Moorings, 3 months

Rooting yourself as you walk in grief

frank 3months flower

My pain rises up within me saying to my soul,
"there is no saving power for you."
But indeed You are a shield
all about me.
You tenderly lift my head.

-Adaptations Psalm 3

Symbol for Sustenance at this time: the Magen David:

Imagine this symbol of soul, coming to you now.
Offering you protection during this time when you're vulnerable.
Imagine it shielding you from all directions, north, south, east, west, above and below.
Holding you safely in it's center.

The Third Month of Bereavement:

As some of the paper and legal work become completed, feelings of numbness, of being frozen start to recede,
and stronger waves of feelings may rise.

Some people find their initial support circles start to thin.
You may have a new sense of having to go it alone.

You may have experienced others discomfort with your feelings of grief.
You may have experienced pressure from others to "get over it."

Knowing about the process of mourning can prevent you from putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
Give yourself this full year to walk as mourner.

Every season, every holiday is now different.
Your world is different.
Take the space you need to mourn.

Common Grief Reactions and Tips on Coping:

Confusion and difficulty concentrating:
You've many feelings and thoughts swirling now.
It's natural to feel confused and overwhelmed.
Absorbing information takes more time, focusing can be difficult.

Simplify your schedule. Give yourself more time to accomplish things.
Don't push yourself to concentrate, your attention is literally elsewhere.

Some people fear they're losing their memory, fear they're falling prey to dementia or Alzheimer's.
In most cases the loss of memory is due to grief.
However if this worries you, a doctor can rule out your concerns through testing.
Be sure to have your B vitamin levels checked as well.

Forgetfulness is a natural, difficult reaction to loss.

Practical strategies:

  • Make one place where you put your keys, glasses, and calendar.
  • Write every appointment in your calendar as soon as you make it.
  • Write reminders on stickies and post them on your refrigerator door.

Be prepared that some things may just shift.
People who love reading may find themselves not absorbing what they read.
Their tastes on what they like to read may completely change for a while.
Painters may find it difficult to paint. Writers, may experience difficulty when sitting down to write.
Much is in flux now and will shift again in time.

Need to retell the stories:
Many children who suffer trauma, instinctively tell the story over and over until they have integrated it.
You too may experience the need to tell and retell of your loved one's illness, death and dying.
You may find yourself sorting through all types of memories and feelings about your loved one.

Some people do this through journaling, some by emailing friends, others by talking with friends, family, clergy,
a grief support group, or a counselor. And yet others work this through the arts, poetry, and/or writing.
All these can help you process and absorb your loss.

Searching:
You instinctively may find yourself searching for your loved one.
Walking down the street you may see someone who resembles them and feel your heart racing, aching.

Your heart, body and soul take longer than you may expect to grasp and absorb the enormity of this change.

Triggering of past experiences with loss:
Earlier losses may rise once again.
Even though "worked through", they may again demand your attention, to 'get it' on yet another level.

Use your inner instinct about the type of support you need in this time.

Triggering of family issues:
Family issues, differences, and old resentments may also rise once more.
Stress, exhaustion, change and tension can inflame already delicate connections.

Each person's way of dealing with hardships differ, as do their personalities, ways of mourning and
timing of grief responses.

Those skilled in family therapy and grief can be excellent resources at this time.

alon-3months
Yea though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
For You are with me

-Psalm 23: 4

 

 

 

 

 Important tasks during this time:

Take care of yourself:
You may have learned when growing up
that it was selfish to think about yourself.

There was an era when we were taught to take care of others with the hopes that others would
intuit our needs, and in return care for us.
This sometimes occurs and sometimes this does not.
Now it's time to adjust this belief.

Self care is not selfish.
The more you replenish your resources, the more you will have available to share with others.
As you renew, you'll be able to give more graciously and with a fuller heart.

When one gives care when depleted, kindness can swiftly turn to resentment and anger.

Being able to tell others what you need clearly, directly and from a calm place allows the other person
the possibility of response.  However, it's important to remember that the other person
may or may not be able to respond to your need at that particular time of your request.

If you yourself aren't clear what it is you need, taking space to discern what it is you want and need
can be invaluable.

Be aware of how you balance time:
You may instinctively nest at home, craving quiet and being alone, tucking in and resting.
Mourning is tiring work.

You may find movement feels best for you and being alone stirs up memories and feelings you wish to avoid.

Strive to keep a relative balance.  Watch for becoming too isolated.  Make time to enjoy the company of others.
Try as well to create pockets of time alone so that you can feel and process the changes that have taken place
in your life.

Reduce known stressors:

  • Fill up your car with gas when it gets down to a fourth of a tank.
  • Give an extra key to your home to your neighbor in case you lose it or get locked out.

This may not be the year to take on extra tasks outside of your basic bottom line needs.

Plan special days in advance: holidays, birthdays, family visits, breaks:
Take initiative.  Plan times to be with others and times to rest and be alone.
If no one invites you to join them at special times, invite others to join you.

