Right the Wrong

This week I had a conversation with someone who offended me with his words of naivety. There is a false assumption that grief is short term and has an expiry date, thus there is  a notion that people who are actively grieving and showing such bouts of emotions after 12 months must need clinical assistance because this may be viewed as ‘unhealthy’ or ‘abnormal’. The reality however is that the sadness, despair and rumination that one may present in their grieving style may be and most oftenly present after the first 12 months. This is a necessary process of re-adjustment and re-learning to live without the deceased which can be a confusing and confronting time in one’s life. We can choose to ‘disassociate’ from our grief but that creates complications elsewhere and may manifest itself somatically in the body. Educating people on how you grieve is pivotal to your well being, you are the expert of your grief and only you know how to ‘dose’ yourself and regulate your emotions. This is your coping mechanism and we all do this very differently.

Therefore grief is a life long process and grief triggers may present throughout the life span of an individual. Often enough we will experience multiple bereavements and with each one another wound is re-opened. It is not uncommon (for example) for someone to experience the loss of both parents in a short duration of time (orphaned adult) or someone to have lost multiple family members to varies causes in a short period of time. We are naive to think that death will only bestow us once in a life time. Companion animal loss is also another huge area that is often not recognised in our culture. People who lose a pet have invested a lifetime in rearing their companion animal, this love equates to unconditional positive regard, the love of a pet is second to known. We must never underestimate the reaction of grief someone experiences after losing a companion pet. Many will dismiss the griever and often their sorrow is disenfranchised but the loss should be viewed and in some circumstances equated to that of a human loss. We must ‘right the wrong’ here also and educate people that this is a real bereavement and the griever may experience more complex grief  after losing a pet than what they have experienced after a human loss. Remember we all value relationships very differently and this is highly dependent on the attachment each human being invests with their loved one (both furry or not!).

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In conclusion I urge people to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and gauge themselves when confronted with other’s expectations of them. After all we must ‘right the wrong’ and remind people that grief and healing is part of the human condition.

Don’t let other peoples judgements or criticisms dismay you….. Owe your grief!

 

 

 

 

Written by Janice Butera

Dedicated in the memory of Chi Chi Bella.

 

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Online Mourning -Anonymity in an anonymous forum.

Working in the field of loss and grief gives me an opportunity to meet many people from all walks of life using the medium of a simple telephone or my online Facebook page – My Bereavement Companion ™. I created this page as a social experiment to see how receptive people were to share and grieve online with others they didn’t know. The results as per my prediction were outstanding as people from all around the world started posting on my page, writing to me personally by sharing their insights about their personal grief experiences and sharing photos of their loved ones with me and to my followers on my page; indeed and undoubtedly there is a sense of community online and I have been privileged to watching the page flourish into a caring and nurturing place to visit and mourn. What I have witnessed unfold is a community of bereft people coming together as a means of sharing their grief stories and showcasing their loved one to anyone available to ‘listen’ and recognise the pain associated with loss. Finally and at last people felt compelled to share their grief journey with others and in return felt acknowledged by people who also felt a sense of connection with them due to sharing the same common ground of loss. Thus, grieving online is a validated means of expressing grief whilst feeling a sense of camaraderie with others who have joined the same grieving club no one wants to join.

Grieving anonymously online can be a liberating and empowering experience. There is  such freedom in being able to wear your heart on your sleeve without the fear of judgement or criticism. It’s an online community of people who ‘get you’.

There is this real need for people to express their grief without the usage of verbal, spoken words but rather with the usage of a keyboard and a few clicks of a mouse. People feel more inclined to open up and express their grief by not having to speak per se with their tongue but more so with their heart. I recall being contacted by a young women who lost her child to cancer via email. I had encouraged her to call me to discuss options for counselling  but the thought of coming into the centre, sitting in front of a counsellor, and exposing herself to me emotionally was all too daunting. Thus, she found comfort in the suggestion of online counselling. This form of interaction enabled her to write about her grief without having to physically exert herself in conversation which she was not ready to do, there was more comfort sitting at home in front of her personal computer than driving to see me and talking about the death of her only child which for her was disabling and immobilising.

