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Showing posts with label mourning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mourning. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Crying over you, others and other things: Kobe Bryant inspired

Sunday* I received a notification on my phone when I was driving.  Kobe Bryant, a long-time star and a lock in 2020 for the NBA Hall of Fame, had perished in a helicopter crash on his way to a youth girl's basketball tournament.  His 13 year old daughter was among the others that had perished too.  That kind of hits home because my daughter is about to turn 13.

As I listened to the news, I cried a little.  While I have followed the NBA at times, especially during Michael Jordan's run in Chicago, I have at times just tuned it out too.  But, even for the casual fan, there are some names that stick out.  Names such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Shaquillle O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant stick out.  Sometimes famous people, who we don't know personally, capture our attention, especially when they pass away early.  They might be a former princess (Lady Di), a famous actor (Heath Ledger, Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a famous athlete (Daryl Kile, Kobe Bryant) or some other category.  In this case, it was a famous athlete.  Kobe, mostly with his on the court accomplishments and his celebrity personality, captured the imagination of many.  

I have previously discussed crying in Demons Part 3: 'Bloodletting' pain as a way of mourning as a healthy way of letting out hurt or pain.  I guess I'm inspired to write this post to remind everyone, no matter who they are, what their gender is, how young or how old they are, that there is a role for crying in our lives.  As a child with an old school dad, I can attest to the notion that crying wasn't always looked highly upon, especially with male children.  So, I assume that there are many that still haven't embraced this notion or haven't fully embraced it.  But, I digress, what is the role of crying in our lives?  Below is a list that I thought of off the top of my head and it is not meant as complete.

Role of Crying (and examples)
  • Mourning the loss of someone close to us.  
    • If we've lived long enough we will experience it.  Some experience it early in life, some not as early.  Some seem to experience a lot of losses while others not so many.
    • This seems to be most acute sort of loss, especially if it is abrupt.  One day, that person who was important in our lives is no longer accessible to us.  The person we could laugh or cry with, smile or frown with, share happiness or frustration is just no longer there for us.
  • Mourning the loss of someone who isn't necessarily close, but someone who felt like was bigger than life and/or represented a time in our life.
    • Kobe Bryant was a celebrity.  We shared the joy of watching him compete, the disappointment/irritation of  scandal in his life, the winding down of his career and the new direction in retirement.  As fans, he brought us joy, but as a very public figure even though he was rich and a celebrity, he was still human and relate-able.  His passing was sudden, shocking and for me it felt like a bit of an era died.
  • Mourning the loss of innocence or safety.
    • As a young child in a dysfunctional home growing up, divorced parents and as survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA), I was too busy dealing and it was only in my adulthood I was able to focus on this loss.
    • Being abused or assaulted without little or no warning.
  • Mourning the loss of an ideal.
    • For some people, they have dreams of the happily ever after, but one day they end up divorced.
    • For some it is seeing someone they looked up falling from grace and getting in legal and/or personal trouble.
    • For some it is realizing that life isn't fair (being passed over for an honor or a role, despite knowing that it should have been theirs.
  • Mourning the passing of a time in our lives.
    • Hitting a certain age or certain time such as 50 or the kids are all grown up and we miss their younger days.
    • Remembering the days in which everything seemed simpler.
  • Empathizing with the tragedy of others.
    • Hearing about a horrible murder.
    • Reading about or watching a tragedy unfold.
  • Releasing of pent-up emotions.
    • Seeing your team which was denied the Stanley Cup for so long and after so many letdowns finally win it.
  • Enduring great physical or emotional pain.
    • Such as with childbirth
    • Such as with a perforated colon.
    • Such as the pain of knowing you have suffered a season ending, career ending or hobby ending injury.
  • Losing or getting something valuable destroyed.
    • As a kid it just might be our favorite drawing.
    • As an adult it might be a beloved heirloom that belonged to a late parent.

In Ecclesiastes 3:4, King Solomon inspired by God wrote: 
[there is] a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance
Clearly our Higher Power understood that we experience sadness (or in some cases bittersweet) in our lives and that crying is a very healthy and human response.   As with anything and implied by the same verse, there is a time and circumstance when we crying is not appropriate.   Wailing loudly at a pie eating contest at the country fair probably would be completely out of place.  Similarly, wailing as you watch a loose penny roll down the sewer is probably an overreaction.

