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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why should I feel sorry for THEM!

This morning I was listening to the radio as I was getting dressed, and I heard a mom talking about the grief of having her son serving in the war.  The day to day worry, concern and fear of knowing that each and every day he and so many others put their lives on the line, to protect us.  Yet, so many around her and others like her, are oblivious to her pain, to her grief even to the point of making light of her and her families sacrifice and why her son chose to serve.  

There is a name for this type of grief, 'disenfranchised grief.'  This type of grief comes as a result of a societal perception of what is grieved and who can grieve.  The reasons are: 1.) the relationship is not recognized - this may be a neighbor, friend, classmate, coworker, lover or significant other, etc., someone that society does not believe has the 'right' to grieve.  2.)  The loss is not recognized - suicide, there was loss of innocence as a result of their death, death due to addiction or lifestyle choices, prolonged illness, and even pet loss, are just some of the examples.  3.) The griever is not recognized - these are the ones society feels are too old, too young, or mentally and physically challenged, and believe are unable to comprehend what is happening; these are also the families of Alzheimer's and terminally ill patients, and others whose grief is a constant part of their life due to the physical disability of a loved one, as well as a host of many other types of losses. 

Why do I bring this up?  My grief is understood, my loss tangible, people sympathize and empathize with me and my family.  One day we had Rachel, the next, she was gone, it was a tragedy that others relate to, that 'society' accepts and acknowledges.  We were comforted, we were allowed to mourn, we were given a time to be bereaved, our loss was real, painful, unbelievable.  They recognized our relationship, the loss, and us a grievers, all the criteria was met for what was perceived as people who had the right to express their emotions, their feelings and their pain.  But what of the others, those who are not comforted, those who are left on the fringe of our compassion, who are left to grieve alone.  

Today, I was asked to speak at a local parish, to briefly share my story, and how the diocese through the help of many of its agencies, helped me and others, in our hour of need; and how through their continued generosity could continue to do so.  I was there for all three of their Masses, and had the privilege of speaking to some of them afterwards.  Many thanked me for coming, others expressed their sympathy, and still others acknowledged the work that the diocese does, and so on.  After the second Mass, a mother came up to me and asked me to pray for her son.  He is very much alive, but is currently in prison, and will be appearing before the judge this coming week, at that time the decision will be made to either release him  or prolong his sentence.  No, I do not know why he is in prison, nor do I want to know, but as I listened to her earnest plea for my prayers, I realized that this mother was grieving.  Yet another example of an unrecognized grief.  Here was a mother very much in pain, who could no more control what was happening to her son, than any of us can control the weather.  This is another form of grief that society definitely does not recognize, nor wants to acknowledge.  

Through my own losses and grief, I have come to appreciate the pain, suffering and confusion of others.  I have come to recognize that grief is many faceted, and is not solely confined to loss due to the death of a loved one.  Like this mother, there are so many individuals, families, and friends who are not allowed to grieve through the normal channels, who are not even acknowledged.  Yes they may have a close network of people who listen, who try to understand, who allow them to share their story, their pain and their torment with them, but for many, that circle is small, often too small.  

In a support group that I attended a gentleman grieved the loss of his mother to Alzheimer's.  I have stood in that middle ground, when a relative was killed in a car accident because of a drunk driver, only to realize that I knew the family of the drunk driver as well.  How I not only had to console my family, but the family members of the very cause of his death.  I have watched countless families deal with the prolonged illness of a loved one and how, once the initial blow was dealt, those who initially supported them slipped back into their own lives.  I have witnessed first hand the anguish of parents whose children have disabilities, their fears for their child, for the future, and all it encompasses.  These are very real hurts and pains, this is grief, a grief that is as heavy a burden as my own.  One that continues to permeate the very lives of these people.  

Whether their family member is serving in the military and has been deployed, the loved one suffers from a life altering disease, or they are mentally and physically challenged, they all suffer from loss.  Loss of the nearness of their loved one and the sense of security, loss of the person they new, or loss of hopes and dreams, they all grieve, they all hurt, they all just want to be understood and loved.  

