Archive for the ‘Grief’ Category

When Grieving – Become the Observer

Monday, February 27th, 2017

On December 17, 2010 my son Mike ended his life on this planet. died. Yes, he died of suicide. And so began my journey. Walking the path of grief into healing.

Now this walk is not one that any of us have chosen. Many were hurled here without warning, those that did have warning were often overwhelmed before this all began. This sort of loss is complicated, traumatic. It’s sometimes hard to keep our focus and find our direction. Natural and normal human reactions.

When things are the most muddied and confusing, I find it can be tremendously helpful to step back. Sometimes quite literally! Remove myself from the thoughts, feelings, conversations, behaviors of myself and others. Become The Observer.

Imagine what the current situation (whatever it is) might look, sound and feel like to someone who knows nothing about what is happening. Perhaps someone from far, far away. With no history that connects to any of us, what would they see? Most of the time when I do this, I can easily imagine The Observer being aware people who are in great distress. Doing the best they know how to do.

The one who is telling others what they should be feeling, or perhaps tells others that they don’t care? The Observer may become aware that this person is feeling confused about how to express their own fears about those who are also grieving. They may be judging their own behavior of the past very harshly.

The one who… fill in the blank. We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s as simple as that. We imagine that we know and understand what is happening within ourselves and everyone else as well, but the truth is that we can’t know all of these things, at least not as humans. It becomes easier for us once we recognize that reality.

The one who never sheds a tear? That some have decided is cold and unfeeling? Perhaps The Observer is able to see that this person is in such deep pain that they might fall apart if they let the tears begin…

Let your own tears fall. They are cleansing, healing. It’s okay. When the accusations come, let them go on by, remind yourself how much you always loved this person and always will. Feel the love. In the end, the love is all that matters.

The rest will heal. In time and with work, oh boy is it work. But it is work that is so worth it because you see as we continue to do the grief work, we heal and that helps us to feel that ongoing love more fully. To embrace gentle memories. To remember smiles, hands holding ours. The life we will always cherish and celebrate.

This exercise allows us to see or at least consider seeing things from the point of view of others. There have been more times than I can count that people I know love me, said awful things. They didn’t say those things to hurt me, they were expressing themselves as best they could in that moment, from their own vantage point.

Step back. Take a deep breath. Let some of the anxiety go. Of course, it’s easier said than done, it gets easier with practice. Once we are able to take that step back, and hold open the possibility that even those who are hurting us are really doing the best they can in this moment, we experience much less stress. In its place, a feeling of compassion for ourselves and others can emerge. You might be surprised how much easier stepping back gets with practice and more importantly and how your perspective enlarges.

Namaste,
Sandy

How Connection Heals

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

LegacyConnect members sum up what they do as follows: “grief support groups & expert advice on coping with loss, writing condolences, attending funerals, mourning death and celebrating life.” A sense of community and connection with others is perhaps the most important tool for healing that survivors can find. Getting advice from experts in related fields is something we all long for from the very beginning, but becoming a part of a community in which we can interact and share both pain and healing is something that is priceless, especially to “celebrating life.”

Celebrating life, whether I realized it or not, was something I did naturally, even at the beginning of my mourning for my husband. Reaching out to connect with others was another instinctive healing urge that guided me back toward life and hope. I had always heard this was possible, but I also realized – in 2007 – that I had never encountered this kind of darkness before.

If you think about it, we all learn from others. We start at the beginning of life, and this is one task that never ends. Learning and sharing are as old as mankind, yet we have not learned everything yet. Some things cannot be passed by information alone. Some things have to be experienced. I believe that each person who enters this world leaves a special and unique message that no one else can deliver. I think each person who loses a dearly loved child, partner, sibling, other family member or friend can provide comfort to others that is uniquely his or her own. In this way we are all adding to the body of knowledge in the universe.

It may be that when we have completed our time on earth – no matter at what age that time comes – we are ready to move forward. Our message has been delivered; our impact on the world has been made. For people who love us, there is never a good time to lose us. I cannot ask for more time with my husband in exchange for a date when I must let him go – again. That is something I cannot give. I would never willingly let him go.

Or would I? We two used to talk about things like that in deep conversations that ran long into the night. I suppose everyone has that kind of conversation at some point. How do we want to face the end of life? What are the best decisions regarding the care of our children? Should the one who is left remarry? Are there certain people we should consult for advice if the unthinkable happens?

