Talk of the Town

gossip

When someone dies in your relationship circle, you quickly become the talk of the town.

I hate gossip and our world is filled with it. People spend money on magazines that are filled with gossip. It permeates our own lives too:

“I wonder how she doing since her husband died?”

“Did you see him? He looked awful – doesn’t look like he’s managing his life since he lost his wife.”

“I really don’t thing she’s coping very well since the death of her son.”

“She’s lost a ton of weight – must be her father’s death.”

“I heard she’s going to sell her house because it’s too big to live in all by herself.”

“What do you think will happen to the family business?”

“Can you believe it? I heard that he’s dating already!”

“I heard that the kids are fighting over his will.”

Gossip! What a waste of energy spent “wondering” when you could actually care.

Maybe someone should publish a grief gossip magazine with all the gritty details of other people’s loss. I have heard all of the above comments and they’ve made me wince every time.

Then what can we do besides wonder what is happening in a grieving person’s life, making assumptions based on rumors? It’s really simple: “Can you tell me a story about your husband today?”

It’s no longer gossip when you ask them. Because the information is coming from the person directly, you will be touched deeply and discover how they are really doing and where they are at in their grief.

As they grieve, people need to tell the story of love, of a life lived that was significant. They need to know that someone else is interested in the person who is no longer with them and the impact, influence and importance they were in their life.

Can you do that with someone? They really are waiting to share something special with you.

We Don’t Need Rescuing!

canoe

We don’t need to be rescued, but what we do need is somebody to be in our boat –someone who can help paddle alongside us when necessary.

I remember getting caught once in a huge storm. There was the two of us and we were in a canoe in the middle of the lake. We did not notice the storm brewing in the distance. You probably called it! Yes, I was with a girl and so did not notice anything but her.

We were in the middle of the lake and it was tough going! We could not paddle hard enough to get back to the camp we were at. “Let’s just allow the storm to take us to where it wants to,” I said. “Then when can get out of the boat once it gets to the shoreline and paddle back to camp along the edge of the lake once the storm is past.” I thought I was brilliant! And, although it may have been the long way home, we did finally find our way back to camp safely.

Had we stayed out in the middle of the lake, open to the elements, perhaps we would have needed to be rescued. The waves and the direction of the wind took us towards the shore. We just had to be patient. And let’s face it – I was a little scared because I was not in control. But at least I had someone with me – I wasn’t on my own.

This grief storm shall pass too. The intensity of grief is real. You feel exposed to the elements. You will feel better though, knowing that someone else is in your boat. You don’t have to go it alone.

Someone is willing to be with you in the storm. Do you know who that might be?

Driver or Passenger?

van

My uncle taught me the proper way to purchase a used vehicle when I was a young adult. We went to the used car lot and as the salesman approached us, my uncle said to me, “Let me begin the conversation.” As the man made his way toward us enthusiastically, he greeted us and said, “So, what can I do for you today?” My uncle responded, “No,” he replied unflinchingly, “it’s not what you can do for us, it’s what we can do for you.” I stood back and wondered how the man would respond. He smiled knowingly and said, “Yes, you are right.” And then we went and bought a vehicle from him.

It’s not what grief will do to me, it what I can do with my grief. This is a completely different way to approach the role of grief in your life. It has a unique role in your life as you adapt to your life without that very special person.

Grief works itself out in life, through living, in movement. You can’t drive a parked car. You must be in “drive” to work through grief. That’s the nature of grief. You want to be the driver, not the passenger. That does not mean the road you travel on will not have its share of curves, detours or stop signs. Your journey will not be predictable. The landscape will change along the way.

Nevertheless, grief has a significant place in your life as a result of death. It won’t suddenly disappear, leaving you unscathed. So why not ask it to come and then you decide what role you will give it in your life today.

Finding Community

103-0364_IMG-1024x768

I played a lot of sports growing up and I coached a lot of athletic teams. Team sports were often about establishing a solid community.

Good coaching always involves the participation of all the team members. The best coaches know how to bring a team together when things are not going as well as planned. Sometimes, a game is lost because of a missed breakaway the last minute of a hockey game or an intercepted pass that results in a last second successful lay up in a basketball game. A team sport means that every member is important. Nevertheless, sometimes one member of the team has trouble playing a new position and they need extra support and coaching.

Research consistently indicates that belonging to a supportive and healthy community helps people to adapt following loss.

It has often been said that our heads and emotions are like a bad neighborhood:  we shouldn’t go there alone.

We all need people in our lives and this is never truer than when we are transitioning through our loss. Whether it is a small group of friends with whom we get together or a large community that we are involved with, it is crucial to healthy grieving.

What community do you belong to? If you don’t have a community, why not seek one out today?

 

Who Will Sharpen My Knives?

knifesHer husband died. She was devastated. They had been married for over 50 years. They were a sweet and precious couple who loved each other so very much. And then cancer came and interrupted their life and he died.

I went to see her one morning, two weeks after the funeral. We shared some beautiful stories about her husband. Tears were shed. Yet even through the tears there were brief bursts of laughter as we remembered him in our conversation.

“I know you must miss so many things about your husband. Can you tell me one thing that you’ll especially miss that is on your mind right now?” I asked.

“I know this sounds selfish,” she began, “but I wonder whose going to change my summer tires to winter tires and who is going to sharpen my knifes now? Lawrence had always done that,” she continued. And then she started to cry.

