Mourning – The Expression of Grief

By: Sharon Young

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary grief is defined as “intense emotional suffering caused by loss, disaster, misfortune, etc.; acute sorrow; deep sadness.” Mourning is the expression of grief.

We usually think of grief as affecting our feelings and emotions, but it really affects every part of us. We may feel things such as shock, anger, fear, anxiety, guilt, loneliness, helplessness, depression, confusion, overwhelming emotional pain, feeling empty or lost… Physically we may experience numbness, shortness of breath, a heaviness or tightness in the chest, fatigue, headaches, muscle tension…

We may not be able to sleep or concentrate on anything. We may have no interest in what is going on around us or in things that previously were very important to us. We may over-react or be hypersensitive and feel out of control. We may cry and cry or feel nothing at all and show no emotion. We may want to be alone or feel afraid to be alone. We may feel like we need to run away from it all or even the need to attack someone or something.

One of our first responses to loss is to search for a cause or anything that might offer just a hint of explanation or justification or meaning that might help us in dealing with grief. This search sometimes causes us to question our faith in God and our religious beliefs, adding to the turmoil and grief that the loss already thrust upon us.

The death of loved ones is the most difficult loss to recover from. All our dreams and plans with or for them come to nothing, leaving us feeling empty and forlorn. We feel as if a big, clumsy, fiendish claw has thrust itself deep into our vital organs and callously ripped a chunk out of us, leaving a ragged hole that we can’t imagine will ever heal.

We all react to grief and loss differently and process it in our own way and time. However, there’s one key element that is required of all of us if we want to recover from our loss. The key element in working successfully through the grieving process is action. Simply sitting back and waiting for time to heal our deep sadness and intense emotional suffering brought about by loss or death is not enough.

Mourning is a process in which we take action to define and process the pain of our loss, seek effective ways to respond to it, adjust to our new reality, reconstruct our lives and eventually heal.

Mourning begins with the simple action of acknowledging and expressing our pain. Job provides an example of the mourning process. Just like all of us he was busy with the day to day routines of his life-business, family, friends, religious, and community duties and responsibilities. Sure, he was aware of the risks of living where he did. He knew there were violent gangs and rustlers who attacked and stole ranchers’ herds from time to time. He knew violent wind and lightning storms caused destruction and death sometimes. He may even have personally experienced loss from these things or from drought or floods or infestation of destructive insects at some point in his career. Illness, disease and death were regular occurrences in his life as in ours. He just didn’t expect them to happen to him and certainly not all at once!

And when it happened to him, Job reacted just like you and I do. He grieved.

“Why didn’t I die at birth?” Job groaned in his intense pain. “If I had I’d be at peace now. Why does God prolong my miserable life when I long for death? I have no peace or rest-only troubles and worries. It’s impossible to weigh my misery and grief! They outweigh the sand along the beach…” (Job 3; Job 6:2,3) “Why is life so hard? Why do we suffer?” (Job 7:1)

Job was bombarded with conflicting thoughts and feelings. Like his friends, Job had always believed that sinners suffered trouble and hardships, but those who loved and obeyed God were spared. Job was confident that he had no sin on his slate that remained unconfessed. He was careful to never do anything that would offend God, but knowing no one is perfect he regularly offered sin and guilt offerings to atone for each sin, both known and unknown. So what was going on? Was God unfair? Why was he being treated like a sinner when he knew he was blameless and in right standing with God? Was everything he believed to be true about God, not true after all? God was his friend. But why was God suddenly treating him like an enemy?

He began to question God, and demand an explanation. He felt very confident that God was wrong. He examined and honestly voiced his troubling questions and looked for answers.

“I am sick of life! And from deep despair, I complain to you, my God. Don’t just condemn me! Point out my sin. You have not explained all of your mysteries, but you catch and punish me each time I sin. Guilty or innocent, I am condemned and ashamed because of my troubles. Sometimes I try to be cheerful and to stop complaining, but my sufferings frighten me, because I know that God still considers me guilty. So what’s the use of trying to prove my innocence? God isn’t a mere human like me. I can’t put him on trial. Who could possibly judge between the two of us?” (Job 10:1,2; 10:13thru15; 9:27thru29, 32thru33)

“Leave me alone and let me die; my life has no meaning. Why am I your target and such a heavy burden? Why do you refuse to forgive?” Job 7:16, 20thru21

