Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Reality of Grieving

I had no idea of the physical and emotional pain of loosing someone I love so much, grieving is a full body and spirit experience.  The past week is totally a blur.  The days and nights have all run together as we pulled together the details of the funeral, gathered family and mostly greeted friends.  To say my dad was a people person is a vast understatement; he was loved by so many.  In the first few days after his passing we had literally hundreds of people come to my parents home with swollen eyes to tell us how they will miss my dad. 

We could feel the prayers and loving energy that people extended to us.  I am totally exhausted, but so grateful for those who took the time to stop by to offer sympathy and help.  People are so generous and thoughtful and I am going to be a better person as a result of this experience. 

I feel totally unlike myself as I grieve.  I don’t care to get dressed or to clean the house.  My body is exhausted and my spirit is sad.  I have great faith in life after death and I know that my dad has been with us this week, but it doesn’t take away the pain of loosing him. 

I asked my friends Dave and Erica to find something spiritual for me to put in my talk.  I didn’t have any time to research myself.  They sent the following:

As Elder Maxwell said, “…hope stands quietly with us at funerals. Our tears are just as wet, but not because of despair. Rather, they are tears of heightened appreciation evoked by poignant separation.” 

“We grieve, sometimes terribly, but we grieve with hope and faith in Jesus Christ and in the reality of the resurrection.

“In Gethsemane, when Jesus was about to partake of the bitter cup, (3 Nephi 11:11) he asked three of his closest friends, Peter, James and John to simply be with him. “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38) He didn’t ask them to fix it or talk about it.  He didn’t counsel with them or ask them to work through the problem. He just wanted the comfort of knowing his friends, the ones he loved, were nearby.

“I quickly learned that there was almost nothing I could say or do that would ease the grief of those who had just lost loved ones.  No matter how many times I said, “I’m sorry”, or the amount of “funeral potatoes” the Relief Society brought over, or even the depth of Plan of Salvation testifying, there was very little that lifted the darkness of the long nights. All I could do was be there, to “tarry”, to “watch”.
The commandment to all disciples of Christ is to “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). We don’t have to know what to say or do. We just have to be there, be close and be ready.
One thing we can do, indeed must do, is attend funeral or memorial services. This is “watching” with the family in their most desperate time of need.   We may not have known the deceased well, or even at all, but for the family to see the caring concern of their ward family is exactly what the Savior would have us do and is part of our duty. Though it may not be easy, there are a million excuses that will get us out of attending funerals, it is one of the most important meetings we will ever attend.

“Many of us belong to these unique ward families or communities. We worship, learn, laugh, care, at times even argue and bicker. But most of all, we are simply there; to do, to be, whatever is needed. It’s just what friends and family do."(Neal A. Maxwell, "Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 61)

This quote summarizes how I feel about the people who have extended a hand to me and my family this week.  It has been amazing! 

Following is a list of some little things I have learned about helping people.  These are mostly for my future reference, but aren’t we all looking for ideas to help us know what to do when someone is experiencing loss.
  • All I wanted to talk about is my dad. Even though I cared about the person talking this was my moment, my loss, and my time to talk about my dad.
  • Food was great, but not necessary.  Visits were appreciated even without something in hand.
  • It was brilliant when people brought paper goods along with their meals.  Paper goods would have been as nice as a meal.
  • No one wanted to clean.  I am so grateful for those who would come in and just start cleaning the kitchen. 
  • One friend offered to make a memory book and asked us to spread the word to my dads family and friends to submit their memories and pictures for us to include.   That is such a thoughtful gift idea. I am really looking forward to reading it.  I know she has been pulling comments from facebook and elsewhere.  
  • Taking the kids was also a huge service so Josh could take care of other responsibilities or be with us. 
So many people have just seen a need and stepped in and helped.  I am so grateful for my dear friends, some who didn’t even really know my dad, who have provided awesome support to me.

I am also grateful for my amazing husband who has carried a large portion of the weight of our family this week while I am supporting my mom and siblings.  Josh has been an amazing support doing whatever I have asked him.  This has been more difficult for him emotionally that I would have expected, but he has been willing to stand back and not seek for his own comfort in order to allow me to morn (child free) with my family. 

It has been difficult but comforting to be in tight quarters with my siblings during this emotional time.  We all have such strong personalities.  We have united at many moments and we have fought with the emotion and passion that only a grieving family could do.

I feel like I have matured 20 years in the last week just having had this experience.  I am sure that I have yet to learn much about the grieving process, but I know much more now than I did a week ago.  I will miss my dad terribly!  


The Ravsten's said...

Well said. I love you! I'm still mourning with you and I hope you feel some comfort in knowing that my prayers are with you and your family.

Erica said...

What a beautiful post! I am so sorry you had to find out what this is like. I remember the pain, it is unlike any other pain. Let me know if you need anything, but the thing that helped me most of all was knowing that other people "knew" and that somehow, in ways I couldn't believe in at the moment, those people survived it all and were ok. I remember thinking that people were wrong when they said it got better with time. But Christ in His atonement, has made it possible for us to have our burdens lightened. And I can testify of that. I love you and I'm so sorry. And I must admit that I miss your dad too! What a great man. You couldn't dislike Neil Owen.

sorichfamily said...

Amen to what Erica said. I love you! Your dad will be missed! I always looked forward to his smile and hugs!! Praying for you guys!

Cathie said...

Ahh Care, you are my rock. This is SO HARD.

Amy said...

Oh Carrie I'm soooo sorry to hear about your Dad!! What a sad, horrible tragedy. I love the quotes you shared and they made me think of one by Joseph Smith. He was speaking specifically about children that die but I think it can apply to any loss. He said, "Notwithstanding all this glory, we for a moment lose sight of it, and mourn the loss, but we do not mourn as those without hope."

There is an awesome chapter in The Teachings of Joseph Smith on death, here is the link to it on the LDS website:

Thinking and praying for you dear friend!

Erin Jeanne said...

Carrie, It has been years and years since I saw you or was part of your family. But I must say I truly felt like a part of your family. Your dad was truly my "second dad". Reading your posts and those of Cathie's I find myself in awe of the grace with which you are all handling this. I wish I could say that I had grace and dignity at 18 when my dad passed. I didnt. I truly love your Dad and your mom. I am praying for your Mother. My heart cannot forget the pain I saw in my own Mother's face when her eternal companion was taken. As you said so beautifully, the knowledge of the Plan of Happiness does not easy the pain of the separation, but it makes it survivable. Well, at least that is my opinion with the losses I have experienced. You are all in my prayers.
Erin Jeanne Parker Womack