Supporting A Grieving Parent

Posted by on Apr 21, 2017 in Blog, Comfort, Grief Relief

Five Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Parent

by Melanie

It’s oh, so hard to know what to do when you are watching a heart break.

You want to reach out and make it better, make the pain go away, make a difference.  But it seems like nothing you can do will matter much in the face of such a huge loss.

While it’s true that you cannot “fix”  the brokenness in a bereaved parent’s life, there are some very important and practical ways you can support them in their grief-especially as the weeks turn into months and then to years.

a little consideration eeyore

Here are five practical ways to support grieving parents:

  • Remember anniversaries and birthdays.  Take note of the date our child left this life, his or her birthday, the day of the funeral-trust me, you aren’t reminding us of anything-we cannot forget!  When someone else shares that they remember too it is so, so encouraging.  It means my child is not forgotten, that he still matters to another heart and that someone else recognizes that the world lost a treasure.

every day

  • Keep showing up.  Keep inviting me to lunch.  I may have turned you down a dozen times in the first few months, but that was because I just. couldn’t. do. it.  As my heart begins to comprehend my loss, compassionate companionship sounds more inviting.  I need to talk, but it may take me awhile before I am able to do it.  Please don’t give up-keep trying.

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Five Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Parent

Five Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Parent

 

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After the Funeral

Posted by on Mar 18, 2017 in Blog, Comfort

The Grieving Need You Most After the Funeral

My father died suddenly while on vacation three years ago. The event rattled the bedrock of my life in ways that are difficult to describe, and taught me lessons I couldn’t have learned any other way.

One of the truths I discovered, is that when you lose someone you love—people show up.

Almost immediately they surround you with social media condolences and texts and visits and meals and flowers. They come with good hearts, with genuine compassion, and they truly want to support you in those moments. The problem, is that you’re neither prepared nor particularly helped by the volume then.

The early days of grief are a hazy, dizzying, moment by moment response to a trauma that your mind simply can’t wrap itself around. You are, what I like to call a Grief Zombie; outwardly moving but barely there. You aren’t really functioning normally by any reasonable measurement, and so that huge crush of people is like diverting thousands of cars into a one lane back road—it all overwhelms the system. You can’t absorb it all. Often it actually hurts.

This usually happens until the day of the funeral, when almost immediately the flood of support begins to subside. Over the coming days the calls and visits gradually become less frequent as people begin to return to their normal lives already in progress—right about the time the bottom drops out for you.

Just as the shock begins to wear off and the haze is lifted and you start to feel the full gravity of the loss; just as you get a clear look at the massive crater in your heart—you find yourself alone.

People don’t leave you because they’re callous or unconcerned, they’re just unaware. Most people understand grief as an event, not as the permanent alteration to life that it is, and so they stay up until the funeral and imagine that when the service ends, that somehow you too can move ahead; that there is some finishing to your mourning.

That’s the thing about grief that you learn as you grieve: that it has no shelf life; that you will grieve as long as you breathe, which is far after the memorial service and long after most people are prepared to stay. Again, they still love you dearly, they just have their own roads to walk.

Sometimes people leave because they suddenly feel estranged by the death. They may have been used to knowing you as part of a couple or as a family, and they aren’t able to navigate the new dynamic the loss has created. They simply don’t know how to relate to you the way they once did, and so they withdraw.

Or sometimes people see you from a distance and mistake your visible stability for the absence of need, as if the fact that you’re functioning in public doesn’t mean you don’t fall apart all the time when you’re alone—and you do. We all carry the grief as bravely and competently as we can in public, but none of us are strong enough to shoulder it alone. People often say of a grieving person, “They’re so strong”, but they’re not. They’re doing what they have to in order to survive. They need you to come alongside them.  

Other times people avoid you because they believe that they will say the wrong thing; that somehow they will remind you of your loved one and cause you unnecessary pain. Trust me, the grieving don’t lack for reminders. They are intimately aware of the absence in their lives, and you acknowledging it actually makes them feel better. It gives them consent to live with the grief, and to know that they can be both wounded and normal.

