I sat with a most amazing lady yesterday. She became a widower only 5 months ago after a tragic occurrence taking place which ultimately took the life of her husband of more than 25 years. For the sake of this story, let’s call her Kim.
Kim and I sat and chatted about how she is feeling as I suspected the 5-month exhaustion would have hit by now and the devastating reality that her current situation is now the forever different life she and her kids must live. My suspicions were correct, life has become crushingly difficult and painful for Kim.
"....and it seems to that you live your life, like a candle in the wind" sang Elton John as ??? million people watched the funeral service of Lady Diane, Duchess of"....and it seems to me, you lived your life, like a candle in the wind" sang Elton John as 2.5 billion people watched the funeral service of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, on the 6th September 1997. Such a beautiful song, which forever, in my mind anyway, takes me back to when I sat and watched the live broadcast of that royal funeral.
One of life’s great pains is to witness someone we love deteriorating. Many times patients painfully go on as the day of death is delayed, whether by medical interference or simply the body willing to holding on just a little longer. So many times I have sat with a grieving person who has said “Steve I am ashamed to say it, but I just wanted them to die.”
I remember late last year, after morning church, when I spoke with a beautiful lady whose husband died a couple of years ago. I have been a family friend of theirs for several years and had the honour of officiating the memorial service.
From someone looking in at Mary’s journey over the past couple of years, I would say that all in all she is in a very healthy place. She has adjusted incredibly well and is participating in life with purpose. But that morning as I greeted Mary, she said with such depth of conviction; “Steve, I miss him so much.”
I walked into the house of a teenager who had taken his own life. Everyone was asking WHY? His mum and dad totally shattered and smashed to pieces, the elderly grandparents, his brothers, aunties and uncles, all in a daze. How could this boisterous animated teenager do this? Why seemed to be the most common word spoken throughout that day – Shaking their heads in disbelief – Why?
I’m going on a cruise in December, so naturally in my bone-weary state today I found myself wondering how boats stay afloat. I’m sure it’s all very complicated really, because when I did try and Google it I found I was bored pretty quickly. But one word stuck out to me when I was thinking about staying afloat and that is the word, Ballast.
Have you ever felt like you are a square peg trying to fit into a round hole? I seem to be having more and more of those experiences as time goes on.Just recently I was ‘challenged’, no, make that ‘judged harshly’, for being me. I gave my all, just as I was asked, and yet it was not acceptable, not ‘right’, not what was expected. As I have pondered what I would call “a very confronting experience which challenged my belief system and gifting” I realised that I was indeed feeling like a ‘square peg trying to fit into a round hole’.
Life is full of endings. There’s the ending of one job for another, ending your single life to marry, ending your life in one home or neighbourhood to relocate to another, the end of a relationship, or the end of a cherished life with the passing of a loved one.
I've always said I like change as long as I'm in control of it, but realistically that doesn't always happen! In fact, things change constantly and sometimes it's hard to stop and catch a breath. Loved ones die; jobs end, as do relationships. People get promoted, couples get married, and babies are born. Guess what? The positive changes can be as hard to adapt to as the negative ones. So what can we do in order to soften the blow?
Last week a friend called. We hadn’t spoken in months. We have been friends for over 20 years and always chat openly. She wasn’t after a favour or needing something from me. Just a call to refresh our connection. As we spoke I was sharing parts of my past 18 months, and as she listened, she made the comment that what I was talking about is really what psychologists call "transactional relationships'.
As part of the process to obtain my recognition as a 'Fellow of Thanatology' in the USA, I had to discuss at length the issue surrounding End OF Life decisions and challenges. Such areas as the ethical and legal impacts, social, cultural and religious implications, life span and assisted death debates and so much more. This theory is essential for us in the Thanatology world, but what happens when the learning goes from a text book to a family meeting room in a hospital?
We live in a world that is so vastly different to the one even I grew up in. When I had finished high school (year 12) the internet didn't exist. Nowadays however, my 9 year old frequently says "I could never live without the internet".When a friend of mine died recently, his Facebook page was transformed. What had been a page of personal memories and reflection became the memorial site for those who knew and loved him; a place where they could share their memories and leave personal messages both to him (the deceased) and his family.
Grief can be all-consuming, particularly if you ever venture into complicated grief where time does not lessen symptoms but rather continually flares up and deepens. Having been stuck in complicated grief once myself, I know how difficult it is to see anything outside the lens of grief, I know how difficult it is to experience joy, I know how difficult it is to step back into life. My complicated grief spiralled me down a road of pain, one I experienced fully in both mind and body. I was like Humpty Dumpty, where all the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not put me back together again. It was a very complicated grief.
I heard someone ask the other day, “what is the point of grief?” She explained that she had lost someone close to her a few years ago, and still she did not understand why she grieved so much, why the pain was so deep, or why grief still hurt. She got me thinking on that question, what IS the point of grief? I know what it is to experience grief, to walk down that road and wonder if it ends, to question everything I thought I knew about love and loss. So, I want to journey together with you and explore some of the reasons we grieve in the first place.
I had come up with so many different names for this blog... obviously, I settled on 'Isolation Kills'. I was considering 'I'm not dead' or 'where did you go?' and possibly 'how can leaving someone alone who is in deep pain, be a positive approach for support and recovery?'. It was late Sunday afternoon, Naomi and I sat with a friend who is a widower and listened to her story. This of course is not unusual for us and neither were the feelings, pain and fears she was sharing. As time is going on, she feels incredibly isolated. The ‘why’ questions were coming quickly;
Being suddenly widowed, especially at a relatively young age is many peoples worst fear and some peoples most stark reality. It became my reality in 2013 and I had to quickly learn how to navigate things I never thought possible and do so whilst protecting and caring for my 4 beautiful children who were grieving just as hard as me. Here is a list of things I didn’t know were a part of being widowed until I was thrown into it suddenly aged 44.
I was pondering these past few days the thought that people are told to "move on" after a loss; especially the loss of a loved one. I have a fundamental issue with this, as does the grief literature I have read which slams this statement – speaking strongly of the damage such a statement can cause. Upon further thought, I believe that what we need to say and/or do, is advise people to “move forward, not on”.
Sunday night, three days ago, I sent my weekly video to those who have requested it. I spoke about one of the challenges I am personally having at the moment which I am describing as ‘spending an unhealthy amount of time looking back and wishing, wanting, desiring, stressing, grieving, longing for my life to go back to how it was, to how it use to be’.
The shocking terrorist attack and mass murder in Manchester earlier this week has been felt around the world. Evil came again, this time targetting kids. Beautiful teenage girls enjoying their pop star in concert were innocent victims of sick people. The body count at writing this blog was 22 with over 50 injured, the reality is that thousands of family members and friends are impacted deeply and are suffering the effects of this atrocity, and probably will for the rest of their lives.
When grief comes across our path, by way of a death, we find that life suddenly becomes divided into two, before death and after death. We often no longer conceptualise life as being on a singular continuum, but rather it is running on two separate lines. It can feel as though you have entered into an ulterior dimension. Life has been so unfathomably changed that it is not possible to keep on the same path that you were travelling.