More Than Meets the Eye, True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife covers many aspects of the dying and grieving process and sheds light on euthanasia, suicide, near-death experience, and spirit visits after the passing of a loved one. ___________________________________________

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Greiving Less by Being Around People

When my grandfather passed in 1988, my grandmother had a difficult time adjusting. What helped her most was to stay busy doing things with and for our family.  We took her to the beach that following summer just to get her out of the house and into a change of scenery. She never set foot on the beach, but she loved staying in the motel, cooking meals for the rest of us. We loved having her and I think it gave her a new perspective on life without Pap.

Even though it's been twenty-two years since his death, my grandmother (Nanny is now 94 years old) still gets a little melancholy around the holidays. Rightly so. She has a lot of loved ones waiting for her in the afterlife. Two of her five children are no longer in body--one daughter passed three days before Thanksgiving last year. Nanny's last remaining sibling, a dear sister whom she daily spoke with on the phone, passed a few months ago. Her loss is still very real. Even though Nanny can't get out much (she broke her hip two years ago and is only able to walk a few steps to get from bed to wheelchair) and is very hard of hearing, she desires to be around people. She has always been a very social person. She lights up when her grandkids, great grandkids, and great-great grandkids come to visit.

If she was able to get about more easily, I'm sure she would enjoy being part of a group and do things with people. I recently discovered our local senior citizens center and was surprised at all the opportunities they offer for connecting around fun projects. Not only do they have quilting and crocheting groups (I love both of these crafts) they have a beauty shop, low-impact aerobics, work out equipment, walking trails, computer classes, a cafeteria, a chorus/choir, and a drama club—they put on shows for the community! Plus, they take field trips together all over the state. The charge is like $10 per month, so it is very affordable.

Being around people is a good way to take your mind off the constant grieving. I think this type of activity would be a huge benefit to a grieving senior person. What do you think?

For more information, you might enjoy reading More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife.
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Grieving a Miscarriage

Mary Martin is our guest blogger today as she shares a touching story about how a little girl dealt with the death of her unborn baby sister when her family did not address the issue.

The Ice House

by Mary Martin

That's an old photograph of me taken the summer I turned nine. Squinting at the camera, I look as if I'm ready to run. Behind me, you can see a boy, several years older with dark curly hair and a pinched expression. That's my brother, Paul. You can tell from the tilt of the camera, that my older brother Pete took the picture.

We stayed in a small cottage high up on the rocks. To get to the water, we had to climb down a long rickety, staircase that arched its way among the bleached white rocks to the narrow beach below. One afternoon, coming out of the water, I felt something soft and thick on the back of my leg. I tried to brush it off.

Paul started laughing. "It's a worm, Francie!"

Pete tried to knock it off with a stick, but it wouldn't come.

I ran up the staircase as fast I could. In the cottage, I tried to stop my short, panicky sobs. Horror slowly spread across Mom's face as she tried to peel the black blob from my leg. Aunt Margaret got the salt and Dad poured it on the worm. Slowly, the creature curled smaller and dropped off. For days, I couldn't help fingering the long dent under the bandage made by the blood sucker. It seemed like a big chunk of me was missing. I wasn't allowed to go swimming for a while, but I didn't really want to.

The best part about the cottage was the ice house. Beyond the road running behind the cottage was a low building set in among the pine trees, which seemed to rise up forever. A man from the lodge would come every few days in his truck to unload the large blocks of ice for the cottagers. Made of old pine boards hammered together, the ice house kept listing dangerously to one side. The damp smell of sawdust drew you in. Waves of cold from the big blocks of ice strewn across the floor froze you solid. With the door pulled shut, the darkness inside was broken by bright knotholes of sunshine streaming in. Paul and I spent many afternoons defending the ice house with our stick rifles thrust through the holes. Holding our breath, we waited for the enemy attacks.

I was always liked playing with Paul, but it didn't happen often. He thought I was too little. But he had the best games, even though some of them were really strange. Because Mom was expecting the new baby late that summer, she was pretty tired and we weren't supposed to bother her. So, I hung around Paul a lot.

One afternoon, I asked Paul, "What do you think it'll be like with the new baby?"

Paul threw down his stick rifle and stared at me. "Who cares?" His face scrunched up. "Smarten up, Francie! You think it'll be like playing with your dumb dolls." With his face all pinched and angry, he started across the floor at me. "Well, it won't. Everything will be different."

