Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘grieve’

It’s No Big Deal

GoodGrief_180WFrom Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

“What are you so upset about? It was only your ex-husband.”

“Come on, get over it. You can always get another cat.”

“Hey, you hadn’t seen your friend in years anyway.”

“They were drunk half the time. Who cares?”

“It’s not the same as being married. You just lived together.”

“You only knew them for two months!”

“Weren’t they old? They lived a long life.”

“No, you can’t come to the funeral. You aren’t part of the family.”

These are just some of the comments that people hear, and a small sampling of how their grief is disregarded, after they’ve had a friend, acquaintance or family member die. The losses they have experienced don’t match the images of who and what is acceptable to grieve in our society. And it’s not just others that cause such pain. We are often our harshest critics. We internalize the conscious and unconscious messages we are fed daily and are often confused with the intensity of our emotions and reactions after a death, when our head is telling us we should not be feeling much at all.

Our response to any kind of loss, especially from death, is our bodies natural reaction to the human condition, even though we analyze it, distrust it and, at times, find it hard to believe.

“Why am I getting so upset over my ex-husband’s death? We never got along and I’ve been better off without him.”

No matter what the relationship was like, it was a relationship. There were attachments, habits and shared time that will always effect one’s life. For some, the never-ending hope of reconciliation will have died as well.

“It was only a cat. I know it’s not the same as a person.”

Your cat or pet was a living creature. We can grow just as accustomed and fond of an animal as we can with a human. The same kind of attachments and memories occur.

“We were best friends during high school, but that was ages ago.”

Some friends stay with us forever, whether we see them often or rarely at all. The time we spend together can leave us with lasting imprints, influences and memories, as well as regrets, bitterness or pain.

“This is crazy. His drinking ruined our family and our lives. He was mean and abusive. Why is his death so hard? I thought I’d be relieved.”

Even abusive, negative relationships can cause unexpected mixtures of emotion. Though we may have separated ourselves from the individual, and learned how to fend for ourselves or are still in contact, there is usually some deep feelings of loss over the years that they were not the parent or partner we had wished for. The realization that they have died can also awaken the fact that the opportunity for them to change or be different has died as well.

“We were only housemates. It wasn’t like we were married or anything.”

Whether as a friend, lover, roommate or relative, living in the same household is one of the most intense experiences in our lives. It’s where we learn how to interact with others and provides daily reminders of our differences and similarities. Whether two people living in the same household have their arrangement sanctioned or accepted by others does nothing to diminish the powerful lessons and connections that develop. We are intimately shaped, both good and bad, by those with whom we live.

“I just met them two months ago, but I can’t stop thinking about them.”

The length or duration of a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that it is of greater or lesser importance or impact. Some people we’ve known for years, yet have little connection, do not effect us deeply upon their passing, whereas others we’ve just met leave lasting footprints. The grief and mourning that result from the loss of a recent or longtime acquaintance is VERY individual and unique to that person, as are our needs in grieving their loss.

“Grandma was eighty-five years old. I knew she wouldn’t last forever, but it feels so sudden. I loved her so much.”

The longer someone you know lives, the harder it can be to accept the reality of their death. Even though you may have had time to prepare and say, and do what you needed or wanted to, it can still seem like it came too soon. There are times when no matter the person’s age, you want them to stay forever and their death is devastating.

“They never accepted me. I should have known this would happen.”

You have a right and a human need to attend the funeral and/or memorial of your partner. Your relationship with the deceased was between you and them, not their family or friends. How your relationship was seen or accepted by others is important in your adjusting to the loss, but not dependent upon it.

There are times when those you expect to be of help are not always able or willing to do so. For some, it is too painful. Others find it impossible to stop judging long enough to listen. When you can’t attend the funeral or memorial, due to the deceased’s family, distance or other circumstances, create your own ritual or ceremony of leave-taking. Invite those who will be present with you and share your loss.

Relationships with people and other living creatures are what make us human. It is normal to question, criticize and judge our selves after someone in our life has died. It is also normal to feel pain, frustration, anger, sadness, relief and confusion.

If you don’t get the kind of support and acknowledgment you need from family, friends or colleagues, then find it elsewhere. Don’t minimize, trivialize or try to forget your loss. Find ways to acknowledge, respect, honor and validate your experience and the reactions that have resulted.

Further reading and support at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Close to the Bone

“Let them go.” “Get over it.” “Move on.” “Pull yourself together.” “Quit living in the past.” “Look towards the future.” “You must find closure and carry on.”

Such common comments directed at the bereft send me up a wall and make me want to scream. And if it would do any good to scream at myself I would, because most of the time it’s my own mind that’s running these messages around in my head, bombarding me with what I should do. Sure, they’re reinforced by family, friends and society, especially the media, but it is I who soak it up, repeat it like a mantra and then beat myself up for not getting “over it” (my grief) quick enough. But the reality is, at least my reality is, that I have to remember. Remembering is the only thing that keeps me sane.

Remembering the dead is vital to our health. Keeping them with us, close to the bone, close to our hearts and minds, is the first step in transforming our past, so we can bring them with us into the future. Remembering is the road, the path, the catalyst that can teach us how to adjust to our loved one’s physical absence and live a life that has room for them and those who are living.

The Mexican Day of the Dead is one of many rituals and celebrations around the world and throughout the year, that invites us, as individuals and as part of the world community, to not forget our dead. It asks us to take a few days out of our hectic lives of planning, preparation, rebuilding and commotion to stop, reflect and embrace those from the past who have and continue to shape our lives.

As powerful as remembering can be, it is not enough to simply remember and tell our story. In order to bring those who have died in to our lives and use their memory for our own good and the good of others, we must release the emotions that assault us when we are reminded of their absence.

When I look at the picture of our friend Marcia, who died in a car accident, I cry. When my eyes go to the next picture of my Uncle Danny, who killed himself, I cry. When I see my father-in-law, Claude, who was hijacked by Alzheimer’s, I cry. Sometimes, in the midst of my tears, feelings of anger, guilt, frustration and helplessness crash land in my body. Once they are recognized, I cry some more and let them go.

In the past, during my morning ritual of remembering family members and friends, I often found myself grieving the loss of others as well; those who had been murdered, died in wars, starved to death, been crushed in earthquakes or swept away in floods. Now, I find I am crying for my uncle Danny and those crushed in Cambodia, for our friend Marcia and those killed by floods or violence in Pakistan, for my father-in-law Claude and those who perished in the latest mining disaster in the U.S. I am crying for their families, who have been thrown violently onto the gutted road of grief and mourning.

In this coming year, I hope I have enough room in my heart for all of those who have died and for those living. I hope I lead the kind of life that people who are gone no longer have the opportunity to live. I hope I can integrate death into life and use this precious container we call living to help others keep their loved ones present. I hope our world finds some meaning in the midst of such devastating losses and we discover how to remember, release and embrace our feelings of emptiness and helplessness with understanding, awareness and compassion.

I pray that we, as citizens of the world, never forget those who have died, release the pain we feel with their absence and tenaciously hold on to them in any damn way we choose.

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