MAx Fabry is a member in good standing with OWA and a regular contributor to a weekly column “ASK MAx” published in the SPRINGFIELD TIMES, Springfield, Oregon. The SPRINGFIELD TIMES is published weekly on Friday by S.J. Olson Publishing, Inc. This column is published on this blog by permission of the SPRINGFIELD TIMES. Visit their website at http://www.springfieldtimes.net.
I have recently lost two dear friends. One was killed in a car accident on the East Coast; the other had a heart attack and died—he only lived six blocks from me. I was not directly notified about either of these deaths. I found out about them through the grapevine. I am questioning what kind of a friend I am that I didn’t even know they passed until weeks after it happened.
Whether we were sitting next them when they pass, or we hear about their transition well after the event, experiencing the loss of a loved one is always difficult. I suspect you may not understand the process of grieving.
As a volunteer with the Red Cross during 9-11, I realized that we are a nation that doesn’t know how to grieve. Shortly after returning from my assignment, I started having workshops to provide people the tools they need to understand this very personal human journey.
Up until the middle of the 20th century, immigrants to the US brought with them their traditions and rituals of grieving the loss of loved ones. Each culture brought with them a rich heritage that included grieving.
As a first generation American, my mother passed on the rituals of her Sicilian family. These “rules of grieving” were based on old world traditions dating back centuries. For instance, children under a certain age were not allowed to participate in the formal grieving—the viewing, the church service, and the burial—but were part of the meals and stories.
Somehow, in our evolution as a society, old world traditions and rituals are replaced with modern ideas. In these “modern times” we are a nomadic society barely held to our roots by technology. The phone system and many ways of computer communication, seems to have replaced that face-to-face renewal of family and friendship interactions.
Back in the 1950’s, Elisabeth Kublar-Ross provided Americans with a process for grieving. She presented five stages of grief that people experience: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Sadness, and Acceptance. There is no time limit for going through the process, and you can go back and forth in how you experience each stage.
“Guilt” feelings are part of the grief and loss process and usually appear in all stages of the grief and loss process. I use to think that guilt was inherited through just my Sicilian culture. But, I now know that, in general, we are all born with the “guilt gene”.
Guilt is that part of our human conscience that sets a standard for our reality and reminds us when we are coming up short. The “standard” is our definition of what is right or wrong, good or evil. Guilt convicts us for being less then.
Guilt is positive in that it becomes the safety valve for our human condition. Guilt forces us to stop, think, and re-evaluate that standard we set for ourselves. It is probably a good idea to examine resetting our standards through each stage of life.
Louie, it sounds like you are in a stage of life where you are re-examining your standards. Guilt of loosing two friends and learning about their passing long after the event, has, maybe, forced you to examine your life, where you are now, what is important to you, and what you would want to change. This is the positive aspect of “guilt”.
This is all part of the grief and loss process. What I have learned from my clients and from participants in my workshops, is each time someone reaches the acceptance stage, they assess where they are in their life, and discover that they are better, wiser, and stronger people for allowing themselves to experience the process.
To understand more about the process of grief and loss, I still highly recommend Elisabeth Kublar-Ross’ book “On Death and Dying”. If you contact me at the information provided below, I would be honored to send you a visual of the cycle.
Remember, Louie, you are a spiritual being having a human experience. Experiencing grief is as important as experiencing joy. As with every other feeling, embrace the feeling of guilt, and listen for what it is telling you about your standards. In the end, you will be a better person for the experience.
I am sorry for your loses. I hope this insight will help you to be well on your journey.
Have a question about addiction, recovery, or life transitions such as retirement, career change, grief and loss issues, empty nesting, etc, ‘Ask MAx’. Send your questions to Lifestyle Changes, PO Box 1962, Eugene, OR 97440; or, e-mail your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about MAx Fabry and read her blog at www.lifestylechangescounseling.com.