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By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

414-651-2737    petereinl@churchandchapel.us    www.churchandchapel.com

 

I resolve to…

  • Grieve as much and for as long as I need to, and I will not let others put a time table on my grief.
  • Mourn this loss by fully experiencing my feelings and expressing them in healthy and appropriate ways with trusted others.
  • Ignore those who try to tell me what I should or should not be feeling, and how I should and should not be behaving.
  • Cry if I need to and/or want to, whenever and wherever I feel like crying. I will not stuff the tears of my grief.
  • Voice my loved one’s name, sharing their stories with friends, family members and others.
  • Lower my expectations of others realizing not everyone knows how I feel, especially those who have not lost someone to death. I will express my needs to others so they don’t have to guess what my needs might be.
  • Stop blaming myself for my loved one’s death, and remind myself, when feelings of guilt are overwhelming, that this is a normal part of the grief process and it will pass.
  • Seek out a support group, other resources or professional help and let go of feeling ashamed or weak in doing so. 
  • Commune with my loved one as I want, in ways that feel comfortable.

 

I further resolve to…

  • Eat, sleep and exercise every day in order to give my body the strength it will need to help me walk this journey.
  • Remind myself that loss of memory, feelings of disorientation, lack of energy, and a sense of vulnerability are all normal parts of the grief process.
  • Heal, even though it may take a long time and a lot of intentional grief work.
  • Stop trying to recreate life as it was before this loss and move to an acceptance that life as I’ve known it will never be the same again, nor will I ever be the same again.
  • Realize that I will not always make steady progress and when I find myself slipping back into the old moods of despair and depression I’ll remember this is also a very normal part of the grief process.
  • Be happy about something for some part of every day, knowing that at first, I may have to force myself and it may last only a moment.
  • Reach out to help someone else, knowing that helping others will help me to get through my grief.
  • Opt for life, knowing that this is what my loved one would want me to do.

Adapted from the Brooksville Spring Hill, FL , TCF Newsletter

 

We welcome Julie Henszey, guest blogger and owner of Peace of Mind Transitions to the Grief Center blog. Julie’s experience leads to some practical advice on a difficult topic. We hope you find value in her words.

Julie Henszey head shot

There comes a time for most of us when our parents’ house no longer meets their needs. At this juncture, adult children want to help their parents find the best solution. This typically then leads to the inevitably daunting task of clearing out and selling the house. It’s a lot to get your arms around.

There are some simple strategies we can employ that can make downsizing and transitioning easier both for us and for our parents.

1. Focus on the positive

Keep in mind all the benefits that our parent or parents will derive from the transition. For example, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities frequently open the door to greater social interaction, if not a much richer social life.

Seniors who live alone in their homes and face chronic health issues can become socially isolated. The weather, transportation issues, and low energy can lead to “staying in” rather than “going out.”

In community living situations, these issues are either reduced or mitigated all together. Daily activities are just a few steps away, as well as unlimited opportunity for conversation. In addition, these activities are usually strategically designed to use brainpower and fine motor skills, keeping the mind alert and healthy.

This time of life doesn’t have to be viewed as a period of “diminishing returns” for our parents, even with declining health. We can take it for what it is, bond with our parents as they embrace the new and unknown, and experience it all with gratitude.

2. Manage and enjoy the flood of emotions

When it comes time to clear out the house we likely grew up in, not only is the sheer amount of physical labor enormous, but it’s emotional.

So bring on the emotions. This is the opportunity to say goodbye to the family home in a way that has meaning and purpose. The process opens the door to reminiscing and celebrating all the good things, along with all the challenges, that have molded us and our family into what we are today.  Let all those emotions naturally ebb and flow and savor those that create some positive energy. Let any emotions that feel heavy ignite and then extinguish, like a match used to light a candle. Take it all in, smile at the memories, and don’t leave the Kleenex box in the car!

Some folks like to create a ceremonial moment, such as burying a box in the back yard containing a list of their favorite memories growing up and a few symbolic items. Other folks take snapshots and create a photo album using digital technology, ordering multiple copies to give to members of their family. We can do whatever makes us feel good without sapping our energy.

3. Break down clearing out the house into steps

If you break your project into four steps and create some deadlines, you’ll find it a bit more manageable, perhaps even a tad fun.

  • First, go through the house with your parents and any available, interested siblings and make a list of everything that someone might want to take into possession. Have a camera handy and take a photo of each item.
  • Secondly, share the inventory with family members. Hold a group discussion about how to best divvy up belongings among siblings and others and collaboratively create a system that feels fair to everyone.  One straight-forward method is to select items in rounds, letting each participant pick one item from the inventory during each round.
  • Third, have each sibling pick a deadline by which they will get all their chosen belongings from the house.
  • Finally, go through the remainder of items in the house and label them for donation, resale, or permanent disposal and then arrange for removal.