Keep it simple. When mourning, energy is low and
it's easy to become worn out more quickly than you may anticipate.
Potlucks share the workload and yet allow connection.

Be patient with yourself when taking on new roles:
Learning new tasks that your loved one formerly took care of, initially may feel overwhelming.
Remember, you're in a learning curve. Be gentle with yourself.

Cultivating patience, kindness and humor helps as you transition through the foreignness, awkwardness, mistakes,
and initial frustrations of learning a new repertoire.

Delegating tasks, hiring others to help who've more expertise to either do tasks for you or
teach you how to take on tasks, all help.

Telephone hug buddy:
Ask someone in advance if you can call them when times are hard.
Sometimes just being able to say to another person, "I'm having a rough time,
can you just give me a hug on the phone and tell me you care,
" helps.

Grief Support Group or Seminar:
Mourning can be extremely isolating.
Being with others who are also mourning and who understand what you are talking about can be deeply comforting.
Gaining information, tips, perspective and caring, all hearten.

To find bereavement groups, call your local Hospice.

There's no shame in seeking support.
Indeed it takes courage to venture out and to connect with others.
The ultimate companionship and humor gained from group can strengthen you as you walk this route.

Asking for help:
Many of us shoulder everything ourselves.
But there are times in life when we just can't do it alone, when we need to reach out and ask for help.

If you are lonely, call a friend.  If you need help with taxes, ask around for a good accountant. 
If your feelings are intense and there's no one you feel comfortable speaking with, seek out a counselor or
a bereavement group.

If you've not seen a counselor before, get 3-4 names from others whom you trust. Ask to meet with each person
for a 10-15 minute consult. Think about what you need from your time with them. Trust your gut and see with
whom you feel comfortable. Ask about their experience in working in the field of grief.

Have realistic expectations of people who support you:
Some friends may care about you but they may not be able to listen to your feelings.
The intensity of your grief may scare or overwhelm them. They may however, be wonderful companions with whom
to venture out with on a field-trip to a new place, or to do things with together.

Keep in mind the variety of your differing needs and find additional sources of support
for that which remains unfilled.

Attend to unfinished business:
Sometimes you may have feelings, thoughts or issues that you were not able to express or work through
with your loved one that demand attention.

Discern if you just need to acknowledge these to yourself, or if you need to share your awarenesses with a friend,
counselor or bereavement group. This is yet another part of the grief work of this time.

frank-3months-sunset

And if I say,

"Surely the darkness
envelops me and the
light about me is night.
"
 

Even the darkness is not
too dark for You.

And the night shall shine
as day.
As darkness, so is the light.

-Adapted, Psalm 139:11-12


Natural Questions and Responses:

I feel like some of my friends are avoiding me and I feel hurt by this. What can I do?

Many people are afraid of saying 'the wrong things'.
They may not know how to respond to your grief, so they may stay away or stop calling.
If this has happened with someone you care about, contact them. Let them know you've missed hearing from them.
Tell them that you know some people don't know what to say when there's been a death,
and let them know you understand that.
Tell them that they're important to you and that you'd like to keep your connection with them.

Often when we're most in need of support, we think others will intuitively know what to say or do.
But most of the time we need to tell people who matter to us specifically what it is that would feel supportive
at that particular juncture of time.
We need enunciate what it is we need and want. People can't read our minds nor see into our hearts.

At the same time, some people don't feel comfortable being around others when they are experiencing intense
pain or when they're in tears. You need to assess who can handle your feelings of grief and who cannot, and then
determine how and when to be with those who are uncomfortable with your intensity of feeling.

This also can signal to us that we need find places that are safe and supportive where we can express that which needs expressing.

Hospice support groups can be a place where peers support each other, providing understanding as well as a place
that can provide valuable information and resources.
Groups vary depending on the skills, experience, and personality of the facilitator and the composition of
that particular group.

What do I say when people ask me 'what can I do?'

Some people ask this question casually and it's hard to tell if they truly want a response.
Other people do want to know concretely what they can do for you. Some possible ideas might be:

  • "It would be wonderful if you would call me every now and then to check in on me and give me a "hug"
    over the phone
  • "Let's go for a walk on the weekend."
  • "Let's make a dinner date."

I'm worried that I may be wearing some of my friends down with talking about my grief.
They've been there for me but I'm feeling like I'm a burden. What are ways to deal with this?

Some people may tire of hearing about your sadness. They may in time be less available to you, due to their having
to deal with stresses and strains in their own lives.

Others may want to be there for you, and you may be experiencing your own discomfort around needing support.

Check it out. Let people you care about know that you're feeling that you might be wearing them out when you
speak of your sadness. Let them know you understand if it becomes too much for them, to please tell you
should they feel overwhelmed by or impatient with your sadness. Let them also know you're thinking of adding
different varieties of support to aid you process your grief.

Again, having a number of ways to 'work' your grief, as well as learning the varying capacity of friends
is one of the tasks of this time period.

