Grief: Processing, Honoring or Denying
As this reaches you during a time of seasonal change, my hope is that it finds you and yours at peace.
As our world tries to tell us that we are back to "normal," (ie. no masks, pandemic "all done"), emotional imagery is conjured of what has been left on the landscape.
Imagine the highest of tides having drained and we are left to gaze at the surprises that the swirling whirlpools of chaos left on the ocean's floor.
No one has emerged from the past two plus years unscathed.
Grief, loss, tragedy, untimely illness that would have otherwise presented itself has continued to visit all the while the world has negotiated the unsure terrain left in the wake of this virulent pandemic.
Most of us know folks who have died or have experienced great loss during this time. Many continue to live with the after-effects of their illness while we still all play an endless game of virus dodgeball.
We puff our chests and want to imagine everything is back to normal, but we still notice our anxiety rising when we hear someone with a gurgling cough or see children draining green out of every visible orifice and wiping their secretions on their hands and sleeves and everything within sight.
Someone recently recited a list—yay long—of the deaths they had experienced earlier in their lives, and more in the past couple of years. They asked, "How do I process these so I can put them behind me and move on?"
It reminded me of the the piece "Calling Bullsh*t on Grief," where we unpacked how unfair it is using just the one word description "grief" when describing the expansive emotions that accompany death.
How it has its way with us, sometimes changing the very essence of who we are. Societally, we really do honoring the experience a disservice.
My argument with the whole voyage to "process" our grief (cue Mary Poppins’ magic carpet bag that holds all things, sing-songing, "Spit spot, all done, time to move on") is that it is a myth to believe that we can come to a place where the deaths of those we've loved the most in our lifetimes are no longer a part of our ever expanding heart—even when we try our hardest to stuff the feelings and memories into a locked vault.
The aftermath of death will have its way with us one way or the other.
Whether we walk into the emotional experience, eyes and heart wide open, or stuff it and fill the void with all of the "other" that frequently leaves us wrecked: over-doing, over-drinking or drugging, over-consuming, withdrawal ... the list is never nending.
As you listen to our most recent podcast, you'll hear cowboy Mark Schutter describe experiencing the death of his young wife when they were in their 20's and how he "carried that grief for the next 25 years ... not dealing with it." Until he did. You can find it at this site or click here to listen on Spotify.
The fact that you are here tells me that you are striving to have some fluency surrounding death and for that I thank you. Taking one conscious step at a time towards honoring the final days of our lives. That is how we move forward.
On a personal note, as you might know, I survived my three months in the US unscathed and then returned to promptly get the marathon flu NZ brewed. After three weeks of carrying that virus, and just two days after being flu free, I tripped, fell and broke ribs, just now recovering from that pain. Note to self: when someone breaks ribs, always know they are in intense pain.
On the heels of three months away and then six weeks laid up, I've sat with where I am in life and with this project. My dear co-host, Kate Burns, has recorded her final episode as her new job demands more from her. I deeply thank her for having the interest and ability to provide such meaningful support to The Death Dialogues Project. I've scheduled her episodes out once a month for the next several months.
I'm not sure where I go with this work in the future.
There are a few things I know for sure.
In part, the creation of this project was in response to my own acute grief and using that energy to help others.
In the past five years there has been a massive influx of other projects and offerings and podcasts from all over the world addressing end of life, so my backing off a bit will not leave a void.
Our podcasts episodes will live on indefinitely and always be available.
I do know that my body and my mind are calling to be more active in different ways for this chapter of life.
As you may recall, my husband had a severe heart attack less than a year ago. That was a wake up call for us, being reminded of all the people we've known (including my dear brother) who put things off until retirement and then either die before it arrives or shortly thereafter. After 34 years of having children in our home, we are ready to explore New Zealand more and create some of our own adventures with each other.
Sharing this internal process is not meant to be an announcement of any type but a proactive rationale if you notice that our social media isn't quite as active as it used to be. (I'm also hankering to explore some other writing so I may share that here on this format in the future.)
The bones of this project and everything it stands for live within me and my husband. Throughout our careers as a cardiologist and mental health professional, we were always behind this mission and as we expand and walk towards our final chapters it continues to be so. We will be here for it. And I'm sure we will always be in touch with you surrounding these issues we believe are so important to living a full-spectrum existence.
Until next time.
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