An Expression of Love and Grief: When Parents Die: Part Two

You remember the special phone call you received each year from your parents on your birthday. You hold close your father’s favourite pair of slippers. They are the slippers he kept at your place and used when he visited you. You go into your kitchen to do some baking and the recipe is one your mom gave you. You have to sit down and compose yourself. You rearrange the suite in your basement your parents used in their later years. You realize as you clean up the area even their fingerprints left on the furniture have now gone.

The memories we may have of our parents represent a major part of our lives. Their deaths initially take us into uncharted territory. It is a territory full of emotion and change. We now take on a new title of identification, “adult orphan.” Our parents never died before. It may take a while for the shock to subside. One may describe this as feeling numb. We may be devoid of words for a time in coming to grips with this loss. As shock begins to subside it can result in a deep expression of grief that seemed to pass us by at first.

When my father died I didn’t like the thought of him lying in the hospital morgue. A few days after my mother died I thought I heard her calling my name. The grief experienced after the death of parents may be of a profound nature. It is unique. It does not feel like anything else one has experienced. It is final. It cannot be fixed.

Our parents are not coming back. This realization can seem too much for us to process. It can be brutal on our emotions. Days may drag on as if never to end Nights may crush us with loneliness.

In the mercy of God we may begin to sense enough that life will forever be changed. The realization I am an adult orphan did not strike me until the death of my mother. Dad had died a few years before her. My life had taken on a different status. I was no longer someone’s son. It struck me as strange. I asked myself question, like “what do I do now I have no parents?”

My grief drew me to my writing. Words helped me express this path once foreign in my journey through life. I wrote a poem that I included at the beginning of this post. I don’t claim to be a poet. I wrote the words for the sole purpose of giving expression to my grief.

Death comes to us all. Regardless of the unrealistic view many in the western world have of death it is still a part of life. It will not allow us to evade, deny or pretend it does not exist. Death came for our parents and will come for us.

When you consider your own children you may look at them and think to yourself, “Where did the time go? It seems to have flown by.” Now at this juncture of your life you may be reflecting on similar thoughts. “When did my parents become old?” “I still needed them and now they’re gone.” Life is so different now.

You may be in the initial shock of losing your parents. Perhaps it has been a week or two since your last parent died. There are funeral or memorial service or celebration of life details to now put into action. It may be the funeral gathering etc. has past and life goes on as usual for many. Not for you however. You are a grieving daughter or son. You are a mourner. You are still you but someone is missing.

In my experience with grieving people I know some are hard on themselves. They fall into the trap of such things as “stages of grief.” They think there is a certain way one must now act. They listen to the voices of other people who in their ignorance think “you should be over it by now.” Your grief process is unique to you. You will live with it and honour it as you choose.

Perhaps the following questions may help you in your life without your parents. How do you honour your parents now they are physically missing from you through death? What legacy have your parents left you? In what ways do you remind other people of your parents? What did you learn from them about grief and loss? What is your grief journey like right now?

Blessings to you as you now live without your parents. Live on remembering them. Your love for them goes on.

NOTE: When Parents Die: Part One, Estrangement, Not all adult orphans look back on their relationship with their parents with fondness.”Alan Anderson, https://scarredjoy.ca/, When Parents die Part One: Estrangement, Dec. 6, 2018.

For Megory: Loved & Missed

It was an odd sensation one day early in Dec. 2018. I planned on sending an email to Dr. Megory Anderson of the Sacred Dying Foundation in San Francisco. We exchanged emails every so often since I enrolled in her Sacred Dying Vigil Training in 2015. Before I composed my email message I noticed heart wrenching words on the Sacred Dying Facebook group page. Megory suffered a massive stroke and was receiving comfort care at a hospital in San Francisco.

The news didn’t quite register in my mind right away. I wasn’t ready for it. A stroke? She’s on comfort care? What? Megory? Having worked in healthcare spiritual care for a few years I had a good idea what “comfort care” meant. To try and get my head around this news I didn’t want to believe I mentioned it to my wife. I told her I was having a hard time letting the news sink in. It did sink in however. Megory was seriously ill.

