Archive for ‘Grief’

May 22, 2018

Grief

by Rod Smith

Grief is a complex matter. Expressing it ought to be encouraged. Stopping it up, denying its presence or refusing to express it can be downright dangerous. Lodged within, it is poison to the soul. It corrupts thinking, messes with feelings, and diminishes the capacity to experience the full range of human emotion.

The power and reward of denying it or ignoring its necessity ought never be underestimated.

If grief is in you, rather get it out.

If it seems impossible find someone who is trained to assist.

Grief unexpressed can shift personalities and be a welcome-mat for toxins to enter whole families and set whole communities off in directions they would rather not go.

Ignored grief poisons while it steers.

Un-cried tears turn to anger and anger transforms into walls of the heart and walls of the heart are vividly signposted with “Keep Out” and “Danger: No entry” posted on all sides.

Please, don’t tell the man or woman who has suffered loss to “get over it” or to “move on” or to “man up.” Grief-suppressing exhortations that are most unhelpful.

That miscarriage, that betrayal in marriage, that loss of a child, that sudden illness that took a beloved spouse, may take years to seep into the psyche of the man or woman who has faced it, let alone make sense of it, or even ever be able to “move on” from it.

May 13, 2018

I met a superhero

by Rod Smith

On Friday of this past week I met a superhero: Eva Kor. Mrs. Kor is a holocaust survivor and former victim of Josef Mengele and his infamous and ghoulish medical tests. Now in her eighties, Eva eloquently told a spellbound audience about her imprisonment at Auschwitz with her twin sister. They were 10. She told of her many encounters with Mengele, of their eventual liberation, and her subsequent life of recovery, forgiveness, and unfathomable determination.

Here are a few almost direct quotations. When your heart is simultaneously grieving and rejoicing as mine was, it’s difficult to take perfect notes:

  • Never give up on yourself or your dreams.
  • Ask yourself everyday what you can do to make the world a better place.
  • Do whatever is possible to get rid of all prejudice in your life.
  • Discover for yourself that you have the power to forgive.
  • Refuse to be a good victim. Rather forgive. Forgiveness is the best revenge. If I could forgive Mengele I knew I could forgive everyone.
  • Forgiveness is the best revenge: it works and it has no side effects.
  • Forgiveness is about you and it has nothing to do with the perpetrators.
  • People who forgive are at peace with the world.
May 6, 2018

Abandoning mother?

by Rod Smith

Somewhat of a theme has emerged of late in my private practice. I’m seeing several parents, particularly mothers, who have difficulty treating their adult sons and daughters and their families as whole, separate entities from themselves. They appear to want mothering to continue when their mothering is over.

Yes. Mothering ends.  I’ve written on this theme often in this column.

It is as if the adult women are saying, “I raised them to have wings but I did not expect them to use the wings,” or, “I gave them wings but they need me to show them how to use them and where to fly.”

I have compassion for these parents. It is pronounced for those who have lost a spouse to death or divorce and who then see the natural separation their adult sons and daughters rightfully and appropriately enjoy as another evidence of abandonment.

If the adult sons or daughters are prone to guilt they will quickly capitulate to the pressure to take care of mother and/or come under her control. This will often expose stresses and stimulate conflict within the marriage.

It’s even more complicated when both spouses each have a parent who inflicts a couple with such expectations.

Am I suggesting abandoning mom? Of course I am not.

Remain loving, remain out of control, and remain connected. That’s what loving adults do. 

Write to RodESmith122@gmail.com

April 22, 2018

Grief and grieving

by Rod Smith

Grief and grieving is a life-long process. If you have suffered great loss, the death of a spouse, parent, child, or sibling, marriage, a deeply-bonded relationship, recently or decades ago, do not be surprised if:

  • You are still not over it. Some losses are never fully grieved and will leave deep scars and escape healing or recovery or closure. This is all true for you despite what you have read and heard about “time heals.”
  • Others, even people close to you, expect you to “move on” when there are days you feel as crippled by the loss as if it just happened. Consequently, you develop a story about why you are having a bad day because, if you confess your actual experience, you know you are tiring those who think you should have “moved on by now.”
  • You feel guilty when you do sense freedom from the loss and you feel guilty when you don’t.
  • You sometimes dream about the person whom you grieve and in the dream you know you are dreaming and want the dream to last forever. Waking up from the dream feels like a letdown of immense proportions.
  • You measure your life in terms of “before” and “after” the loss of a person you love or the relationship you had.
February 22, 2018

How much do I tell my sons?

by Rod Smith

“My sons are 14 and 11 and are both very close to their grandmother. They know their grandmother is facing some serious health issues. I try to guard them from the harsh realities but I also don’t want to cover up the truth. My mother is a very positive woman and wants to include them in conversations about her health. What do you think?”

I’d suggest you trust the strong bridges you have all already built toward each other for many years.

Tell your sons about your impulse to guard and protect them from what is happening in the family.

Talking about how you want to shield them is as important as the conversations about their grandmother’s health. Open conversations are a means of offering support and love and will feed the hope you all share. Invite your mother to share as much as she is comfortable with sharing and invite her to do it with or without your help or presence.

