Hello readers! It has been a while since I posted here. This past year has been a full one with family, work, writing and life. My writing has developed to the point where I am now collaborating with some other writers on a book. The book is entitled Good Grief People. We plan on having it ready for a late Feb. 2017 launch. Good Grief People is a collection of real life stories of experiences with grief and hope. I will give more details in another post soon. I trust you will be interested in having a copy and that you will find some healing and comfort through Good Grief People.
It has been a while since I last posted anything. I have been involved in a lot of things lately and ScarredJoy has been neglected. One thing I know for sure since my last post is life goes on and so does death.
In my work as a Spiritual Care Practitioner for a health authority I am constantly reminded of the regularity of death. I also encounter face to face messengers of the preciousness of life. These messengers are my “teachers,” the people who are residents of the care facilities I work in. For most of them serious illness, injury or disability are a permanent part of their lives.
It is a genuine love and concern for my “teachers” that causes me to keep an eye on the current debates people are having on the procedure known as “doctor assisted suicide” or the more politically correct term, “Medical assistance In Dying (MAID).” I wonder if it will indeed be passed into law at the beginning of June 2016. I wonder how soon we will here of the first person to die from MAID?
Medical Assistance In Dying is here! How will our population respond. What is my view you may ask? I have been giving it some serious consideration. It is not clear cut for me. More to come on this in my next post! 🙂
My apologies for being absent for a while. I hope at least some of you are still with me! I mentioned I would write something one men’s grief for your consideration. well, here is part two!
I have been involved in caring for people both formally and informally for over thirty years now. I was a pastor for fifteen of those years and the others have been devoted to learning through my schooling but also through being directly involved in coming alongside people in all sorts of situations of life. I am still working professionally in a context where suffering is part of the culture. Now, let me include a bit of a disclaimer here. I did not state the above paragraph to try and establish I am an expert on people or suffering. The truth be known that with all my education and experience in working with people it did not prepare me for how I would respond to personal experiences with grief. When my dad died 12 years ago it took the wind out of my sails. We were together s a family in the hospital awaiting his death. We were aware that he was indeed dying. I actually saw him take his last breath. It was surreal to say the least. My immediate response was to want to walk away and be on my own. I could not think of what to do.
Here is an interesting note on men’s grief. Literature on grief will mention that one of the things men have in common regarding grief is the need to “do” something. My mom, being a real life wise woman, knew this about me and her other sons. She knew me and my brothers well. I didn’t know what to “do” in seeing my dad die. I was standing in the hallway outside the room where my dad died and wondering what was I to do now. “How can I help?” “There’s nothing I can do” “What is going to happen next?” “What will happen to mom?” All sorts of things may go through a guy’s head that point to a helplessness, a sense of not knowing what to “do”. Here I think is a difference that women may bring to the table of grief and is a choice we men have if a caring person points it out to us. My mom simply said to me as I wanted to walk away. “Alan, come on now, don’t walk away. Come on back inside (dad’s room) and be with the rest of us.” It amazes me that I still remember her words. By saying this she wasn’t giving me an alternative to what I could do. She was giving me the choice of “being”. Come and “be” with us. It would only be for a short time that we would stay in the room but mom ws saying I didn’t have to “do” anything. How freeing this simple choice was. Mom allowed me to just “be,” to just sit by my dad’s bed and be.
Our grief, for either men or women, may imbalance us in numerous ways. If given the chance, if we believe we have no choice but to do something, we may be robbed of the beauty, the freeing and gentle acts of “being with” those we love. In “being” we embrace perhaps the child in us that just wants to express that right now “I am sad and I am crying because my world has changed and there is nothing I can do.” Someone please help me “be”.
I don’t know if this makes sense to you readers. Perhaps I am betraying my own teaching and this is but another way of me “doing” grief. I hope it helps each of us in some way.
The waves of grief at times seem overwhelming and at times I long for them to cease or at least be tempered. They do however, remind me of my humanness, my fragility, my vulnerability and hope for a community of caring souls who allow my heart to freely express the pain that strangely unites us. Grief also hopefully gives a great appreciation for the loveliness of life and the precious gift it truly is.
One’s ability just to “be” in our times of grief may also give us a unique opportunity to share with others at least part of the journey we are on. Just think of how lonely it might be if we didn’t have people around us who love us. Especially with close family or friends who love us we may enjoy a strong sense of belonging, the reality that we are not really alone. We may also sense with these intimate connections with others that deep inside there is a spot, there is a space that makes us also aware of the pain of each other as well. Perhaps knowing this helps us to be more tender and less judgemental toward each other.
