Friday, 18 December 2009

Grief is the price we pay for love.

This morning when I was reading my friends blogs I ended up writing comments that included two of my favourite phrases. And I realised that these phrases or adages are things I attempt to live by. So it felt appropriate to write about them and the others that I hold dear.

Most of these phrases started in my life as things I read and liked enough to use with clients in therapy. And because I never ask any client to do something I wouldn't do myself I found myself holding on to them as keepsafes in my own life.

It is difficult to put them in any order of priority, so as they say on all the TV shows right now,in no particular order (and a few posts)......

Grief is the price we pay for love

From my early days as a therapist I have always worked with grieving people. I think my passion, if that is the right word started when I was nursing, and I would watch the appalling way people back in the 1970s got told their relatives had died. It wasn't done with very much sensitivity, by more often or not a junior doctor who hadn't a clue how to tackle death with much compassion. I vowed that when I was able I would be the person to tell of a loved ones death.

At the same time we were in the tail end of the era of not talking openly about people's illnesses. So I witnessed far too many people die without being honest with their families about what they felt. That really horrified me, it was such a time of unspoken conspiracy with people supposedly protecting their nearest and dearest. The reality was so very different the patient generally knew they were dying, the family knew they were dying and everyone colluded not to talk about, and so miss the chance to say I love you or goodbye.

So I have almost always been on a crusade to bring death into the open. After all it is going to happen to all of us. Some of us get the opportunity to have a so called good death where we have the opportunity to say good bye and put our affairs in order.

But we live in a society that is frightened of death, as opposed to Victorian times when death was celebrated with the wearing of mourning clothes and mourning rings that contained locks of loved ones hair. The downside of this age was that sex was underground. Nowadays there is a complete reversal and we all apparently are having endless exotic sex but we cannot discuss death.

So what happens when someone we love dies is a grief reaction. But we've lost the knowledge of what is normal at this time. So people start to believe they are suffering from depression and seek medical treatment, for feelings that are to be expected.

Grief is normal, hurting is normal, being angry is normal, feeling guilty is normal.

And I tell all my bereavement clients that grief is the price we pay for love. And somehow when they acknowledge this, their ability to shift into having a normal and expected reaction as opposed to it being a psychological problem, dramatically changes in front of my eyes.

I also always suggest that they start to work on being pro-active with their grief. And I suggest something that without fail reduces my bereavement clients to tears in front of me. I will ask them to write a letter that they cannot possibly send, but that they need to write to tell the person they have lost how much they love them and miss them.

It is at this point that I metaphorically hold my clients, and hold them up as they begin to understand that because they loved someone, they are naturally going to feel grief now they are no longer there and that is okay.

Death is the one certainty of birth, and I for one don't think we should shy away from it. There is little point in fearing it, there is a point to fearing terminal illness. Why hook into the bizarre belief system that we will live for ever, we won't. Lets get death and dying back into the open, (even if that means getting sex back into the cupboard for a while.)Facing our fear stops it being a fear.


Helen said...

What an uplifting post today! My father died in 1958 (I was only 16) and my mother in 2007. What an incredible difference in the way we dealt with both passings. In the 50's, we stuffed our feelings and didn't talk about our profound sadness and in 2007, Hospice took us by the hand, walked us through the sadness us during and after.

Sage said...

Very moving and very true, still talk about my dad as though he is very much alive which of course he is to me, and Mum the same. This is due in part to my dad not letting her death go unnoticed, and when we saw something mum would have liked we were able to say it and remember her xx

Lyn said...

I couldn't agree with you more! Death is the one certainty for all of us. I knew people who were in the end stages of their lives and were frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement of it. They had things they wanted to share, fear they wanted to express, wisdom to impart and final words to be spoken. But when they said things like, "if I don't see you again ..." or "I don't think I'll be here much longer" -- they were met with protests of "of course you will. YOu'll get through this. You'll get better". When my mom was in her final stages of life, she used to say she was the same as me -- the only difference was that she had more information and had a better idea of how her end would come. I like what you said about feeling the pain and it being OK to be sad and gried stricken. I have described that pain as a comfort... it meant I loved someone very much and I wanted to feel loss and emptiness - for but a time. Thanks for this enlightening perspective.

