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Archive for February, 2012

It is our pleasure to welcome a new guest blogger to the Grief Resource Center blog. Pete Reinl is the director of Grief Support Services at Church and Chapel Funeral Homes. Pete will be sharing his thoughts with our readers on a monthly basis, and we welcome his insights and hope you enjoy his perspective.

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I don’t know about you, but it causes in me both anger and frustration when people (family members, friends, acquaintances, strangers) share free advice with me because somehow ‘they know just how I feel’ or because ‘the same thing happened’ to them. It seems to minimize what I’m experiencing and somehow lessen its significance.  Inevitably, as they ‘advise’ me, the word ‘should’ spews from their mouth and is partnered closely with their advice.

Free advice-giving seems to happen often with those of us who are grieving the death of a loved one. We are inundated with ‘shoulds’ from very well-intentioned people trying to make things better for us. When in reality, their should-filled advice is really more about making them feel better, secure, in control and less vulnerable. Some of the ‘shoulds’ regarding grieving (i.e. how to feel, how to express, how much time to take, etc.) is also generated  from the world in which we live: our culture, society, environment, our ‘up-bringing’, ethnicity, traditions, religious leanings, etc. Some of the ‘shoulds’ come from ourselves – our expectations regarding how we think we ‘ought’ to respond to grief, death and loss. There seems to be no shortage of advice no matter where it comes from.

Here’s the truth for every grieving person: You are the only expert of your grief. No one knows just how you feel and certainly, no one has had the exact same thing happen to them. Sure, others have experienced the death of a spouse, a child, a friend, a partner, a co-worker – but not your spouse…not your child…not your friend…not your partner.  Only you had a relationship with your loved one like yours ~ you are the only person to have your personality ~ you are the only person to have certain experiences with your loved one ~ you are the only person to have certain memories of your loved one ~ you are the best person that knows you ~ you are the only person who is feeling what you are feeling.  Your way of grieving remains unique even as you stand alongside someone who grieves the loss of the same person. Only you and no-one else knows your grief and what you need ~ the ‘answers’ are inside of you. Actually, the journey needing to be taken is inside of you. What works for others may not work for you for whatever reasons, and that’s okay.  Even trained, credentialed ‘professionals’ are not experts of your grief. They can companion you, point out some possible directions, reflect back to you what they hear and observe, offer resources, listen to your story, etc. But ultimately, you are always in ‘choice’. Many grievers find support groups beneficial for assisting them on their journey in grief. But, the purpose of support groups are not to ‘give answers’ or to be the expert of your grief. A support group can only offer to companion you on your journey, because no one has taken or will take the same journey as you.

When we get caught up in the ‘shoulds’ and the advice-giving from others we often sit comparing ourselves and our responses to grief with those of others. Many times, as we make comparisons, we don’t ‘measure-up’ to how we perceive others are ‘handling’ their grief ~ clearly so much better than we are. Or, we may find ourselves comparing the significance of others loses to our own. It is absolutely unfair to you and to others, and to your loved one, to be using your energy in comparing your grief, loss and healing with that of someone else’s. The very root of comparing is judgment which indeed is not helpful while grieving.

I’m certainly not suggesting we don’t need to be with ‘safe’ people or seek out trusted companions when grieving. On the contrary, more than at any time in our lives we cannot walk this journey alone – we need not walk this journey alone. Grief shared is grief diminished. Safe people do not sit in judgment, they’re willing to hear our story over and over, they offer a comforting presence, and they always honor and respect our remaining in ‘choice’. Our ‘safe’ people may surprise us ~ often they’re not who we would’ve expected them to be. No matter, we do ourselves and those who love us an incredible dis-service by choosing to walk the journey alone.

Sometimes we so want the pain and hurt to stop we look for others to be that ‘expert’ ~ we desire someone, anyone to give us the answers we need to stop this incredibly life-changing experience ~ to put things back to the way ‘they are supposed to be’ ~ to end such deep agony. It is an illusion to think anyone or anything can do that for us.

Someone once said, ‘Loss grows us up.’ Indeed, grief invites us to mature, to become, to fully live again anew – perhaps in a deeper more meaningful way. We may start out by just surviving, but we’re invited to live. We’re invited to reclaim our identity, our choices, our decisions and to trust our intuition ~ our heart.  Because we are the experts of our grief and our life, we get to choose who we will become and how we will continue to walk in this world. To me, living my life, no matter what it looks like, is far better than trying to be and live someone else’s. I suspect your loved one would agree ~ perhaps because he/she loved You as You and no one else.

Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services

Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

petereinl@churchandchapel.us

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Cards and Letters

Ah, the power of the printed word!  Since my blog which was ported over to the Grief Center Newsletter, the calls, emails, and condolence cards have been pouring in, many with a Golden Retriever on the front.

For those that do not know, Chewie died on October 3rd, one of the saddest days I will ever remember.  But many people I know were unaware of her passing and due to our newsletter believe that it was recent.  Believe it or not four months still feels recent.

Every member of our family stills gets teary eyed when we talk about her.  The real water works happen when others share their pet loss story, or when someone shares Chewie memories, as when my daughter presented us with one of those amazing scrap/ photo memory books of Chewie’s life for Christmas.  My five year old granddaughter brings out Chewie’s toys and draws pictures of Chewie every time she visits.  She can turn anything into a Chewie memorial and does.

I search web sites of Golden Retriever breeders looking for a puppy that is almost as beautiful as Chewie.  None have yet been found.  I know she can not be replaced, and I am beginning to look at the puppies more objectively now.  Gradually, I make progress.  Last weekend I even had the courage to call a breeder and talk about a puppy maybe this summer, though choked up when telling her about my beloved Golden.  One step back.

Am I beginning to heal?  Some days.  I still have that moment when I open the door  my mind for some reason still expects to see her lying by the door waiting, only to be reminded a fraction of a second later that she is gone.  Her picture is on the fridge and her toys are by the fireplace.  I did finally give her food away, well most of it. and I seriously hope that Rainbow Bridge thing is real.

So, thank you for all of the kind thoughts, cards, and letters.  It does not ease the pain, but it does remind me that we are one large human family that loves and cares for the other creatures of this planet, especially those we consider ours.

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