death changes you
for better or worse ...
My father died when I was 22. A complex relationship yielded a complex grief process.
I thought— I now get deep grief. I’m so much better equipped to work with my grieving clients.
Then after my brother, and nine months later my mother, who lived with us, died, I ‘“got it” on an entirely new level. Their deaths were my initiation into losing a piece of my best self, my lifelong soul-connects. My longest supports.
Their deaths shook me on a cellular level. My brain was broken by their absence in my life. I am not the same person.
Every death we experience hits our hearts differently. In death and grief, there is no one size fits all.
Understand that after heart-wrenching loss your friends may not recognize you anymore. Your pain and loss may scare them for a variety of reasons: you've blown their ability to stay in denial about death; they've never learned how to sit with someone who is hurting; they are so wrapped up in their own lives, they don't have time to be with friends during the hard. (The age-old term fair weather friends comes to mind.)
There's an infinite number of reasons people you thought had your back disappear.
Remember this. It is not about you. Not personally.
It is about them. Personally.
They just aren't equipped to handle the depth of what you now bring to the table. You may allow these people to circle back into your life somewhere down the line, but ultimately? Take tender care of yourself in making that decision.
You are not alone.
So many people have had the experience of being abandoned. I've heard story after story and have experienced this as well. Personally, the couple of folks who have retreated from our lives have caused me to address an important life lesson.
I typically have put myself in the position of being “the connector,” and for these past years I've really been working at not putting more energy into relationships or resolving conflict than the other people do.
Having practiced that a bit as I've aged, it has become more clear to me that it is not my duty to chase people down to try to fix whatever they perceive as broken— the reason they had to exit. At this point in my life, if people aren't able to meet me with honesty and a desire to continue a relationship, I am mindful not to swoop in to attempt to make it all better.
A helpful general rule in relationships is to not work harder on someone else's issues or perceptions than they are willing to.
The sad part is that people are so very death-averse, and therefore behave in such wonky ways to avoid its discomfort, that their own issues with death may well herald the death of relationships.
If you are feeling lonely or abandoned after death has visited, try connecting with someone who has had similar experiences.
But most of all?
Connect deeply with yourself.
Honor your path.
Honor your loved one.
Honor the fact that life may feel different now.
Stay in touch with and honor your beautiful-horrible truth.
Spring has sprung in the Northland of New Zealand, but we are yet to feel the sun’s regular warmth and bask in the drier outdoors.
At the same time my whanau in the northern hemisphere brace for the snap of winter. Both of these spaces in nature feel similar on my skin and in some ways allow me to feel closer to my far away loves.
Life has been challenging of late on many levels. Inevitability, when the weight feels heavy, grief for my primary loved ones who were always my pillars of support rears itself.
No longer a raw, weeping, acute wound, it awakens an ache much like the phantom pain people have with the amputation of a limb. A remembering of the soothing balm my loved ones’ support had been throughout my entire life. The knowing they would have instinctively reached out and connected during difficult times. This space I’m currently in is why I chose the writing I did to share with you today.
Like many of you may have experienced, my grief sensations have once again reactivated during a time when my body feels like it’s betrayed me. I only share this because I want you to know: I know.
If you are feeling similarly or have felt that in the past—you are not alone. Even though we don’t hear people speak of those sensations or we may not even connect the thread between our unwellness and our grief, it can provide a bit of an exhale when we realize where that extra ache is growing from.
Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Rest in the awareness that our heart to heart connection with our loves never ends.
Take a moment, if you choose, and listen to this song and breathe evenly with it— I always find it grounding: listen HERE.
Music is so helpful to me. I encourage you to explore songs that speak to you for your varying emotional terrain. I make playlists for different moods.
Feel free to reach out to me if you connect with anything shared.
If my book “Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: field notes from The Death Dialogues Project” has touched you, may I ask you to please write a review on Amazon? These reviews help with those who might need it most to find it. (((thank you)))
Our most recent episode of The Death Dialogues Project Podcast was released today!
You can listen now right from this platform by clicking HERE.
Michele Benyo is a mom of two, a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, an early childhood educator and parent coach, and the founder of Good Grief Parenting. After her 6-year-old son died of cancer, her 3-year-old daughter said, “Mommy, half of me is gone.” This heartbreaking statement defined Michele’s life purpose. Her mission is twofold: to help parents through the unimaginable challenges of parenting while grieving the death of a child, and to help parents meet the unique needs of a child who has lost a sibling in the early childhood years. The desire of Michele’s heart is to see families live forward after loss toward a future bright with possibilities and even joy.
Our podcast is virtually everywhere that podcasts are listened to. I was contacted by Amazon this past week and The Death Dialogues Project Podcast is now available there as well. And for those of you who want quick and easy— just listen from this platform at the link I shared above.
Words for you until next time …
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