Friends, what I’m saying is that it’s wonderful to be present for people when tragedy occurs. It’s a beautiful thing to express your love and support for those you love in any way you feel is right in those first few days. It does matter. No compassion is ever wasted.

But if there’s anything I would tell you, as someone who’s walked through the Grief Valley, is that the time your presence is most needed and most powerful, is in those days and weeks and months and years after the funeral; when most people have withdrawn and the road is most isolating. It is in the countless ordinary moments that follow, when grief sucker punches you and you again feel it all fully.

It’s three years since I lost my father, and on many days the pain is as present and profound as that first day.

Remind yourself to reach out to people long after the services and memorials have concluded. 

Death is a date in the calendar, but grief is the calendar.

 

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What It Feels Like to Lose You

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in Blog, Grieving, Loss

 

By

Loss doesn’t just fade. It doesn’t vanish. It doesn’t leave us. It sits beside us, day after day, year after year. Often a different color or shade, but still there. Still present. Sometimes it shouts so loud it’s all you can hear, and other times it’s a steady hum in the background. A vibration, constant and tugging at your skin. A weight, heavy on your chest. You try to take a breath, but it’s never as deep as you need it to be.

I’ve tried to ease back into my life, but it seems every time the phone rings my body jolts. Who is it? What’s wrong? Is everything OK? That’s part of the anxiety that sometimes comes with tragedy.

Loss isn’t past tense; it’s always present. Always with us. Always with me.

When you died, I came face to face with mortality. The ugly reality of life. Something I always knew but never wanted to see. I’ve experienced the deaths of friends and acquaintances. No loss, no ache, nothing at all could prepare my heart for losing you. I have traveled through it all. I felt nothing makes sense. Still nothing jolted me, halted me, stopped me in my tracks, like losing you.

When you were younger, I would watch you and wonder what you would be like when you were older. Curious about the man you would become and how our relationship would evolve over time. The natural escalation from sister and brother to friends. I looked forward to giving you advice and standing beside you through the obstacles of life. I wanted to shield you from the pains I carried with me and help you forge a path that was undeniably you. I wanted to stay up late and talk to you about the world. I wanted to create with you. I wanted to explore with you. I wanted to ask you what it was like to be the baby boy with three sisters. I wanted to watch you laugh out your response with the wit and humor that followed you everywhere you went.

Some of those wants, I got to experience to a small degree. I got to have a brief taste of a life, of a future, before it was ripped away. Before you were gone. Now as you pass in and out of my mind I am reminded of the moments we never got. Of the dreams we never saw realized. You would be 23 today, going on 24. The whole world before you at 13, and in an instant, it was all gone.

You would be an uncle now, and I know you’d love being an uncle. I can picture you teaching the kids to skateboard and ride bikes. Chasing them around the yard until everyone is tired. Some days when I look at my daughter, my heart aches thinking about how she will never know you. Never experience you. You will only live on in memories. We will not celebrate future victories and achievements. We are destined to carry on and rehash the same moments over and over in hopes of keeping you with us. If only we could’ve really kept you here with us.

There’s so much we never got to. And life it just sort of moves in slow motion around me. I catch myself wondering if you would be proud of me. What you would say to me if you were still here? And I wait, anticipating a response that will never come.

Life moves forward, and so many people have been impacted by losing you. Life has slowed down around us as the world spins at full speed. We have made choices and walked down roads that have paved a future that appears uncertain. We have gotten stuck and caught up in sadness. Living, but knowing full well we will never find healing. Nor do we really want to because that might mean losing all we have left of you. So we cling to whatever we can. Just to keep you here with us. Here and not here at the same time.

I have watched the world collapse around me and I’ve felt the rumbles of grief’s earthquake and seemingly unending aftershocks. A smell, a story, a sunset, all a vision of you. I have raged and I have crumbled. Every day a strange mix of anger, sadness and disbelief. I have lied in bed and I have dug myself out of ditches, just to fall back in again and again. I have destroyed friendships and I have forged new ones. I’ve been continuously surprised by the heart’s uncanny ability to open its doors and allow more to pass through, when it seems impossible to feel anything again.

