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Stories and inspiration to help you keep the memories of your loved ones alive

Faith & Grief (Part 3): The Why’s of Grief

Why is grief so hard?  Each grief is different, but a particular question often occurs in some form as one confronts the loss of a loved one -Why did this happen?  Why him or her?  Why me? Why now?  Why in that way?  It may be momentary, but more often, such questions persist far too long, often hidden in the recesses of the mind.  Their continuing pulse can disrupt one’s work through grief and leave a person in a ‘stuck’ place.  A previously secure faith and the balm it could provide seem blocked and prayer seems empty.  Why is often a faith question.

Conversations That Matter

During the last summer that A and I ever spent together, his final summer, we talked about everything. In that space, he and I were able to share the deepest and most vulnerable moments we ever had. We talked about everything. We talked about the future we had envisioned that would now never materialize. We talked about all of our dreams for our life together. He told me about how he wanted me to go on after his death. He told me his hopes and dreams for me once he would no longer be here.  Having had so many of these deep conversations during his sleepless nights, I truly thought I knew all there was to know. And yet, after A passed, as I sat in the living room of the palliative care home where we had spent the last week of his life, his family asked me about his wishes for the funeral and I was stunned.  I had no idea what he wanted.

From the beginning of our Faith & Grief Gatherings, we have asked our ‘speakers’ (everyday people, working through their own grief) to address the question, how do your faith and grief intersect?  One man said -   “Intersection?  For me, it was more like a collision!”  In that, he expressed what I have heard from many – grief confronts what we have believed since we were children and forces us to look at our faith in new ways.   Much like Job, many of us find ourselves having to learn to listen to something deeper than our friends’ flawed advice as we learn to trust ourselves and allow God to comfort us.  But first, we need to be heard.

Faith & Grief (Part One): ‘Multi-faith’ Grief Work

The first in a three-part series by Rev. Wendy Fenn, co-founder of Faith & Grief Ministries, inspires readers to consider how our diverse faiths can help us learn from one another about that very universal human experience we call grief. "Addressing grief has always seemed to me to be a place where we can find common ground with all people, regardless of their faith background."

I was so incredibly fortunate to have a mother with whom I could always easily communicate. We let it all hang out, all the time. And it didn’t hurt that we were both naturally curious women and incessant talkers who loved sharing stories about our lives over dinner, on car rides, while we were watching TV or cooking together. I never really had to create an agenda to ask her about her life, and since she was young and healthy, never really thought that I would have to. I thought we had guaranteed time.

Parting With a Loved One’s Belongings

After a loved one dies we are often assigned the task by circumstance or desire of clearing out their home and getting rid of their things. The task can seem overwhelming: What do I do with all of this stuff? How do I know what to keep and what to get rid of?

What true self-care in grief means to me

August 2020 marks three years since A died.  For the last two years, I would plan my whole month of August in great detail in order to reclaim a sense of control over my grief but this year, Covid-19 has made that difficult for me.  A cancelled trip to Greece left me with no plans for how to honour A on the third anniversary of his passing.  Instead of traveling and getting together with loved ones, I’ve decided to share some of the lessons that I have learned through loving and losing A. In death, just as he was in life, A remains one of my greatest teachers. These lessons have transcended his passing and continue to influence the way I choose to carry my life forward.

If someone you love has died as a result of an overdose, your grief experience will be even more complex, and it can be complicated by the factors surrounding your relationship with your loved one, the way in which they died, and the responses you receive from others in your life. Complicating those “expected” grief emotions might be intensified anger – at your loved one; at yourself; at friends or family who ignored or enabled your loved one’s substance use; at medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies; or at people in your loved one’s life who supplied drugs or supported their substance use. Similarly, the sadness commonly felt after a death loss may feel more overwhelming due to the sudden and traumatic nature of an overdose death, while the loneliness many survivors experience could become isolating if your grief is unrecognized or unsupported.

For many caregivers, COVID-19 has been a nonstop wrecking ball. It has swung back and forth across the globe, decimating families and communities. And who’s there in the midst of the ongoing crisis, providing care to the hundreds of thousands of sick, dying, dead, and grieving people? The professional caregivers. The nurses, long-term care workers, doctors, funeral directors, hospice staff, social workers, EMTs, and other critical frontline workers whose vocations place them squarely in the wrecking ball’s path.

How we remember a loved one is both a reflection and part of the grieving process. At a funeral or life celebration, our spoken remembrances are often shaped by social etiquette which dictates that only funny or touching or positive memories be shared. For those closest to the deceased, these remembrances can sometimes feel at odds with recent memories of the suffering our loved one experienced at the end of life, a suffering we may have vicariously experienced with them.