We had it all planned…except that nothing happened the way we thought it would. Personally, I was sure we would take our lasts breaths together in our sleep one night, passing from one peaceful existence to another wrapped in the arms of each other. We would be well into our ninety’s, and our children would say, “This is how they would have wanted to go because they loved each other so. This is the way is was supposed to be.”

I did not plan for my daughter to walk alone toward her handsome bridegroom. I did not realize my husband’s recounting of his dream in which I wore a yellow dress would be his last. I did not think of holding his grandson in my arms for the first time without his arms around me.

Yet, I celebrate his life every day. I understand the path he took had more to do with saving me than saving him. I look forward to holding that child, who will be so much a part of him. My husband was so much more than the way he died.

When my daughter smiles or my grandson laughs, when I see in a beautiful spring day all the echos of days my husband and I shared that were good, I know I can never return to those innocent days in which I could just read about loss without knowing something else deep in my heart. But I also know, I will share the joy he brought to my life and the way he made the world around him better.

I will tell the stories he used to tell and share stories about the things he did and said. I will sit in a sandbox or push a swing and pass the love he gave me on to someone else who, in turn, will one day talk about the grandfather he never met as if he knew him.

Note: For more information about LegacyConnect, visit www.connect.legacy.com.

Jan McDaniel
www.lostandfoundrebuilding.weebly.com

Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors:
Forum Moderator
Stewards Program Manager

Blog columnist
http://www.allianceofhope.org/blog_/jan-mcdaniel/

Losing Mike – Celebrating Mike

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that it’s often very personal. Today is the most intensely personal blog I’ve ever shared. Still, I feel that I have to share before I can move forward in any meaningful way.

Tuesday, June 2, 1987 was one of the most amazing days of my life. At 6am we welcomed Mike, our third and youngest son to our family. To say we were complete may be an understatement.

Fast forward, 23 years. At some point on Friday, December 17, 2010 the world stopped spinning, perhaps even wobbled as Mike took his own life.

A very real part of me was stunned in the days after losing Mike. After all when someone of great importance to the world dies, we usually see it on the television day in and day out. We hear it on the radio and read it in our newspapers. Headlines like ‘A Nation Mourns’ or ‘The World Says Goodbye’. It was incredibly strange not to see or hear that the lives of every person on the planet had been changed; because I feel sure that it had.

Moving forward is the only option left to any of us who knew and loved Mike. Be assured, to know Mike was to know laughter, enormous hugs, endless debates and great fun. To have Mike in your life was to know a special sort of love.

We will never know for sure why Mike felt it necessary to end his life. He didn’t leave a note or an explanation of any sort. Family, friends and acquaintances were all shocked. Mike suffered from Addison’s disease and we have come to believe that it affected him much more than any of us were ever aware. We may be right or it’s entirely possible that we are simply grasping at an answer that allows us to move forward. The simple fact is that we will never know for sure.

I have found that there is no gentle way of telling others that my son has died. Clearly everyone who knew Mike was affected. The loss is no more or less profound for any of us; it simply is different for each of us. We all knew and loved Mike in different ways. While we grieve and find our own way through the mourning, I find that it’s necessary for me to celebrate every moment of the 23 years that Mike breathed life on this planet.

It’s very meaningful to me that while family and friends stormed the house offering hugs, condolences and of course never-ending food; they also came armed with stories. Mikey-isms for lack of a better term. We have gone through more tissue than I ever imagined possible as we have cried oceans of tears. But in the past 8 weeks, there has also been more laughter shared that I could have imagined possible.  Mike not only was much loved, it’s clear that all who knew him felt loved as well.

Memories of being pregnant with Mike have been resurfacing lately. I’m short and he was one big baby! At the end of my pregnancy, many of my maternity clothes didn’t fit, so it was no surprise to welcome this 9 pound wonder into our lives when he finally joined us.  Mike was a content, happy baby and that is pretty much the way he lived his entire life.

Our other sons were 3 1/2 and not quite 2 years old when Mike was born. Mike changed all of our worlds. While most babies wake up crying, by the time he was a few months old we knew Mike was awake because we would hear babbling or even laughing. Are you getting the picture?

As he grew, Mike spent much of his time laughing, chattering or simply expressing joy and contentment in various ways. When the boys were small they spent most of their time together. It seems that our elder sons would frequently ask me to find a way to quiet Mike. He would simply wander around humming or singing under his breath. Happy and content. Needless to say, I never did quiet Mike, it was so much fun to see and hear someone so happy.