I have said things I regret in my anger, and I have watched my family fall apart and pull back together time and again. I have lived through holidays and birthdays and all the days it felt I couldn’t go on. I am still finding my footing. Still finding my road. My place. And with each step, I remember you. I cherish you. And I long for you.

I don’t think we ever recover from our grief. I think  we learn to live, broken and battered. A piece of us forever missing. That’s just what it feels like to lose you.

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Till Death Does Us Part

Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in Blog

“Till death does us part…” I repeated. Those words seemed to echo throughout the huge college chapel following my promise and then my bride’s commitment. The witnesses, family and friends, of our wedding stood by smiling. Our parents sat with proud looks on their faces. In all honestly, however, I only viewed those words as a symbol of commitment. I did not really think I would experience that part of those important words, let alone do it twice.

Ruth and I had never been happier than we were that delightful day in July.

Our wedding crowned three years of getting acquainted through writing letters and occasional long distance phone calls. Looking back this strengthened our relationship because it forced both of us to express our hearts, feelings and beliefs on paper without the distraction of the physical area. That was great for my growth both emotionally with her and spiritually with the Lord.

The proof of the depth of our relationship revealed itself in the ensuing years of life. We were not only committed to each other but we understood each other. We did, indeed, marry our best friend. To keep our growth together on a “roll” we spent every one of our wedding anniversaries—alone—discussing the “state of our union.”

But the day would come when I dreaded our tradition. It was the summer following Ruth’s cancer diagnosis, surgeries, chemotherapy and our loss of “normal.” Those events proved to be the biggest challenge to our relationship to date. Up to this point our love had been a mutual give and receive. Now Ruth was so drained physically and emotionally that she literally had nothing left to give—either to me or our four young children. Thirty-three is a young age to be facing a life threatening disease.

Finally, for the first time, I sensed our relationship changing and it hurt me in that realization. Ruth was no longer able to contribute to our relationship as before. And, in brutal honesty, I found myself questioning my love for her…simply because things seemed to be one-sided for the first time.

I was preparing for my first experience teaching the book of I John at the school. Opening up 1 John 4:10-11, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” God spoke to my spirit, “See, I loved those who did not love back and I acted on their behalf. You are doing that for Ruth and it is okay!” I dropped to the floor sobbing.

Soon after my dreaded “state of our union” meeting came. Sure enough, Ruth asked how I had been during the throes of the hardest days that winter. I hesitantly, yet openly shared with her how I had struggled and how God met me. She simply said, “I thought so. It’s okay.”

The following six years were filled with days and weeks of hope and disappointment. We faced treatments and then recurrences, over and over.

The most memorable time happened again during our “state of our union” talk that next July. Following a special day on the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan, we sat talking. During a warm embrace, Ruth softly said, “I have never felt so at one with you.”

Three short months later, I watched her take her last breath. I didn’t know a human could hurt so much. Within days I became aware of this hole in my soul that seemed permanent.

Losing a spouse has many aspects to it that are not always understood by many. Indeed, there is the death and physical loss of that person leaving a void in your life. Theirs is also a loss of intimacy in communication. I had no one to tell even small things to that Ruth would appreciate hearing. My biggest loss, however, was the loss of the relationship. It seemed that in addition to grief due to the death of a friend, I had lost the close relationship we had. Love songs were next to impossible for me to listen to.

A year later, God brought along a godly widow lady to the school where I was who absolutely swept me off my feet. What a beautiful lady!

The next year Judith and I found ourselves in a large church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with six sons on one side and two daughters and Judith’s sister on the other. Again, the room echoed our vows, “Till death do us part.”

These words had much deeper meaning to both of us. We had both experienced this hard truth to the fullest. However, even with that, we idealistically viewed the reality of it happening again as being a lifetime away.

Now, the process of blending eight teenagers became twice the task either of us had imagined. Yes, the volume was an issue. When you bring two families together they bring their baggage along. That meant twice as many problems. The growth and mistakes of our kids only drove us to the Lord and to each other. We learned early on to talk about everything, no matter how hard the subject. We reviewed the development of each of our kids every three to six months.