Then…

From out of a storm the Lord said to Job: “Why do you talk so much when you know so little? Now get ready to face me! Can you answer the questions I ask? How did I lay the foundation for the earth? Were you there? Did you ever tell the sun to rise? And did it obey? Can you arrange stars in groups such as Orion and the Pleiades? Do you control the stars or set in place the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper… I am the Lord All-Powerful, but you have argued that I am wrong. Now you must answer me. Are you trying to prove that you are innocent by accusing me of injustice?” (Job 38:1thru4, 12, 31thru32; 40:1, 8)

Job said to the Lord: “Who am I to answer you? I did speak once or twice, but never again. No one can oppose you, because you have the power to do what you want. I have talked about things that are far beyond my understanding. You told me to listen and answer your questions. I heard about you from others; now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 39:3thru5; 41:1thru6)

In his mourning process, Job defined and boldly expressed his feelings and thoughts. He looked to God as he sought answers and effective ways to respond to his grief and loss. Experiencing God for himself helped him begin to adjust to his new reality. With his new, enlightened view of God he could reconstruct his life and heal.

God is bigger than our pain, disappointment, doubt, fear – and everything else we can throw at Him. I encourage you, my friend, to include God as you take action to process and express your grief so you can reconstruct your life and heal.

About the Author:

Sharon Young is a dedicated mom and wife with a deep desire to discover who God is and how to navigate this life guided by His truth. Mourning Glory, A Devotional for Grieving is a book for struggling through a loss and looking for comfort.

Good Stages of Grief?

By: Ann Estlund

Most widows go through a crazy emotional rollercoaster as they move from one stage to another. One moment they are flying high and the next they are sinking morosely into a pit. They can be on level ground one minute, but the next may find them perching warily on a high wire or chugging up a hill and churning up a pot of steam, ready to blow at the first turn.

Looking back on my own years of grief, and writing articles, a book* and two websites** about it, I believe that each stage of grief has both plusses and minuses. It may take widows a long time to appreciate the plusses, but it could help us to know they are there. Just as it helped to know we were expected to go through stages in grief, it may help to see some of its long-range benefits.

Shock. Almost every widow goes through Shock or Numbness. I felt like I was inside a bubble, looking out at others who performed various tasks for me…phone calls, travel arrangements, meal planning, appointments, decision-making. Even inside that bubble I hurt so much that I couldn’t imagine I was being spared some of grief’s worst wounds. Later I understood.

Both immediate Shock and the die-hard stage of Denial cushion us from too much reality too fast. If these stages lasted too long, we would have major problems; but in smaller doses they provide brief emotional vacations when we really need them. The same is true of another stage I recognized several times in my own grief. I call it “Cockiness,” the pleasant feeling when we swell with pride at how well we are doing. We just know we have licked this thing called grief. “That wasn’t so bad,” we think, right before we fall off another cliff.

Grief is hard work, and it must be done, but brief respites from the dismal pain are therapeutic. I call them “practice sessions,” or “previews of better times ahead,” for when we are healed and walking among normal people. The downside of these “emotional vacations” is that they may be falsely interpreted by our friends and relatives. They may think we are healed and no longer need their tender loving care.

Depression can be the deepest stage of grief, dragging us down into a pit of self doubt and loss of spirit. Knowing it was an expected stage helped me to endure its downside more easily, but it didn’t make it fun. The upside of depression, which is really hard to appreciate until years later, is that this stage–more than any other–seems to provide the most opportunity for self examination and personal growth. It’s the caldron in which we learn that we are strong and we can survive.

Anxiety is a tough stage, and it can hang on interminably, especially for those on their own for the first time. It can build to a crescendo, a panic attack, such as one I had when I thought I was dying of the same thing my husband did. Most widows have one or several of these. I asked the doctor for a few anxiety pills to keep on hand for crises. Left unchecked, panic attacks can grow into agoraphobia…the fear of being outside or of leaving the house. We don’t want that to happen. Anxiety can also play havoc with our health, so, what is the upside of Anxiety? Well, not much…but to stretch it a bit, it does keep us alert so we know what’s going on…and it feels really good when it’s over.

I said a hundred times, “I could never get angry at Bruce for dying!” And then I did, with a vengeance! “How dare he leave me to do all this stuff!” We all go through Anger, and we can lose the support of friends and family if we aren’t careful. Can there be any benefits in it? Yes, it’s a sign we are facing reality head on, breaking through some of that Denial muck, and also we are clearing the air, getting rid of some old baggage around us.