Now, please, I don’t want to make it sound like I knew Megory in a personal way. We never met in person and I regret it. We spoke on the phone once when I was chair of the end of life care team in a complex care facility I worked in. We would exchange emails now and then. That was the extent of our relationship. I missed an opportunity to meet her in person when she came to Vancouver, BC in July 2017 for some public speaking.

There aren’t too many people I’ve known of in my life that have made such an impression on me as Megory. Does that sound odd? Well, it’s true. I doubt I was on her mind as she was walking her journey through life. She, however, was on mine many times. A reason for this is I often looked through the Sacred Dying page on Facebook. I also read her books and learned from the vigil training course of the Sacred Dying Foundation. In such resources it was as if I knew Megory’s heart and that of her team as well. I loved what she said and how compassionate she was in caring for people.

I’m writing this blog post on Sat. Jan. 19, 2019. Megory has been dead for over a day now. I look at what I just wrote and it still seems so unreal. I remind myself it is indeed true. This truth leaves me pondering about my life and those I love and care for.

Truly life is like a vapor that can vanish, it is smoke, mist, breath, and it is fleeting. As I also ponder about Megory I amazed at what she accomplished in her life. When I read her book Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life, I create a picture in my mind Megory wrote the book for herself as well as readers. I have the idea she embraced her life with such vim and vigor that when it came time she also embraced her own end of life.

I read Megory’s final post on her Facebook page. She is celebrating events meaningful to her. In her post she in fact says, “November 29th – a day that has meaning for me.” Her words are those of promise, hope and celebration from one in love with life.

I don’t know if Megory had a family but if she did I imagine they are heart broken. I feel for the people who knew Megory well and how they must miss her. Her close friends will be missing someone they socialized with. Those she served with at the Sacred Dying Foundation must be in shock on some level. Her students will miss a unique mentor.

As I draw this message to a close I would like you to read words by Megory. In doing so I send blessings to those who were with Megory as she transitioned into death. You loved her and she loved you.

“Sacred dying rituals are primarily and notably for the person dying. It takes great strength and courage to face death and to begin to move through it to the other side. And it takes great courage for the survivors to put aside their own fears and anxieties to help their loved ones die a peaceful death.” Dr. Megory Anderson, Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals For The End Of Life, 2003, p. 44.

Oh Megory, you are missed so much.

When Parents Die: Part One: Estrangement

The fact our parents eventually die may not bean experience people want to confront.

My parents died a number of years ago. My dad died first then a few years later mom died. Her death made me an adult orphan. You may have heard of the term “adult orphan.” I belong to this group. I’m an adult orphan. What does this term mean to you? The fact our parents eventually die may not be an experience people want to confront. Not confronting this fact of life doesn’t change anything. If you have had a longstanding estrangement from your parents it makes reconciliation more challenging.

I realize not all my readers may resonate with this post. It may stir up memories you wish you could forget. Perhaps you didn’t have a close relationship with your parents. Perhaps you were estranged from them. It may be you look at the death of your parents as a rite of passage anddon’t think twice about consequences of this loss

The grief one experiences after the death of parents may be of a profound nature. It may also be a complicated form of grief due to the ongoing disagreement you had with your parents. Not all adult orphans look back on their relationship with their parents with fondness.

Those adult orphans who didn’t resolve disagreements with their parents may have blown it. This may not go down well with you but at least give it thought. At a point in your relationship you had an opportunity to resolve things and you didn’t take advantage of it. The opportunity passed you by. Now with the death of your parents it’s too late.

 Even when it is too late to make amends with your parents you can make peace with yourself. You can own up to your part in the distance you and your parent(s) caused between each other. Most times it is something either of you could have remedied but you just didn’t. You let things go on because of pride or stubbornness or lack of true love. No one made thefirst move toward reconciliation. So sad. Time continued on and your parents passed from the scene.

Reflecting on your dysfunctional relationship with the people who brought you into this world may be a teaching moment for you. You may learn something about yourself. The energy you used in keeping a distance between your parents may now be used to look at yourself. Who do you see? By chance do you see a reflection of your parents as you look at yourself?