I see no hard and fast rules as to when to cry.  For different people and at different points in our lives, the when may differ greatly.  As far as how, I think it can differ from person to person, but from what I've seen usually people look for safe situations.  I have found comfort crying in private when appropriately moved, comfort in crying in public when the situation allows or calls for it such as funeral, or when I'm watching a tear-jerking story, quietly crying along with family or friends who seem amendable to those moments.  

One more final point on crying:  How much and/or how often? While sometimes there is so much hurt that you need to cry and cry and cry until you've seemingly processed all the hurt, there are other times perhaps the amount of crying is excessive for the hurt.  For example, when a close friend dies, you'll probably cry seemingly endlessly.  However, when you drop a book on your big toe, you might cry in pain, but to continue to cry over it for days afterwards might indicate a bigger problem.  For me, with the passing of Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, I shed a tear when I heard and for the next couple of times I read about it.  I didn't know Kobe, but the human interest of it was sad.  Not enough to disable me, but enough for me to be sad and empathize some.  Which leads to a final thought.  Sometimes we need to just get it out, but other times it is disabling.  If it is disabling for too long, it is probably best to seek professional help.  Anyway, thanks for listening.


* January 26th, 2020 when this blog was started.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Demons, Part 5: Ways to deal with hurt and the failure to outrun it.

A while back, I found out a one-time friend of mine had passed away from an overdose shortly after I fell out of touch with her.   At the time our friendship ended, she had basically tossed aside our friendship essentially stating that [our friendship] wasn't (paraphrasing it) "doing it for me".   Not one to be where I'm not wanted and having my self-respect, I honored her wishes.  In fact, I made a point to shut her out and blocking her access to me.  But, before I did this, I let her know that "I had figured that our friendship had an expiration date on it", before quietly fading away.  Even though we were never more than friends, I did like her a little bit and I was left wondering, what did I do to deserve being 'unfriended'?

Long after this estrangement, I looked at a common friend's page and saw her name in the friend's list on Facebook.  Out of curiosity, I decided to see what my estranged friend was up to.  I observed she had a memorial page and after following up on it, I got the rest of the story.   Even though we were estranged and she'd hurt my feelings, I was sad about it her passing.  She had overdosed within a number of months of our friendship ending.  Knowing that she overdosed shortly after our falling out of touch, helped me to understand that our estrangement was never really due to what I was lacking in the friend department to her.  Instead, it turns out she was a hurt person, struggling with demons.  She was seeking whatever she could to outrun or mask her pain and hurt.  A friendship that wasn't 'fun' enough didn't help her to do this.  It's clear now that neither I nor anyone else could be what she needed.   She needed to come to terms with herself and her pain.

I'd venture to guess most of know or are at least familiar with someone like that, if not having experienced it ourselves.  Someone who has or has had a deep soul level hurt that they tried to avoid facing.   From my experience and knowledge, anyone who has been there realizes that when you are in that place, you can either do one of four things--much of which I have done.  Some ways of dealing with hurt are unproductive and some are destructive.
  • Attempt to outlast it
    • Curling up into a ball, trying to sleep away pain, hurt and/or sadness.
    • 'Sleeping it off' can sometimes actually help if not overdone or abused.  Sometimes a new day can bring a fresh start and allow us to heal enough to deal with it.
  • Attempt to avoid it.
    •  Medicating it. This can take many forms, none of which are necessarily healthy and some of which can be downright deadly.
      • Literal 'medicine' such as drugs or alcohol to hope us cope.
      • Distractions to keep us from facing our hurt
        • Gambling, porn, overeating are 'pleasing' distractions.
        • Cutting and inking can be 'blocking' or masking distractions.  Just like a fire strategically set can burn the 'fuel' to a raging forest fire, a different type of pain can help block the 'hurting pain'.
    • Shutting down mourning.  Sometimes it hurts and makes us feel vulnerable to feel and to risk sharing our hurt.  Sometimes we are told to be brave, to keep a stiff upper lip.  While there is a time to be brave, sometimes when we shut down mourning, we are being just the opposite of brave.   We are avoiding.  Essentially, we are Zig Zagging through life: Diverting our energy from where it is really needed
  • Attempt to outrun it
    • Keeping too busy to have time to focus on it.  
    • Keeping busy I believe is a common way to avoid grieving the loss of a love one.
  • Allow ourselves to feel it.
    • Outwardly mourning and/or inwardly focusing on our hurt can be a distraction to what we need to get done, if it is timed wrong.
    • Finding a time and a place where it is safe to feel and mourn the hurt is imperative.  Allowing too much hurt to build up with no outlet is not a healthy place to be.

