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At the Corner of Grief and Love

“At the Corner of Grief and Love”

Grief takes its toll on us. There are moments when all we want is to feel normal again. I have observed three common effects of grief. The first is physical exhaustion. When the reality of our loss sets in, we often respond with the unspeakable pain of tears. I was talking with a woman whose husband died of a heart attack. It had been only a month since his death, but she was exhausted. She told me that she was so tired of crying. She just wanted the tears to stop. Grieving can leave us with a kind of fatigue that sleep doesn’t help. We just want to make it through the day, go home and crash.

The second effect of grief is emotional emptiness. Sometimes the physical fatigue and emotional weariness overlap each other. “I don’t think I’ve got anything left in me. It’s not that I don’t care, I’m just empty inside.” We often feel the weight of the expectations of other people around us. In our quiet moments on the one hand we’re thinking, “I know they want me to get over it, but I’m just not ready yet.” On the other hand, we agonize “How long will this go on?” 

Then there is a kind of mental paralysis. It’s the despair of feeling like we just can’t think straight. Details are the last things we want to handle. Even deciding what to eat from day-to-day can wear on us. It’s interesting how grief impacts our eating. Some need to summon the will to eat food that pain has rendered tasteless. Others eat to ease the pain.

If you are traveling any of these grief roads, I urge you to connect with a grief support group. I like to describe this destination as the Corner of Grief and Love; a place where you can grieve with other people; where you don’t have to trudge through your grief all alone; where there is real hope.

Let me share with you the hope you can find at the Corner of Grief and Love:

Living with Rediscovered Meaning                  

The greatest tragedy in life is not death. It is to go through life without meaning and purpose. The death of a spouse can create feelings of uselessness. I have heard some say, “I have nothing to live for.” But there is hope when we embrace the challenge of the next chapter of life. What makes this such a challenge is that the pain of loss will never completely go away. But at the Corner of Grief and Love there are people who love us. Their presence is no mere coincidence. It can be a spiritual intersection of healing. Inviting someone into our pain and our grief is a sacred thing. We are giving them permission to look deeply into our hearts. That requires allowing someone to see our vulnerability. But it also provides the opportunity for us to experience a kind of resilience that even we may not understand.

Living Under Grace                             

What does that mean? When we are gracious to someone, it means that they don’t have to earn it. We just give it, perhaps because their situation hits close to home. I have discovered in my life that grace is simply receiving what I need instead of what I think I deserve. I have spoken with so many people who carry a deep level of guilt because of the circumstance of their loved one’s death. At the very least, we tend to wrestle with regret. Living under guilt and regret will chip away at the person we were meant to be and reduce us to thinking that we deserve to be sad and chronically unhappy. A widow once told me that she didn’t like going to social gatherings because she was afraid that she would be the “downer”. I tried to assure her that her friends would understand. I didn’t use the word grace, but there it is. Grace is the road to being free:

Free from guilt and regrets…Free from the fear of the future…Free from the expectations of other people…Free from worry!

To experience this freedom, we need to embrace the truth that grief is a pathway, not an end to unto itself. Grief is necessary for healing. And though there are similarities, each grief pathway will be unique to each person. I cannot travel your road of grief, nor can you travel mine. Yet, at the end of each grief tunnel, there is light, there is hope, there is meaning and grace. There is someone who cares…at the Corner of Grief and Love.

Greg Webber

Director, Community Care/Aftercare

Certified Celebrant

6500 Iron Bridge Rd.

N. Chesterfield, VA 23234

804-275-7828 (office)

804-873-0441 (cell)

greg@morrissett.com

 

It is Okay to Not Be Okay: Overcoming the Stigma of “Negative” Emotions

She seemed so brave at the funeral, she didn’t cry at all.”

“They died six months ago… don’t you think it’s time you moved on and didn’t talk about it so much?”

“Focus on the positive and be strong! The rest of your family needs you! At least you still have them!”

“Don’t bring that up when you see them… it might make them sad. I want to protect them so they don’t fall apart.”

“Smile! It will get better.”

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Many of us who have experienced loss or the death of a loved one have heard similar comments. When bereavement first occurs other people flock to our side with words of support. The phone rings more often than it normally does. Friends hold our hands while we weep. They patiently listen to us talk about our loved one.

