... or is it just me? Grief and Community

Preamble for context:

Ma Mad Cat died 4 months ago, and I'm still very much working out how to live in this weird world. It's exhausting, as many / most of you know, and I'm also operating on brain capacity reduced by what feels like 80%. Mostly, I don't know how I feel, except sad, and I don't know what to do. Last week, I stayed off work for two days to try to deal with the exhausted weeping, then went back in, still exhausted, not weeping quite so much... but is that the right thing to do? I should pick up my violin, but the thought is overwhelming. I don't know what to do...

If you've read thus far it'll be clear to you that I'm a mess. I'm someone who has experienced grief before, and lived with episodes of depression, I'm okay with being a mess. I know I need to be a mess, so that I can work things out. My work colleagues have been rallying round. My teaching friends have been keeping an eye out. My church community...

... see, I thought I was part of a community.

I got some text messages from 'church friends' during June. I had dinner with two choir friends during August, which was nice. A few weeks ago I got a card from a lady who had just been told my news, which was very thoughtful. However, the last six weeks have been hard, and I haven't made it to rehearsal or any services. I've been in touch with the MD to let him know why I'm absent. He hasn't replied, because he doesn't know what to say. Okay. No-one else has been in touch to check in.

I was angry with church for the negligence when mum died. ( I benefitted from a vigorous rant here.) I'm angry again. I don't know how to go to a service, or how to contact any of my 'church friends' when I feel so overlooked as well as so exhausted and sad.

I don't know what it all means. I've got other people to talk to, but... I've been going to this church, singing in the choir for 14 years. I've been on the vestry, the property committee, I've raised funds, I've cleaned the loos... I thought I was part of a community.

I'd like to think that when someone is weakened and can't reach out, the community would reach back, do a bit of the heavy lifting. But maybe it's just me...
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Comments

  • For virtually all pastoral situations these days, I consider that it is up to individuals in difficulty to express their pastoral needs to others, not up to me to second-guess them, and perhaps guess wrongly.

    I recently had a conversation with somebody in another church facing a serious health issue and related prospects. During the course of this conversation it emerged, in my appraisal, that they were not getting the support they should do from their church, indeed were positively being spiritually abused by it. I've offered my help (and believe I'm in a reasonably good position to give some), but also made it clear that I wouldn't intervene unless they asked me to. I think that ultimately this is more respectful of all concerned.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited September 22
    IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

    I know I'm shouting, but I can't emphasise this too much...

    I had to take time off from church, following diagnosis of a brain tumour, and was absent for the best part of 18 months. Now, I didn't expect many peeps to keep up with visiting etc., but three Kind Friends™ rallied round to help me, before, during, and after my time in hospital. I shall always be grateful to them for the practical assistance they gave, and to others who contacted me from time to time.

    The parish priest (to whom I was licensed as a Lay Reader) did nothing. No visit. No e-mail. Nothing. It was as though, since I couldn't do the work (he was, and is, a lazy bas***d), I was not worth thinking about.

    I was fortunate, however, given the three Kind Friends™, so I'm truly sorry to hear that you haven't experienced something similar.

    Apart from that, there's not much I can say, except to repeat:
    IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT!

    O - and there's no Book Of Instructions about how to grieve, but it does sound as though you could do with some counselling - not necessarily from a Christian! Your GP might be able to point you in the right direction. IANAD, by the way.

    Meanwhile...{{Mad Cat}}

  • ETA - you say that you find it very difficult to return to church, and I can see why (I found it hard, after 18 months, but by then Father F***wit had retired).

    I hesitate to suggest it, but is there perhaps another church, or maybe a cathedral, that you could attend, just to get back the 'feel' of it?
  • Having recently sat in a work forum about long term sickness, I think it is worth saying that people have very different attitudes to what they want in these situations. Sometimes they experience contact from places where they have responsibilities, whilst they are at home, as intrusive and a sort of passive aggressive pressure for them to get well and come back immediately.

    The result can be, if folk have been criticised for making contact with other people in the past, that they only make contact if asked.

    While I recognise church and work are not necessarily the same, there are similarities. A fear you’ll feel pressured to return. A set of relationships that are friendly, but not necessarily deep - so folk fear that they might be experienced as pushing in when not wanted.

    Something to be said, if you can bring yourself, for sending an email / letter saying you like people to visit.
  • edited September 22
    No. It is absolutely not just you. It's the way it goes quite often.

    We had the deaths of 3 of 4 parents, a serious crime committed against one of the family. Three people contacted us and visited. No clergy after the initial crises. And like you we'd been: vestry, altar server, reader, volunteer for everything.

