Category Archives: Loss of a Loved One

Regret: “If Only” “What If”

guiltWhen a loved one dies it is not unusual for some regret and guilt to walk with you in your  grief journey. As a survivor you may tend to blame yourself for something you think you did or did not do that may have caused the death. For you to help yourself accept the death sometimes it is necessary to replay the time, events, and the circumstances leading up to the death in order to be able to move from denial to acceptance. During that time of replay it is possible for you to find something that you feel guilty about or think if I can change what I did maybe I can change the results and bring my loved one back.

Guilt is a strong emotion because you are in an extremely vulnerable state. Though guilt, regret and self-blame are natural feelings and come with your grief they are most times not logical...YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR THE DEATH OF YOUR LOVED ONE.
Guilt can be described in 5 different areas of our life:
#1. SURVIVOR GUILT- BEING ALIVE WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS DIED. You may find yourself asking…”how could he/she die and I still be alive…why them and not me? Did I cause this death?
#2. RELIEF GUILT- This is when you feel guilty for being relieved when someone loved has died. This often occurs when a person has been sick along time…you may not miss the suffering and daily care giving. Also you recognize you will not miss certain aspects of that person (physical, verbal or alcohol abuse, etc.)
#3. LONG STANDING PERSONALITY FACTORS- some people have felt guilty all their lives for one reason or another, this is part of their personality.
#4. JOY-GUILT- experiencing any kind of joy, pleasure or just being relaxed and not thinking of your loved one can cause you to feel guilty that you are not grieving at that moment. As you move through your grief journey you will have more moments of this which means you are healing, but will never forget that person.
#5. MAGICAL THINKING GUILT- this means thinking that something you said or did somehow caused the death of you loved one…an argument, bad feelings, something said in the heat of the moment. REMEMBER YOU DID NOT CAUSE THE DEATH.
With guilt, “the gift that keeps on giving”, there are many ways to work through this emotion:
Look for a good support person to talk to. Someone who is compassionate, patient,  non-judgmental, and a good listener.
Don’t allow others to explain your feelings away. While they might mean well this does not allow you to “talk out” what you think and feel.
Allow yourself some “review time” and continue to remind yourself that there are some things in life you cannot change.
Do not repress or ignore feelings of guilt. Physical and other emotional problems could result.
Forgive yourself, this is more important than forgiving anyone else because you have to live with yourself.
Get guilt out of you system by writing about it. This will also help you take a more objective view of it. Make a list of “those things I think I DIDN’T DO” and another list of “those things I DID DO”. The “did do” list will always be longer!
Self-forgiveness, even though there is nothing to forgive responds well when feelings are shared. A grief support group can help with the feeling that you are not alone. Also if feelings of guilt or regret are complicating you healing, don’t be ashamed to find a trained grief counselor to help you.
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For That I Am Thankful

By Darcie D. Sims

It doesn’t seem to get any better, but it doesn’t get any worse either
For that I am thankful
There are no more pictures to be taken, but there are memories to be cherished
For that I am thankful
There is a missing chair at the table, but the circle of family gathers close.
For that I am thankful
The turkey is smaller, but there is still stuffing.
For that, I am thankful.
The days are shorter, but the nights are softer.
For that, I am thankful.
The pain is still there, but it lasts only moments,
For that, I am thankful.
The calendar still turns, the holidays still appear and they still cost too much
And I am still here
For that I am thankful
The room is still empty, the soul still aches, but the heart remembers.
For that I am thankful.
The guests still come, the dishes pile up, but the dishwasher works.
For that I am thankful.
The name is still missing, the words still unspoken, but the silence is shared.
For that I am thankful.
The snow still falls, the sled still waits, and the spirit still wants to.
For that I am thankful.
The stillness remains, but the sadness is smaller.
For that I am thankful.
The moment is gone, but the love is forever.
For that I am blessed.
For that I am grateful….
Love was once (and still is) a part of my being…
For that I am living.
I am living…
For that I am thankful.
May your holidays be filled with reasons to be thankful. Having loved
And having been loved is perhaps the most wondrous reason of all.

Keeping the Connection While Grieving

Grief never ends….but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay.

Grief is neither a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…it’s the price of love.

In general the world’s society believes that when a person dies they are gone period…those who are grieving for that person are encouraged to believe that there is no connection to their loved one, so they need to stop grieving, thinking , and loving that person.

But the truth is that the one we loved is gone PHYSICALLY, the love and memory we have for that person remains with us and will last forever. No one can take that away from us.

We have been given the gift of love and memory and therefore we will preserve the love and the memory while continuing the task of grieving. This is called “reconciliation”; learning to live without the physical presence but with the love and memory as we move into our future lives.

The reality is that we never lose the connection with the person we loved. The connection is no longer a physical one, but it remains strong. It is a connection that is experienced in many ways. One of the ways is memory. At times, memories may flood into our life…”.every time I see a beautiful sunset I think of my Dad…he loved taking pictures of them.”Legacies that the person left also keep us connected. Their career and those family members that followed in their footsteps; the recipe that Mom left for the holiday dinners. Sometime legacies may be objects that the person left; a wedding ring, a special collection of art or crafts. There may be other connections as well. Who we are is an enduring connection. All the people who were a part of their lives leave a connection to them with memories. There may be rituals or events we use to keep a connection. Christmas rituals: lighting candles, decorating the tree with special ornaments used by our loved one or going to church on Christmas Eve. Then there are anniversaries, birthdays, and other special days to celebrate and remember our loved one with a ritual.

