Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Alone in the middle of a crowd

The day before yesterday was Kevin's Kansas City memorial. I can't say it was lovely, because I am not willing to call anything about his death lovely, but it was meaningful and I guess that's what we want memorials to be. I am grateful to those who came and glad we could share this time celebrating him.

Several people spoke of him, spoke beautifully with such love and respect. I could barely hold myself together, speaking briefly at the beginning and end. And again, I guess that's part of what memorials are supposed to be, or at least often are; the opportunity for the bereaved to display the wound and maybe be less alone in their segmented state.

I was surrounded by people who love Kevin and, by extension or by good luck, love me too. And I have never felt so alone. Maybe that's not true, I have felt just as alone, but I don't think I have ever felt more alone. Because I was.

Grief is an incredibly isolating experience. I am mourning my beloved, my soulmate, the person I love most in the world. No one knows exactly how I am feeling, for all that this is a common, miserable, everyday experience. Likewise, Kevin's kids are mourning the loss of their dad. No one knows exactly how they are feeling, for all that this is a common, miserable, everyday experience. And the same applies to his family, his friends, his communities. We all are experiencing something common and utterly unique, utterly personal.

Grief isolates us. It brings out the animal in us, the part that writhes and howls and does all manner of socially unacceptable things. It is a pain that cannot be bourn alone, yet can only be bourn alone. I do not want to share the most private moments of my grief with anyone. The raging, sickening cries are mine and mine alone.

There are so many hard parts to this. One of the hardest has been being amongst others, especially others who love him. We struggle to connect and yet there is often a gulf. Sometimes we manage to bridge it, but we each carry our own loss inside, where it cannot truly be seen.

The best we can do is make allowances for one another. To remember that we all are wounded, howling animals sometimes. To throw away the social conventions that try to define grief and simply accept each other, alone even in the same room. Maybe we can find companionship in our isolation. I don't know.

All I know is my grief holds me apart even when I look like I am with you. I am alone in the midst of the crowd because the one who held me in this world is gone. I hope, eventually, to be able to meet you on the bridge and hold your hand as we cross into the unknown.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

36 comments:

  1. I have often marveled at the reality that we cannot share grief. We can share joy, laughter, happiness. But not grief. As you say' that we bear alone, isolated in the emptiness and pain no matter how much people who love us reach out to us in the abyss. If G-d is there, He carries us in silence. -Kiki

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    1. I struggle with this. Some days I think God is there if we pay attention in the right way, other times not so much... I certainly have some questions I want answers to.

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  2. Laura, The Widow's Handbook of widow's poems came back to me today. I put the wrong address on it. Tomorrow I shall put the right address on it and send it on yet another trip to Kansas City. It told me it enjoyed being in your neighborhood but missed you fondling its pages. I told it to be patient I will eventually get the two of you together.

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  3. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

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  4. I know this is an inappropriate place for this, but didn't know of any other -- I nominated your blog for a Liebster Award. I think your blog is amazing and you are a great writer.

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    1. Wow, thank you Marcy. I'm honored by the nomination!

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    2. Is there anything I need to do?

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    3. Sorry. Forgot to add the details. They are on: http://divorcedmefromatoz.blogspot.com/2014/06/p-is-for-proud.html
      OR on the blog of the person who nominated me: http://livebysurprise.blogspot.com/search/label/Leibster%20Award

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  5. I barely knew Kevin, yet I am truly sorry for his passing and for you, his family, and his friends. However, and I apologize in advance, grief should have a finite end, mourning should have a finite end, and groveling to others gets old at some point. You are a wonderful person Laura, and you are bigger than this grief you have been stricken with. Pick a date, be stronger, and move on with your life. You never have to forget, you never have to let go of the thoughts, memories, and ever so cherished moments you shared with Kevin, but at some point, you need to stop, hold your head up and march on.

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    1. How long anyone's grief and expression of that grief takes is how long it takes. As Laura has written in many ways over the last ten weeks since Kevin died, grief is different for each person. If your suggestion has worked for you, fine, good for you. When you tell Laura to move on, however, you essentially say, "I'm uncomfortable with your feelings." Suggesting that Laura put a deadline on her grief and her expression of that pain is insensitive and arrogant. If it bothers you that she writes so eloquently and with such raw honesty about what she's going through, if it makes you uncomfortable, feel free to drift away and read some other blogs. There are those of us reading who not only appreciate Laura's processing here but pass these writings on to others who grieve and are comforted by her words.

