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.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Aftermath of the Worst Loss and Pain

     A conversation with a social worker friend of mine caused me to wonder how much I have changed since my son Chris died suddenly at he age of 23 under mysterious and violent circumstances.

     For lack of something better to call it, I think I definitely suffered from "compassion fatigue" soon after his death. I was in a general bereavement support group where people had lost elderly parents and elderly spouses which they were having difficulty coping with. I would think to myself these are natural losses to be expected. These people were so much better off than me because they still had children and grandchildren. Why weren't they counting their blessings instead of whining here?

     I wanted to scream at them, "Get over it! I lost a child! You want to know what pain is!" At that particular time, I couldn't relate to their pain when I believed I had suffered the worst loss and worst pain imaginable. I think I get no argument there.

     Needless to say, I did not stay in that group. I found another although general bereavement group with a spiritual agenda led by a nun with a degree in pastoral care. In the group were other parents who had lost children so the losses were more evenly dispersed. It is always important in groups to be able to relate to other people who have had similar losses and experiences to yours. If you are looking for a support group for only parents who have lost children, then I suggest Compassionate Friends.

     But I have to say my empathy is still with parents and children, cancer patients, the terminally ill, chronically ill, the plight of too many disabled and homeless military veterans and long-term caregivers. Maybe being actively involved in nursing for 49 years contributed to my fatigue. I have heard so many tragic stories and witnessed so many tragic events especially abused and neglected children. The neurotic and mundane fail to move me.

     You might think after what has happened to me, everything would move me, but it doesn't. Perhaps, I have had to become harder to preserve myself from my own pain. Or now I know as you do, dearest readers, what the worst pain is.

     May the Lord bring you His peace.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Closure and Other Grief Myths

     Closure, a time table for grief and a proper way to grieve are all society's preconceived notions about grief. All of which you discover are very wrong when you lose someone close to you, especially your child. As I quoted William Shakespeare last week, "Everyone can master grief, but he who has it."

     Let's look at our first topic, closure. If your child died as a result of a criminal act, perhaps there can be closure to the crime if the crime is solved and the perpetrator is charged and punished. But closure to his or her death, I do not believe so.

     I believe closure was a concept thought of by a psychologist who had never lost anyone close to them. Any death leaves unwritten chapters of a book, even more so that of a child. You just can't ever close that book and end it. Too many unwritten chapters about developmental milestones, graduations, dating, marriage, career and their own children. Robbed of all this and you as participant in it and witness to it. Closure? I don't think so. It does not exist.

     Now, next a time table for grief. I had a woman ask me after I had lost both my son and husband within six weeks of each other, "Well, it's been a year. You're over all that by now, aren't you?" I think she saw by the the shocked look on my face as I sputtered out, "It's a lot to get over in a year," she had obviously said the wrong thing.

     But one year seems to be society's expectation for you to get over your grief. When actually for a spouse, it is more like seven years and for a child, it is more like never even though you can find ways of coping with your grief. Your grief will not always be with you in the numbing and paralyzing initial way it is when your child first died, but you will always carry some grief in your heart as you will always carry your child in your heart. I am suggesting the following of my previous blogs as ways of suggesting coping with grief:

     My Twelve Steps to Tackle Grief
     Letting Go of Shadows
     A Secret Life
     Getting Through Tough Times

     Finally, society wants to force expectations on ways to grieve as well. A big one is to not talk about your child as it is too "upsetting." For whom? I would say find sympathetic ears where you can share memories or the circumstances of your child's death. You need to vent, possibly in a support group. There are specific support groups as well that deal with death by drugs or suicide or homicide or mental illness.  As well as MADD for death brought about by drunk driving. It is important to connect with people who have had experiences similar to yours so you do not feel isolated. Wherever possible, I would recommend choosing a support group with a professionally trained leader. If groups don't work for you then, consider professional counseling. This is not a journey you can go alone.

