my tree in winter

Image by joiseyshowaa via Flickr

My family loves to cook. Family & friends often recommend I check out new websites for food. But, the recommendation to visit In Jennie’s Kitchen was different. It was based on a need for support – emotional and financial. (The best background can be found at We Are Bloggers without Borders.)

It is easy to see that Jennie is an amazing person from her beautiful posts to the amazing outpouring of support she is receiving. The death of a loved one is never easy. While I lack hospice experience, I am no stranger to death in my personal or professional life. This post is for Jennie and those like her who are grieving, trying to figure out how to move forward with life following the death of a loved one.

Allow yourself time and space to grieve. It is yours to experience in your own way. Learning to be present with the pain of loss is a process. For me, that is found best in silent meditation. At times, silence can be overwhelming. At those moments, I use quiet instrumental music. An example of a classical selection is Vaughn Williams “The Lark Ascending.” For a new age example is Wayne Jones “A Breath of Stillness”.

Create a support network. In fact, I would recommend multiple, long-term support networks. On-line, friends, family, religious institutions are a start. These are great resources for childcare when you need time to yourself, to help with a task, to provide a hug. Having a bereavement support group and/or a grief counselor to walk alongside you at various point in the grief process can make a big difference.

Gather precious memories. There is no single right way to do this – just something that is meaningful to you.  Jennie shared a video of her husband dancing with a daughter. I had a friend who asked for letters about the parent who had died so these could be shared as the child grew. Jennie commented about wearing her husband’s wedding ring on a chain. Some create memory books, wear a locket, make a CD of favorite music, there is no single answer.

Be patient. Grief is an ongoing process. If my experiences are any example, grief comes to visit at both expected times (e.g. – birthdays) and unexpected times. Sometimes a song, a sight, a smell are all that takes for grief to resurface. Allowing the space for the grief and for other emotions is important.

Find safe, appropriate ways to express the many emotions you experience. We all need opportunities to express our emotions. The point is to not bottle your emotions but to acknowledge them. My guess is one way Jennie copes and works though emotions is cooking. Other ways might include art, gardening, exercising, just to name a few . The point is to not bottle your emotions but to acknowledge them. If you feel you are becoming stuck in an emotion or moving to quickly through emotions, seek professional help.

Consider music as a way to express your emotions. As a music therapist, I believe music can be an important tool in life and in the grief process. Music seems to reach emotions as there are so many venues for contact including:

  • listening to music that was meaningful to you and that person;
  • listening to music that expresses a particular emotion – anger, sadness, loneliness, etc.;
  • recreating the music that you enjoyed together by singing or playing;
  • gathering musical memories into a format for future memories for yourself or to share with others.

Any of these can be wonderful ways to express a range of emotions. Working with a music therapist can be helpful. If you are unable to locate a music therapist living in your area, consider the book “Manage Your Stress and Pain Through Music” by Suzanne B. Hanser, Ed.D., MT-BC and Susan E. Mandel, Ph.D., MT-BC.  This book contains some exercises and worksheets along with a CD of music .

I know not what song your heart is singing, what music it is that will support you in your journey. Yet I know those songs exist or can be created. May you find your needs met during this grieving process May those around you listen with their hearts so they can be the support, the service, the silence you need today and each day forward. May we be “flames in the darkness and stars up the sky” as we journey together in our sorrows and in our joys.

I leave you with this a beautiful performance of a Christmas song “Koppangen” which for me speaks of journeying from dark places of life back into the light of living.

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