What death takes and leaves behind…

  Death is, as we all know the inevitable at some point, and we usually accept it, albeit reluctantly, at the end of a long life, and hopefully it comes without suffering and fear. However it also comes after a long painful illness, or unexpectedly via accident, sometimes from violence and in other shocking and tragic ways.  However and whenever it comes, it leaves a veil of grief that makes it difficult to see life as we have known it. We are changed by it and so are our lives and our world. In and of itself grief creates myriad emotional and physical reactions; we feel un-grounded, as though we too are disembodied. At times we become caught up in the throes of indescribable emotional hurt; we’re tossed about on waves that come unexpectedly to sweep away our sense of equilibrium, causing confusion, anxiety as well as physical pain. As we go through all the known phases of grief, there is no solace. Kind words to comfort are appreciated, and at times register to give warmth to our aching hearts. We are thankful for those times,  and for those times when we are alone where we do not have to talk about it, or try to be normal and supportive of those who share our grief; or explain the whys and wherefores of how death took away our loved one, just as we definately need and appreciate the closeness of loved ones,  our friends and others who hold us in their arms and do their best to comfort us. The expressions of concern compassion and generosity of those around us help of course. Without them reaching out to us the feelings of being isolated in a strange dark world would be greatly intensified.  However, grief is a deeply personal thing. The loss is so profound that little gets through it to relieve the suffering. We cannot laugh or enjoy much without feeling a sense of guilt that we are able to feel anything but the grief. Grieving is something we must do. And we all need to do it in our own way and in our time. To deny… to hold it back is only to delay its negative impacts. There is no prescribed way to grieve, even though there are grief counselors there, they can only help us realize that what we experience is natural, normal, and support the process of somehow moving on.  Even though we feel we never will get over it, somehow in time, we learn to live around it. I can speak of this not just as one who has helped so many go through the process of grieving, also as one who has had many occasions to grieve. This winter especially, as tragic death and trauma have hit my family hard. It’s not that grief is a new experience for me. I lost my son 15 years ago; I lost my mother six years ago. You don’t get good or better at dealing with loss. Except you know what to expect, you know your mind, body and emotions will be cast adrift on those all too familiar painful waves of despair and sadness. You know you must let it be what it is, not try to avoid this passage through hell. You know you must do your best to carry on, to balance the stress with relief through sleep,  (which is hard come by when in grief) and letting the tears flow and through purposeful activity all the while being careful not to drive yourself too hard. The trouble for all too many people along with grief comes remorse, guilt, the age-old should haves… would haves…could haves…if only  kinds of self-torture that add to the stress. Insomnia and the inability to think clearly are exacerbated by those kinds of thought processes. At times of grief there seems to be a tendency to forget that we did our best  and all we could do for our loved ones in every life situation; we must remember that, given the time and energy available to us, the resources at our disposal and the circumstances of our lives at the time we did everything we were capable of doing.  Second guessing is a dangerous and self damaging process. Hind sight isn’t 20/20, as is often said. It is the most distorted vision we have.  If we knew exactly what the outcomes of our actions would be before hand, of course we would make perfect choices: In that case none of us would ever have reason for remorse or regret.  And we must not forget the roles that our departed loved ones played in the whole scheme of their lives and ours, and the choices they made, regardless of our interactions with them. They had their own ways of thinking and doing things. As one wise woman once said to me, when my children were young and resisted my guidance, “We all have our own destiny to fulfill.”  Even if you don’t believe in predestination, such  advice reminds us that we all choose our paths and how to tread them and always do to the best of our ability. Hindsight assumes we have the power to always control life and prevent accident or death, hence the notion that we failed to use that power, resulting in the  if only we had done this or not done that that person or pet would still be with us …having perfect  seer like  foresight,  it’s is what I call playing God.  