We all face some disappointment, some hurt--a promise not kept, a friendship lost, but I'm talking about deeper than that.  I'm talking a deep gut punch like a bitter divorce or an unexpected, untimely death, abuse and things of that nature.  This is not to minimize the 'smaller' hurts, but to put things in perspective.   Sometimes too however, enough 'smaller' hurts can build up and be just as debilitating.   But, I digress.  What I'm talking about is a buildup of hurt.  Anyway, as I've gotten deeper into my adulthood, I've come to realize that pain and hurt will not magically disappear and just because you claim you are 'over them' doesn't actually mean you are.   Our soul, and not our hopes, has a way of knowing if we have dealt with hurt.  My estranged friend reminded me.  Anyway, just some thoughts.   Here are a few other posts which I think would go with this one:



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Demons Part 3: 'Bloodletting' pain as a way of mourning

According to Wikipedia (for what it's worth), bloodletting is:

The withdrawal of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluids were regarded as "humors" that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health.

This practice was done from ancient times until near the end of the 19th century, but has all been abandoned.  Medically, it has been pretty well discredited.  However, I found the concept a useful way to describe a healthy way of mourning.

I don't always tell what inspires my blog posts.  But, this one I will share.  Anyone who knows me knows that my daughter, Olivia, is being raised in a broken home.  That is to say, her mom and I got split up when she was 4.  Obviously, this impacts Olivia and has hurt her.  But, as the parent who doesn't have primary custody of her, I see much less often.  I calculate about 30% of the time*.  Sometimes, I don't see her for about a week at a time, occasionally it is longer.  I always feel a sense of loss during these stretches.  While I am grateful that she has good health and I do get to see her--there are some who aren't that lucky, it still hurts.  The pain of the long stretches will always be there as I feel myself missing large blocks of her childhood, but I am better able to deal with the technique(s) I describe below:


In the Bible, God tells us:
1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Furthermore, He lets us know there is a:
4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance  (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

However, we don't always take that advice to heart. I used to be guilty of letting the hurt build up.  Sometimes I found constructive way to divert the energy: running, listening to music, etc.  Other times, I  utilized unproductive or destructive ways to divert the energy: impulsive spending, wasting all day watching TV or playing video games, moments of promiscuity, etc.  See:  Zig Zagging through life: Diverting our energy from where it is really needed.

Anyway, it wasn't until I got older that I really realized these: two things about dealing with hurt:
  • The power of prayer and faith. 
  • What I call bloodletting: Focusing into the hurt rather than avoiding it.  
God helps those who help themselves.  Our faith can help us through the toughest times and God can literally move mountains if we ask him to, I believe that God helps those who help themselves.  That is to say, He rarely removes all our pain,but instead gives us the tools and wisdom to deal with it effectively, thereby lessening it.


Back to my story.  In 2011 when I literally lost almost everything, including my brother to suicide and my daughter for a while to a contentious divorce, I had to find a healthy way to cope.   After trying to avoid it or coping in unproductive or destructive ways, I came to realize that I'd been dealing with hurt the wrong way for most of my life.   When I started seeing my daughter again and had to give her up to her mom--dropping her at daycare or school or directly to her mom--it really totally hit home.  The times I had to give her up for literally almost a week, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I would smile, hug her, kiss her, love her and put on the happy face, but as soon as I rushed back to my car, I would be devastated.  I came to understand the power of going into the pain or hurt, rather than trying to avoid it.  As I was driving off, I would literally flip my CD player or electronic device to sad music.  Sometimes, the more sad it was, the better.  In the privacy of my car on the way home or to work or wherever, I would literally find my inner pain, and like poison let it drain out--hence bloodletting.   I found writing to be a good tool in that regard too.  I had really started to find my inner voice after all those years.   While I know I am not a genius, I believe God blessed me with the gift of perception.  Once again, just like when I turned up the car stereo or ipod or whatever and forced myself to face the pain through sad music, I would write on what was bothering me, even to the point of having it hurt more.   Once again, I was 'bloodletting' or giving the poison of increasing hurt an outlet to flow out.