    Many people, including clergy, are in it for themselves. Sorry, but it seems true. It's about, I think, about their own concerns. They pray to get a parking spot, that their kids will win at sports or get admitted to a college, their day to day sufferings - all real, mostly mundane, banal. It's very, very easy to become preoccupied with one's own things and believe they're important. So difficult to love (be kind to) your neighbour as yourself.

    FWIW there are people who get it, and are prepared to support others as we might expect Christians to do. They might not attend church.

    We were basically nonfunctional. Paid for professional help. Eventually resumed church. Peripheral. Only then did people have interest, and it felt like gossip, almost voyeurism into our lives. Tried again. Began to realize that we needed a longer church holiday. And better was non-church. It's now over 9 years later. I dream on a Sunday morning like this one about going to an early quiet eucharist/mass. Sort feelings and longings for something which actually is imaginary about church. Forgive then for they know not what they do.

    Don't mean to hijack your thread. Thought it might be helpful to describe.

    I would generally recommend finding someone to talk to, to go on walks with, coffee, a group, basically anything which helps your spirit, your morale. Anything. And don't expect anything from others, except for those rare candle in the dark people.

    There's also forgiving people for basically sucking at being Christian, but also protecting yourself from them. That comes later.

    Please discuss on the ship. Many people here. Wise and experienced. A better church than some churches sometimes. People reach out to strangers. Some of us also suck at least some of the time. But there's a lot of support too.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    For virtually all pastoral situations these days, I consider that it is up to individuals in difficulty to express their pastoral needs to others, not up to me to second-guess them, and perhaps guess wrongly.

    I disagree. In my experience, in the mess of crisis and/or grief I don't even know what I want or need, let alone get my head round formulating what someone else could do for me and then summoning up the courage and emotional energy to phone or email to ask them for it.

    When my father died 30 years ago the current vicar showed up on the doorstep to visit my mum. Mum didn't go to church at all and I remember how surprised we all were as a family. He continued to visit for some months and it was the start of my mum's return to church, which remained a comfort and support to her for the rest of her life.

    Not that I'm saying it should all be down to the minister. We should all, as a loving community, be aware of those around us who may be struggling and are not able to ask. Of course we need to be sensitive and not intrude where it's clearly not appropriate or not wanted, but there's a definite place for "Are you free next Thursday at 10 for coffee?" (and being prepared for the answer the first few times to be "no"); showing up on the doorstep with a meal or a tray bake; phoning to ask how they're doing; sending a card and including your phone number and email address to show you're wanting them to contact you if they feel able.

    {{{Mad Cat}}} I'm so sorry.

  • Nenya wrote: »
    When my father died 30 years ago the current vicar showed up on the doorstep to visit my mum. Mum didn't go to church at all and I remember how surprised we all were as a family. He continued to visit for some months and it was the start of my mum's return to church, which remained a comfort and support to her for the rest of her life.

    It's good that it worked for your family; but as @Doublethink says, there is no way that outcome was guaranteed. I can think of another situation where a person attending my church for several years spent that entire time getting over sexual abuse as a child. One could tell the person was struggling, but nobody knew the details, nobody guessed, and nobody asked - not out of a lack of caring but out of respect. As it turned out, they didn't hold it against the church. They needed that space, and lack of interfering, to get themselves sorted out, and said as much later before moving to a new city.

    I've been on the other end of this, too, as a suffering victim. Being a victim sucks; nobody seems to care, or else are highly insensitive. The hard fact is that no matter how well supported one is, suffering is highly individual and lonely thing.

    Feeling alone is part of that. And being angry about lack of support is a normal response to the sense of injustice one feels. The problem is that nothing can actually right the injustice of random suffering. The challenge is to identify what one can do to get support rather than fall into the trap of allowing that anger to cement one's role and identity into being a victim and nothing else.
  • You are not alone.

    You may find it helpful to visit another church (if that is a possibility) while you are still getting to grips with your loss. As an organist it wasn't an option for me but I did find that going elsewhere for Evensong during the week helped enormously, and I treated the Sunday morning service where I work as just a job - sure, one to be done to the best of my ability but not (for me) "worship" per se.

    7 years on I still have issues with my Vicar who, apart from talking to me (once) about the nuts and bolts of the funeral for my other half never once addressed the issue of my bereavement - in fact managed to go right through the whole thing (including the funeral itself) without addressing a single word to our children. Unbelievable.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    For virtually all pastoral situations these days, I consider that it is up to individuals in difficulty to express their pastoral needs to others, not up to me to second-guess them, and perhaps guess wrongly.