He pushed me hard and I fell back against the huge iron tongs hanging on a nail by the door. He backed away. I could tell from his smile, he was thinking something up.

"You know, they torture people in here with those tongs," he said slowly. His glance forbade challenge.

"They take ice to the cottages with them." I insisted. Then, trying to sound grown up, I said, "Everyone knows that."

"Boy, are you dumb!" Paul shook his head slowly and peered out the knothole."Everyone knows that!" he mimicked.

Then he whispered so low I could hardly hear him. "They do it out here only at night, when babies like you are asleep."
Paul pretended to concentrate on the enemy. Even though I couldn't see his face, I decided to call his bluff, which wasn't easy for me. "How do you know? Mom and Dad don't let you out here at night."

Slowly, my brother turned away from the wall. The stream of sunlight illuminated his piteous expression. He sighed deeply. "Don't you know anything? You can sneak out once dad starts snoring."

Slowly, he reached up and lifted the tongs from the nail. They were so heavy, he almost stumbled. "Listen, if you stop acting like a stupid little kid, you can come tonight at midnight." Just like Paul to throw down the challenge.

"They heat the tongs up over a fire, before they use them." he added.

"Fire?" I thought I had him now. "There aren't any fires around here at night," I said.

With a grin, Paul turned on me in the doorway. "See what I mean? That's exactly what a baby would say." Then he was off, running ahead of me toward the cottage.

That night I lay in bed waiting for midnight and thinking about what Paul had said about the baby. I was still trying to figure out how babies were made. Mom wasn't much help. Something about bees and flowers. When Aunt Margaret tried to tell me, I got even more confused.

I liked Aunt Margaret a lot. If I had any idea of myself as a grown up woman, Aunt Margaret was everything I wanted to be. She had long, dark hair which was so shiny, I always wanted to touch it. When she laughed, it was a deep, husky laugh which hinted at something I didn't understand, but wanted to imitate. Sometimes I listened to her and Mom talking. Aunt Margaret was a nurse and I heard her talking about girls getting rid of their babies, at the hospital. I didn't believe it. Babies got sick and mothers got them better.

Finally, it was midnight. With the flashlight, I picked out the path through the bushes. When I crept into the ice house, it was really cold and still.

Paul's voice was harsh and tense. "Turn that thing off!" he hissed. I did. We were in darkness until my eyes adjusted. I could barely see him behind a huge box-like shape.

"Now," he whispered, "I'm going to show you how they heat up the tongs. They'll be here pretty soon."

"Who's coming?" I asked, not moving from the doorway.

"Them. All the members of the Secret Society!"

I heard a metallic click and then smelled the sick smell of lighter fluid. Paul had taken Dad's lighter. When the candle flickered, I could see. Paul’s grinning face, like a skull. What had looked like a box, really was one, except it was cut out in a funny shape and looked like an altar. The tongs were laid across the top of the box. Carefully, he set the candle underneath the one end of the tongs.

Sitting back, with great satisfaction, he said, "Now we wait."

"Wait for what?" I asked.

Paul looked at me in disgust. "I shouldn't have let you come. You're just too little for this! I said they'd be here and I have to be ready with the tongs."

Paul scuffed his foot and knocked the box over. The candle tipped sideways. The box began to dance in flames. I thought it was part of the plan, but his gasp told me it wasn't. For an instant, we watched the growing flames in fascination.

Paul knocked the tongs to the ground. Spreading his arms, he grasped both ends of the burning cardboard. He ran fast with the flaming box held high. The fire seemed to die out as he neared the cottage, but then it burst out again. His screams pierced the silent woods.

He's crazy, I thought. He'll wake everyone. Then I saw his shirt was on fire.

Dad was chasing him down the lawn. Paul flung himself toward the water's edge. Dad caught him and threw him to the ground. The shrieks became a low keening sound.

Aunt Margaret backed the car onto the lawn. Mom stumbled trying to get Paul up. Climbing in the car beside him, she slammed the door shut. Her face was pale and white in the window. Paul's shrieks rose above the engine's roar as the car bounced down the lane for town.

Unable to move, I stood alone on the lawn. Aunt Margaret and Pete brought me into the cottage. I kept saying, "The candle fell over. The box caught on fire. Paul was trying to get it to the water."

"But why?" asked Aunt Margaret. "What was he trying to do?"

