Saturday, May 23, 2020

Loss of Friendship

     There are many kinds of losses, such as loss of friendship.  Loss of a friendship can be very troubling. Although it is not a death, it can be quite painful and distressing. For the injured party, it raises a lot of questions. Why the end to our friendship? What happened? What did I do?

     I had a dear friend, one of two best friends, who told me in an email after 60 years of friendship that she no longer wished to be my friend. I was devastated. We had shared everything. She was one of the main people who had supported me through the deaths of my son and husband. I pleaded with her to please not do this. To please stay friends with me. 

     However, in her mind I had crossed some sort of social line. I was in a relationship she didn't approve of and therefore, I had to go. End of story.  She explained relationships go through phases and in our case, ours was going in a phase of distancing itself. Distancing after 60 years? Are you kidding me? I was distraught, beside myself. What could I do to fix this?

     Apparently nothing! I wasn't going to end my relationship to please her. And fortunately, I did not as it has worked out very well.  My friendship, though, is still on the ropes. I am hurt beyond words. I miss my friend, spending time with her, her family and being in her home. We used to bake Christmas cookies together every year. She was the baker and I was the assistant. We saw each other every week--lunches, craft shows, designer houses, movies, shopping. Now gone. 

     I won't say over. I know she has a new set of friends. They play bridge and volunteer at her local library. She has a set of friends who pre-dated me. But I don't think any of them had or have the special bond we had. I still have hope she may contact me one day. Who knows. Maybe I will send her an email and see if she responds. If she doesn't, then maybe I will have to acknowledge the loss. Perhaps she has changed and we are indeed no longer friends. Sadly, I will regret that day.

                                           "A friend is one who knows you as you are,
                                             understands you as you have been, accepts
                                             what you have become, and still gently
                                             allows you to grow."
                                                                               William Shakespeare

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Mother's Day Modified

     I started writing this blog in a funk, but ended on a high note. I suppose it is true, "Necessity is the mother of invention," when it comes to creativity. This Mother's Day needed to be modified here to take in feelings of bereavement as well as lockdown regulations.

     For me and for those of you reading this who have lost children, Mother's Day is a difficult holiday. Wishes for a "Happy Mother's Day" though well intentioned kind of cut because for us, how can the day be happy. I feel I should be running to the cemetery instead of getting ready to go out somewhere with family. Well that's the truth.

     However, if you have living children, it is time for a brave face if you can manage it for your children's sakes. I think if you are not newly bereaved, and feel you are able to celebrate within the scope of the lockdown, then do it. No need to feel guilty enjoying yourself. Nowhere is it written you need to feel miserable the rest of your life because you have lost a child. The last one who would want this is the child you lost.

     Your day need not be bitter with thoughts of loss. Here are some suggestions of what to do:
1) Rekindle living memories. Look at photos today to bring back memories for tomorrow; 2) Using Zoom or some other virtual site, have a celebration dinner or cookout at each child's house. Mom can go to one house or house to house. Have a toast to the deceased child; 3) Take a single file walk along a park trail or beach. Each child bring a picture of the deceased child with him or herself and give as a gift to Mom; and 4) Have a parade of cars go by Mom's house with flowers and favorite take-out food, enough for several days. 

     These are just some ideas to brighten your Mother's Day and and include your missing child too. As I have no other children, I think I will spend a quiet day reminiscing with some photos. I will have dinner with my companion and propose a toast to Chris' memory.

     This Mother's Day has released a torrent of emotions for me. Today is the anniversary of my own mother's death 40 years ago. I look upon it with mixed emotions as she was an emotionally abusive mother to me and particularly my sister. I know now she had a borderline personality disorder. I work at forgiving her and pray for her soul. It is not easy to forget many things, but we have to live the life we get. Do I wish things had been different? Yes, but only because I think I might have been a better mother. So it is a double whammy of a weekend for me, but hey the weather is sunny and beautiful. As always, I will come out the other side. Until next week.

     Have the best Mother's Day you can have. God grant you peace and strength.

                                       "Keep your face toward the sunshine----
                                         and the shadows will fall behind you."
                                                                                  Poet Walt Whitman

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Healing Through Hope

     There is some glimmer of hope regarding the corona virus pandemic. Hospital admissions for the virus are starting to decrease around the world and in several epicenters in the United States. This is a small positive break in otherwise what have been steady, daunting statistics. With this break in admissions to the hospital and intensive care units, the numbers of deaths should also start to decrease in two to three weeks as well.

     I am feeling folks breathe a collective sigh of relief worldwide if and when isolation and lockdowns can be lifted. I can imagine church bells ringing in my head because everyone will be overjoyed even if cautiously optimistic. Sunrises will seem more glorious and brighter and sunsets deeper and more beautiful. Children will laugh and play in the streets again. Cars will honk their horns. Basketballs will bounce. Baseballs will crack on bats. Music will blare. The smell of cooking food will permeate the air. Businesses will display open signs. People will happily return to work. Cash drawers will open and close. Traffic will resume. Grocery stores will be well stocked with no waiting lines. Less people will need food banks. Churches, synagogues and mosques will open again.  It may happen gradually, but it will happen.