How do I cope with the sudden flow of tears that sometimes happens when I'm around others.
I feel so embarrassed.

Many feel distressed by being flooded with tears at unexpected times.
Some speak of being 'mugged' by unanticipated swells of emotions.
Memories and associations can be triggered by smells, music, a random comment, by being on vacation,
by a certain season or holiday, or by a certain time of day.

Tears are your natural 'rain'.
Re-frame them as your body's instinctive way of helping you release tensions and toxins
as you do your needed work of mourning.

Sometimes when I'm with someone I want to be alone, and sometimes when I'm alone I want to be
with others. Sometimes nothing feels right. And sometimes I don't know what I need
until I'm actually in a situation and feel either comfortable and good or very uncomfortable
and that I need to leave.
How do I work with this?

Imagine your inner landscape being like the plains, where the weather sweeps over it rapidly.
There's so much going on when we mourn.
We're living on many different levels simultaneously; the practical, daily sphere, the inner land of grief,
and the surges of the lives of others whose lives intersect with our own.
With a death our landscape has altered fundamentally, our roots have weakened and we're more susceptible
to that which runs through and around us.

When people ask you to join them in this time of mourning, let them know how much you appreciate
their thoughtfulness and their invitation and thank them for including you.

Let them know you're feeling tender these day and ask them if they would feel comfortable if you join them and
then if you're having a rough time, if they'd be all right with your leaving their gathering earlier than planned.
Let them know you don't wish to put them into a difficult situation and that you need them to guide you on what's
OK for them and what's not.

Most people are understanding and it's not a problem.
But sometimes leaving early may disrupt someone elses plans.
If that's a problem, do what feels best to you at that time.

kathy-3months-lake

 

 

Guard over me,
for I seek refuge in You.

-adapted part of Psalm 16

 

 

 

 

 Journaling:

You are in passage.
Your world has changed from what it was
when you were with your loved one,
to a world where you are physically
without them.

Your journal can be a place to express your
feelings, memories, and thoughts,
relieving some of the internal pressure
you carry. 
Your journal can carry your awarenesses,
shifts, insights and changes.

It can mark your route, showing you
where you've come.

Some like to journal at a set time in the day. Some journal as feelings move them.
Your journal can serve as your companion and witness.

Some questions to journal about at this juncture might be:

  • What's most challenging at this time, 3 months after your loss?
  • What's surprised you?
  • What thoughts keep circling round inside you?
  • What have you learned about yourself? others? life?

vicki-3month

Resources for Comfort,
Support:

Each evening in our tradition before we go
to sleep at night, we image our soul,
our neshamah,
leaving our body and tucking under the wings
of the Shechina, the feminine presence of God.
There the Shechina watches over our soul,
safeguarding it through the night.

And every morning in the traditional liturgy,
there's a prayer, Elohei Neshama, that gives
thanks for the return and restoration of
our soul, our neshamah, as the new day begins.

Morning prayer can aid in entering the day.
What follows is a meditation I created
in preparation for entering into the traditional prayer,
Elohei Neshama
, which follows.

 

My neshamah shines,
clear, beautiful, fresh, pure.
She is my eternal light which You planted within me,
light by which I find my way.
May she guide me in this new day of life.

Elohei Neshama:
My God, the neshamah which You placed within me
is pure.
You created her, You formed her, You breathed her into me, and
You watch over her while she is within me.
With my death You will take her from me, and
will return her to me in the future to come.
All the time that my neshamah is within me
I give thanks to You,
my God, and God of my ancestors,
Shaper of all,  Source of all souls.
Blessings to You, Who returns neshamot
to those traveling in realms of death.

Another section of prayer that can offer comfort is the ending of the prayer, Adon Olam.
Although many are familiar with this prayer, often we chant it without attending to or feeling the meaning
of its words.
The last two verses I adapted, and share for your nourishment.

You are my God,
Alive, My Defender, My Rock,
when I'm in pain and in narrow places.

You are my banner. You shelter me.
You fill my cup on the day I call.

Into Your Hand I place my spirit
when I sleep and when I wake.
And with my soul, my body.
For You are with me,
and I will not be afraid.

frank-3months-flower 

 

For You are with me.
And I will not be afraid

 

Take good care.

 


You may wish to prepare for the next
upcoming holiday or check back with the 6th month newsletter.

Gentle walking in this time.

 

 

 

 

Guide to Hebrew words

Magen David Shield of David, the 6 pointed star

Neshama One of several Hebrew words that translate as soul

Shechina Refers to the feminine presence of God which dwells withour people, staying close by

Elohei Neshama A morning prayer which translates, My God, the soul

Adon Olam Often sung both at beginning and end of prayer, meaning "Master of the Universe."

Photography Credits

First, third, and last photograph: Frank Dobrushken
Second photograph: Leonid Rozenfeld
Fourth photograph: Kathy Berndt
Fifth photograph: Vicki Hollander