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The Power of Silence

Grief is not always about someone dying. We experience grief as a result of loss. There are many kinds of loss. When we lose someone we love due to physical death, we grieve. We also grieve when we lose our good health, when we lose a job, when we lose money, when our best friend relocates. There can be a level of grief when we move out of our home we’ve lived in for thirty to forty years. Retirement can bring grief.

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Parents grieve as their children grow up. Even within the celebration of driver’s licenses, prom dates and graduation, we sometimes grieve over their increasing independence. For them, it’s an adventure. For parents, it often brings a sense of loss. Our daughter is thirty-five years old, yet my wife Kathy still becomes a little melancholy when school starts in the fall with the turning leaves and the sounds of school buses. Why? Because from the first time we pinned that bus tag on her little sweater and walked her out to her first school bus ride, Kathy began marking time with each September in our daughter’s life. She was losing her little girl and could do nothing to stop it.

So, we all grieve loss.

In the fall of 1985 I was the head football coach of a small high school whose football program had struggled over the years. We had lost every game that season going into our final game. We worked so hard in preparation to beat our county rival. The kids played their hearts out. We lost 7-6.

I spoke to the team, the players showered and the coaches went home. The sports editor for the local paper waited until everyone was gone to interview me. He was a personal friend. We even attended the same church. As I sat on a that wooden bench in the empty locker room, the musty aroma of sweat along with the humidity of hot showers and soap lingered in the air. I sat in total silence feeling such a deep sense of loss. I was grieving; grieving for my players; grieving the enormous weight of my failure when my sports writer friend stepped through the locker room door.

I sat there motionless, barley looking up. Then he did something I will never forget. He just sat there next to me. He put his arm around my shoulders and continued to sit there not saying a word. We just sat on that hard bench staring at the tile floor littered with pieces of athletic tape. Then, after what seemed to be a long silence, he patted me on the knee; stood up and left without saying a word.

My friend grieved with me.

When someone we love is grieving a loss, sometimes the best thing we can do is just be there. No small talk; no pithy comments; no need to verbally express how sorry we are. Just sit there with them. Just grieve with them. Don’t be intimidated by the silence. If they want to talk, they will talk. A look, a hug, an arm around the shoulder may be the only language necessary. We tend to be uncomfortable with silence. In fact, we often avoid silence. But, silence can be powerful. there is comfort and healing in the silence.

What my friend taught me about grief and loss is that we need to grieve with people…and when necessary, use words.

 

Greg Webber,
Morrissett Community Care-
Aftercare Team

 

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Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234
Serving the Richmond area since 1870

How to Support Someone Who Is Grieving

The days following the death of a loved one can be overwhelming. We find ourselves not only coping with grief, but also having to deal with things such as finances or funeral arrangements. It can be difficult, complicated, and exhausting. During such times we are in great need of the support of our friends and family. It is also during those times that many people find themselves at a loss as to how best to support someone who has suffered a loss.

Several people have shared what they found the most helpful while they were grieving. They also gave specific suggestions on what to do, as well as what NOT to do, when someone you care about has experienced the death of a loved one.

 

Reach out. Whether it is physically or electronically, reach out and let them know you care. “Just send a card, make a phone call, say something on social media, anything. Assume that no one else did.”

Show up. Whether it is to hug them or help them, show up. Your presence can be a great comfort. Sit with them and listen, sit with them in silence, or even just cry with them.

Help. Don’t just say, “Let me know if you need anything.” Say, “WHAT can I do to help you?” Bringing food along with things like paper plates, plastic ware, and napkins can be helpful, as well as straightening the house or answering the phone. Sometimes that help or food can be even more needed days and weeks after the funeral is over. Continue reading

The Last Gifts

In the few weeks since my father died, I have been thinking a lot about the gifts that came with his passing. There has been great sadness, but there also have been great blessings. I want to share them because they are blessings that others can have in difficult times of loss as well.

giftIn this guest post Elizabeth Barnes discusses the unexpected blessings that she discovered after her father passed away.  

The Gift of Security

My parents had set up not only a will but a trust which meant that everything that was my dad’s automatically transferred over to my mother on his death.

That meant that she did not have to worry about her financial situation, deal with a lot of pesky paperwork, hiring an attorney, or petitioning a court at an extremely difficult time for her.

It is not hard or very expensive to set up a trust, and most wills and trust attorneys take credits cards or will set up a payment plan. Autism Dad and I have our appointment with our trust attorney set for January.

 The Gift of Planning

I learned how valuable it was to pre-plan final arrangements. There are many questions that need to be answered, and having all of that sorted out before-hand is a great kindness to grieving loved ones.