    I recently had a conversation with somebody in another church facing a serious health issue and related prospects. During the course of this conversation it emerged, in my appraisal, that they were not getting the support they should do from their church, indeed were positively being spiritually abused by it. I've offered my help (and believe I'm in a reasonably good position to give some), but also made it clear that I wouldn't intervene unless they asked me to. I think that ultimately this is more respectful of all concerned.

    They don't need to second guess: they know my mum died. If it's too hard for them to get this everyday suffering right, God help those who have the kind of difficulties you were pastoring.
  • Mad CatMad Cat Shipmate
    edited September 22
    Having recently sat in a work forum about long term sickness, I think it is worth saying that people have very different attitudes to what they want in these situations. Sometimes they experience contact from places where they have responsibilities, whilst they are at home, as intrusive and a sort of passive aggressive pressure for them to get well and come back immediately.

    The result can be, if folk have been criticised for making contact with other people in the past, that they only make contact if asked.

    While I recognise church and work are not necessarily the same, there are similarities. A fear you’ll feel pressured to return. A set of relationships that are friendly, but not necessarily deep - so folk fear that they might be experienced as pushing in when not wanted.

    Something to be said, if you can bring yourself, for sending an email / letter saying you like people to visit.

    Yep: that's probably part of it. And the thing about communication is that that nicety isn't what I experience. I just hear silence. And a notion that if I'm not fit to prop up the alto line I'm not worth bothering about. No, it's not their intention, but that's how I feel.

    I'll pick up the phone when I can think of what the **** to say.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited September 22
    [x-post]

    I've been involved in countless funerals and nobody concerned has ever complained that they didn't feel supported by me or the wider church community. I make it really clear to people I have pastoral responsibility for that I won't pester them, but that I am available at any time if they want to talk or ask something.

    I don't know everything about your situation, but with respect, those at your church knew your mum had died, but that doesn't mean they can second-guess how you preferred to cope with your grief subsequently; as illustrated above, how people do this varies hugely from one person to another.

    If you feel a specific, legitimate need of yours is not being met, the challenge is for you to find a way to express that to the people you feel have some responsibility for meeting it.

    I know this seems cold and hugely unfair given that you are the person suffering, nevertheless I think that this is the right and constructive approach.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    [x-post]

    I've been involved in countless funerals and nobody concerned has ever complained that they didn't feel supported by me or the wider church community. I make it really clear to people I have pastoral responsibility for that I won't pester them, but that I am available at any time if they want to talk or ask something.

    I don't know everything about your situation, but with respect, those at your church knew your mum had died, but that doesn't mean they can second-guess how you preferred to cope with your grief subsequently; as illustrated above, how people do this varies hugely from one person to another.

    If you feel a specific, legitimate need of yours is not being met, the challenge is for you to find a way to express that to the people you feel have some responsibility for meeting it.

    I know this seems cold and hugely unfair given that you are the person suffering, nevertheless I think that this is the right and constructive approach.

    Yes, life at the moment is cold and unfair, and I'm not really capable of meeting the challenge of getting my needs met.

    I'm also not really talking about pastoral care by clergy. It's the failure of community, and relationships I thought were close but have proved to be .... not what I thought. I believe this is a common feature of suffering, and happens in the wake of other losses like divorce. People you thought you could rely on vanish, and one realises the importance of others.
  • Suggested email to one or more church friends:

    Dear <insert name of friend>,

    I have a specific, legitimate need, namely grief following the loss of a parent, that is currently unmet.

    May I, with all courtesy, suggest that you send me a message via the medium of your choice. The following wording would be acceptable, but please feel free to edit accordingly.

    Hi Mad Cat, How's this week been? Coffee soon?? <insert your name>
  • This is all true. Which means it's all the more important to get to a place where one can express one's needs.
    Mad Cat wrote: »
    People you thought you could rely on vanish, and one realises the importance of others.
    This is ambiguous. My experience is not only that one realises others are important, but that other people you never thought you could rely on may appear.

  • Eutychus wrote: »
    The hard fact is that no matter how well supported one is, suffering is highly individual and lonely thing.
    Thank you for this, which is true. It is hard to learn to live in this place, and hard behold a landscape of relationships which seems so different from before. One feels deluded, or delusional, or maybe both.

    Yes, I'm seeing a cousellor too, a splendid lady who had helped me to get almost to the bottom of my depression just as mum's cancer returned.

  • Eutychus wrote: »
    This is all true. Which means it's all the more important to get to a place where one can express one's needs.