One of the hardest things to accept about death is that we are powerless at times to ward it off. Even physicians and veterinarians with all their devices and skills fail to keep death from taking life. I am not a great believer in fate; however in certain cases it seems to be the only explanation, at least for some people. So people resort to these kinds of ideas when all else fails. We are after all human, and as humans we feel the need to understand, explain and make what we experience have meaning for us. Sayings such as it was meant to be tend to help some people come to terms with it. Yet I feel it’s so much more complex than any of us can comprehend. A few months  ago my lovely brilliant niece Rosie was brutally murdered; the shock and horror of it is an earthquake that has shaken the whole family, and her mother my dear sister/friend, and Rosie’s children , ages 11 and  five, have a long  way to go  in the grieving process, as we all do. The horrific violent taking of a life so filled with promise is irreconcilable.  Rosie was a rare and beautiful person inside and out, whose gifts were a blessing to all she interacted with. Losing her has been  made harder waiting the two months while  investigations went on; only recently have the authorities released Rosie’s body for burial: A long and brutal attribute to the whole scenario.  As my younger brother put it, “A thread in the fabric of our family has been torn away, and can never be replaced.”  Indeed, we all feel the hole in our lives at the loss of this wonderful loving woman: The world has lost a great and talented giver whose vibrant energy and spirit went into everything she did, and who contributed so positively to the lives of others.  The world cannot afford to lose people like Rosie; she was a rare and special being in every respect.   I leave for the funeral; next week, and will be with family to share the burden of grief while we attempt to comfort each other in all the ways we know how.  And just days ago our beloved 28-year-old cat Robert passed away. Those who came to the Elaine Kissel Hypnosis Center and to our home knew Robert, our manly orange tabby. He was kind of like our receptionist:  Always careful not to impose him self on those who have little liking for cats or are allergic to them. People expected to see him, and if they didn’t would ask after him. He never looked or acted his age, and we will miss his charging through the house at full speed, and doing his morning rounds to check in every corner for anything amiss, and stretching out full length to be stroked with obvious satisfaction. He was a big and wonderful boy. Hiss companion Rhonda our sleek black cat lives on, I am sure missing her lifelong friend. Yes he lived a long and good life. His personality charmed everyone. He was a member of our family, whose presence we will miss more than words can say.  Death cannot take away our good and happy memories, and they remain to sustain us; they cause us to smile, and even laugh, and yes, to cry.  Even though their physical being is lost to us, as we tell the many stories of our shared lives, and when we think of them, we get a sense of their presence.  Their spirits live on in our memories, as long as we live and never forget them.  Death cannot take away love. It can only empower  and preserve it.  Those who have passed on from this life are immortalized in our memories and their goodness and their good deeds continue to resonate in the world they left behind.  And pets, whose loyal unconditional love and comforting presence have been there for us in good and bad times, leave behind the finest example of true and lasting friendship.  Farewell Rosie, Farewell Robert. .

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3 Responses to “What death takes and leaves behind…”

  1. Dr. Elaine Kissel Says:

    Reblogged this on Insights, all about you and your inner and outer world and commented:

    There have been more losses since I wrote that blog; Rhonda is no longer with us in physical form, and many others who I have had the blessing of knowing and being close to. Grief lives as long as we do, it changes in face and character, in its impact on us. It can take the wind out of our spiritual sails and a great deal of our life energy for awhile. However, unless we allow it, it does not take away the fact that we still have much to live for and to give to the living all the love that was left to us.

  2. Dale Sparage Says:

    Elaine, I was deeply moved by this entry, I feel as if I’m grieving right along with you; for your losses and maybe a few of my own. The writing is your best yet, it seems to flow directly from a raw and human place. a place of heart, at the core of essence.
    Your words make the world want to cry along with you, and we do, offering our deepest sympathies, knowing we can’t take your pain away, but we can know it and share it through your expression given to us by this art form.

    • Dr. Elaine Kissel Says:

      Dear Dale , you are reminding me that when we grieve we do not cry alone.
      Thank you for your empathy. I have also found that while mourning our own losses we are also doing so with compassion for all who have ever loved and lost. Grief is, after all, one of the most common human denominators, just as is love and all of its positive atributes.

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