Categories
Family Greif Holidays

Life is for the Living!

Some winning thoughts by Jim Winner

Life is for the living!

I went to the mountains of Pennsylvania last week to spend Thanksgiving with a few family members. Six of us gathered in my father’s cabin and enjoyed three days of relaxing, visiting, and sharing life.

My father died in an automobile accident ten years ago. Thanksgiving was his favorite day. The first few Thanksgivings without him were hard. My late wife Joyce died 18 months ago. That was tough. This was the second Thanksgiving without her. As I looked around the table, which used to have a minimum of 15-20 people gathered around, I was reminded once again how quickly life changes and how the older we get, the more it changes. I was also reminded that no matter what happens to us, life goes on. COVID and the risk of traveling kept some higher-risk family members at home. Life and work obligations prevented others from traveling. I agree with and respect those decisions. After all, it is 2020.

As I think back on Thanksgiving 2020 versus Thanksgiving 2019, I realize that, thankfully, I am a completely different person. I barely remember Thanksgiving 2019. I was deep in “the fog.” Last week, my siblings and friends remarked how good it was to see me happy again. The truth is, I am happy. Life is good in every way. Life’s journey continues. I took some long walks in the woods and spent some time honoring and remembering past Thanksgiving. There are a lot of good memories in that cabin. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the future and all the memories yet to be made. There’s a saying about the windshield being larger than the rearview mirror. That’s so very true.

As we approach the Christmas season, I know there’s a natural tendency to dwell on the Christmas past. There’s a significant risk to that. Christmas past is over. While we should never want to forget Christmas past, we must not live there. We should always honor and learn from the past. We cannot stay in it.

What I will hope we can all do is live for Christmas ( and life ) in the present and future. So, as we approach the Holiday season, I encourage you to honor the past memories while being intentional and focused on living for the present and future. Gain wisdom from those memories, and embrace what the present and future hold.

Life IS for the living.

Categories
Despair Greif Religious

A “Lakota Tradition” About Grieving

WSN: Widower, Wounded, Warrior, Waking and Walking

By Jeff Ziegler

This subject matter has been doing the rounds on Facebook of late. But it is relevant to what I want to address in this week’s post.

It starts like this: “In the Lakota tradition, a person who is grieving is considered most waken, most holy.”

It is not an alien concept. In many religions and belief systems (Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.), the bereaved are held in high regard and “revered” for a certain length of time, but what happens when that time is “over?”

The same Facebook post about the Lakota Tradition continues by saying, “There’s a sense that when the sudden lightning of loss strikes someone, he or she stands on the threshold of the spirit world. The prayers of those who grieve are considered especially strong, and it is proper to ask them for their help.”

What most people, especially non-widows, will typically ask of us is how they can help us. And we usually don’t have the clarity to answer, so we end up with yet another casserole.

But if you read my last post, I specifically talked about asking for help. So, why would a Native tradition turn that idea completely on its head and dictate that we (as widows and widowers) are the ones that others turn to in times of their need while we are grieving?

The answer isn’t straightforward, but belief systems are robust. We are raised to believe in certain things. So, I ask, does that mean we as the bereaved have some unique channel, an open line, to the hereafter when our person dies? While we sit in the throes of grief, do we have some acute superpower that is effectively a hotline to the creator/universe/spirit that created us for a brief time? If so, when does that end? When do we stop having this superpower?

The Facebook post ends like this: “You might recall what it’s like to be with someone who has grieved deeply. The person has no layer of protection; nothing left to defend. The mystery is looking out through that person’s eyes. He or she has accepted the reality of loss. They have stopped clinging to the past or grasping at the future. In the groundless openness of sorrow, there is a wholeness of presence and a pearl of deep natural wisdom.”

The thing is, I believe we all have this superpower and can access it at any time. What happens in times of deep grief is that we allow our true essence, our inner core nakedness, vulnerability, and openness to come out. We strip away all the layers. We lose the ego, and bravado falls away as we reach deep inside to bear witness to our mortality for a season. For some of us, this never leaves after our loss. For others, the superpower is lost over time; it wanes into a capacity to simply identify our grief feelings.

