Living with dying: Season’s grievings

Maybe an odd, and rather early take on the common “Season’s Greetings” cheer… however, according to the candy display in the grocery stores, the Holiday Season starts the very day after Halloween, when wrappers change color seemingly overnight.
Not only the candy industry feels anxious about planning ahead for the Holidays. Those of us in the midst of grieving often feel restless and overwhelmed just thinking about it. For most of those folks the change in spelling of the column’s title from “Greetings” to “Grievings” sadly makes all too much sense.
Let me explain:
Looking forward to the Holidays with a sense of “Cheer” can feel like an overwhelming task — when we are grieving for a loved-one who leaves an empty chair in our circle. The feeling is even more pronounced when the death happened recently and this is our first Holiday Season in our new reality. Suddenly, once much-anticipated festivities can become “anniversaries of missing” with a deep sense of loneliness even when among a crowd. There’s a void that seems to want to swallow us whole.
Grieving does not always start with the physical death of a loved-one. In cases of prolonged serious illnesses with all their emotional ups and downs, those involved are each facing their own version of grief: the patients feel their gradual loss of health, vitality, and independence, and their loved ones mourn the loss of “normal” and care-free interaction enjoyed before the illness took hold.
Reflecting on my own experience with grieving reminded me of this: Grieving is a process, unique, powerful, and very personal. It’s a journey — minus the itinerary — that takes energy and time beyond anything we’ve experienced before. It’s not plan-able, which is tough for our goal-oriented society to navigate.
However, as odd as it might sound, it can be a highly rewarding experience of inner growth. Grieving is truly a labor of love: finding ways to honor our loved one’s memory, and for those mourning, a process of giving birth to a new version of self. Grieving is reflective work, a sifting and sorting of flashbacks, a letting go of past hurts and grievances, as well as a re-collecting of shared joys.
It’s a unique opportunity to evaluate what’s really important to us, especially around the Holidays.
•  Why and what do we really want to celebrate?
•  What traditions do we value and which ones could be adapted to honor not only the past but also the present and potential future?
•  How can we allow ourselves to be gentle with self and one another to reduce already high pressure levels most of us face on a daily basis?
To find answers to YOUR questions, I encourage you to ask what’s in your heart!
Resources within the community are rich and diverse.
Not sure how to get started?
Connect with Hospice Volunteer Services (388-4111), that’s where I went when I felt I was ready to reach out.
I’d like to close with one of my poems… Wishing heart-felt blessings to all!
Season’s Grievings
Two lights burning,
bathing each other in the sweet glow of love. Twin flames,
illuminating the shared path of life – together.
One beacon — flickering, burning out and dying, and sweet sorrow takes its place
… yet,
the afterglow of your love warms my heart for eternity.
— Dorothea Langevin 10/12/18

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