Parentless

Just lost your parents?

I remember the story that a friend told me after her father died, her mother had passed on a few years earlier.

She told me that losing her parents had been a big stressor in many ways.

Most unexpectedly however was  the feeling that she’d finally grown up after her Dad died. I asked her what she meant, she was 55 years old after all.

“Now there’s no one looking after me. I had always knew Mum and Dad where there for me and even though I have children and grandchildren of my own, I still had this safety net of my parents.

 “Now I’m the matriarch of the family and that buffer between me and the end of my life has gone.”

“I feel like I’ve been forced to grow up quick smart, face my own mortality, it’s quite a blow and I don’t know if I really want this responsibility!

It made me realize how lucky I am to have my parents still but also made me question my feelings surrounding being a daughter and a “grown up” at the same time. I came to the conclusion, despite my sometimes volatile relationship with my Mum, I am still her little big girl and I like that I can turn to her or Dad when the chips are down.

But of course my parents won’t always be there and, like my friend, I’m not so sure I want to be the matriarch in my family. I think that’s why collecting family stories has become more important as I grow older, it helps keep my colourful family intact for generations that follow.

Remembering these special people; who they are, what they did and how they were; is powerful stuff that helps us understand ourselves and our place in the world.

If you are parentless and have a story to share about your experience, we’d like to hear it.

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Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 2:53 am  Comments (4)  
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Widowed

Losing a life partner at anytime of your life can be like losing a limb.

Widowed after 46 years of marriage, my mother-in-law suddenly found she was living a life so different from the one she had all her life.

The traditional role of wife and mother had overnight extended to financier, gardener, handyman and chief decision maker. Topped off with the loss of her nearest and dearest, her life became very stressful.

After the plethora well wishers moved on to their normal lives and financial matters were settled, her sense of purpose was challenged. We worried about her a great deal.

It’s been a few years and now and Grandma has actually flourished despite our concerns. She’s successfully re-homed herself and manages all her affairs better than most of us do.

However it is the loneliness that is her greatest pain, it brings on boredom and with boredom comes a great deal of time to worry away about life, relationships, the economy.

Have you a surviving parent, or are you a widower? Can you share your story with the group?

Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 2:51 am  Comments (1)  
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Children & Grief

How do kids grieve? There’s scores of books on kids and grief. In a nutshell, you can’t control grief it has to take its course and that may take some time. Therefore patience and understanding are paramount.

In a child’s world, especially under 10 years of age, life is very egocentric. That means, the children believe that they have are the centre of everything around them. If someone dies, young children are often unable to see it from any other perspective other than their own.

It is not uncommon for children to take on the responsibility of the loss, or the sadness of the grieving of family. An enormous and unrealistic burden for anyone, especially a young child!

There are many great books available to help you help your child through their grief.

Visit the library at www.amemorytree.co.nz .

Help others by sharing your story here.

Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 2:49 am  Comments (1)  
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Losing a Sibling

No matter what our age, losing a brother or sister can have an enormous impact.

You may be best of friends or worst of enemies. You may be alike or wildly different and you may have even developed polar opposite ideas on how life should be lived, despite being raised in the same family.

It never fails to surprise me how different my sisters and I are yet we have shared a similar upbringing and early childhood experiences.

Despite our differences, it’s with these early childhood experiences that a unique familial bond is formed. This bond is a special belief about the person your brother or sister is and what their place is in your family and in your life.

Survivor guilt is a strong emotion common place amongst living siblings. “Why them?” “Why wasn’t it me?” “I’m pleased that’s not me, but I feel guilty feeling that?” “My parents are inconsolable, was he/she their favourite?” and so on.

How have you overcome losing a sibling? What was your experience?

Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 2:47 am  Comments (1)  
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Holidays & Anniversaries

Anniversaries and holidays are special time that many families and friends come together to enjoy each other’s company. They are also reminders of the ones that are missing.

Our family has chosen to send “messages to heaven” at Christmas time.