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    2. are you an idiot? or just clueless? there is no timeline for grief! i've been widowed for 25 years, and there are days that are still horrific. you better stick to giving advice on subjects you know something about.

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    3. This person has obviously never experienced an intense love or loss. As any professional therapist and doctor will tell you, their is not a timeline or deadline date to grief. It is a long journey one never gets over but rather adjusts to and learns to live with their entire life. I'm sorry you have had to experience this ignorance, but maybe this person will be enlightened and choose to become educated rather than causing harm to another in grief in the future.

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    4. Anonymous, I replied below. Take a look. Then get off my blog.

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    5. How dare you anonymous, you are a coward! You say you barely knew Kevin. And you want Laura to get over it... Well let me tell you I think I knew Kevin pretty well! I attribute Kevin (and Laura) for saving my life during one of the hardest times of my life! I am still crying for his loss so I can't imagine Laura's pain!

      You are ridiculous and that is the kindest thing I can think to say out of respect to Laura and Kevin! But feel free to email me if you want my real opinion of you (because you see I actually left my contact info)

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    6. Anon, first, let me express how sorry I am that you are apparently being held against your will and forced to read Laura's blog. That is the only explanation I can fathom wherein you'd seemingly be so sick of her "groveling" (and I think perhaps you should ask your captor for a dictionary to look up that word), yet still continue to read it. Laura had to watch her husband suffer and die, and it's been barely 2 months since she lost him--his memorial service was just days ago. To say that she should be over it and moving on at this point is as absurd as it is offensive. Obviously writing this blog IS a big part of her coping and healing process, and to try to shame her into "getting over it" is completely counterproductive, and the fact that you felt the need to make such a comment anonymously...well, it seems to suggest that you have none of the courage and toughness that you are faulting Laura for not having (perhaps you should add "hypocrite" to your list of words to look up). I hope that if you are ever horribly unlucky enough to experience a loss like hers, that others will be much kinder to you than you've been to her.

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    7. Anon,

      I truly feel sorry for you. Completely unarmed for the situation, You opened your mouth and spoke about a matter that you have no understanding or ability to comprehend. All of us that do understand, would not wish it upon our worst enemy, not even upon you. Jenny has it right, you may need to learn more than what you presently know at your present education level. I have a few more words you may wish to learn before opening your mouth again. Words like "kindness", "compassion", "encouragement", "understanding", "hope", "caring" and "love". The understanding of these words may be able to allow you to do something more than open your mouth and let sewage spill out in the future.

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    8. Anon,
      Yesterday marked 20 months since my husband died. 20 months since I've seen, touched spoken, to, or laughed with the man who I spent 14 years of my life with, the man you gave me our child. Do you think I've moved on? Guess again. He occupies every thought. Why? What's wrong with me? It's because I loved him, I still love him. Because that is what true love is. It doesn't go away when they take their last breath. When someone you love goes away on a trip, do you miss them less as time passes? No, and that doesn't change just because they are never coming back. This is a horror of a magnitude you could never begin to imagine. I do not know Laura, only of her from the support systems social media offer that are a lifeline to widows, especially young ones. And yet I feel a greater connection to her than I do my own sisters; I feel that way about all widows. We walk through a hell so so monstrous you can't even believe it's real.You have no understanding of what Laura endures, and you have no business judging how she negotiates it.

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    9. For the first "Anonymous" above and anyone else who may not know the reality of grief:

      You know, I used to think that I could understand an experience even if I'd never actually had it. And then the person I loved the most and believed I'd marry died, and I discovered what it's truly like to grieve the loss of a dearly-loved one. I learned that until that point, I hadn't had a CLUE what grief is really like.

      There are levels of knowing—you can be aware of what transpires in a given situation, but that is a *completely different thing* than knowing what it feels like. And when you don't know what it feels like, you have even less of a leg to stand on to judge how someone deals with it. I say "even less of a leg" because even a fellow widow wouldn't have the right to tell Laura how to deal with her grief. Because the only one in Laura's exact shoes is Laura.

      Ragan Fairchild suggested you educate yourself, and I have to agree. You can start by reading this article, which I think is the best I've ever encountered about the reality of grief. It was written by a licensed psychotherapist.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ashley-davis-bush/dealing-with-grief_b_3716013.html

      And when you've educated yourself, it would behoove you to apologize (identifying yourself). Laura deserves that.