Who or what do you see as you reflect on yourself? A few thoughts may be going through your head as you gaze at yourself. “I see a stubborn person.” “I feel a deep sense of loneliness now my parents are gone.”“I recognize times in life where I wanted to make amends but didn’t.” “I’m happy I reconciled with my parents before it was too late. I just wish I had done this sooner. I miss them.”

Dear reader, if your parents are still alive how is your relationship with them going? If time is a healer as some say, have you taken time to resolve disagreements? The clock is ticking. Time waits for no one. Now is the time. Don’t worry about being right, reconcile, as much as you can with your parents. Things may not be perfect but at least be civil and honouring to them.

A famous actor and his son had a falling out that lasted for years. After the father’s death the son was asked if the slate was wiped clean before his father’s death. The son replied, “What slate?” Enough said.

Coming soon: When Parents Die: Part Two—An expression of love and grief.

Beware Our Dark Side

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Just because I disagree with you, does not mean I hate you. We need to relearn that in society.

In our society today it is not uncommon to hear words like “hate speech” or “fake news” or words like “homophobic” or recently invented words like, “Islamophobic” and all kinds of terms that distance people from each other. It seems to be acceptable to throw such terms around whenever people disagree.

Terms like the above by nature may instill fear in some people. Here in Canada even government leaders use such terms and a few more. Those one might expect to know better, like leaders, would serve people more if they practiced civil language.

All of the above terms and many others represent what Scarred Joy considers to be the “dark side” of our society. This “dark side” is becoming all too common these days.

This “dark side” includes the cynical and intellectually violent attitudes many people exhibit towards those they disagree with. A posting on Facebook reads, “Just because I disagree with you, does not mean I hate you. We need to relearn that in society.” There is wisdom and truth in this statement. It speaks to me in its simple message.

The statement from Facebook reminds me of a verse in the Bible known as the “Golden Rule.” It says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Mathew 7:12).”

Both the simple Facebook words and the Golden Rule challenge me to review my attitude regarding my role in contemporary society. I know I must restrain myself from commenting negatively about controversial issues. One of the issues that can cause me to be upset is the government my country of Canada is subjected to today. It is easy for me to say how much I disagree with most of what the government wants to do and it’s leader in particular. This is showing an example of my own dark side.

You see I’m aware of my dark side. It is often my default status when reacting to the controversial issues impacting western culture. I can sit back and criticize the decisions of others that I despise.

I have to address how I might be able to live out my life in this present day in a way that reflects the faith I live by. If I do not then I am one who lives in the dark side.

Now, let me make something clear. My faith as a Christian does not mean I accept all the influences or beliefs of the culture in which I live. It does mean that I must live in a way that reflects the One I serve. I cannot say this is an easy way to live in this day and age.

My dark side cannot and must not lead me through life. I do not have to follow the people with loud voices and aggressive responses to matters prominent today. I also need not fear those who seem to lack the capacity to show reason in their decisions.

Belief in freedom of speech does not mean I have to agree with everyone’s opinions. I do, however, respect the opinions of others without agreeing. I admit too this respect is sometimes not my first response.

I remember a few months ago when interacting with someone of social media. The woman remarking on some issue believed she has a right to judge another person’s opinion or beliefs if they didn’t agree with her own. I remarked this sounded quite odd in a democratic society. I tried to encourage her by saying the beauty of democracy is being able to disagree with each other without hating. She concluded by saying I should watch what I say or something could happen to me. She didn’t elaborate further and I never heard from her again. I pray for her.

I guess these days I could have reported this woman to the social media police or something. On the other hand, she blessed me with not hearing from her again. The reality of today assures me this lady is not alone in her imbalanced views of interacting with the beliefs of other people.

Her sorrowful view of divergent opinions reminded me “Just because I disagree with you, does not mean I hate you…”

My dear friends, whether you agree with me or not, we have our lives to live out. As an Orthodox Christian I choose to live a life of peace. This is even more reason to love and treat other people in the way I would like them to love and treat me.

Let us all beware of our dark side and live in peace as much as we can.

“A humble man is never rushed, hasty, or agitated. At all times he remains calm.”

