From the Author: "Where Do We Go?"

“Where Do We Go?”
By: James F. Weinsier  

Sooner, or later, everyone loses loved ones -- that’s life. Although the circumstances can be vastly different, it’s expected (with some degree of certainty) to be in the natural course of events; a chronological progression from oldest family members on down. Even when the passing of a loved one is on the horizon --whether naturally from old age, or a critical illness-- there’s disbelief when the event finally takes place. An unexpected death makes matters even worse. Emotions take a giant step forward when the loss isn’t quite so typical, like that of a sibling or life-long friend. In even more drastic fashion, emotions jump right off the scale when the occurrence combines the opposite of what’s expected in life, both an unnatural as well as an atypical event; the loss of a child or grandchild is devastating regardless of the circumstance.

In today’s world it’s hard enough to sort out everyday problems in the best of times. Just imagine how difficult it is if your head’s spinning out of control and everything is unraveling like a ball of kite string as a gust of wind whips the kite skyward. You’re trying to hold the all pieces together, and your last bit of contact with reality is hanging on by the fingertips. What to do about the situation becomes glaring.

Where do you go, what do you do, and whom do you turn to through it all? A simple instruction guide would be nice, but it would be so voluminous you wouldn’t know where to begin to find the answers. Besides, it would be lacking that personal touch. Professional help? Unless you’re familiar and comfortable with someone, where do you look for the right person (out of the clear blue) with so much else on your mind? Furthermore, therapy can be extremely expensive. It’s most likely out of the question for those without health insurance coverage. The Internet, library, a bookstore…(“You’re grieving!”)  Though the anonymity feature of this route may appeal to some, if you’re not used to using these resources as commonplace, muddling through an endless sea of information is the last thing you need to be doing. You would be right back to square one where to begin?

In such times of loss you need a support group. It’s important to seek out a hand-chosen group of good listeners (some of which can act as a sounding board) comprised of strong family members, and/or the closest of friends, all of whom genuinely care for your well being. A helping hand, or two, or three wouldn’t hurt either.

Amidst the cloud of sadness, the onus of selecting the support group will be on your shoulders. Family members, wandering around in the same stupor, are unable to supply any support. Also, young children, who don’t understand what’s going on, are inquisitive, frightened and seemingly underfoot at each turn, unintentionally compound matters. Furthermore, friends often ‘mistakenly’ think the right formula is to leave you alone. They convince themselves “you need your space,” or maybe it’s an excuse to put off the awkward ice-breaking entree to conversation. Either way, they shy away from talking about the person as if it’s taboo, or for fear of striking a latent nerve and heightening your grief. Whatever their reasoning, it’s wrong! Reflecting on the past, good as well as hard times is a form of catharsis and just what the doctor ordered. It’s equally important to rule out casual friends and acquaintances who banter about insincere rhetoric and idle promises to “be there” under the guise of etiquette. Trusting those in a time of weakness sets you up for disappointment, which can unnecessarily add to your stress.

One needs to realize -- whether asking for help is his or her style or not -- with so much on the plate, sides of funeral arrangements and getting the person’s affairs in order might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Then, as the dust settles and reality sets in, there’s catching up with your family’s needs and finally taking care of yourself. After all, the world hasn’t stopped moving during your absence.

In addition to a support group, a supplement of tried and proven self-help antidotes, specifically those you feel might help, accelerates the recovery process.

  • Move ‘yourself’ up on the priority list. First, do whatever it takes to settle yourself down. Then even if it seems like the furthest thing from your mind go to the beauty parlor to feel better, or go out shopping. Take in a ball game with the guys, or just take a walk… There’s nothing wrong with stepping out of the picture for a moment to take an escape break. If you’re a wreck, you aren’t any good to those who need you in these times.
  • Approach friends. They may not offer help because they believe you have enough, and don’t need anymore. The act of ‘asking’ puts the matter in a whole different light. It lets them know their help is wanted. It takes ‘awkward’ out of the equation, and gives the friend a feeling of importance, while offering an opportunity for gratification.     Asking for help can range from assistance with practical tasks such as putting affairs in order to something more personal like taking an afternoon to hang-out and blow off some steam. Anything you are willing to delegate, including venting, in effect is letting someone else carry a piece of your burden, and will ensure your plate doesn’t get too full too fast. On the other hand, if you don’t speak-up, no one will know what’s going on in your mind. 
  • Reflect on the memories. Take out the photo albums, or videos, that haven’t been looked at in years and share them with others, or just look at the pictures alone. In spite of the loss, the time spent together and fond memories will always be there.
  • Write down the ‘things’ never said. Sometimes writing is easier than talking about your inner feelings with others. You can simply jot down little notes; put them into a keepsake journal if that tickles your ambitious bone. Or, if you’re so inclined, write a long letter. In either case, you can take the opportunity as a do-over (of sorts), thoughtfully writing down the things you regret not having said when the time was right. If you’re embarrassed about the possibility of someone reading what you’ve written, whatever it is can be destroyed once you’ve released that slice of regret from your system.
  • Don’t set a time line on recovery. You shouldn’t put undue pressure on yourself to get back on track and into a normal routine; nor, should you be pressured, or influenced, by the opinions of others. “All in due time” is the operative phrase.
  • Think positive. Apply the old saying, “Every cloud has a silver lining” to the circumstance. Feeling sad about the situation, and sorry for yourself, has its appropriate time and place in the grieving process…but after you’ve forged through these feelings, it’s important to let them go and start living again. While letting go of the coattails of sad, hurt and sorrow, grab onto some that will lift you up. Volunteer or donate to a charity that’s linked in some way to the loss; help others by sharing your healing experience, or simply resume living your life the way your loved one would have wanted.

These are a few examples. The list goes on and on….  It’s really a matter of what you believe will work for you as an individual.

While some remedies for grief may have proven to be more effective than others…and supposedly “time heals all wounds,” rest assured there’s no panacea.

About the Author:
James F. Weinsier, author of the children’s book “Where Do We Go?”, and the insightful-antidotal poetry books “Here…and Afterthoughts” and “More…Thoughts”, is a retired businessman. He now spends his time speaking and on his first passion writing-from the heart. Reeling from the whirlwind losses of a father, a ‘son’, and a grandson over a nine month period, and the in between Hospice care and the deja vu roller coaster rides to the hospitals and funeral homes, his other grandchildren clamored for answers. “Where do we go?” was the predominant question. As an outlet, and some form of stability through it all, writing “Where Do We Go?” became his lifeline through the arduous healing process. Furthermore, it turned out to be a silver lining-the opportunity to help others. Through inquisitive possibilities relating to everyday life, both young and old alike are left wondering…yet reassured.