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    10. Anonymous, REALLY??? Have you ever loved anyone, or lost anyone you loved? Grief is a highly personal affair, just as our loves were. I think that Laura is doing a damn fine job of getting out of bed, much less "holding her head up". This really struck a nerve in me- I lost my love 6 weeks ago, and I will be damned if ANYONE would dare tell me when it is an appropriate time for me to stop grieving. I truly don't ever see me stopping the grief I feel EVER!!!

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  6. I have no words. As a fellow blogger myself that in itself says something. The anonymous poster stating that you should March forward is ridiculous. I too am a widow.. a young widow but was married almost 20 years. People forget that not only do we lose our spouse.. our children's parent... but we lose our future. It no longer exists the same way it did before. Everything changes except it all stays the same too. You grieve how you need to. It does not get easier... it gets different. Widasister... you got this :)

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  7. Dear Anonymous poster,
    First, let me commend your bravery. Choosing to post this anonymously on my blog means many people can read it and let you know what they think. Had you taken the coward's route and written to my privately, using your name, think of all the hassle you would have avoided. Of course, then I would have known who you are and that would be a different story.
    Second, let me remind you that the love of my life died not ten weeks ago. Losing a spouse is considered the single greatest stress a person can undergo, but you think I should be over it. Thanks.
    Third, I feel sorry for you. Clearly you have never loved deeply because if you had you would understand that it takes a while to get over a loss of this depth. You clearly have never experienced grief.
    Fourth, though you write reasonably well your reading comprehension needs some help. I have not groveled on my blog. I have expressed a common human condition, sorrow.
    And lastly, you clearly don't know me. I get up every day. I work. I go out into the world. I spend time with friends, care for my family and, you know, live.And doing that when my life has been turned upside down is no weak thing.
    I invite you to unfollow, unfriend and just get out of my way. Because I have living to do. And grief is part of life if you are lucky enough.

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    1. Oh, and I forgot. When someone you love dies please contact me. I will listen. I will hold you. And I will not tell you how to feel.

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    2. Dear Laura, If there is any one thing that all of your followers blasting me right now are right about, its that my post yesterday was mean, insensitive, and uncalled for in this setting, and for that, I am truly sorry for my words. I understand you may not forgive me, yet again I say how sorry I am for the things I wrote. Not for the abuse I am now receiving from the responses, because I deserve them, but for hurting you in any way. I do want to explain myself, it will hopefully let you into my heart briefly so you might understand my thoughtless post.
      I posted anonymous as I do not subscribe to any of the social media options available from which to respond. I am not afraid of ridicule, and although you will not remember me, I have no fear of telling you and your bloggers who I am. My name is Frank Russo, and I hail from Somerville, MA and currently reside in Salem, NH. My wife was Susan Russo. I met you and Kevin nearly six years ago at The Story Space in Cambridge. Although we never became friends, I have followed you both since. Always inspired by your open and honest telling's.
      My story, and please, remember this story does not excuse my post yesterday, but it may explain it. Yesterday, 6/4/14, marked what would have been my wife Susan and I's 30th anniversary. This past Monday, 6/2/14, marked the 6th anniversary of her death from that ruthless disease Cancer. Susan fought hard for 4 years against breast cancer, but after two rounds of chemo and other devastating treatments, it withered her away and took her from me and my kids. As several folks here stated, people grieve differently, and for me, my grief immediately turned to anger, rage, and violence.
      I am and have always been a little thick skinned and not a real emotional guy. But Susan was the love of my life and she accepted me for who I was. We got married, disengaged from our families for the most part, and she saved my life. She was the only person in this world who loved me for who I am, accepted me, knew every detail of my being, helped me be a good person, calmed me, focused me, supported me. In return, I was the same to her. We balanced each other and life was beautiful. When she got sick, and then passed, our families came back into our lives. I became angry with my family because of their hard pushing, her family for their over the top nagging. When Susan passed, my family basically said, oh well, move on, and her family had constant honorary tributes to her that excluded me and our children. Those that we did go to made me so angry as they thought these so-called tributes were the appropriate time to highlight their disapproval's of Susan rather than to honor her!
      Susan's sickness and passing made me a bitter, angry, and violent person. I got caught up with the wrong group of people, met another woman who I thought was helping me to calm back down, but who I found out was actually using me, which reignited the rage in me. I sought help and for the last two years have gotten better, have reestablished my relationships with people who do care about me, and I get tons of support from my kids. Unfortunately, every once in a while, especially around the "anniversary" time, that anger and rage peaks out again, which is what happened yesterday and I took it out on Laura in a public way.
      Laura, in closing, I sit here writing to you with the utmost respect and sympathy, and I so humbly apologize to you for being so insensitive. I think Susan is looking over me since my thoughts of her prompted me to write again today, although some may think its because of the beating I was taking from the other followers! I believe in our right to freedom of speech, but my speech from yesterday was inappropriate.
      Please forgive me if you can.
      All my best in your time of need,
      Frank M. Russo - Salem, NH