Grief, like love, comes in many forms and impacts our lives in so many ways.  My hope is that I can continue in my ability to recognize not only those who grieve the death of a loved one, but the loss of life, of dreams, of hopes and of normalcy.  That I am willing to see beyond the restrictions of society, and recognize the individual who is hurting, who needs consoling, who simply wants to be heard.  These are individuals who don't ask much, they only want to be treated equally, allowed to grieve, allowed to express their emotions, feelings and pain.  Who, even though they know their circumstances may be different, still need our compassion, sympathy and if we have been there, our empathy as well.  Putting all judgment aside, let us see the person behind the pain, and their need to be comforted, just as my family and I were.  

Blessing! and until we meet again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why are you here?

Sorrow to Joy - 'Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.'  My bravest are those who can anticipate the morning and feel in the night of sorrow that underlying  Joy that tells of confident expectations of the morning.  - from 'God Calling' by A.J. Russell.

My collection of books varies from romance, to fiction, to mystery and every other place in between.  Among my many books I have self-help, prayer and meditation, and a host of enlightening editions.  I love to read, I love to be fed, and I love to escape, the kind of escape that a good book can offer.  

Recently 'God Calling' came into my possession, I didn't order it, it was sent as a gift along with a catalog of other similar offerings.  At first I put it aside, then I decided to check out what lay beneath the cover.  It is a daily devotion book, and the excerpt I quoted above was for May 17th.  The irony of this particular passage is that I read it yesterday morning, and was amazed at the message.

The 17th we had a celebration of youth in our diocese, I was present, taking photos and cheering on the wonderful youth that went above and beyond to share their faith, their love and compassion for others.  As well as supporting one of the youth from my own parish.  It was a wonderful evening, so full of life and promise, then I went home.  

When I got home, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and decided to just sit and catch up on some TV shows that I enjoy (love my On Demand).  It was great, its not too often that I can just sit and relax, finals were over, the event was all set and went well.  This was good, great as a matter of fact.  I began to smile to myself about all the wonderful kids I knew that were present this evening, how so full of hopes and dreams they all are, and what amazing opportunities lay ahead for them.  My thoughts floated over to Rachel, and how full of hopes and dreams she was, the plans she had made, the things she wanted to accomplish, and I lost it.  

I sat there, all alone, and just cried, really cried, asking why, again and again; thinking to myself, it really doesn't get easier, it just gets.  Parents don't forget, as parents we see the downs and ups, the failures and successes of others, and long for it ourselves.  We see all the missed opportunities, all the dashed dreams, and an emptiness overwhelms us, a deep ache, that no one can explain away.  

Recently someone had asked about the courses I had been taking, how it was going, and did I find them helpful, or was it more of a burden; especially discussing the many losses people experience, from death, divorce, devastation and so on.  'No' was my response, on the contrary, it helped me to understand the different types of loss, the different levels of grief, and how varied the causes can be.  Both of us have experienced multiple losses, and my course work helps me to recognize the difference not only in the entire process, but in the individuals themselves.  We discussed some of the different types of grief, and how loss impacts us, how it shapes us, and how if we allow it to, helps us grow.  Loss does not get easier, we just become more 'experienced,' more adept at finding ways of coping, surviving and moving forward.  

So the other night when I had a 'moment' of sadness, when the tears would not stop, I embraced it, knowing it was necessary, and this was what I needed.  My tears allowed me to express the sorrow I was feeling, to acknowledge that I missed Rachel, and to feel 'sorry' for what was lost.  My tears were warm reminders of the love, the wetness soft touches on my cheeks, and the stream gentle waters cleansing me, allowing me to release what I held inside.  Others may try to stop your tears, but I welcome them, I embrace them, because in the 'morning they bring joy,'  

Many years ago, someone told me that there are really no coincidences in life, that we are where we are meant to be.  That people, places and things come into our lives to help us become who we are.  We are like modeling clay, and everything we experience, come in contact with, and allow to touch our lives, shapes us.  And like any masterpiece that is handmade, there will be flaws, there will be unevenness, but that is what makes the piece that much more valuable and unique.  

With grief, we must allow ourselves to release, to express and to share our stories.  We need to give ourselves permission to cry, to feel and to embrace the emotions that grip us.  Only we know how we feel, how we hurt, and what is missing.  Don't go it alone, find a worthy companion to take with you on this journey.  A friend, family member, or counselor, who will allow you to express yourself freely, who will let you vent, who is willing to accept the ups and the downs, and who accepts and understands you no matter what.  

