Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘dying’

Death Like the Old Movies

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

I wish death happened like it used to in the old movies. You know, those deathbed scenes were everyone gathers around, makes amends, say their good-byes, and drift off with visions of God and the angels dancing in their eyes. But it rarely does. Deathbed conversions are few and far between.

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When death approaches, or has taken place, most people live their faith, their beliefs (or their disbelief) in a God, or the hereafter, the same as they have the rest of their lives. If they believe in some creative force that is more than what we can see, they continue to do so through sickness and loss. If they believe God has a plan for everything that happens, and that Jesus is their savior, they continue to do so until their dying breath. If someone feels that there is no God, supreme being or spiritual meaning for anything on earth, they hold on to that belief after their loved one’s body is buried deep in the ground.

A friend once told me, as their mother was dying, that no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t make herself believe the same as her mother had all her life. She desperately wished she could. She wanted to understand and connect with her mother before she passed on in a way she had never been able to. She said that for awhile she pretended to believe as her mother had, but she knew she was pretending. She even went to her mother’s church and read the same readings and scriptures, without any change of heart.

A client I met with for several months repeatedly expressed her frustration that her husband had never believed in God. She couldn’t understand how he had gone to his death without accepting God into his life. For over forty years she had tried to convert him and get him to go to church, always believing that someday he would see the spiritual light.

A member of my family had an understandably difficult time when my uncle killed himself, and sincerely worried about his soul, wondering if he was suffering as much after death as he had during life. They prayed that God would forgive my uncle and provide the serenity that had always seemed to be just beyond his reach. The only way they could make sense out of the tragedy was to believe that he was “in a better place”. They had always believed that God provides happiness and peace, and used that faith to provide personal comfort, safety and meaning.

Belief in God, a Great Spirit, Nature, Jesus, or some other religion or spiritual path, doesn’t mean that people don’t question, argue, bargain or get angry with that in which they believe.

A colleague of mine was enraged when her daughter was killed in a car accident. She felt like her religious tradition had lied to her. “How could a loving God let such a bad thing happen to such an innocent child?! How could He take her at such a young age?!” She still believed in God, but couldn’t make sense out of what had happened. “Somebody was responsible for this!” she said. “There has to be a reason!” She prayed to God for an answer. “But all I could hear was myself talking to the empty air,” she explained. “It took me years of asking ‘why’, begging for an answer, before God gave me the strength and understanding to live with not knowing.”

Another client blamed God for allowing her abusive ex-husband to survive and live with his alcoholism, while her hard-working, kind friend died from liver cancer. She overflowed with unanswerable questions. “Why didn’t that son-of-a-you-know-what get this awful disease instead? Why does my friend have to deal with this? What did she ever do? Why? Why? Why?” Her friend continued to work as long as possible, and remained true to her sweet loving self until her death a year and a half later.

As in most sweeping statements of finality there are exceptions. Occasionally someone reacts to death and loss differently than they have lived the rest of their lives.

A woman I interviewed a few years ago said she made a bargain with God and it changed her life. As the car she was driving hit a side rail on the freeway, and begin rolling over and over she said, “God, if you let me live to raise my young son I’ll dedicate my life to you.” She had never believed in God and didn’t know where that had come from, but she said she heard a voice answer her that said, “Yes”. She survived the accident, continued raising her son as a single parent, and never forgot her promise. Though she had always seen herself as a selfish person, she started thinking of others and became involved in a number of charities. When her son was killed ten years later she never wavered from her promise and used her son’s death to inspire her to do even more of “God’s work”.

Death and grief can crack open our hearts. They can change our perceptions of how we see the world. They can wake us up to the reality of pain and suffering in ways that we never thought possible. Within the midst of such grief and pain we can reach out for comfort, look within for guidance, and find compassion and forgiveness from our religion, community or sense of personal responsibility.

Mourning can be a catalyst for clarifying our values and deepening our understanding, but it doesn’t mean we will throw our beliefs out the window or change our spiritual faith. We need not despair over our usual conditioned human response to loss. There’s always an old movie with a good deathbed scene we can find at the video store, take home and imagine ourselves saying our good-byes, making last minute amends and being carried off to the heavens!

