Suggestion of the Day

Always be kind, and don’t take it personally if some people have to make their own mistakes.

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A Most Sacred Time

The transition from birth into life is filled with tears and pain and cries.  It is a sacred and joyous time.  The transition from life into death and whatever may be beyond it is an equally sacred time.

sunset and ending, transitionThe mother of one of my dearest friends has had cancer for several years.  My friend moved cross country three years ago to be with her mother, “until she no longer needs me.”  Her children were blessed with holidays and special memories during a period of remission that made it possible for all of them to share as a family.

Her mother fell recently in her home, and her physical deterioration since then suggests that her time is now fast approaching.  She distributed her jewelry to my friend and her sisters a few days ago.  She is preparing for her death.

My friend is a woman of deep faith as well as theological understanding.  She knows that her Savior will be there for her mother when the most profound of transitions occurs.  She knows that to witness the passing of her spirit at the end of a long life will be a sacred time.  She knows that letting her mother go will be difficult, but that it must and will happen.  She knows that telling her children when it happens and grieving again with them, for this is not their first encounter with death, will be a sorrowful thing.

Her mother will die at home, surrounded by her loving family, which is the dream many of us have.  Mother has had plenty of time to prepare, and soon the pain inflicted upon her by the ravages of cancer will be over.  The pain and emptiness of grief will by borne by my friend and her sisters and their families.

We her friends will support her and hold her through this time, share wine and tears and memories with her.  It is a sacred time.

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A Reminder for Widows and Widowers

Remember also that just as part of you died with your spouse, part of who he/she was lives on in you. The day will come when this horrible pain will subside and you will celebrate that part of who you are that came about because of your love and the time you spent together.

Sweet memories

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Fireworks and Trauma

roman candle
Many of us enjoy fireworks, but for some the noise triggers upsetting memories.

Not everyone enjoys fireworks.  Most of us associate fireworks with holidays and festive events.  We are not surprised if small children and pets are frightened by the loud noise, but who over the age of five doesn’t love the color and spectacle?

It depends on what memories we each associate with fireworks.  Many of us are reminded of summer picnics, family gatherings, and happy celebrations.  During grief, these memories are upsetting because we miss those who used to be among us.   How will we ever be able to enjoy this time of year again without them?  Even those who are past the heaviest of their grief can have waves of recurring sadness during holidays and special events.

For those with PTSD symptoms related to combat, explosion, or gunfire, fireworks can trigger much different memories including traumatic flashbacks.  It can take years to overcome and de-fuse these reactions.  EMDR is one form of therapy used to address PTSD symptoms.

We may dread the upcoming holiday, knowing how upsetting it will be.  We don’t want to have to explain our feelings to anyone when we are in pain already.  We may lash out or withdraw, leaving those around us confused about where did that come from.  It is important to acknowlege and allow for these feelings, even if we cannot yet fully express them to others.

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International Widows Day

purple cactusThe UN has proclaimed Thursday, June 23, 2011, International Widows Day.

My friend B posted this in response:

“Thinking of my widow friends and all those widows throughout the world on this, the first International Widows’ Day. So many widows in other countries are left without anything after the death of their husband. I am fortunate to live in this country, have an education and be able to provide for myself. There are so many who have nothing.”

Here are  some links talking about International Widows’ Day.  The first is from the Loomba Foundation, founded by a man from India whose mother was a young widow.  The second is from the Daily Mirror.

So many widows around the world lose their property and protection when their husbands die.  In countries and cultures where women are not allowed to work, a widow is totally at the mercy of her husband’s family and often can not go back to her own family.  If none are willing to help care for her and her children, a widow faces starvation, prostitution, and exploitation.

In the United States, Social Security benefits for children and their surviving parent are nowhere near adequate to raise a child.  Life insurance for many young families is considered a luxury, and so many widows and widowers are left with nothing when “the unthinkable” happens.  Once the funeral is over and the last casserole has been thrown away, there can be a financial as well as emotional crater left behind.

Have a thought for the widows (and widowers) in your life today.

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Initial Reflections

lilac buds frozen by a late snow

c. Ann E Beauchamp 2010

This blog is not going to begin quite the way I anticipated.

I wanted my first blog entry to be my announcement as a new grief counselor setting up practice in Northern New Mexico. I planned to write about my training as a pastoral counselor and my experience working with parents, children, spouses, friends, and partners who have been through various types of loss from death to divorce to pets to job loss to empty nests. I wanted to present my credentials in the most professional manner possible.

Then my friend K died. Today. K, who was one who walked with me as both of us recovered from profound losses we each experienced several years ago. K, who had rebuilt her life from the fragments of grief, found new joy, new love, and new purpose after years of struggle. K, who was an active agent in new ventures and a new life, literally about to move to a new town and into a new house with her husband.

She became ill suddenly last week. Instead of packing to move to their house, she was in the ICU undergoing brain scans and lifesaving measures. There were prayer and healing circles for her in every community she had touched in her too-brief four decades. We all posted words of encouragement to her husband and family. We waited for updates and cheered every fragment of slightly encouraging news, although those who had medical knowledge quietly told the rest of us that things might not be moving in the direction we all hoped and prayed.

This afternoon life support measures were removed. Within a short time she passed quietly and, we hope, gently into whatever condition consciousness passes when a body can no longer sustain life.

Once again a husband, parents, siblings, children, and friends will ask why. Some will turn to their faith, Christian and otherwise, and the practices of worship and prayer that sustain them in difficult times. Some will challenge and demand to know why God or an uncaring Universe could let this happen to so vibrant a woman, one who had been through so much and supported so many with her deeply understanding heart . How can her wisdom and humor be gone so soon?

Do I have the answers? Blessedly no, and shame on me if I ever pretend that I do. I do hope to explore the questions raised by grief and loss with my face-to-face clients as they navigate their respective journeys through darkness and change, as well as any who choose to follow my blog here.

Rest, my friend K. May your memory be Eternal.

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