Archive for grief

On Grief

Posted in peace with tags , , , , , , , on November 20, 2018 by thecrossingchicago

Grief. It’s not something that happens in the background as we go about our regular daily activities. It’s something that has to be actively and intentionally done.

As a hospice bereavement counselor, I often hear people say that they are processing their grief by staying busy. Nope. This isn’t grieving, it’s avoiding. If you think it all just goes away at some point, then

I’m sorry to say that this isn’t the case. The grief will always be there, but it doesn’t mean that it has to be a bad or unbearable thing.

Any change or transition requires grieving. Most think of it as something that happens when someone dies, but it’s not limited to death. A breakup, divorce, losing a job, moving, loss of mobility, loss of autonomy, change of role – these are all reasons to grieve. Even intentional acts such as when you are the one to walk away from a relationship or a planned retirement are causes to grieve.

So how do we do it in a healthy manner? As much as we want to run at every uncomfortable feeling, just the opposite is what’s required to come to a place of peace. Sit with the pain, the loss, the uneasiness. Stare it in the face. Embrace it. To feel means to know we are alive, even when the feelings hurt.

This time of year with the holidays as a constant reminder of our losses, old wounds are ripped open and many come to the realization that, although so much time has passed, it still hurts. This is because we didn’t allow ourselves to go through the process.

It’s never too late to grieve. Sit in the silence and take note of what you are feeling. Don’t fight it. Let the emotions wash over you and don’t try to be logical about it. It’s tempting to believe that if we can just find a good reason for it that make sense to us, then it won’t be so bad, but this isn’t true. There is no way to reason loss. It’s both a mystery and a reality, so let it be just what it is.

Grief is not a clean cut linear process. There is no rhyme nor reason to it. You will have good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments. Sounds, sights, smells will trigger grief. So don’t beat yourself up by thinking that you should have progressed farther and shouldn’t still be feeling emotional. The emotions will always be there, but eventually you will own them instead of them owning you.

Lastly (as if there ever is a “lastly” to such things), be vulnerable. As Brene Brown so aptly says, we have to leave the wound open to get to the deep places. That’s where the grieving happens. Don’t give in to the “get over it” mentality. Don’t think that it will ever go away if you don’t address it. If you do dare to sit with it, though, you’ll find that it’s not so scary and the pain isn’t in control. You’ll gain new perspective, you’ll find peace, and things will be ok, even when they’re not. This is serenity.

 

Advertisements

What They Didn’t Tell You

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2017 by thecrossingchicago

At the writer’s conference that I mentioned in my last post, we were challenged in one of the individual workshops with writing prompts.  Sometimes the prompts can be downright hokey, but I thought that most of those given at the conference were genuinely thought- and reflection-provoking.  The final prompt that was given to take back with us to our respective homes and writing desks was, “What they don’t tell you about.”  So, I will stick with the theme and see how it goes.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

They.  The pronoun that represents anyone and no one.  I guess “they” are grandparents, parents, the wise elders of society, talking heads, preachers, and gurus.  They tell you that you can get whatever you want as long as you work hard enough for it.  They tell you to never give up.  They tell you that if you get a college education that everything will go smoothly.  They even tell you that there will be some pain in life, but there is nothing that God gives us that we can’t handle. Yeah, they tell you a lot, but there’s plenty that they don’t tell you.

For one thing, they don’t tell you about how unfair life can sometimes be – that life really is like a box of chocolates.  That, although you think you know,  you have no idea what you are biting in to and there’s a good chance that you might crack a tooth on an unexpected almond.  Or that you may put the whole piece in your mouth while in unfamiliar company just to realize it’s coconut when you can’t stand the taste of coconut and it makes you want to puke,  but you can’t spit it out so you swallow it trying to keep the wince imperceptible.

They also don’t mention that regardless of the taste of the filling or the texture of the inside, life is encapsulated in sweetness.  You’ll sometimes draw some that aren’t the most appealing or tasty or even downright disgusting, but there is still some deliciousness even in that single bite and if you only focus on it, the experience can still be enjoyable.

Another thing they don’t tell you is that order of things is really just a fabrication to make ourselves feel better.  Babies will die before their mothers and grandparents will live to see their grandchildren perish.  The true order is that there is none.  We are made to believe that as long as we treat people nicely, we will live long lives and never experience the pain of loss.  But we all know that this is a fairy tale.

The flip side to this is another thing that they don’t teach you – that there is healing on the other side.  That things will somehow be ok despite the fact that they never will be.  There’s nothing anyone can say to make it better and you will hear many utterances that will make matters worse instead of better, even though the one saying them means well.  You will even be guilty of making such comments yourself.  You will learn, though, that there is such a thing as “holding space” and that the mere compassionate presence of another will do wonders to help you see that indeed God is with you though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  They don’t tell you that, as painful as it may be, you will sometimes be situated at the right place and time to be that compassionate presence for another.

They tell you that you can be and do anything you want to in life as long as you work hard.  If you go to school and get a good education, then the world is your oyster and nothing can stop you.  They tell you that you can make as much money as you want and have any job that you want as long as you keep your nose to the grindstone and go to the right schools.

What they don’t tell you is that your grade A education can never be a substitute for passion.  They don’t mention that you can get that great job and then be laid off in a flash of restructuring.  They forget to teach you that all of your book studies will never prepare you for the realities of life and that compassion and mindfulness will always supersede knowledge.  They also forgot to impart to you that money isn’t and never will be everything and that you can become a prisoner in a cell of your own construction.

Even with all of this, they don’t tell you that there is such a thing as joy.  Being caught up in the “important things,” they forget to mention the euphoria that comes from feeding a hungry child or the feeling of wet sand between your toes as you walk barefoot at the beach or the sound of rain on leaves and freshly bloomed flowers.  They overlook sharing that there are sacred spaces and music that stirs the soul and good wine.  They didn’t deem it worthwhile to mention that the sound of laughter can move you more than any pithy quote and that there is more peace to be found in a single breath than in all the sacred texts ever written.

They forgot to teach you a lot.  But despite that, you have learned.  Life taught you what they couldn’t and you have been a good student because at some point you realized that the key to understanding wasn’t how much you studied or where you went to school, but how well you listened and how aware you were about how things really are.  Well done good and faithful student.  And let’s not blame them.  Maybe they never did learn or maybe they forgot or perhaps they were just too afraid to let go of the way they think things ought to be.  You have done and occasionally still do that.  So do I.