Tag Archives: grief

For Better AND Worse

My parents were similar in one way: They both wanted to be “in charge.” From my perspective as an adolescent, they should have had one date and then said to each other, “It was so nice to meet you. I hope you have a wonderful life.” Instead, they were married for over 60 years, til death did them part.

After much reflection, I realize that my book, They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, is a love story about my parents’ final days – a love story with the all-too-common theme that “you don’t know what you have ’til it’s gone.” It wasn’t until my parents died that I realized that I had never before understood their relationship and most likely had discounted it unfairly.

Here is the story of their last anniversary together, on January 24, as relayed in my book.

Poor Girl

She is so sick that he does not recognize her. My sister and I wheel him up to her bedside and still he does not realize that this is his wife.

“Who is this?” he asks. “Where’s the other one?”

My sister and I inappropriately start laughing, out of sheer exhaustion. We quickly gain control and convince Dad that this shell is his wife. He becomes sorrowful and tender. He holds her hand, kisses her, shouts “I love you” in her ear, and tries to feed her. He tenderly touches her face and neck, telling her that she’s beautiful.

“How are you feeling, dear? OK?” He is so used to her being so strong and expects her bravado to re-emerge. She is comatose.

It is their 63rd wedding anniversary.

We sit for a while until he reluctantly agrees to leave, only after being promised he can soon return. She shows no acknowledgement, save for the tear in the corner of her eye, which he dabs with a tissue.

Later that night, I stop to see him and find him crying in bed. Without prompting, he explains, “I didn’t know it was her. I couldn’t believe it.” I tell him I understand.

“I love her,” he says. “I really love that girl.”

I start to tell him more specifics about her medical status, but he stops me. “Don’t,” he says and keeps repeating, “Poor girl. Poor girl.” He knows his 88-year-old “girl” is leaving him, but he doesn’t want to know the gory details.

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Why Wouldn’t We Expect?

Why wouldn’t we expect

Thunder and lightening

When someone like this

Has been taken from us?

 

Why wouldn’t we expect

A downpour of rain

As the heavens give credibility

To our own tears?

 

Why wouldn’t we expect

That the universal energy

Has been forever shifted

By the vacuum that has been created?

 

And why wouldn’t we expect

The blue sky and sun to return

When a smile has been lifted up

To now shine down on the whole world?

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Cry into the Darkness

Cry into the darkness.
Feel your pain as you gaze into the night sky.
Beg the moon and the stars for mercy.
Feel small and inconsequential.
Face your dark night, recognizing that this is where you are to be right now.

Feel the full impact of hope and disappointment.
And wonder if they are mutually exclusive.
Cry, mourn.
Remember the stages of loss.
Remember the stages of life.

Excerpt from They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad © 2010

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Go Ahead and Cry

Many people have told me that they’re trying not to grieve the loss of our friend and yogi, but instead celebrate her life. That’s a noble and admirable goal, yet it’s also important to allow ourselves to grieve.

Our society doesn’t fully honor the death of an elderly person, labeling it as “the natural order of things.” Did you think they would last forever? is the unspoken question. In truth, we did. And that can leave us feeling disenfranchised and alone in our grief.

Unresolved residual grief must be expressed or it comes out sideways in our health, relationships, and/or work. We’re sometimes reluctant to allow ourselves a good cry because once the flood gates open, we fear we may never get them closed again. But we do, and feel so much better for it.

The therapeutic benefits of cleansing ourselves of bottled-up grief – simply by crying and talking about it – are immeasurable and essential to a healthy mind and body. Isak Dinesen wrote in Seven Gothic Tales, “The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.” Mana seemed to know that; she would tell us to “release the toxins.”

She not only honored the light in us – she honored the darkness in each of us as well, helping so many find their way through life’s challenges.

So, go ahead and cry. It’s good for all of us.

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