This expression of online mourning has become more and more an accepted form of communication between individuals who feel a sense of connection with others who seem to understand their grief even though that person may be a stranger. This phenomena of ‘online support’ is steadily on the increase and a source of comfort which I have seen soar more recently after the deaths of David Bowie and Prince. Fans of these artists, including myself, have felt like we have had no means of articulating our grief due to judgement and condemnation by others who don’t recognise our grief responses.  Forums dedicated to both artists have been a wonderful and welcoming means of expressing grief with other fans, this outpour of grief has been a comfort to many around the world and has united many people together in our grief. Family members and friends can be quick to dismiss one’s grief but there is a feeling of security online as there always is someone on the other end of the screen to ‘connect’ with. Interestingly, people are not always inclined to seek professionally support after a death and only a small portion of the community will actively seek bereavement counselling. Thus, most people feel a sense of empowerment knowing that they can seek support online in a private setting.

All in all, people need reassurance when they are grieving. They want to be re-assured that their grief is normal, validated and a healthy means of expression. If strangers are on stand by  to offer this support than this is a normal, validating and healthy means of expression. Connection and a feeling of self worth is critical during the acute stages of grief. Regardless of who is on the other end, the support that the seeker receives is second to none. It just confirms the need to be heard in a society fixated with ‘fixing’ the bereaved rather than listening and ‘companioning’.

Posting words of comfort and solace online can be a very effective tool in supporting the grieving community. Those who grieve don’t want to be treated like they must adhere to certain rules and regulations around grief. Grief is a life long process and there will always be triggers in life to re-stimulate the cycle of grief again. Being part of an online forum with others who grieve can be a useful and helpful tool for supporting other bereft individuals but by also feeling supported in return by those like you who are in mourning. It is a safe haven for many who are isolated and not ready to verbalise their grief – it’s the way of the future and a wonderful way to release and express ones self in an environment that is solely catered for those who grieve.

 

Written by Janice Butera

If you have any questions about this piece of writing or any enquiries about bereavement counselling online please contact JaniceButera@hotmail.com with subject heading ‘Grief & Loss’. 

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@ My Bereavement Companion.

 

 

 

 

 

Grief at the dinner table…

As an observer of life I often enjoy watching people interact on a daily basis getting on with living. Thus, when you are bereft and keeping your head above water these daily tasks can be overly consuming and often disabling. The soul struggles to ‘get on with life’ because the hurt is to palpable. Watching others ‘getting on’ with life becomes a hard task because it only re-enforces the sadness you have in your life.

Last night I walked into a restaurant and this was the scene I was confronted with. An elderly women sharing a meal with her mother, on the table beside them sat a young couple and moments later walked in at least 6 couples who looked to be in their mid to late 60’s. I studied each of them and I felt sadness, I felt sorrow for the woman sharing a meal with her elderly mother who was visibly frail and weak. I felt sorrow knowing that someday her daughter will no longer have the pleasure in sharing a meal with her, a mother to love and hold, a mother to mother her and offer her security and warmth.

The couple next to them looked deep in conversation and I felt sorrow for the young women and men who no longer have the opportunity to share a meal and converse intimately with their partners. Young love should be cherished and enjoyed, so many lovers are torn apart by death and separation. The loneliness that consumes those who bury their partners can be very isolating in a world full of couples.

Retirement is a time of life to enjoy and immerse oneself in the fruits of your labour. It is the time for exploring and attending to those hobbies you put off years ago. As I watched this table interact I felt sorrow for those alone at home eating a lonely meal in absence of their soul mate. I felt sad knowing that death someday should intervene and disturb their meal. Sadness that someday this table will dwindle in numbers and that one of them will ultimately be left standing alone, without choice.                                        

Thus, as I enjoyed a meal with my family I felt sorrow for those without company. I thought about the families being separated right now due to war and terrorism and the parents being separated from their children and partners being separated from their loved ones… Our families represent our existence; our identity, our life line….. The thought that someday we too shall be separated pulled at my heart string. This grief sitting at the dinner table felt overly consuming, but it is real and must be acknowledged. What we have can all be gone in the blink of an eye. Such realisation that life is fleeting should be cherished and chewed slowly. Grief also gives us the ability to appreciate the smaller things in life, the flutter of a butterfly, the formation of the clouds, the taste of dew in the fresh air. We must appreciate these simply things because those no longer here can not. In their absence we should enjoy the entree, main and desserts of life.

