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Richard Olsenius is the photographer who took the picture of Ed Mulrenin saying goodbye to his beloved German Shepherd Sonntag at the front of the piece. Their article from National Geographic was an inspiration for this song. The vocalist is my co-writer; the inimitable Diane Durrett. Video and music produced by me, Jayne Olderman."
The loss of a loved one can bring along with it inconsolable grief and sadness. Losing someone to death can create such an incredible amount of distress. Whether we experience the death of a spouse, parent, child, or close friend, the degree to which we grieve over the loss of a loved one can only be measured on an individual basis due to the fact that everyone feels the sense of loss in different ways.
It is human nature for us to experience grief when someone dies. How we express this grief depends on several factors. One of the most difficult losses a person can face is the death of a loved one unexpectedly. When a death occurs without any forewarning, those left behind are often overwhelmed with disbelief and sadness. A death of a child can be equally as tragic and heartbreaking. The level of grief and mourning for such losses can lead to depression, melancholy, and heightened anxiety.
Regardless of the nature and circumstances surrounding a personal loss, the means by which a person deals with such emotions is complex. Following the loss of a loved one, we tend to progress through several stages of grief which ultimately lead to a sense of emotional healing.
Traditionally, there are five recognized stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each person who experiences a loss will most likely go through each stage, but not necessarily at the same pace as others. Within the stages of grief are emotional hurdles to overcome. When we finally reach the last stage of grief, acceptance, our emotional wounds are ready to begin the true healing process.
One of the most important phases we must reach that will allow you to heal from the death of a loved one is to recognize that grieving is a necessary and natural part of dealing with a loss. Many people find themselves pushing away such feelings due to their uncomfortable nature. The sooner you allow yourself to feel the depth of the grief, the greater chance of moving more smoothly through the emotional process.
Healing emotionally also takes an exceptional amount of patience. As with physical wounds, time is a factor in healing emotional wounds as well. There are a variety of methods people use in order to pass through the healing time without being overcome by the process. Engaging in social activities with friends and family can help the healing process by by connecting emotionally to others in a healthy manner. Remembering and honoring the good moments you had with your departed loved one can also be helpful. Our memories keep them alive in our hearts and minds.
Kathleen Hubert is a blogger who writes on a variety of topics. You can read some of her other work at auto loan rates.
Standing in a church waiting for the service to start may not even make what has happened real, so why is it that hearing a song can suddenly leave you in an uncontrollable state of devastation? Grief affects everyone differently and you need to find a way of coping that is right for you.
The loss of a loved one will change our lives, and it can take us years to accept this and understand what has happened. Feeling irritated, angry and depressed is normal; many of us will take these feelings out on our loved ones, but it is important to try and think about what you are doing as these are the people you have here with you now.
The truth about grief is that it is unpredictable, daunting and will almost certainly change our lives. With bereavement, as with most troubling times, it is important not to push how you are feeling aside but instead face what is happening even if life now seems incredibly scary and lonely. Carrying on your life as if nothing has happened may seem like the best solution for you, but when the smallest thing goes wrong you may release all the emotions you have been bottling up. It is important to give yourself some time and space to allow you to process what has happened and work out how you life has now changed.
Coping with bereavement will be a different experience for everyone, some can return to their lives in a fairly uncomplicated way, however many people need a little more help. At this point it may be worth considering bereavement counselling or getting in contact with a bereavement charity. In a safe environment, you can talk about your feelings and the ups and downs you have been experiencing.
I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, one of five children in a household of many wants and demands. My physical needs were met but my heart was hungry for love. One day I met my prince, a jewel amongst them all. We were wed in love and magic under a blanket of stars, with dozens of family and friends wishing us a good Life.
It was during the honeymoon that my prince was diagnosed with cancer. I was pregnant. He died soon after.
I gave birth to a healthy boy and gave him his father’s name. I kept to myself for years and decades. I nurtured my child on my own and vowed never to marry again. I always remembered the father with honour and respect.