More support and stories at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

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A Woman’s Own Way

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

“Emotional, tearful, talkative, weak, dependent, scattered, illogical, over-reacting, out of control and hysterical.” These are some of the judgments and labels that women are painted with when they react to the loss of a loved one.

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Some times women (and men) do react to a sudden or expected death with a great deal of emotion and cry, talk, scream, wail and/or moan. Thank goodness that they do, for by doing so they are teachers for both sexes of how to honor and acknowledge a natural, human response to loss. If people are not allowed to “let go”, “collapse” or “lose it” after the death of a loved one, when on earth can they? When is there ever a better time to release the anguish and pain of having someone or a number of people ripped out of your life?

There is nothing inherently “weak” in allowing the true depths of our suffering to surface. It takes strength to allow oneself to be vulnerable and honest. It takes incredible energy, support and awareness to do something that most Americans have pathologized, minimized or tried at all costs to “get over”. Yet, more often than not, women are the pioneers in taking this journey of mourning, of walking through the valley, stepping on the sharp rocks and finding their way back to life; often with a new found respect and appreciation for the preciousness of life.

In some cultures, both here and abroad, there are women who are the “designated mourners” at funerals, and are the ones that show up at families’ homes when there has been a death. They hold a place of honor in their communities, because of their ability to connect with, hold and release the individual, and the communal pain of loss and separation that has occurred. Like midwives at births, these women are held in high esteem, as strong, aware healers who have their feet planted solidly on the earth, while their hearts compassionately open to both the suffering and the pain.

We, as a society, have slowly begun to recognize the power of grief and mourning and are starting to realize that such reactions are normal, for both women and men, and that to not have such outward or visible reactions to loss is also an acceptable way to mourn.

Because of past conditioning by families, institutions and media, women have often bought into the stereotypes of how they should or shouldn’t grieve and mourn. If they aren’t crying, sad, depressed or screaming after the death of a loved one, they often think something is wrong, that they’re “weird” or “abnormal”.

Just as there is wide variance in men, with regards to how we react, process and think about loss, so to for women. There are no universal women, or universal men with exact, programmed responses to life and death. There are countless ways in which we mourn. How we react to loss is the outcome of hundreds of factors, including, but not limited to, our relationship with the deceased; how long we’ve known them; how we have dealt with past crisis; how old we are; how they died; whether we were with them or not at the time of death; how we were told of their death; what kind of support system we have or don’t have; other responsibilities; financial or health concerns; what our belief systems are; and the messages we have received from others on what is or is not acceptable.

I have met women who were in great turmoil because they were not proceeding as “planned” by their and/or others’ expectations of when, how and where they should be at a given time, in regards to their grieving or reactions to the loss of a loved one.

One woman had not cried since the death of her father six months previous. She thought something was “wrong” with her. Yet, after describing everything she had had to do in the last six months, and the kind of relationship she had with her father, she realized that she had been doing just what she needed to do in order to survive and function. Once she was acknowledged and validated for doing what she needed to do, in the way she needed to do it, she was then able to acknowledge and express her conflicted emotions without fear of judgment or “being crazy”.

Another women said she never mourned or cried for her sister, whom she had loved dearly. Upon further reflection she realized that she thought about her sister every day when she jogged and was inspired by her sister’s life to continue teaching and helping others learn.

And some women (and men) tend to avoid their grief and pain by avoiding such emotions as much as possible. They stay busy, work twelve-hour days, drink excessively and/or use drugs. They jump from one relationship into another, and/or become so focused on a particular goal or activity that they are, for a time, able to compartmentalize, push aside, numb out or ignore the feelings, thoughts and impacts of having someone die.

These are all natural reactions to pain, to not wanting to hurt. Usually, however, such reactions end up causing more complications and don’t take away or change the pain of loss that remains.

