Humbled once again…

Yes, once again I have been forced to face my own smallness and lack of real control in this life but it has not been a bad thing I have found.  It has made me slow down and view each day, each moment, each choice and really consider what matters to me and what I’ve been fretting about these past many months.

It has been very frustrating and depressing also but as things go in life (a lesson I have learned very well by now) you do have to just go with it and get from it what you can.  I say that now, in this moment, when I am feeling a little better, in a mood of reflection and can’t say that I have felt that right along.

Just to clarify, nothing major has happened. It’s just that I have been sick for the last 3 1/2 weeks with whatever viruses have been going around and it has been a big-time drag.  It is still not done with me and it has really put a serious crimp in my ability to accomplish anything.  It’s that kind of sick where you don’t even want to read a book or get dressed or anything.  You end up feeling like you are not even part of this planet anymore.

One of the things that seemed to happen a lot in the past as I have struggled  to wend my way through grief and create a new life for myself is that as soon as I would start something up and feel good about it, start getting some confidence like I was finally on my way to the “right thing”, something negative would happen like an illness or family problem or money crisis.  I would then feel shaken and take it as some sign that I had made the wrong decision or at least my newfound confidence would wane.

Although I have been reminded, again, that life is about ebb and flow and dealing with each day as it comes, I realize that I don’t feel that “why is this happening  to me” or “what am I doing wrong” feeling. I know now that response is just one of the natural outcomes that can occur with severe grief and trauma; that shaking of your faith in yourself and your trust in your own ability to make the right decisions.

I suspect that loss of self-confidence has a lot to do with the huge shock of fear of realizing how not in control we are of what happens in our lives- at least the important things anyway.  Nothing makes that more real than losing someone you love or some kind of painful major life change.

Coming to peace with that and figuring out how to live in that new reality is a trip for which few of us are prepared.  They don’t teach that subject in school and although prayer and religious faith can be comforting for some, it doesn’t usually give you the play-by-play to get through each difficult day. That is something that comes to each of us in our own way, through our own strength and by allowing those around us to help and support us in whatever ways we feel comfortable with.

It is not easy.  It is very much not easy. How long does it take? Well, I think anyone who’s been there will tell you that it takes a lifetime… but it does get easier.  Looking back now, that is the one thing that I would tell someone who is “new” on this path.

In the midst of all the haze and swirling thoughts and feelings that come and go, you have to start counting all of the small gains that you make and don’t set your sight on an “end game”, you know the “getting over it”.  That is never the goal because it doesn’t happen.  You can live again, smile again, laugh again, love again- it’s all just different than before. How can it not be?

It’s definitely taken me a long time to get to where I am and finally accept that I’m just not going to be the person I used to be, and it’s not just because I’m getting older!  So I will keep stepping forward each day, try not to be too hard on myself, and keep building that new life, with its new twists and turns.  I hope that you can find your strength, reach out for help if you can and will keep moving too.

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A Question of Faith

I read an article today which brought me back to something I’ve been thinking about a lot particularly in relation to grief.  I know it can be a sensitive subject for many people as it has to do with religion and personal beliefs about God and what happens when we die.

People tend to have wide-ranging and often strongly held views on this which can greatly influence their experiences with death and grief.  For many, it can be very comforting to have a strong belief that the person who has died has passed on to a beautiful, safe place where there is no more pain or sorrow.  I personally believe this is true.  However, I have found that there are many different ways in how people view and describe this post death experience, including what it’s like, who goes where and the rules you need to follow to get there.

The reason I ponder this is twofold.  One is because I am bothered by the angry divisions that are being fostered in the name of religion in our country more strongly now than ever.  It seems that we continue to try to use it as a weapon to get people to behave in certain ways as opposed to the spiritual nurturing that it should be.

More importantly though, and in relation to the article that I read, are the difficulties that these ranging views and approaches can cause for those who are grieving as people try to comfort them. It can make it awkward or challenging to know how to approach someone if you aren’t sure of his or her beliefs.

I know that people are frustrated with political correctness but death is a time for sensitivity and putting your own views and needs aside no matter what.  If the phrase “it’s not about you” were ever appropriate, that is the time.  It’s so tempting to fall into the trap of saying the usual things when you see someone who is grieving- “He’s in a better place”, “There’s a reason for everything, only God can know”, etc.  Or we may feel we can ease someone’s pain if we remind him or her about God and religion.  This can be very tricky.  Unless you know the person very well and know how s/he feels, it is probably not the time to try to tell someone about faith and God and believing.

Now, I know there are people who may need and want that.  What I am saying is that you have to really take your cues from the person who you are comforting, not from your beliefs and values.  I feel that is where the mistake occurs.  In our effort to say something, we often fall back on what we would want to hear, or at least think we would want to hear.

Remember that I said that I am a believer?  Well when my baby died, someone actually said to me “I guess God must have needed another angel”.  What?  Why would you think that, even if I believed that my baby was in heaven,  I would want to believe that God took her because he wanted another angel? Telling me that my baby was now an angel didn’t help when all I wanted was for her to be in my arms.

“It was God’s will” is another popular thing to say and I have no problem telling you that one is off of my list as well.  As I have grown and matured in my faith, I do not believe that God “wills” these things.

I have heard so many stories from people of things being said and done that were meant to comfort but made them feel worse- “he’s with God now” when the widow is crying in agony “but I want him here with me”.  Or someone insisting on a formal religious funeral ceremony when it wasn’t wanted by the deceased and everyone is upset and uncomfortable and great expense is incurred that no one can afford. Or there’s an implication that because a baby wasn’t baptised that there will be a “problem” – with what?- getting into Heaven? Really?

And what about those who are not religious or do not believe in God?  As the article I read addressed, there are a lot of people who do not associate dying with anything but the end of life and do not want to hear about God or angels or heaven or anything like that.  And I believe that they deserve and need the same respect and kindness and sensitivity as everyone else.

The thing is, we are a people of all different kinds of faiths and beliefs.  We all practice our faiths and express our spirituality differently. We are not all Christians and among those who are, there are many interpretations of exactly what being one means.  We do not all believe in God – that is just the way it is.  But we do all experience grief and what matters is how we respond to that in the persons that we encounter.

Everyone who is grieving needs quiet understanding, a shoulder to lean on, someone to help with the housework and the kids and the home maintenance, friends to get them out of the house, and a listening ear for months and years to come.  It doesn’t matter who they worship or if they worship at all- grief doesn’t care.  We all love and we all lose those we love and it hurts us all the same.

Read the full article here>  Grief Beyond Belief

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