grief and loss
Fellow blogger, Kathy, has been struggling with the challenge of living her life without her mom who died from pancreatic cancer several years ago. In the About section of her Blog, Kathy says: “On 12/4/2007 my dad said four words that would forever change my life. ‘Mom has pancreatic cancer.’ I lost my mom to this dreaded disease 348 days later.”
Learning how to live in the present while still mourning a death can be a very difficult matter. Oftentimes we have the need to keep a person’s memory alive by reliving the journey that lead up to the death; ruminating over the whirlwind of activity after the death; and getting stuck right there – either not willing to go beyond that, or simply not having the ability to do so.
The following are very valuable statements: “You’ll get over the sadness eventually. It’ll eventually hurt less. But you have to get beyond where you are, because that’s what your mother would have wanted.”
Those are very true and worthwhile words, but if we’re not ready to hear them, they provide little benefit – at least initially. Am I faulting the person making those statements when he or she did? Absolutely not. What I am saying, however, is that when we’re ready to truly hear those words, we will. We’ll then be able to believe those words, and we’ll be able to practice those words. It’s like having one of those moments that Oprah Winfrey calls, “An aha! moment.” That’s what appears to have happened to Kathy.
Has this ever happened to you? An acquaintance pours her heart out to you; asks for encouragement, advice, etc. and you provide compassion, suggestions, beautiful nuggets of advice, etc., and weeks, or months go by, wherein the acquaintance appears to be stuck in their dilemma, evidently ignoring your well-meaning words, and then – out of the blue – your friend calls you…(you fill in the blanks as to the situation – in this example, the person in need had been having relationship struggles)
Irene, you’ll never believe what just happened! You know I’ve been in a funk because of my relationship challenges, right? Just the other day I poured my heart out to someone on the bus and she suggested I do the following…
It turns out that this bus stranger told her exactly what you told her two months ago. Are you offended? Of course you are – it’s happened to me and I’ve wanted to say, “Well duh – where have I heard that advice before?” The key isn’t whose advice finally got through to her; the key is that the good advice finally got through to her. Time for me to swallow my pride, tamp down my ego, and celebrate this friend’s good news.
Kathy – I celebrate with you that the right words came at the right time for you, and you are now able to take steps towards living in the present. You’re learning how to celebrate your mother while still missing her greatly. Three cheers for Denise for saying what she did when she did, and three cheers for you for having the ears, and a good and ready heart, to hear it.
In the article linked above, a fellow blogger provides an exquisite sampling of the types of circumstances some life journeyers may be going through resultant from losses that have placed them in a difficult transitionary time in their lives.
Chances are all of us will experience more than one of the transitions that Don frames in this article that so delicately – and movingly – touches on the topic of grief and loss that occur when “first” occasions without someone come around on the calendar.
May all of you receive the comfort you need during the “first” times on your grief journey.
Sit down some day and take the time to write down as many experiences of loss that you can recall during your lifetime. Quite naturally, you will list times of grief resultant from a death in the family, grave illness, and the like. But there are other losses that we experience that can have just as much of an impact on our lives. The end of a marriage is one of those.
The article linked above does a great job at shining the spotlight on the loss that is experienced when a marriage ends through divorce. Even if both parties to the marriage come to a mutual decision on the matter, the parties oftentimes enter a period of mourning. Understandably they feel a certain sense of relief at the conclusion of the divorce process, but a feeling of loss becomes a very unexpected part of their lives going forward.
My thanks to this Blogger for giving couples permission to acknowledge the loss they are feeling at the dissolution of their marriage – even one for which they were both on board.
You know how people sometimes say, “I’m tall, because I got all the extra height that no one else got in my family,” or “Everyone else got the smarts in the family – I got what was left over.”
Well, for me, I think I received all the leftover emotions and feelings of every person born on May 18, 1953 because I have such deep feelings about all that goes on around me. I’m delighted that I’m sensitive, yet I’m aggrieved as well.
How does this trait manifest itself in my life?
I can’t readily clear my mind when disturbing global or local events occur because I’m wondering how those affected are doing.
How are the survivors of a mass murder handling the mundane task of waking up each morning and putting one foot in front of the other?
How does a mother carry on after burying her child who was killed in the same car accident she was in when, through no fault of her own, a semi-truck lost its brakes and careened into her little Volkswagen?
How can anyone claim victory when a bomb takes out some enemy insurgents, and in doing so, innocent men, women, and children lose their lives?
I know I’m no different than you. I’m certainly not special; many people experience feelings deeply. But sometimes for me, it gets in the way of rational behavior, manifested in the following way:
When I say something to someone, I rethink and rethink, and rethink yet again whether or not I said it the right way, or with the right voice.
Or knowing that I’ll be having an important conversation with someone, I might even practice saying what needs to be said prior to offering my thoughts to someone else – and God help me, sometimes I even write it down.
Arrrggggh! That was certainly something I inherited from my father – God rest his soul. In my eyes, my father had the quintessential talent of preparing his words in such a way as to make the greatest positive impact on others. Regrettably, it’s that attention to detail that sometimes gets in the way of spontaneity.
And sometimes, even when I’m convinced that what I’ve done or said is correct, I’m still very hard on myself, feeling that I’ve done or said something wrong, even when what I was trying to do was something right.
Maya Angelou has a wonderful saying that Oprah Winfrey often borrows:
“When you know better, you do better.”
Which I’ll take a step further:
When you do the best you can – with what you know – you’ve done the best you can.
I’ll take comfort in that statement and continue to be the sensitive, somewhat paranoid, person that I am. For the most part it has worked for me, but more importantly, I hope it has worked for others.