How to Philosophize Grief

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Our son, Landon, introduced us to a new game that is an app on his iPhone. It’s played against other people who have the app – it’s called Trivia Crack and it’s addictive! You get 20 seconds to give the correct multiple-choice answer. We played it all the way home from visiting our grandchildren this Easter. Even if we didn’t get every question, we learned new facts to the questions in each category – much like a game of Trivial Pursuit. It was fun!

Asking new questions – that’s one of the benefits of coming out of grief and mourning. It gives us the ability to ask questions that help us grow in a different direction than before. You don’t get answers if you’re not asking questions. Questions are the main ingredient in changing perception. And we need a different view of life following the death of a loved one or friend or any loss we may experiencing. Our power to change lies in the questions we ask.

In many ways we become philosophers because we seek answers. Sometimes we seek answers as to why the person died; if there is anything beyond this earth; or what might be next for our lives. “What is my purpose now that my loved one is gone?”

Sometimes the questions are unanswerable. But the questions can also help us to gain momentum and get back into life in order to discover our next steps.

Those who don’t ask questions get stuck! Those who ask questions get answers – maybe different ones than they expected, but ones that lead to growth and life.

So don’t be afraid to ask questions.

 

Saying Goodbye Is Hard

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I don’t like saying goodbye to my grandchildren when I leave after a visit with them. Even though I might be exhausted by the end of a weekend, as soon as I drive away from their home, I’m already missing them and thinking of the next time that I will see them.

Why? The reason is love. I am emotionally attached to them because of my love for them. And they love me too. The more time we spend together, the more we become attached. Continue reading →

Everyone Gets the Same Offer

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Everyone begins grieving in the same way: someone significant dies and you miss him or her. Indeed, death occurs mostly through four means: sudden death, terminal illness, major organ failure or long term (as in Alzheimer’s). And each type of death will bring its specific challenges to the grieving process.

But each death results in grief and therefore everyone gets the same offer, the same question: what will you do now?

Why is it that some people are able to move forward in their lives, acknowledging the reality of death? They are able to honor the person who has died, while at the same time giving themselves permission to find joy and happiness following their loss. Why can some people do that…and not others?

Every single transition that we go through in life is about choices. And, yes, some transitions are more difficult than others. But if you don’t see grief as a transitional place or a process through which you need to move, then you are at a higher risk of your grief becoming complicated, a term used by professionals to denote grief that has been arrested and crystallized.

In my experience, I have found the phrase “everybody grieves in their own way” to be most unhelpful. Why? Because so often people stop right there, without giving people tools to help them discover how grief might be unique for them and why they might be experiencing certain reactions.

Most people want some helpful approaches to consider in their loss transition. Grief needs to turn into mourning. Grief is our reaction to loss; mourning is our choice to respond to it in an intentional and proactive manner. What will I do? What can I do? What should I do?

Why not go back to this blogging website and take a look at all of the different categories. Perhaps you might consider one new approach to your grief today. Why? Because, in grief, everyone get the same offer. So what will you offer yourself as grief relief today? Will you just let it unfold you or will you help it unfold?

 

 

Grief Goals

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Writing down your goals is always a good thing in your grief work. It’s easy to get stopped when someone has died and left a big hole in your life. It’s difficult to move forward when you are now forced to adapt to a special person who is no longer physically present in your life.

This person could have been a big part of your dreams or you may have spent time with them planning out the next steps in your life together. Either way, you feel loss.

It’s not easy to move even one step forward when that person is not part of your short or long-term plans or dreams. In fact, these dreams, which you once had together, may have shifted with their dying. That presents yet another loss that has come as a result of death.

Before thinking too far ahead into the future, you may want to consider some of the secondary losses that have come as a result of death and ask yourself what you will do with each one.

Have my friendships changed?

Are there different tasks I need to do now?

Do I need to re-consider my finances?

What do I do with my spare time now?

Has my role changed in my family or extended family?

Will I remain in my present location or home?

Try not to become overwhelmed with these considerations but look at them one at a time, deciding what you will do first and how you will manage them as you grieve for the one who has died.

Why not write down your grief goals and work at them in an order that is priority for you? New Year’s is a good time to take inventory of your life.

Cracked Eggs

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I had almost forgotten the appointment. I quickly raced home from the grocery store. I grabbed the seven bags of groceries from the trunk, ran into the house and threw the plastic bags on top of the kitchen island.  I then picked up the car keys on the counter, and headed towards the door when I hear a bang behind me. “Darn!” I said, heading out the door. “I will pick that bag off the floor when I get back.”

About an hour later, I returned home to put the groceries away, which I probably should have done before, but was in too big of a hurry. Why is it that, of all the seven bags of groceries, the one that decided to hit the floor was the only one that had the eggs in it? Four eggs cracked and a mess to clean up.