Grief exposes you to all your demons, it reveals you in ways you thought you could not be revealed. Grief doesn’t care if you’re sitting in a tram or taking a shower. Looking around you and admiring whats in the moment should be cultivated more. Plant those seeds and don’t be afraid of what sprouts. We can not deny death but we can take pleasure in life….


 

Written by Janice Butera

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My Bereavement Companion

 

Art Work Credit: https://billsharp.wordpress.com/category/grief-and-grieving/

Comprehending Grief in a Non-Comprehensive World.

      ‘Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to get through this thing called GRIEF’

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Recently I have been quietly observing the outpour of grief around the world by fans of musical icon Prince. As a long-term fan I have noticed an influx of commentary on certain FB pages by people astonished by the poor reactions from family and friends who have ‘berated’, ‘mocked’ or ‘belittled’ them for expressing their grief for our late Prince. It seems that society can not comprehend the attachment one forms to an artist and their body of art. Society struggles to accept that this grief is real even when it has been experienced by millions of people across all continents since his death on April 21st, 2016.

I understand these reactions because I have also felt them too. My reaction to Prince’s death has re-triggered for me the feelings I have felt from previous losses in my life (death and non-death) and the feeling one gets when they are in active mourning – this aftermath of grief can include feelings of great sadness, waves of emotions, psychosomatic complaints and ‘grief attacks’.

To integrate this loss we must examine the genesis behind these emotions. Many fans have followed Prince’s career since his beginning in the musical limelight (1978) to more recently his ‘Piano and Microphone’ tour. Prince has been an investment for many kindred souls; the upside to this is that he never disappointed his fans, we were always privileged with new music and indirectly spiritual guidance, his deep seeded compassion was felt through the speakers that ignited in us those ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brains responsible for healthy well being and ‘natural highs’. Thus, this sorrow for Prince is now associated  with the sad acceptance that this genius no longer walks amongst us – there will be no more new music – no more concerts or ‘after parties’ – No more ‘behind the scene’ charity fundraisers and NO MEMOIR which for fans was to be the highlight of his career.

In summary, I want to re-assure his masses of fans that this grief has a name and it is real, for those who don’t understand we must educate. This grief is ‘disenfranchised’ and not recognised by society in whole and most likely never will! It’s not validated nor seen as a ‘natural’ response to loss because it is indirect, in other words – people do not recognise this loss due to our poor association with the deceased. People can not see the correlation between our grief and the reactions we have for someone we never knew (Even if we all felt a connection to him emotionally).

To read more about this in detail please click here: http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/disenfranchised-grief/

Thus, continuing to grieve for Prince must be encouraged. The more people connect with their grief the more they feel validated to accept that these emotions are real and a process that needs to organically happen to fully understand and make meaning of such a loss and void in our hearts.

People coming together in their grief promotes well being and acceptance. It enables people to feel comforted and enables healing to take place. Just like the music we must listen to each other’s laments and VALIDATE the raw emotion associated with this loss.

 

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‘Paisley Park is in your heart’ – A rainbow offered many fans a symbol of hope on the morning of Prince’s death. Paisley Park instantaneously became a public shrine in Prince’s memory by fans all across the world’.

 

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Even in death Prince has enabled people of all creeds to unite together in recognition of his enormous visions and endless creative genius…. Mourning together creates a space of acceptance and the ability to be with others on the same grief journey as ourselves.

WE MUST REMEMBER that Prince existed as does our love and passion for him. In death we must continue to idolise him from afar because in our hearts he has always been near. We don’t need to call no shrink in Beverly Hills because we are not going nuts! Prince’s family are his fans and we are ALL connected by a purple umbilical cord – No one can separate us from his musical womb – we will always remain attached.

 

Rest In Prince

1958 – 2016

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Written by Janice Butera.

Follow me on my FB page: My Bereavement Companion.