 

The joys and challenges we experienced in our successful blending of families from two different countries and cultures will have to be addressed at a different time. I need to fast forward sixteen years from Judith and my wedding.

Judith’s health began to be of concern. We spent five years chasing symptoms from doctor to doctor. We intentionally worked hard on her health, even though we did not know what we were fighting. Once again we faced this issue together.

She had to have an emergency surgery. During which the doctor called me in the waiting room. He said, “Mr. Knapp, I am sorry. I am seldom surprised … I found a very mean looking cancer tumor in Judith that came from somewhere else.” I immediately knew she was going to die. I sat down and sobbed uncontrollably for nearly an hour. That continued daily from that day in August ‘till Christmas day.

The next day a full body scan exposed cancerous spots on her lungs and a large, stage-four tumor on her pancreas. With that news Judith asked, “Does that mean I am going to die?” I teared up and nodded “yes” as I leaned over for a long sobbing embrace.

Judith and I talked about everything. This was no different. The next four days in the hospital were full of time we spent mourning her impending death together.

Gradually we communicated with our eight children and their families that they needed to do whatever it took to come see Mom/Grandma soon before pain medication made it hard for her to be alert. I watched, monitored and participated in each one’s mourning. Some of our grandchildren wept the deepest in my arms.

About a week before she left for heaven, I was talking to her quietly at her bedside and a tear trickled down the side of her face. Through her medicated fog she whispered, “I’m sorry I have to die.” Now the tears were running down my cheeks. I assured her it was okay and that I would be fine. I gave her permission to go on without me and that I would be along soon.

Early Sunday morning late in October, Judith leaped into the arms of Jesus.

I was alone again. The loneliness was deafening.

A classic question was posed to me by a pastor friend and his wife. How can we as a couple prepare for such a tragic event as one of us dying “before our time”?

First, be committed to developing the deepest, most open relationship possible. Keeping your emotional distance to possibly reduce unknown future pain is not a good idea.

Next, I would encourage you to have a policy of open communication, even when things are great. That way, it won’t be a new event to add to the struggle of tragedy. Also, it should be a given practice of walking with God closely when things are normal or “easy.” That way you won’t have to learn how to trust Him AND go through tough times at the same time.

Have conversations about “if I go first” at some time or another… better sooner than later. This could help your spouse greatly with hard decisions should you go to heaven first. Live each day with the appreciation for your spouse like you could lose them tomorrow. Keep all relationships current. To this day, I have no relationship regrets with either Ruth or Judith because we lived out our relationships with short, current accounts.

I also recommend couples be willing to take the message of 1 Corinthians 7:4 further than the bedroom. Help each other take care of their temple (physical body).

Finally, don’t be afraid to educate yourself about the grieving process. “Till death do us part” is no joke. It is for real and should be considered seriously.

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No sabía qué decir

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Blog, Grief Relief

Hacer una diferencia en su mundo por ser un mejor amigo

 

El duelo por cierto es un tema difícil de enfrentar. Para la mayoría de nosotros no atrae nuestra atención como un tema de que, naturalmente, queremos ser un experto. Sin embargo, manejar la pérdida es una parte natural de la vida. Porque usted ha leído este libro, está por delante de muchos de sus colegas y familiares en su habilidad de manejar el duelo.

Saber qué decir o no decir, viene a menudo a través de una mejor comprensión del proceso de duelo. Tal comprensión no siempre tiene que ser obtenida a través de la experiencia personal. Podemos beneficiarnos de la experiencia de otros dispuestos a ser honestos acerca de sus sentimientos y de su camino después de una pérdida.

Espero que las experiencias y observaciones recopiladas en este libro han aumentado su conocimiento del proceso de duelo. Ahora está más hábilmente equipado para ser un mejor amigo a quienes le rodean que experimentan pérdidas. La mayoría de nosotros encontrará al menos una persona dentro del próximo año que tendrá que procesar algún tipo de pérdida. Quizás puede ser usted.