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    3. Dear Frank,

      I am so sorry for your loss. I am so sorry you were treated so badly after Susan's death. I am so sorry you and I are both in this sorry club.

      I am fortunate, in that I have found several supportive communities. We are protective of each other. And I'm so sorry you haven't found the same.

      Your apology is absolutely, unhesitatingly accepted. I, too, believe in freedom of speech (I wouldn't have open comments if I didn't). And I applaud your courage in stepping forward and apologizing.

      I will be in Boston from June 19-29. Kevin's memorial is on the 21st. I will be at StorySpace on the 22nd. I would love the chance to give you a hug, to spend some time, to offer you what ease I can. My email address is lauraATlaurapacker.com. PLEASE don't hesitate to reach out. I hope you will.
      I also hope you remain in touch via this blog. My comments yesterday were spurred by pain and anger, as you well understand.
      If there is anything I can do for you please let me know. And I truly hope we have a chance to reconnect.
      I'm sure Susan and Kevin are looking at us and shaking their heads, since we both acted out of sorrow and anger. I'm sure they are saying to each other, "Yup, that's EXACTLY what they would do. I wish she/he would slow down and think..." That gives me a little solace.
      In pain, sympathy and friendship,
      Laura

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    4. Dear Frank,
      Thank you for giving context to your words. My thoughts are with you. May you find support, love, and as much as is possible, peace.

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    5. Frank,

      Thank you. I understand how anger and pain can get the better of us. Especially at times of remembrance. My wife passed away not 4 months ago so, We do get it. I am also sorry for my words of negativity that I posted in reply to your original message. Sometimes we all speak before we consider the consequences. I pray that you and Laura are able to get together and share a well needed hug.

      Best Regards,
      Russell Simano, TX (FB)

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  8. To you, cowardly, Anonymous who "barely knew Kevin"-
    I can only assume by the sheer cruelty and complete ignorance of your comment, that you have not ever had to face the death of a deeply-loved spouse. And no, a divorce, the death of a relative, parent or pet is NOT the same. Perhaps Laura's blog makes you twitchy and uncomfortable because she reminds us that death can come for us at any moment, and does. Talk to any of the hundreds of young widowed people I know, and they can tell you.
    What they will also tell you it's that there is no description for the horror of grief of this magnitude. It defies imagination. They will also tell you that 9 1/2 weeks is NO TIME at all to even begin to process what has happened to their entire existence. You never get over it, really. We just become strong enough to bear the unbearable. Shame on you for being a thoughtless, cowardly, passive-aggressive person. I wish I could talk to you face to face and educate you a bit on how grief really works for those that have lost everything. You are either incredibly ignorant or purposely an asshole. Educate yourself!!!
    Ragan Fairchild

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  9. Good call hiding under the cowardly "anonymous" name. Otherwise everyone would know that this ignorant, heartless, and insensitive person is YOU! Suggesting that Laura pick a date to stop grieving is not only foolish, it is hurtful and cruel! As much as I despise what you have said, I would never wish the unbearable loss that I have experienced on you. You don't have a clue! If your intent was sincere, why hide?

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  10. Shame on you anonymous - you truly have no clue. My husband of 40 years, Alan, died one day before Kevin and I am devastated.
    I am very fortunate that NONE of my friends or relatives are telling me to move on.

    I had one woman who lives in a distant city & is not a close friend email me and
    say "at least you and Alan got to say goodbye". As if that makes it ok now that he is dead.

    Alan's gruesome descent to death was 46 days long and was riddled with chemo, a 39 day agonizing hospital stay, terror and
    anger and finally him coming home to die. I don't think he fully gave up until the 3rd day he was home. And by then the both of us were
    so heartbroken that we did not "say goodbye" to one another.

