Category Archives: Grief, Bereavement, and Growth

Grief is not optional, but within the pain, there is hope for transformation.

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According to Steven Covey, in his book the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the second habit that one should have or develop is to “begin with the end in mind.” Now, I’m pretty sure that Covey’s intention was not to have you wake up every day and think about your death, but maybe he should consider adding this to his description of the principle. You see there is something very powerful about entertaining thoughts of your end…somehow, it clarifies and magnifies the present.  Many other “Highly Effective” and brilliant people throughout the ages have practiced this same principle.

Take Shakespeare for example, he was a pretty smart guy. By all accounts, he had a “highly effective” life, and he penned these words, “Be still prepared for death- and death or life shall thereby be the sweeter.” (Measure for Measure, Act III, Scene I)

Hmmm… sounds like he was on to something.

Centuries later, Steve Jobs, another “Highly Effective” and brilliant guy said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Yep, there’s a whole lotta truth to this.

 I recently spoke at a Church who is actively seeking to look death in the face as a way of deepening the experience of daily life, a practice known as Momentum Mori, first initiated in 5th Century Benedictine spiritual practice. The congregation has devoted a whole month of sessions to this principle. Wow! Similarly, many Buddhist spend hours meditating on death. A Buddhist friend of mine spent extensive amounts of time sitting in grave yards meditating on the reality of her own death.

Anyone involved in any such bold spiritual practice is bound to find his or her daily life transformed. Living in the present with the knowledge that each moment might be your last (and preparing for it)– reorients you to what is most important in your daily living.

Personally, I came by this practice not by spiritual discipline, but by the nature of my work. I am one of the lucky ones who has the privilege of witness dying on a regular basis. Yes, I said “lucky”. You read that right.

You see, rather than choosing to add “facing death” to my spiritual practice, I am forced to look death in the face on a daily and weekly basis. I come home after most shifts recognizing that this day, this hour, this moment, could be my last. And then, I ask myself some variation of the following questions: “Is this the life I long to lead?” “Are these things the best use of my time?” “Can I sleep tonight with a clear conscience?” “Do my children know that I love them?”

And what about those questions…how do you answer them?

If your answers to any of these questions are “No,” then I challenge you to “begin with your end in mind”…it really makes everything better. Just ask Steven Covey.

Photocredits: productiveflourishing.com


A Letter to My Teacher:
A Personal Reflection

 Tell me, and I forget.

Teach me, and I remember.

Involve me, and I learn.

                                    —  Benjamin Franklin

Let knowledge grow from more to more,

And so be human life enriched.

                                                 —  Motto, The University of Chicago

Continue reading

I breathed a song into the air

It fell to earth I knew not where,

For who has sight so keen and strong

That it can follow the flight of a song?

And the song from beginning to end

I found again in the heart of a friend.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, From: “The Heart of a Friend”

 

We cannot choose our family.  We can choose our friends.  That is a great privilege.  It is a pleasure.  It is a necessity. Continue reading

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I know an elderly gentleman.  He is 85 years old.  He is a physician, and he is my friend.  One day, he joked about his mother.  She died 60 years ago.    He said with a slightly wry smile, “I think I’m over it!”  He isn’t.  He knows it.  I know it.  And he knows that I know.  He likes that.  It is our special secret. Continue reading

Anger and the Caregiver by Rea Ginsberg

Tuesday, 18 Jun 2013 00:16

Download wallpaper minimalism,  emotions,  anger free desktop wallpaper in the resolution 1600x1200 — picture №415710

Anger is one very difficult subject for the caregiver to face – to discover and discuss.  It is a socially unacceptable emotion in general.  However, dying disrupts the routines of daily living.  It disrupts not only the desired and comfortable routines of behavior.  It disrupts emotional routines as well.  Suddenly, new routines are required in caring for the loved one who is dying.  New feelings also spring up.  There they are, unwanted, unwelcome, confusing, but present anyway.  Something must be done with these feelings.  How?  What?  Anger is a frequent answer.  It is spontaneous and impulsive and perhaps frightening to the caregiver.  Nevertheless, it is entirely human. Continue reading

Emotional wellness is important to cultivate in all phases of living, but may be most naturally available at the end of life—the very time when the wellness of the body may be waning.

How is this so?

When people have a sure knowledge that they are nearing the end of their lives, a new type of energy is unleashed. Old inhibitions and blockages may be released. An emotional and spiritual window of opportunity opens which allows love to be shared more freely, old grudges to fall away in insignificance, and relationship healing to occur which seemed unobtainable at other times of life. Continue reading