Saint Isaac the Syrian

 

Sinking Into Illness

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Anticipatory Grief

A couple months ago I posted on my Facebook page for people to send me suggestions for my Scarred Joy blog. I received a great one from a writer friend, Sally Meadows. Here is what Sally had to say.

“Having experienced it myself a couple of years ago, I would like to see a blog about “anticipatory grief”–when you start grieving about something/someone sometimes long before it might happen. You just know it down in your soul that something/someone is going to end/leave…it could be a relationship, a job you love, or perhaps someone is dying. Have you had experience with that, Alan?”

In this post I will give a definition of “anticipatory grief,” unpack it a bit, then offer a short story to illustrate this grief.

Here is a definition of anticipatory grief from the writing one of the main people I turn to as a resource for issues regarding grief.

Anticipatory grief” is a term that referred to the grief felt about someone with a life-limiting illness; friends, family, and caregivers felt it in anticipation of an eventual death. We now understand anticipatory grief or what Dr. Rando, a prominent grief therapist and author, prefers—anticipatory mourning—as a reaction to all the losses experienced in an illness.” (“Grief, Loss, and Caregiving”, Kenneth Doka, page 200, Caregiving and Loss: Family Needs, Professional Responses, Edited by Ken Doka and Joyce D. Davidson, Hospice Foundation of America, 2001.)

Notice the progressive step in defining anticipatory grief. It has been used to refer to grief associated with feelings family, friends, etc. experience related to a loved one’s eventual death. The definition has been expanded to where it includes grief expressed over all the different losses a person experiences in the context of an illness, not just the grief due to impending death.

In “anticipatory grief” we mourn plans that will never come to pass. Grieving that this past Christmas was the last one to be celebrated with your loved one. There may be a loss of living “at home” and now being confined to a care facility. A primary caregiver or family members may be trying to imagine what life will be like after the death of their loved one.

Some people may experience anticipatory grief on a deeper level than the death of their loved one. Such things as when our ill loved one loses the ability to speak. This may be accompanied with a number of issues adding to one’s suffering. The sick person and family members may be frustrated as to how to now communicate with each other. The possibilities of having meaningful conversations with the loved one are now remote.

Family members may grieve times together that will never be. The holidays they wanted to plan, the special celebrations they wanted to enjoy, die with the loved one. Vacations will never be the same without the loved one. This is what Dr. Ken Doka refers to as a loss of the “assumptive world” (Doka, page 200). The life together they hoped for will never be realized. All of one’s life is altered with the death.

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A Story of Jim and June (not their real names): An Illustration of Anticipatory Grief

Jim and June were looking forward to putting their plans in action as soon as he retired. For the past five years they had planned a road trip in their RV to drive all over Canada and the United States. It would be a trip of a lifetime. Jim worked a couple years longer than he intended but now the time had come. Working longer allowed them to save enough money to pay for their RV in cash.

After retirement they were both excited at the prospect of putting their travel plans into action! The RV was insured and they had mapped out the route for their trip. They gave copies of their plans to their children so the kids could know estimations as to when they would be at certain places on their trip.

It was soon after Jim’s retirement that June began to not be feeling well. After some coaxing Jim convinced her to make a doctor appointment. He accompanied her to see the doc and it was good he did. After his initial assessment the doctor referred June to an oncologist. The result of the oncologist’s examination was conclusive. June had pancreatic cancer. To make matters worse the cancer was spreading to the point the oncologist was not hopeful June would recover.

As time progressed so did the cancer. The plans June and Jim had for travelling gave way to doctor appointments. In fact, they decided to only have short trips on the occasional weekend. June couldn’t face being away from home for too long. As she became weaker from cancer treatments as well as the illness Jim and June decided to sell their RV. The dream of travelling around North America was shattered.

The couple would have quiet moments at home where they would talk about their lives together. The cancer was slowing June down to the point that even short walks with Jim around their neighbourhood were too much. She bemoaned the reality that she was dying.