As time passes, however, we may find that people are increasingly less patient and don’t want to listen to our stories anymore. They seem uncomfortable when we cry. The phone may ring even less than it did before that moment… when everything changed. That moment when it felt like the world stopped spinning, at least for us.

Eventually we realize the world has continued moving on, while it feels like we are standing still. We feel alone in our grief.

Why do people pull away from those who are going through a period of mourning? There could be any number of reasons. Maybe they don’t know what to say. Maybe they are busy and caught up in their own lives. It might be that the death of our loved one reminds them of the stark reality of death and loss. Or maybe our tears frighten them, because they don’t know how to fix it.

We live in an Instagram-ready world. Advertisements and the media are constantly inundating us with exhortations to look our best, be the best, focus on the positive. Anything to keep up the facade. Society also pushes us to “fast fixes” with promises of “Just one pill,” or “Success overnight!”

As a result there seems to be little acceptance for anything other than “perfect.” All those messy emotions? Stuff them down inside and keep your head up. Life goes on, right?

We are conditioned from an early age that “sad is bad.” We hear other people say things like “Cheer up!” “Don’t let them see you cry,” or, “It’s not that bad!” They claim it is because they want to help and protect us, and that may be true.

It is also true that seeing people upset makes others uncomfortable, and humans don’t like to feel uncomfortable. We want comfort. Perfection. Quick fixes. We don’t want painful or sad or messy.

When other people see us grieving they often begin to think of not only our discomfort, but also their own. Then they do whatever they think they can to make that discomfort stop. They want to “fix” it. This results in insensitive remarks that they think are said with the best of intentions. They think that it is their job to make it better. However, they often don’t realize that their desire to make it better may be because of their own uncomfortable feelings. It’s selfish, and they have no idea they’re doing it.

Here’s the reality: It is okay to NOT be okay.

Anger, sadness, bitterness, pain, grief~ these are not actually BAD emotions even though they may make us feel bad. They are an important part of the human experience with all its highs and lows.The full spectrum of life needs to be embraced in order to really live it. Birth and death. Love and loss. Joy and suffering. They are all a part of what makes our time on this earth so meaningful. To cut ourselves off from any one of these things means to deny ourselves the opportunity to experience the fullness of life and explore what it truly means to be human.

Why is it so often considered “brave” to put on a face of calm stoicism in the midst of our trials? Isn’t it equally brave to allow ourselves to weep and wail and gnash our teeth at the depth of our pain and at the unfairness of it all?

Grief comes in many forms. We may grieve the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the loss of our health, or the reality that something we dreamed about will never come true. No matter what the source of that grief is, when something hurts we should allow ourselves, and others, the chance to experience and work through that grief. Hiding from it or burying it just causes more problems in the long run.

I recently watched a powerful video in which chaplain & storyteller Kate Braestrup shared thoughts on, “What a five-year-old taught me about grieving.” In the video she talks about the death of her husband and describes the way she was treated by people who wanted to “manage” her. They seemed to think that if she was allowed to do what she felt she needed to do to care for her husband she would fall apart. When they finally left her alone with her husband’s body and let her dress him in his uniform it was a sacred experience. Even though it was painful, it was also beautiful and healing.

She then went on to talk about 5-year-old Nina, whose 4-year-old best friend and cousin had died. Nina insisted that she wanted to see Andy, and her parents were concerned, saying, “We want to protect her.” Finally, after much worry, they decided to allow young Nina to spend time with her cousin’s body and pay her respects.

The scene that transpired was sacred and beautiful and healing. Nina got what she needed and she was able to say goodbye. I encourage you to watch the video for yourself to hear the whole story.

Then came a realization after Nina’s tender goodbye:

You can trust a human being with grief.

Nina knew what she needed. People know what they need. So ask them. Listen to them. Then give them the freedom to express themselves and heal and mourn in their own way and in their own time.

It is only natural to try and protect those we love. I think if we were honest with ourselves, however, we would realize that we also try to protect them from some things because it would actually be too hard for US.

Grief is messy. It’s raw. Unfiltered. Honest. And that makes us uncomfortable. But we don’t have to be afraid of it or of any other emotion. We allow ourselves to feel them and learn from them. We can grow stronger because of them.

