“Isn’t it fortunate that you know so much about grief and loss?” said the well-wisher at my mother’s visitation. “I am sure it must make this loss much easier for you.”
I stood dumbfounded on how to respond to such an unbelieveable statement said by a well-intentioned friend. My mother at age 76 had died just days earlier of cancer. MY MOTHER….THE WOMAN WHO GAVE ME BIRTH, WHO LOVED ME ALL MY LIFE, AND WHO I LOVED DEARLY….HAD JUST DIED. I faced the rest of my life now without MY MOTHER, and this woman was saying my loss should be easier because I had studied death, dying and bereavement, because I facilitated grief support groups and taught grief seminars for over ten years.
My first, primal reaction was to want to slap this woman and tell her off, but I knew she meant well. She had no clue how I felt or how I was dealing with the death of my dear mother. Instead I returned her handshake and said, “Not really. Nothing can ever prepare you for the death of your mother. No amount of knowledge can insulate you from the emotional and spiritual impact of the death of a valuable person that you treasure. Thank you for being here today. It means a lot to me and the family.” My education, training and life experience had not prepared me for the death of my mother and its resulting grief emotions, but they had prepared me for responding to silly statements that cut to the soul of mourner.
The death of someone you love and the grief that follows will always be deeply personal and deeply felt. Knowledge in the form of degrees and certificates, your stature in the community, your work experience, your deeply held beliefs and mastery of theology, all your life acheivements , or your past loss experiences never take away the horrible impactful, crushing blow of grief after a death. All of those may be factors in how you grieve, but they don’t take away one factor….with death and grief it is always personal.
This morning at 2 a.m. I was reminded of the personal nature of grief after the death of another loved one. My father-in-law died on hospice care early today at the age of 89. The father in law who received me gladly as his own son (not son in law) into his family when I married his precious daughter Cindy. The father in law who was a faithful loving husband, father to seven children, grandfather to my children, and great grandfather died. The father in law who along with his beloved wife and my mother in law Peggy had always welcomed me graciously into their warm home for numerous holidays and family gatherings was gone physically from my life. Oh yes, grief is very personal, never “easy” and never can be prepared for fully.
Grief is always personal.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” available online at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Never-LPC-S-Larry-Barber/dp/1613796005 ), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-never-dies-lpc-s-ct-larry-m-barber-ct-larry-m/1104364890?ean=9781613796016).
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa”
Both English and Spanish versions are available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.