I would ask that you take a moment to think about women. Think about their personalities, differences, relationships and families; how they interact with others; how they mourn and see themselves. Ask them which roles, lifestyles and behaviors they feel have been imposed or expected of them, and which ones they have chosen or made their own. They may be emotional, stoic, afraid, silent, loud, tearful, strong, confused, clueless, aware, insightful, isolated or social. They may be your partner, your sister, your mother, your grandchild, grandmother, aunt, colleague or friend. I invite you to see and treat each one as unique, creative human beings, who have the right, the power and the prerogative to deal with and react to life and death on their own terms.

More support and stories at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Faces of Syrian Refugee Crisis

CARE President Dr. Helene D. Gayle Sees Faces of Syrian Refugee Crisis in Jordan: Leader of global humanitarian organization visits CARE’s work, meets Jordan’s Queen Rania and Prime Minister
From CARE.org

AMMAN (Oct. 2, 2013) – CARE President and CEO Helene D. Gayle visited Jordan this week to see firsthand the poverty-fighting organization’s work with Syrian refugees and meet senior national leaders and officials.

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Over half a million Syrians who fled their homeland now live in safe but difficult circumstances in Jordan. And while the public image of the crisis may be that of refugee camps, the vast majority of refugees — 75 percent in Jordan — live outside of camps, struggling to survive in poorer areas of cities. In these urban centers, CARE is helping refugees with emergency cash assistance for shelter, food, and medical care, provision of information on available services, case management and referral services.

“This is the world’s largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide, and yet, in a way, it’s almost invisible,” said Gayle. “But here in the poorest neighborhoods of Amman and other cities of Jordan, inside squalid apartments, seeing the faces of this crisis is unavoidable and shocking. More often than not, they are the faces of mothers and children in desperate living conditions.”

The refugee crisis began in spring 2011, when civil war broke out in Syria. As bombings and shootings escalated, more than 2 million people escaped to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. At least three-quarters of the refugees are women and children.

Gayle was particularly moved by Rawda, a Syrian widow who lost her husband in a bomb blast and now is struggling to care for five young children, including a seven-year-old son unable to walk after being injured by a bomb in Syria. “The situation of the people I’ve met is overwhelming. There are mothers and children who have witnessed their husbands or fathers dying in their arms,” Gayle said.

Soaring prices for food, electricity, and rent have swiftly impoverished hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Many refugees are not legally allowed to work in their host countries, so once their savings are gone, they face destitution.

Donor response, however, has not matched the scale of the humanitarian crisis. As of Oct. 2, the UN-led appeal of $4.4 billion is only at 49 percent funded. And CARE has secured less than 25 percent of the anticipated $50 million in funding needed for its life-saving response.

Nonetheless, CARE is scaling up. In Jordan, CARE’s cash grant program gives Syrian and Iraqi families emergency funds to meet urgent needs. CARE is providing life-saving services to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon and to people affected by the crisis in Syria. As the conflict escalates, CARE is also starting activities in Egypt and Yemen to help Syrian refugees there. CARE is impartial and neutral. Our support to families affected by the crisis in Syria is based on humanitarian needs alone, no matter people’s religion, political affiliation or ethnicity.

Gayle met with Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis as well as the long-term women’s empowerment programs that CARE runs in Jordan. Gayle recognized the generosity of Jordan in hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees. She repeated that message in a separate meeting with Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, where discussions focused on how groups such as CARE can best help in a coordinated refugee response.

For all the challenges, Dr. Gayle said she was also left with a sense of hope while talking to refugees. “I see so much strength in women like Rawda. Even as she struggles to feed her own children, she managed to find a way to enroll them in school. I was truly moved by her resilience and determination.”

About CARE: Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience delivering emergency aid during times of crisis. Our emergency responses focus on the needs of the most vulnerable populations, particularly girls and women. Last year CARE worked in 84 countries and reached more than 83 million people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org.

Cubs Swimming To Death

Dear Gabriel,

A few days ago, my colleague Heather sent you an online-photo gallery in honor of International Polar Bear Day, Wednesday, February 27th. One of the photos really broke my heart. It was this one here: a mother swimming with her cubs. It broke my heart because so many polar bear cubs die in long distance swims like this one — as many as 45% in one observational study.

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This photo was a vivid example to me of the real impact of climate change.

