Tag Archives: Grief Loss and Bereavement

and once again we sing

Vietnam B-52 Bomb Craters

Throughout my last two jobs, I’ve had the same folded-up xerox copy of the first page of a memoir which has the following lines attributed to an anonymous Vietnamese poem taped to the wall above my desk:

We fill the craters left by the bombs
And once again we sing
And once again we sow
Because life never surrenders.

These words struck me when reading the memoir, but these days I don’t remember why. Over the last three years, I’ve thought a great deal about trauma and grief. First motivated to begin understanding it more while working with the survivors of homicide-loss, and then through my own personal journey through difficult work days, and now in the context of the lives of my individual clients as well as communities in which we work for transformation and development.

The notion that suffering and pain, while seen to be inherently private and uber-personal, is in reality communal and fundamentally social, the words are becoming more and more haunting.

As the church moves into communities of violence, systemic injustice, stigma, poverty, materialism, greed, addiction and isolation, we are often afraid to sing songs that the people waiting for the kingdom have sung for hundreds upon hundred of years…

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 
(from Psalm 137)

As a people waiting and working for transformation, before we fill the craters, before we take on life again, we must tell the dirty truth about our loss and despair and all that is wrong and evil and messy and undone in the world, in our private and personal worlds, and in our communal and social worlds. If we, those who hold the promise that life never surrenders, can’t tell the truth about the mess of it all, then we aren’t yet ready, aren’t yet brave enough, to sing and sow once again.

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djordan
Summar Dr.

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from the archives | loss as loss, not as lesson

 

In reflecting on the upcoming one-year anniversary of mosthopeful.com on August 23, I’m throwing some of the posts that readers have looked at the most back into the mix. Thanks for allowing me the space. It’s been a most humbling experience.

Below is the most viewed post from the blog over the last year, the first year of the blog. Thanks to the friends, families, and clients who have helped me grow in understanding and practice as it involves those grieving, and for helping me learn that we are all learning how to live in a world that is not yet whole.

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View the original post and comments from March 12, 2012

 

loss as loss, not as lesson

 

Loss as loss, not as lesson

Maybe it springs from our own deep need to protect ourselves when we know we cannot.

When a tragedy happens of some kind, especially the loss of a son or friend to a kind of accidental death, it is our nature to jump to working at meaning-making. When someone is lost to old age, or even long-term illness, there are many bedside conversations that make space for meaning to be made.

I am sorry for this.
I want you to know this.
I wish we had this.
I want us to do this.

You mean this to me.
You taught me this.
You are loved.

But when an accident happens, or a sudden death, or a suicide, or a crime…
There is no time for words to fill the space.
No hands touching hands.
No way to know they know.

And so we end up stuck on this side of the sleep, trying our damnedest to make sense of the whole thing. We look into every question we could possibly ask to make meaning, and there is none to be found. Often those closest to the loss are stuck spinning in the losing itself, until they can solve it, keep it from having ever happened, get those last words in.

Which of course, proves meaningless as well.

And then there are the onlookers among us, tucking our children in at night, kissing our spouse, patting our buddies on the back, and wondering what we would ever do if we were to lose them.

That’s when we find ourselves making the loss a lesson, as if that makes it worth happening. As if it protects us from it happening to us or those we love. We begin to talk about how “it has taught us …”

And there is an illusion to our nature of doing this that suggests there is meaning as long as we learn something from it. If we make a tragic loss a lesson, it won’t be meaningless anymore.

But I don’t want my dead son, spouse, buddy to be a lesson; I want them to be my son, spouse, buddy. We want lives to be meaningful, not deaths. We want to say their names and images of life, not tragedy, to be conjured up. And when they are gone, especially when I didn’t have time to make meaning with them, I want to grieve. And I want them to be remembered for what their lives taught others, not their meaningless, untimely, horribly tragic death.

The meaning is in remembering who they were.
The grief is in losing them to begin with.

The loss is a loss.
Meaningless.
Void.
Empty.
It is not things as they should be.
It is before all things are made new.

There is, however, meaning in remembering.
And grief is not our enemy, but a sign that we have hearts full of love and woven with connection.
In our caring for the greiving, may we, like our God, be close to those whose hearts are breaking.

Breaking hearts are not a lesson; they are breaking hearts.
And they, in themselves, are worth all the world.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

 

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from the archives | a little help from his friends

 

 

In reflecting on the upcoming one-year anniversary of mosthopeful.com on August 23, I’m throwing some of the posts that readers have looked at the most back into the mix. Thanks for allowing me the space. It’s been a most humbling experience.

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View the original post and comments from April 2, 2012

a little help from his friends | guest post by Rayna Bomar

 

rayna bomar guest posts

This is the first guest post here on mosthopeful.com, and I couldn’t be more convinced of its appropriateness. Hugh and Rayna Bomar have become friends of mine these last few years, and their ongoing journey of remembering their son Sam has had an impact in my own life. I hope you glean from Rayna’s words about what has helped and what has not helped as she has been on her own very personal journey with grief. 

