Making life better in disadvantaged communities - our thoughts on everything - from Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.
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Since it was Memorial Day, and since this is what I am working on for the website now, I thought I would post it and see what the rest of you thought about this entry from my blog today.
http://www.spiritlakeconsulting.com/int … _blog.html
(Yes, I am probably the oldest person in America with a blog - what of it?)
Well, it is Memorial Day, when we traditionally remember people who have died. I was thinking about my late husband today, and had just finished the draft of part of a section on grief and grieving for what will be our last workshop in the Family Life & Disability series.
I was thinking how unhelpful it is when someone who has been chronically ill or disabled die and people say things like, "Well, he is not in pain any longer," or "That is not the kind of life he would have wanted." Not matter how sick he was, I didn't want him to die and I was just crushed when he did. It was absolutely the worst time of my entire life.
I have heard people say they DID feel that way after a person they loved suffered for years. Maybe if it had gone on a few years longer with him being bedridden, I would have felt that way. I don't know. What I do know is that, at the time, I did not feel it was 'for the best'. I felt it was the worst thing in my entire life.
On the other hand, when people ignore the fact that someone was very ill or severely disabled, that irritates me, too. My husband was injured in an accident and became progressively worse and worse. He also had a rare, genetic blood disease called Bernard-Soulier Syndrome . When he got to the point where he could only walk a few steps, he killed himself. When people ignore that he was sick that annoys me, too. It's not as if he was going to get better.
I suppose it is people like me who make it difficult to know what to say when someone dies. If there is a thing to say to make someone feel better when someone you love dies, I don't know what it is.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross says that we are SUPPOSED to hurt and grieve after someone dies. Although there is a tendency, at least in America, to try to fix things and make people feel better, that really is not what we need.
I remember after Ron died, my friend Flo Kelley said to me, "You know if after eleven years together, you DIDN'T feel like bad that he died, it couldn't have been that good, could it? Probably the better marriage you had, the worse it is, and you and Ron had a pretty good marriage."
Saying, "I know how you feel," is appreciated as well-meant, but I am pretty sure that anyone who has lost a spouse or child privately thinks, "You have NO IDEA how I feel." They couldn't have imagined feeling this devastated before this moment and they are sure you can't either. At the time, the people who were most helpful were those who had also lost a husband or wife.
Now, when someone dies, I remember the story about the little girl who was late coming out of preschool. Her mother asked her what happened and she said,
"Sarah broke her doll. She really loved that doll and was so sad, so I stayed to help."
The mother said, "That was very nice. How did you fix the doll?"
The little girl answered, "I am only four years old. I can't fix a doll. I helped her cry."
That is the best we can do. Help them cry. Hug them. And help them remember the person.
After the one year memorial of his son's death, Erich commented, "White people's ways are when somebody dies to bury them the next day and forget them the day after that. You hear people say that - move on. Get on with your life. Our ways are not like that."
Having worked on the reservation for 17 years, I don't have the romantic view of Indian life that some people do. There are some things that could definitely use improvement and moving into the future, especially in the technology area.
However, when it comes to handling death and dying, I think the Indian way is far better. People are remembered all the time, not just on one day, and that is acknowledged. Because, all of us who lost someone we really loved know that is the way it is.
Wow, I feel really terrible that I didn't think about my dad any more than usual today - He died exactly one month ago.
People have said similar things to me - that he didn't want to live unhappily. My father was not a happy man before he died - but as selfish as it is, I'm not upest for him that he's dead, I'm upset for ME because I wasn't done with him. I don't think he cares that he's dead, because he isn't alive to care. But I am, and I do.
My least favorite thing is people telling me they are sorry for my loss, and asking if there is anything they can do. You could stop bringing it up! It's too painful to talk about now. I don't like crying in public. But I grit my teeth, and remember how hard it is to be in their shoes... 'cuz I've been there, and it's HARD. You know there is nothing you can say to make it better, but you have to try anyway. And it really is a double edged sword. Imagine how I'd feel if no one said anything at all?
I don't think it's any certain type of person who make it difficult to know what to say - everyone who has someone die has crazy emotions, and the reason it's hard to say anything is because there is nothing which can be said.
I actually didn't mind people telling me they knew how I felt, when I knew they really did. I spent the first 48 hours after my dad died with my best friend, who's own father died of cancer 3 or 4 years previously.
I'm bitter towards people who tell me that it's going to be okay - because its not okay, and it's never going to be okay. People who tell me that it sucks, and they know it sucks, and I can call them 3 am crying if I want - those are the people who get it...
Going through a difficult loss is definitely the worst thing that could happen. Even though I am young, I feel as though I have been through too many losses in my life already. I definitely cannot stand when people say, "well, at least they aren't suffering anymore" but I have to admit, I do sort of feel that way about my grandmother, who has developed dementia and is bedridden from a hip injury. The family is split up into two different opinions and we have unfortunately gotten into arguments about this. There are the family members who believe that it is just good that she is alive and then there are the people who think that her life has lost its quality and we don't even know who she is anymore. This is the women I used to talk with for hours about relationships, love, life, movies - everything! Now she just sits and smiles at me when I visit her. So when and if she passes, is it better that she is not suffering anymore Have we already lost her?