We grieve because we love, and love is powerful. Or, as Kate Braestrup so eloquently stated at the end of her video:

“Walk fearlessly into the house of mourning; for grief is just Love squaring up to its oldest enemy. And after all these mortal human years, Love is up to the challenge.”

Love is up to the challenge.

 

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Jennifer Roberts Bittner

Certified Celebrant/ Life Tribute Specialist

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

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Playing with Pain

January 15, 2018 

Playing with Pain

We have talked a lot about getting through the holiday season. so many people are relieved when the season is over. Mall music, radio stations and T.V. ads no longer paint audio and visual images that so easily trigger the pain of our grief. The truth is none of us have families that look like those holiday commercial families. It reminds me of those generic family prints that come in purchased picture frames and wallets. Who are these people? My family looks more like the dysfunctional Griswold family in Christmas Vacation than the sanitized families on the Hallmark Channel!

So, here we are on the other side of grief impaired holidays. Now what?

I want to suggest that there is hope; that even in our pain and grief, we can experience the brightness of a greater purpose. And here is why; Our pain isn’t meant to be wasted. I have discovered that we all metaphorically walk with a limp. There is an understanding in athletics that after the first or second game most players are playing in pain. It is the nature of the beast. Well, such is life. I once told a friend of mine that aging is simply a process of pain management. I can remember those days in my twenties when I actually got up in the morning feeling better than when I went to bed; when I didn’t need to have recovery time after an afternoon of yard work. Those who are grieving need to understand “playing in pain”. There are three facts about pain: There is no such thing about a pain-free life…There is a purpose behind your pain…Your pain can help others…Our pain isn’t meant to be wasted.

You need to hold on to the hope that your pain doesn’t have to be irrelevant. Consider this: many of the heartaches, pains and difficulties that we go through are for the benefit of other people; to help other people through the very things that we’ve been going through. This is the proof of recovery and healing: You know you’re becoming emotionally, physically, spiritually healthy when you start focusing on other people.  As we tap into the energy to help others, we move from surviving to thriving!

Your greatest help to someone will not come through your strengths but through sharing your pain and weakness. Why?  Because people are more likely helped by your pain and loss experience. In that light, we are all “Playing with pain”. I want to share five concepts that can help us play with pain and positively impact people’s lives.

Be Open with My Feelings

It’s really O.K. to tell someone you are having a rough day. The funeral is over, the family has returned home and there is no more ham and potato salad left that the neighbors brought to your house. And when you are asked how you are doing, you don’t have to fake it. It is healthy to admit that you are still, at times, angry. Your grief is what it is. We cannot be emotionally distant and impact people.

Embrace Caring People

We all know that, but we tend to want to hide our weakness and pain. Grief will often compel us to wall off people from getting close to us. One of the dangers of the pain of grief is to retreat; to enter a self-imposed solitary confinement. The reality is that we were made to live in community. We human animals need to be part of a pack, which is why I recommend a grief support group.

Tell My Story

The story of your loss can bring healing power to someone walking in your grief shoes. You might be surprised to hear someone tell you how glad they are that you had the courage to share your story.

Share What I’ve Learned 

Grief and pain can be great teachers. Sharing the lessons we’ve learned can help us discover deeper truths about ourselves as we move through the stages of grief. It is very likely that you have already walked through those valleys some people going through and they need your help.

Spread My Optimism

As the legendary New York Yankees catcher once said, “It’s not over till it’s over.” Everybody needs hope to cope. If anyone knows that life can kick the hope out from under you, it’s you. Now you have the opportunity to be a conduit of genuine, solid hope for someone who is where you have been. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “That which does not destroy me only makes me stronger.”  The Apostle Paul said, “We have been struck down, but not destroyed.” Even Elton John sang, “I’m still standing…better than I’ve ever been…”.

Somebody is desperate to know how to handle their pain and grief. You can show them how to play with pain and come out on the other side. You can experience the truth that our pain is not wasted.

Greg Webber

Director, Community Care/Aftercare

Certified Celebrant

6500 Iron Bridge Rd.

Chesterfield, VA 23234

804-275-7828 (office)

804-873-0441 (cell)

greg@morrissett.com

The First Year of Grieving

Some people say that getting through the first year of grief is the hardest. Why is that the case? One person theorized that it’s because it is the first experience of the event without the loved one. Your brain still thinks they are supposed to be there, and it hasn’t had a chance to file the absent-loved-one-experience into a memory.