    Whadya think I'm doing starting this thread?
  • Oh Mad Cat I am so sorry that you are having to go through this hideous cycle.
    Tomorrow would have been my mother's 92nd birthday (she died back in January) and at the time of her death people were very kind.
    But IMO it takes a certain kind of person who can travel with us for the duration of the grief journey and I hope and pray that such a person comes into your obit.
    Prayers from here
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited September 22
    Mad Cat wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    This is all true. Which means it's all the more important to get to a place where one can express one's needs.

    Whadya think I'm doing starting this thread?

    I'm sorry to keep coming across as the cold and heartless one here, but this thread won't get your needs expressed to the right people. It will get you some virtual sympathy, and it might help you articulate what your needs are, but remember the Ship isn't a counselling service.

    Indeed, it's good to know you're seeing a counsellor; at the risk of having to give myself an adminly admonition for providing advice, I suggest that she would be the right person to help you do that articulating. If she's good, she'll be giving you tools to work through this that don't make you dependent on her.
  • Mad CatMad Cat Shipmate
    edited September 22
    Eutychus wrote: »
    Mad Cat wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    This is all true. Which means it's all the more important to get to a place where one can express one's needs.

    Whadya think I'm doing starting this thread?

    I'm sorry to keep coming across as the cold and heartless one here, but this thread won't get your needs expressed to the right people. It will get you some virtual sympathy, and it might help you articulate what your needs are, but remember the Ship isn't a counselling service.

    Indeed, it's good to know you're seeing a counsellor; at the risk of having to give myself an adminly admonition for providing advice, I suggest that she would be the right person to help you do that articulating. If she's good, she'll be giving you tools to work through this that don't make you dependent on her.

    Rolling my eyes now.

    There's a community here, which I figured might be able to help me articulate some of what is in my heart, so that I can then communicate what is in my heart with the relevant human beings face to face or by telephone, as mentioned above.

    Don't worry about how you're coming across. I know you're doing your job.
  • Mad Cat wrote: »
    Suggested email to one or more church friends:

    Dear <insert name of friend>,

    I have a specific, legitimate need, namely grief following the loss of a parent, that is currently unmet.

    May I, with all courtesy, suggest that you send me a message via the medium of your choice. The following wording would be acceptable, but please feel free to edit accordingly.

    Hi Mad Cat, How's this week been? Coffee soon?? <insert your name>

    Sorry, missed this earlier.

    "Grief" isn't a need. As such, it can't be "met". That's part of why it sucks. Nobody can help you "meet" it.

    The work you have to put in is establishing, as precisely as you can, just what it is you need to help you grieve, that you think you can legitimately request from other people. And then, going the extra mile, think how you can diplomatically express that so that they don't feel they're being put on a guilt trip.
  • @Mad Cat

    I am sure I have got it wrong in the past. These days if someone I know is bereaved or facing terrible suffering of another sort, I generally say (by whatever means) something like this:

    “I know that there is nothing I can right now that is any help, but if there is anything I can do to help you at any time, please just ask.”

    I think many people feel the same; feeling a bit useless in the face of devastating loss, especially if they have no shared life with the bereaved person outside the place of work or worship to build on. It feels like invading someone’s personal life, at the worst possible time, to approach them outside the normal shared social sphere. But perhaps like me, they would be really glad to be asked for help. I would try an email like this:

    Dear <Friend>,

    I am struggling with grief since Mum passed away. It would help to meet with friends for a chat - do you have time for coffee this week?


    I understand the other email template you drew up, which would be a good way of expressing your anger and disappointment; these are emotions which help to displace grief, at least for a time. I remember after my own Mum’s death I realised I was almost glad when people let me down. Pain makes some of us (me) want to strike out for that reason, I think, even if it that does not help with the isolation and may make it worse.

    I am just trying in my own way to hear and respond to your situation - to do something - but I am not a counsellor, pastor or expert. So you should take the above, and these last words of advice, in that light:

    1. I learned the hard way not to make decisions about relationships with friends, or other big decisions, from a place of serious pain. As the Jesuits put it (something like): “no major life change in desolation”. Everything you used to have in normal times is still right where it was.

    2. Use your experience of reaching out to others in the past to help guide your friends now. What did you do for bereaved church community members, in the past, that you found helped them? When you arrange to meet your friends for coffee, you could maybe talk about that.

    In conclusion I am so sorry for your grief and feelings of abandonment, and I hope that you do find a way to connect with your friends.


  • A Feminine ForceA Feminine Force Shipmate
    edited September 22
    My entire family recently died within the space of a year.

    My daughter and my mother suddenly, my father had a stroke which didn't finish the job, and he had six weeks of hell before the medical team honored the terms in his living will and withdrew life support.

    My experience with Dad was that dying is something you are on your own with. It's a sacred experience and it's the most important event of your life. Nobody can do it for you and they can't come with you. They can't empathize. You're completely alone.

