Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Bereavement During Illness and Pain

     This season is usually a difficult time of remembrance for me. My son, Chris, died on September 24th followed by the death of my husband, Fred, six weeks later on November 2nd. Then the holidays fast approach. We "should" have feelings of anticipation and joy, not feelings of dread and the loss of someone and something missing. 

     Usually I win the battle of melancholy this time of year by focusing on my blessings and keeping busy on the the people I love who remain. Doing as much as possible for them.

     However, this year has been a challenge due to illness, severe back pain for several months. It seems I have developed a cyst on my upper lumbar spine which is causing pressure, narrowing in the spinal column and a small herniated disc. The pain has been terrible and very inconvenient. It has necessitated three spinal epidural injections and strong pain medication.  Before I could get relief, I got into a very bad depression with some very dark thoughts. I needed counseling and medication.

     I have relied a great deal on prayer to get me through this dark time. Along with prayer I listened to relaxing music, talked to friends, sought professional counseling, stayed persistent with medical intervention and remembered my son and husband. I prayed to them to ask them to get "Mom" through in my moments of worst pain when I thought I couldn't bear it anymore. The pain pills weren't enough. 

     Somehow they did. The spirits of our loved ones are always with us. Watching over us. Taking care of us. I have decisions to make about treatment options. I am sure Chris and Fred will guide me and watch over me there too. 

     To all of you, Be Well! Peace and May You Find Your Own Joy and Blessed Season! 




Thursday, September 24, 2020

Releasing Your Private Pain

     My son, Chris, died 21 years ago on September 24th five days after his 23rd birthday on September 19th.  My grief seemed to hit me particularly hard this year. Maybe it was the effect of the prolonged isolation from COVID-19 and battling another type of infection myself this past week.

     Anyway, it all came to a head when my nephew shared with me some memories he had of Chris. I was so touched that somehow the flood of tears just started to flow. I think of Chris everyday, but I do not cry everyday. That day I did.

     It has been a struggle ever since. Thankfully, my companion/friend understands. He is supportive for which I am very fortunate. He has had loss in his own life, not a child, but he can understand. I am grateful for his love and kindness.

     It is also a relief to be able to write and to put my pain and sorrow into words. Pouring out the words and emotions acts as a release of my private pain. This curbs my desire to run and hide in my closet and go to a dark place alone with my pain. I would be in private with my pain not letting anyone know where I was or how I felt.

     I am sure many of you have had the desire to run and hide. I urge you if you are having a bad time to find someone to talk to or even call your local or National Hotline where you live. In the USA the National Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. 

     Or do as I am doing. Pour your thoughts out on paper, tablet, phone or computer. Just get them down. You are not being graded on grammar, spelling or punctuation. The important thing is to get your emotions out. Don't be afraid of your tears. They are a necessary release. You can even write a letter to your son or daughter. If you want, you can bury the letter at their grave in the cemetery, place it in his or her room or put it in another safe, private place. 

     Get started doing something. You will feel better taking action rather than doing nothing. May God grant you energy, strength and peace. I am praying for you.  

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