Please make an emergency donation of $15 or more today to support our work to save these threatened Polar Bears.

At an alarming rate, global warming is melting the Arctic sea ice that polar bears depend on to hunt for food … threatening this noble Arctic creature with extinction.

Here are the sobering facts:

According to experts, two-thirds of the world’s polar bear populations could be lost by mid-century as sea ice continues to retreat.

Less Arctic sea ice forced 40% more Alaskan polar bear moms to den on land — away from food sources.

As sea ice disappears, bear mortality rises. In the Beaufort Sea region about 1/3 fewer polar bear cubs are surviving their first year of life.

The last ten years (2004 to 2013) have seen the ten lowest January sea ice extents (total area covered by sea ice) on the record.

Gabriel, we we urgently need your help to continue the fight to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change and save irreplaceable wildlife and their habitats.

Donate as little as $15 today to support our work will help make sure that our beloved wildlife can continue to be found in the wild, and NOT just in nature photographs.

Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Emily Stevenson
Manager, Online Membership
Environmental Defense Fund

U.S. Healthcare Near the Bottom

U.S. Healthcare Worse Than Almost All Other Industrialized Countries
by Carey L. Brown
Inter Press Service/Nation of Change
11 January 2013

U.S. citizens suffer from poorer health than nearly all other industrialized countries, according to the first comprehensive government analysis on the subject, released Wednesday.

Of 17 high-income countries looked at by a committee of experts sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the United States is at or near the bottom in at least nine indicators.

These include infant mortality, heart and lung disease, sexually transmitted infections, and adolescent pregnancies, as well as more systemic issues such as injuries, homicides, and rates of disability.

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Together, such issues place U.S. males at the very bottom of the list, among those countries, for life expectancy; on average, a U.S. male can be expected to live almost four fewer years than those in the top-ranked country, Switzerland. U.S. females fare little better, ranked 16th out of the 17 high-income countries under review.

“We were stunned by the propensity of findings all on the negative side – the scope of the disadvantage covers all ages, from babies to seniors, both sexes, all classes of society,” Steven H. Woolf, a professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University and chair of the panel that wrote the report, told IPS.

“It’s unclear whether some of these patterns will be experienced by other countries in the years to come, but developing countries will undoubtedly begin facing some of these issues as they take on more habits similar to the United States. Currently, however, even countries in the developing world are outpacing the U.S. in certain outcomes.”

Although the new findings offer a uniquely comprehensive view of the problem, the fact is that U.S. citizens have for decades been dying at younger ages than those in nearly all other industrialized countries. The committee looked at data going back to the 1970s to note that such a trend has been worsening at least since then, with women particularly affected.

“A particular concern with these findings was about adolescents, about whom we document very serious issues that, again, stand out starkly from other counties,” Woolf says.

Beyond insurance

The unusually high levels of population who lack health insurance in the U.S. would certainly seem to be one factor at work here. In 2010, some 50 million people, around 16 percent of the population, were uninsured – a massive proportion compared with the rest of the world’s high-income countries.

Of course, after a rancorous debate and more than a decade of political infighting, in 2010 President Barack Obama did succeed in putting in place broad legislation that will bring the number of uninsured in the United States down significantly.

Further, Obama’s winning of a second term in office, coupled with a recent decision by the Supreme Court, will now undercut most attempts by critics to roll back Obama’s new health-care provisions.

And yet, according to the new findings, the insurance issue has relatively little impact on the overall state of poor health in the United States. (In fact, those 75 years old or more can expect to live longer than those in other countries, a clear indication of the tremendous money and effort that has gone into end-of-life care.)

“Even advantaged Americans – those who are white, insured, college-educated, or upper income – are in worse health than similar individuals in other countries,” the report states. Likewise, “Americans who do not smoke or are not overweight also appear to have higher rates of disease than similar groups in peer countries.”

Indeed, some of the few categories in which U.S. citizens are found to do better than their peers in other countries include smoking less tobacco and drinking less alcohol. They also appear to have gained greater control over their cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

At the same time, people in the United States have begun to suffer inordinately from a host of other problems that can contribute to a spectrum of additional health concerns.