As an aside, as a child, I faced some real adversity.  Much of it I am not going to catalog here as I am sure I've cataloged it elsewhere and the adversity itself is not the main focus.  Anyway, I used to think of the adversity and the pain it caused as a curse, but now I see it as lemonade from a lemon.  Having faced certain things (and later in the 2010s even more adversity), I realized that had I had an easy carefree childhood and life, I would NEVER have been able to understand, relate or offer sincere encouragement to others who faced similar adversity.

I guess my takeaway from this is twofold:
  • Remember to lean on God when facing adversity rather than pushing Him away.
  • Looking into, stepping into, walking through the pain of adversity, while not very enjoyable, can be one of the best ways to release the hurt it is causing.

I labeled this one Demons, part 3 as I think it fits in with my other posts on "Demons".

Anyway, just my thoughts.  Thanks for reading and I hope my words, will impact at least one person.

-- Rich

* It's closer to 50% these days (2020)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The reflection across the pond: the connection of the past to the future which we embrace.


A funny thing happened on the way to getting married to you last weekend.   I remembered the past as a reflection in the water.  I was standing on one side of the water, but looking down and across the pond, I saw a reflection on the other side of the water.  In that reflection, was my old life.   My old life had some good points and some not so good points, but the reflection was quite clear to me.

Just recently Nancy Reagan passed away at the age of 94.  It seemed like just yesterday that her husband Ronald Reagan had passed away not too long before to great fanfare and mourning.  But, it was really actually near 12 years ago.   Twelve years ago was a very different time and a place in my life (as I suspect it is for many people, including my wife Kristi). I was in a different relationship, my daughter hadn't been born yet, three of my late family members were alive and well, I had my old house and enough hair to justify not shaving it yet.  In short, I had a relatively simple life and had yet to experience some of the darkest moments.   But like a reflection, it wasn't as 'solid' and carefree as it seemed.  The storm clouds were always there waiting to disrupt the reflection, but they hadn't yet evidenced themselves.

Little did I know, that withing a few years, I would have a daughter, my former relationship would reveal itself as having a weak foundation, and just about everything else I took for granted would change in a my life.  Much of what seemed permanent and important then, now I know to have been temporary or passing and unimportant.  But, so it is with life's rich experiences.  You don't always have a sense of what really is until long after the fact.  However, looking back you realize that if you had looked closely enough, you'd have seen the storm clouds and recognized things for what they really are/were.  Maybe that's why wisdom is more often associated with older people.  Older people, have had the opportunity in many cases to experience that carefree optimism, but also have seen much of that optimism struck head-on by life's storms.

But, I digress.  I have come to recognize that when facing life-changing events it is inevitable to do reflecting and perhaps some soul-searching.   Since the day I met you, you have always has been one to not only accept me, but to understand me and enjoy me for who I am.  I hope you can say I provide the same.  After a moment or two to consider the reflection in the water, I realized that it is okay to remember and if necessary mourn the losses of  the soon-to-be old life, while embracing the new life with you and your kids.  We can't and shouldn't worry about relitigating the past, but we can and should embrace the future God has put forward to us.

I wave goodbye to the reflection, but that doesn't mean I will forget it, it just means I choose to embrace the unknown future with you, my lifetime partner.  But, I embrace it with the the hard earned wisdom of what love is truly all about.  I intend to use the wisdom God had blessed me with to embrace the new life He has set before me.

Your husband Rich

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Walking Wounded - A look inside.

With the holidays creeping up on us and decisions needing to be made not too long from as to where celebrations will be held, ect., the loss of family and the lack of closeness of remaining family has started hitting me.
(originally published 10/6/15)

An interim minister of ours--Van Williams--touched upon this subject a few weeks back.   He reminded our parishioners  about those of us who have faced losses in the past year of loved ones.  To not forget them, to keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well as in your circle.

After losing a friend and both parents since May 2014 and losing my brother just over four years ago, sometimes my head spins.  People talk about getting together with family and a certain emptiness hits.   A certain sense of 'what family?" hits me.  i.e., a sense of pointlessness about the holidays.