Early in our grief these connections may make us sad; over time feelings are likely to be more mixed. Memories may now comfort, looking at old pictures or telling stories that remind us may make us laugh. Though they remind us of what was lost, they also affirm what remains.

Are these connections ever a problem? They can be when they slow our grief journey and we fail to acknowledge the death. But when connections allow, even encourage us to grow, they are not a problem. Then they remind us of all the things we did and can never lose.

Compiled by Carole McLeod, Grief Matters
Some of the article was used from “Keeping Connections” by Kenneth Doka.

You Know You Are Adjusting When . . .

  • You can laugh and enjoy being with others
  • Taking care of yourself is not only OK; but it feels good
  • The future is not so frightening.
  • You can handle “special days” without falling apart.
  • You want to reach out to others in need or pain.
  • You now enjoy activities that you had given up after the death of the person you loved.
  • You can share humorous memories without crying.
  • Your emotional roller coaster is slowing down.
  • You can actually see some progress.
  • You skip or forget a ritual such as visiting the cemetery and there is no guilt.

Do not be alarmed if one day you suddenly feel the pangs of grief again and believe that you are slipping back into the valley of grief. These moments will come when you least expect, but you will be able to handle the situation without panic.

Since the death of the person you loved, life will never be what it once was and that is reality. Life has taken a different direction and you will never forget your loss but the pain becomes bearable and at times touch the tender memories will not elicit pain at all.                     By: Sister Theresa McIntier, R.N. M.J.

Grief In The Workplace

One of the misconceptions at the workplace is about locking up all your emotions while you are working. You’re suppose to leave all emotional baggage at the door before entering and not unlock them until you leave eight hours later at the end of the day. This is just one of society’s avoidance messages. The truth is we can’t turn our emotions on and off on any given time; much less when we are grieving the death of a loved one.

It is likely that a coworker is grieving due to the death of a loved one at some point in the workplace. People are not prepared for the emotional, spiritual, physical, and social pain and powerful emotions that come with grief as a result of a death. The first emotions that come are usually shock, numbness, denial and disbelief; although grief does not come in orderly stages those are the first emotions to set in and begin the grief process. Others such as sadness, panic, fear, anger, guilt, loneness, just to mention a few may come at any given time. They won’t wait until the work day is over; they are there morning, noon and night.

How can you help coworkers with their grief?

  • Get comfortable acknowledging grief and mourning at work.
  • Ask how you can help.
  • Invite sharing, talking and use the name of their loved one who died.
  • Don’t try to lessen the loss with easy answers.
  • Don’t feel that you must have something to say, listen, listen and listen to them.
  • Don’t use clichés: “I know how you feel”, “he’s out of pain and in a better place”, etc.
  • Make a meal, run an errand, give them a ride
  • Help your coworker move towards their grief, not away by ignoring it, encourage
  • crying, talking, sharing of memories and writing by journalizing or writing to the deceased.
  • Attend the funeral, memorial service or whatever the family has planned.
  • Send flowers, meals, or donate your time.
  • Coordinate your workplace support, join together to help.
  • Maybe establish a memorial fund in the deceased name.
  • Make a memory board or book inviting other coworkers to place pictures or write a letter or write their memories of that person.
  • Remember the person who died on special days and holidays.

Your support and understanding can make a significant difference and are especially needed when the reality hits and the long process of grief begins. Keep listening; don’t change the conversation if the loved one is mentioned. The bereaved may repeat their stories often but that is how they learn to really believe that their loved one has died. Be sensitive to their needs and moods. Don’t force conversation or advice. Keep in touch, be available and again listen.

Encourage them to find more emotional help through support groups, their church or giving them books, videos, newsletters, or articles on grief.

The support of compassionate friends, coworkers, and employers can and does make a significant difference.

Finding Support and Understanding

While traveling your grief journey it is important to reach out to a support person;  someone who is non-judgmental- respects the uniqueness of your grief and won’t tell you what, how and when to do your mourning someone who is a good listener- when you are grieving it is important to tell your story, sometimes over and over so that you will be able to accept the death.

Your support person must be a good listener, someone who will not do all the talking but will listen to you and not offer a lot of advice.

“Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence;
It is not about filling every painful moment with words.”
“Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain;
it is not about taking away the pain.”

Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD from his book: Companioning vs. Treating

IF YOU NEED ME

I’m your neighbor who cares and your co-worker with a strong shoulder.
I’m your brother or sister who loves you and your best friend who want to stay.
I don’t know your pain, but I will be here…If you need me.

My heart breaks for your heart and I would take your burden if I could.
Your tears burn me, too. I will answer your midnight calls
And hold you when you fall. You’re important to me; I’m here if you need me.
Today I am with you; tomorrow and forever too.
I want to walk with you and listen.

Your grief is yours alone, I don’t know it, but I will share it if you allow.
Your love one is dear to me, you are too, I’m here for you;
I always will be….if you need me.

                                                            By Bob Anderson

The Grieving Person’s Bill of Rights

Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you. The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to help you decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.

  1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve exactly the same way that you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.
  2. You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief will make you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want about your grief.
  3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
  4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.
  5. You have the right to experience “grief attacks”. Sometimes, out of nowhere, grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
  6. You have the right to make use of ritual. The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More important, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you that rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.
  7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry with God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
  8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now? Some of your questions may have answers but some may not. And watch out for the cliché responses some people may give. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “think of what you have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
  9. You have the right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share.
  10. You have the right to move toward your grief. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Reprinted from “Understanding Grief” by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD
Compiled and submitted by Carole McLeod of Grief Matters