By opening to his own grief instead of armoring himself with anger, Justin was finally able to start the healing process. His grief had never gone away; it had just been hidden. Once he was willing to open to it and feel it, his own sorrow could show him the way home to peace.
Some have suggested that sending a condolence card is in fact part of a physician's professional obligation to a patient. Families may be comforted by the affirmation that their loved one was not merely a name on a roster, but a person, whose death is noteworthy.
People often ask if hearing Billy's voice from the afterlife is frightening. Not at all. As he speaks, the bliss of his world flows into mine and I feel almost euphoric. According to Billy, this is just the smallest taste of what awaits each of us when we pass into the hereafter.
The thing about someone who was a key part of your life is that even when they leave it, even after years pass, they still are -- just from a different place. I still want to hear my dad's voice, but I will accept hearing it in dreams, or seeing it in snowfall, or smelling it in good food.
For many years, on those rare occasions when I cried, I'd get a headache. But when the grief is so intense, the tears wash over and seem to take out all the toxins and pain; at least, that's my non-scientific analysis.
I believe strongly in the five stages of grief model, developed by the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It has proven to be applicable for many aspects of grief, including those involving the loss of a loved one.
In her new book, Jai Pausch chronicles the profound challenges that she and her family faced as Randy succumbed to cancer. Pausch speaks for millions in describing how she managed her role of caregiver, how she dealt with extraordinary grief, how she negotiated the emotional terrain of parenting.
The nightmarish reality of Charlie's childhood memories were not uncovered until his days at Fellowship Hall, where, during a word association exercise, Charlie's instant response to the word "chocolate" was "knife," which uprooted the repressed experience.
Finding solace in ordinary tasks like gardening and organizing can be very comforting and even therapeutic when people are grieving, whether it is the death of a loved one or the loss of someone to a life-altering illness such as dementia.
Over the years as a community pastor, like most pastors, I attended to death, funerals and grieving in my town. Over the years, many times, the grieving would pull me aside and say, "Preacher, I had this dream..."
Dec. 25 and many other holiday or "anniversary" dates can be highly significant. These include birthdays, marital anniversaries and days when loved ones died. This phenomenon, often deeply painful, is called an "Anniversary Reaction."
When my mother died, I turned to writing to make sense of it all. I'm hoping I can give solace to others in similar situation with an aging mother or father who for most of their life has been their only parent.
I took the kids to look at houses not because we're tired of the cows or the snakes or the spooked polo ponies that occasionally run up onto our front porch, do a few laps, and dart back off in the direction of whatever spooked them in the first place, but because the three of us miss people.