We were a happy family of two; mother and child. We were contented in our home together. I went to work. He went to school. We did not have much to live on but we managed. We felt secured in our home for the love between us was our bond.
Then one night, we were startled by the sound of an explosion. Dust was every where. He woke up crying; we spent the night in the shelters. The next night there was another explosion and a third. Night after night we were seeking refuge somewhere. Dust filled the air and gunpowder smoke filled our lungs.
It was time to leave. We never looked back; we did not go back. We did not live happily ever after for there was a block in our throats. We were refugees and were never safe again. We lived thousands of miles apart and we were both away from our home. When we met, we found delight in spite of our bleeding scars.
I worked in different countries to help the oppressed. I went wherever there was a need for human rights. There were many struggles for us both, until my son became an adult and started building his own life. I visited him whenever I could. And when I was in poor health, he nursed me with tenderness and care.
Haas, my son looked like his father. He was handsome, fit and with lots of gifts to give. He cherished life and his soul was satisfied. I often looked with wonder at my son and thanked the Divine for the rewards bestowed after all the suffering and the pain.
Haas became a writer and resided in tranquillity in a cabin in the mountain Rockies, Boulder, USA. He wrote sad stories never told and wrote poems that cried with concern for all. He wrote about the devastating war, about the hate and anger that divides people and keeps families apart. He wanted to tell the world that war was just like dust. Nothing comes out of it except loss of lives and twisted minds.
He wrote and wrote until one day he could write no more. He put all his writings in his only suitcase and headed directly to the airport. After 25 years he was going home, to Beirut. He did just that, he took a one way ticket to join his fathers’ roots. I was too frail to make the trip with him. I blessed him and bid him farewell.
In his childhood home, where his father died and he was born, he found his love and lots of joy. For no reason at all, one afternoon, he bent his head on the sofa, ‘he was a little tired’ he said.
A telephone call came for me echoing a hollow sound and I heard:
So many of us are losing our parents and perhaps we can help each other. That is a real gift. I was my Mother’s caregiver and at her side the last days of her life. I am also a songwriter and singer and wrote a song about my experience. I have heard from some that it helps them and I would like to share it. I have posted it on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sI_RLR7jFs
"The Servant of Her Servant" comes from the time my Mother and I spent together during the last eight days of her life. Over the course of those days, my Mother taught me important things: How to be still, how to listen, how to forgive. We slept with my hand on her heart. I am very grateful.
I thought perhaps people might wish to hear my song. Please pass it on as you wish. Listening to it might help others as creating it helped me.
A significant lesson for me has been understanding and accepting that our greatest gains often come through experiences in our lives that may be extremely painful.
My father, Raphel Orval Beason, died less than four months before I was born at the age of 19 in an explosion at the Port Chicago U.S. Navy arsenal near Oakland, Calif. He was among 320 men killed on July 17, 1944, when two merchant ships blew next to the docks where the men were loading bullets, bombs and other materials.
It was the worst stateside accident of World War II, but for years very little was known about it. I lived until I was 12 with my grandparents in my father’s hometown of Palestine, Texas. But no one in my family talked very much about what happened.
As a child I had many more questions than anyone could answer. At every opportunity, I asked other children about their dads. Although I encountered many children with absent fathers, it seemed I was only one whose daddy had died before their birth. I felt different and ashamed in a way I could not explain or understand.
I wondered why my father had left before knowing I had safely made it into the world. It seemed that the norm was to have two parents, somewhere. I had always had only one.
Mother said that my daddy was certain that she was carrying a baby boy. I longed to let him know that I was not a boy, but that I was his little girl. Mother gave me his name, rearranged a little. His name was Raphel Orval; mine, Orval Ray. I became Orval Ray and later, simply Raye.
As I grew up, got married, became a mom and worked for years as a public school teacher and principal, Port Chicago was always with me. My only memento of my father was a black and white photo of him in his cap and gown the day he graduated from high school.
