Thursday, January 15, 2009

On grief & grieving

Grief, mourning, bereavement

My late mother's funeral (2006)
It is said that we can demonstrate that we loved well by expressing our grief. Grief is a normal response to loss.


Being in mourning, we go within, and look after ourselves.
The bereavement process is one that differs for all. The state is bereavement means you have experienced a loss, which can be a person, place, home, job, family situation.

Mourning is the process by which we honour the life, not the death of a loved one. We look back and share their stories. Depending upon culture or religion, we have particular ceremonies and practices to help us with this event.

We must model the grieving process for our children. For some of us, who care for ailing parents, or other family members, we may experience pregrief. That is to say, you can foresee the time that death will happen. You try to wrestle with it, and come to terms with a life well-lived.

I heard about a terrific book the other day. It was featured on Oprah. It is called, Broken Open, and refers to the process of dealing with Bad Things That Happen to Good People or Overcoming Life's Disappointments - a familiar concept.

The notion is that we must address the grieving process from the point of view of spirituality, rather than religion. Spirituality, in my belief, refers to that which goes on within yourself as you come to an understanding of you, your soul, and your psyche. Religion, on the other hand, occurs without - often in a place of worship, with others who follow similar patterns of traditions, values and beliefs.

The spiritual part of me could not deal with my parent's deaths until much later. I only examined the lessons in the process once I wrote my memoir.

Elizabeth Lesser, the author, purports that this is the time to ask yourself:
  • what can I learn from this process?
  • what is this experience supposed to teach me?
Grieving is difficult. It is unique in terms of time, process, product for each individual. It proves the theory Friedrich Nietzsche Quotes: "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

One of the things I learned is that Hospices can and do provide bereavement groups. They train volunteers to support one another. These are people with real life experiences that haOvercoming Life's Disappointmentsve led them to move through their grief and make the choice between denial or acceptance, anger or acceptance, bargaining or initiative*.

What do you do and where do you go?
You can seek help from many sources: Victim Services in Ontario, funded by the Attorney General's office, provide sources of support. There are many non-profit sources for counselling and therapy. It is in talking and, for me, writing about your process, that will lead you to come out of the other side healthy and whole.

Rabi Kula suggests that we must grieve with our head, heart and hands.
Head: by learning all we can, reading about bereavement issues, after the mourning process is over. We can use our hearts by expressing gratitude, and accepting the support of others. We use our hands by reaching out to others and giving them the kind of support we had, or wished we had at the time.

Finding others who have had your experiences truly helps. There are many caregiver groups where you will find a home while you are pregrieving and providing care.

I went to nature, the arts, and read and wrote all I could on the topics that interested me. You can seek spiritual guidance from organized religions, many will provide support whether or not you are a member.

*See Kubler-Ross' 5 Stages of grief: you can expect many emotions, none wrong, but most can be dealt with. See a local hospice group for support.
  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

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