Compassion in a Time of Grief

I had the good fortune to listen this evening to a handsome. and compassionate young man who talked about the tragic and sudden loss of his sister in a fatal car accident. Michale Tesalona shared the grief he experienced related to his sister's death. He talked about the awkwardness, that he believes many people feel when someone around them has lost a loved one. He reminds us to turn towards others in their time of grief, and acknowledge the difficulty we have doing this, due to denial related to our own vulnerability and illusions of safety. He gives direction to help us understand how we can be helpful to others. We want to run from that which makes us uncomfortable. Loss is a reminder of our vulnerability and the possibility of our own suffering, as well as the possibility of our family members suffering. The Christian ritual of receiving ashes on,"Ash Wednesday", is intended to remind us of our vulnerability, and our ultimate morality. About 2% of the population have lost a family member in the last twelve months. Michael reminds us of how we might avoid our emotions related to loss, and that we often attempt to deny our emotions by avoiding others who are suffering loss. There was a time in my Italian heritage when it was a custom, that a black arm band was worn for thirty days after the loss of a friend or family member. This is no longer a common practice, and it seems that we frown upon the open expression of loss. Socially we tend to hide our grief. I suspect that this ultimately leads to much of the violence and aggression we see in our country. It is a simple fact that energy needs to be expressed. When I lived in Europe many years ago, it would be common to see women dressed in black crying openly in the streets due to the loss of a spouse, parent, or child. It was not hidden, but respected. There were no demeaning comments, or judgment regarding a person's grieving behavior and expression. Today my brother passed away. We have not been close over the past years, but we once really enjoyed each other's company, when he was younger he was very playful, and had an incredible sense of humor. He was older than me and I idolized him! Today I realized I never told him some of the things I valued about him.. For me this loss is the icing on the cake of all that I have lost this year. Maybe, I even feel permission to experience the deep sadness regarding these losses? It has been difficult knowing that my brother was suffered so much, and it, is a relief to know that he is no longer suffering. So many people right now are suffering from a variety of losses. They might not even feel that their loss is legitimate to express. Any loss is legitimate to express, just as any human emotion is legitimate to experience, unfortunately we often don't give others permission to grieve, due to our own fear, discomfort, and anxiety. It is so difficult to be with someone experiencing deep grief, We want to run away, it frightens us, and it hurts too much. We often want to run away from the grief of others, and the grief within ourselves. We can find many distractions that keep us from knowing ourselves, eating, smoking tobacco, affairs, or the use of a variety of other substances, that keep us from truly knowing ourselves. One of the best things we can do to show compassion, and to get to know ourselves, is to be present, and sit with others as they grieve deeply. Michael says that another thing we can do is to respond to a need that the grieving person is experiencing. He gives examples of bringing food, and gave one example of neighbors coming together and cutting the grieving person's lawn for a period of a year. What compassion, and what caring!

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