Jim recognized he was experiencing a profound sense of grief at the prospect of losing June. It would keep him awake at night. He would have periods during the day that he would cry at the thought of life without June. He may be doing something like puttering in their back yard but his thoughts were consumed by June’s illness. One time, he went into his workshop just to be alone as he cried bitter tears. He didn’t know if he was crying because of June’s cancer or his own grief. Life wasn’t the same anymore and he dreaded what it would be like after June died.

Anticipatory grief is real and common when things take a major turn in life. It is something you may have experienced. If not, you will.

Perhaps you are experiencing anticipatory grief right now. You don’t have to be alone in this part of your grief journey. Please feel free to share some of your thoughts with me if you like.

Love your life as much as you can. Put aside the petty things that really don’t matter. Be happy rather than always wanting to be right. Remember to never take life for granted.

Until next time, bless you all.

 

The Cry of Unfairness

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  • “What do you think of your God now? If He loves us why would He take my son from me? Tell me that!”
  • “She was just starting out in life. She was one of the good kids, now she’s gone. It just isn’t fair.”
  • “He’s been lingering for days. He doesn’t eat or drink. He doesn’t talk to us anymore. Why can’t God just let him go?”
  • “She was our baby. We loved her and still do. She lived for only a day. Even that single day was uncomfortable for her. She died in her mom’s arms.”

Experiences in life may cause a person to cry out about the unfairness of it all. The statements that opened this post all speak about the death of loved ones. I will narrow this post down to “unfairness” in the context of the death of a loved one.

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Dear readers, we all face difficult times. They seem more challenging when we are trying to find answers that seem elusive. This accentuates our thoughts of unfairness. It seems so unjust. This can also lead to despair. Psychologist Viktor Frankl noted, “Despair is suffering without meaning.” Despair is a terrible place in life to be.

From the years I have devoted to coming alongside people I come away with this belief. There is always some meaning in our suffering. Without meaning we become lost in despair. I have encountered countless people who grieve the death of a loved one. There have been a number who have cried about the “unfairness” of such a loss.

When one is going through a heartbreaking experience in life it can lead to a conclusion that life is unfair. This sense of unfairness is compounded when one thing after the other kicks us in the teeth, so to speak. Many people begin to fall into the trap of self-defeat. They are so tired of feeling sad, for instance, all they can see or feel is despair or that they just can’t go on.

Finding meaning in our grief or suffering helps in establishing our purpose in life. Hang on to that statement because it is true. It may not, however, be an easy endeavour or discovery. It may take a change in one’s perspective regarding “unfairness.”

A Change In Perspective

The following thought may give you opportunity to reflect on your situation from a different perspective. Perhaps you are unfair to your life. This point isn’t meant to minimize your suffering or difficult time in life. Life indeed can confront us with all sorts of experiences that are cringe worthy.

Let me repeat the point I have mentioned then I will unpack what I mean. “Perhaps you are unfair to your life.” Right now, this very second, life may be folding in on you. You are in so much pain that it is taking all your energy. You have nothing left. Your mind bombards your heart with thoughts like, what’s the point? You may be teetering on the point of despair. You thought the same thing yesterday and the day before that. Your pain over the death of your loved one has gone on for years now.

In spite of these negative overwhelming thoughts that have gone on for a long time you still open your eyes to another day. Isn’t that amazing? You really haven’t given up. You may see life through a filter of pain but you still get up. This simple ordinary experience is one of hope. Deep down inside you and covered by the crap of seeming despair is hope. Hope like meaning leads to purpose.

Be fair to yourself. Give yourself credit for being strong. Turn the energy it takes to fill your mind with doubts and unfairness into moving forward, seeing the beauty of life and the beauty of you. Yes, the beauty of who you are and your purpose in life.

You are amazing and strong. You are more than the limitations of your experience or situation. Think of it, you have nowhere else to turn but up. Look up toward goals you once had in life. Resurrect these goals. They are part of who you are.

Turn from the whole idea of “unfairness” and allow yourself to heal from this thought that has beat you down. In unfairness you are expressing your woundedness. In being fair to your life you are saying, “I want to heal myself.” Reach out to others who love you and persevere together. Allow them to walk with you on your road to regaining your strength and hope.

