Today I grieve the loss of a beloved friend, Celine. Here she is in December 2017 when we went on a road trip to visit friends and family in Arizona.
She died from leukemia complicated by an undetected virus after a long stretch of suffering various difficult-to-diagnose symptoms. I was one of several with her at USC Medical Center, along with one of our spiritual guides who has supported us through this time of grief and who will conduct Celine’s funeral Mass in June. While I am in the midst of my grief I would like to recognize Celine’s contributions, to my life and our community, by reaching out to those of you who may also be grieving the loss of a loved one. Despite death being a constant in everyone’s life, we rarely receive any type of education or preparation for the inevitable partings and painful separations we all experience when a loved one dies.
The loss of a loved one is the greatest stress the human body and spirit experiences post birth and prior to our own demise. Loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and distracted focus need to be monitored and addressed because we are still here with a purpose to fulfill. We need to recognize, embrace, and understand the waves of emotion that can come unexpectedly, at first often, but after time at distant intervals, and talk about these with someone who will encourage us to share more rather than shut down the conversation.
Many people are so fearful and uncomfortable with death and the intense emotions of sadness, loss, depression, confusion, and anger that survivors experience that they are unable to even talk about the person who has passed and find themselves saying hurtful clichés. Kelley Lynn, in her Ted Talk “There is no such thing as ‘Moving On’” says that since love is the only thing that never dies, we need to empower those in mourning by coming alongside and listening to them talk about their loved one while they discover how to take the love they feel and pass it forward.
How we deal with our griefs is part of how we deal with our life. If our self-image is based on our relationships (I’m a friend, a parent, a sibling, a co-worker, a spouse) then we have to consider who we will become without our loved one and how we will honor their brief journey and keep their memory alive for those who will follow us when our brief journey is complete.
If you, like me, are working through these questions and need someone who is not uncomfortable talking about loss and love, contact me.