“The Bereavement,” marble, 2010
Grief is a synonym for intense psychic pain. It is seldom invited and never welcomed. Death is not a gentle teacher. Everyone loses someone they love, and everyone dies someday. Everyone is afraid of it and everyone is angry at it. Some people say no no, I’m not mad and scared. Unfortunately, the truth doesn’t change because it is denied. Usually, everyone dies only once, and almost no one comes back to report the journey or the destination. For some, maybe that is one of the scarier aspects of death – the unknown. At least, it is intriguing. It is surely the essence of awe. We are left alive to wonder and imagine. We have lively imaginations. Continue reading
Death ends a life, not a relationship.
— Morrie Schwartz Continue reading
If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it.
You have the obligation to change it.
You just do it one step at a time.
— Marian Wright Edelman
We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise.
It could be suggested that the “good death” is falsely named in the field of thanatology and in the popular press. It implies an ideal state, one which of course, we cannot have. Never agonize over ideals when the problem is as urgent as death. Perhaps it should be renamed “the good-enough death,” one that is sufficient and satisfactory to both the dying person and the caregiver. It is the best that can be achieved at that time, in that place, by those people, with that problem, in their particular situation. Maya Angelou was right to say, “You did then what you knew how to do, and when you know better, you will do better.” Death and dying are extremely personal. Continue reading
“When people talk, great things happen.”
As a society in general, we Americans seem to prefer “doing” rather than “being.” When someone dies, we feel that we have to “do” something for the bereaved, not “be” something. Wait: think. Just sit and listen. That’s better. That’s “being.” The gift of self is greater than the effort to act. Action too often minimizes the grief of the bereaved. It surrenders to an impulse to turn away from death and grief pain. It tends to deny death. Doing tends to minimize grief and maximize denial. Continue reading
Sometimes, it really does take one to know one. Not every counselor can work well with every patient. It is hard to understand how people can presume to know bereavement and grief when they have lost no one of significance in their lives. 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
In the case of childhood bereavement, the death of a parent, the term “bereaved caregiver” no longer applies. The tables are turned. The child is indeed bereaved, but he himself is in need of a caregiver. Continue reading
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