Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Suicide: One Month Later (Pt. 2)

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Grief and Grieving, suicide on September 9th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 3 Comments

The words below come from the wife of a man who took his own life, and who is sharing her thoughts and feelings to help others of us understand what her grief journey is like.  I’m thankful to her for sharing.  I know that many of you join me in praying for God’s blessings in her journey, and for the healing that only He can provide.  (Here’s part 1 if you missed it.)

I feel guilty all the time. I think about what I should have done differently all. the. time. It’s like a movie that plays again and again. I keep trying to re-write the ending. Don’t add to my guilt and ask me why I didn’t (fill in the blank)? I don’t know why I didn’t do things differently. I wish I had done things differently. I wish I had been able to. I wish I could have stopped him. I think about the what ifs all the time. I constantly wish for a do-over. But wishes don’t bring him back. I can’t have a do-over. Don’t add to my guilt please. Hindsight is 20/20.

I know my husband wasn’t perfect. I know you may have heard about some of the things that happened before he died. I am torn. You can tell me how it makes you feel, that’s fine. I’ve felt just as angry, believe me. But, he was a human being, with a life, a soul. I loved him. I plan to emphasize the positive aspects of my husband’s life to my children. It does them no good to hear the negative. They are a part of him too. I don’t want them to think that a part of each one of them is “bad”. So keep the comments about my deceased spouse positive in front of my children. They only have memories now. Let’s make the memories good ones. (Sometimes, I might want to share some of the difficult memories with you privately. Don’t act shocked. Don’t judge me for the things I say or the way I feel.)

I am fearful about the future. Can I do it alone? What if I try and I fall on my face? Who will help me then? My whole future changed in one instant. I mourn the life I once imagined. The advice that I need to “get on with my life” usually comes from people who are still married to their spouse of 30+ years. I resent that advice. Don’t tell me to “move on” or “get over it”. Don’t tell me how I should feel. Tell me that you will be willing to listen to me when things are tough. Make no judgements.


Continued tomorrow.

Suicide: One Month Later (Pt. 1)

Posted in Grief and Grieving, suicide on September 7th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 7 Comments

Last week, a wife whose husband had taken his own life wrote a comment here, and to insure wider readership, I put it in a post. By private correspondence, she has written about her thoughts and feelings one month after her husband’s death.  She does a wonderful job helping all of us understand her grief.  She has given permission to publish her thoughts in the hope they will benefit others, both those who are going through what she is, as well as those of us who are wanting to minister thoughtfully to those who are in her position.  Because of it’s length, I’ll break it up into several posts this week.

It has been one month now. Most people expect me to be “over” it. I’m not sure that ever really happens, but I’m finding that right now, a month later, I’m just starting to feel that this is real. The hurt is starting to overwhelm me at times. In the first few weeks, I was angry. Angry at my husband, angry at God, angry at myself, angry at the world. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. A month later, I’m just sad… and beginning to want to talk (I think.) and yet…it’s old news. Nobody wants to hear about it now. Nobody wants me to cry now. A month ago, I couldn’t and everyone said I should. Now, people act like I shouldn’t. Everyone has moved on with their lives. My life is stuck right here.

Sometimes I look around and realize that the sun is still shining, people are still enjoying their normal everyday lives, and I am surprised that the world still turns and functions as usual. Some days I want the whole world just to stop, so I can catch up (or at least catch my breath). Sometimes I just want the whole world to feel as sad as I do, or at least validate the sadness I feel.

Speaking about breathing…I have to remind myself to breathe sometimes. It’s as if I must will myself to inhale and exhale. A heaviness settles in my chest and simply breathing takes extra effort. It’s also difficult to speak at times. The words are in my head but refuse to exit my mouth.

People told me to call if I needed something or needed to talk. It won’t happen. I will never call you. If you call me though, I will feel that you are interested and concerned. Ask me questions. I will answer the best I can. I might even share my struggles. But don’t feel offended if I don’t. I don’t always know how I am feeling. It changes from day to day, hour to hour, situation to situation. I have to feel that you really want to know before I will share my thoughts with you. If I sense you really don’t have the time, (when you continually glance at your watch), I know you feel obligated to ask me how things are going but you’d really rather not ask.

Continued tomorrow

Grieving: Expressing in Words What We’ve Lost

Posted in cancer, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, hospital visits on July 13th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

When we have suffered a loss and as we move through the grieving that follows, we often express in words what we’ve lost.