    It was a confusing, exhausting & gut wrenching time and yet I can remember many details clearly. He was so brave and he fought hard to live. It still breaks my heart to think about that
    dreadful time. He died in my arms at 4:30 a.m. and it was such a shock to see him take his last breath even though he had been so sick.

    Then I had to watch him leave our home in a black bag. These images will never leave my mind.

    I feel that I have been dwelling in hell and have learned to keep on going because there is no other choice. I am not out
    of hell yet and don't expect to be anytime soon. Be grateful you are not experiencing this nightmare. But like someone
    else said, you probably have never loved anyone deeply. So you are more to be pitied than scorned.
    -Shell in San Diego

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  11. Wow, I thought I had experienced some hurtful.stupid comments since losing my husband but this comment by anon is right at the top of the scale. I can't even imagine who this person is and how they can write with such confidence and clearly don't have clue. When your Karma hits, I pray no one is standing close.
    Your full of hate and that is clear by how you responded to Lauras beautiful explanation of what it feels like to lose your love. " pick a date", wow.

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  12. Lori from San DiegoJune 4, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    Anonymous: I am angered by your comments on Laura's post. I am saddened that anyone can assume to tell someone how to feel/act/believe/behave. I DO respect your right to your narrow-minded views. They are yours and to deny you them would make me as closed minded as you. I pray that you NEVER go through what us widow/ers go through; although I suppose it is inevitable. I, too, do not want you to see your love carried out of your bedroom in a BAG. It is horrifying and the nightmares are persistent.

    I lost my love 362 days after we married (he was diagnosed with cancer 5 days after we married). There are no words to explain the excruciating anguish that I felt then and I still feel (albeit to a lesser degree) today, 4 years, 1 month, and 3 days later. The loneliness - even when among family and friends is unbearable. Sure, I put on a happy face at work and around friends (because, frankly, most of them feel like you) but it is not easy. I come home and collapse -- all alone -- again, day after day, night after night. I just don't have the words to express the depth of the pain of the death of a spouse.

    My husband had a poster on his bedroom wall when I met him and I think the message applies here, now, “Progress not Perfection”. It’s a 12 Step saying and it so applies in my situation. I go on each day trying to heal but I know that sometimes it is 2 steps forward and 3 steps backward. I know some days are better than others. I know I am responsible for any progress I make and any mistakes I make and I.DO.NOT.NEED.ANY.INPUT. from anyone as to how to do ‘it’.

    All loss is sad and painful: pain is pain and I suspect you must have felt loss along your life’s journey. Think back to that time when you were mourning. Do you really think someone telling you to ‘set a freakin’ date!!!’ would have been helpful to you??? Insanity!!!!

    So please, be the bigger person and
    1) Let Laura know who you are (privately of course, I wouldn’t want you to be vilified further by going public)
    2) Read through all the comments by us widowed folk and learn something. We are a loving compassionate, passionate group AND we will be there for you when you need us – even if you aren’t here for Laura now.

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  13. There is great wisdom in all the responses to Anon's advice that Laura just get over it. I would just add my two cents to what has already been said- if you don't like what you are reading, put the book down. There is no set time limit where grief morphs into a grin. In the middle of grief it feels like you will never grin again. All I can say, dear Laura, is, I love you, and offer you what little bit of friendship, compassion and understanding can be carried by these lonely words. And the strength to forgive thoughtless comments.

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  14. The death of my husband was like the death of me. I would gladly join him and/or have gone first. I am not who I was and do not know that person any more. It has been over ten years and it hasn't gotten easier to wake up without him.

    The Mourner's Bill of Rights
    1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don't allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.
    2. You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don't feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.
    3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don't take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
    4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.
    5. You have the right to experience "griefbursts." Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
    6. You have the right to make use of ritual. The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don't listen.
    7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
    8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, "Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?" Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, "It was God's will" or "Think of what you have to be thankful for" are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
    9. You have the right to right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.
    10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

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  15. Dear Frank Russo,

    I'm so sorry for your loss - of your dear Susan and of yourself for a time in the quagmire of grief. So glad to read you are getting the help and support you need. I suspected something else was at play behind your original anonymous response. We can all do and say hurtful and insensitive things in the midst of the horrible hurt we're experiencing - and ironically act like the very people who are hurting *us* with their insensitivity. I wish you, and all of us on this difficult journey none of us wanted to take, only the best moving forward. I hope you connect with Laura in Boston.

    Bonnie

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.truestorieshonestlies.blogspot.com.
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