By creating some structure and deadlines, we gain assurance that the project will get done and we remove the stress. Tell family stories while you’re at the house and don’t rush through. Clear your calendar for a few Sundays. Leave your worries and tension at the door. Bring a bottle of wine or make spaghetti in the kitchen to eat with family on paper plates. Give yourself this gift of time.

Transitions don’t have to be hard. We can use a few simple strategies that will make the process go more smoothly and keep us feeling positive.  Embarking on the journey with some faith in how to navigate it makes all the difference in gaining peace of mind, both for yourself and for your parent.

Julie Henszey

Peace of Mind Transitions

414-476-3870

http://peaceofmindtransitionsllc.com

All in a day

I started this day by enjoying breakfast with Milwaukee’s health care heroes, including one very special individual from my own organization. This event concluded with recognition of the first responders, who heroically and selflessly ran into the Sikh Temple and Azana Spa when anyone else’s instinct would be to run out. 

 
When I got back to work, I began posting the smiling photos of our celebration on Facebook. In moments, I noticed a string of comments, sympathetic comments directed to a school in Connecticut. As the day progressed, word spread through our office, and through my social networks. I navigated from CNN to MSNBC to ABC News obsessively in my spare moments. 
 
My instinct was to blame gun control, inadequate mental health care, politics and violence on the media. But if anyone could have known how to stop this, they would have done everything in their power. There is no fault. No blame on anyone but the one reporters are calling the “damaged soul.”
 
My connection to the victims of the local shootings or today’s tragedy is not immediate. The pit in my stomach still won’t go away. Fear is simmering below the surface. I grieve the loss of a seemingly more simple world, where this type of violence was not a regular occurrence, where schools, places of worship, movie theaters and spas were safe. The unanswerable questions plague my mind and rest heavily on my heart.
 
My work family provides support related to grief and loss. But tonight, for the first time, I’m not sure that our experts and experience are enough. I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that our nation and the world have changed. That there is no safe place and no logic to be applied to every day situations. Cancer and dementia and heart disease are terrible, but this is completely different. This is evil inflicted on purpose. This changes our world. There is nothing natural about this. And I’m not sure there is a natural process for healing these hurts, these losses. 
 
Tonight, the smiles and celebration of this morning seem far away. Tonight I feel heavy. There are heroes in every community, on every block and around every corner. What comes most naturally to many people is helping, comforting, caring for others. Yet the damage inflicted by someone who has suffered couldn’t be stopped, no many how many heroes were in that school. Tonight I send my prayers to the universe: bring healing and peace to those who’ve lost, bring health and help to those who feel violence is the only answer, bring us all the strength to figure out what has gone wrong, and change this world. I wish for a safe haven…for everyone.

By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services for Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

  • Think about what you really want to do for the holidays this year – what you are capable of doing this year…Where do you want to spend the holidays and with whom? Etc.…In other words, plan ahead and discuss your plans with the significant people in your life…Hopefully they will understand your needs, but if they don’t, it is very important that you honor what you need this holiday season…

 

  • ‘No’ is a complete sentence…Your ‘no’ doesn’t need any explanations or justifications…

 

  • Give yourself permission to do things differently this year…Give yourself permission to not do some things at all this year…

 

  • Listen to your heart and the voice within you – it’s there for a reason – trust it…Trust what your body is saying as well, it instinctively ‘knows’ what you need…

 

  • Be careful not to isolate yourself…The temptation to do so can be especially strong during the holidays…Take some time for yourself, but also let those who love you spend time with you…This may take some internal ‘nudging’ on your part, but being with others is as important as spending time alone…’Dose’ yourself and try to find that place of balance inside of you…

 

  • Realize the absence of your loved one will be especially noticeable and difficult when the rest of the family gathers… It is okay and a good thing to talk about what everyone is thinking; “he / she should be here.” Realize too, in some families this conversation may not be possible since we all grieve differently…Perhaps a symbolic gesture such as a lit candle next to a photo of your loved one set in a prominent place is enough for now…

 

  • Initiate the exchange of stories about your loved one – folks will feel more apt and comfortable to share stories in your presence if they hear you sharing stories about your loved one…Voice his / her name aloud – in doing so  you give others permission to voice his / her name as well…This is a wonderful way to give and receive the precious gift of additional memories…

 

  • Allow yourself a ‘way out’…‘Plan your escape’ in case you need it…This means telling the host ahead of time that though you will come, you may need to leave early…Take your own car so you can leave when you wish or enlist someone to drive you agreeing prior on an appointed time to leave…