Perhaps you grieve the death of one you loved more than your own life. To you this death has culminated in your view that all of life is unfair. This unfairness has clouded your ability to see any meaning in life. To use the term used earlier on turn from being “unfair to your life” and live for that loved one so missed.

Think of how you envisioned life with that person. Think of the deep joy that made your heart strong with love. You have not lost that love. It has been clouded over by the dense fog of unfairness you have come to nurture. Find that love again and live it.

You cannot undo the death of your loved one. It has happened. You can, however, feel love again. You can live in love again. Even in living without your loved one you can still love your life. You can live for your loved one. It can be done and you can make it happen. Yes, you can!

The road ahead to healing may indeed be a long one but it will be worth it. Leave unfairness in the dust. Push beyond the mountain of doubt you have built and reach the beauty of your life you know is inside. Yes, it can be done! You can do it.

Scarred Joy hopes at least some of what has been said rings true with you. It is, however, up to you what you do with your life. Accept the fact you are a gift to life. Now, what are you going to do with your gift?

If this post has been speaking to you please comment and honor me by informing me how your life is changing.

I Am One Of You!

Pain reminds me of my own humanity, vulnerability and that my emotions are part of me.

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It can grip you in a way that is difficult to explain unless one has experienced it. It is so painful that every part of you may agonize. The pain, oh my God, the pain

Scarred Joy posts do not shy away from painful experiences. This includes personal experiences. Pain reminds me of my own humanity, vulnerability and that my emotions are part of me.

I began this post referring to “it.” The “it” I want to present in this post is known as depression.

This post is not meant as a clinical explanation of causes or symptoms of depression etc. The post relates to how people, including myself, have experienced this illness. This post will note some things common in depression. The post will also present an idea of what experiencing depression is like. I will include a Scarred Joy point of hope. I am not offering an exhaustive explanation of depression.

I would like every person who will read this post and has lived depression to know one thing. I am one of you. We are bonded together. For that reason I will write this post in first person.

Depression is:

  • Like a tunnel
  • Dark even in the light
  • Messed up.
  • Day in and day out
  • For some it is fleeting and temporary, triggered by events in life
  • Avoiding conversations
  • If I can sleep I wake up tired
  • Depression makes my body, mind and soul feel tired.
  • Not wanting to end my life yet perceiving it as being without meaning.
  • Living in a tunnel and not seeing any light ahead
  • Wanting to go anywhere else but to work
  • Being with people yet lonely.
  • God is distant
  • God has left me
  • I let everyone down.
  • Acting as if life is great in order to hide from other people so they don’t know my truth.
  • Feeling dead inside
  • Being embarrassed or ashamed to let anyone know I am depressed
  • My smiles are a mask to hide my pain
  • Day to day living is tedious
  • Evenings are long and exhausting
  • Wanting to scream yet afraid other people will then know I am in pain.
  • Depression can be creative
  • It longs for companionship of loving people.
  • Depression mixes me up.

In depression I may watch the world go by. It may seem I am the only one trapped in this tunnel. I may add to my suffering by being petrified people will find out I’m in a depression.

I mean, it’s considered a mental illness, isn’t it? People will treat me different if they find out I have a mental illness. They may look at me and talk to me as if I am to be pitied. They may look beyond me, so to speak and focus on the illness. If people do that then I have no hope.

Even in my depression I have to somehow survive, right? I have to find the strength to move forward and not lie down and give up. That would be so easy to do. Allow the dark blanket of the tunnel to envelope me. To give up.

I want to survive the tunnel. To feel the warmth of the sun again. To embrace those who love and care for me. To reach out to those I think I can trust and let them know I need help. To know God remembers me. To recognize who I am.

I can’t survive depression by myself. I need those who care for me to come alongside me. Even if it seems I’m not paying attention to you, please don’t give up on me. Help me survive. I can’t do this on my own.

If any of you can feel my words as you read them, you understand. You know, I am one of you.

Please think the post through then comment.

A Child Has Died: Part Two

Part One and now Part Two have been an emotional journey for Scarred Joy. I questioned myself as I wrote. Was Part One too much for my readers? Is the death of children too emotional and sad for us to want to talk about it? Am I stirring up memories my readers would rather have left alone?

