Posts Tagged ‘Death’

Grief – What is it Anyway?

Monday, April 1st, 2019


What is grief? Grief is the feeling that we experience when we have a loss. Deep sorrow and hurt. It may be accompanied by shock, lack of focus, loss of energy, feelings of overwhelm. We quite naturally think about feelings of grief when we experience loss of a loved one to death. It’s important to be aware that many other experiences in our lives can bring on the feeling of grief.

  • Divorce
  • Loss of job/career
  • Loss of home
  • End of a friendship or other caring relationship
  • Saying goodbye to a beloved pet
  • Financial or economic loss

There are of course many other experiences which can bring about feelings of grief, I think you get the idea.

All of these experiences matter and deserve our attention. At some point in our lives, we are all likely to experience grief in one form or another. While grief due to loss can deeply hurt, it is absolutely possible to grieve or mourn in safe healthy ways which support your healing.

This is important, so I’m going to repeat it.

Feeling deep sorrow and pain after loss results in grief, but that grief CAN evolve, transition and heal. You do not need to feel deep pain every day, all day long for the rest of your life. Healing is possible. And I believe that healing is quite natural.

As I focus on coaching clients through grief, I am particularly focused on those who are grieving the death of a loved one. Grief is NOT a life sentence. Our relationship with our loved one can continue, in a new way to be sure, but it does not need to end with that last breath.

I’ve heard it said many times that we don’t get over a loss. I simply disagree, I believe it is possible. I believe that I have healed from several losses. Each and every one of these people remains in my heart today and always will. However, I no longer feel the deep pain when I think of them. Today I feel love and appreciation for having them in my life.

This didn’t happen in the blink of an eye, but it did happen. And I am deeply grateful.

Are you ready to transition your relationship with the one you have lost? Are you ready to begin healing your pain and grief?

I’m ready when you are. Let’s begin today.

Namaste, Sandy

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 6 am 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 and sons each continues 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

Peace at Last

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

My father died on Friday, December 29, 2006. It was much more painful than I expected.  

My father and mother divorced when I was very young. My mom soon married again to the man who raised me, the man I have always considered and referred to me as my dad.

I was raised to respect and care for my father. While I grew up in Wisconsin he lived and worked in Louisiana. Generally, I saw him once a year, though sometimes it was less often. He made regular phone calls while I was growing up and I’m sure he did the best he could to build a relationship. But as you might expect it was never as close as I somehow thought it should be and always hoped it would become.

I grew up, married and had a family of my own. My father continued to call fairly regularly and to visit when he would be in the area. As he had been raised in northern Wisconsin he made visits to the Milwaukee area most years.

This was always a tough relationship, looking back I think it was tough for both of us. There’s no doubt that I could have and should have tried harder on my end. I always thought that he could have and probably should have tried more as well. Sadly, when I think about it now, I realize that I had no idea how to bring about the relationship I desired or if I even knew what I wanted. I always just sort of felt that there was something missing. Frankly, I don’t know even now if he was satisfied with the way things were either, or if he thought there should be more as well.

My father’s two younger brothers died a few years before him. After their deaths, I had the strong feeling that he was much more aware of his mortality. He definitely made more of an effort to connect with me and my grown children than he ever had before. He spent a few weeks at a time in Wisconsin and made much more of an effort to connect. While I appreciated this effort, and we had some very good times, the truth is that it was often very strained. Still, it was progress.

The phone call came in September of 2006. My father told me that he had terminal cancer. I knew it was now or never. We kept in touch much more frequently and I drove down to Louisiana to spend a few weeks with him. I’m so glad that I did. Still, in the manner of people who have full hearts but do not feel comfortable expressing their emotions to one another, we left much unsaid.

When I learned of his death I thought that I would be able to close that particular chapter of my life. We had cared about one another, but truly not known each other as well as we probably could have. I really believed that it would be a matter of shedding some quiet tears and saying goodbye. Wrong.

What I found out was that I cared much more deeply than I knew. I relived and experienced feelings of loss and grief from my childhood on. I thought about the experiences that we had missed out on, the fact that he hadn’t attended my wedding and had never held any of my children when they were babies. I had to acknowledge the anger and resentment that I had felt at never feeling like I was a priority in his life. I had to acknowledge these feelings and allow myself to truly feel them before I was able to let them go. Of course, that meant that I also had to acknowledge my feelings of shame and guilt, I had to honestly take ownership of my part in this relationship. The finger pointing and blame game was not acceptable anymore. It was important to acknowledge and apologize for not making my feelings clear to him while he was still here.