When my mother passed away, I grieved not only for her but for my father as well. My heartache for my father escalated and became inconsolable. I cried constantly — always in private. I suffered constant sharp pains in my lower back. I had denied, stored and covered the impact of my father’s loss for too long.
Fortunately I had a friend I could talk to – my neighbor Meg Hudson. She helped to unmask some of the hidden pain and doubts by reassuring me that the emotions I felt for him were valid and not so unusual. And she encouraged me to get counseling, saying: “You cannot do this by yourself.”
I called Wajida Quintero, a life coach I had met in a professional setting. She explained that it is not unusual for grief over a loved-one long gone to surface and even overshadow a recent loss. One of her first suggestions was that I buy a gift for myself that could have come from my father.
For most of my life, I had wanted to have that special gift that would have come only from a daddy’s hand. I imagined that the gift would have been given for no special occasion other than an expression of his love. I would have vowed to keep it for a lifetime. I would’ve kept it with me from my early years and on through college. And finally, as an adult, it would have been a tucked away treasure and a reminder of my father’s love.
I searched in department stores, toy stores, specialty shops and catalogues. I looked at dolls, games, stuffed animals, and gadgets to no avail. Finally I found it — an oversized teddy bear that I named Collemore after my grandfather, my father’s dad. The gift was a physical form of consolation that I had not been able to seek or request. It empowered me to receive consolation.
The teddy bear was the first of three gifts that drew my out of my depression. Other miraculous gifts allowed me to visit the place where my father died and to have his name added to a monument honoring World War II veterans in Palestine, Texas.
Since then I have founded a nonprofit foundation and a company that sells products to help others, particularly children of poverty who need help getting a good education and kids who have lost a parent.
One of the things we have done is establish a program called Help The Bear to distribute teddy bears to foster children in Texas and New Mexico. Our foundation also raises money to support schools in Africa.
My healing progressed when I was able to acknowledge the grief I had always felt and accept that teddy bear and other gifts that came to me years after my father’s death. They may not have been given as I’d imagined, but I shall be eternally grateful for the gifts and the healing attached to them.
About the Author: O. Raye Adkins, Ed.D, is a former school principal turned nonprofit executive, expert on caring for children facing loss and poverty, and author of the new book Letters To My Father: The Gifts. In her book, Dr. Adkins chronicles, through letters to her father, her journey from pain and grief to miraculous gifts and blessings. Learn more about Dr. Adkins and her work to care for children facing loss and poverty at www.letters2myfather.com and www.oramite.com. Contact Dr. Adkins at Info@OraMite.com.
I don't often recommend specific methods to help with grief. But the self-help method I'm going to tell you about - EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques - is well worth making an exception for.
Basically, it involves tapping on the acupuncture points to tap into your body's own energy and healing power. If you think that sounds a little far-fetched and woo-woo, so did I. In fact, I starting doing EFT on myself for chronic physical pain. The first time I did it I felt rather silly and thought it would never work - and it STILL worked so effectively that I actually laughed out loud!
This simple technique has helped many thousands of people all over the world cope with issues of all kinds, including grief and bereavement, chronic pain, depression, disease and emotional problems. Perhaps it could help you too?
When a friend or family member experiences the death of a loved one, we quickly offer our condolences and help. Listed here are eight practical suggestions for helping a friend or family member that has just suffered a loss.
1. Offer to answer the telephone or answer emails at the family's home. Telephone calls and email can take up a considerable amount of time. Take messages and give information to friends and family.
2. Volunteer to notify everyone of funeral arrangements. Make calls or send out emails to help keep everyone informed.
3. Accompany a friend or loved one to the funeral home. Listen quietly, and offer suggestions and comments only when asked.
3. Bring food to the family, or give a restaurant gift card, so that the family can select the food items that they prefer.
4. Offer childcare if the family has small children. Come to their house, so that the children are in their own environment during this stressful time.