I searched her face for an answer. "I don't know!" I said at last. "Something to do with a secret society and torturing people. One of his stupid games."

I couldn't lie down on my own bed. Finally, curling up on the verandah cot. I fell asleep staring at the moon. When I awoke the next morning, I was lying in the exact same position.

The sky was tinted pink with red streaks in it. Slowly, I turned on my back. I heard my Aunt talking on the phone. Finally, she hung up and came out to the verandah and sat on the end of the cot.

"Dad called from the hospital, Francie." I nodded and waited. "Paul will be all right. The burns aren't too bad."

I rubbed my eyes and watched her. I knew there was more.

"Francie?" She edged toward me awkwardly. "Your mom lost the baby last night."

I lay very still. When I finally spoke, I didn't recognize my own voice. "You mean the baby died?"

"Yes." said Margaret quietly.

I wrenched myself away from her hand and buried my face in the pillow. It was Paul's fault. His stupid games! The lump in my throat was so hard, I thought my head would burst. I didn't ask Margaret what was wrong with the baby, or why it died. I just asked, "It was a girl, wasn't it?" Aunt Margaret looked at me strangely and nodded.

After awhile, I got off the cot and went to my room. Standing on a chair, I could just reach the top shelf of the closet. I found the only dress I'd brought to the cottage. Mom usually helped me with the zipper, so it took a long time to dress without her. I went out to the kitchen. Pete and Aunt Margaret were sitting at the table. They weren't talking.

Standing in the doorway, I asked, "Will this be okay for the funeral?"

"Funeral?" asked Margaret carefully.

"Yes, for the baby."

Margaret was leading me to the couch and trying not to cry. "Francie, they don't have funerals when this happens."

"Why not?"

Margaret looked at me helplessly. "They just don't. I don't know why." Tears were running down her cheeks as she tried to hold me close.

I pushed her away hard, then ran from the cottage, as fast as I could, across the road to the ice house. I sat inside for a long time with my back against the biggest block of ice I could find. The cold made me ache all over. It was all because of the fire, I thought. I hated Paul and his stupid games. Then I got an idea.

Aunt Margaret and Pete were out looking for me, so it was easy to sneak back into the cottage. At the back of Mom's closet, I found a shoe box. In my room, Annabel, my doll was propped up against the pillow. There were lots of doll clothes in my suitcase and I went through them carefully, until I found just the right one. I took a long time dressing Annabel in her white dress. I sang to her while I combed her hair and washed her face. Then I placed her in the shoe box. She didn't look right just lying there, so I tucked the best hand towel I could find around her.

Back at the ice house, I got a shovel. I had to find the right spot. It was quiet and shady at the back. The hole was really hard to dig. The shoe box had to be buried deep enough. At last, I could make it fit.

Opening the lid for the last time, I kissed Annabel and stared at her for ages. I felt better, but the hard lump in my throat came back when I covered the box with earth.

Right away, I knew I needed a gravestone. In the bushes, I found enough stones to build one. I sat back against the wall and tried to think of the right words. I had never been to a funeral, so I had a lot of trouble.

Much later, Pete came around the back of the ice house. He looked relieved to see me, but I could tell he thought I looked really strange sitting there in my best dress, beside a bunch of stones.

I thought he would be mad, but he just said, "What are you doing, Francie? We've been hunting all over for you." He didn't look right at me.

"Can't you see? I've been having the funeral." Then I really started crying and couldn't stop. Pete sat down beside me and put his arm around my shoulder. Sitting together like that, I was glad he just waited and didn't try to make me stop and talk. When I was only sniffling, he helped me up and held my hand all the way back from the ice house.

Mary E. Martin, a lawyer, she wrote the legal suspense novels of The Osgoode Trilogy, Conduct in Question, Final Paradox and A Trial of One. She has just published the first novel in the next trilogy, set in not in the world of law, but art—The Drawing Lesson, the first in the Trilogy of Remembrance. Presently, she is immersed in the second draft of the next novel in this trilogy, provisionally called, The Fate of Pryde. Married, she and her husband live in Toronto and have three adult children.

For more information, you might enjoy reading More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Resisting Grief

When we lose a loved one, we go through a multitude of emotions before finally reaching acceptance. We may dislike the changes that are occurring as a result and may feel very dissatisfied with our lives without that person.