The first time you face a birthday without them, the first special anniversary, or those first holidays, everything is different. You experience a unique pang, or a flood of emotions. Someone you used to share those events with is gone, and nothing will be the same as it was before. This is a tough reality to accept. You yourself are also different because of your sorrow.

Then the calendar turns to the date that you lost them. You’ve had a year to remember those moments, feel ups and downs and to adjust to the new “normal.”

It marks a turning point. You have to decide how to move forward from there. You may even do some self reflection, question the last year and ask yourself if you need to make changes. Before someone does that, however, they have to get through that first year… but how? HOW can we move forward without someone who was such a central part of our life?

I asked some friends who had suffered the loss of a loved one if they were willing to share some of their experiences in the hopes of helping others who are in a similar situation, and they graciously agreed.

One of them shared: “My mom passed on right before Thanksgiving 20 years ago. The first couple years were the hardest, then kind of bittersweet holidays for a couple years, but fairly quickly I started to remember the good things only that time of year. I know she would want it that way.”

Another wrote, “The first year’s (moments) were the worst, but the sense of returning normalcy in the 2nd year was frequently punctured by the grief, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes overwhelmingly.

Yes the special dates are hard, but surprisingly sometimes every day events could be hard, too. For me it has been learning how to live with the loss – the new reality – in each new circumstance and experience.”

Another individual had a similar reminder about how grief can show up in unexpected ways, “Giving yourself permission to feel emotion on the anniversary dates is important especially the first year. Oddly I thought my parent’s birthdays the first year would be tough but they ended up not being as tough as mine. On theirs I felt a gratitude for their lives and accomplishments. It was a peaceful sense of a celebrating a life well lived. On mine I felt a sense of being orphaned because the two people most excited about my birth and existence were no longer there to share that with me. Alzheimer’s took that remembering several years previous but after death there was an alone feeling I never would have expected.”

One person noticed that sometimes they felt guilty celebrating a special event that happened to fall on the anniversary of the day they lost a loved one. It is normal to feel conflicted. It can be hard to celebrate when someone who was central to your life is gone.

Another shared something that brought her comfort, “The Firsts are the hardest. It doesn’t get easier as much as coping changes. We try to focus on good memories of those who have passed. We celebrate things that bring a memory. For instance, both my grandparents died the same day, 9 years apart. It also happens to be Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas). I try to make something in the kitchen as that’s what I did with them. Or we talk of silly stories. My mother pays for the church flowers in their memory at this time of year, the closest Sunday to the date as it falls. Doing these things brings comfort and remembrance.”

A dear friend who lost her son and husband on the same day, years after the loss of another son, wrote these words, “I don’t believe the loss hits you right away. You go into a kind of safe place. I was blessed to be surrounded by the community and my church family. There is so much to do when someone dies; the phone calls, the arrangements for the funeral, the cemetery, the actual funeral. I believe in my heart, having buried my 3 men, that the first few days weren’t about me. They were about the people in my life who also wanted to celebrate the life of my loved ones. For me, after everything was done, around 4 months later the enormity of my loss hit. Waking up alone in the painful silence was more silence than my spirit could handle.”

So how do you cope with the silence, with the pain? My friend stated that it helped her to choose to stay active in her church and remember the amazing legacy her loved ones left behind.

Other shared things that brought them comfort and strength, including:

  • Allowing themselves a chance to experience or express their feelings.
  • Doing something special to help remember their loved one on dates of significance
  • Focusing on the good memories
  • Staying busy
  • Spending time with people they care about
  • Attending support groups

That being said, each person experiences grief in their own unique way and on their own schedule. What is true for someone else may not be true for you.

Some observed that even though the “firsts” had a unique pang to them, they were also surprised by unexpected grief, even years later. One individual said that 19 years later it is just as hard for her as the first year. These are further proof that each grief journey is unique.

Grief is not linear. It ebbs and flows with the days and the years, but you CAN learn to cope with it.

