Angels exist everywhere, and if you’ve ever been touched by one, you’ll agree. This story out of Milford, OH will touch you like none other. I certainly hope each of us meets an angel like the one portrayed in this brief story. If you’re having a not so great day or week, this angel is sure to improve your outlook.
This fabulous article really captures the essence of what those grieving need from those with whom they’re acquainted. It also helps those uncomfortable with the topic of death to understand that there are many ways to lighten the emotional load for the person who is grieving.
The 11th suggestion I would offer is this: If you’re with someone who has recently suffered a loss and you don’t know what to say; you feel any words you offer couldn’t possibly make a difference; offer a hug. Your sincere intentions will transfer to them and just might provide them with the assurance that you acknowledge their grief and want them to know that they are not alone. Thank you Howard Whitman for offering this article to us.
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Keys to Happiness, an anthology of articles published in 1954.
Most of us want to be helpful when grief strikes a friend, but often we don’t know how. We may end up doing nothing because we don’t know the right — and helpful — things to say and do. Because that was my own experience recently, I resolved to gather pointers which might be useful to others as well as myself.
Ministers, priests, and rabbis deal with such situations every day. I went to scores of them, of all faiths, in all parts of the country.
Here are some specific suggestions they made:
1. Don’t try to “buck them up.”
This surprised me when the Rev. Arthur E. Wilson of Providence, RI mentioned it. But the others concurred. It only makes your friend feel worse when you say, “Come now…
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.
Perhaps you read the brief title of my article and before delving into its content you’re wondering: The morning after a night of drinking? The morning after doing something regretful – perhaps synonymous with the previous question? The morning after a horrific news event?
None of the above. In the attached article, a fellow blogger writes about his experience of waking up the day after his wife passed away; a day in which he felt the full impact of the loss of his wife and the cessation of his role as her caregiver – his identity for so many years.
Unless, and until, you experience this type of blurry identity, you can’t fully understand the feeling. Those of you who devoted any amount of time caring for a loved one prior to their death understand all too well the emptiness and lack of purpose that oftentimes follows the end of the caregiving journey.
I was the long-distance caregiver for my father after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He lived in a memory care unit of a Southern Oregon continuing care retirement community (CCRC) while I commuted from Seattle by plane, by telephone, and by 24/7 worrying and thinking. By choice, I left my full-time job and for the next four years, dedicated my time to managing his care and being the primary on-site visitor. Many of you worked full-time at your “real” job while being a caregiver for a loved one and I respect and honor you for somehow juggling all of those responsibilities. I knew my limitations, however, and reached that limit quite early in the process. The emotional and physical toll of caregiving was more than I was capable of handling on top of my other job, so with my husband’s blessing and encouragement, we did without my financial contributions while I carried on as my father’s care person.
After my father’s October 13, 2007 death at the age of 89, I returned to Seattle having spent the last hours of my father’s life at his bedside; then several days wrapping matters up with the funeral home; with the bank trustee, and with the facility in which he had lived for close to thirteen years. Although there would be many weeks of tying up loose ends upon my return home to the Seattle area, I was effectively unemployed – laid off from a job to which I was extraordinarily committed. As the blogger in the attached article mentioned – those in this position wake up the day after, and the day after the day after, feeling as though they have lost their purpose. Additionally, the identity which defined them for several years no longer applies.
Grieving and re-purposing our lives can take place during this time, a process which may take months or years; a process that is as individual and unique as ones fingerprint. As the blogger wrote in his article, he appears to be transitioning in a way that utilizes his years of being the primary caregiver and advocate for his wife. He’s recreating his working life; reshaping it to fit the caregiver role in which he flourished. Like this blogger, I too quite naturally segued into employment positions in which I could continue on the path that I had started years earlier with my father: elder advocacy, Alzheimer’s Association volunteerism, and most recently, putting all of those past and present experiences down on paper in the form of a novel.
But that is not necessarily the norm. Some of you may have felt the need to totally disassociate from anything remotely related to the caregiving or care managing roles. I understand that decision and I agree 100% that it’s the right thing for you to do. Again – how we recover and/or regenerate after the caregiving experience is a distinctive aspect of our ongoing lives. What we do have in common, however, is that we have all experienced the morning after the end of our caregiving journey. Whether we’re relieved, angered, aggrieved, or a combination thereof – the morning after is unavoidable.
In closing, I want to celebrate you – the caregiver heroes who are ordinary people, who did the ordinary right thing, at an extraordinary time. You are a hero to many, and you are a hero to me.
Grief – when one experiences a loss, there is no way around this emotion. It has no clearly defined end. It manifests itself differently for every individual. The writer of the above article shares the personal side of how this emotion presented itself in his own life in this continuation of his series of articles on grief.
This “personal snapshot” is a follow up to his first article in the series that addressed an event in ones life for which everyone’s grieving experience takes on a slightly different character. I hope you’ll read the article attached above, and his previous article – also available on his website.