Whispers Of LoveWhispers Of Love

There have been many studies on the different so-called stages of dying including, of course, the famous Kubler-Ross study and that of Debbie Messer Zlatin, but few, if any, have offered much insight into issues involving the relationship between hope, dignity grief, and mourning. Suffice to say I have always adhered to the theory that the totality of a person's life as well as his or her own personality and experiences will influence their particular way of coping with impending death.

Obituaries often state that a person passed away ?after a brief illness???..? but those words cannot begin to tell the real story, for they fail to state how unexpected the illness was or how valiantly the battle was fought. . Nor do they mention that there may have been different phases to the ?brief illness,? phases or stages that may have involved a frustrating roller coaster of buoyant hope and deep despair; stages that may even have required emotional preparation for excruciatingly painful and potentially guilt-ridden surrogate decisions involving the life and death of a loved one; stages that may even have required such a decision to be made. No, obituaries don't tell this story.

Those who have faced this know that at that dreaded point in time when 'reversible? becomes ?irreversible? and when ?non-terminal? becomes 'terminal?, the stairway of hope has diminished and the roller coaster has come to a slow, albeit final stop. But also at this point, another and more definitive phase can be engaged, one in which the transition can offer a new stairway that focuses fully on preserving dignity for your loved one, and while grief overrides all, this effort to embrace dignity can perhaps mitigate the depth of one's own sense of grief.

There are many ways to do this. if one elects the assistance of hospice as I did, the overall comfort and supportive environment provided by the ?angels? who perform their miracles there can be of enormous help. Here the mere presence and closeness of visiting friends, family and loved ones can be supportive and comforting; here tears are shed without shame; here life's joyous memories are recalled and related; here deeply personal and quiet conversations affirm love, affection and closeness; here intimate and tender whispers of love are exchanged; here prayer and expressions of faith offer comfort; here final 'see you latter's? are poignantly made; and here the final passing is achieved with dignified peace and hands held softly together.

But then, after the burial or memorial, grief tends to set in even more sharply. Someone I loved, is now gone from my life; a piece of me has been torn away from my very fabric and the painfully deep wound must be healed. Grief and mourning are ways by which my mind can heal this hurt. Like snowflakes, these are intensely personal and unique experiences. Grief is a person's internal experience, thoughts and feelings related to the experience of a great loss, while mourning is the outwardly expression of this grief. Through this expression, we gradually come to accept the loss. For us to go on with our lives and once again care about others......... although with all the risks we have now so painfully learned about........ we need to let go of those we love who are no longer with us. We need to let go.

But stages of grief often do not occur in any orderly progression. Depending on the situation and the persons involved, one may not even experience some stages, or may move in and out of the same emotional state several times. One thing is certain, though, there is no easy way. Some are stoic and appear strong, others are intensely emotional. Some celebrate or memorialize a person's life and accentuate the positive. Others never accept death or elect to attach themselves to denial. Some choose to suppress their grief, others share it. Some can never find resolution, others get through it remarkably well. Some turn to grief counselors, others go it alone. Many turn to their faith or spirituality. Some deal with introspection in order to find answers. Some, like the writer Joan Didion, bury themselves in their work or write about it and attempt to articulate thoughts and feelings that many of us would rather not deal with. And when death is unexpected and sudden, grief can truly be more profound?....though even when the death involves a long expected release from a painful illness, it can still be a profound experience and a stark realization of just how fragile and impermanent life is. As Ms. Didion struggles with in her new book, ?The Year of Magical Thinking,? sometimes there just is no way to understand the overwhelming nature of grief nor the illusion of one's control that the random, sudden and scary nature of death can strip away.

On a personal level, I would never, ever begin to suggest a panacea for grieving. There is none. I know, however, that it was helpful for me to move as seamlessly as I possibly could from the highs and lows of hope to the many tasks and issues associated with ensuring that an appropriate degree of dignity could be achieved and preserved for my loved one.

I also know that sooner or later, there will be a deferred effect regarding my own profound issues of loss. How I achieve resolution remains to be seen, but in so doing I shall not delude myself by trying to make any sense out of the senseless.

?Like a bird singing in the rain,
Let grateful memories survive in time of sorrow.?

Robert Louis Stevenson

by Theodore Sares
References and Bibliography

Ted Sares, PhD, is a private investor who lives and writes in the White Mountain area of Northern New Hampshire with his wife Holly and Min Pin Jackdog. He writes a weekly column for a local newspaper and many of his other pieces are widely published.

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