With most Anger comes Guilt! Guilt for thinking of ourselves instead of our late mates. Some widows may have real reasons to feel guilty; most do not. Regardless, work on guilt, with a counselor or therapist if it is serious. So, how can it have an upside? Sometimes analyzing guilt feelings can help in understanding the differences we had with our husbands. I, for example, realized I felt guilty for often overlooking Bruce’s many good points and nagging him about things that simply did not matter.

Think of these grief benefits as the “little bits of sugar that help the medicine go down.”

About the Author:

Annie Estlund is the author of the handbook, For Widows Only. Visit her Web site to learn more about her support group for widows.

The Practicalities of Coping with A Suicide

By Lucie Storrs

Your tears have not yet dried. You haven’t had time to experience your deep feelings about your loved one’s suicide. In many ways, you’re still in shock. Nevertheless, death, like anything else, has its own practicalities that must be accomplished. You, your family members and your loved one’s friends need closure for the loss and grief they’re feeling.

As if being a suicide survivor isn’t enough, you must also deal with your loved one’s funeral or memorial service, burial or cremation, working with your lawyer about the probate of your loved one’s estate, obtaining a death certificate for insurance purposes, and coping with the sympathy of friends and relatives. Just when you need some time to yourself to process and grieve, you find that you need to be several places at once and multi-task the actions and decisions that must be made. If you have the sole responsibility for these matters, it is indeed a great physical and emotional struggle.

It helps to know exactly what will happen next.

It helps a great deal to know exactly what’s ahead of you instead of not knowing and feeling intensely overwhelmed when every moment of your time is filled with pain and uncertainty. Sometimes you’ll feel like screaming, “Just leave me alone for five minutes!” Nevertheless, when those five minutes have passed, the practicalities of your loved one’s suicide will still be there. Below are some basic practicalities that you will face, and suggestions for coping with them.

* In the majority of US states, if a person does not die in a hospital, an autopsy must be performed to determine the cause and manner of death. Are these two different things? Yes. For example, the cause of your loved one’s death was an overdose of drugs; the manner of death is suicide.

* Wherever your loved one took his/her life is first considered as a crime scene and possible homicide. If the suicide occurred in the home you shared with your loved one, you will be considered as a possible homicide suspect. If death occurred outside the home, the police will handle the location as a crime scene and possible homicide. Either way, the police officers will question you about your loved one’s problems (physical or emotional), and they will ask about your relationship, if you knew your loved one was suicidal, and other relevant information.

* It is your right to make no statement of any kind until your legal counsel arrives. It is often said that people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. You’re not attempting to hide anything from law enforcement; you are merely protecting your own rights. Let your legal counsel represent you when you are questioned by the police. Remember, they are doing their job. It isn’t personal, nor does it mean that they suspect you of murder. This is merely the process of legally resolving a suicide.

* Even in the midst of your grief and bereavement, you must make some decisions about the body and burial of your loved one. Unless the deceased left a will that contains specific instructions about these matters, you will need to go to the funeral home to discuss burial vs. cremation, choose a casket or urn, whether you would like the funeral or memorial service at the funeral home, a church, or some other location.

* If your loved one left a will that directs all funeral expenses to be paid out of his or her estate, you should follow these instructions. In the absence of a will, you must make these decisions based upon what you believe your loved one would have wanted.

Somehow, death has its own grapevine. Within a day, your friends, other family members, and members of the community will know that your loved one died, and that suicide was the manner of death. It may feel to you as though this difficult situation is the perfect time for others to listen to you, the bereaved, rather than having to talk, explain, and answer questions about your loved one’s suicide.

Newspaper obituaries are kind in this dilemma. Unless you write the obituary, a news staffer will do this for you and, if you direct, make no mention of suicide; they will write something along the lines of “Mr. Doe died yesterday after a short illness.” You don’t need to have an obituary at all if you choose not to.

Nonetheless, the grapevine will deliver the news at warp speed. Family members, especially those who don’t live in your town, should be called to inform them of your loved one’s suicide. But you don’t have to make those calls. If you feel as if you can’t tell this story just one more minute, ask a family member or friend to make the calls. The caller can inform others about when and where the funeral or memorial service will be, how they can be of help, and answer some simple questions about the suicide. You and/or your helper do not need to go into long details about why your loved one committed suicide, and most people are kind enough not to inquire.