Twitter Post by Karen Putz

Twitter Post by Karen Putz

I was reminded that sometimes how we describe our loss surprises others when I saw this Twitter post by Karen Putz (@deafmom) earlier this week.  Karen’s dad has esophageal cancer, and hasn’t really been able to eat normally for the last couple of months.  So in retrospect, his response to the doctor is right on, but it probably surprised everyone when he said it.

As we’re grieving a loss, we tend to express that loss in ways that are highly personal to us — in ways that truly describe what we miss dearly, and would like to have back.  It’s part of the longing for phase of grief.  Karen’s dad longs to be able to eat his wife’s cooking again — both because it’s good, and because that would mean that he’s dealt successfully with his cancer.

One of my favorite questions while visiting patients in the hospital has become, “What one thing are you praying for today?”

I ask that question for lots of reasons.  It helps me target my prayer with the person to pray specifically for what they want most that day.  There’s often a powerful connection between us as we join together in prayer with the words, “God, my prayer is _____ ‘s prayer.”  And it often provides an opportunity to talk about the real issue the person is struggling with that day.

Karen’s post reminded me of a recent visit.  When I first entered the room, most of my conversation was with the patient’s husband.  The patient was having some pain, and just wasn’t engaging.  But when I asked her if she’d like to pray, and specifically what her biggest request was, she jumped in and took over the conversation.  Her request was simple:  “I want to be able to go back home and take care of my 101-year old mother, and help my sister get there so she can help.”  It represented both what she had lost, and what was important to her.  As we prayed together, she verbally reinforced my words with her “Amen’s” and “Yes, Lord’s.”

It was a special moment for all of us.  Her greatest desire had been heard and then expressed in prayer.

Karen’s post is one reason I’m active on Twitter — I’m always learning, and often being reminded of what’s important.  Asking good questions like Karen’s dad’s doctor did is important.

Thanks for the Twitter post, Karen.  And I am praying that your dad gets to eat your mom’s good cooking soon!

When Words Fail

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care on April 30th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 6 Comments

Just like I do 10 or 15 times on days I visit the hospital, I pushed the elevator button, and as the door opened and I stepped in, I made eye contact with the folks already there and asked, “How’s your day going?”

Usually there’s just some brief chit-chat about whatever, then the ride’s over for some of us, and we go about our business.

But this time, a woman I’d seen around the hospital for weeks met my eyes and said, “Not so good.  I lost my husband this morning.  We’re going up to the room to pick up my things.”

Words failed me.  And for good reason.  There was absolutely nothing I could say to help.  I knew it.  And she knew it.  So except for saying, “I’m sorry,” I said nothing.

We might tend to think this was a failed human interaction.  But I’d suggest to you that it wasn’t.

This woman, overwhelmed with her loss, chose to tell me about it.  Instead of just saying, “Okay.”

And as a result I’ve thought and prayed about her often since that day a few weeks ago.

We shared a few moments of life together.  And it had meaning.

Listening to People Talk About Grieving

Posted in Grief and Grieving on April 14th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

Once every week or two, I scan tweets from Twitter that contain the word “grieving.”  Mostly I’m just “listening.”  People tend to be more open about talking about their grief on Twitter on on their blogs than face to face.  Sometimes I’ll follow a link and discover someone who is writing about their grieving process.  It’s a good learning experience.

Today when I scanned the list of tweets, I was  struck by the variety of what people were grieving.

One guy was grieving the loss of his Mercedes.  He’d sold it.  Another person was grieving not having an iPhone.  Apparently he’d never had one, but wanted one.

In stark contrast, there were a number of people grieving the loss of a loved one.  One that caught my attention was a person who wrote about being half way through the grieving process:  they’d had the viewing and the funeral was the next day.  Of course we know that’s not half way.  In fact we never know how far along we are in the process.  It reminded me how when we’re inexperienced in grieving, we tend to focus on the formal ceremonies as the time of grief.  But also, many of us seem to expect people that are grieving to “get over it” soon after the funeral, which probably feeds the misunderstanding.

Finally, two points from this rambling post.

  1. People need to talk about their grieving.  It’s often difficult to do so face to face, so many people do their processing on social media platforms like Twitter or a personal blog.
  2. Not only do people need to talk about their grieving, they need people who will listen.  Who do you know that is grieving?  How can you give them a chance to talk about it while you just listen?