    What was even harder for me to grasp was that when you grieve, you are as alone in that experience as the one you are grieving. Nobody can say I feel your pain because the size, depth and shape of the hole that people leave is different for everyone.

    All they can do is feel THEIR pain and most people just can't, won't or don't want to. When you grieve, you remind everyone of their own half-finished process, and most people will not thank you for reminding them of it.

    I'm sorry, but I don't think there is such a thing as community for the bereaved. I haven't found it. I hid behind my inappropriate (gallows) sense of humor that triggered a strange reception. It's hard for me to keep a straight face when things are so fucking grim they are absurd. I also found myself processing rage and old resentments and that's equally inappropriate in community.

    I'm so sorry to know that you are finding this out the hard way but I really do think that grief strikes a resonant chord in others that stirs up things they would rather keep buried and that's perfectly forgiveably human.

    It sucks, but that seems to be the way it is. FWIW I don't feel your pain, but I feel my own in harmony with yours.

    AFF



  • I am not sure if what I am going to say will help, but I can only share my experience.
    My parents both died in the same year, Dad in the February, Mum in October. Admittedly they were both very old, though not desperately ill, just frail and suffering.

    I did not live near them, so nobody round me knew them. I received many kind letters, cards and phone calls from those who knew them. The best help I received was from my teaching colleagues. My Head gave me some compassionate leave, colleagues shared my workload and were lovely when I returned to work. My husband and family were great. A few kind words from church people. That is all anyone else could do, really, and actually was all I needed or expected from all those categories of people.
    If you feel you need more, and it is obvious that you do, then I think you may need to reach out. Maybe go to your church but not to sing in the choir. Maybe speak to someone in particular who you would like to meet up with. It is great that you are getting counselling, and I hope that your counsellor might be able to help you to articulate what you are going through and what kind of support you need from your church friends.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    Mad Cat wrote: »

    Sorry, missed this earlier.

    "Grief" isn't a need. As such, it can't be "met". That's part of why it sucks. Nobody can help you "meet" it.

    The work you have to put in is establishing, as precisely as you can, just what it is you need to help you grieve, that you think you can legitimately request from other people. And then, going the extra mile, think how you can diplomatically express that so that they don't feel they're being put on a guilt trip.

    So I just got myself out for a walk! I pat myself on the back for doing so, as it's been difficult to get out of the house these past weeks. *

    It's great what a walk can do. I redrafted the possible email:

    Dear <insert name of friend>,

    I have a specific, legitimate need, <edit>namely, companionship and distraction from the pitiless finality of a coffin in the ground, occasioned by </edit>grief following the loss of a parent. This need is currently unmet.

    May I, with all courtesy, suggest that you send me a message via the medium of your choice. The following wording would be acceptable, but please feel free to edit accordingly.

    Hi Mad Cat, How's this week been? Coffee soon?? <insert your name>

    <edit>If this is an inconvenience, however, please don't worry, as, now that the need is specifically identified, it can be adequately met by people who give a shit.</edit>

    Hurray for walks.

    Also, you're wrong to say no-one can help me 'meet' grief. Christ can, and I am reminded that He's always with me, no matter what sort of dark valley or blasted heath I find myself on. **

    Thank you, shipmates, for acknowledgment, reflections, insights and virtual hugs. These have been helpful.

    Eutychus, if there are no more cold hard truths, please feel free to piss off/close the thread/go and have a glass of something, as you are now properly getting on my nerves. Thank you, however, for your careful elucidations.


    * Other than for the financial imperative of b**** gotta make rent. I told a member of our community that this was one of the reasons I haven't been at church. He's not the right person to tell, but I was hoping he might mention something to someone ... yeah, I'm clutching at straws.

    ** I know because He told me.
  • Cameron wrote: »
    @Mad Cat

    I am sure I have got it wrong in the past. These days if someone I know is bereaved or facing terrible suffering of another sort, I generally say (by whatever means) something like this:

    “I know that there is nothing I can right now that is any help, but if there is anything I can do to help you at any time, please just ask.”

    I think many people feel the same; feeling a bit useless in the face of devastating loss, especially if they have no shared life with the bereaved person outside the place of work or worship to build on. It feels like invading someone’s personal life, at the worst possible time, to approach them outside the normal shared social sphere. But perhaps like me, they would be really glad to be asked for help. I would try an email like this:

    Dear <Friend>,

    I am struggling with grief since Mum passed away. It would help to meet with friends for a chat - do you have time for coffee this week?