     We will appreciate these simple things we always took for granted. Maybe that is the message and lesson here. It took a pandemic to make us realize what we can live without. In a sense, the pandemic will be a great equalizer. Do we really need to impress anyone with our things? Do we really need so many things? Do we really need to "see" and "be seen" in so many places or is family time more important? Do we really need the most expensive of everything or is "good enough" good enough? Do we really need to revel in a secular and sexual society for ourselves and our children or would religion and spirituality be more meaningful to our lives. It would indeed be sad to go through such a life altering experience as this pandemic and not come out a changed person for the better.

     Let us all hope and pray for those joyous days signaling our release come sooner than later. Until then, we must remain vigilant so they do in fact come. Keep your mind's eye on those new sunrises and sunsets to come. Listen for those church bells announcing our release from this enemy pandemic. We can do this. Keep the faith and fight on one and all. Keep hope alive. We can heal in many ways.

                             "Just living is not enough...One must have sunshine, freedom
                                                and a little flower."        Hans Christian Andersen

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Help for Corona Virus Grief & Loss

     "I'm sorry," the doctor always says. Today these words are being repeated in staggering, overwhelming numbers to parents, spouses, siblings, children and friends. Add to that families and friends cannot be with their ill loved ones during their illnesses or final moments. Funerals cannot be the same if at all.

     The shocking and devastating news continues for parents who have lost a child, spouses who have lost a soul mate, children who have lost a father or mother, sisters or brothers who have lost one another. It is difficult to comprehend the worldwide numbers let alone the personal and social consequences to come.

     Those of you left behind must be asking yourselves how could this happen to your loved ones? Of all the things that could go wrong in life among the tragedies and diseases, how could a pandemic of this magnitude strike? Who would have this on their list of things that might happen to themselves or a loved one???!!!

     We may never really know how this corona virus actually started or how it originally escaped. That is not something to which I have the answer. But what can you do if you have been affected by the loss of your loved one? I know you are feeling lost, numb and adrift and perhaps angry. It may be difficult to grieve as you may be isolated from those who would be most able to support you. I would recommend the following:

     *Do not be totally alone all the time. If you are not with your spouse, try to be with a trusted family member or friend some of the time.

     *Accept help such as cooked meals, grocery shopping, child care, laundry, dog walking, housekeeping, etc.

     *Eat, exercise, shower, walk, rest and try to keep a schedule

     *Write down your thoughts and feelings just to get them out. Don't worry about grammar and spelling. Do this everyday.

     *Write a letter to your loved one to say good-bye. You can bury it at the cemetery at the grave in the future or not.

     *Cry. Pound the bed pillows. Scream in the shower. Get your feelings out.

     *If you feel a lot of anger or blame, it might be helpful to actually list in writing all individuals or factors in whom you blame then put this aside somewhere private and safe.  When this blame and anger starts swirling in your head, remind yourself you have done this and it is tucked safely away for the time being. 

     *If you know someone else who has lost a loved one through corona virus, stay in touch. It is important to relate to people with similar experiences. If you know more than one person you may even want you try to form a phone or virtual group. Maybe there is a hospital social worker who could help you if several of you were acquainted through the hospital.

     *Reach out for help if you feel the need. You can call your primary care doctor for a referral to a professional counselor or agency. Or reach out to your local county or state mental health departments. Now during this time, many counties and states are advertising crisis phone lines during corona virus briefings. U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK. Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Grief is not a journey you can make alone.
     *Pray even if you are not any particular faith. This is a time when being spiritual can bring you great comfort. Many religious services are being streamed and taped and are or TV. Now would be a good time to reach out to see if you would find some comfort. 

     My sincere sympathy, condolences and prayers to all individuals and families worldwide affected by this pandemic. May a merciful God be with you to support, strengthen and heal you. May God continue to strengthen and protect all first responders, health care personnel, hospital workers, medical researchers, essential workers and our leaders worldwide. 

                          "There are things we don't want to happen but have to accept,  
                            things we don't want to know but have to learn,
                            and people we can't live without but have to let go."
                                                                                                 Author Unknown


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Final Moments

    I was not with my son, Chris, when he died. Contemplating Chris' final moments was a heart wrenching thing to come to terms with. He was shot. Neither I nor anyone else was physically there to comfort him as he lay dying. I felt terrible guilt and anguish about this for a long time. What kind of mother was I to not be there for my son?

     I can only hope his physical pain was fleeting. That faith brought him comfort in his fear. I wonder if he knew he was dying. Maybe it went so fast, he didn't have time to know. Who finally brought me comfort was Sister Dolores, the pastoral care counselor, in my bereavement support group. Sister Dolores says that no one ever dies alone. That the "spirits" always come to be with the dying person.

