All of us, at one time or another, suffer loss. We lose cell phones, car keys; we even sometimes lose our way. There are losses from which we more easily recover and there are those which rain down upon us with a devastation that consumes us with fears that we will be unable to continue with our lives.
Statistics confirm that at least half of those who have married will experience a divorce. Even school-aged children find their hearts broken. In one case, a breakup seemed the greatest loss of my life; far beyond any pain I had experienced.
Lately, I seem to be experiencing a few more deaths than normal. A friend and another officer were senselessly ambushed and murdered in the line of duty. My former mother-in-law, an incredibly sweet lady and the grandmother of my youngest son, recently passed. Another friend of mine lost her son. And there have been more. It seems like I was attending a memorial every other day.
And, as with most services as far back as I can remember, I’m always at a loss for words to say to the surviving family members. Decades ago, my now late uncle lost his wife. He said that the awkward words spoken to him at the service seemed, at times, senselessly uncaring; perhaps even bordering on stupid. But, he said, following the passage of some time, what he remembered from the day were not the words but the fact that people greeted him. He told me that, beyond all the clumsy words that they spoke, what he remembered was the feeling that they cared and were sorry for his loss.
And I had a similar experience when my father passed just after the turn of the millennium. I received phone calls and emails from around the world. Following the service, I was surrounded by a sea of people who offered handshakes, hugs and words of condolence.
Not long after the whirlwind days immediately following his death and the funeral and the paperwork and the bills and everything else you never realized you’d have to deal with, I found myself with some quiet time alone. As my mind wandered back across the day of his funeral, the images in my mind were a blur. I recalled the faces of a few of my friends and family, but even they were a swirling canvas, distorted in some way, as if I were looking at a moving Monet canvas.
And I could recall no words of solace from them. Instead, what I felt was Love. Hands reached out to me. Lips kissed my cheek. Arms crushed me in warm embraces. Yet whatever words they spoke to me were already lost. Still, even as I type this, the love I felt from my friends and family still dwells within me and I can access it right now. I can feel it.
Following that realization, I made it a point to attend any funeral I could. I made an effort to attend, even if I hadn’t met the deceased but knew the surviving loved one. Actually, I did it especially in that case. For funerals and memorial services are for the living. I would go to offer undoubtedly useless words of condolence, which I hoped would be remembered as love.
My desire was for the surviving family to feel Love so that, in their time of great loss, they’d still have a touch of our Eternal gift. And my hope is that expressing love and compassion to them, they would be sooner able to remember and again feel the love they shared with their deceased loved-one.
In that time of great loss, it is easy to find oneself awash in a sea of despair. Feelings of anger, confusion and emptiness often lead to feelings that there is no way to continue with our own lives.
In my own life, I have come to believe that, following our death, we continue on with our true life. I think our departed loved-ones are still with us, as we will be with those we leave for a tick or two of the Eternal clock.
I think that grieving is necessary. I don’t think it should be ignored or stuffed away; it should be experienced.
The waves of sadness from loss will not suddenly cease, but increasingly you will find a sense of peace between the times of sadness. The more you experience this peace the more you will come to know the timeless essence of the love you have with the person who is no longer here in physical form. In this way grieving becomes a sacred process of knowing your deeper connection with your loved one, rather than an end of all you cherished.
~ Dr. Lee Jampolsky
Here, Dr. Jampolsky offers us guidance in how we might use the grieving process to get in touch with our deceased loved ones on a scale that is, perhaps, more grand than when they were with us in physical form.
When I was a child, I heard a line in a movie, the title of which I have long since forgotten. However, what was said, has stayed with me.
No one is truly gone as long as there is someone to remember them. And when there is no one left to remember them, it won’t matter because we’ll all be together by then.
Though I cannot see them, I believe that all of my deceased friends and family are still alive. In their honor, I am able to strive for a life of happiness; a life that I know they would want for me. And thoughts like this bring them to my mind and heart; and I feel a connection that is even more sacred.