The sister and I who had to travel out of state were also very grateful that our father was kept on a respirator long enough for us to be able to say good-bye. This was important closure that made his passing easier on us.

My husband and will include in our estate planning clear instructions as to our arrangements, and that it would be ok to keep us alive long enough for loved ones to arrive, to make it easier for our loved ones.

 The Gift of Kindnesses

Our family has been the recipient of so many kindnesses, it has been extraordinary. The gifts of food, cards, and offers of assistance have been incredibly helpful.

One of the best gifts I saw was the friend of my mom’s who brought over paper plates, napkins, and plastic ware so that she did not have to keep washing dishes.

Brilliant.

The other thing I have appreciated is that my mom has been saying “yes” to the offers of help. Instead of trying to be independent she has been smart and strong enough to say “yes, I need help,” asking for things like her crafty friend wrapping Christmas presents for her, and asking her outgoing friends to contact their social circles so my mom doesn’t have to.

Letting someone help is as valuable as offering help.

 The Gift of No Regrets

I spoke to my Dad on the phone the morning before his stroke – for years we talked almost every day. When I looked back and asked myself what I would have done differently if I had known it was the last time we would speak, the answer was: nothing.

My father and I had a great relationship that we had worked hard on over the years. We loved and respected each other such that at the end there was no unfinished business, no lingering regrets, only love and memories.

I am so grateful for that.

 The Gift of Life

My father was 79 when he passed and, had you asked me, I would have assumed that due to his age he would be unable to donate organs and other life-saving gifts from his passing.

I would have been wrong.

My mom authorized taking donations from my father, and it is our family’s great wish that they will be useful to someone, maybe even saving a life. Life from my father’s death would be the greatest gift of all.

(The original post by Elizabeth Barnes can be found at the website “Autism Mom.”)

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Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234
Serving the Richmond area since 1870

Riding the Waves of Grief

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
― Vicki Harrison

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To be human is to love, and with love comes the possibility of loss. Each person at some point in their lives will experience grief, and each person will experience that grief in their own unique way. There is no correct way to grieve. What’s important is we allow ourselves to experience that grief.

Grieving can be frightening and can cause a person to feel a certain loss of control. Some people dam up their feelings because they think that once the floodgates open they will be overwhelmed. What they may not realize is that those feelings will find a way to bubble back up somehow.

As written in a previous post, The Journey of Grief,  “It is healing to allow yourself to feel and express whatever complex emotions you encounter. Hiding from your feelings, however, can have a negative impact on your well-being.” Anger, depression, sleep disturbances and more can all be signs of unexpressed emotional conflict.

Other people learn to cope with their loss, but later grow frustrated with themselves when they experience the pain anew. They thought they had learned to cope with the pain and had overcome it, and then one day a new wave of emotion comes crashing in.

Grieving is not a linear process. Some days we might feel almost normal, or our new version of normal. Other days we might feel the pain of the loss of our loved one as keenly as the day they left, even years later. This is all a natural part of the experience of grief.

So what can we do instead? We can be gentle with ourselves and practice good self-care. Find activities that give us strength and healing. Go for a walk, connect with our “safe” people, get enough rest, take up a new hobby. We can find our spiritual center and pray or meditate . We can also talk about our loved one and remember the ways that they impacted our life.

All of these things can help make us strong. They can help keep us afloat. That way, when the waves return, we can face them knowing that we will not drown.

Whether the waters of emotion are calm, or the waves are strong, what matters is that we keep trying learn how to swim.

 

~Jennifer Roberts Bittner
Funeral Celebrant/ Life Tribute Specialist

Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234
Serving the Richmond area since 1870

 

Guiding Children Through Grief and Loss

When someone who we love dies it creates an array of complicated emotions which take time to process. Coming to terms with loss and grief can be even more difficult for children, whose minds are not yet fully developed. Many of them have never experienced such a loss before, and that can make it even more frightening and overwhelming. Children need the love and support of caring adults to help them navigate through this new territory, and this article has some tips to help both of you as you help each other.

