Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How are you?

What do you say when people continually ask you how you are?

And then they ask how your husband is and how your daughter is...

Come to think of it, I've done the same thing. Asked ever so compassionately how someone is doing...

It's not a bad thing. Indeed, it would be worse if no one cared.

Yet, every time you are forced to make a decision to just say: we're doing ok. we're managing. we're coping. we're keeping busy. -- or to tell them something more.

It's hard work. You have take your cue from the situation, the person, where you're at yourself at the moment. To share or not to share and what is the question. It's never the same unless you are going by rote. It's like law and gospel; we are all in a different place with that at different times. You have to actually be in dialogue, listen and care.

Then there is the silly thing of what kind of image you are projecting. You don't want to look like a basket case, nor like you have no feelings. You need to seem reasonably sad and composed at the same time. This is ridiculous. I'm not much into pretending but you don't want to be offensive.

Truth is, it is always changing. Sometimes we're sad. Sometimes we're bitter. Sometimes we're overwhelmed. Sometimes we're relieved. Sometimes we're ok. Sometimes we are content. Sometimes we are happy. Often we nurse regrets over what could have, should have, might have... But we quickly let that go. It helps nothing.

There you go, that's how we are. All over the map. Probably, just like most people.

If people would asked me not how I am, but what I am thinking about, that would be easier to answer. I think about God and Stefan, and Martin and Andrea, and all our families and all my godchilddren, and about someday getting around to getting my bookkeeping, banking, taxes done.

There's actually no change here. That's what I've always been thinking about. Sometimes in different orders of priority. Now that I'm thinking about it the booking/taxes category needs to move up much higher in priority. There you are: How am I? I am worried about not getting the tax stuff together.


Mary said...

As you know I have been here reading your blog. So I thought it "good manners" to leave a comment. Perhaps, an acknowledgement. Hi there, Brigitte. I read your blog today.
Enjoy your day.

Jeff! Road Rage Therapist and Moderator said...

The Mourner’s Bill of Rights
by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you.

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.
No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief.
Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.
Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.

5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”
Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of ritual.
The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don't listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.
You may find yourself asking, "Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?" Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clich├ęd responses some people may give you. Comments like, "It was God's will" or "Think of what you have to be thankful for" are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to treasure your memories.
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.
Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Brigitte said...

Jeff, I appreciate the well-meaning in the efforts people make to help me think through the grief process. Least helpful, though, in that vein, I find people who have once upon a time read Kuebler-Ross and think I am going through a set of stages, and think they are helping me to define these stages. I think you would disagree with that, too.

At the same time, I don't appreciate these efforts when people really are not listening or picking up on what I'm saying. These same people, don't understand or hear what Jesus Christ really means to me, or rather "is" for me. We can talk about the grief-process til the cows come home, which is fine, but there is such a thing as an actual faith, and all the talk about grief, itself, seems to sometimes diminish that.

The funeral service is not just a ritual. It is worship. We come before our Maker with both heavy hearts and joy, at the same time. Life and death are in his hands and we are all headed there. We know that every day. There is nothing new.

We start out every service by remembering our baptism, which is a dying and rising. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. And then we had a remembrance of Baptism: The pastor said: "In Holy Baptism, Stefan, was clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness that covered all his sin. St. Paul says: 'Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?'"

Then we respond: " We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His."

And we sing and pray and confess our faith, hear God's word and finish up with: "Let us bless the Lord." " Thanks be to God." "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord life up His countenance upon you and give you peace."

You can see how talking about denial and ritual, etc., and such, is just so much bland stuff.

God's word actively provides us with what it promises.

When I'm talking with all the people who want to know how I'm doing, I really want to say something like this. But neither they nor I am always in a place to hear it or say it. That's the dilemma.

Are you still reading? :)
Love and thanks, Brigitte