Thursday, May 29, 2008

Grief And Loss

The grief and sorrow that we experience when someone we love dies is so personal that often we feel that no one really understands what we are experiencing. They cannot possibly relate to what we are feeling; somehow our grief is different from the grief others have experienced.

We have all heard the usual words of comfort from family and friends. "It will be better in time", "At least they are no longer in pain", "You must move forward, take one day at a time", and so many other expressions of condolences. Well meaning words from people who care, we generally accept their words but we don’t believe them to be true. How can things possibly be better in time when we have lost someone who was an integral part of our life?

How often have you heard people say "I just can’t seem to get over losing him/her" or "I feel like my life no longer has purpose now that (s)he is gone" or you notice people just don’t seem to be interested in anything or want to participate in anything since losing a loved one? Grief, sorrow, loss are very personal and yes, everyone handles it in their own way and in their own time. However, what about those who never seem to get past the loss, what holds them back from finding purpose and joy in life again?

There is so much more than mere grief involved in losing a loved one. So much emotion that often is disguised as grief which needs to be healed in order for the grief to be healed. People don’t often examine their grief beyond the level of loss and sorrow. They struggle to release their grief, never really understanding the complexity of emotions woven throughout it and the need to heal all aspects of it in order to heal and move forward with their lives.

Anger, resentment, bitterness, abandonment, regret, guilt, just to name a few, these are emotions people often deny simply because they feel it is wrong of them to feel this way towards the loved one who as passed. Denying the emotions simply delays the healing and over an extended period of time may trigger the onset of health issues. Examining these other emotions may reveal an underlying fear. When you address everything beneath the surface of grief you are better able to finally acknowledge and fully release these emotions, allowing yourself to move forward in life. This doesn’t mean you forget your loved one or that you no longer miss them, it simply means that you have made peace with yourself and your loss.

Some people are able to do this on their own, others need help to understand why they feel the way they do and how they can get past it and move on. Defining the type of help needed is always the first step. Some require a group environment; being with others who have experienced similar losses. A support group atmosphere so they feel they are not alone in the way they feel. Others find solace in their faith whether it is through attending services, prayer, spiritual guidance, spiritual counseling or speaking with their spiritual leader. Still others go for counseling or some other form of guidance to help them gain the understanding and closure they need in order to find peace. No matter what modality is chosen, the underlying energy should be one of understanding and compassion so the person feels supported rather than judged for feeling the way they feel.

The thing to remember is that there is no disrespect in releasing grief. How deeply you grieve is not the measure of how much you love them; your love for them will always shine through your memories of them and your life together. When you release grief, you are not releasing the memory of them, you are simply releasing the emotional pain of losing them has caused you. You will always love and remember them and over time, those memories should bring you comfort and happiness for having been blessed for the time you had together rather than bring you pain and sorrow over losing them.

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, allow yourself to acknowledge the 'other' emotions you may be experiencing. Give yourself time as grief often comes in waves where you feel that you are doing OK and then for whatever reason you experience your grief anew. It happens, especially when significant days and/or holidays approach. If you continue to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, seek out help and allow others to support you in a way that allows you to begin to rebuild your life. While your life will never be the same as having the person here with you, you will eventually, find a way to regain the joy of living.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Seemingly Insignificant

My dad successfully raced cars for about 35 years. It was his second passion; his first was always mom and the family.

About a month before he passed away, I was googling for some information and strangely, what came up in the list of possible websites, was a message board posting from someone who had purchased one of dad's old race cars. Curiousity got the better of me and I clicked on the link and found that the buyer had little information about the car or dad and was hoping to find out more about both. He was the 3rd owner of the car and his intent was to return it to it's original condition. The only picture he had of the car in it's original condition was one in which the car had been in an accident. I didn't post a reply, instead I bookmarked the site and figured I would talk to dad about 'that car' and would eventually post some information.

Weeks went by and I didn't get around to posting a reply. Then dad passed away unexpectedly. As I was sorting through photos to create photo collages, one of his family life and one of his racing life, I came across a photo of the car in question. Remembering the messageboard post, I dropped the photo into my scanner, scanned it and posted it simply with a message indicating the photo was of the original car with "George" driving it. At the time I didn't mention that I was George's daughter or that my dad had just passed away. It was really simply a quick seemingly insignificant post to me, my only thought was that while I had the picture in hand it would be easier to post it now than wait and try to find it again later.

I did not expect the response I received. The guy who had bought the car was beyond appreciative; saying that I had made his day and asked how I had come across such a perfect picture as he had been looking for one for several years now. In the midst of my grief, I was astounded how this seemingly insignificant act on my part had made someone's day. I could literally feel his happiness and appreciation through his words. I explained to him how I had found his post, that George was my dad and that dad had just passed away and I had come across the photo while putting together photos for his funeral.

He was touched that I would think of posting the picture in the midst of my grief; asked that if and when I was able to, would I consider e-mailing or calling him as he would like to talk to me about dad, the car, and the racing series. He also said that he would not nag me for information that he was so grateful that I had taken the time to post the picture and he would wait for me to contact him when I was ready. I told him I would be in touch when I was able.

It's been two months since that first post. Yesterday, I sat down and started to go through the first of many (many!) boxes of racing stuff that dad had. Photos, documents, newspaper articles. It will take literally months to go through everything. My ultimate goal is to put together a scrapbook of dad's racing career. As I do, I am also keeping an eye out for things that pertain to this particular car so I can pass it on to the new owner. Dad would want me to help this guy; it's what he would have done.

At dad's funeral, so many people told us about things dad had said to them that impacted their lives. Things that on the surface would be seemingly insignificant to most, yet, touched the person's life in unimaginable ways; giving them the inspiration, guidance, encouragement or whatever they needed at that moment in their lives. It makes me realize how often we touch the lives of others in ways we don't even realize; seemingly insignificant moments we barely remember, yet for that other person, it was a pivotal moment. A word, a deed, a smile, a pat on the back, no matter what it was it made all the difference in the world to the person at that time.

So, my friends, as you go through your day to day life, do not underestimate the impact you have on those around you; every time you interact with someone you touch their life in ways that are not always visable, but just because they are invisable to you, it doesn't mean they are not powerful. In a brief moment of time, you could change a person forever and not even know it. So, be positive, be supportive, be kind, you never know the impact you are really having on someone.