Spousal Loss, the 2nd Year:
Same Sky, Different Vista

Posted on Jul 12, 2015 in General Grief, Spousal/Partner Loss

Sky

For behind all things lies something vaster; everything is but a path, a portal, or a window opening on something more than itself.Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand, and Stars

Shifting from “what was” to “what will be”

Stroebe and Schut define grieving as a process of “oscillating between stepping back into yearning for the past, and stepping forward to construct a future.” Dominique Browning refers to this as a time of alternating between “holding on and hiding, and holding on and seeking.”

In any case, it involves a kind of rocking movement, similar to how you would free your car when one of your tires sinks deep into mud or snow. As you shift gears from reverse into forward, rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, you finally gain traction and are out of the hole—only to realize you that you have little idea of where you are going. However, the lack of a destination is often less uncomfortable than the fear that you are leaving your loved one behind.

Who are you to become

A woman in class once commented, “There was a time when I couldn’t imagine feeling alive again, and now I freak out when I realize I haven’t thought of my partner for a couple of days.” This response is not unusual; some people say they prefer the pain of grief over the uneasiness and apprehension that comes from starting over.

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Sibling Loss:
My Cherished Sister Donna

Posted on Jun 24, 2015 in Sibling Loss

Sibling Loss - Sisters

“Grief is the most available untapped emotional resource for personal transformation”

Guest contributor: Lyn Prashant, PhD FT

My beloved sister Donna was a gentle, loving, caring soul. She was my trusted confidant, my witness, my cheerleader, and my best friend. She died September 6, 2002, at age 49.

Donna was born three-and-a-half years after me, and from that time on she was there for me, and I for her. We were giddy and vulnerable with each other. I remember walking down the street with her, holding her hand, thinking about how lucky I was to have her as my very own sister. Our commitment and sense of knowing one another was astounding. A glance into her eyes affirmed: “She was both my sister and my best friend.”

When Donna was 36, she received the diagnosis of breast cancer. I had already lost my young husband to cancer, so the words sent shock waves through me again. Since the death of my husband, Mark, in 1984, I had embarked on a path of healing that involved “making peace with my own grief.” Stephen Levine, author of Who Dies? states, “we can be available to others in their grief to the extent that we know our own.”  This was certainly a stunning way for me to assess how well I had transformed my grief over the loss of my husband.

“Be Responsible TO me… NOT for me.”

I remember feelings of disbelief at the sound and meaning of the doctor’s words, the physical sensation of numbness and my inability to think clearly. Later, when we went to have lunch, Donna looked into my eyes and asked: “Lyn, as my older sister, can you be my advocate? Please understand, I do not need you to be in charge of me. I need you to hear me and give me feedback.”

She then added, “What I really need is for you to be responsible TO me…NOT for me.”

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Aging: Balancing Loss…

Posted on May 30, 2015 in General Grief

Doing Things on a Want To, Choose To, Like It, Love It Basis

Photo by Michael Grab

Photo by Michael Grab

 

I can be changed by what is happening to me, but I don’t have to be reduced by it. Maya Angelou

If you reflect back on when you felt stuck and in despair, you were likely being challenged by loss. Whether it is the loss of innocence, friendship, employment, a major relationship, or a dream—the impact can be significant.

The worst loss you can experience as you age, however, is the loss of your sense of self—the inability to see who you are outside of your circumstances. I am not talking about your ego-driven identity, but who you are without your roles and personal bells and whistles.

What is your perception of aging?

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My Mother’s Shoes

Posted on May 9, 2015 in General Grief, Parent Loss

Mother's Shoes

Those shoes “above” are my mothers.

She wore them in 1917, two years before her father fell ill after inhaling hay dust during “haymaking season.” He died of pneumonia two weeks later. The death was not unusual as penicillin was yet to be discovered. What was unusual was my grandmother putting my 4-year old mother on her father’s bed and telling her she that she could make him well.

Obviously she failed.

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Why We Should Always Go to the Funeral

Posted on Apr 30, 2015 in General Grief

Why Go to Funeral

Every once in a while we feature someone else’s writing, and are pleased to share Deirdre Sullivan’s thoughts on why we should always “go to the funeral.”

ALWAYS GO TO THE FUNERAL

by Deirdre Sullivan

I believe in always going to the funeral. My father taught me that.

The first time he said it directly to me, I was 16 and trying to get out of going to calling hours for Miss Emerson, my old fifth grade math teacher. I did not want to go. My father was unequivocal. “Dee,” he said, “you’re going. Always go to the funeral. Do it for the family.”

So my dad waited outside while I went in. It was worse than I thought it would be: I was the only kid there. When the condolence line deposited me in front of Miss Emerson’s shell-shocked parents, I stammered out, “Sorry about all this,” and stalked away. But, for that deeply weird expression of sympathy delivered 20 years ago, Miss Emerson’s mother still remembers my name and always says hello with tearing eyes.

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It is a Beautiful Day to Die

Posted on Apr 2, 2015 in General Grief

Recently I was standing at a friend’s open kitchen window drinking a cup of tea while she was at the barn talking to the farrier who had put special shoes on her 35 year old horse, Charles. Sound travels easily across pasture, and I heard the farrier say, “I don’t know… sometimes I stop and notice the day and think it’s a beautiful day to die.” I had no idea what was being discussed, but he had my attention.

Later during dinner my friend mentioned the conversation with the farrier. They had been talking about Charles, who struggles to get to his feet after lying down as a result of severe arthritis. She then said what I had heard earlier: “the farrier said sometimes he stops and notices the day and thinks it’s a beautiful day to die.”

Tears welled in her eyes as she added, “Well, it is another perspective, isn’t it?”

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Part Two: Grief Relief – Surviving the Death of a Bad Relationship

Posted on Feb 24, 2015 in Caregiving, General Grief

Liberating Losses - Part 2

In Part One of “relief grief” we talked about how the death of a child, sibling, parent or partner can bring relief to family members. However, such relief is most often hidden to escape community criticism. That said keeping quiet does nothing to help a family work through the emotional scars they have often inherited.

If you have experienced ongoing psychological and/or physical abuse, you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • You are entitled to accept and explore whatever you are feeling.
  • Forgiveness is pure gold, but don’t rush into it. At first just notice what takes place in your body when a memory creates a physical “charge.” Take some time to sit down, close your eyes, connect to your breath and allow your anger and/or fear to drain from your mind and body.
  • Accept that while you had little control over the deceased’s behavior, you do have control over how you interpret the affect of their behavior on your future.
  • Be wary of giving the experience so much power that you become a permanent victim.
  • Consider seeking professional help to work through your resentment.
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