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
Greif Memory Moving Forward Uncategorized

Holding onto the Memories

Chris Brandt

WSN: Day by Day by Chris Brandt

At first, I felt I wanted a small “shrine” of my late wife. It had only been a few days since she passed, and I wanted to have a visual element to view. I put a 5”x7” picture, her obituary, her last communion bottle, and her box of ashes on top of the fireplace mantle. These items were arranged well and looked nice in their prospective spots. For a few days, I felt comfort in looking at the items, and I found it memorialized her in a sense that made me feel a continued closeness.

As time passed, I started to feel less comfortable with the shrine. For reasons unknown, the shrine would make me feel sad. Not only would there be sadness, but at times, there would also be uneasiness. I never gave it much thought and assumed this was a part of a natural grief process. Later, I figured out that there was no such thing as a natural process. I learned that most of everyone’s approach to grief was unique to his or her situation. There was no schedule of grieving; there was no right way or wrong way. Lastly, I learned that it was okay to make changes and feel as comfortable as possible.

Once I came to terms with my feelings, I let myself grieve in the way that suited me. By doing this, I started to think of the memories when I looked at the items I had set up. I began to talk to the picture. To me, talking to my wife’s picture was okay to do, and it made things feel a little better. I started to feel more at ease and saw the items in a different light. Remembering the good and bad memories as part of a process that I needed then and still need to this day. The memories are there for the taking. Our wives were our loves and a big part of our lives. They will live on in our hearts through the memories we created together.

It wasn’t until recently that tears stayed at bay as I looked upon the fireplace mantle. Now I do it and often find myself smiling. I made a conscious effort to recall the good memories first, and at times, those fond memories are the only ones I remember for a while. It wasn’t uncommon to make her laugh as often as I could. Those are the memories that I think of first. We all have happy memories of our spouses in our minds; try keeping them at the forefront of our minds. Who knows, you may find yourself smiling a little more often. Be strong, my brothers.

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You can reach Chris at brandt5@hotmail.com

Categories
Family Greif Moving Forward

Her Clothing, Her Things

Nyle Kardatzke

WSN: Widow-Man with Dr. Nyle Kardatzke

If you have recently lost your wife, you may be asking yourself, “What should I do with my wife’s clothing, jewelry, books, and other possessions?”

I believe our wives are now clothed in splendor as Solomon could not have imagined, but we still have their earthly clothing here, and we must deal with it sooner or later. You now have a task that nothing has prepared you to handle: what to do with your wife’s many belongings, including her clothing.

There are no rules for dealing with her clothing, books, jewelry, cosmetics, and other possessions. You must consult your feelings and your habits as you begin this work. Don’t be in a hurry. If you are a very tidy person and you need closure soon, you may decide to act faster than a man who has storage space and is comfortable with many reminders of his wife.

When my wife died, I thought it would be weird if I still had her clothes in the house a year later, as though I kept them out of some morbid fixation. I was wrong about that, and I still have some of her clothes now, nearly ten years later, but I seldom see them or think about them. I did give away many armloads of clothing in the first few months. In the frigid winter of 2011, I gave most of her coats to African refugees.

Before you discard all of your wife’s belongings, you may want to think about giving some to your children and grandchildren, or your wife’s siblings or close friends.

A friend recommended that I not donate any of my wife’s intimate apparel but discard them instead. The advice seemed wise, and I acted accordingly. I also discarded other personal things like her cosmetics.

I take digital pictures of the things I decide to give away or discard, except for intimate items. In this way, if I must, I can still see the discarded or donated objects without having them in the house. I rarely look at those photos on my computer, but they are doing no harm among my files.

Is there a procedure you want to follow for storing, donating, or discarding some of your wife’s belongings? Which things will be easiest to discard or give away? Where do you want to begin?

Know yourself. Does it help to keep some things so you can sense your wife’s presence? Or do you need a clean break? Consider storing some items away from the house if you are crowded or just need separation from her belongings.

Consider your children and friends. What do they need to see in your home to assure them of your love for your wife? I have kept pictures of my wife on display throughout the house. Some were formal portraits of us with our children when they were younger; some are snapshots taped to cabinets in the kitchen or the refrigerator. I have gradually put away a few pictures of her, but many will remain in view.

Even at a distance of ten years, I still have two of my wife’s coats in a front closet, and some of her clothes are in another closet. These things of hers don’t make me sad. They are just reminders of her and the good years we had together.

From time to time, I find things that I think are especially appropriate for one of our children or grandchildren to have. I explain the significance of each object when I give it, sometimes writing about its history.

I sometimes give things related to my own life and my wife’s, since I don’t expect to be here forever.

You may want to think of things that would be especially good for you to give to your children now. Some things probably should go to your children or your wife’s family only after you die. There may be things you want to be able to see for as long as you live. But if sentimental objects prevent you from fully living your new life as a widow-man, think about putting them out of sight or discarding them. Your days now are for your new life, not for the preservation of the past.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, WIDOW-MAN, every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidowman@gmail.com