All the small (but essential) details and decisions:

  • If you select burial for your loved one, provide clothes that he or she loved to wear.
  • Ask the mortician to wash and set her hair, and say what type of make up (if any) you would like.
  • Decide if you want your loved one’s casket to be open or closed. The cause of death will play an important part in your decision.
  • Select music for the funeral or memorial service. The funeral home or your church will have many beautiful pieces for you to choose from, or play a piece which your loved one was fond of.
  • If you choose a religious funeral, your minister, rabbi or pastor will work with you in organizing the service and selecting readings from the Bible, the Koran, or other sacred works, a favorite poem or writing. Keep in mind that some religious faiths view suicide as an unpardonable sin against God and may refuse to conduct your loved one’s funeral. In this case, you can always have your own non-denominational service.
  • Your loved one may have had some organizational affiliations. Was he/she a military veteran who is entitled to a military funeral with full honors? If there is no military installation in your community, contact the VFW. Was your loved one a Freemason or a member of the Order of the Eastern Star? If so, contact your town’s Masonic Lodge and request this type of interment. Neither the military nor most community-based philanthropic organizations will refuse to honor your loved one.
  • Decide if you want your loved one’s jewelry (like a wedding ring) to be interred with him/her, or if you want these things as family heirlooms. It is sometimes comforting to know that your loved one was wearing a certain piece of jewelry when he/she died; it’s a reminder that “I didn’t leave you. I simply left.”
  • Inform your lawyer immediately after your loved one’s death by suicide. His or her estate assets should be frozen until a probate court decides otherwise.
  • Obtain a copy of the death certificate; your loved one’s life insurance will not “pay out” without this document. Some insurance companies refuse to pay out for suicide. This is where your lawyer steps in.

Do you wish to have a wake after the interment of your loved one? Only you have the right to make this choice. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into having a wake if you would rather have some “quiet time” with only your immediate family and closest friends. Wakes for those who die from natural causes are fond remembrances; wakes where the deceased committed suicide can be awkward.

It’s OK to lean on the people around you.

So many details! Remember that you have friends, family members and community members who truly wish to help you in this time of grief and bereavement. These are the people who won’t judge or criticize, who won’t talk endlessly when you need to be alone and quiet, and who won’t say or do things that only increase your burden. You are a suicide survivor, not a prisoner of guilt and shame.

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If you feel the need to talk, why not visit The Light Beyond bereavement forum at http://www.thelightbeyond.com/forum, where you will find a caring, increasingly busy and friendly community of people to support you through your grief. You are not alone…

Author’s Bio:

Lucie Storrs is the creator of The Light Beyond bereavement forum, website, grief library, inspirational movie and blog. This project grew out of her own experiences of grief and loss, her desire to help others and love of the Internet as a means for doing so.

“It has never been simpler to reach out and make a difference in the world. I hope that in some small way we help to make your journey through grief a little easier.”

Other Related Links:

Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

Suicide: A Study in Sociology

How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person’s Guide to Suicide Prevention

The Search for Meaning When a Loved One Dies

By Louis LaGrand, Ph.D.

Meaning affects everything we do; and equally important it affects the body and its physiology as attested to by the many examples of body-mind relationships, such as the placebo effect. Finding meaning in death is not always easy, and sometimes it is hard to find.

However, the search for meaning when a loved one dies can make a big difference in how you cope with your loss and reinvest in life. The Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, put it this way, “Meaning makes a great many things endurable—perhaps everything.”

Searching for meaning is useless early in your grief; first, give yourself much time to express emotion and review the relationship. Eventually, make every effort to find meaning in your loss. Here are seven considerations that have provided meaning for others after the death of a loved one, and that may help you in your own search.

1. Meaning derived from the belief that there is a spirit world. Many people have reported experiences that have convinced them there is a spirit world and an afterlife. The Near-Death Experience (NDE) has occurred to over 8 million people who report going through a tunnel, seeing others who have predeceased them, and a beautiful white light.

Others, who were mourning the death of a loved one, have experienced dreams, visions, and various synchronistic and symbolic events, called Extraordinary Experiences (EEs). These events provided comfort and enough evidence for them to believe their loved ones live on in another existence. This had great influence on the course of their grief work.

2. Meaning derived from celebration of the life that was lived. This may include dedications, memorializations, carrying on a particular tradition, or doing volunteer work in honor of the deceased. Some survivors have started support groups, or supported the newly bereaved in their community depending on their needs.