In August 2009, as my son Sam started his senior year of high school, I happened upon an essay by a woman named Mimi Swartz entitled “Empty Nest: In a Week He’ll Be Gone – And I Can’t Stand It.”  Her son, also named Sam, was leaving for college a year before my Sam would leave, and I read her words to prepare for what, I thought, I would be experiencing the following August. And, the following August, I did share some of the life changes described by Swartz – dinner for three became dinner for two, my schedule no longer revolved around the school calendar, and the “mundane rituals of child rearing,” just as Swartz had predicted, were gone.  But my role as a mother changed for a reason not anticipated. My Sam didn’t leave for college. Instead, he died on May 4, 2010, ten days before graduation.

There are many things that I could say about the past almost 23 months, but what I would like to do now is share some of the ways that others have helped us get through those months – and a few things that have hindered us.

My husband Hugh and I quickly realized that all grief is personal. What you have experienced losing a loved one, even a child, is not the same as what I have experienced losing Sam. My experience is not the same as Hugh’s experience. Therefore, things that I mention that have helped (or hindered) us may not help (or hinder) you.  I am an expert only about my own grief.

We have been most touched by the kindnesses that have been shown by Sam’s friends. We are in awe of the young men and women who are so naturally compassionate and who have put aside their own grief to help us with ours. They have taken us out to eat on Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, visited on holidays, designed t-shirts and bumper stickers in Sam’s memory, mowed our yard, shared stories about Sam (what we love the most), written letters and sent cards, laughed with us and cried with us, helped with chores, preserved Sam’s spot in the high school parking lot, invited us to their celebrations- I could go on and on.  We are greeted with open arms and a hug. Sometimes we get more than one hug. They tell us that they love us. They share their lives with us and allow us to be part of their future. Their actions are drops of water on parched ground.

What they don’t do is, perhaps, more important. They don’t tell us that it’s almost two years since the accident and it’s time to “move on.” They don’t give us any advice.  They understand that our world changed when Sam died and that we will never be the same. They don’t expect us to be the same because they will never be the same after losing their friend. They don’t try to “fix” us. They don’t make any demands on us. If we feel like a visit, that’s great. If we don’t, they understand, and they don’t take it personally.

Maybe because of their relatively young ages (late teens to early twenties) they don’t have any preconceived ideas about how we should act or feel. Therefore, they don’t think they know what’s best for us, and they don’t try to impose their own feelings on us or try to dictate what is appropriate behavior.

Instead of trying to make us be who they think we should be, they already know who we are. We are Sam’s parents, and we always will be. That’s good enough for them, and it’s good enough for us.

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” Robert Benchley.

One of the upcoming ways you can join the Bomars in remembering Sam is by attending the 3rd annual Sam Bomar Night at the Jackson Generals. Half of each ticket pre-ordered with the promo codeSamBomar goes to the Sam Bomar Scholarship FundClick HERE to learn more, and to buy tickets for the event on June 23.  

For other most hopeful posts on grief, loss, trauma and resilience, CLICK HERE.

 

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when others tell their stories

It often takes only a few minutes into a counseling session for me to realize that I have no way of speaking solutions into the room. A story begins, a tear drops, and people began to share with me the kinds of things I would never be brave enough to speak out loud to another…or myself for that matter. And after only a little bit of training in graduate school, I learned that me offering advice isn’t the craft of therapy to begin with.

And it also doesn’t take long to realize the kind of disrespect or arrogance that my solution-speaking or advice-offering would actually be suggesting. It seems, when I think about it for a moment, that in no situation would I ever allow someone who has talked to me for thirty minutes, once a week, for a month, tell me what to do with my life or how to orient my grief or what to do in my marriage.

And yet the role of counselor or therapist or even pastor sometimes has those connotations attached.

So in a kind of powerlessness, when others begin their stories, begin to tell the truth about the life they have been living in and wrestling with and learning from since birth, my only option is to switch into the mode of curiosity. And in that curiosity, I become another human being in the room, asking questions that the person sitting across from me may never have asked before even to themselves.

And in the magic of the room, new things are learned. New things are learned for my own life and for the client’s life.

Good helping doesn’t come from being the answer-man, but rather from being the questioner, a facilitator of the insight that is buried within the person who has come in seeking counsel. And more often than not, as two human beings sit in the room listening to each other in spaces that don’t judge, don’t lie, don’t have other agendas… people find their ways.

There is a deep, dangerous humanity in offering to simply bear witness to the grief, pain, fear, horror, loss, confusion or despair of another. And in staring it in the face, we both become, together, a little more human.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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