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I experienced a few coworker’s deaths and attended grief counselling which helped a great deal. One was my prior supervisor, as a team we came up with some comforting things to do in her honor. One was to put a memory book together for her family with photos.
Some time before my mother died, fortune suggested to write a letter to her in which I named all the good she had so freely given to me and my siblings all her life and to say thank you from my heart to her; a true description of her wish to support her kids to find a place in life where we were allowed to chose our profession (which was not allowed to her when she was young), wanting us to be independent and gave all she had to build a home for us all, and some other important care she freely offered in order to make us feel well, like nowadays rare to find cooking each day at lunch for her family, preparing really delicious food for all, getting up at 5 o clock to clean the working place before guests would arrive and many more. Many things and details which were a huge gift she gave. As there were very difficult aspects in our relationship as well, like early trauma and several months of separation after my birth also, we lost contact very early, causing endless grief I suppose in her also. She was reserved as was I, and we never could really get in touch with each other. So I expressed myself for one time and named the many positive qualities she offered and shared with us. All my attempts all the years before to bridge this painful distance did not change our relationship, but, completely unexpected even, this letter did. When I spoke to her a few days later, she was strongly moved and said: …” and I believed I did everything wrong”…. not much more, but relating to the positive aspects in her opened the door to her heart and mine also, which was closed for so long. When she died some time later, I could accompany her in loving kindness before she died, together with my siblings . It was a great gift to both of us.
Thank you dear Ose, I remember when you shared your mother’s death with us… I remember your kind sweetness, while you were in such a painful circumstance. I admire you. Feel embraced.
Truly a gift to her to read the letter you wrote. Glad it was suggested to you to do so : ) What a blessing.
Living into loving kindness. I feel if my motivations and actions come from the place of loving kindness, it is the will of the creative (life giving) spirit and ripples out beyond my ability to know. Like the rising of the sun, the light casts out the shadows of pain and regret.
Thankfully, I have not experienced grief lately….but I have been thinking of several friends lately whom I have lost and my memories of them and times spent together make me smile…For in the end …that is all we have is our memories.
One of my brothers died unexpectedly in 2016. Despite being a strong swimmer he drowned at the lake where my family has had a cabin for many years. He was the “glue” among my 6 siblings–the one who reached out to all, stayed connected to all, loved us and called us just to talk, played his guitar at family gatherings. Writing these words I can picture his face smiling and hear his enthusiasm. My wonderful memories help me connect to gratefulness.
I’ve become even closer to his wife since he died; she’s a sweetheart and I wanted to make sure she knows she’s absolutely family. My younger sister and I get together with her for “sister weekends” and I stay at her place often when I’m traveling (she’s in a great location for getting to SeaTac airport so I’ll go ahead of time to be able to stay with her and go out to dinner). She commented once that she thinks we wouldn’t spend as much time together if it weren’t for my brother dying and she’s glad to have this outcome from tragedy. I feel the same. I couldn’t have known at the time so it’s not that this particular gratefulness helped me in the immediate moments, but grief at his loss doesn’t end; it has become part of me along with my love for him.
Sharing a couple of poems.
First, a poem by Peg Runnels:
“I Want My Grief”
to be brilliant, fast and gone.
Like Mozart. Or Stevie Ray.
Like fireworks. Boom! Flash!
Ooh, ahh. OK, done. Let’s go.
I want my grief to be brave.
Hurts more now, heals faster,
Grandma said, pouring salt
On a skinned knee.
I want to stand up to grief,
Stand it down, like the
Tiny man, big tank
In Tiananmen Square.
Because. Because if I am brave,
Bold, salty, open enough
The tank, the bleeding, the tears
Will stop sooner. I tell myself.
But grief laughs. Humbles me.
I lose keys, break cups, get lost.
Asked at CarMax Why are you
Selling this car? I burst
Into an embarrassment of tears.
A friend says, One doesn’t have grief,
Grief has you.
We wrestle, to the mat. I’m pinned.
But sometimes I break free.
Break patterns instead of dishes.
Start to write myself a new story,
To fling myself toward yes,
Begin to say, Oh. Now this. . . . Observe
What life brings. Reframe. Say,
I’m not wrestling grief,
So, I put my right foot in . . .
And turn myself about.
“Heavy” by Mary Oliver
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
I went closer,
and I did not die.
had His hand in this,
as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poets said,
was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry
but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it
when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?
Have you heard
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?
How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
to which there is no reply?
In my case, I have found that practicing gratefulness helps me connect with my grief and process it. This question makes me think of a Kristi Nelson quote when she was asked about seeing a glass either half empty or half full. She reportedly said, “You have a glass.”
Connecting to gratefulness is becoming
an automatic response to every situation.
The practice is what allows this to become
second nature. Fortunately, I haven’t had
any major situations of grief, since practicing
gratitude, but there has been the general
life circumstances and some loss that has
tested this ability to have a more balanced
reaction to life’s vagaries.
Gathering/connecting with kindred spirits, with those with whom I can share my heart.
I have not experienced grief in awhile but during challenging times it is helpful for me to create, reach out, talk to trusted folks, read positive quotes, and listen to babies’ laughs.
Talking to loved ones. Sitting in grief, since as I sit with it, I can remember all of the good that was experienced.
family, friends, prayer/meditation
I appreciate the aforementioned comments on Stop, Look, and Go. I also appreciate the comment on impermanence. Acceptance is a Hallmark practice and something I am striving for with consistency. I too have not struggled with deep grief in the recent past however, there has been a good bit of distress and dis harmony surrounding my stepdaughter. I have found my good friends are essential to coping with pain. you need validation and you also need someone to tell you not to wallow. To have someone tell you that you are more than the situation that you’re in. And I’m fortunate to have some very spiritually advanced loving friends to offer these words.
Avril, My son pointed out the fact that I was wallowing this past weekend. He observation immediately brought me relief. Yes, as you shared above, “you need someone to tell you not to wallow.” It’s hard to practice acceptance when you are wallowing!
This is where stop, look and go is a good thing to remember. I haven’t always been able to find help when I have been down and out . All I could do was give up and let go. Stop being lost in my thoughts about myself and look at what is here and now – and go forward as best I can each day . Sometimes the pain of my thoughts and emotions make everything dark. By coming out of those and letting go I see great fullness .
All in this world is impermanent. Life is a gift and if received death will occur. I have not experienced real grief since I began this journey. I would hope I will be able to deal with it better. The last time I experienced deep grief was on September 24th, 2002, when my brother Michael left this world by his own hand. If there is joy, there will be grief.
Your comment reminds me of Kahlil Gibran’s poem on Joy and Sorrow in his book, The Prophet.
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
Kahlil Gibran The Prophet pp. 22-23
This is a book I need to pick up. It has been recommended to me before. Thank you Carol, for bringing it back to my awareness.
Thank you, Joseph for your words….and Carol…thank you for the beautiful work of Kahil Gibran…what a wondrous poem. I know that I have read it before…but today it has much and renewed meaning. Thank you.
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