Grief is like that. We should not hurry it up. We can’t to move faster than is healthy for us.  If we rush through it, we will likely leave some stuff behind that will need to be dealt with at a later date if we become too anxious about getting somewhere too soon.

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of healthy grief is letting it unfold in its own time frame. Moving neither too quickly nor too slowly is a delicate balance to consider.

It’s better not to be in too much of a hurry because breaking eggs along the way is not that much fun to clean up.

Holding Onto Familiarity

Connor-at-the-Condo-Familiar-821x1024What we hold onto for our security is important.

Children have their blankets, soothers and stuffed animals. I was at the dentist the other day and I found myself not wanting to let go of the suction tube. I feel like I’m suffocating when fluid sits at the bottom of my throat. I need to have control.

We went see the new home that our daughter and son-in-law had purchased. Connor, our grandson, looked around and went exploring. They had not moved in yet. His Dad said to him, “Do you want to go back to the condo?” Connor ran to the door to put on his sandals. It will take time for him to become familiar with his new home. Although it is so much nicer, it doesn’t matter. It’s not yet familiar. It will still feel like loss to him initially since the condo is home to him.

When death occurs, we hold onto to whatever gives us a sense of security to help us make it through a tough period in our lives. I heard a story of a man who sold his home two weeks after his spouse died, leaving all that was familiar behind. Not even a year later, he moved back to his community and friends.

Don’t let people tell you that the easiest way to move on with your life is to let go of all that is familiar, following the death of a loved one. In fact, you need familiarity during your grief journey to survive what is hard. Bit by bit, you will let go, but for the time being, embrace the familiar as you move forward. Do so in a healthy time frame. Sometimes too much is too soon!

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

grieffriend17Sadness is an emotion that has no boundaries. No matter how hard we try to block it out, it finds its pathway into our heart. We don’t like to feel sad so we do our best to ignore it or find a way out as quickly as possible.

I have come to believe through my professional work with people that sadness has different levels of intensity. Sometimes sadness quickly disappears and other times it remains for longer periods of time. It all depends on the situation and the person.

Perhaps the most common simile describing sadness is this: “I feel like my heart has been broken”. Sadness is often the byproduct of a broken relationship.

Sadness is a dominant emotion in grief. Why? Our heart has been broken. When a person dies, the physical separation on this earth is forever. That relationship will never be the same. We are sad.

But is sadness a bad thing? It seems that sadness is a result of missing someone very much and a love and a memory that is important. The person who died still has a place in your heart and ongoing life. It’s just different.

How can you mend a broken heart? Give the brokenness which turns to sadness its rightful place in your journey and be patient that Joy will return in its time too.

Choosing In On Life

002-1024x606Have you experienced the death of a family member or close friend recently?

Death will happen and you need to know that your grief is a normal and healthy reaction to loss. Don’t make it more than what it is and be intentional in your walk.

It may sound harsh, but some people choose to make grief harder than it needs to be. It’s already hard enough, why added to its weight?

What can I do then which will help me to move forward? You need to begin with the question, “Am I willing to move forward?”

And here is the warning…the most difficult part of moving forward is feeling that you are somehow dishonoring the person who has died. If I find love again, if I laugh again, if I find joy again, does that some how mean that I don’t love the person who died anymore? What will people think of me if I am smiling, happy and moving on in my life? Will it be too soon?

In my many years of experience, I don’t remember anyone who was dying saying to a loved one, “I want you to have a terrible life without me.”

Indeed, one must think carefully about the big steps and decisions we make following the death of a loved one, but tiny steps are necessary, important and healthy.

Yes, everyone is different but there is not anyone who does not have the opportunity to choose in on life. Will you?

Every Life on Earth Is Terminal

scan0017-1024x679My dad and wife were both very sick at the same time.  Dad was in an extended care facility.  Pam was still at home, taking another round of chemotherapy.

I wanted to spend more time with my dad, knowing his life on earth was coming to an end because of his terminal illness.  We lived three hours away from my parents but I needed to take care of Pam because she was my wife.  I had made that vow: “…in sickness and in health.”  But I still felt like an elastic band, stretched in opposing directions.

Pam and my father died within a year of each other. Once again I felt torn. How do you grieve for one when there are two or maybe three deaths within a short period of time?

The time you spend with your love one prior to their death is so important. The actions you take and the words you speak are crucial.

I could not spend much time with my father, but the words I spoke, each time I left him after a visit, are the still the ones I hang on to today.

It is true that not everyone has the opportunity to spend that time or speak important words in the case of sudden death.  But you can spend time and say meaningful words today. Someone once said, “Every life on earth is terminal. We just don’t know when it’s going finish for us.”

Do you have a story about last words or actions that were helpful to you in saying goodbye to a loved one prior to their death?