We each take time to write small notes and poems and place these in helium balloons. We then release the balloons together and as they float out of sight, “heaven-bound”, we all feel a load lightened and reconnected to each other again.

There are many unique ways to celebrate and remember loved ones. Can you share yours?

Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 2:45 am  Comments (1)  
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Grief in the Workplace

So you’ve lost a work colleague. You may have had a close bond with them or they may have been your worst nemesis! How do you deal with grief in the workplace?

Many of us will experience sudden loss of a colleague at some time in our lives. In a  workplace it’s easy to be confused by how others are reacting, or not reacting, to this.

Considerate employers will allow time off for those wishing to attend the funeral and often it’s appropriate that there is a quick whip around to buy some flowers and a group card is sent to the family.

I was surprised and shocked at a former colleague’s lack of empathy and ruthlessness when a workmate recently died.  He was like a vulture at the empty desk snatching stationary hours after the news broke. He refused to chip in to buy some flowers, took time off to attend the funeral but went and played golf instead. He continued to trample over others feelings in the following weeks.

This was despite having after work drinks on Friday nights together for years and being ‘best’ buddies.

For those on the side lines watching what was a remarkably un-empathetic performance it was difficult not to make him wrong about how he was being.

I believe my former colleague may have ‘cut off’ his attachment quickly as he didn’t feel comfortable grieving. It was better for him to get on with life and not experience the loss and all the emotions that follow it. He simply wasn’t buying into the group’s sadness.

Let’s face it, we all grieve differently!

We really don’t know our work colleagues all that well. But allowing yourself to grieve, even for a work colleague, is natural and healthy.

How have you dealt with grief in the workplace?

Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 2:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Right to Grieve

Who’s got the worst pain? After the loss of a loved one, no matter how they passed, or your relationship to them, it  can make you question the circumstances around the death and who is suffering the most.

It’s important to understand the following  

·         Long-term dying is not better or worse than sudden death—it is different.

·         Losing an infant is not better or worse than mourning the death of a teenager—it is different.

·         A widowers pain is not better or worse than the grief of bereaved parents—it is different.

·         Death by homicide is neither easier nor harder than death by suicide—it is different.

Remember … Different doesn’t mean less or more.

A neighbor of mine lost her 25 year old son to suicide a few years ago. They held a private family service and I heard they were devastated and totally heart broken.  I couldn’t imagine the pain they felt and given I didn’t know them all that well I simply avoided the subject on the few occasions we met afterwards.

On losing our new born baby this year, the same neighbor came to our door offering her condolences. Devastated with my own loss I said to her, that this was excruciatingly painful and I couldn’t possibly imagine her pain at losing a grown son.

She said to me “loss is loss, grief is grief. The situations may be different but the pain is no less or no more’.

This gave me the freedom to experience my loss for what it was to me. What a wise woman!

Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 2:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dealing with Grief

As sure as life exists it will pass as well.

My feelings on death and dying have been tested over the years and just how we all deal with the grief is so very individual. There are stages to the grieving process and my experience has shown that every time I go through it it’s unpredictable.

Alotting time to grieve is a useful tool way to manage it.

It may sound peculiar to book in a time to grieve but it can also give you control of your emotions back AS WELL AS giving you the time to grieve.  Seriously it works!’

The “rules’ of this grief time are

1.  Book in 20 minutes of alone time and focus on the loss.

2. You can do this upto three times a day.

3. Set your watch by it – don’t focus on the loss a minute more than the 20 minutes allotted.

 4. Preplan a nice event, something that you enjoy doing, to do immediately afterwards. If you enjoy going to the movies, visting the mall, catching up with friends, going for a bike ride – this is what you need to do.

This technique is useful and has helped many deal with the unpredicatble tearful times. Allowing yourself to grieve with 100% focus for a set period, lets a little steam off your grief.

Has anyone else got some helpful advice?

Published in: on December 15, 2008 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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