Merry ME said...

I appreciated the comment on my blog and I appreciate even more this loving post.

I am reminded that I am kind of/sort of living in a grief state. Dad reminds me almost daily that he is dying but there is never any talk of resolution. I guess that will happen after he is gone. Not the way I want it particularly, but he's the one who is dying, not me. I need to respect that. (Don't I?)

Sorrow said...

Thank you wise women, for your tender heart, and all the love you put into your words.
and waving!!!!

lakeviewer said...

Well put. Let's live fully and die consciously, and pay the piper for each.

Cait O'Connor said...

What a great post. We are all dying from the moment we are born aren't we? A friend of ours has just died, he knew he had not got long and he handled it so well, he was a great example to us all.

Mel said...

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't handle being given a sentence 'well', not even with an ounce of dignity and grace.
I feared death, I didn't wanna leave the planet...nor the people that I loved. Don't get me wrong--I'm not elbowing my way to the front of the line. And I still have some fear in me--but it's a different caliber, driven (I hope) by different things.
The 'unknown' is something I've never done well with. Death was and remains an unknown to me. I've been able to change that fear in huge ways--I can't articulate well what it took me to alter that...I'd be wise to not even try. But it was and remains one of the most powerful journeys I've made..and continue to make.

Ironically, the further I get away from the sentence, the more things morph. I guess that's cockiness for you... Leastwise that's what happens for me.

I'm still sad over the losses I've experience--but that's normal and the price you pay for loving, eh? I get the privilege of walking with people who are making that final journey. I don't fear that. I don't cringe or shirk when asked to be a part of their journey.

But honestly--I don't know where I'm at with my own death, today. I know where I was. But given the reprieve that I was given and the changes in my life since--maybe being in that 'dunno' place is 'okay'.
Sheeeeeeshhhh that got deep, huh? LOL

Rach said...

Thanks, Mandy, that was a lovely post and one I connected with straight away, if only there were more like you around, the Country wouldn't be being held up on anti depresssants...xx

Grammy said...

That is a wonderful thing that you do for people. I have dealt with many deaths. And I am now at easy with the loss of loved ones. Only one person Mrs. D, she lost her hubby of 65 years. They were a wondrous couple. Full of love and kindness. She is no longer well. Her spirit broke. I had not the words to comfort her. As she broke down crying it had been more that a year of his loss. She did not understand why not her. I told her she was still needed here. But her heart broke and so did mine. I can not even fathom 65 years. He was 93 when he passed. So I can only imagine her grief. I can feel it but, it is beyond words. The pain she has.

Angela Recada said...

I absolutely agree. Why deny it? If you have been born, you will die.

If we were more aware that death is really all around us, maybe we'd live our lives more fully. And have more compassion for all other living things while they are still with us.

cathwrynn said...

so "meant to be" that I ended up here at this post, in this moment.

Many little things you mentioned resonated with me- i will make the time to connect with you sometime about them.

But most imprtantly I was sitting at the computer with a tear in my eyes having just framed a old photo of my mom, Jane, who died in 2004. I came across it so unexpectedly but it is a favourite and deserves to be where I can see and honour it. Painful, deeply painful at the same time- but aliveness is so is it not? The why is almost irrelevant to the experience of it.

I am sending love and a wish for comfort to the elderly widow; my heart feels for her in her grief...

nitebyrd said...

Experiencing the death of my father at a very young age is why I fear death but am also fascinated by the question, "Is there anything after death?"

Death is a universal yet personal thing that should be dealt with with understanding and logic as well as compassion.

Thank you for an excellent post!

Von said...

It needs saying and it needs saying ofen so we get our balance back.
Always found in my practise absolute honesty was best and most useful.In my own life too, in which I was for a long time expected to play 'the adoption game'.

日月神教-向左使 said...