I don’t have concrete answers to my own questions. I appeal to you, my readers, if you have personal answers to such questions please answer in a comment. I appreciate your consideration.

Those Who Grieve Child Death

Over the years I have encountered numbers of people who grieve the death of a child or children. There are those who have learned to move forward with their lives taking the memory of their child with them. There are those who still revisit the death of their child and may talk about the loss in small doses. Still others live the rest of their lives in honour of their child.

Support to Grieving Parents and Grandparents.

What does one say to parents or grandparents grieving the death of a child? Do you say anything? Here are a few common sense suggestions:

Be Genuine

No one likes a phony so if you aren’t sure what to say or if you are to say anything, keep the tongue from flapping. From experience in coming alongside people for years those who grieve can sense if you are genuine. Be genuine in your care in the midst of another person’s pain.

Pain and Suffering—They are not the same

If you say something to the person just because you think you have to, you may cause the person to suffer even more. Grief causes pain. Saying the wrong thing adds to the pain and becomes suffering.

Let me unpack that for you with an example. In the case of a person grieving the death of a loved one the grief causes emotional, psychological, spiritual and even physical pain. We might come along to visit with the person. We think we have to say something but we not sure what.

A common phrase used by many people in the context of grief comes to mind. It may be something like, “well, it will be ok, you have other kids.” The well-intentioned remark may also be “ God will get you through this” or “it will get better with time, you’ll see.” Phrases like this may only burden the person with something else to process on top of the death. This is causing them to suffer.

A Caring Presence

I suggest perhaps it is best not to say anything until you have listened to the grieving person. In listening, in genuine listening, we are being present. In being present we are coming alongside the person. We may not have to say anything. Your presence shows you care.

A caring presence means after the funeral is over, after people no longer bring meals to help out, you are still willing to help where needed. You take the person for coffee. You do not forget the name of the child who died. You honor the grief of the parent or grandparent by allowing them to lead the way in it. It is their grief. Your genuine care for the person recognizes while their grief journey continues you will be with them all the way.

Concluding Remarks

The death of a child is an experience we wish we could avoid altogether. Even the thought of child death may cause us to fear. The reality of life disregards our fear and allows children to die. This may leave us feeling vulnerable and helpless. Our love for others is perhaps shown most in how we respond to the death of a child. We may want to avoid those who grieve this most ponderous loss. Let us, instead, be caring companions along this unpredictable journey of grief.

A Child Has Died–Part One

Sometimes It Hurts always

The death of children is the theme of this post.

Some parents say it is an unending nightmare. Others say their lives will never be the same again. Still others say, rather than living in the nightmare there is more merit in living life in a loving way in honour of your child.

There is so much one could say in a post like this. It will be obvious to readers that a lot more could be said about this most heartbreaking part of some people’s lives. I will confine the content of the post to a few points.

I will draw attention to a couple real life accounts of child death. I will mention some general remarks. To conclude I will note how we may respond to parents grieving the death of a child?.

A Couple of Stories

A Little Girl: A number of years ago I was talking with a woman while doing some hospital visits. She was in her early nineties. Included in our conversation was her reminiscing about her children.

She spoke about one child in particular, her youngest daughter. They loved to sit on the porch of their house on warm summer days. The little girl wore light blue dress. Her blue dress suited her blonde hair. The old lady told me “She looked so pretty and happy as can be as we sat together.”

As the lady continued with her recollection she went on to say a week later people gathered for the little blonde girl’s funeral. She had come down with an illness that spread into her lungs and she died. The old lady looked at me and said, “One day I was sitting with her and the next week my husband and family buried her.” She went on to say, “I think about her all the time. I still have her in my heart.”

A life too brief: A number of years ago an incident occurred I have never forgotten.

At that time my children were teenagers therefore my wife and I knew a lot of young people. There was one young man who sticks out in my mind. I didn’t know him well. Frequently he would come to the church we attended and sit with other teens during the service.

