I can still picture the bright Sunday afternoon my friend Melissa, also known as "Aunt Melissa," surprised us with the red betta fish.
As a bereavement counselor, it is my job to help create a safe space to give voice to the unspeakable, and to companion others in their grief journey as they travel into the wilderness of their soul in search of their own inner knowing and truth.
Was I scared to leave a steady paycheck, long-term boyfriend, friends and family to travel the world for a month with a lifesize cutout of my late father? ABSOLUTELY. Do I regret doing it? Absolutely not.
I don't want to die. I am healthy and active and merely 61-years-old. My 86-year-old father is a nationally ranked tennis player, reinforcing the belief that if I keep eating and living well, my genes will take me past 90. So, until now, I felt justified in postponing writing a will. Everything involved in creating one seemed hellish to ponder.
I could pretend, but that pretending cost me. I could be reasonable, but telling that lie was exhausting. Now, when I read about grief, when I attend conferences that talk about grief, I think about those early days. I think about being reasonable. I think of how ridiculous that is.
You will likely always long for their physical presence, but recognizing that you still have a relationship is one way to soothe the sorrow. Staying connected fortifies you so that you can engage with life, connect to the living, and make meaning out of your loss.
Perpetually busy, we lose ourselves in endless tasks. Then, all of a sudden, the universe hits us with a reminder. For me, the past month has been that reminder.
Tonight, my mother and my brother moved the bed out of her guest room. Tomorrow morning, a truck will deliver a hospital bed to take its place. And sometime after that, an ambulance with my father in tow will make the trek from the hospital to my mother's and father's home.
Not every doctor gets an extended view of what his or her patients experience, and some who do fail to get the message. But one who did -- and has shared both the experience and its message(s) is a recently recovered friend and end-of-life issues colleague .
I did not think JFK would be different from any other airport I have traveled through in the recent months. Hey, look! They all have three letters: BOS, SFO, CLT, RIC, SBA, ETC. My famous battle cry, "How hard can it be?!?!" showed me just how hard it can be.
As my cousin Carol's condition worsened, she asked her own questions. "How do I want to be remembered? How do I handle my unresolved issues? What messages do I want to leave for my loved ones?" Together we embarked on a sacred journey filled with meaningful moments and a lot of hard work.
Melissa's experience compels her to now speak candidly to the public. She offers this frank advice and reassurance to grievers.
Even though people grieve in many individual ways and need different types of support, there are common feelings and behaviors that most people exhibit in a continuum. I found that emotional states after the loss of a spouse had enough similarities that they were worth examining further.
I walked to my mother's funeral on my own. There was no procession, no ride in a hearse; just a stroll from an empty hotel room to the crematorium, a functional brick outhouse circled by ornate grounds with small birds moving between the headstones.
It felt intensely natural to take matters into our own hands this way. American families had conducted their own funerals for hundreds of years. When had our loved ones been taken from us by the institutionalization of death?
Early in her bereavement, she kept hearing, "Oh, you're amazing." Rather than making her feel encouraged, it made her feel that she was not showing the traditional response, and thus she was not grieving correctly.
Weakness and vulnerability are not the same. In case you'd forgotten. It is sometimes helpful to remember this.
As children, my three siblings and I thought my Uncle Nick lived at a funeral home -- after all, anytime we assembled for a family event, Uncle Nick w...
I stopped there on the hillside and marveled at humans, at who we are: capable of war and love, memories and longing, life and loss. Over a hundred years ago, someone died and someone cried, and there I was standing on a hillside witnessing the pain and the beauty of love.
Unless it is a cultural taboo, do not shy away from mentioning the dead person's name or talking about the situation. If he or she had been arrested, you would use their name and talk about the details. A horrible thing has happened, and many people are hurting.