“I don’t like this!”
“I’m not ready to let go!”
“It’s too much for me to bear!”
“This shouldn’t have happened!"

These thoughts come to our mind when we can’t acknowledge the simple truth that everything in the universe is flowing, and that we must flow with life rather than resist it. In denying what is happening, and refusing to move on, we fight against the universe and the whole of creation. This fight is a lost cause from the very beginning because the universal cycles of life and death are very powerful.

When we think about our life circumstances in terms of “it should be this way” or “it shouldn’t be that way,” we ignore the fact that everything happens for a reason, and though we may not know the reason, it is supported by the creative force of everything that exists. Souls make choices on an unconscious level and may depart before we are ready to let go of them. We may doubly grieve if the loved one we lost was very young or healthy or died suddenly through the actions of another person or random event. If we could see the bigger picture from a higher perspective, things would look a lot different.

We try to be strong for ourselves and others during a crisis, but repressing our own feelings only traps negative energy that can detrimentally affect our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When our rational mind produces thoughts of resistance, our positive energy comes to a standstill. It stagnates and accumulates an excess of negative energy that leads to physical or emotional suffering. Before long, we grow accustomed to feeling bad and this attracts more painful experiences that lead to further accumulation of negativity that attracts more of the same, and so forth.

So what is one to do in order to move from denial, anger, bargaining, and depression into acceptance? There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are ways to move through grief more quickly without allowing it to harm your health.

Feel what you feel. Admit that you are angry, suffering, or depressed and ask for Divine help in dealing with your personal response to the situation at hand. God can handle your anger—it’s just an “E” motion—energy in motion. Energy is meant to be in constant motion; not to get stuck in your body where it can damage your cells. Expressing your emotions releases them, so don’t be afraid to cry, punch, or scream into your pillow to let go of the pent up feelings.

Be real. Live authentically by being honest with yourself. Who are you angry with? Why are you angry about your current situation? How does this anger serve you? What worries you most? Are there any positive steps you can take to make the situation better? What would your life look like in a couple of months if you make wise decisions now? Think of the many ways your faith in a higher power can help you move on.

Once you have let go of any energy that has lodged in your body and mind, you will have a better outlook on life and will be able to make decisions based upon logic and intuition rather than knee-jerk reactions you may regret later.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Elderly and Children Interact

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I spent time at my parent's house. My 94-year-old grandmother, whom we call Nanny, lives with them. My adult children and my three grandchildren were also at my parent's during the holiday last week.

Ever since Nanny fell and broke her hip two years ago, she has not been able to walk without a walker or wheel chair. For about a year and a half, she couldn't walk at all and had to be hoisted in and out of bed with a hydraulic lift.

My oldest grandson Sidney is nearly ten years old; he remembers when Nanny was mobile enough to help clean house and cook dinner. He is also accustomed to seeing her incapacitated and using a variety of medical equipment. He loved to swing in the hoist and ride up and down on the wheelchair lift on my mom's van when Nanny had need of those items. You can see him borrowing Nanny's walker to steady himself on roller blades!

My two younger grandsons, Liam and Jonas, (born two weeks apart in 2009) are now 17 months old. They have an entirely different relationship with Nanny.

Jonas has visited Nanny more often than Liam has. Jonas is quite comfortable with Nanny and will sit in the bed next to her and jabber away. He brings toys to her when she's sitting in her lift chair in the living room. He likes to push the buttons and make her go up and down.

Liam will have nothing to do with Nanny other than stare at her from across the room. He cries if she reaches out to touch him, and he screamed and climbed my body trying to keep me from putting him in bed next to her. I didn't force the issue. I simply held him and stepped back from her bed and he stopped crying. He also associates the wheelchair with Nanny and is intimidated by it.  He really didn't want to be in the wheelchair for this photo shoot, but since his cousins were playing in it and my mom was taking them for a ride, he bore with our shenanigans.

In summary, I think this comfort level (or lack thereof) has a lot to do with what a child gets used to, but it's also a difference in personality. Jonas is more outgoing than Liam in most ways, but I'm sure Liam would come to accept Nanny and her gear if he were around her more.

I think it is a good idea to let children try out the medical equipment used by an elderly or disabled family member as long as they don't get hurt or break the equipment. It's a good experience for children to interact with the elderly, but it should not be forced upon them. How do you feel about this?

You might enjoy reading More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife.
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