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Lessons from grief

Last October, 26th, my younger sister Barb died, and this past January 11th my brother Richard and sister Deborah and I held a gathering to remember, celebrate and honor our sister.

As I stood to share my eulogy, grief arose so only grief was expressed as words were held as I expressed what was real and present, grief. No, I was not sorry, as many people will often say when emotion rises up, I honored what was true, which was the grief I felt.

Standing up in front of the community with all eyes focussed on me, I felt alone. The question occurred to me to ask the community, "Have any of you ever experienced the loss of a loved one? Although I chose not ask voice this question, I was connected to the fact that we all have faced loss, since it is part of the the human experience.

I was aware that as I wrote my eulogy, that I was avoiding using the words; death, died, and hospice and substituting words such as ; passed on, we lost her, no more treatment. I found using these words were less real, less authentic, because when I wrote and spoke the words; died and death, emotions came roiling up.

Author Stephen Jenkins wrote in his book, Die Wise, "We live in a death phobic society." Our medical field is focussed on one thing, life, and holds death as a failure. Yet death is inevitable. How we hold death and respond to its presence is up to us.

Buddhists speak to the little deaths that life brings us along our way, are all preparations for the big death when we leave our bodies. I am slowly understanding the concept, that how I hold death, impacts how I live. As Hunter Thompson said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

Barb did not have a living will, will, or make any preparations for her death, so we had to not only scramble to deal with the legal issues of her estate, we were left with making important and emotional decisions regarding her service.

Two incredible gifts Barb shared with me as she was dying. First, while in hospice, she asked Deb, Rick and I a profound question, " How was this experience for us, as she was dying." This was the most; honest, vulnerable, and real experiences that the four of us ever shared with each other. We spoke of our pain, appreciation, and love - truly a healing and blessing. The second gift was the day before she died, Barb opened her eyes to see Sarah, who had flown in from California. Barb held out her arms to hug her beloved niece. Tucker, his girlfriend Nicole, Sarah and I spent the next forty -five minutes looked into Barb's eyes, smiling and crying tears of love and loss, as we shared our love for each other. The closest way I can describe this energy is to say that Barb had the look of a 3 month old baby looking into its parents eyes- Pure love. Yes, there was beauty, love and transformation in Barb's death.

I continue to metabolize my grief. Tears still flow, my heart aches, while gratitude and love blossom. Barb was the best little sister EVER!

Do you accept death, or hold it at a distance ? What emotions do you allow yourself around death and loss? What is the unlived life that haunts you? Do you have a: will , living will, have you written or shared what you want for your funeral?

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