3. Meaning derived from the belief that there is a heaven and a hell. Many people who are grieving find solace in their beliefs that their loved ones are in heaven with God. Also, many embrace the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, where they can pray to their loved ones, and ask them to intercede to God for them.

4. Meaning derived from the belief that love never dies. Many who receive a contact from a deceased loved one or a divine being interpret it as an act of love. Their love for the deceased continues on as they reinvest in life and establish a new, healthy, but different relationship. To feel loved and to give love when hurting is a little utilized but highly effective coping tool.

5. Meaning derived from the belief that there will some day be a reunion with the deceased. Those who believe in an afterlife, heaven, or receive an EE, are often convinced they will see their loved one again when they die. They have no fear of death, and reinvest their energies in their present life.

6. Meaning derived from the belief that the loved one is still giving comfort, caring, and providing support. “Even in death he/she is still giving and caring,” is the thought of many who sense the presence of their loved one when mourning. This is a profound example for them to emulate. Would your beloved want you to be loving and bring joy into someone else’s life?

7. Meaning derived from the belief that the deceased is whole and healthy in a different existence. Many of the after death contacts that the bereaved experience show the loved one whole and healthy again. They are grateful that the beloved is no longer in pain.

Obviously, there are many, many more ways that individual mourners find meaning in the death of their loved ones, which helps them integrate their losses into their lives. Much depends on the personal beliefs, nature of the relationship with the deceased, and mode of death. The search for meaning is an important part of grief work for most, and it frequently becomes a time when we are open to revising our world views and beliefs about life and death.

Sometimes trying to make sense out of the death seems fruitless. For example, how do you find meaning in the death of four-month-old child (this happened to me)? I eventually was able to come to terms with it. Still, searching for the cause of the experience and pulling meaning from it with a trusted friend or relative is useful. We need others at this time to be with us when we are in pain.

Author’s Bio:

Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, 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), gives workshops and speaks throughout the US, and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His website is http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com .

Other Related Links:

I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss

The Grief Recovery Handbook : The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses

Explaining Suicide to Children

By Tracy Pierson

“What should I tell the children?” A question often asked after the suicide of a loved one. The answer – the truth.

Many people still believe it is best to shield children from the truth, that somehow this will protect them. More often than not, the opposite is true. Misleading children, evading the truth, or telling falsehoods to them about how someone died can do much more harm than good; if they happen to hear the truth from someone else, their trust in you can be difficult to regain. Not knowing can be terrifying and hurtful. We’ve always been told that “honesty is the best policy” and just because the subject is suicide, that doesn’t mean this time is any different.

What children might be feeling after losing someone they love to suicide:

1. Abandoned – that the person who died didn’t love them.

2. Feel the death is their fault – if they would have loved the person more or behaved differently.

3. Afraid that they will die too.

4. Worried that someone else they love will die or worry about who will take care of them.

5. Guilt – because they wished or thought of the person’s death.

6. Sad.

7. Embarrassed – to see other people or to go back to school.

8. Confused.

9. Angry – with the person who died, at God, at everyone.

10. Lonely.

11. Denial – pretend like nothing happened.

12. Numb – can’t feel anything.

13. Wish it would all just go away.

Children and adolescents may have a multitude of feelings happening at the same time or simply may not feel anything at all. Whatever they are feeling, the important thing to remember is that they understand it is okay. And that whatever those feelings are, they have permission to let them out. If they want to keep them to themselves for a while, that’s okay too.

How do we explain suicide to children or young people? It may seem impossible and too complex to even try, but that’s exactly what we must do – try! Their age will be a factor in how much they can understand and how much information you give them. Some children will be content with an answer consisting of one or two sentences; others might have continuous questions, which they should be allowed to ask and to have answered.

After children learn that the death was by suicide, one of their first questions might be, “What is suicide?” Explain that people die in different ways – some die from cancer, from heart attacks, some from car accidents, and that suicide means that a person did it to him or herself. If they ask how, once again it will be difficult, but be honest. (Over)

Some examples of explaining why suicide happens might be:
“He had a illness in his brain (or mind) and he died.”
“His brain got very sick and he died.”
“The brain is an organ of the body just like the heart, liver and kidneys. Sometimes it can get sick, just like other organs.”
“She had an illness called depression and it caused her to die.”

(If someone the child knows, or the child herself, is being treated for depression, it’s critical to stress that only some people die from depression, not everyone that has depression. And that there are many options for getting help, e.g. medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.)