One day while having a discussion with a friend of the young man she informed me he had taken his own life. As the story goes, he came home from school like usual. At the dinner table he sat with his family and ate his meal. After dinner he got up from the table and left the room. After an hour or so his parents were wondering what he was up to and where he was. After calling for him and looking in various rooms his father found his son in the closed carport. The young man had hanged himself. He was seventeen.

Over the years I have encountered numbers of people who grieve the death of a child or children. There are a few things people have in common in this context of grief.

I will summarize just a few at this time.

  • It is not uncommon for a person grieving the death of a child to say, “I miss me.”
  • The death of a child changes one’s life forever.
  • One’s identity has been changed.
  • One’s world has changed.
  • You will never be who you once were

What does one say or how does one respond to parents grieving the death of a child? Do you say anything? Here are a few points to consider.

  • Listen
  • Be genuine
  • Be present
  • Do not minimize grief by comparisons
  • Listen—this is essential

I will say more about these points and continue with this discussion in my next post, A Child Has Died Part Two.

Please leave comments. Thank you.

Don’t Keep It To Yourself: Things That Matter In the Face of Cancer: Part Four

This is my final post in this series. Thank you to my readers who have followed along. Thank you also regarding the seriousness of what is said here. Cancer, of course, is no laughing matter. It can be beaten. It can also kill. I know it can also be scary.

Don’t keep it to yourself!

Here is the main point of this fourth part of my series. If your body seems to be acting out of character don’t ignore it. It may be telling you something is wrong and needs to be attended to. It may be warning you of a cancer of some kind. Please don’t say, “This couldn’t happen to me.” It can happen to you! I hate to remind you but you are human. Please don’t keep it to yourself!

I am currently reading Stephen Kings book, Stephen King: On Writing. Part of the book is autobiographical where readers are given a peek into Mr. King’s life. There is an account in the book that caused me to reflect on the importance of the early detection of cancer. His mother ignored signs that she was ill. She kept it to herself. She died of uterine cancer.

A Reflection On One Loved

Cancer is a brutal fiend. It does not discriminate between children or adults. Its job is to cause misery and pain as well as to kill. During my wife’s most recent bout with cancer I reflected on a young girl we knew a number of years ago.

Many people, including my family, loved her. She died from cancer at twelve years of age. A beautiful gentle soul who loved her family. She was only twelve at the time she died, the same age as one of my children. We all hoped and prayed she would live. We still think of her and miss her. At her memorial service there were a lot of tears shed. These many years after this young girl’s death we still remember her with great fondness.

Scars of Cancer

Terry has survived cancer without serious complications twice. I’m not saying my wife is indestructible. She bears physical scars of cancer on her body. If cancer cannot beat us it likes to leave scars as a reminder of its assault on us.

There are emotional scars as well. I shared with you in the first part of this series some of my personal response to the cancer news. Here is what I wrote.

… Although the cancer that has shown in her body is a non-aggressive type the initial shock of the news left its scars…Cancer can mess with one’s mind. Even a “non-aggressive” cancer may cause some fear. It can give your emotions a workout. These are the “scars” I am talking about (Things That Matter In the Face of Cancer: Part One, Dec. 13/17).

Survival Is Humbling

I am not a hero who laughs in the face of enemies like cancer. I do not run from such enemies either. One cannot forget or ignore the scars of cancer.

Terry dreaded the thought of having to experience chemotherapy or radiation therapy. She didn’t have to take either. She would have refused such treatments if the doctors had deemed them necessary.

Terry views her surviving from cancer as a new lease on life. She is aware that many people who experience cancer do not survive. She is one who takes life as it comes without being fatalistic. She embraces the things in life that matter in her life, her family, her faith in Jesus Christ and friends.

As her husband, the fact of Terry surviving cancer is humbling. It reminds me we are all vulnerable and fragile. Surviving cancer is a gift and not a certainty. It would have crushed me if Terry had not survived! Cancer is in reality a violator of the dreams and plans people have. To survive it is indeed humbling.

Please, if you suspect something is wrong in your body see your doctor. Don’t keep a health scare to yourself. Instead of allowing cancer to terrify you, fight it. Let cancer fear you!

NOTE: After reading this post, please comment if cancer has impacted your life.