5. Offer to take family pets for a few days.
6. Help with funeral printing needs. Help create and print funeral programs or memorial folders, or help address envelopes for thank you cards.
7. Host a reception or repast at your home, church or community center. This saves the family significant time and energy of planning, hosting and cleaning up.
8. Offer to photograph the funeral or memorial services. Many family members and friends are usually present during this time, and it is the perfect time to get up to date pictures of everyone. You can also assemble the photos in a nice scrapbook or photo album and give it the family. The family will appreciate the photos well after the funeral services.
Supporting a friend or family member is very important during this difficult time. Often times, people are reluctant to ask for help, so it helps to offer help with specific tasks. Helping your friends and family during their time of loss will always be remembered and greatly appreciated.
Condolence letters are considered some of the most difficult letters to write and send because of their very sensitive nature. Even so, when someone close to you is dealing with the loss of a loved one, the grief and bereavement, writing and sending a condolence letter is probably one of the most considerate, kind, and thoughtful things you can do.
A condolence letter, if written properly, can show that you care about your friend and what they're going through and that you are sympathetic to their loss. Although there are many different ways to remember a loved one, such as a funeral, memorial service, online memorials, and online obituaries, writing and sending condolence letters can also be your way of not only expressing sympathy but also in remembering a loved one and sharing those memories with your grieving friend or relative.
The problem is that many people have a hard time finding the right words to express themselves in writing during such a sensitive time. Before you put pen to paper or start thinking of what on you are possibly going to write, keep in mind that your letter, in addition to being carefully and well-written, should aim to achieve three main purposes. The first is to express sympathy and comfort to your friend or relative experiencing the loss of a loved one. The second is to honor and pay tribute to the deceased and the third is to let the bereaved person know that you are available should they need help. If you are able to keep these three things in mind, and put them on paper, your condolence letter will in fact be honest and heartfelt.
Try to be personal and heartfelt in your condolence letter, without being too sentimental and gushing. You can start by acknowledging what happened - the person's death, how you found out about it, how it made you feel, etc. Do not go into detail about how or why the person died - this is completely unnecessary and unhelpful. Move on to express sympathy and comfort to your friend or relative in bereavement. If you don't know the name of person who died (for example, it could be your best friend's grandmother), find out. This will make your condolence letter more personal and meaningful. If you're uncomfortable asking, find out at the funeral or memorial service, or search online - their obituary may be online or an online memorial may have been set up.
Next, include positive statements about the relationship between the deceased and your friend or loved one, if appropriate, as well as positive statements about your relationship with the deceased. Don't forget to include something positive about them in general - his or her good qualities, characteristics, personality, hobbies, interests, good memories, etc.
In writing your condolence letter, avoid clichés like "I know how you feel" or "This is for the best" or "This is God's will" - these statements are generally not sincere or heartfelt and don't really serve a purpose.
Also, avoid writing general statements about your willingness to help if needed (this is unfortunately very common in condolence letters). While you likely have a desire to do something for your friend or relative who is grieving for the loss of a loved one, think of something practical that you can specifically do, and then offer your services - but only if you can follow through.
How do you send a condolence letter? First of all, it's usually not appropriate to type and then print one out using your computer. Secondly, avoid e-mailing a condolence letter, save for special or extreme circumstances. The best way to write and send your letter is to handwrite it using stationery. Remembering a loved one and offering support through a condolence letter requires a personal touch.
When mailing your letter, make sure it's mailed within two weeks or so of the person's death in order to properly pay your respects in a timely manner.
Writing a condolence letter is not an easy task. It is a difficult but necessary thing we may all have to do in our life to help aid a loved one in a time of need. Take this as a simple guide to get you on your way as you have to take on the task.
How can anyone cope with the death of more than one family member when those deaths occur in a short period of time? What happens to the person who is grieving the death of a loved one, then loses a job, and has to move from their home or apartment because of financial conditions? Multiple losses occur more frequently than most people realize and they can complicate the mourning process.