I've been on both sides of the equation.  I've had people around me lose their parents, some a sibling, some a friend and some a spouse.  My extended family wasn't close due to parental conflict/in-law resentment and the like.  So, I used to be able to 'brag' about never having felt a close loss.  I empathized for friends who'd lost parents, etc., but I never really got it.  I understood the general idea of loss, but emotionally, I didn't connect with it.

There are a few observations I've seen in others and I've introspected on about the close losses.  Some words from the distant past from a coach as well.

  • If you've never had a similar loss to someone, it is best to not say "I understand".    It can feel a little hollow.  It is usually meant well, but it can almost ring dimissive of the level of hurt.   My high school track coach gave some insightful words on it.  He said it was best not to say "I understand" when you couldn't possibly.  Instead he suggested, "I couldn't possibly understand what you are going through, but seeing your hurt makes me hurt for you."  In other words, empathy.  You are acknowledging your limitations and not inadvertently being dismissive.  But, at the same time, you are saying, I hurt for you.  Saying something like that means more than a cliche.

  • In our society, it seems like we spend a minute or two mourning the losses before we are required to "go back to work", "move on", "get back to it".  If the loss is sudden, it almost feels surreal.  It's like you've had your time to mourn, now we need you to get back to it.   I suppose in a way, it has to be that way, but in a way the needs of life/society almost feel like a cold slap in the face when you are saying, "wait, wait, I'm not finished weeping inside".

  • Dealing with death can be a touchy subject for those around the one who has had the loss.  They often don't know what to say.  There is often a discomfort for them.   They are usually nowhere near the place you are.  Their life's concerns/interests are about a million miles away from yours.  It may feel like for them that they are dealing with a baby monkey, whereas you are dealing with an 800lb gorilla.  When they don't seem to want to deal, try to be kind to them as a lot of times, they just don't know what to do or say.   While you are clearly dealing with the bigger loss, they are dealing with a loss of sorts--a loss of a lighter relationship with you.

  • To those who don't know how to deal with a loved one who has had a close loss a few pieces of advice.
    • Check in from time to time with the love one.  Just ask how they are doing.  Sometimes, the one in mourning won't need to lay down their heavy heart on you.  Sometimes they just need to know that someone cares.  
    • Don't feel guilty that you aren't comfortable dealing with the one with the heavy heart.  Sometimes, you just aren't there yet or have never been there.  A few moments of discomfort dealing with the heavy-hearted person may make all the difference in the world.  Just try to think past what discomfort you might have and think what is the Godly thing to do.  Maturity isn't always liking, but doing anyway.  In other words, if you do the comforting out of obedience, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.  Also, it can give you a sense that of wellness doing the right thing.
    • Please don't just say, call me if you need anything or I am there for you.  It would be best to offer help up front if possible and/or to just make a point to check in. Often times the grieving person doesn't want to reach out.
      • The grieving person's sense of self might be off.  They don't want to feel like a burden on those around them--even when it completely understandable that they should be able to lean on others.
      • Sometimes, they have not processed their grief and/or are still in shock.  Sometimes, they don't feel like opening the door to their heart.  A natural extension of this is not wanting to reach out to others.  Reaching out to others may feel like to them exposing their hurt.   Their heart may be heavy and they may just feel like shutting down.   Knowing how difficult it can be for those who are not gifted/experienced at dealing with people with a heavy heart, it may seem to you that well the grieving person doesn't want anyone around or anyone to reach out.  But, sometimes that is just the time.  
        • When someone is sick as a dog and could use someone to watch the kids, a bowl of soup, or just someone to give them their meds and something to drink, we don't think twice about it, even when they ask us not to worry.
        • Depression related to grieving can be just as heavy.  They may not feel like doing anything or asking for help, but that doesn't mean they couldn't use a kind word, an offer of help, an ear to listen or just a break from the grind.

Life is a learning experience and until you've been in another's shoes, it is often difficult to know the road they are/have traveled.  Reasonable people shouldn't expect you to 'get it' when dealing with circumstances you haven't faced.  However, they might reasonably expect you to try.  I guess the best piece of advice is to think a little bit about how you'd like others to relate to you in that time and give of yourself that way.   Sometimes being a 'friend' to your loved one just means trying.

Thanks for reading my blog.

-- Rich