Reiki helped me so much as I went through this process. After I went through the blame and anger I was finally able to acknowledge that someplace deep inside I had always known that my father really did love me very deeply. He simply did not demonstrate it in the manner I had somehow expected. Receiving Reiki on a regular basis and practicing life coaching skills helped me to move into a place of love and forgiveness, for both of us. To be honest, it took an awful lot of thinking about him, praying and meditating to be sure that he was aware now in the afterlife that I had always had very deep affection for him as well. Eventually, I was able to come to a place of peace.

So, here I am. More than two and a half years later I am now able to think about my father and smile. The bitterness, anger, and hurt needed to be allowed, acknowledged and finally released. Now there are the feelings of forgiveness and acceptance for both of us. There is the acknowledgment that few people live storybook lives where emotions and feelings are demonstrated to the expectation and satisfaction of all involved. Most of us feel that others should say or do things in a different manner to be most effective, but emotions and feelings are complicated and the should of, could of is irrelevant in the end. That’s just life.

I have no doubt that some of these feelings will resurface from time to time. Occasions of one sort or another may make me think about the way things actually happened or the way I wish they had been. But now they are much easier for me to deal with. I realize that while we both had our shortcomings, we actually did the very best that we could at the time. I have no way of knowing what was in his mind or heart in the past, but I am sure and always have been sure that he only wanted the best for me. That makes memories and resurfacing emotions much easier to allow and to move through with love, forgiveness, and blessings.

For me, it’s very important to remember that my memory is selective at best. My thoughts and emotions at the moment have always colored my memories and they always will. I can’t change the past, so I choose to appreciate and be grateful for the lessons I have learned. I choose to live in the moment. At the moment I choose to feel good. I choose to forgive myself and others. I choose to love. I choose peace at last.

I wish you a day of forgiving and allowing yourself to be forgiven. I wish you a day of love and blessings. I wish you a day of peace.

Warmly,
Sandy

Saying Good-bye

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

I spent time with a friend of mine today, I’ll call her Cindy. Cindy’s mother is dying, Cindy knows it, her mother knows it and the doctors confirm it.

As I chatted with Cindy it was clear to me that she is at peace with the situation. Now don’t get me wrong, Cindy loves her mother and expressed her feeling that sixty-seven is simply too young to expect her mother to die. On the other hand, she told me that she feels her mother is done with life. Recently she has expressed as much, she misses her son who died very young, most of her dear friends have passed and with the exception of her beloved husband, most of her relatives near her age have passed away as well. She misses them dreadfully and feels as though she is simply done with what she was supposed to do here in this life. She’s not depressed; she’s just ready to move on. The disease that is ravaging her body is simply the vehicle that is taking her on this final journey.

Cindy is determined that her mother enjoy the time she has left. Cindy has learned so much from her mother. She was a loving, fun mom to grow up with and has become a trusted friend to the adult Cindy. She showed Cindy that it was possible to not only love her husband but that it was possible to like him and to enjoy being his friend. And now she is teaching Cindy that it is possible to die with grace, dignity, and joy.

Unfortunately, Cindy is getting a bit of flak from some people. Apparently, there are those who have hinted that Cindy is doing something wrong because she is not crying, wailing constantly and pushing her mother to accept painful treatments that will extend her life, but not improve or even preserve the quality of what is left of her life. So, Cindy asked me for my point of view.

Oh boy. It was time to not only think and feel as Cindy’s friend but to think this through as the holistic life coach and Reiki master that Cindy knows I am. So, we continued to talk. I asked her how she was dealing with all of this. She told me that she is definitely heartbroken to be saying goodbye to her mother, but that she is saving the tears and grieving for her time with her husband and a few trusted friends. She’s not stuffing her feelings or denying them, simply expressing them to those who know and love her best. Because her mother is determined to enjoy the time left, Cindy is determined to enjoy it with her. She’s told her and will continue to tell her how much she loves her, has enjoyed being her daughter and they talk about the fun they’ve had together. They laugh, tell stories and simply spend time together being happy. Cindy has made it clear to visitors that her mother has requested the time remaining be happy and so she has asked visitors to honor those wishes, in fact, she’s insisting on just that. She’s taking special care of her father, again honoring her mother’s wishes and doing what she simply feels is right.

The truth is that both Cindy and her mother are at peace. Her mother is getting ready to meet her God and Cindy is very appreciative of the opportunity to spend this time with her before she passes, she’s now learning how to say goodbye to loved ones and to die with grace, dignity, and joy.

Before I left, I gave Cindy a long hug, told her that I would pray for her, her mother and all of her family and friends and I thanked her. While Cindy is learning one more lesson from her mother, she is teaching many of the rest of us as well.

I hope that if I’m ever faced with a similar situation that I am able to move through it with the same peaceful heart, love, and gratitude that is demonstrated by Cindy and her mother.

This week, I wish you all the opportunity to express your love and gratitude for the special friends and relatives in your life. I am grateful to Cindy and I thank her for the lesson of love and gratitude.

Namaste,
Sandy