To begin with, it is important to recognize that we grieve many changes in life other than the death of a loved one. The break-up of any close relationship, divorce, incarceration, geographical relocation, children going off to college, destructive fires, workplace changes, or the loss of family heirlooms can bring a strong grief reaction. In most instances, these losses can bring a cascade of emotional responses as strong as those associated with the death of a loved one.
How can we cope with these massive changes or help someone who is experiencing more than one of these losses? Consider the following.
1. Recognize that people suffering multiple losses will generally need much more time to sort out their feelings and deal with their losses. Often the intensity of grief will be stronger and the mourner will need assistance in prioritizing their needs in dealing with each loss, one at a time.
2. Now more than ever the person dealing with multiple losses needs trusted grief companions who will listen to the pain being experienced and expressed. Much commitment is needed from caregivers who will not reduce their contact with the mourner over time or make comparisons of one mourner with another. Allowing grief to run its course in the circumstances of multiple loss, is a gigantic commitment for the caregiver.
3. If you are suffering multiple losses be patient with yourself. You cannot expect a speedy resolution of all of the changes that need to be addressed. There will be some trial and error moments and you will have to sit down and try another avenue of approach, when one plan doesn't work. Do not rush yourself. Easier said than done, of course, when in pain. But that is why you need people who can be around pain.
4. More than ever before, it is essential to take care of yourself. Self-care is an absolute priority since the energy drains from multiple loss are extremely high. Schedule a rest period daily, preferably in nature, where birds, trees, water, and other wildlife can remind you of the importance of connections and the peace that will replenish your mind and body. And above all, walk, walk, walk.
5. Never forget: you are not being punished. Don't fall into thought traps like "I'm getting what I deserve" or "This is what happens when you don't do the right thing." Such negative thinking only increases unnecessary suffering and distracts from facing the new life that multiple losses dictate. Remember: that type of thinking takes a major toll on your physical self as well as your emotional well-being.
6. Continually tell yourself you will get through this dark night of the soul. It is hell, and ever so painful, but you are a survivor, who will use the support and insight of others to adjust and start over. You are normal even though it all feels so abnormal. There is nothing wrong with your feeling of being overwhelmed. Anyone would be. Keep coaching yourself to persist--it will make a big difference.
7. Feelings and thoughts change and new ones will pop into your mind and body over the long haul. Look for ongoing support structures. They could be exceptional friends, a grief support group (many members are dealing with multiple losses), a clergy person, or a professional grief counselor. The information you need, to deal with your particular circumstances, is out there. Half the battle is finding the people who can provide an idea or two that you have yet to hear.
8. Also, even though you are inundated with pain and anxiety, do not give up on listening to the best source of all--your own wisdom. You have it inside right now to know what to do. You are much more capable than you think you are.
When alone in the evening, ask yourself (or God, your Higher Power, even your deceased loved one) for insights to deal with a particular problem. Then listen ever so carefully for what thoughts or images come into your mind. You inherently know what is needed better than anyone else. The trick is to tap your inner wisdom with confidence.
To summarize, many people suffer multiple losses and the resulting bereavement overload. Although multiple losses tend to exacerbate the length and intensity of the grief process, breaking down and prioritizing where to begin coping with so many changes (both inner and outer) is the place to start.
It is excruciating and pain-filled work, yet success in adapting to multiple changes will happen gradually. Keep your self-talk positive (we often are our own worst enemy), allow for a relapse or two, but know that you can outlast these massive changes, and get through your demanding ordeal.
Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, the popular Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His free monthly ezine website is http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com
Lucie Storrs The creator behind The Light Beyond, Lucie lives in Italy's wonderful region of Tuscany. This project combines her two passions: the world wide web and helping lots of people!
Nancy Adams Nancy is one of our wonderful writers, drawing upon her own extensive experience of grief and loss. She lives in a truly idyllic, inspiring location at the heart of a forest in Michigan.
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