    I understand the other email template you drew up, which would be a good way of expressing your anger and disappointment; these are emotions which help to displace grief, at least for a time. I remember after my own Mum’s death I realised I was almost glad when people let me down. Pain makes some of us (me) want to strike out for that reason, I think, even if it that does not help with the isolation and may make it worse.

    I am just trying in my own way to hear and respond to your situation - to do something - but I am not a counsellor, pastor or expert. So you should take the above, and these last words of advice, in that light:

    1. I learned the hard way not to make decisions about relationships with friends, or other big decisions, from a place of serious pain. As the Jesuits put it (something like): “no major life change in desolation”. Everything you used to have in normal times is still right where it was.

    2. Use your experience of reaching out to others in the past to help guide your friends now. What did you do for bereaved church community members, in the past, that you found helped them? When you arrange to meet your friends for coffee, you could maybe talk about that.

    In conclusion I am so sorry for your grief and feelings of abandonment, and I hope that you do find a way to connect with your friends.


    Thank you - this is very helpful.

    PS. My draft email is a piss-take - I'd never send it! Yours is much better.
  • My entire family recently died within the space of a year.

    My daughter and my mother suddenly, my father had a stroke which didn't finish the job, and he had six weeks of hell before the medical team honored the terms in his living will and withdrew life support.

    My experience with Dad was that dying is something you are on your own with. It's a sacred experience and it's the most important event of your life. Nobody can do it for you and they can't come with you. They can't empathize. You're completely alone.

    What was even harder for me to grasp was that when you grieve, you are as alone in that experience as the one you are grieving. Nobody can say I feel your pain because the size, depth and shape of the hole that people leave is different for everyone.

    All they can do is feel THEIR pain and most people just can't, won't or don't want to. When you grieve, you remind everyone of their own half-finished process, and most people will not thank you for reminding them of it.

    I'm sorry, but I don't think there is such a thing as community for the bereaved. I haven't found it. I hid behind my inappropriate (gallows) sense of humor that triggered a strange reception. It's hard for me to keep a straight face when things are so fucking grim they are absurd. I also found myself processing rage and old resentments and that's equally inappropriate in community.

    I'm so sorry to know that you are finding this out the hard way but I really do think that grief strikes a resonant chord in others that stirs up things they would rather keep buried and that's perfectly forgiveably human.

    It sucks, but that seems to be the way it is. FWIW I don't feel your pain, but I feel my own in harmony with yours.

    AFF
    I'm sorry, but I don't think there is such a thing as community for the bereaved.

    This is what I'm realising, and realising it's actually not just me.... which is a comfort. Thank you for your wise words.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    So sorry to hear of your bereavement Mad Cat. Whoever took your mother's funeral service should be ready and willing to offer you pastoral care afterwards. Can you email or phone them and ask them to meet you?

    You mentioned a counsellor but not whether they are a bereavement counsellor. CRUSE bereavement care are a free community service who will arrange ten meetings with one if their trained listeners. They also run bereavement cafes where you can meet with other people in the same situation as you who will be supportive and understanding. I attended one of their courses and they explained that bereavement is such a shock and so disorienting that people often feel as if they are going mad. It takes two years to grieve to the point of even being able to accept the loss. So be kind to yourself. Try to do things that speak life to you. If you are too sad to be able to pray, then the psalms can be a consolation.

    May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
  • Rublev wrote: »
    So sorry to hear of your bereavement Mad Cat. Whoever took your mother's funeral service should be ready and willing to offer you pastoral care afterwards. Can you email or phone them and ask them to meet you?

    Mum's funeral was in Northumberland, where she and dad were/are members. The community there has been phenomenal, and I'm going down regularly to see dad, so that's helpful. I live elsewhere, but it's only a couple of hours on the train.

    But it's really not the pastoral side of things that's the issue: I'm being taken care of on that front. It's friendship, companionship, encouragement, that kind of thing, that's a bit missing. Writing here has helped to clarify that, which is helpful.

    Thank you for your prayers.

  • Mad Cat, I'm sorry. I don't know where you live, but if it's around the American Midwest, PM me.

    I'm coming off a year of four deaths in the family and one stroke (my husband), and find that some few people know what to do--basically, asking for coffee, asking how I'm doing, etc. Still, the majority have No.Freaking.Clue. (including our host pastor, who fell down terribly on the job, resorting to stuffing tracts in the mail!) I think it's because so many people have little experience with grief themselves (being younger) or else are just plain terrified that it may be "catching" and don't dare be reminded of their mortality. Not that this excuses them.

    You can ask for what you need (I did, very directly, to our senior host pastor) but you may still not get what you need. One thing that did actually produce a small amount of connection was when I grabbed a friend in real life and said exactly what you're saying here, and added, "Would you please, please, personally go and collar some folks and prod them into talking to us about it?" Which she did, and that Sunday and the next we at least got condolences and didn't feel quite so horribly alone.