A more detailed explanation might be: “Our thoughts and feelings come from our brain, and sometimes a person’s brain can get very sick – the sickness can cause a person to feel very badly inside. It also makes a person’s thoughts get all jumbled and mixed up, so he can’t think clearly. Some people can’t think of any other way of stopping the hurt they feel inside. They don’t understand that they don’t have to feel that way, that they can get help.”

(It’s important to note that there are people who were getting help for their depression and died anyway. Just as in other illnesses, a person can receive the best medical treatment and still not survive. This can also be the case with depression. If this is what occurred in your family, children and adolescents can usually understand the analogy above when it is explained to them.)

Children need to know that the person who died loved them, but that because of the illness, the person may have been unable to convey that to them or think about how the children would feel after the loved one’s death. They need to know that the suicide was not their fault, and that nothing they said or did or didn’t say or do, caused the death.

Some children might ask questions related to the morals of suicide – good/bad, right/wrong. It is best to steer clear of this, if possible. Suicide is none of these – it is something that happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with that pain.

Whatever approach is taken when explaining suicide to children, they need to know they can talk about it and ask questions whenever they feel the need, to know that there are people there who will listen. They need to know that they won’t always feel the way they do now, that things will get better, and that they will be loved and taken care of no matter what.

SA\VE – Suicide Awareness\Voices of Education, 7317 Cahill Rd., Edina, MN 55439
1-888-511-SAVE
Phone 952-946-7998, Fax 952-829-0841
http://www.save.org, save@winternet.com
Copyright 1996 by Tracy Pierson

Author’s Bio:

Tracy Pierson is Community Education Coordinator for SAVE – Suicide Awareness\Voices of Education. She conducts presentations on depression awareness, suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.

Other Related Links:

Why People Die by Suicide

Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing With Loss (Elf-Help Books for Kids)

What On Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?

Facing the Truth and Making Decisions

I’m a secretary and part of my job is to answer the phone. I do it automatically, saying my little blurb each time, and I think nothing of it. Yesterday, I sat at my desk and reached for the receiver as the phone started to ring. Having said my blurb, I heard a voice…

“Hello, how are you?”

Instantly, my stomach did a somersault and heat washed over my body. My tongue froze in my mouth so I was unable to talk.

“Hello?”

I pressed the phone to my ear, wanting to hear more, not wanting to break the spell. I must have made some sort of noise that satisfied the caller.

“What are you doing?” This was followed by a little laugh.

“Barry?”

“Mum, it’s Daniel.”

Their voices were so different, yet when they “played around” they sounded very much alike. I admit that I was disappointed. Not because I didn’t want to talk to Daniel, but because I really wanted to talk to Barry. I think Daniel would understand that.

A couple of hours later I spoke to Gary about it. I said that I couldn’t understand why after 16 months I’d react like that. I’ve accepted that Barry is dead. It doesn’t make sense that I’d receive a phone call from him. It’s just not possible, but I would have quickly believed that he was still here. It amazes me how quickly I would have accepted that the phone call was from him.

Gary said that he could understand why I was so quick to believe. He said that if it happened to him, he’d want to believe it was Barry too. It would be the opportunity to save the things he needed to say, and it must be a much stronger need in me.

It got me thinking about how vulnerable people are in this situation. I realise how easy it would be to take advantage of someone who felt so desperate and lost, and yearned to be close to someone they had lost. And the sad thing is that there are people out there who would use another person’s grief for their own personal gain.

So it’s important to reiterate an important fact in grief – don’t make spur of the moment decisions. Don’t let people talk you into selling the house and moving. Don’t allow anyone to pack away your loved one’s belongings, not unless it’s something you want wholeheartedly. Don’t give another person access to your bank account(s) with the assumption that the person is “just trying to help” or is “taking the burden from you”. You might find that more than the burden is taken from you and that there might be ulterior motives for them wanting you to sell the house (if they can talk you into selling it, maybe they can talk you into other things where the money is concerned).

Besides, the grieving need to live life and continue to do things for themselves. No matter how hard it is to accept…life does go on. And whilst it’s hard to get out of bed in the beginning, let alone cook a meal or even think about keeping the house clean, it does get easier. We just need time. At the end of that terrible time, when life begins to have some sense of normal to it, then you will be in a better frame of mind to make decisions.