     Other expectations revolve around anger and forgiveness. You should or shouldn't be angry. You should or shouldn't forgive. Anger is a normal reaction to the loss of a child. You can experience it in many ways and for several reasons. I deal with this in two previous blogs which you may find helpful to read:

     Anger and Forgiveness
     A Path to Forgiveness

     Also, it is important not to turn to addictions to food, alcohol, drugs or sex. These are not healthy coping mechanisms. While they may help you forget, They will not move you forward or help you heal or maintain other healthy relationships.

     These are three of society's expectations. But what matters is what you expect of yourself. Don't measure yourself by others or by society. Be good to yourself. Don't isolate yourself. Peace and God bless.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Who Missed Chris' Funeral

    Funerals honor the living as well as the dead. I came to this realization clearly today when for some reason I started thinking about my son Chris' funeral. I remembered who was there, but more than that I was hurt as I remembered who was not there.

     This reminded of the words of Sister Dolores, a pastoral care nun, in my bereavement support group long ago. Sister Dolores stated it does not matter how many flowers, cards or memorials you send. What families remember most is your presence. .whether or not you come to services to express you condolences personally. Perhaps you had a similar experience or feelings to mine with your child's funeral.

     I know I don't remember everyone who was at Chris' funeral, but I remember past friends and classmates, former teachers, old neighbors, moms who car pooled, co-workers of mine who did not attend either viewing or the funeral mass. The first viewing was on a Sunday evening.

     Some I knew had to do with work and attending the funeral itself during working hours. Schools wouldn't pay to cover employees for substitutes for personal or funeral time. Others I am left to wonder why. Maybe they, "couldn't handle it." I am glad no one gave this excuse to me as I am not sure what my response would be. Good question maybe for "Dear Abby."

     Funerals are not easy for anyone most especially a parent numb with grief burying a child. After the experience of losing my son and husband, I cannot go to a visitation or funeral service by myself. I need to go with someone else for moral support.

     I recognize though it is necessary to go to acknowledge to the bereaved family their love and respect for their beloved deceased even if I didn't know the person that well or had lost touch. Or if it was someone for whom I had affection, to show my own love and respect along with the family for the dear person who has died. Does it bring back memories? Yes

     I would say if you buried your son or daughter recently, it is probably too soon to go to another funeral unless you absolutely feel you must for a very close family member or friend. Otherwise, use your own judgement to determine the situation and your readiness. Go with someone and keep it of short duration. And by all means, if a professional counselor advises against going, do not go.

     As for me and my feelings of disappointment towards the people I didn't see at Chris' funeral, maybe it is part of the grieving process. I came across an interesting quote just yesterday:

                                  "Everyone can master grief, but he who has it."
                                                                                      William Shakespeare


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Setting Things Straight

     The recent and tragic deaths of beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his lovely daughter and seven other beautiful souls shocked the world. It gives us pause and fills us with awe as we remember the words of the good book, "We know not the day nor the hour."

     For us as parents who have already lost children, it brings back many painful memories. We can relate as two other teenage girls were killed in that terrible accident along with Bryant's daughter--one young lady with her parents and the other sweet girl who was not accompanied by a parent.

     The shock of this tragedy set me to further thinking how since life is so unpredictable and our futures are not guaranteed, we need to examine our relationships. Are they in order or in a state of neglect or worse yet, estranged?

     Can we afford to spend time away from those who would like to support us in our grief? Can we try to maintain some contact and not isolate ourselves in our sorrow and our anger? No big social events. Take a walk around the block. Talk to a neighbor or two. Answer the phone, an email, a text. Go out to lunch if someone asks you. Go to a different church with a friend if going to your own church makes you cry. Do these small things as it is not good to be alone.

     Can we afford to let more sunsets go down on our anger with one or more individuals and let our wounds fester? Can we reach out with an apology to straighten things out before it might be too late. A phone call, a letter, an email--if not reciprocated, at least you know you tried.

     Can we afford to let old friendships and relationships die of neglect only to regret later we hadn't got back in touch to revive old memories and good feelings. We all need love and good times and lasting memories. You never know where you can find a revived friendship and mutual source of support in a difficult world. No harm in reaching out.

     May God guide you in your quest and bring you love and support.