    I've learned from this in our ministry to make sure to pay special attention to people for at least a couple of years after such a loss. Just to speak the name of the person who died. And I'm finding that as I grieve for my sister, when I bring her up in the conversation, it seems to break down some sort of wall of silence in the other person--like they maybe wanted to say something but feared they were going to upset me by reminding me (as if I had ever forgotten!).

    Maybe you could bring your wife up in conversation more often? I dunno, it's something I'm trying. Because the isolation sucks, and I'll do basically anything to get over it.
  • Mad Cat, I'm sorry. I don't know where you live, but if it's around the American Midwest, PM me.

    It's this sort of kindness that just amazes and comforts me so much. More wise words: thank you xxx

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited September 22
    Will keep you in my prayers Mad Cat. And I will include you in our Morning Prayer intercessions tomorrow. We have some wonderful people of prayer in our church. PM me any time.

    God bless x
  • Ach. If you'll forgive me for some other wittering about selfcare after such a disaster... I'm about five months ahead of you in the grieving process, such as it is. This is the crap I've learned.

    It's a lot like recovering from major major MAJOR surgery. You are going to feel like shit for a long time--I was told at least two years--so four months is just a beginning, and there is nothing unusual in still being a wreck at that point, in fact it would be weird if you weren't. Particularly because it's your wife.

    That means basically treating yourself as if you had four broken legs (well, you know what I mean!) and not doing anything more than the barest essentials (you should probably brush your teeth once a week). Let the house go, let your church commitments go, let everything go that you possibly can unless it actually gives you pleasure. If it gives you pleasure, do it. God knows there's few things that do at such a time.

    It means setting aside any major decisions or changes. This is not the time to sell your house, go on a diet, quit your job, or join the Mafia. If you think you're up to it, you're not (Unless you are some superhuman creature). It's like how they don't let you drive after anesthesia. Sit on your hands.

    Sleep as much as you want, eat as much as you want, AND what you want, and don't worry about it unless it begins to get wildly out of control (like, you haven't been out of bed for two weeks). Get help if it gets like that, but generally, grief is like being half-mad anyway, so cut yourself a lot of slack.

    Learn to swear, if you don't already. Find someone (a friend) who will let you swear about this situation and swear with you. If there's absolutely no one in real life, come on the Ship and start a Hell thread. I'd gladly join you.

    As you slowly, slowly, slowly begin to heal, you may find yourself like any convalescent patient, having sudden spurts of energy (mostly imaginary), and you may be tempted to take on something new (clean the basement! Start a master's degree! save the world!). Don't. The energy spurt will hold for a couple of hours at most. Pick something very tiny if you must do something. Otherwise you'll have just enough energy to get registered for that university course and suddenly the bottom falls out and you haven't got the energy to cancel it, let alone attend it.

    Keep talking about your wife, and ignore or curse out any fools who attempt to shush you or otherwise make you "move on" (assholes). If you can't swear due to where you are, look them straight in the eye and say, "I can't believe you would say such a thing." Then walk off.

    That's about as far as I've gotten in the process yet.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    @Mad Cat, I am so sorry. Let me echo @Lamb Chopped, and offer to be a sounding board (or whatever else you need). Just PM me.
  • Forgive me, I got confused. Somehow I took this to be your wife, and it's actually your mother? I'm sorry.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    @Mad Cat I'm so very sorry to hear of your mother's passing. There are no time tables for grief, even though some people act as if there were. I do hope you have memories of her that will eventually lead you to a place of peace.

    sabine
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    I feel very sad for you, Mad Cat, especially as I contrast it with the way my church family has rallied round me since D. became ill and died. They've been practically falling over themselves to be helpful, and I can't tell you how much it means to me.

    Everyone has said, just lift the phone if you want a chat or to go for coffee, and to be honest, I've been a bit reticent about asking. Because I don't drive, I've had to ask for lifts - although for the most part, people have offered before I even needed to - and I feel I shouldn't ask for any more than the bare necessities.

    Having said all that, it's early days for me - the funeral hasn't even happened yet - but I'm hopeful that I won't be left alone the way you have.

    Like Sabine, I hope you can find peace.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    @Piglet My wish extends to you as well.

    sabine
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    Thank you, Sabine! :smile:
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    Piglet wrote: »
    Everyone has said, just lift the phone if you want a chat or to go for coffee, and to be honest, I've been a bit reticent about asking. Because I don't drive, I've had to ask for lifts - although for the most part, people have offered before I even needed to - and I feel I shouldn't ask for any more than the bare necessities.

