Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Compassion for Those in Grief

When my Uncle died, one of my family members took the day off of work to attend his funeral. She didn’t get paid for it, which I understand. But she got docked for it. They took money from her paycheck- but, if they weren’t paying her, they weren’t losing money. So it feels more like she got punished for having a death in the family.
I have a problem with that. I have a general problem with the way business handles death in general. The list of how many days employees get off for each different variation of family member is unreal to me. Like someone in a room can decide how much time a parent, grandparent, child, or uncle is worth. For you. I am far closer to a few of my friends, my adopted family, than some of my blood family. If my best friend were to die it would be like the loss of a parent or partner. But as far as a workplace is concerned, he could mean nothing to me.
When my grandmother died, I was too young to know that my workplace didn’t have to give me the time I wanted off. I called my boss at home and told him I was going to my hometown to be with my family, that I didn’t know what the arrangements were, or when I was coming back. I told him that I would let him know. I was gone for a week. I could have lost my job. I wouldn’t have cared. Nothing was more important to me than that time with my family. They needed it. I needed it.
Death is never convenient. It is never a good time. Even if you expect death will come soon, you are never prepared when it does.
There’s been another death in our family. My Great-Aunt Carol, my Grandma’s younger sister, recently passed. It’s hard to say, but it’s true, that she is in a generation where death is common visitor, for my age group. It doesn’t make it easier. I hadn’t seen her in decades. It doesn’t make it easy.
My world has changed again. That sphere of loved ones surrounding me in the grandparent generation has shrunk again. My outer sphere of living family members has shrunk. My ancestral spirit world has grown. Life changes. Life goes on. Somewhere.
I’m good at grief now, but it wasn’t always so. I was five or six when my first friend died. She was crossing the road to get to the mail when she was hit by a semi truck. Then my Grandpa, a friend from dance class, a friend in high school, my Great-Grandma, etc. All before I considered myself an adult. There have been at least fifty since then.
I didn’t handle grief well as a young person. I was still trying to understand what death meant other than I would never see them again. But even if you know how to handle it, it doesn’t mean you will when it actually happens. I’ve watched my parents suffer their own personal losses, the deep aching ones I have yet to experience. I know what lies ahead for me. Not how it will be for me, but that it will be.
So, knowing that we are, or will someday be in the space of grieving, what can we do when other people in our lives are grieving a loss we don’t feel? We can have compassion for our grieving friends and give them the space they need. If you can be there for them when they need to vent, sit in silence, or have a cup of tea, even better. Isn’t that what you would want for yourself?
If we disagree with how our friends grieve, or we feel the need to judge how long it’s taking them, we can keep our mouths shut. It’s the sweetest kindness when those we love are in their dark places. It’s a journey they have to take in order to find their way forward.
And if we can’t be there for them, if we can’t watch, if it pokes places we fear to look into, we have the choice to walk away. And if we are the grieving party and it’s been multiple years and we still sit in our bathrobes on birthdays and anniversaries, we have to accept that not everyone can take that journey with us. We can’t be angry at others for needing to move on before we’re ready.
It’s okay if you’re not ready yet. But honestly, you’ll never be ready. Sometimes you just have to do it. Moving on doesn’t mean letting go or forgetting. It’s not disrespectful. I know that step is scary- worrying that you’re replacing the loved one, worrying that if you move on, or that you’ll forget them. We all worry about that. But think about the depth of your grief. How could you ever forget a love that deep?
While you are grieving you are edgewalking between two worlds. The one in which nothing changes and the one in which everything does. You, on the inside, feel more strongly the ways in which everything has changed. While your friends are grieving they are edgewalking between two worlds. You, on the outside, are imbedded in the world that doesn’t change. It is your friends who suddenly fall out of sync.
All those who have lost will recognize the foreign journey the grievers travel, but they will not have the answers for the griever as to how to traverse that new terrain- it terraforms itself into individual experiences for each griever. But those who have been there will be able to be trail markers and touchstones, witnesses to the journey. Because they know that someday, we will all come out the other side.

Thank you for being a light in my life Aunt Carol. 

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully, accurately, and poignantly written. I am borderline nauseous that a family member of yours was financially "reprimanded" for taking time off to attend a funeral. I don't know who their employer is, but I'm willing to be it's a corporation. That's why I can't step into that world, but I digress.

    We all have our own journeys with loss and grief, our own from another person's journey for the same loss and our own from one loss to the next. No two are alike, so there is no universal answer as to how to be. I agree with everything you've put forth here. In the end, the least we can do is extend a little compassion in any situation where there is loss.


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