I knew that her tears were deeper than knives or tires, but these were symbols of adjustments to a new life that she would have to make without him. She was a senior and together they had worked out how they would live together and what roles each one played in their relationship. And now, things were different. She felt that everything was on her shoulders now.

“How about we find someone to do those things for you?” I said to her. “We can help you find the people and then, next year, you will be able to tackle those kinds of decisions on your own.” “That would be great!” she said. “It would really take some big things off my mind,” a hint of a smile on her lips.

You can help a grieving person adjust just by being sensitive to the little things that loss has brought into their “new” life.

 

 

 

Walk, Run or Pump

100-0039_IMG-1024x768An important approach to grief work is exercise. There are amazing by-products from exercise that support a healthy grief journey.

Our bodies are amazingly made and work together in ways that help healing take place, given the chance.

You will likely feel weak when you are grieving, especially in the days following the death of a loved one or friend. This is a normal reaction to missing someone important in your life. You are trying to figure out the emotional detachment toward a person who is no longer present. It’s not an easy journey and affects not just your spirit but your body as well.

With proper diet, adding the nutrition that you need, a disciplined exercise regime can help you in your grief journey as well.

Research shows that exercise helps you to sort out your emotions more effectively, to think more clearly, to improve your self-regard, and to help you mix back into society more quickly. If you form this good habit forever, you will of course become physically fit in addition to all the other benefits.

When I went through the loss of my first wife, my kinesiologist-daughter told me to get out and exercise. I was shocked at the difference it made in my attitude and ability to deal with the intense grief I was feeling.

What about you? When you are going through loss and see what happens – why not try to walk, run or pump? You may be surprised at the results. No better time to start than as the calendar turns to 2015.

 

Idle Talk

Idle-Talk-1024x682One of the common ways that we avoid grief is through idle talk.

I do most of my writing in public places. As I sit in coffee shops and nurse my mug of java or enjoy a beer at the local pub, I often experience idle talk all around me. I don’t intend to listen in but sometimes people talk so loudly that it’s inevitable. Most of what I hear is chitchat, complaining, arguing, or gossiping.  Tune in sometimes to conversations around you. So often there isn’t much substance or depth.

This happens not just at coffee shops and pubs – I find that there can also be a lot of idle chat following the death of someone whom we love. Even though we are experiencing something very deep in lives, we tend to want to talk about things that don’t take us to our sadness, loneliness and missing. We converse on the surface. Strangely, our family and friends also respond with idle talk too and take their cue from us to not go deeper.

Grief can be one of the most transformational and life-changing experiences that we enter into, if we chose to enter into it. If others are willing to engage us at a deeper level and we are able to engage meaningfully, conversations of significance can change more people than just the one who is grieving.

Perhaps it’s time to ask more questions of those who are grieving and to give fewer answers as we listen to their responses.

Why not go beyond idle talk to deeper conversation?

Why Patterns Count in Loss

pattern-of-rocks-1024x685Our daughter, Keeara, wanted to re-cover the valances in both her kitchen and living room. Erica and I offered to help. As the two of them stood there discussing the fabric they would purchase at the store, the most common word I kept hearing was “pattern”. Would the patterns match up? Would they flow into the next section if necessary?  Could you match the patterns once cut so that they looked good? (I personally thought that a solid color would be the easiest, but said nothing – besides, I was to busy running after the grandchildren.)

We all develop patterns in our lives that need to be acknowledged and understood in our grief and loss work. As we transition through the variety of losses in our lives, we develop both helpful and unhelpful patterns of coping.  All of us have heard the phrase, “Why does he keep doing the same thing over again?  Did she not learn from her mistakes?”

Some people do pick up unhealthy patterns from past experiences or from their family of origin. Unless they are willing to take note and take responsibility for these patterns, history will repeat itself. But they don’t have to…

Examining patterns of how we have transitioned in the past, both good and bad, helps us to transition better in the present and in the future.  In some cases, we may have transitioned really well – these are tools that we need to keep. But when we continually experience difficulty during our transitional points, we need ask ourselves some questions and evaluate why that is. In some cases, we may need help to examine those patterns.

Do our transitional loss patterns match up with the outcomes we had hoped for? Find a friend and get some honest, authentic feedback. It’s always hard to admit that we have work to do in our lives, but we all do. Those who are vulnerable and who are willing to grow in challenging areas of their lives will turn the corner and be more free to live life fully.

Making Healthy Choices

healthy-food-817x1024What food you choose to put into your body affects your health.

The emotional turmoil of grief makes you vulnerable in a variety of ways. Why not ask another person to be your grief friend? Someone who can be honest with you about the decisions that you make in your volatile state?

What you choose to make a part of your grief journey is important as it will affect your emotional health and impact your future growth.

Choices…

I have counseled many people who have made poor choices during their grief journey, which have resulted in painful consequences.

Bad habits can quickly turn into unhealthy decisions.  People say, “Wow, has that person ever changed. I have never known him/her to be that way or behave in that manner.”  Grief can be intense and move us in directions that lead to unhealthy consequences.

Connor, my grandson, can either have healthy snacks or ones that aren’t as good for his growing body.  His mom decides to give him good stuff to eat. And he loves it.

Having a good friend to keep you honest and accountable is a very smart decision to make as a grieving person.

It’s the healthy choice!