     I believe this. My deceased parents loved Chris so much as a child. I am sure they were there to be with him as he lay dying and to accompany his soul to heaven or beyond. This brings me great solace. I often feel my parents presence in my life before times of trouble as if to tell me things will be all right ahead of time. When they come, I know to expect a storm, but that I will weather it. So I know they saved my Chris from being alone.

     I also had a previous experience with this when my mother-in-law died. I was not with her, but had a vision of my father coming down a beautiful staircase surrounded by clouds. I took note of the time. She died later that evening. When my husband described her death, he told me the exact same time when he felt her life or spirit had left her body even though she was not physically dead. It was the same time I had noted when I had envisioned my father.

     Another piece of wisdom from Sister Dolores. The soul often leaves the body before actual physical death so there is no longer physical suffering or torment in the way that we imagine. I hope this can be of comfort to many of you.

     Dying is over for our children. They are at peace from any suffering, evil, injustice, horror or unknown. They are well and happy now and bathed in a beautiful light we can hardly imagine. They are with family. Their ordeal is over. Let your ordeal be over. Scream and let your anger out. Pound pillows and the bed. Let those final moments end in your head.

                     ___________Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.________
                                                                                           Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, March 6, 2020

Effective Ways to Grieve

     Grieving is a necessary part of healing after losing a child. It is said there is no right or wrong way to grieve as grieving is a very personal issue. I am going to agree with that up a point in that I will say there are ways to grieve that can bring about healing and ways that may not so much.

     What do I mean? Time does help heal wounds, but denial does not. If you sit on the couch and refuse to recognize your own feelings or talk about what has happened because you fear the the flood of tears, this is a sign you need to talk and cry. You are not being strong you are being stoic. The emotion has to come out intense as it may be. If need be, sit with a trusted relative or friend, but let your thoughts and feelings out. Or do it alone. Pound the bed pillows. Cry. Get it all out. Grief is an interactive process. Then rest. Have tea. Take a warm bath. Sleep. Call someone. You have taken a big step in your grief journey. It could happen again, but that's all right. You are getting stronger. You can go on.

     There may be other times you simply, as I call it, "go to a dark place." Don't be afraid and don't fight it. Just go with it. Stay there for a few hours or a day. If you want, call someone to be with you or call someone to talk to. No long explanations. You just need some company or to hear another voice. Or if you prefer and feel safe, stay alone. Try not to stay like this for more than one day. Reach out for help if you are having trouble coming around either to a friend or relative or someone in your support group.

     If you ever have feelings if wanting to harm yourself to join your child, then you must get immediate help. Call your doctor, 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK. If you are feeling this way you should not be alone. Follow the directions of whomever you call for emergency help. Call a family member, loved one or close friend to be with you. Please do not give up. This is not what your child would want. Please get help. This is not the time for going alone or false pride. You can go on to have a meaningful life, one your child would be proud of.

     The grieving process has to be effective to help you heal, but safe to preserve your life when necessary. Grieving takes hard work and courage. It is something you must decide to do. It doesn't magically happen without effort on your part. That is why support groups and/or professional grief counselors are necessary also. This is not a journey you can make alone. You must be able to relate to other who have experienced the the same loss as you.

     May you find empathy, courage and support on your journey. God bless.


Friday, February 28, 2020

Are You Angry at God

     When your child died as a result of a crime or tragedy, you can be very angry at God for allowing evil and misfortune in the world and for not being there to protect your child. Or if your child died of a serious illness, you can be very angry at God for striking down your child, for not answering your prayers and for the limits of medical science.

     Why you may ask is evil in the world? Why were my prayers not answered? Why my child? Why is there no cure for that disease? Why God? Why? I can only tell you what I concluded long ago. Evil, corruption, disease and lack of knowledge are all part of the human condition here on earth. An earthly condition in which we are not guaranteed perfection during our existence. We live imperfect lives in an imperfect world. If you believe in the Bible, this can be traced back to the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

     So, what to do? You can go on being angry at God for what might be the sins and/or shortcomings of man. Perhaps this deserves some thought. Might you consider offering a prayer for enlightenment to somehow get over this great hump of anger. To see your way clear to some peace of mind. To some sort of forgiveness you can live with. If you feel you are able, I urge you to start here because anger is very debilitating physically and emotionally. Your prayer need not be anything fancy. Just a simple, "I'm here, God. Help me not be angry at You. Amen"

     Man is composed of body, mind and spirit or soul all of which must be nourished. Without God or a Higher Power the soul/spirit cannot be nourished. I believe this lack of nourishment leads to anxiety and depression and a host of other problems as our society becomes increasingly secular and even atheistic.

     Children and teens, in my opinion, are particularly vulnerable to this lack of of nourishment of the spirit. Without prayer and organized religion, children and teens seem to lack faith, hope, caring for one another and a strong conscience. I think this contributes to anxiety, depression, stress and a host of problems starting with bullying.

     I believe evil can flourish where the spirit is not nourished with God or a Higher Power. If you blame God for what happened to your child, look at how much of society has rejected God. Look at the universe. May you find peace and strength and God again if you choose to do so. Amen.