“Only two more days until Christmas, then I can get on with taking down the fake disguise I’ve had this past month trying to appease those in my life unable to handle the truth of how I’m really feeling.”
I wonder if any of you have felt this way? For those who recently lost a loved one, this sentiment will probably not apply to you. After all, people are far more willing to allow you to have meltdown moments in the days and weeks following your loved one’s death. For those who have lost someone a while ago though, this isn’t the case. I could say more about this, but my focus tonight is to let all my readers know that you are not alone and that my candles burn for you this season.
My prayers are with you believing that someday, perhaps soon, you will be able to punctuate life’s happenings, your feelings and your pain with something other than a period. A period at the end of a sentence surely completes a thought. A period at the end of a loved one’s death though does not have to be the complete end of us. My wish for you moving into 2016 is that perhaps, in time, instead of saying, “My loved one is gone.” Period. “I will never be the same.” Period. “Death is so final.” Period. You will be able to say instead. “My loved one is gone…. AND,” or “I will never be the same…. BUT,” or “Death is final….SO today I will live.”
Thoughts of peace, hope, life, more living in 2016, and joy in the mourning,
It’s been a long time but I’m posting this in memory of my Daddy and want to dedicate it to all the lovely people who shared in our Christmas Memorial Service this evening. Please enjoy and share this song, light a candle and remember all the ways you loved your person.
It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I had another grievous time missing my dad. I didn’t expect to have that kind of meltdown but that’s the way grief is. It sneaks up on you at times you least expect it. Being unprepared is like you’ve walked the hallway of your home, stumbled across an object and have no idea how it got there or where to put it. The options are: hold it, toss it back on the floor, or designate it to the junk drawer. All of those options present problems though. If you hold it, even if the object is only as small as a paper clip, eventually your hand will become so tired you could end up with hand function problems. If you toss it back on the floor eventually you are just going to stumble across it again and if you put it in the junk drawer ….well… everyone knows about the junk drawer. So, Whom do we feel safe enough to share our grief with? So, how do we appropriately deal with the unexpected when we just don’t know what to do? Where do we put that kind of grief? For me it has been in writing and music.
Ways to handle grief will be different for each person but to help you in the process, consider how another person may be able to help.
Consider the following:
1. Who can you trust enough to allow you to honor your grief? Friends? Family members? A co-worker? A grief counselor? A support group? This will be important to identify and accept. I say accept because people close to you may not be the best at allowing your grief. It’s not because they don’t mean well but not everyone is equipped to handle the full range of grief you inevitably will experience.
2. Will you learn to say this phrase? “Will you please hold this for me?” This isn’t really what you would necessarily say, but it serves as a symbol of the dilemma of trying to find a place for the newly found household object and articulating your need to ask for help. By asking for help, this allows others to help you while you figure out the best ways to honor your grief.
One last question…. and this one is for those who have friends or family members who are grieving.
3. Will you answer your friend when they’ve asked for help? It’s not that simple, I know. Some people never ask for help and many of us aren’t clued in to people’s needs or to the subtle ways people might ask. Some people are only comfortable showing the emotions of anger and bitterness. Becoming vulnerable may not be something they have yet made room for in their lives. Others are full of anxiety or may exhibit behaviors they didn’t before. Some may become completely disenchanted with any type of organization or group, whether it’s religious, educational, community, job-related, etc. The reality is your friend may likely be searching for a place to rest from carrying their grief. The Apostle Paul instructs the Galatian church through a letter to become a shoulder to each other when carrying burdens. The text reads, “Bear one another’s burdens…” and that directive serves as a principle with just as much importance today as it did then because no one was meant to carry burdens all by themselves.
Questions open for comments: In what ways have you been successful asking for help with your grief?
Waking yourself up crying is not the kind of thing you easily forget. In fact it is the exact opposite of what the mournful psalmist David writes in Psalm 30:5 (b), “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” When reading this passage the first thing that may come to mind is…
“Guess what David? You’re a great poet but you’ve got this all wrong. Morning should be spelled mourning. I know you think weeping is for the night, but it’s morning and I’m still crying.”
