How to Philosophize Grief

philosophy

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.

 

Grief Is Not the Enemy

war

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 →

I’m Lost Without My Dad – Jordyn Leopold Style

104-0434_IMG-644x483The trade deadline for the National Hockey League was on March 2, 2015 and one trade stood out amongst the many.

Why?

Because a young daughter had requested the trade of her Dad back to a city where they were living, in the state of Minnesota. She said in the letter that fell into the hands of the general manager, “I am lost without my Dad. Can you please ask the Jackets (the team he was currently player for) if you guys can get him?”

They had been separated and the love and time they once had was not possible because of the circumstance. I listened to the interview of Jordan Leopold describing the beautiful reunion as Daddy touched down at the airport and was greeted by all of his children and his wife. I had some tears.

I have spent time with many children whose parent had died. I hear the same words over and over: “I miss Daddy,” or translated, “I am lost without my Dad.”  It’s so hard for the remaining spouse or family members to tell children that Daddy is not coming home. He died.

That deep longing, missing, wishing for more time does not easily pass.

My faith says that God has written me a letter to confirm the reunion of those who died with their loved ones and friends. It’s found in the writing of John’s Gospel. It says:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I have gone ahead to prepare a place for you.”

I like that kind of hope, that kind of reunion. I am lost. Death will separate us from each other but the promise of a time again is a powerful reunion to look forward to with great anticipation.

 

 

Saying Goodbye Is Hard

kids1

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 →

Grief: sorting out tangles and untying knots

knots

There are some days that grief in our lives feels like a big tangled knot. We feel as though we are getting through and moving ahead and then, BOOM! – emotions blindside us suddenly and an array of emotions grip us once again. We begin again – undoing the knots that bind us tightly. Grief feels like a tightening grip sometimes.

We want to be free, but there is a process: one knot at a time. Because you only have so much energy every day, you need to untangle in methodical priority. Slowly, the tears subside and joy returns. You sleep through the night. You go back to work. You are OK. And then… something pulls you back and you have to begin the untangling again.

There seems to be more backward movement than forward motion in grief at first. And that’s really okay.

I came home for lunch one day, opened up the front door, and said, “I’m home, Pam!” I froze as I quickly realized that Pam was no longer. She had died two months earlier. I sat down and cried. I had to start untangling that difficult knot again.

It was not easy, but it was real.

You will likely have these experiences as well. And it’s really okay. It just means that you miss and love that person. Would you want it any other way?

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?

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?

 

Everyone Gets the Same Offer

question

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?

 

 

“NO” Is Not a Bad Word

no

Most people want to be kind to you following the death of your loved one or special friend. But have you ever wanted to say “NO” to a person but didn’t? Because you didn’t, it left you feeling frustrated or even angry. “They were trying to be nice,” you’d tell yourself, but their ‘kindness’ wasn’t what you needed in your heart of hearts. “No” is not a bad word when you are grieving…

“No, I don’t want to go out to a dance.”

“No, I don’t need to go to church today.”

“No, I don’t need you to come to visit with me.”

“No, I don’t need to go to your counselor.”

“No, I don’t need to hear about your own experience.”

“No, I don’t need to hear those platitudes right now.”

“No, I don’t need to talk to your friend who has gone through a similar experience.”

Most people have a harder time saying “no” than “yes”. We struggle with offending someone or feel guilty for not accepting a friend’s offer to ‘help’.

Sometimes, we will need to say “yes” – it is important to do that as well. But I have found that, in my many years of counseling people, learning to say “no” is one of the most important skills and one of the most challenging skills to learn. But you must say it in order to put a boundary around your heart – it needs to be protected in its fragile state and no one can do that but you.

So learn to say “no”. It’s really okay.