To my Friends and Family:
Thanksgiving is an important time of year. While most people think of it as time to sit around the table with family, friends and/or those you love, feasting on turkey, enjoying each other’s company and watching football games, to me Thanksgiving is a day to evaluate my life and to recognize the simple everyday things I take for granted and to be thankful for those who are part of my life.
I am going to say upfront that this year the holidays will be a challenge to celebrate. 2012 has been a year of significant loss of family and friends. It started off with the loss of my Niece, the loss of my Uncle and several friends and coworkers of mine. It seems as we get older, death becomes a more prevalent part of our lives.
Grief, while an important part of dealing with loss, is a complex process or emotion that encompasses some of the worst negative emotions, including; guilt, jealousy, anger, blame, depression, frustration, helplessness, worthlessness, anxiety, and stress. It can reek havoc with your body and your mind. It can debilitate your life, and make it appear like you have no control. It causes you to question whether life is worth living and can make it impossible for normal relations to occur. Grief causes resentment and anger in that life continues as normal even though such a tragedy in a person’s life persists. As a result it can cause isolationism and avoidance, where a person creates a bubble of sorts, to grieve without having to really face the fact that life continues outside their own world.
While sadness and loss are the main characteristics of grief, guilt is one of the most insipid that precipitates grief to endure. There are two type of guilt when it comes to grief. There is the guilt derived from thinking you could have done something different that would have prevented the loss of a loved one from occurring. Then there is the guilt that manifests itself when you stop feeling as sad or start feeling less grief or start having fun or maybe while contemplating moving forward in your life. This type of guilt usually occurs because you assume if you move on with your life, that you or others will forget the person you have lost. You want that memory of the person you lost to not be forgotten or diminished.
As you can see, grief while a normal part of dealing with a loss of an important person in your life, can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, and the quality of your life. So how do we recover from grief and how do we prevent ourselves from being entrapped by guilt ?
It can be difficult to come to terms with the loss of someone you love. However, death, regardless of circumstance is a normal part of life. We live and we die. Its the quality of our life, not the quantity of our life on this planet that matters. It is what we have accomplished, our goals and aspirations, our thoughts and qualities, our quirks and adventures that live on long after we are gone. The same goes for those we have lost. In most cases we have countless memories and stories of them to share. These are the things that immortalize those who have passed on. These are their legacies. However, it is those who are alive that are tasked with sharing these stories and passing on their legacy to ensure the memory of those we have loved and lost persist. Unless we live our lives we cannot create our own legacy nor share our loved ones legacies with others. So we have to get past the sadness, the anger, and especially the guilt. The memories of our loved ones can and will persist if we decide to take their memories with us as we move forward in life.
Moving forward will not be easy, but yet we must. In doing so, you should not expect that life will ever be the same as it once was. I am not saying that life will not be fulfilling, that it will not be good, that you will not learn to be happy, or that it will not have it’s challenges or periods of sadness. What I am saying is it will just be different. In fact there will be times when you are having a good time, and for the moment the departed may not be on the front burner of your thoughts. Do not feel guilty when this happens, its not that you forgotten them, it is just that you are moving forward with their memory, just like your loved one would want you to do. Of course there will be other times when you are having a great time and then out of the blue something triggers a memory of them, and a void will materialize in your gut, reminding you that you are missing the deceased. Don’t let this feeling bring you down or make you feel sad or depressed, it is simply your mind’s way of reminding you of them. Besides missing someone is good, it makes you not forget them.
Recognize the fact that grieving is a normal process. That just as grieving has a beginning, it too has an end. Give yourself time to grieve, but also recognize that while you will always miss and love that person, eventually you will have to start moving forward in your life. After all you too are here to create your own legacy and to share and witness the legacy of others you love. This is the way of the world and this is exactly how the departed would want us to live our lives.
We are all given the miracle of life. I say miracle because out of the infinite and random number of atoms, minerals, time and events some how we were lucky to be created, to experience life, have adventures and to experience love. If you compound that with the chances of us all being able to share in each others lives, we should all feel truly blessed to not only get to experience life, but to have each other in our lives.
So this Thanksgiving, even though many of us have had so much tragedy in our lives, let us not forget our families, our friends, and those who we love , as well as, the memories and legacies of those who we love that have passed. Let us live and move forward with our lives, like the departed would want us to live.
I remain forever thankful to have you in my life.