 

  • Lower your expectations…be gentle with yourself and with others…

 

  • Don’t be afraid of your laughter or your tears…They both are signs of your love and your humanity…

 

  • Breathe – Don’t forget to fully breathe…That may sound silly, but often when we are stressed we breathe very lightly…Full breaths – fully breathing – relaxes and grounds us, and gives us perspective…

 

  • Perhaps, you might want to try one or two of the following ideas:

 

  • Take the money you would have spent on a gift for your loved one and buy something for someone in need…

 

  • Light a candle, or several, in memory of your loved one…

 

  • Plant a plant to commemorate your loved one. Make the planting into a ritual with invited family and friends. Perhaps purchase a living Christmas Tree this year and use it as your in-house holiday tree…Plant it in Spring and serve punch and cookies after the planting…

 

  • Set a place for your loved one at the holiday dinner table. Place a candle or flower on the plate in his / her honor…

 

  • If sending Christmas cards this year, instead of signing their name on the card you might add a symbol of your loved one such as a butterfly, bird, or heart, or you may want to include your loved one’s obituary, or include one of your loved one’s favorite poems or a favorite quote or ‘saying’…

So, What’s In A Story?

By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services for Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

My mom, who died 19 years ago, was one of 16 children.  Being one of the oldest she found herself cooking in the kitchen a lot. She cooked for 18 people. Imagine the amount of food she needed to help prepare three times a day.  She was trained to cook in large quantities. I’m one of five children.  Now, imagine the ‘spreads’ mom prepared for us – we had enough leftovers each meal to feed our neighborhood. No matter how hard she tried to keep the amount of food realistic for our family, it just never happened. We would’ve been awfully hungry if we didn’t acquire a taste for leftovers (which I thankfully still have to this day). My mom was quite the cook and loved being in the kitchen. I’ve picked up on her tendency in my cooking to over-do quantity – spaghetti is the worst (mounds of noodles and not enough sauce) – but have also enjoyed inheriting her love of being in the kitchen and cooking.

Oh my, stories and storytelling and story listening…I’m incredibly honored when someone who is grieving chooses to share with me a story about their loved one or a story about their journey of grief.  I believe we’re on ‘sacred ground’ when someone trusts us enough to share such stories. Storytelling is so very important throughout our entire lives, but even more so when we are grieving.

Stories hold such power for both the teller and the listener. In telling their story bereaved people pay honor and respect to their loved ones.  In a sense it is one way of keeping their loved one’s spirit alive. I can’t tell you how often I hear from the bereaved how satisfying it is for them to be able to voice their loved one’s name to others. Equally gratifying is hearing their loved one’s name from someone else telling a story about them. To know their loved one touched others and made an impact in another person’s life can be incredibly moving to a bereaved person. Hearing their name and telling stories help the bereaved shift from a relationship of physical presence with their loved one to a relationship of memory and spirit presence.

In addition, by telling their story the bereaved mark the significance of their loss and want the listener to acknowledge that significance as well. “I want you to know this person in my life…I want you to know how much this person meant to me…And, I want you to know just how significant their passing is to me.”  Often bereaved people find themselves telling their story over and over and over again. This repeating of their story is so important and so natural and so normal. Indeed, it’s in the retelling of their story that the story itself loses its power and gains deeper understanding.  Newly bereaved find themselves tearing-up just at the thought of telling their story and not being able to tell it fully.  While perhaps later – months later – they notice a lump in their throat and tears being shed in telling their story, but they can fully share the entire story. Still later, not only can they tell their story with less detail and fewer tears, but will add to the story more about themselves and how life has changed for them. And even further in their journey of grief the story is yet shorter and filled with more glimpses of how they are re-entering life again.

Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening writes this about storytelling and story-listening:

Stories are like little time capsules. They carry pieces of truth and meaning over time…It is the sweat and tears of the telling that bring the meaning out of its sleep as if no time has passed. It is the telling that heals…

Often we repeat stories, not because we are forgetful or indulgent, but because there is too much meaning to digest in one expression. So we keep sharing the story that presses on our heart until we understand it all…

The truth is that though we think we know what we are about to say, the story tells us and saves us, in the same mysterious way that breathing is always the same but different.

So, what’s in a story? Well, most everything that’s important. Go ahead, tell the story – tell your story – tell their story. And, please, won’t you please just listen and be fully present and be patient as they share glimpses of their heart, their love, and their lives with you.

The Great Paradox of Grief

By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it.

You cannot transform yourself, and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anybody else.

All you can do is create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.