Once you get through that first year you still grieve, but you also will be empowered with the knowledge that you can survive. Hopefully you can even thrive, making new, happy memories as you also continue to find comfort in the memory of the one you loved. You will hold them close in your heart, knowing they will always be with you as you carry on.

The new you.

 

 

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Jennifer Roberts Bittner

Certified Celebrant/ Life Tribute Specialist

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

Grieve and be Happy

IF  there is one thing I have learned about the holiday season, it is this simple-truth: There is no perfect holiday! I need to admit that I am not the Christmas freak I used to be. Like you, when I was younger, Christmas possessed a magical quality. But aging is its own impractical joke. Just living can rob us of the energy required to be a kid again. My wife and I have often observed that having fun seems to require a lot more work! During the holidays every mall looks and smells the same and holiday traffic resembles a third world country! And while I’m on a roll, how many people do you know will give their spouse a Lexus or Mercedes as a Christmas gift the way the holiday car commercials suggest? And…Am I the only one cringing when I hear the song, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”?

Please understand that I am still drawn to those great Christmas movies like, “A Christmas Carol”, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, “A Christmas Story”, “Christmas Vacation”, “Home Alone” (1&2 only) and “Elf”. Now, I realize that there is a very broad generational span between Jimmy Stewart and Will Farrell, but each movie represents a different season of my life. Those films take us to a better place and allow us to escape reality just long enough to laugh, cry or just fall asleep with something good on our brains.

The challenge that we face during the holidays is our unrealistic expectation. Every year I yearn to recapture the sentiment and fervency of the Christmas season only to realize that I have, in the words of the Righteous Brothers, “Lost that lovin’ feelin’.” And I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get it back.

That’s what grief does. It dulls the edge, creates shadows and dims the light. To those on the outside, grief is an irrational downer. Grief is real and normal, but is so misunderstood by so many.

   You might cringe at the sentimentalism of, “Oh, There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays…” because, at this moment, your home ino place for the holidays!  

If you have experienced the loss of someone to death, loss of a relationship, loss of a or a job, or even the loss of your health in this last year you may be grieving because the issue is the same for everyone…loss. And while others are wrapping gifts, shopping on line, heading to the mall or letting the velvet tones of holiday crooners like Bing Crosby to Michael Buble’ wash over them, you might cringe at the sentimentalism of “There’s No Place Like Home for The Holidays…” And, you change the radio station, because, at this Christmas … your home is no place for the holidays!

Want to know a second simple-truth? That’s O.K.

I once heard a great quote in one of my favorite (non-holiday) movies, “Rudy”. Young Rudy Ruettiger asks Father Cavanaugh if he has prayed enough to achieve his goal of being accepted at Notre Dame.

The wise priest replies, “We pray in our time, God answers in his time.” The reason why I find this quote so appropriate is because that’s how grief works. We want to end grief on our time when grief ends on its own time.

I encourage you to allow yourself to grieve. Don’t compare your grief with some else’s grief. And don’t be surprised when someone doesn’t understand why you should just “cheer up”, or that you “should be over it by now”. Your loss, your pain, your heart…doesn’t answer to them.

But, I have come to believe that the most effective way to be able to arrive on the other side of grief is to be free to grieve. Grieving is the mind’s way of coming to terms with our heart. It’s working out the pain of the loss of something irreplaceable to us, and because of that void, we find that we are vulnerable. When someone we love dies, grieving is our way of insuring that the one for whom we grieve will remain forever embedded in our hearts; that no one will ever be able to take that away from us. But I must share one last simple-truth:                                                                                                      It’s O.K. to be Happy!

I’ll say it again…It’s O.K. to experience happiness! No one will judge you for laughing. No one will criticize you for being with other people or holiday shopping. The one who has died will not feel you have betrayed them by allowing yourself to give and receive happiness. Your happiness doesn’t cheapen your grief, and it doesn’t dilute your love for the one you miss so much.

 So, grieve as you should…But don’t feel guilty for feeling joy this holiday season.

 

Greg

Greg Webber, Director
MFCS Community Care/Aftercare
Certified Celebrant

 

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

What if I don’t feel like being “Merry”?

 

The holidays are typically a time of family. A time of gathering. A time to bring hearts and mind home. For those of us who have experienced a loss, however, things are different. WE are different and it helps to acknowledge that truth, difficult as it may seem. The carols ring hollow, the lights too bright, and the gatherings feel too sad when there is an empty place in the circle of family.

