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.

 

Moving Into Sadness

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Too many people try to make themselves happy. Did you know that you can’t always be happy? We don’t like to feel sad. We don’t like others to be sad. We try to fix their sadness and our own.

The dominate emotion following the death of a loved one is sadness. You can’t fix sadness and you shouldn’t try. Sadness is a result of something that you really miss – your loved one. Continue reading →

Anger Management 101

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I was angry with God. I was angry with myself and I was angry with Pam – for a while at least.

When my Dad died, I was angry with him for smoking for so many years. When my first wife died, I was angry with her for leaving me with our four children.

I had conversations with God about my situation and wondered what I had done wrong to deserve this fate. I’m just being honest. Continue reading →

Grief Is Not the Enemy

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If we look at grief as the enemy, then we are in for a tough ride. If we look at grief as our friend, it can actually help us along the way. Befriending grief is a brave decision – we don’t know much about this so-called friend whom we have just met. Can we trust it in our lives?  What will grief do to us? Will it confuse us? Will it support us?

Why would we leave grief on its own to have its own way when we can makes decisions together? 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?

 

 

Which Hat Will You Wear?

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When someone dies, you will have to put on a new hat. And that’s not easy.

Your identity changes when a significant person in your life dies. If it is a spouse, who are you now without your wife or husband? When a parent dies, who are you without your mom or dad?  How do you cope when your child dies – who are you now?

When my Dad died, I knew that I would never have another one, and I was heartbroken. When people ask me where my parents live, I need to tell them that my father died a number of years ago but my mom still lives. I put on a new hat as a son who has only a mother alive and no father.

But that doesn’t mean that I no longer have a relationship with my Dad. It’s just different now. I still love my Dad and I always will.

Discovering our new identity without that person in our lives is difficult but part of our transitional loss work. Why?  Because we miss who we were with that person. A chunk has been taken out of our lives and we have to redefine ourselves taking into consideration that scar.

While you will be different now, you are still who are because of your loved one. They have contributed to the person you have become.

So maybe, at some level you might be wearing two hats.  Both hats are necessary. Both are good. One hat looks back. One looks forward.

 

When I talk about my Dad, I share stories about how he has impacted my life. I tell people about how, in some ways, I am like him. I share important life lessons that he taught me. This is all good remembering and honours him.

 

Every person who has died and who is no longer part of your life has made you who you are in some identifiable ways. That’s the wonderful thing about having relationships. We impact each other.

 

I guess I will take off my hat to my Dad today and thank him for what he added into my life.

If You’re Happy and You Know It…

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This grief thing is hard, isn’t it? You are sad when someone special dies. Each of us would gladly choose happiness over sadness. Sadness is dark and heavy. When people whom we love die, we are grief-filled.

But even in the midst of sadness, there are reasons to experience joy. One of the most important reasons is people: special people who love us deeply; accept us for who we are; and make a difference in our lives.

You can’t replace someone who has died with somebody else. That person will be in your heart forever. But that doesn’t mean that you should close yourself off to more happiness.

Ella makes me happy. She fills my heart with joy. She is my granddaughter. When I was visiting her the last time, I sang her the song If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands. She clapped her hands joyfully together with a big grin. She was sitting on my lap. And then I started to sing that little course again and to my surprise, she took my hands and clapped them together. Ella can’t speak yet, but it’s as if she was saying, “Are you happy, Grandpa?” And I was.

When you are grieving, you will be sad. Then someday, you will be happy again. Why? Because someone may clap your hands together and another person might add joy into your life because they love you too. It’s okay to open up your heart again. It really is!

Two Boots Lost in the Mud

Two-BootsI took a picture of this field. Perhaps it means nothing to you, but it does to me.

When I was six years old, this field was completely flooded in the spring. As it began to dry up, it turned to thick mud.

One day, my brother and I decided to take a short cut home, which meant that we had to cross that field to get to the apartment where we were living. We were wearing rubber boots, but we did not realize was how deep, thick and sticky the mud was on that field. About half way home, I couldn’t move another step – I was stuck.

My brother tried with all of his might to pull me out. He couldn’t. I was stuck. Big time. The mud was right up to the rim of my boot. I was in deep.

I had no choice but to leave the boots behind and walk home in my stocking feet. I cried. It was cold and I was wet, but I made it home. My mom threw me in the bathtub, because I had mud everywhere – my feet, my pants, my hands and all over my coat.

Once my dad came home, my brother and I told him where the boots were. He went out and tried to find them. But it had continued to pour rain that day and he went back to search for them but they had disappeared. Two boots lost in the mud. We never did find them again!

We can get struck in grief. We can choose to remain, or we can step out into the muck. Grief is not easy, but it is necessary. I made it home that day.

You will make your way home as well – even if it’s with a little mud on your journey.

Home Alone

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I had to adjust to being home alone this past year. My wife, Erica, who is a teacher and choral conductor, went back to work and leads a very full life.

After 28 years of having my own heavy schedule, I am shifting directions in my work and find myself spending more time at home reading, writing and researching as I embark on a career change.

As a natural extrovert, a former pastor, and an individual who is used to being with people constantly, I now find myself adjusting to a new way of living life. It’s had its challenges for sure.

Following the death of a loved one, you will want to spend some time alone. Grieving starts in the heart as you begin to sort out all of the deep emotions and sense of loss that permeate your internal life. Your heart is your safe place where only you can be still and reflect.

But all of us will need to leave our home and begin to express what is going on in the inside and move outside the door of our heart to interact with the world and people once again.

It’s okay to be home alone for a while.  But you will need to invite others in for a visit.

Believe It or Not

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The sign said that the boulder was 10,000 pounds. It was at the entrance to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Baltimore. I gazed at the huge sphere for a few moments and pondered its immense weight: “Ten thousand pounds? How on earth did it get there in the first place?” I wondered.

When someone dies, our first reaction is disbelief. Often, our first words are, “I can’t believe they’re gone…” For some, we find ourselves saying those words for a number of days as we succumb to the shocking truth that we will never see that person in this life again. That’s hard.

It really is a time of “believe it or not” and one of the heaviest burdens that weighs us donw as we begin our grief work.

I never went into the museum nor did I find out how that boulder was placed there in the entrance. But it was, by someone somehow. I imagine that if a stone were brought there, it could also be removed.

Know that the weight of your grief will slowly roll away. It may not seem like it at the present moment. But, believe it or not, it will.