These Times

What Are You Feeling?

These are unprecedented times of pandemic, wild fires, hurricanes, racial tension and political uncertainty. We experience so many emotions at the same time and we wonder how to deal with any one of them. Perhaps one way to sort out our feelings is to realize that we are enduring profound grief. We are Grieving the loss of normalcy that is missing in our lives.

Most of us are familiar with the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Do any of these sound like what you are feeling? I believe we are encountering profound grief at this time. We do not have to experience a loss through death in order to undergo these emotions. https://crookedcreek.live/2018/12/10/grief/

Any loss can cause some or all of these emotions in any order. It is not unreasonable to feel anger when unable to go out to eat in a restaurant or to enjoy a big family get-together. If is very natural to be depressed when unable to hug your loved ones for months on end. These are normal feelings and we are normal having them, but it does not mean it is easy.

Hopefully just recognizing the grief for what it is will be of some help. Acknowledging rather than denying may help us to feel more normal. Accepting the abnormal might mean realizing that it is temporary and that there will be normalcy once again at sometime in the future.

In the meantime, explore your feelings by making a list of that has changed. This may put things into a different perspective. We may realize that there have been gains as well as losses.

LOSTGAINED
Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.” Marcel Proust

Personal Grief

We Will All Grieve

By adulthood, most people have experienced loss that triggers grief. If you have yet to lose a person or something that means the world to you, then you are probably very young and certainly very lucky. 

Facing loss of another or one’s own approaching death will bring on an overabundance of feelings. Some of these feelings we discussed earlier from Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s book “On Death and Dying.” 

These feelings are especially likely to fall on the anniversary of a loss. It might be the actual date but it might also occur on the day of the week or a day that is similar in weather or season. Unexpected grief can be triggered by sounds, smells or sights such as a bird, a flag or a similar face. In these cases, grief comes even on a good day.

Holidays

The holiday season which we are facing now can be particularly painful following a loss.  While there is no single solution some ways that one can prepare or minister to self include the following:

  1. It is okay to say, “No” to invitations and to spend some time alone. Likewise, it is okay to join friends and family and to enjoy oneself even while grieving.
  2. Be honest with those who want to help you and let them know your needs. 
  3. Get enough rest, exercise and a well-balanced diet. Physical wellbeing is necessary for emotional strength. 
  4. Recognize that grief is not an obstacle but a necessary process. It is not an illness to be healed. 
  5. Consult your spiritual mentor or a professional counselor. 
  6. Prepare a way for your loved one to be memorialized such as a special candle or ornament in their honor.
  7. Take advantage of support groups such as those listed below. Often funeral homes offer such services, too.  

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Resources: 

GreifShare (church related) https://www.griefshare.org

Soaring Spirits International (for widowers) https://www.soaringspirits.org

Compassionate Friends (after the loss of a child) https://www.compassionatefriends.org

Hospice https://hospicefoundation.org/End-of-Life-Support-and-Resources/Grief-Support/Support-Groups

Pet Loss – Humane Society or http://www.petloss.com

“The flowers bloom, then wither . . . the stars shine and one day become extinct. .  This earth, the sun, the galaxies and even the big universe someday will be destroyed . . . Compared with that, the human life is only a blink, just a little time . . In that short time, the people are born, laugh, cry, fight, are injured, feel joy, sadness, hate someone, love someone. All in just a moment. And then, are embraced by the eternal sleep called death.”  Virgo Shaka (Saint Seya)

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Grief – Comforting Others

Most people struggle with confronting a friend or a loved one who is grieving. Attending a funeral or visitation is usually a dreaded event and often our biggest concern is what to say. Most of us know that a grieving person needs rest, food and other practical gifts such as child or pet care. What we are less prepared for is personal interaction, so we are going to look at some guidelines that I hope prove helpful. 

What Not to Say

Of course, the following list will not include every possible thing one can say wrong to the person who is in grief, but it might be the top six. 

  1. Everything happens for a reason. This platitude is not helpful. You may believe this, but it doesn’t make it so. More importantly, it makes the person who has suffered a loss feel as though they have been targeted. It delays essential grief because it seems as though one should be not only accepting of their loss but grateful for it. It is cruel to say, “Everything happens for a reason.”
  2. God needed an angel in heaven.
    God needed an angel
  3. Be thankful you have other children. Saying this negates the loss of a child. Each son or daughter in a family has their own special place. A parent who loses one child is already thankful for their other children without your reminder. 
  4. He/She lived a good long life. The survivor knows this without being told. Their challenge is to figure out how to live without them.
  5. You are young, you can have another child or you can marry again. People we love are not replaceable. 
  6. Call if you need anything. They won’t. They need many things, but if you are too unimaginative to offer something specific you are not helpful. 