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Each journey of grief is unique. It is singular to you. You may feel overwhelmed by emotion, anger or sadness. You may feel debilitated by loss. You may feel empty. You may just want to tuck your sadness inside. Your heart has been broken and you are seeking for ways to put it back together. But how does one do that?

Not only that, how do we get through a season of celebrating and merriment when we feel anything BUT “merry”? How do we even begin to approach the holidays now that someone so important, so central to our lives, is gone?

We can still find comfort in some of our regular traditions, despite the fact that they will feel different this year. We can bask in the warm glow of the memories invoked by those traditions. We can cherish those moments from years past.

It can also be healing to find NEW traditions, new ways to celebrate the holidays, and have new experiences. Change it up a bit, make new memories. You are not the same, so why should everything about the holidays be the same, too? That way you can find moments of happiness and enjoyment without the pang of loss, and without remembering how different that specific activity or situation used to be.

We could choose to spend time with others who may have experienced a similar loss, and sit in a room full of people who understand. You could attend a special holiday service of remembrance, or even a support group. It is incredibly healing to sit in a room filled with compassion, united in shared experience.

Community service can also be a way to have a positive influence on the lives of others and keep us focused on the meaning of the season. Helping others keeps us busy, reminds us (and them) that we are not alone, and makes the world a better place.

We can also find comfort, solace, and meaning in rituals and in honoring the life of the loved one who has passed on. It doesn’t matter whether it was a recent loss or years have passed, there are still positive effects. It may seem that acknowledging the difficult feelings would make us feel worse, and that if we take the stopper out of the bottle where our feelings are safely stored they will all come flowing out and we won’t be able to control it. Wouldn’t it just remind us of what used to be and those who are no longer with us? Studies have proven otherwise.

It seems that individuals who have experienced a loss and participated in such rituals and talked about them said that they actually felt LESS sad once the ritual was over. They also found that rituals, which are deliberate and controlled gestures, help people overcome grief by counteracting the turbulence and chaotic feelings that follows loss.

Rituals can be of benefit no matter how much time has passed since the death of a loved one, since there is no timetable for grief. Rituals and acknowledging even our painful and difficult feelings can help us take back some control over our emotions so that they don’t overwhelm us. Rituals can help us feel empowered to face the situations we find ourselves in, and in the midst of the overwhelming hustle and bustle that can occur during the holiday season that control is something that can help us feel more secure.

However we choose to do so, we can find meaning and healing through pausing to remember our departed loved ones. We could share a memory, speak their names, or help someone in their honor. We can reflect in thankfulness for the role they played in our lives, and acknowledge the difficult truth that the holidays without them will be different this year. Everything is different, yes. But we are also different, we are better, because we had them, our precious loved one, in our lives. And that love needs to be recognized.

Our wish for all of you in this room this holiday season is that you may find what you need. May you find comfort in the stories that your loved ones leave behind. May you find peace in your heart; may you be surrounded with people in your life who bring you joy and a respite from loneliness. We also hope that you may, in your own unique way, find the faith and courage to put one foot in front of the other, to continue on your journey thorough this life. It is indeed a season of sorrow, but also a season filled with joy, memories, and hope. May you carry the spirit of the season in your heart, and may the memories of your loved one be fresh in your mind, for it is there that they will never be far from you.

We wish you all the peace and tranquility this season provides.

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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

Resources:

In Grief, Try Personal Rituals: The psychology of rituals in overcoming loss, restoring broken order,The Atlantic, by EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH

“Holiday Service of Remembrance 2017,” by Glenda Stansbury, In-Sight Institute Resource Book

 

 

Here Come the Holidays

This Saturday, November 18th we will be hosting our annual Holiday Remembrance in which we honor those families who are grieving the death of a loved one during this past year with a service of remembrance. It is hour privilege to provide this time for families and friends to prepare for the coming holidays while still grieving the reality that someone we love will no longer be here to celebrate the holidays. But, the holidays are coming!

I want to share some practical suggestions for grieving families preparing for the coming holidays.