Meaningful and kind and considerate conversations help families breathe and the legitimate inclusion of your sons will not only help them play their significant role in their immediate community but also prepare them to love and support you and their own families in days to come.

January 15, 2018

This arrived over the weekend….

by Rod Smith

“Today is the 1st anniversary of discovering that my lady friend had been having an affair over the previous month with a fast-talking operator who is half my age. She told me it was over, a mere a flash in the pan for which she felt neither remorse nor regret.

“The revelation was devastating and reduced me to an emotional wreck. Over the next two months I was almost suicidal and had to seek professional help. I still loved her; I attempted to recover with the assistance of a therapist and researched depression and heartbreak. I lurched from one temporary separation to the next but was always so pleased to reconcile that it seemed the hurt was receding. That was until the next crisis surfaced.

“Then I read your column on forgiveness and experienced a wonderful epiphany. Suddenly I realized that I was punishing myself for actions for which I was not responsible. A huge cloud lifted and healing began. Today, a year later, I have absolutely no painful memories of the incident, feel rejuvenated and bear no resentments.

Thank you so much for your advice.”

 

November 30, 2017

Toward being more human

by Rod Smith

When referring to my brother’s generosity I wrote that I believe generosity is among several of the most powerful human abilities. I’ve seen it time and again do its fabulous work.

Here are more of what I believe to be innate human capacities.

Exercised, they make us “more human.” Neglected or ignored, I believe they render us rather cold, even inhuman:

  • The capacity to forgive even the most grievous offenses – yes, of course it’s hard, but NOT doing so may be even harder.
  • The capacity for empathy – to see and understand, but of course, not necessarily agree with, the perspective of another, even that of an enemy.
  • The capacity to influence for good (and, to influence for ill is bundled within the same set of human strengths). We have the power to influence – let’s hope it is used for good.
  • The capacity to learn from mistakes and errors, and to learn that it is possible to not repeat them.
  • The capacity to move up the brain and therefore allow ones self to think more objectively, engage in better long-term planning, and form the habit of responding rather than reacting.
  • The capacity to listen more than to speak. If we listen we may actually learn something – when we speak we are usually repeating what we think we already know.
  • The capacity to calm the ego rush – or the ability to see and understand that being right or recognized or winning doesn’t come close to the joy of learning to be loving.
November 26, 2017

Picking up pieces

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I’ve seen women and men painstakingly pick up pieces of their lives after a broken marriage.

This is necessary, natural, and understandable. Deep love, when it ends, at least for one party, is scarily disorientating.

Some never recover. A broken heart can really cause a slow (or a quick) death.

Perhaps you are you tripping over evidence of a terminated relationship. Letters, photographs, or books seem to appear from nowhere and evoke fresh pains or salt for the wounds.

A purge may be necessary, but it’s not for all.

The loot may be all you have. It can become a crucial stepping-stone to greater health. Or it can be a debilitating anchor.

I’ve been confused about why some friendships have ended. I examine memories for clues to what, how, and why things went wrong.

There are times this is unnecessary.

My damaging role is painfully clear.

The pain I caused is deep for others and obvious to me. And, my own and deserved pain is utterly near.

What do we do with our pain – deserved or not?

Options are unlimited once confession occurs.

Confession, of course, does not mean mutual forgiveness is inevitable. It’s not.

Options broaden with confession and commitment to learn from the past.

October 17, 2017

Will you be my friend?

by Rod Smith

I am very aware that people don’t analyze their connections in the manner I’ve described below. We’d have healthier communities and families if we did!

  • Will you search with me when I am searching, stand with me when I am standing, and drop to your knees with me in prayer if and when I need it? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you stand up to me with firmness and kindness when my many blind spots are blocking my thinking? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you join me and examine our connection (as casual acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, partners, or spouses) so that we remain mutual and equal and respectful no matter the degree or significance of our connection?
  • Will you take time to listen to me? I will try to take time to listen to you?
  • Will you allow me my quirks and eccentricities and try to regard them as interesting rather than regard them as things you wish were different about me?
  • Will you seek my highest good as far as you are able given the knowledge we have about each other? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you try to be as unafraid of me as I try to be unafraid of you?
September 6, 2017

Young boy killed in school bus accident

by Rod Smith

When I heard the news this week that a student from a KwaZulu Natal school was killed in a bus crash my heart wanted to reach across the oceans to the boy’s family and to his peers at the school.

I am sure the impact was the same for you, no matter where you live.

I know, I know, many accidents occur daily and lives are lost daily. But, this one struck home for many reasons added to the devastating loss of a young and vibrant life.

The deceased boy sits between my sons in age. No doubt he was full of dreams and fun and had my sons’ senses of limitless possibilities. He was part of a vibrant and close community of young men who will probably struggle for years to try to make sense of something that makes no sense at all.

May Grace and Comfort fill the hearts of Themba’s family and friends and teachers and chaplains and counselors and, for what it’s worth, may that community so many miles away from my community here in the USA, know that we too, hurt with you and mourn with you.