What to Say 

  1. Nothing, just be present, with a hand clasp or hug as appropriate with this particular individual. Do not run away and add to the feeling of abandonment.
  2. Some cliques are okay if you feel you must say something, e.g., “I’m sorry” or “I care.”
  3. Something practical and specific like: “I’ve made your dinner,” “I’ll keep the kids tomorrow,” “I’ll walk the dog daily this week.”
  4. The name of the deceased, Contrary to what you might believe it does not cause added sadness. One fear of a survivor is that their loved one will be forgotten. 
  5. I’ll be back. And, don’t forget to come back and ask how the grieving person is feeling. It is not a subject to avoid, but to embrace. Then listen. 

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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Death – Obituaries

Your Obituary

In our last post I asked you to consider writing your own obituary. I realize this exercise may be daunting for some. I recall teaching a class on “Death and Dying” in the community many years ago when one man, a church deacon in his 60s, was visibly upset by the prospect of writing about his own death. We become accustomed to employing diversionary tactics when thinking about dying. We talk about “passing away,” “going to sleep,” (which can frighten young children), “gone,” and of course that favorite one “if something happens.”  Acknowledging death is inevitable is not obsessing, but accepting it as part of the landscape, just as the seasons of the calendar, so are the seasons of life. It is my hope we will experience life more fully when we realize it is fleeting. 

I have not heard from anyone who worked on the suggested assignment, but if you did you may have looked for help on the Internet. There are countless sites offering advice or even templates so that you can just fill in the blanks. I am sure many are good sources, but one that impressed me with its variety of obituary types was https://www.obituaryhelp.net.  Some prefer to leave this task to funeral home personnel who have training and experience in the proper structure of obituaries. If a formal format is preferred, then providing the names, dates and personal information to the funeral home will be all that is required of the family when you die. Since obituaries should honor and reflect the life of the deceased, writing one’s own ahead of time might be more personal. This can be detailed or perhaps just a theme, special quotes or anecdotes you want included.

Some general guidelines for writing your own obituary include:

  • Write in the third person. 
  • Keep it short. Some obituaries are so long they are not likely to be read in their   entirety, if at all. Another reason to trim it down, is cost. Newspaper charges for this service are expensive.
  • The cause of death may or may not be included.
  • Keep your draft updated. It may be a good idea to add notes for your family as you think of things over time. 

Some Favorites

I have read obituaries for years and often been teased about this routine, long before I reached my current age, which is well within the obituary reading range. It isn’t so much I am looking for names I recognize, although that is part of it. I find obituaries to be interesting reading. It is true there are accounts of tragedies, infants and children, those who died without any “next of kin,” but there are also the ones that are inspiring or entertaining. At one time I had a collection of hundreds that were keepers and somewhere along the way they became lost or perhaps I became embarrassed, but now I only have a few dozen. One I no longer have referred to the deceased as having “Slipped the surly bonds of earth” and that line fascinated me so I did an Internet search and found it was from the poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr, “High Flight.”

Another newspaper page that I recall, but no longer have in my collection listed two separate obituaries that could only happen in Kentucky: both “Bubba” and “Buford” died the same day. A favorite from November 2016, has verses of songs interspersed throughout. These included the music of The Beatles, The Spinners, Poco and Steely Dan. The obituary itself is full of fun, travels and adventures of a 68-year-old.

Nicknames are sometimes fun to read while imagining their origins. Some I recall include:  Baldy, Tooter, Snuffy, Catfish, Peanut, Honest Frank, Blood and finally, Poboy & Buster for the same man. Curiously, of these clippings only two females had nicknames, Mu and Big Mama.

Looking Ahead

As you continue to work on your obituary please also think about your preferences for a memorial service or funeral considering music, speakers and perhaps who you would like to deliver a eulogy. Following those topics we will discuss disposal of remains and suicide in future posts. 

Eventually, grief will be discussed comprehensively, but we may decide to hold off and move on to lighter subjects for a while. Feel free to provide feedback on this, as well as, anything you have to share. 

 “High Flight” John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of —Wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air . . . Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace where never lark or even eagle flew – and, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod the high un-trespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.