PARA REPASAR

Los comentarios de consuelo, no deben orientarse a “arreglar” el problema de duelo del afligido. Normalmente, muchas personas que no han abordado el proceso de duelo intentará evitarlo cuando se enfrentan con el duelo de los demás. El duelo no puede ser arreglado, necesita ser procesado. Por lo tanto, la primera cosa que podemos hacer es reconocer el dolor en vez de intentar hacerlo desaparecer rápidamente.

El duelo es el reconocimiento emocional de la pérdida. Se trata principalmente de un problema de corazón, no un desafío de la mente. Los comentarios de corazón van más lejos para consolar al afligido en vez de comentarios de cabeza en las etapas tempranas. Explicar el duelo lógicamente hace poco de calmar el dolor en el corazón. La lógica mental puede desempeñar un papel en el proceso a largo plazo de la pérdida pero se queda corto cuando el dolor importante del momento es emocional.

Los dolientes son sensibles a comentarios sin apoyo que parecen minimizar su dolor. El duelo viene de la profundidad de nosotros. Negarlo o disminuirlo puede ser percibido como una crítica personal. Tales implicaciones pueden causar la culpa y el retiro por parte del afligido y ser un obstáculo a su capacidad para procesar su pérdida victoriosamente. Permitirle llorar, le apoyará mejor.

Evitar a los afligidos socialmente, o evitar el tema de su pérdida, asfixia su proceso de duelo. El duelo puede ser el proverbial “elefante en la habitación” con los afligidos. Se sienten aún más que sus amigos. Excluirlos de los eventos sociales y las conversaciones sólo acentúa su dolor. Evitarlos no suaviza el dolor para ellos. Para eliminar el tema de sus experiencias de duelo y la persona que han perdido es ignorar la cosa más importante que está sucediendo en su vida. Los buenos amigos no hacen eso.

Evite los límites de tiempo. El establecimiento de un límite de tiempo de cómo y por cuánto tiempo una persona tiene permiso para hacer el luto por una pérdida puede ser humillante para el afligido. Pueden sentir que usted está siendo irrespetuoso hacia su pérdida o su ser querido. Sea consciente de los momentos oportunos en palabras de consuelo. Usted necesita ser perceptivo en saber cuándo hacer algunos comentarios al afligido. Ser un mejor amigo se centra a escucharle y apoyarle en su camino, en lugar de limitarlo.

Los dolientes no están buscando comentarios lógicos de decirles qué hacer. Lo que necesitan es un ser escuchado. A nadie le gusta recibir “mandatos” bajo las mejores circunstancias. Dar “mandatos” a una persona que está de duelo en un intento de “convencerle de superarlo” sólo le aísla de usted como una persona sin ayuda eficaz para su dolor. Frases instructivas deben estar bien sincronizadas y presentadas en forma de sugerencias o ejemplos. Los afligidos necesitan ser escuchados más que recibir mandatos.

Las lecturas teológicas rara vez son de gran alivio para el dolor de duelo nuevo. Los argumentos teológicos en el momento de la pérdida pueden ser malinterpretados como un regaño. Esto puede parecer un rechazo y no una forma de consuelo. Las creencias religiosas a menudo son abrazadas en la mente a través de la puerta lógica. El dolor emocional está raramente aliviado por esa avenida. De nuevo, el momento oportuno puede ser muy importante si este tema debe ser abordado.

El consuelo para el afligido necesita tratar más de su dolor personal que la persona que el afligido ha perdido. La tentación es muy fuerte para hablar más de la persona o cosa perdida, que de las necesidades del afligido. El problema más profundo es el dolor emocional interior. Los comentarios lógicos de la persona o la cosa perdida pueden ayudar. Sin embargo, si no hacemos caso a la angustia que experimenta, no podemos ayudar a nuestro amigo a resolver su camino efectivamente.