    Piglet, don't hesitate to ask for help. Helping you is a tangible way for people to express their sympathy. It gives them something to do.

  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    When my Mum died it was odd, but not odd.

    My church family hardly knew my Mum as her church was in another town. Two of my friends came to her funeral and I was very touched by that.

    But, when my friends’ parents died (we are that age when almost all are gone now) most of them were well known - so much more support was there. And they talked about it.

    No one talked or really asked about Mum and I found that quite hard, yet understandable.

  • Piglet wrote: »
    Everyone has said, just lift the phone if you want a chat or to go for coffee, and to be honest, I've been a bit reticent about asking. Because I don't drive, I've had to ask for lifts - although for the most part, people have offered before I even needed to - and I feel I shouldn't ask for any more than the bare necessities.

    What Moo said. Lots of people find death and grief "difficult": giving them an opportunity to do something could be helpful not just for you but for them as well.

    On a purely practical level: I wish I'd accepted more offers such as those you're getting. Yes, before the funeral the sheer busyness of organising things kept feeling at bay, but it also gave the impression I was coping far better than was the case. If people get used to offering a helping hand now, they may continue to hold it out afterwards; turn it down now and it probably won't be offered again.

    (Put another way - a stiff upper lip just gives you a face that looks botoxed, it provides no emotional support.)
  • Boogie wrote: »
    When my Mum died it was odd, but not odd.

    My church family hardly knew my Mum as her church was in another town. Two of my friends came to her funeral and I was very touched by that.

    But, when my friends’ parents died (we are that age when almost all are gone now) most of them were well known - so much more support was there. And they talked about it.

    No one talked or really asked about Mum and I found that quite hard, yet understandable.

    It sucks when another family gets all the support and you get bupkis. But we've had this happen roughly a zillion times (okay, four or five) and we're one of the the freaking pastors' families. I dunno--I have no idea why some of us attract tons of support offers and others get crickets, but we've come to expect it in our real life context. No casseroles, no offers of help, and maybe two cards each time (from people OUTSIDE the church).

    I went so far as to approach the incoming senior pastor last January to ask him to reach out to Mr. Lamb, who had just lost a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law and was coming up on the anniversary of his own stroke and his brother's death, both in 24 hours of each other.

    We got a freaking set of TRACTS in an envelope in the mail. And I think a five-minute conversation at coffee hour, which started "Hello, my name is" and didn't get much deeper.

    Meh.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    ... before the funeral the sheer busyness of organising things kept feeling at bay, but it also gave the impression I was coping far better than was the case ...
    Several people have told me they think I'm coping really well, but I think it may be because I try to restrict my episodes of not coping (e.g. when something completely random happens or comes into my head that makes me cry*) to when I'm on my own in the house, and so far, I've been relatively successful.

    I'll really know how well I'm doing at the funeral: I recall the funeral of an acquaintance when his widow absolutely howled her eyes out at the end, and I have a horrible fear of doing likewise.

    * like seeing D's shoes under the dining table ... waterworks
  • In my experience people behave roughly the way they want to behave at funerals--meaning that you may weep, but you are unlikely to make a howling spectacle of yourself (though of course your perspective on yourself is not going to be wholly accurate either). Others who enjoy drama do make spectacles, and don't seem to mind. I wouldn't worry, if I were you.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    I do silent weeping - tears pouring but no noise or movement. That way you don’t attract attention but you do ‘let it out’.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    I think if mine are at the "pouring" stage they won't be silent, as I'm likely to make involuntary noises ...

    I've been good today: phone conversations with my brother and a friend from Newfoundland and getting lovely flowers from a neighbour, and no tears ... yet ...
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Piglet wrote: »
    I think if mine are at the "pouring" stage they won't be silent, as I'm likely to make involuntary noises ...

    I've been good today: phone conversations with my brother and a friend from Newfoundland and getting lovely flowers from a neighbour, and no tears ... yet ...

    (((Hugs)))

  • FredegundFredegund Shipmate
    Seconded. And this is one time when you don't need to worry about being good. Just be whatever you want and need to be. "they" will cope
  • Lily PadLily Pad Shipmate
    Piglet, I believe that anyone who has had to keep their emotions in check such as a choir member or church worker has very little trouble with a funeral. What I mean by this is that you have a history of knowing what it is both to mourn and celebrate someone's life in a church setting and especially through beautiful music. It's likely that you will be comforted by the service and will be strengthened by the community there. Cry if you need to, no one would expect that you not. But don't be surprised if you simply grieve in the company of the congregation. They all feel like your family.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    Amen, @Lily Pad.
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