Choices Taken Away

When Barry died, I tried to stop the world and go back for him and I hated the world for pulling me along with it. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t do anything. When I finally realised that some things are out of my control, I lost it. Anger filled every part of my body and I wanted to give in to the craving to see Barry now, rather than later. But Barry did something else when he took his own life; he took away my (and his other immediate family’s) choice of living or dying.

We (Barry’s family) can sit here and say quite honestly that Barry had no idea the pain and hurt he would cause by his actions. We are a small family (there was only ten of us; now there’s nine), who live half a world away from our relatives, and we hardly know them. Barry witnessed the few times when we (his father and I) were told of a death in the family. Yes, those deaths upset us, but only for a very short time. Even I didn’t realise how short a time my grief was for my grandparents. It was a bit longer for my young cousin, because his death was tragic and that pulled at my heart strings. But in all honesty, and as bad as it sounds, the deaths of our overseas family didn’t affect us that much. And we had never lost anyone close to us. Barry was the first.

In admitting this, I have to say that Barry must have thought grief was a fleeting thing. He would have seen our grief subside in a few days and thought that after a day or two we would be over his death too. That’s not a comforting thought, and if he thought this, then how wrong he was!

However, my remaining family cannot make that same claim. If any of us were to take our own life now, the survivors would not be able to sit down and say, “They didn’t know what they were doing” because that is not true. We would know exactly how much hurt, pain, grief and devastation we would be leaving behind us. And whilst I’ve never been angry with Barry, I would be angry at anyone else who did the same thing to me and I would expect and deserve my family to be extremely angry with me if I were to take my own life too (which I have no intention of doing).

I find myself thinking about the effect of one moment in time and how that has changed so many lives. I also find that I’m looking back at things that happened in the past with a changed attitude. It’s impossible to go back and do/say the right things now, but I finally understand why other people have acted the way they did after the loss of a loved one. We truly do not KNOW unless we have experienced it ourselves and whilst we mean well when we vocalise our thoughts when something bad happens to someone else, we have no right to judge or condemn their actions. No right whatsoever.

I wrote the majority of this post yesterday, but didn’t have time to finish it. Last night, I sat and thought about my wording in the fourth paragraph above. Maybe I’m being too harsh, I thought. Maybe I shouldn’t make public a post that sounds so negative. And maybe I’ll regret my words later. But then I realised that what I’ve written is the truth. Maybe future events will change how I feel, but as of this minute, this is what is running through my mind. And then, this morning, I remembered a post I had shared on this blog written by someone else who lost her brother to suicide – To Kill Oneself or Not to Kill Oneself. After re-reading her words, I can identify with her on a whole new level.

The Swell of Waves

Most people have sat beside the ocean and watched the waves come and go. Sometimes they crash violently against the rocks, causing damage and destruction – and sometimes death. Yet at other times, they gently roll in and out without causing much disturbance.

Grief is like that. It comes and goes in waves. At first the crashing waves are frequent and long lasting. They pull angrily at the person as if it wants to dislodge them from their no longer stable surroundings and draw them into its depth, swallowing them whole. The person struggles against it with all their strength, but their will power has already been shattered, how much strength do they have left? How long can they hold on? Some can’t hold on and those people are swept away. They are lost to depression or, worst still, I know of some who followed their loved one into death.

For those who cling hold of anything in sight and refuse to let go, eventually the wave subside and a gentle washing of … calm … comes over them. It lasts for only a short time and the person is fully aware of that, but the small reprise gives them time to regenerate much needed energy. As time passes, the waves are less frequent and less violent…or maybe the person’s strength grows stronger.

Months pass and that feeling of calm become more normal in their life. They never return to the normal they had before their loss. How could they? Their child took his/her own life, which is something that will never leave them. But they manage to move on and start rebuilding a new life to accommodate their new (changed) self.

In the early months, everything sets the wave into motion – songs, a memory, something seen or heard, desperately wanting to touch or hold, non-acceptance that life goes on around you, people, stupid words, words that remind, smells, and the list goes on and on. Later, the field narrows and becomes more specific to the experiences of the person and that of the one they lost. Yet even then the wave isn’t as destructive as it once was, and sometimes the waves bring with it a flood of lost memories that helps the grieving person cope a little better.

Calm waters swirl around them for days and weeks, sometimes even months. There is no violent surge, and the person warily lets down their guard. However, it’s too soon and a violent wave sweeps in unexpectedly and washes away most of the resolve and understanding the person has managed to build up. It happens so suddenly, that the shock is overwhelming and the damage feels everlasting.

