May 30th, 2011
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Reach out and listen

No matter what phase of grief you find yourself in, people usually are curious to know if what they are feeling and doing is the “normal” way to handle their situation.  I think this happens because grief is not a subject considered to be mainstream.  It makes people uncomfortable and is not discussed as freely and as frankly as you might discuss other subjects, say food or men.

People don’t bring it up because they think it will upset you, they are anxious about their emotions or they just have no idea what to say.  They think they will say the “wrong” thing so they don’t bring it up all.  I think it’s time to get over it because it’s better to say something indicating that you care about this person and what has happened to them, than to ignore the issue altogether.

At some point in your lives, whether you like or not, someone you love deeply or care about a lot is going to die.  Unfortunately, it’s just a fact of life.  Even the most OCD person in the whole wide world can’t change this from happening.  That’s why every day is truly a gift.

It’s not a fact that anyone likes to think about or deal with — myself included — however, there it is; out there looming for you to either pretend it won’t happen to you or you can grab it and own it.

If you grab it, you have to know that it’s going to be scary at first.  There’s a lot of pain and soul searching involved.  But lots of us have suffered too and we’re there right along side of you.  Good strong relationships among family and friends and a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself are essential to overcoming pain and suffering and starting the process of recovery.  You are not alone.

Since we know that different people take different steps in dealing with their grief, here is some insight from food writer Julia Turshen that I hope you will agree is touching and helpful.  Turshen recently wrote about her father’s grief on the website, Goop.  Here is her story:

“After the passing of my grandfather this past spring, I spent some time at home.  My family spent the immediate week deep in grief and in the strange, calm love that trails its way through grief.  One morning, days after the funeral and all the rituals we’re prescribed to deal with such a huge loss, I was sitting in my parents’ living room, the one my father so precisely and affectionately designed, flipping through a book.

My father came in and we talked for a moment, everything copacetic.  He was on his way out of the room when he paused ever so slightly.  He didn’t say anything, there was just hesitation in his movement.  I asked him if he was okay and he replied that he was having a hard time.  I had nothing to say.  My father had just lost his parent and was experiencing an enormous vacancy that nothing could or ever will replace; the only possible comfort, it seemed, was the knowledge of the wonder that once filled the space.

It suddenly hit me that this wasn’t my parent in front of me nor was it my closest friend (though he is both things).  This was someone’s child and, beyond that, what he is to me was just taken from him.  In this realization, in this pretty straightforward but somehow profound realization, I hugged my father and he cried for quite awhile.  I don’t know how long we stood there, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is how safe we both felt, how honest and unabashed that exchange was.”

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