How to Become Bigger than our Grief
“I am an orphan. Both my parents have died.” That’s what a client recently told me. I had the exact same feelings when my mother died two years ago. My father preceded her five years earlier.
I don’t want to ask you, “Have you been touched by death?” I want to ask you, “HOW have you been touched by death?” Most all of us have experienced the death of at least one family member, or a friend, or a beloved pet.
The Covid-19 pandemic brings heightened awareness to all of us about death and dying.
I want to tell you about a podcast that may interest you.
Mitch Albom interviewed David Kessler, a world-renowned expert in death and dying. I had the pleasure of attending a seminar with David Kessler last year. I found him to be warm and engaging.
Both men have experienced the death of a child. David’s son died at age 21 from an accidental drug overdose. Mitch’s daughter died at age 7 from brain cancer. It’s rare to hear two men talk so openly about grief.
David Kessler was a protégé’ of psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She authored the five stages of grief: shock, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. David assures us that Elizabeth never intended for the five stages to be dogmatic. We may grieve all of our lives.
David emphasizes that we can learn how to become bigger than our grief. We can find a purpose in our lives which includes our experience of grief. David talks about this in his most recent book, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.
One mother created MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) after her son died when a drunk driver hit him. Another mother whose son died from suicide became a leader in an organization that helps families who have experienced suicide.
Helping others gives us a constructive channel through which our love can flow even though we can never bring our loved ones back.
Letting ourselves receive help from others when we are grieving may be one of the most important things we have to learn.
Do you know who Mitch Albom is? He’s the author of Tuesdays with Morrie, one of my very favorite books. It’s a deeply moving story about a relationship between a teacher and a student. It was a New York Times bestseller for almost four years. In this true-life story, Mitch is a workaholic sports reporter who is in a long-term engagement but terrified of marriage. He doesn’t have time for sappy emotions.
Mitch learns that his old college sociology professor, Morrie, is dying of ALS. In weekly conversations with Morrie, Mitch confronts his own fears about death and dying. Morrie’s warm-hearted way helps Mitch become comfortable talking about death. Morrie’s wisdom helps Mitch soften his hardened workaholic heart that has protected his tender vulnerable emotions. The loving relationship with Morrie deepens, and Mitch is changed forever. He’s finally able to feel comfortable making a marriage proposal to his fiancé.
Most of us in the USA have had little training in how to talk about grief or other uncomfortable emotions. We are a performance-driven society. We don’t know what to say to people when their loved ones die. David Kessler gives us suggestions.
Don’t say, “I know what you’re feeling. My child died, too.” Rather say, “I have no idea what it’s like for you, but I’m here to listen. I care about you. If you want to play card games or shoot hoops or talk … whatever it is, I’m here for you.”
David said that one of the most outstanding characteristics of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was that she was a profound listener.
I invite you to become more comfortable with grief and death and dying. I invite you to help other people get more comfortable with grief. You don’t have to know all the right things to say.
When you listen with an open heart, your very presence is healing.
You can find free grief support groups, free tools, and books at David Kessler’s website: grief.com.
You can listen to the podcast with David Kessler and Mitch Albom by visiting MitchAlbom.com. Click on the “News” tab. Look for this podcast: Episode 40 – The Sixth Stage of Grief with Special Guest, World-Renowned Grief Expert David Kessler
I highly recommend this book: Beyond the Darkness by Clarissa Moll.
Benita A. Esposito, MA, LPC, LCMHC
Psychotherapist in Georgia and North Carolina with four decades experience.
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