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First of all, it is important that we talk to children about death. This is not an easy subject for many. How you talk to them will be dependent on their age, but in general it is important to keep the discussion in honest, simple terms that a child can understand: “Grandpa had an illness that was too much for his body, but don’t worry, people don’t die every time they get sick.” Also, don’t use confusing expressions like “they fell asleep” or “Nana is gone.” Young children think in literal terms, and this can confuse and upset them. An adult whose mother passed away when she was eight years old shared her personal experience: “They told me my mom was gone, but I remember thinking that they lied. She was lying right there in that box!” She then spent the entire rest of the visitation wondering why her mother didn’t wake up, since the adults had also told her that her mother was “asleep.” Telling a child that death is like “going to sleep and never waking up” is a confusing analogy, and may make them afraid to go to bed at night.  Continue reading

What You Hang On To After Losing a Child

There is an unexplainable hollowness that comes with losing a child. I’ve heard loss-moms explain it as a hole in their heart or an empty feeling. I’ve searched for words to do it justice but haven’t found one yet. You grow a child and birth them and before you see how their hair touches their shoulders, or if their laugh turns into yours, they’re drifting away and you’re holding the tiniest thread of what you once had. (Written by Jessica Watson from Four Plus an Angel.)

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To survive you tell yourself they’re holding this thread too, through pinched together fingers or a chubby fist or the growing hands you’ve imagined. Some days you might be the only one remembering, or at least it feels that way. On those days you need reassurance that the child who left was ever here at all and the thread you’re holding is proof.

When your child first passed away you thought sure you were going somewhere too, you were drifting further from here and closer to there but you fell hard right where you were needed; a place unfathomably far. The thread you share makes you different and less whole and often dangling mid-air, but at some point your feet feel the ground again. You reach for your thread and get up when pain pushes you down because loss taught you the art of holding tight.

You tie your thread to your wrist and learn not to feel awkward about taking it out and spilling it through the air. Continue reading

The New Normal

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Once someone we love has died, our new normal is something completely different from anything we have known before. We are different than we were before. Our lives are different than they were before. “Normal” seems like something far, far away.  Unfortunately, this is the new normal.  Losing someone you love dearly, who was an integral part of your life, is an intense and incredibly difficult experience.  Often, bereaved people find that their grief can be misunderstood by others who have not experienced the same kind of loss or who have not yet faced the death of someone they love deeply or who was an integral part of their lives.  Sometimes in grief, it can seem nearly impossible to understand yourself, much less find others who can understand.

(This guest post is an excerpt of an article written by Karla Helbert, LPC, a therapist and grief counselor in Richmond, Virginia. The original article can be found here.) 

If this is the first time you are experiencing the loss of a loved one, or if you are having difficulty understanding the intensity of your grief in this loss, you may feel completely alone, confused and possibly afraid.  You may be experiencing thoughts, feelings, and unusual phenomena you never have experienced before.  You should know that in light of what has happened,  the things you are experiencing are normal.  The pain and symptoms of grief impact every area of your life. Your body, mind, thoughts, feelings, and spirit.  The journey of grief is difficult, but it can bring some comfort to know that you are not alone. Information about the normal ways that grief can affect us can be very helpful.  Sadly, though nearly all of us will experience the death of someone we love, and the pain that follows, very rarely does anyone tell us what to expect. Continue reading

The Journey of Grief

Love is essential to the human condition, but to give and receive love also means to be to open to the inevitability of loss and grief. Our hope is that the articles you find on this page will help in some way to guide and comfort you during your own journey of grief, and as you walk along the path to healing.

Earl Grollman wrote, “Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

The grieving process is a complex one, however. No two people experience it the same way, or on the same schedule. It is okay to cry, it is okay to rage, and it is okay to feel temporarily numb. It is healing to allow yourself to feel and express whatever complex emotions you encounter. Hiding from your feelings, however, can have a negative impact on your well-being.

Healing can be found at times by being alone, and at times by being with other people. It important to find companions that are “safe,” who will provide support and a listening ear as you process your changing emotions.

Grief can also occur in waves, with levels that fluctuate over time. There will be moments when it comes flooding back with fresh intensity. Tracy, a mother who lost a teenage daughter, suggests than when those waves hit you just “ride them out” until it passes.

Over time it will become easier to cope with your grief but it will remain, just as your love for the departed will remain. Cassandra Clare wrote in Clockwork Prince, “They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite.”

Jill Powell, a writer from the website “Walking With Drake”, described it as this, “Grief does change over time, but it is always there. At first it is totally life altering. The grief is so heavy that you can barely lift your head. Over time it becomes like a burn. Always there, but with varying intensity. Eventually it scars. The scar is always present. You can see it, you can feel it with your hand, but it doesn’t hurt anymore unless you press really hard….then it’s more like a numbness.”

Eventually, as unfathomable as it may seem at first, you will heal. You will also be different from what you were before. Well-known author Anne Lamott wrote, “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Be kind to yourself as you undergo this process. Search for moments of beauty and comfort in your day. Most of all, remember this: love changes us, and loss changes us, but one day you will dance again.

Written by Jennifer Roberts Bittner
Funeral Celebrant and Life Tribute Specialist


Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234

 

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