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The Walking Wounded
When my phone rang the other day, it was a call from one of the "walking wounded," not unlike many that I have received during the years I have been interacting with the bereaved. I have often spoken with people who are feeling much like this caller was.
The gentleman's adult son had died in an accident, and when I innocently asked how old his son was, he bristled and told me the question offended him. He said it didn't matter how old the person was who died; the question created barriers and suggested different degrees of grieving. (I know that can be true, especially when the very young or the very elderly die.)
I apologized and explained that I hadn't meant it that way. My intention had been to open the door to conversation, to invite him to speak freely about his son if he wanted to, without any pressure to do so if he were uncomfortable.
When we are newly bereaved, and sometimes even a long time into our grief, we often find ourselves thrashing about emotionally. In frenetic efforts to escape some of our pain, we may react blindly, wildly, irrationally. We sometimes say and do things that may be embarrassing to us later. But we need make no apologies, ever, for our emotional reactions to suffering that is so unimaginable.
We, the bereaved, are desperately trying to tell those who would comfort us what we need and how to help us. The trouble is that often we haven't figured out what we need, and we don't know what will help us. Therefore, we may be giving them one message on Monday and a different message on Thursday.
We need to be careful to soften our responses to our potential caregivers. We need to realize that compassion is a two-way street. If we ever expect to educate the non-bereaved population, we need to do it gently and tactfully, always remembering our own ineptness before we became bereaved!
Perhaps the gentleman's response could have been along these lines: "Thank you for asking about my son, I love to talk about him. Of course age is really irrelevant because death at any age is devastating..." Then he could have gone on to tell me about his son in any detail he wanted. We both would have felt good about the conversation, and I would have been smarter the next time.
We say, "Be there with us; let us talk; don't avoid us. We want to talk about our loved ones. We want you to mention their names." Then we say, "You always say the wrong thing."
Well, often our comforters and caregivers do say the wrong things. But, bless their hearts; at least they're trying to say something. At least the ones who are talking with us aren't ignoring us or avoiding us. Until enlightenment about grief and mourning becomes more widespread, they will continue to need our help in education, understanding and compassion. It seems to me that what we need is a lot more non-threatening, non-judgmental dialogue and communication. Perhaps attempts from both sides toward more understanding and tolerance of the other side would go a long way toward breaking some barriers.
All of us are here on the planet for such a relatively short time, and we're all struggling with the same basics: a need to be loved, a need for approval, a need to not be lonely. I've been around for a good while now, and it seems to me that the best way to get what we need is to give it away first. It doesn't always work, of course, but it works often enough to make trying it a good idea.
Good Grief Resources (http://www.goodgriefresources.com) was conceived and founded by Andrea Gambill whose 17-year-old daughter died in 1976. Almost thirty years of experience in leading grief support gropus, writing, editing, and founding a national grief-support magazine has provided valuable insights into the unique needs of the bereaved and their caregivers and wide access to many excellent resources. The primary goal of Good Grief Resources is to connect the bereaved and their caregivers with as many bereavement support resources as possible in one, efficient and easy-to-use website directory.
I didn't know a heart could die before it stopped beating. I didn't know a life could cease before it stopped breathing.
When The Spirit Leaves The Body
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Dads, Life, and Death
When he looked at me, it was clear my father wasn't sure who I was. And as I looked back at him, I wasn't sure who he was, either.
Coping With A Funeral
When the death of a loved one occurs, regardless or whether it was expected or not, you will find yourself having to deal with a great number of people. Some you will know closely, others may be complete strangers; all will be claiming some kind of relationship to the deceased.
How to Deal with Suicide and Euthenasia
The following is a report that indicates how you might recognize suicidals, and how you might deal with them. But a warning: Suicide can be a very complex issue, and it might be better to have a professional deal with this issue if it comes up, but if this is very difficult to attain, this guide is a very good alternative to follow if you have no other solution to the problem.
After Suicide: Returning to Life, Thanks to an Owl
Have you ever lost the ability to laugh? I did.
Online Memorial ? A Dedication of Love for Your Departed Loved Ones
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Dying On the Inside: A Childs Grief
The impatient tooting of a car horn startled us into awareness. No one had thought beyond making it through the grievous night. Now the sun was up, and it took a moment to realize that this was just like any other school day - for everyone else. Distasteful tasks always fall to the youngest child, so I was pushed, unceremoniously, out the door.
Pet Loss: Significant and Profound Loss or Much Ado about Nothing?
For those who have deeply loved and lost their animal companions, the answer is obvious and yet disturbing. There are still far too many people in our culture who minimize and trivialize the loss of a pet. They tell the grieving friend, colleague or family member, "What's wrong with you? Get over it. It was only a dog (or cat, bird, horse, etc.) Get yourself a new one! After all, it's been a month already. You shouldn't be so torn up over this."
The Creative Side of Healing
One of the areas where I seem to be placing most of my focus these days is the relationship between creative expression and healing. Something that I have always found to be particularly fascinating is the fact that the words heal, whole and holy all come from the same Latin root. (Check it out!)
Who has the Worst Pain
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Grief Support: The Don?ts
1) Don't try to make the grieving person feel better. YOU CANNOT. For many grievers it only serves to make them feel guilty or worse. Grievers MUST experience the pain of grief for healing to ultimately occur.
Afraid Of Dying? Afraid Of Living!
Over the years, I've heard many people voice their concerns of death and dying. It wasn't that they had any maladies that would cause them to die any time soon, but they were "afraid of their own immortality." The basic idea of death, or the potential of death, created a mind-numbing fear that, in some cases, forced them into isolation to avoid anything that could increase their chances of dying.
One Stray Tear
The delight lit my face as the couple turned the corner into the hallway where we stood in lively conversation. I threw my arms open wide, ignored the cell phones plastered to their ears, greeted each of them, first the husband then the wife who followed slightly behind him.
The Twists and Turns of Life
When I was born in 1962 I thought life was good. I had two parents, a twin sister, and an older brother. We lived in an apartment until my sister and I were eleven, and then we moved into a house. My brother was twenty-one years old so he moved onto his own apartment. I was the luckiest girl in the world.
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New Tears [about Grievng--with commentary]
New Tears [about Grieving]
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Grief & Loss - Healing Your Broken Heart
What is it about Grief & Loss that upsets us so much? Is it the heavy duty emoting that we have to do to get through our suffering? Is it the fear we have about opening ourselves to all this pain? Because, let's face it, it's hard down there, in the land of grieving where all those emotions toss us around like a cork on a stormy sea.
When Sorrow Is Too Great to Be Borne Alone, Support Groups Reach Out
Not long after Arlyn died, my husband and I decided to attend a support group program run by the local Hospice organization. We felt lost, afraid, and alone, and we desperately needed to understand the emotional roller coaster we were on.
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