Women and men, girls and boys, all grieve! Perhaps we indeed grieve in some different ways. “Doing” even in expressing grief, has its place. Learning how to “be” and also knowing that we as men don’t always have to “do” may be freeing to our souls as we go on in life without people we have deeply loved!
Hi folks! ScarredJoy mentioned in a previous post how often a dad’s grief may be overlooked. The context of the post was a reflection on a young couple who were looking forward to the birth of their baby. The mother suffered a “miscarriage” and their dreams of a life with the baby ended.
I would like to offer you some thoughts on grief from a man’s perspective. Certainly what I post here may not be so with all men as there are exceptions. I am saying that men are indeed in some respects different from women in the expression of grief and perhaps how they experience grief. Here goes.
Men’s Grief. This is how it seems to me: Grief is like a cover over the heart. It wants to cover one’s heart from the light that would show the way into one’s changed life. Due to the cause of the grief life has changed for ever. It is a search for meaning and questions of seeking. At times it is a painful reflection of one’s perceived role as a man, as a dad, as a son, as a husband, as a son in law, etc. To cry may mean I am not being strong for my family. I am letting them down. The grief has covered the guy’s heart and this being the case, it is a time of darkness, the light has been blocked out and he may think, “I don’t know where to go” “I don’t know what to do” “I don’t know how I’m supposed to be”.
I will probably say a few more things as time goes on but let me just say something else at this time. Here’s where it might get a bit messy and confusing for men when it comes to grief. Caring women in their lives may have to approach the man similar to how they would approach a young fella or a boy. This is not to belittle a man or minimize his pain. I see it as a process of caring rather than a one or two step act.
Please recognize ladies that many men were informed as boys that they are not supposed to show emotions that make you seem weak. To some crying is an ultimate sign of weakness, of not being in control if one follows this direction. The guy, perhaps your son, husband, brother etc. needs to be shown that you actually care about his emotions including those covered by grief. Grief can be lonely. It wants to isolate the man from true feelings that allow him to express his grief. It will “leak out” in some way, however. Someone who is safe, who may come alongside him, who doesn’t lecture, or give advice, is a gift. Providing a safe place, including trust, may help uncover what grief has smothered. Perhaps the tears may flow (his, your own, both of you). Perhaps then a story will unfold. The guy is trying to be present in his grief, to just be. Men are often ‘doers” when it comes to grief but I can say something about that another time. we men may actually have to be given permission, so to speak, to be authentic with how much this grief hurts so deeply.
Next time: grieving the death of a child.
I wouldn’t be surprised if those who have read my past posts have pretty well forgotten this Blog. It isn’t that I haven’t been interested in keeping in touch. Life took me in a distracted direction. I allowed myself to ignore my “inner posts,” the thoughts within my mind and think they would go away. Well, they didn’t! Here is some of my thoughts leaking out of my mind and on to this post.
I heard a few months ago of a young couple who were expecting their first baby. Plans were made and dreams were dreamed. Anticipation was mounting as to when the baby would be born, when the couple would welcome their “new arrival.” Something went wrong and the joy of looking forward to becoming parents was dashed. The young mom to be experienced what is commonly known as a “miscarriage”. Dreams turned to nightmares. Joy turned to misery. Tears flowed overwhelmingly. Scarred Joy read the blog posts the young mom began to write. She expressed so much sadness and heart breaking longing.
I would like to continue thoughts about this in a few other posts. Certainly to young woman felt deep pain and the “loss” of her baby. I think it was the dad’s pain that struck my attention and pierced my heart. Many times in such sad life experiences dads may be overlooked. The dad may use so much energy on caring for his wife that he stifles or puts aside his own pain. He may be a victim of cultural views that dictate men don’t cry. What a lot of crap that is! Men and especially a dad grieving his child feel this heartache deeply.
Please follow Scarred Joy as next time “daddy grief” is given attention. Until then please take care of yourself. If you have any comments or even questions so far, please go ahead and respond to this post.
Does the title of this post sound strange to you dear reader? You may not all agree with my views of belief and that’s okay with me. You don’t have to agree! This may be one of the few out and out posts where I offer the worldview I follow. As a Christian I see God as One who relates to what scarred joy is. At Easter I recognize the specialness of the story, the historical account, the mission of Jesus Christ. He was born to die for those who will believe in Him. At Easter His story is climaxed. On what many call “Good Friday” His death is remembered. On Easter Sunday the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated by His followers all over the world. This celebration has gone on for centuries. God sent His one and only Son to earth. Jesus died for us and came back to life. He now lives for ever. God relates wholeheartedly to what I call ScarredJoy!
