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THE GRIEVING PROCESS
Martin and I are almost done with The West Wing. We have only 4 more episodes left and we just watched Matt Santos win the Presidential election and Leo McGarry die. I confess to having had tears in my eyes. Martin did, too. I never saw most of the episodes from season 7 that we are watching now, but I remember feeling sad then when I heard the news that John Spencer, the actor that played Leo, had actually passed away, unlike the actress that played Dolores Landingham, who only died in character. We were sad about her, too.

I had never seen John Spencer in anything else, that I can think of, so it wasn't him I was sad about, so much...it was the character of Leo McGarry whom we had grown to love on the show that made me sad. But I can tear up at McDonald's commercials, so don't read anything too much into it.

There are lots of people I don't know who have caused me to grieve at their passing. Writers, actors, artists, scientists, famous people, ice skaters even. And friends of friends. I may not even know them, but hearing how their lives and their acts touched someone I know or care about, teaches me how easy it is to grieve for someone I never had a chance to meet, and never will.

It's been awhile since I attended a funeral. There have been a couple here in Sweden that we've been to, for people I was affected by in some way: the wife of a friend, the girlfriend of one of my husband's relatives, a friend of mine. And even longer since the funeral was for someone in my family. My paternal grandmother. My maternal grandfather. My dad.

Sometimes I find myself sort of mentally preparing for the next one. What will I do? How will I react? What will I say to comfort others...how will I tell the kids? It's not something I particularly want to give mental space to, but for some reason my brain seems to think I need that extra time in advance to deal with the reality when it finally happens. I think about dying a lot, actually. I don't talk about it, though. Hardly ever. It makes people so uncomfortable...hell, it makes ME uncomfortable, too. But I suspect I'm not alone. I suspect we all have ways to deal with the grieving process in advance, even if just in some small way. Some way to make a start on making sense of things that don't make any sense, that in fact, defy sense and only allow feeling.

Most days I think the best way to prepare for the grieving process is by living each moment as if it were my last. By living each moment as if it were YOUR last, and her last and his last. It doesn't always make a difference in what I say and what I do, but it should. It makes me stop and think about the connections we make, the connections we have, the time that is passing and the simple fact that we shouldn't waste any of it.
 contemplative
mood: contemplative
music: Natasha Bedingfield—Unwritten


Comments
From Megsie

I have been thinking about death a lot too. Jeff's mom is just existing now, and my dad is spiraling down hill as well. I have been to two funerals since May. My dad's mom and his sister. His brother died a few years ago. He is the last one left in his family. It is weird and sad. And, yes. I am worried about how I will handle it, how I will help my kids handle it, and how Jeff and his family will handle his mom's death. Yuck. Getting old sucks sometimes.

Re: From Megsie

One of my friends once compared life to a conveyor belt. We're all on it, going up, and eventually we just ...drop off the end. We laughed about it then, but it sure scares the crap out of me now, this many years down the road. URGH.

Though G's mother seems to be in good health, I can't help but think that at 89, we are probably going to need to prepare for the eventual end sooner than anyone is really ready for it. Mostly I think about things like how many more visits can we make in the next couple of years? Would we be able to drop everything and fly over if we had to? How much time off would we need to get done everything that would need to be done? I shudder to think.

I think about all those things, too. It's depressing. :(

Grieving is an inexplicable process to my mind. For instance, I found myself grieving again, 30 years after my paternal grandmother died. She passed while I was a young adolescent.

I think that grieving comes in waves.

And it is interesting how one can become attached to and grieve for someone one doesn't really know except through their public reputation. I was really broken up at Heath Ledger's death, for instance.

Far reaching and personal, for me, has been JFK's death, 2 days before my 10th birthday and now all woven through my personal history.

A mystery, this grieving process. I'm not sure one can actually prepare for it. Rather like having a baby or riding a bike. You can prepare for bits around it, but there is really nothing to prepare one for the actual experience.

I think it comes in waves, too. I was devastated at Sergei Grinkov's death, like you with Heath Ledger. Maybe that kind of thing is practice for getting us through the REALLY devastating ones.

I dunno, nothing would have ever prepared me for a few close deaths, my grandmother, my nephew, my Mom, my Dad. Truly devastating.

It's an incredibly difficult thing to come to grips with, grief. I find myself pre-grieving, as I watch my parents age and struggle with health challenges. I don't want to think about the day when one or both of them are gone -- it's too intensely painful to contemplate. So I hang on to each day I have with them; weeks that I don't see them, I call, and we talk for at least an hour. They only live an hour away, and I wish it were less.

But grief comes for other things, too. It's been two years since my surgery, and I still grieve that I am unable to have children. It comes at the most odd moments, the realization anew that I am a dead end on the family tree, and I find myself tearing up. I wish there were a switch that could turn it off, but there it is.

Pre-grieving, that's an excellent term for it. I find it incredibly sad that you think of yourself as a dead end on the family tree, though. It's not all about reproduction. HUGS!

Aw, thanks.

It hits hard because family history and genealogy are such a big part of my life. I am blessed, though, to have so many nieces and nephew to lavish love on.

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