Dealing with Dying and Death and Grieving
Two often-heard comments that are not helpful. In fact, many people, whether close or distant from the grieving family, will say, “God needed your mother,” or, “Don’t cry.” Neither works for the good.
First of all, it’s important to not believe God wanted the deceased more for God’s realm than your world. Once when helping a family deal with the death of their 4-year-old, “Well, God needed a new member for heaven’s children choir.” Or, “God needed your parent to help with….” I wish people wouldn’t put God in a box as a “bad guy,” which results that people become enraged at God for the death of a dearest friend.
Second, our culture often declares that crying is an indicator of weakness rather than evidence of love. In truth, crying is better than good for a person to deal with the shock and devastation of the deceased person. It is a form of cleansing…and ends up being a great coping tool.
Still, a question is posed…at least often others will inquire: How long am I or you going to grieve Marilyn’s passing?
A dear, dear friend, Dr. Carol Stanley, provided this insight…she is a phD therapist…better than best! “People do grieve differently and they (family members) will most likely get pressure to ‘move beyond this’ or ‘enough is enough.’ I would re-frame that to ‘the depth of grief is directly correlate to the deep importance and love one feels for the family member who passed.’ I found working with people who were grieving that having permission to grieve a long time reassured them that they can honor the one who is now gone.”
It is the case, though, at least in a few years of experience the number of people who want to speak at a funeral or memorial service are correlated directly to the number of appreciative family and friends and associates. So, in my perspective it is important to make sure the “speakers” are selected and not to ask, “Would anyone like to share how you have been impacted?” Because that can turn into a marathon and the better purpose of celebrating someone’s life atrophies in those moments.
More…People cope differently in terms of timing. Something about my son, Andrew, in this regard/point. In 1976 when I was 36, my best friend in the world died—in March. I had skied with him, put him on a plane to Chicago on Friday and Saturday morning got a call that my friend had died, dead before he hit the floor, a brain aneurysm. My friend was my same age…and loved more than much by my sons, Matthew and Andrew. [Matthew born in 1969 and Andrew in 1972.] Seven months after my friend’s death, at the dinner table, Andrew broke out into tears. “Andrew? What’s wrong?” He looked at me, “Dad, don’t you know? Ullmann’s dead!” It was clear, months after the death, the impact hit.
That will be the case…and those moments of awareness and fear strike suddenly and hard. To handle that I have found [personally as well] that having someone I can go to is crucial…the trust and truth friend who loves me no matter what. In many if not most cases, this is a gender issue. My wife tells me that women will most likely confide in a woman friend because of their perspective. I understand that. What’s key is to make sure being alone doesn’t begat loneliness that takes over. Being alone at times can birth solitude.
In some situations, when a death is sudden the closest to the deceased haven’t had a chance to say good-bye. That’s a tough one. One coping way is to tell the deceased what they have meant to you. Maybe it’s at a burial site…or a favorite place you shared…but to talk directly to the deceased has therapeutic value.
To continue that notion of not losing the value of the deceased, it is helpful, when the joyous memories shared over lifetime with the deceased come to mind and heart, to write them down…in a log book/diary and go to it to remember the best times. When sons or daughters or surviving spouse are involved, helpful for them to do the same. And to include the grandchildren to visit with the surviving spouse and share what “Grandma” or “Grandpa” meant to them. Those are ways to live with appreciation. And, in our current family situation, it is important for the grandchildren to tell their grandfather how special and valued he is.
Another metaphor I’ve found helpful…when gathered with others to ask those attending to look through a window in appreciation for the value of the deceased and how the deceased has graced their lives. Then turn the window into a mirror and affirm how each person can and will live their life in good and nurturing ways because of how the deceased empowered them.
Grieving takes love and courage. Hopefully gratitude for the deceased and love for each life will make for good and growing lives for each of us. Yes, sadness is real. But, so is vital living that helps each of us do just fine.