If you are reading this and you have been swallowed by one of these horrific waves, maybe you are waiting for me to tell you how to deal with it. I’m sorry. I don’t have the answers. I am feeling slightly overwhelmed myself and I don’t know why. I do know that my sleeping pattern has reverted back to only three or four hours of sleep a night and that isn’t helping me cope with life.

I’m struggling with “why” again. I’m angry because I won’t get to experience the rest of my life with Barry in it. I’m tired of holding everything together and pretending that I’m just fine. Life shouldn’t be this hard. Yet, as a family tree researcher, I have evidence that life is hard and always has been. I’m struggling to find something to hold on to. This wave isn’t as bad as some of the others. I survived them, so I know I’ll survive this one too.

It’s just a matter of time. I can do it. I know I can. I just need to hold on until this wave passes.

Diary of the Teenage Dead

Following my Session with a Medium I feel I’ve changed slightly. I have more hope and, although I have constantly fumbled around with thoughts of seeing Barry again, now I believe I will hear from him again…one day.

On Thursday night, I had a dream. It was short, but it was important – of that I’m sure.

I was with a group of strangers and we had been taken to an unknown destination. By who, I don’t know. The sun shone above and gum trees moved in a slight breeze at the edge of a clearing. Considering I’m not one for groups, as I often feel intimidated and shy, I felt calm and comfortable, which was surprising. I think I even conversed with the other people for a while.

I stood facing the group when I felt a presence behind me. I turned and saw Barry walking across the grass towards me, a look of bewilderment on his face. My heart went out to him. I’ve seen that look so many times in his lifetime and I knew instantly that he was confused and worried.

I must point out that at this point in the dream I knew I was dreaming. I also knew that Barry was dead and that I had an opportunity to do something I have been praying for. I moved away from the group and they seemed to fade away, leaving me alone with Barry.

Barry wore the clothes he died in and he carried a backpack. His eyes were large and no smile creased his face. He knew me, but he didn’t know how he came to be standing in front of me. He didn’t know where he was or what he was meant to do or say. Writing this now, I feel like crying, but in the dream I felt composed.

I walked up to him. “May I hug you, Barry?”

He nodded.

I put my arms around him and pulled him to me. I hugged him tight and remember thinking that I never wanted to let him go, because I may not have the opportunity to hug him again. For those brief moments, I felt complete – my little boy safe in my arms. But I had to let him go and we stood staring at each other. There are so many things I want to say, but given the opportunity words failed me…yet I felt fine with that too. It didn’t seem important.

Barry’s bewilderment was important to me however. I didn’t want him feeling awkward or unsure and, one hand on his shoulder, I leaned forward and looked him in the eyes. “Are you OK?”

He gave me that look again, one of uncertainty. “I don’t know,” he said.

I wish I could report that I said words of wisdom to him at that moment, but I didn’t. I squeezed his shoulder and the dream faded out.

Why do I feel the dream was important? Reading over what I’ve written today makes the dream sound depressing, but that’s not how I felt whilst having it. True, I didn’t say the words I should have said (I love you; I miss you; I forgive you), but the dream wasn’t about me, it was about Barry. In the dream I felt comfortable and the words were not important. I didn’t have to say them; because I knew he didn’t need to hear them…he already knew how I felt and what I was thinking.

To me, the dream was conveying Barry’s feelings to me – he’s still confused. I wanted to take that confusion away from him, but I knew in the dream and I know now that he must work through the confusion himself. There are no short cuts.

Why is it important for me to know how Barry is feeling? Firstly, he’s my son and his feelings and welfare have always been important to me. Secondly, I’m a grieving mother who needs to understand where her son is and how he’s coping. Lastly, as a mother I realise I cannot protect my children and take their pain away in every situation. Sometimes, as parents, we have no choice but to watch our children take their life into their own hands and make their own decisions…and live with those decisions.

I believe Barry is still working through his problems. I also believe that he knows how I feel and that I’ll always be here for him…waiting for him to contact me. That makes me sound like a crazy person, but it’s the only way I can cope with my grief.

Then, today, I stumbled onto The Diary of the Teenage Dead. As I read the three short parts to this article something happened. It’s almost as if I was sent to find the article so that it could confirm what the dream was telling me. If I give it time, we will all be alright – Barry, Daniel, Gary, all Barry’s family and friends, and me.