Message from the Director – Facing Grief

Since my husband died almost a year ago, I find myself grieving between the cracks. Due to incredible sadness, worldly responsibilities, setting my husband’s affairs, unfinished business and end of life residuals in order, working with his family’s needs, trying to support myself alone, lack of sleep, lack of time, and other issues, I am still somewhere out in the ocean. The things I’ve found helpful are Buddhist practice, writing, being with friends, and close contact with my family.

I’ve learned that community is sometimes only a concept, and even in the Buddhist Sangha people tend to be very busy. Or perhaps it’s that we back off from death. This I learned in hospice training and heard from my mother after my dad died – her friends suddenly didn’t invite her over. Said they would, but didn’t. Months went by. Maybe people don’t know what to say. We’re preoccupied, we forget. But suddenly, there you are without your life companion (or best friend or work partner or parent or child), very much alone. This is compounded by the isolation that results from people keeping their distance. Good intentions aside, if one doesn’t follow through on lending a hand and being a friend, seclusion can result.

It could be that folks tell themselves that the one grieving needs time: time to weep, to take stock, to (by yourself) disperse the belongings of one so close to you, to rearrange the house, to rest. But I’ve discovered it’s not quite the way we imagine it. Time, you have too much of, and often it’s spent coping, lost in a fog, trying to take care of things you’ve never done and never wanted to. You can’t think clearly, you don’t sleep well, you’re lonely – it’s a true story that most of us don’t want to hear, and just about everyone endures at some point.

Looking across life at someone else, please notice - this is the time when we can benefit others in a most profound way. We can make ourselves available to listen, to offer assistance, go have a bite to eat, get out of the house with someone willing to feel, and willing to be with us. It can be difficult to “reach out” when life is rough, and often easier to reach “in” and offer your hand. Sometimes it’s just being able to listen. So much is to be gained from this openness.

I’m asking our community to put someone else first. We are so busy, so distracted, yes tired, even self-absorbed, because that’s what this life’s existence can come to. To make time for those who are under the weather or just plain infirm, who are bereaved, who are unable to get around, who need help at home, this is valuable practice–the practical application of training in compassion is just being a friend. This is called being available to be human, to embody the idea of community, to exchange self for others. It’s so important. We can make a real difference in each other’s lives simply by our presence.

 

Julie Rogers, Director
TLC Transitional Life Care
November 25, 2017