1. Be intentional about selecting people with whom you will spend the holidays

Keep in mind that some of those people may be grieving with you. There are those who don’t know how to relate to you. There are even those who will say some seemingly stupid things. It is important that you spend holiday time with people you feel truly get where you are emotionally.

2. Get with your family members to discuss your holiday plans

Attempt to have a face-to-face meeting. However, you can include distant family members through Skype. Make sure to include the children. No matter the age, they        will need to be able to share their feelings and feel a part of the process.

3. Think About your family traditions

Some traditions may suddenly become difficult. Talk with your family about those traditions that might cause you the most stress and anxiety. Be honest about the things that you just might not have the energy to do; things like writing and sending Christmas cards, decorating your home or holiday baking. This would be a good time to allow family members to share their heartfelt thoughts about the family        traditions as well.

4. Be sure and take care of yourself during the holidays

Think in advance about how you will react when the grief and stress is overwhelming. Is there a special friend or family member you can call? Will you want to attend a support group; maybe begin writing a journal.  Remember that exercise can be your best friend. Give yourself permission to cry, even if its in the food court at the mall.

5. Allow your deceased loved one to still be a part of your holidays

Be sure and speak your loved one’s name during the holidays. If you are at a point where you feel you can, carry on one of their favorite traditions. Let your friends and family members know that it is OK to mention your loved one’s name as well.

The holidays are coming. But, they don’t have to run over you!

Blessings & Peace this holiday season.

 

Greg Webber, Director

Morrissett Community Care & Aftercare

 

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Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service

6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234
Serving the Richmond area since 1870

 

All Saints Day and the Importance of Remembering

In the Christian tradition November 1 is often observed as All Saints Day. On or around this date many believers all over the globe hold special services or perform rituals to honor those who have passed. According to the Church of England it is a time “to remember all the saints of the church, both known & unknown.”

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The observances vary greatly between countries. Candles are lit, flowers and wreaths are placed near memorials or on graves, prayers are spoken. In Poland part of paying respect to deceased loved ones includes taking a portion of the the day to clean up cemeteries and family tombs. In observance of All Saints Day some churches in the United States hold special services, and during those services the names of those who have passed during the previous calendar year are spoken.

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Rock Poti shared these words about All Saints Day: “All Saints Day is now a day to remember those who have glorified God with their lives. In the early church the ritual and remembrance focused on church martyrdom and saints who did not have a named feast day. Today we reflect on the witness of those who serve and further the “already but not yet ” kingdom of God in an amazing array of callings. In the beautifully simple hymn text by Lesbia Scott, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” the saints are doctors and lawyers and teachers and soldiers; they are young and old people we meet in the street, in shops and schools — of the now and of the past. The text boldly proclaims that “I mean to be one, too.” We are, and have been, a part of the wonderful continuum of God’s beloved community. To remember those who have gone before us, who have informed (and perhaps helped to transform us by being as Christ to us) is not to idolize but rather to acknowledge the gift of life and the threads that weave us together for the continued care of one another and God’s good earth. So, on November 1, we enter into a time of thanksgiving and remembrance as we celebrate –finding joy even in our sorrow of missing dear ones because we are indeed surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. We are the communion of saints, gathered in, nourished and sent out, again and again and again.”

Taking a moment to pause in thankfulness and honor the memories of those who have gone before us can be done no matter what your spiritual or religious beliefs. Rituals, no matter how simple, can be a source of healing and strength. Remembering those who have influenced us in the past and reflecting upon departed loved ones can be a grounding experience and remind us where we came from. It can be encouraging and empowering to reconnect with our roots and recall the lessons taught through the lives of those important to us. We can remember the wisdom they imparted and acknowledge the impact they had on the world.

Speaking the names of those who have passed and telling stories about their life can help keep memories of them from fading. Memorializing the dead can also have a positive effect on those who remain on this earth. It can be comforting to hold our departed loved ones close in our hearts. It can also help us feel empowered to continue conducting our own lives in a way that honors on their legacy and possibly even carries on their good works.

It is said we all die twice. The first is when our body ceases to function. The second is when our name is spoken for the last time. By taking the time to honor those who have died we can help their name, and their memory, live on. That in turn can help rejuvenate us as we continue on with this process of living. Hopefully, when our time on earth is done, we will also leave behind a life’s story worthy of remembering.

 

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

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