciate “Your mind is a powerful thing. When you filter it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.” (Guatama Buddha). What this means to me is that life decisions and changes begin with the belief than you are able to do so. If you do not believe in yourself and your own abilities, change may likely not happen. I recall initially questioning my ability to return to post-secondary school to register for their Professional Writing program as a “mature’ student but convinced myself to do so. Considering the successful outcome, I made the right decision!
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
I would say that my top three qualities are ability, honesty, and stubbornness. Without having the ability to do something well, one cannot succeed. Without having some writing skills, I would never have been able to write news articles and two books! Honesty is also crucial. I have been honest with (and respectful of) those I have met and worked with and for as well as honest with what I can and cannot do (people seem to appreciate that). In both my books, I have presented an honest account of what to expect from caregiving and readers have explained to me that they welcome it. I can also thank my stubbornness — while I may dither with decisions, once I have made up my mind about something, I will do it. As an example, when I finally summoned up the courage to pitch a book publisher, I did so.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Healing after Loss’. Do you feel comfortable sharing with our readers about your dramatic loss or life change?
Yes. My most significant loss was the passing of my parents — something that all of us will have to face at one point. My parents had been both diagnosed with serious health conditions (Mom had Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia while Dad had Alzheimer’s) and were physically and mentally declining so I anticipated their deaths. Despite this, both deaths were sudden — I was not with either of them when they passed away. Therefore, I did not have a chance to say my goodbyes and still have regrets. Additionally, Mom and Dad were always very private and never talked of their own lives and likes. Nor did I ever question them for details so I never truly knew them. Looking back, I wish I had made more of an effort to talk with my parents as now those stories are lost forever.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
I wasn’t sure of if — or how — I could carry on with my own life. My parents had always been there in my life and now were gone leaving a huge hole. This was undeniably the biggest loss I had experienced in my life and I was unsure about my own level of strength to pick up the pieces, accept, and move on.
How did you react in the short term? There was a great feeling of loss and disbelief that my parents had died. I was very sad and listless. I spent a great deal of time at home alone, avoiding family and friends, and sleeping. I had nowhere near the same amount of energy to accomplish things I wanted/needed to get done. I am thankful that I do not like to feel unhappy for too long and can motivate myself to shake things back to being more normal.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?
I turned to writing and walking as primary coping mechanisms. Through writing, I shared my thoughts and feelings of my caregiving years and my loss of my parents. By walking (even without a destination in mind …), I got out of the house, exercised, and cleared my head. I also began to reach out again to friends — several of whom I had not spoken to or met with for far too long!
Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?
While time has helped me to heal from Mom and Dad’s deaths, I don’t believe that I have completely “let go” of the negative issues. I still question if I provided the best care I could for them and regret that I never really knew them. By writing about my loss and grief, I was able to “let go” of the negative aspects and not keep all of this bottled up inside me. Talking with others in a bereavement group was also very helpful … hearing their stories of loss told me I was not alone.
Aside from letting go, what did you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?
I remember acknowledging the pain of losing my parents. I accepted that grieving could trigger various emotions (which I allowed myself to feel). I took steps to look after myself emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful towards several people — the leader of and participants in a bereavement support group. I had joined this group after my father died and wasn’t completely sure of what to expect. As it turned out, the group proved to be an excellent tool for me to cope with the loss of my parents and to heal. Hearing other’s stories was very comforting as I learned that I was not alone with my thoughts. Although our situations were different (one woman had lost her husband in a car accident while another woman watched her mother pass away about ten years previously …), we were all feeling similar emotions of intense grief.
Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?
Yes! I had begun writing about my experiences helping and supporting my parents as they grew older. Sharing these stories not only helped me (to not bottle up negative thoughts and feelings inside me) but also others as many of my stories were published in a local senior’s newspaper. Following my parents’ deaths, I have continued to write about caregiving and caregiving-related issues and have authored two published caregiver’s guidebooks! Writing one book — let alone two — seemed to be never in the cards for me; however, I saw the opportunity and realized I could help many others as prospective, new, or current caregivers. Benefits of writing my books have included further exposure and credibility — I have been sought out for further freelance writing projects, public speaking opportunities, and media interviews. I have met — and networked — with others and expanded my professional circle of contacts. I have built a reputation of being a subject matter expert. I am convinced these doors would not have opened for me without my books and I may not have achieved the same level of success as a freelance writer.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?
I have certainly learned more about my own capabilities. Becoming a caregiver for my parents proved to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially challenging … keeping up with the many new responsibilities and being unable to stop a loved one’s physical and/or mental decline can be intensely challenging and stressful. Going through this process made me stronger and more confident. I’m not sure I would have ever drummed up the confidence before to reach out to a book publisher about my initial book idea but knew I would continually question myself about what could have happened if I did not pursue this.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give others to help them get through a difficult life challenge? What are your “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Remember that grief is a personal process. This was a lesson I learned from my bereavement group. What it meant was that everybody deals with grief in their own ways and time … a person must allow him/herself to properly grieve (and others must respect that decision). Considering this advice, I proceeded slowly with my own healing and allowed myself to do so.
2) Find a coping mechanism (or two …). My two primary coping mechanisms were writing and walking. Writing allowed me to share my thoughts and feelings about my caregiving years and my loss of my parents. Walking got me out of the house, provided good exercise, and cleared my head.
3) Reestablish friendships. As our lives change and negative events happen, it can be easy to feel discouraged and ignore friends. Through reconnecting with friends, I benefitted from both the support provided and the increased social activity of meeting friends for coffee.
4) Give back. Volunteering for a community organization can be a wonderful way to get out, support a good cause, and share what you have learned with others. I have spent some time as a voluntary Board of Directors member for a nonprofit caregiver’s association, met others interested in this same cause, and enjoyed this opportunity.
5) Prioritize self-care. Coincidentally, this is the same advice I frequently share with caregivers who routinely overlook their own health and well-being as they prioritize the health and well-being of a loved one. Whether you are caring for someone else or not, you must take your own care seriously to reduce the chances of burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, and so on. Caring for yourself can be achieved by doing something that you previously enjoyed in life, trying something new, eating nutritiously, getting enough sleep, visiting your doctor regularly, avoiding social isolation, etc.. As mentioned, I used writing and walking as my primary healing tools and, in fact, continue to use these same practices today.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My movement would, undoubtedly, be to recognize more of our country’s formal and informal caregivers. These individuals work tirelessly to provide better health, quality of life, comfort, and safety for others and are not always properly recognized. A caregiver is an important spoke in the wheel on a person’s care team but he/she is often disregarded or completely overlooked.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)
I would be excited to have a breakfast or lunch with President Joe Biden. While this may be unrealistic, I have greatly admired how honest he has been (during his campaign and following his election into office) with regards to his caregiving for his aging parents and his son, Beau. I would also love to hear more about his impressive infrastructure and jobs plan — including vital help for American caregivers.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The easiest way to do so is via my website at www.ricklauber.com. Readers can learn more about me here, find many published/posted news stories I have written, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter (direct links to social media have been supplied).
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!