Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Grief of the Dying

"I became a widow at 28 and although hospice was not a part of my husband's process people helping by telling me the stages of grief did happen a lot. It mainly resulted in the hair on the back of my neck standing on end and me emotionally shutting down to that person for a long time. To hear those things sometimes {by no means is this always true} sounds like a set of expectations and removes the individuality of the person having the experience. I agree that she needs to know that somebody can just BE there with her and that might be enough, or there just might not be enough time to get her through this."

Heather, the person who wrote that piece into my comments provided incredible insight and lots of food for thought.

I want to take a minute to talk about the grief of the dying. I want to start with a little exercise I heard once in a talk by Christine Longaker.

First, I want you to think of the one person you rely on most heavily in the world, the person you love the most, the person you spend most of your time with. Now imagine that they have died. For some of you, you may not need to use fantasy so much as memory.

Next, I want you to think of another person in your life who is significant to you. Now imagine that they have also died.

And this may be harder, but now try to imagine that everyone you know and love and spend time with has died.

Now, that all your loved ones have died, imagine that your dreams have died too. Your plans for that trip to Hawaii. Your dreams of learning how to surf. All your dreams and plans - no matter what they are - are all now dead. Have you ever had to let go of a dream? If so, you know the grief I am talking about, though even then you usually had new dreams and plans to make up for the ones lost. Now you have none. No future to dream of nor plan for.

If you can successfully imagine all of that, that is the closest you will get to understanding the grief of someone who is terminally ill.

Remember the grief you felt when a loved one died in real life - whether that loved one was a spouse, a sibling, a best friend, a parent, a grandmother, or a favorite pet. And imagine amplifying that loss to the loss of everything in your life.

The grief of the dying is great. It is more profound than any one of us can imagine until we are wearing those shoes.

I try to live life like it may end any minute. I make sure to kiss S goodbye and tell her I love her each time we part. You just never know. I try to cherish every moment - whether I'm washing dishes or writing in this blog. I may never know when my time is up. But even living in the moment, I cannot even fathom that degree of grief nor do I honestly want to.

Live your life. Cherish it. Enjoy it. Make those dreams come true.

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