-Eckhart Tolle

One of the reasons our experience of loss can be so significant is that it invites us, dare I say, demands that we change. And change, for most us, is very, very difficult. Nothing can be, nor ever will be the same following the death of someone. Truth be told, not only does our outer world change, the world we created with our loved one, but so does our inner world change. We can never be the same again. It seems to me this ‘changing’ is the great paradox of grief.  It is in surrendering to our grief, moving toward our grief, allowing ourselves to fully feel the pain and fully mourn the loss, that we ourselves are inwardly transformed. This inward transformation is often expressed in our lifestyle and personalities. It’s not uncommon to hear, “You’ve changed since so-and-so died.” Transformation looks different for everyone – it may involve a change in our values, how we spend our time, our spirituality, our approach to relationships, our level of risk taking, our sense of humor, our level of compassion, our readiness to forgive and seek forgiveness.

In the quote above Tolle reminds us that it’s not ours to ‘make’ transformation happen in ourselves or in anyone else – in fact, we can’t. No. We are called to “…create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.” This applies to both those who are grieving and to those who companion the bereaved. So, as grievers, how might we create that inner space for transformation to happen which allows for grace and love to enter? As always, only you can answer that question. But here might be some possibilities:

Accepting ‘Help’We can accept the help people offer to us. And we can ask for help, being specific so people don’t have to guess what our needs are. During grief, more than at any other time in our lives, we need others.

ExpressingWe might express our feelings of grief in different ways. Trying a support group, a counselor, sharing with a safe friend, starting a journal, drawing or painting or sculpting, building something, writing a letter to the deceased, and allowing ourselves to cry. It is helpful  to express outwardly what’s going on with us inwardly.

ReflectingWe can reflect upon who we are now and who we want to become. What might my life become – emptying myself to the possibilities of what might be, reflecting upon what kind of life my loved one would want for me.

Being Gentle & PatientWe might allow ourselves to be patient and gentle with ‘us’ refusing to fill our lives with ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ and ‘comparisons’ – letting go of so many expectations coming from without and from within.

Journeying…We can acknowledge in ourselves (and remind others) that the grief experience is a journey that will, in some ways, take the rest of our lives to travel. We move through grief, in and out of grief, and our grief changes, but we’re never quite ‘done’ with it or ‘over’ it because the void in us will never be replaced by anyone or anything.

Embracing Your UniquenessWe might embrace the notion that no one grieves the same way you do and no journey of grief is identical. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person’s grief style is as unique as a snowflake, and, how each person chooses to express their grief is as unique as a thumb print. You are you and ‘they’ are they.

InformingWe can become informed about this thing called ‘grief’ – learning about grief and the process of grieving. We might go to grief seminars, read books, ‘surf’ the internet for grief websites. Find out just how ‘normal’ you are. There is both power and healing waiting for us in simply knowing.

Remaining in the Moment…We might choose to stay in the present – remain in the moment, as hard as that can be. Staying in the present can help us with feelings of fear and being overwhelmed by the fogginess of our future and all the things needing to be taken care of.  Following a ‘One day at a time’ philosophy can help us create a better space.

Who would have ever thought that such pain and loss and sadness would hold such possibility for inner transformation?  But isn’t that the DNA of a paradox? What seems impossible for us to fathom, what seems to be the exact opposite of an expected outcome is exactly what unfolds and is birthed.  In the moment it is so hard to see any benefit of the great paradox of grief. But it’s there, and there are many bereaved people who can witness to its power. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves, and our loved ones, is to simply, and sometimes not so simply, create a space within ourselves for inner transformation to happen, allowing grace and love to enter.

 

 

 

We give our sincerest thanks to guest blogger Lisa Thompson, who shared this blog from the one-year anniversary of her father’s death. Lisa has some wonderful ideas for sharing your love before it’s too late…read on to find out more.

One year ago today my dad died.

I sat next to him while he laid in bed and took his last breath.

I can remember that moment like it was yesterday.  After realizing his body had finally given up and he was gone, I stood up and walked away toward one of the walls in his relatively small room where the close family members and friends had all gathered.

I had what I can only describe as some sort of weird out of body experience where the entire world just disappeared.  The next thing I remember is hearing this awful, loud, mournful crying.  It took me several moments to realize that the crying I was hearing was coming from me.

It was a sound I had never heard come out of my own mouth before.  I think it was a huge emotional release of some sort – after all those months of losing my dad slowly, of knowing it was just a matter of time before I lost him completely.
To read the entire blog, see photos and video and get Lisa’s DVD template, visit her site: http://blog.portraitartbylisamarie.com/2012/07/one-year-ago-today-my-dad-died-what-im-going-to-do-today/

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