This kind of grief is the kind you wake up to. It’s the kind that reaches all the way down to your guts and spills out of your unconscious being. There are no words anyone can say to you in that moment. Really the only thing you want is someone to hold you and even though that may help for a while, like a wave, grief comes again and again and threatens to knock you over leaving you terrified that you won’t be able to tread through that kind of pain any longer.
Fortunately, for me I didn’t have too many more “crying myself awake” mornings after my Dad’s death and I had been blessed with a beautiful son to love and care for. Some people aren’t so lucky though. They are literally left alone without a single person or pet in the home. They may have grown fearful at the thought of going it alone or they may turn to substances and unhealthy activities, behaviors or relationships. Questions undoubtedly arise that there are no answers for.
Questions in particular I’ve had are “If joy comes in the morning, then why am I still crying?” and “Will I ever feel normal again?”
The reality is there isn’t any easy way to answer this AND there shouldn’t be. Crying, getting angry, feeling desperate, alone, troubled, weak, sickly, torn, devastated, and empty are all perfectly normal reactions when you lose someone you love. What if instead of trying to make all those awful feelings go away as quickly as possible, we chose to honor them by allowing them.
Ask yourself, “How am I supposed to feel?” If you can answer this honestly you may be on your way to honoring your grief and the one your troubled soul misses.
My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer at age 50. He was sick for over 2 years. My mother spent many nights with him during the several months he stayed in the hospital waiting for his miracle. While he was there, I was working full-time saving up for the birth of our firstborn because I knew I would be quitting my job to stay at home. My entire first year of marriage and first pregnancy was filled with the expectation that my dad could go at any moment. No one can really describe all the feelings a woman will have during her first year of marriage or her first pregnancy but I can say I never cried myself awake before and never have since, but I did then.
Daddy finally did go just two weeks after our son was born and three days before my birthday. Ironically, our son was born in the same hospital my daddy died in. The good part is that he was able to meet our son. He was barely lucid when we made that visit. The only thing he could say the moment I introduced him though was… “I see… I see…. I see…”, and with each “I see,” his voice grew louder and more passionate. After Daddy died I knew he held on as long as he could so he could meet our son. This was the first time I felt instead of mourning I could be grateful my Dad had been given the opportunity to “see” my son.
Today if you are mourning a loved one try this:
“See” life from your loved ones perspective. It was clear my Daddy saw my son and was delighted to meet him. I imagine he was happy for me too. Knowing this was the case I “see” other events in my life from my Dad’s perspective and imagine him smiling, making a joke or even bragging about me or one of my kids to a co-worker or really anyone that will listen. Somehow I find comfort knowing how he must “see” my life even though he isn’t here to witness it. What are some of the ways your loved ones would see your life now?
This post is dedicated to the countless loves of my life. I miss you.
Every December like millions around the world, I celebrate the “anniversary” of Christ’s birth. Every December, it’s loveliness with Christmas trees, nostalgic sounds of Nat King Cole, mamma’s baked specialties, Hanukkah menorahs and lights… lots of them. Some of those lights belong to my birthday cake, so each December I’m reminded that I’m another year older. Without fail, I feel a twinge of anxious grief as November comes to a close and while I’m not thrilled at the number on my driver’s license, the grief I feel is not really about getting older, but about another December anniversary… the anniversary of my father’s death.
If you are someone like me who has lost a loved one during the holidays, you know exactly what I mean when I say there is a part of you that wishes the world would go away so you can hide while people sing, “Joy to the World.” Really what you’re thinking is “I can’t wait for this holiday to be over so people will stop singing about how the ‘LORD has come’, because in reality you just want your loved one to come back through the door instead.
This year I wanted to make a difference to those who are grieving. Over the next few posts, I hope what I have to share will help you find a glimmer of joy in these dark days. My wish for you is that you will be able to honor your grief, honor your loved one, honor your loss and give yourself permission to find the words, feelings and experiences you need in order to make it through the holidays.