Los comentarios que podrían interpretarse como una actitud crítica no son de consuelo para el afligido. A nadie le gusta que le digan que está equivocado o tiene la culpa de la pérdida. Los afligidos suelen hacer frente a la culpa en el flujo normal del proceso. No les ayuda agregar la culpa a su dolor. Ellos están en un momento muy vulnerable en su vida y usted debe escoger sus palabras cuidadosamente.

Es común para que el amigo comprensivo sienta una cierta incomodidad, pero esto no debería ser un obstáculo. Recuerde que sus palabras de consuelo necesitan centrarse a los sentimientos del afligido. Muchos de los comentarios de “qué no decir” soltaron abruptamente de personas que sentían incómodos con sus propios sentimientos. Es útil quedarse lejos de declaraciones que comienzan con, “Yo siempre digo” y “usted debe.” Mantenga su atención en el estado emocional de su amigo.

Reconocer el dolor presente del afligido tiene más valor que los intentos de empatizar por comparar con sus pérdidas pasadas. La tendencia “sacar la ventaja” a un afligido en un esfuerzo para compadecerse con él normalmente resulta en un juego de comparación que puede disminuir el dolor del afligido. Asimismo, ya que cada persona llora de manera diferente, no suele ser beneficioso hacer comparaciones, sino simplemente tratar de entender la experiencia del doliente.

Saber la cosa correcta de decir es sólo la mitad de la responsabilidad de ser un cuidador emocional comprensivo. La otra mitad se centra a la acción. Estoy muy agradecido a la gente en mi vida, que no sólo sabía qué decir, pero cumplió con acciones de apoyo. Muchos de mis amigos y familiares estaban activos el día y las semanas después de la muerte de cada una de mis esposas. Otros me llamaron meses después para invitarme a dar un paseo y hablar, o salir a comer. Mi familia hablaba abiertamente al uno con el otro y a mí sobre sus recuerdos de mamá y cuánto les faltó ella. Unos conocidos me pidieron muchas veces a hablar públicamente acerca de mi camino de duelo.

EL RESTO DE LA HISTORIA

La vida continúa. La mía ha progresado en estilo fino. La evidencia de que he “practicado lo que predico” del proceso de duelo se ha hecho obvia en los desarrollos de mi vida más allá de mi período de duelo. Yo soy prueba viviente de que las sugerencias que usted ha leído en este libro funcionan y tienen mérito.

Yo documentaba los puntos de progreso en el proceso de curación y de duelo por escribir un “informe de progreso” para mis hijos. Este diario público sirvió como una herramienta de enseñanza para la familia en el duelo y un registro de victoria para mí.

Al año siguiente de la muerte de Judith, después de mucha re-definición de quién soy, mis emociones y mi enfoque en la vida comenzaron a fijar en un nuevo nivel. Mi visión para escribir este libro fue establecida. Recibí una nueva descripción de trabajo en mi carrera. Me mudé de la casa donde murió Judith. Con la ayuda de una de mis hijas, creé un perfil en el sito de web Christian Mingle.

Cada uno de los desarrollos nuevos sólidos en mi vida fue posible porque mis emociones tenían tiempo suficiente para llorar totalmente por “inclinarme” al proceso y por tener el permiso de los que me rodeaban para hacerlo con su apoyo.

Muchos de estos cambios me han dado una vida nueva, plena y de propósito. Primeramente, conocí a Crystal Wacker. ¡Que dama! Ella ha entrado en mi vida con el amor y el ingenio que iluminan cada día. Nuestro matrimonio ha completado mi vida a un nivel completamente nuevo. Su apoyo para mí en los desafíos y logros de la vida ha sido invaluable. Además de su trabajo continuado como editora de la Revista Reach UP, ella me ayuda en mis escritos y charlas.

Estoy seguro de que mediante la información contenida en este libro usted ha adquirido algunas ideas sobre cómo ser un mejor amigo a un afligido. Y les animo a hacer una diferencia en las vidas de los amigos que han sufrido pérdidas. Si desea compartir este material con un círculo mayor de influencia, estoy disponible para hablar en conferencias, reuniones y capacitación de los empleados.

Spanish edition to come soon.

 

 

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