Perhaps the title for this blog post intrigues you or turns you off. Perhaps it seems odd and you think ScarredJoy has things mixed up. Here is some of my thinking on this. People who work in the area of death & dying or palliative care or end-of-life care are familiar with terms like “denial” or “evading” when it comes to our society’s reluctance to instead “accept” the presence of death. Death, you see, isn’t going anywhere. Death and dying are a constant presence in the world.
Doctors have been trained to save lives and make people feel better. They aren’t that well trained in accepting the presence of death. Death indeed may be considered failure. Death however need not be looked upon as being failure rather it is to be accepted. To accept the presence of death is in turn to feel and know a fuller acceptance of life. Life is beautiful! When I watch my grandchildren play and find pleasure in the most seemingly simple things of life, it makes me smile! It also has me reflect on how as “grown ups” we may lose the sense of wonder and fun children enjoy so very much.
The constant presence of death may help us to treasure our lives while we can. Live, my friends and family! Live!
I understand yesterday was “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day”. I didn’t know there was such a day. I think it makes sense however in a society like our’s where it is so easy to discard anything that doesn’t fit into the “norm”. The very thought of “infant loss” is sad. It doesn’t conjure up thoughts of joy or welcome little one, or future. Some may even think or believe that the babies we “lose” are not to be remembered, not to be given consideration. Not being born doesn’t mean “never existed”.
People, including family members, aren’t always understanding or even sympathetic. Perhaps because they have never experienced child death loss in any way, they cannot understand. To understand is cognitive, it is some we try to process through using our thoughts. People can however be sensitive or empathetic showing the “affective” part of us. It shows some sensitivity, some emotional feelings toward those who experience or suffer the “loss” of a child, whether born or unborn.
I wonder how many parents or grandparents, or other family members, took time to honour the memory of these precious children? I wonder if they know other people do care. Perhaps that is a mere assumption. Perhaps others don’t care.
As a grandparent, I think of those I looked forward to saying “Hi” to and welcoming into our family. The “hi” was instead a “goodbye”! The anticipated joy turned quickly to a sadness that lingers. The grandparents I communicate with understand what I mean.
I’m working through this type of “loss” and may continue at another time. I’m not sure however if people will even show interest in this post. That will be an answer in itself.
Perhaps the death of a child is one of life’s most sad and terrifying experiences to endure. Some people with this “loss” on a daily basis. If you are one of these people feel free to share your story here. Say whatever you want.
Take care for now!
Perhaps I should have entitled this post, “Talking About My Death!” There are signs in our death and dying evading society that ever so slowly people are coming out of the closet of corporate death timidity or fear. Surprise, surprise, we are all going to die! Rather than running like mad and ignoring the rest of this post let’s calm down as we continue. This will be an ongoing discussion as we grow and share together.
Not only has many or most evangelical type churches not kept up with the aging of the Baby Boomers or “seniors adult” issues for instance, but many are woefully negligent in helping people die well. Much of the emphasis has been on such things as “living well” or “living a victorious life”! This is all good and well and is certainly “part” of what church teaching is about. We have also sadly not developed a theology of dying as a balanced view of the life.
I am not out to turn people against church life or following life as Jesus Christ called His people to. I have worked serving people for a long time now including within church communities. I am however willing to say Christians in North America for the most part have adopted the death evading attitude of the rest of society. I’m not sure if this pattern will continue and hopefully church leaders will begin to take the ministry needs of their congregations related to aging more seriously. This includes the very important reality of death and dying.
I mention the statements above not to upset anyone, especially church leaders (pastor types, etc.) but to encourage the church community to catch a vision to turn things around and face death and dying issues head on. A number of years ago I came to a point in my life and ministry to hopefully be part of changing our culture’s views on death and dying, including that of many church communities. One of these ways was to confront my own hesitancy to consider personal mortality. I came to understand more and more that I too one day will die. There will be a point in time for me to die. Flowers will still grow and the seasons will continue to change but I will not be around to enjoy them. This is very sobering and also very emotionally healthy to contemplate.
I will go on with this discussion again soon in another post. For now, I hope those who read this post will at least reflect on it a bit for one day you will die as well.
I read a news item about some guy who threw his five year old little girl over the side of a bridge into a freezing river. The news article mentioned the guy’s name but I don’t want to give him that exposure. The evilness of such actions surely do not come from a heart of love. The little girl died. Her “daddy” as she called him, threw her over a bridge! I hope by the grace of God her mommy will be able to find hope thereby in time living in “scarred joy”.