As the boys grew, they remained close in many ways although they were and are strongly individual and independent. Mike loved to tease his brothers about being taller than either of them, and often stood on his toes, even in cowboy boots to accentuate the height difference. Still his brothers were always protective of Mike. Standing up for him always. Mike simply took it as his due. When either of them would tease him about being the baby and being a bit spoiled, he would grin and say ‘Yep!’. Quite the interesting crowd, my boys.

Mike loved playing music. Learning to play the violin when he was a little boy, he bought himself another violin just a few years ago. He played and collected guitars for a while, beginning with the base guitar. And let me tell you, he was pretty good. We thought he had sold or given away all of his guitars, but learned after he died that he still played with a small group of his friends almost every week. Surprise.

Brewing beer, making wine, pickling eggs and hunting. So many things that Mike liked to do and that he shared with family or friends.

We absolutely know that Mike realized completely how deeply he was loved and valued by all. I also believe that each and every person in Mike’s life knew that Mike loved them as well. He shared those feelings with hugs, grins and jokes. Laughing easily and frequently. That’s who Mike was, a joyful, loving young man.

Why? Well, it’s my personal belief that we are born to learn and to teach lessons. For our souls to have human experiences. When those lessons or experiences are complete, I believe that is when we leave this life. It may be by way of natural causes, illness, accident or as in Mike’s case, by suicide. It’s entirely possible that my view may change as time passes, but this has always been my belief.

Mike was not a push-over. He stood strong and loud for things he believed in, enjoying the debate and arguing until he was sure you had to have accepted his point of view. Stubborn at times, especially when it came to talking about politics or spirituality. He was also open to hearing your point of view and would then share with great eloquence all of his reasons why you were wrong. 🙂

Classic country music was his favorite, pretty unusual for a young man his age. But we shared favorites and some of my favorite memories are recent shows we had seen together. We saw Charlie Daniels and had so much fun going to see one of Mike’s all time favorites, George Jones. He invited me to go with him because he said no one else he knew would get why he wanted so much to see him perform. It was just flat out fun.

The last week with Mike gave no hints that he planned to go. Leaving for work early each morning and arriving home in the late afternoon. We learned later that he hadn’t gone into work at all that week, but we simply didn’t know. The evenings were spent cooking, eating, laughing and watching television. In short, no indication that anything was amiss. Again, leaving us with questions, but truly with no regrets.

I have realized how incredibly blessed I continue to be. our daughter in law continue to be amazing. I know that each is suffering and moving through this grief in their own way as they each knew Mike in their very own special way. Each has memories that are private and some that they share. My husband is remarkable. He frequently talks about the fun he had with Mike, cooking and planning meals. How he used to sit at his computer in the living room around the time Mike was expected home so that he could serve the meal soon after Mike arrived. Hubby loved that and so did Mike.

When I share the news of the loss with others there are so many reactions, none of which are wrong of course. Some people move in for a hug, some recoil as though physically assaulted. It’s not personal at all, it’s simply the way they react and momentarily cope with the shock of losing someone so young and in such an unexpected way.

I refuse to acknowledge or accept that there is any stigma attached to suicide. In the past I thought that it was an incredibly selfish act. I ask forgiveness of anyone with whom I ever shared that belief. I no longer hold that belief at all. You see, Mike was one of the least selfish people I’ve ever known. He hated to inconvenience anyone, always thanking others for doing anything for him and apologizing if he felt they had to go out of their way for him. In fact he used to thank me for giving him shots when he was sick.  Not the behavior of a selfish person.

I have come to believe that suicide was simply the illness that ended Mike’s earthly existence. I don’t believe that he wanted to die. It was clear and remains clear to me that Mike truly enjoyed life. Still, there was something that was simply too much for him to bear and so death must have felt like the only alternative. Or, perhaps it was simply his time. I just don’t know.

There’s no blame, no anger, no recriminations. Simply lots of love, feelings of being blessed to have had him for the time that we did and profound sadness that he’s no longer here to share our days.

I’m not at all sure how to wrap up this one. I could go on and on – yes, even more than I have already! I guess I’ll simply offer my gratitude for having this remarkable person in my life for 23 years. I’m grateful to have the love and support of an amazing husband, incredible sons, fabulous daughter-in-law and more terrific family and friends than I can begin to acknowledge here.

I would ask you not to worry about any of us. If you knew Mike, a lovely acknowledgment or tribute to him would be to smile and laugh. Watch a crummy old science-fiction movie and enjoy it. Laugh out loud when you hear a joke and hug someone just because you feel like it. Mike would like that, it would make him smile, and Mike smiling was a very good thing

Namaste,

Sandy