Sky-high obesity rates, for instance, are undergirded by findings that people in the U.S. on average consume more calories per person than in other countries, as well as analysis that suggest that the U.S. physical environment in recent decades has been built around the automobile rather than the pedestrian.

Health disadvantage

Confusingly, people in the United States not only record far lower health indicators on average when compared to other high-income countries, but also score far lower on seemingly unrelated issues related to environmental safety – for instance, experiencing inordinate numbers of homicide and car accidents.

The committee clearly had trouble putting together these seemingly disparate datasets.

“No single factor can fully explain the U.S. health disadvantage,” the report states. “More likely, the U.S. health disadvantage has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions.”

According to Samuel Preston, a demographer and fellow committee member, “The bottom line is that we are not preventing damaging health behaviors. You can blame that on public health officials or on the health care system … but put it all together and it is creating a very negative portrait.”

Read entire article and other stories at Nation of Change.

Grief’s Wake Up Call

Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.
by Gabriel Constans

Events that can and often do, devastate us emotionally, can also be used for personal transformation and growth. Some individuals find hope and opportunity in the midst of adversity. They reach out to help others find comfort and healing. Some succeed to change laws, institutions, policies and assumptions.

Meet Leah Rabin, Le Ly Hayslip, Maggie and Reg Green, Jeanne White, Hazel Johnson, Lee Mun Wah, Nane Alejandrez, Candace Lightner and others, to discover how they have found strength, courage and sheer tenacity to overcome the worst that can happen and use it as a catalyst to rediscover them selves and help others in the process.

What People have been saying about Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!:

“In Don’t Just Sit There, we have the privilege of listening to these inspiring people as they tell us what they have endured and how. These are lessons on living that come direct from experience, lessons we all need. I hope this book reaches many, touching hearts and infusing us all with its wisdom.”
Ellen Bass, co-author of The Courage to Heal

“A deeply moving work … highly recommended for hospice workers, grief counselors, and ministers and as a powerful affirmation for life.”
NAPRA ReView

“Gabriel Constans searches out the key to living after a loss by interviewing survivors who use a variety of activities to cope with a death … this book is an inspiration to both the bereaved and those who support them.”
Lynne Ann DeSpelder, author of The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying

Please consider a copy for yourself, family member or friend at Fast Pencil Publishing.

CEU’s For Grief & Loss

If you or someone you know, needs Continuing Education Credit (CEUs), please consider my classes at Quantum Units Education Online.

Quantum Units Continuing Education offers Free Online Continuing Education CEU materials and Free Online Continuing Education CEU testing 24/7. QUANTUM CEU Courses are affordable and of superior quality. CEUs are approved for the following Licensees:

Social Work CEUs: LCSW, ASW, MSW, MFT CEUs: pre-MFT CEUs, MFCC, LMFT, Nursing CEUs: RN, LVN, CNA, PT, OT, LPC CEUs: LMHC,LPCC, Mental Health Counselors, NCC, MAC, Addiction and Substance Abuse Counselor CEUs: LADC, CAC, CSAC, CADC, CATC, CADDTP, FACT and CEUs for many more licensees!

Gabriel’s courses at Quantum United Education Online.

Complicated Grief

This course provides personal and professional information, testimonies and time-tested tools for healthy ways to cope and adjust to life after sudden and/or violent loss. It looks at the reality of sudden loss with perspective and insight, including the author’s (Dr. Gabriel Constans) personal experiences, as well as his clients and colleagues, who have been walking, crawling and sometimes running in the midst of sudden, unexpected, often horrific circumstances. SIGN UP

Grief and Depression

This short course discusses the differences and interrelationships between Grief and Depression according to the DSM-IV. This is another course in a series on Grief and Loss by Dr. Gabriel Constans. SIGN UP

Men and Grief

This course explores the different ways in which men react to and heal from grief and sadness. The course weaves in the complex web of biology and environment to illuminate how and why men may respond differently than women, as well as how their responses are similar. By exploring some of the different and similar emotional responses and their roots, the hope is to be better able to support one another through painful times. SIGN UP

Read more about these courses at www.gogabriel.com

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