And if you need reassurance, just look around you, look at who and what is in your life, take JOY in all that graces your life, and know that you are better for what you have experienced and for all that has mattered in your life.  True love is everlasting, it always remains, even after all the good-byes.

Today's message may intrigue you:  Rescued and Guided - 'Rest knowing all is so safe in MY Hands.  Rest is Trust.    

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Happy Mothers Day

Whoa, time sure does fly!  I realized today that I hadn't posted anything in a while.  I have been so wrapped up in getting through various events and getting ready for finals, that I haven't been able to just sit and write.  When I began feeling the jitters of withdrawal, I recognized the signs, and here I am. 

First let me wish all mom's a belated 'Happy Mothers Day,' I hope it was truly a wonderful day for all of you.  I know it can be very difficult for those of you, who like myself, have lost a child.  It has a bittersweetness to it that is hard to explain unless you have experienced it yourself.  I have however found that it is getting easier to cope with Mothers Day and the fact that Rachel is not present.  I did not get the urge to run to the cemetary and place flowers on her grave, as I have the past 4 years.  I simply thought about her all day long, she was in everything I did.  From the moment I awoke to the moment I turned off the lights at bedtime, she was there. 

Mothers Day began with the family going to church, followed by a visit with my mother-in-law, and then out to dinner in the evening with my children.  It was a contemplative day, filled with the joy of watching my grandson, and the wonder of seeing everything new again, as only can be seen through the eyes of a child.  But as I said earlier, Rachel was very much present throughout the day.  At dinner, we were seated at our table, and the first thing I noticed was an extra place setting.  The reservation had been made for six, yet there was settings for seven.  I am pretty sure that no one else really noticed it, but I did, and I just thought to myself, okay, she's here, that's good. 

Later that evening I just sat and reminisced about all the other Mothers days in my life, the creative gifts the children would make for me, and just the joy of knowing I was a mom.  I might not win the 'Mother of the Year' award, but I did okay.  I did miss Rachel, her creative and thoughtful gifts, always finding something very unique to give me, that spoke of the person I am.  The plant she gave me the last Mothers Day we were together, still blooms and continues to flourish; as well as the gifts from previous years that bear her unique style.  As I lay in bed that night, I finally let a few tears flow, tears I did not realize I had held at bay.  Tears that finally were free to course their way down my cheeks, letting me know it still hurts, but that its okay and that I'll be alright.  

There will always be special days that remind us of what is missing, there will always be reflective times, when we look back and remember.  This is good, it is okay, it is part of the love we shared with our loved one.  Yes, I so wish it could be different, but we are not given different, we are given life, and we take each day with stride.  Yesterday at our bible sharing group, we read the story of 'Ruth,' a beautiful story of compassion, loyalty and hope in adversity.  As I read through the passage, I felt as if I was being reminded that even when I was at my darkest, I had a 'Ruth' who saw to it that I would be taken care of.  How appropriate that I should be reading this story at this time, of a woman who lost not only her husband, but her sons as well.  Yet through the compassion of another, was able to find hope again. 

My 'Ruths' came in many forms, and by way of many caring people, and even when I tried to push them away, they continued to stand by me, knowing I was just hurting.  One of my 'Ruths' called me on Mothers Day to make sure I was okay, to ask how may day had gone.  We are not alone, and if we allow others, who are willing to share our burdens, walk with us even in silence, or just sit with us quietly, we will find ways of getting through those difficult events and celebrations.  We will find the strength to wake up to the Mothers Days, and birthdays, and all other special days in between.  We find the courage to smile, to laugh and to live again.  Above all, allow yourself to grieve, to cry, to miss and to reminisce, it is all part of the process and it is truly okay.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and if they do, just let them know you have earned the right, and they can't take that away from you.  

My mom is still alive and for this I feel truly blessed and grateful, but I know so many of you have lost your mom's, making Mothers Day very difficult.  I don't know how you feel, nor will I try to assume I do.  But one thing I can say, is that she is with you, always with you, watching over you and that the love you shared is as alive today as it was yesterday.  Just like Rachel is ever present in my life, so too is your mom.  Our loved ones remain with us always, pulling tightly at our hearts, and sending us love in their very own special way.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.