In my own life and practice, I have lost then rediscovered this superpower. It took a lot of hard work because my ego built up so many walls and roadblocks to protect me from feeling the deepness of my grief. It stopped me from truly accepting my mortality (that Suzanne’s death showed me)—to the point where it almost cost me everything!

What I realize now is that by genuinely accepting the ability to commune with my feelings and the grief associated with Suzanne’s death. I can now reopen the channel to the great creator, which helps me be at peace (with a sense of calmness and knowing that allows me to remain open to all possibilities in this life). This evolution of mine will enable me to act as a source to help others in their need.

Categories
Grief/Dispair Guilt/Shame Healing Moving Forward

Too Much Chaos

Jeff

WSN-MO: Jeff Ziegler – Widowers, Wounded, Warrior, Waling and Walking

Over the last two years, I have found that on numerous occasions, I have “bitten off a lot more than I can chew.” It has been challenging to take on some things I have chosen to do—mostly to distract myself from my grief, making it even harder to swallow. No more.

Things are starting to give, and I have begun to learn the power of saying “no” to somethings (especially those that distract me from my grief and feelings). Unfortunately, I am still a novice.

It seems I have always given everything I have to others, and I have come to realize that sometimes it is just impossible to satisfy others. It is draining emotionally and spiritually. And I recently discovered that it is incredibly difficult to give more love than I have to offer—especially when I am not truly ready to give my everything.

So, I am going to ask you: What have you been doing to distract yourself from your grief?

Have you ignored it? Have you spent a lot of time watching TV, that is a favorite? Have you focused on your job so that most of your day is avoiding thinking about your late spouse or partner (another crowd favorite)? Or maybe you are actively surfing dating websites, looking to fill that late spouse or life-partner size hole in your life?

I have done all these things over the last two years, as well as spending too much time on social media (specifically that book of face platform). But I have now realized that none of the numbing, avoiding, and distracting changes the way I feel about my true self or my grief. It is because I have come to accept my grief.

I have also accepted the feelings of guilt for wanting to live a long life when my wife did not have that chance. And I know that I choose to be happy. Possibly I will be able to fully commit to being in a relationship and love someone again.

Unfortunately, I feel that jumping into a relationship—even the “thrill of the chase” that led to it—was simply a further distraction from the grief. The ladder turned into a chute, and I somehow ended up back to square one. So now, I am focusing on herding the cats (in my head and my life).

Over the last few months, I’ve worked with a bunch of men of all ages to create and launch a program designed to help widowers start to move forward in life after their partner died—especially those who are feeling stuck in life (which may be more men than you think). It was an eye-opening experience for me as much as for the other men.

I mean, let’s face it, guys, we have always been labeled “sissies” if we show emotions, right? So why on earth would we want to do that?

Well, here is a novel answer: because exploring and talking about emotions makes you feel better. Truly. I have been miserable dealing with and thinking about all these things over the last two years, and yes, distractions made me forget (at least for a moment) that my wife died. But the reality is, they have been distractions from the feelings.

Exploring the emotions, getting in touch with them, speaking about them, showing them (raw and otherwise) has been cathartic. Release of the pent-up anger, frustration, guilt, and fears has been a boon for my mental health.

Now it is your turn. What are you doing to accept your grief today?

If you are going to distract yourself, first take 5-minutes and sit with your emotions before turning on that TV. Or take 10-minutes to sit quietly and think about all the wonderful things you and your spouse or life partner used to do together. It will make you feel a bit better, no matter where you are in the grief process.

I have found that we sometimes forget to sit and think about our feelings. And that is when we fall into the trap of feeling secure that the grief will not overwhelm us, and then it does.

And that is when the chaos ensues. Now, where the hell are all those damn cats?

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Jeff Ziegler can be seen every two weeks here on WSN-MO. You can write Jeff at jeff.ziegler@ymail.com