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Drops of Mercy September 14, 2014

Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
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Photo courtesy of OneWorld MemorialsIt’s has been quite a while since I’ve written something for Conscious Departures. It’s not that I ran out of steam or inspiration, but rather this hiatus was brought on by a poor assessment of my own personal grief.

As many of you who write know, a blog piece of 500 – 1000 words can take anywhere from several hours to several days. I’m a bit on the slow side, so for me it’s usually a 2 day process. What that meant for me was reliving Kris’ passing with great depth for that period of time, every week, in addition to the countless other times that grief would pay an unannounced visit. I was still in too tender a state to take on the constant intensity and it became emotionally impossible for me to handle. It was clear I needed to take a break. But now, after a lot of reflection and time well used, I am finally able to write again.

It also helped that I initiated some dramatic changes. I completely scrapped the life I was living before and decided to start anew. As one friend who visited my home while I was still living in Las Vegas observed, “you are living in a mausoleum”. And I have to admit, that summed it up perfectly. Something needed to be done.   But it’s not that easy because grief is an unusual thing, it becomes like a friend. Although it’s so painful, it connects you strongly to the departed and I actually found myself looking forward to it. I didn’t, and still don’t, want to abandon it for that very reason. But grief also connects you to the frustration that your loved one is no longer around except in your memories and in your feelings. It’s like slamming into a brick wall. As I have commented so many times – no email response from the departed is forthcoming.

So now I am happily situated in Minneapolis where I’ve started a business that is more aligned to my current emotional and experiential makeup. My work naturally allows me to continue writing and providing content that would help people prepare for what is inevitable and certain; involvement in an end-of-life situation. One thing that hasn’t changed is my passion about the importance of people understanding what’s involved in an end-of-life occurrence so they will not be caught off guard like I was. I am not thinking we can ever be protected from it all, but we must at least come to grips with what we’re about to embark on.

I am still inspired to share my experience and do what I can to help others consider the implications of this touchy subject. I continue to have the pleasure of meeting many wonderful and inspiring people involved in caregiving during EOL periods who are dedicated to caring for a relative, parent, sibling or friend. These are people who find that a deep compassion and caring surfaces to transform them in unexpected but beautiful ways. It’s a community of people that I appreciate knowing and being a part of.  What so many of us have to share about this subject will inevitably make it a smoother, more gratifying and natural part of our existence, as well it should.

As for me, the change has been a good move. Instead of spiraling downwards I am once again thriving and gaining strength. To go on and live life to the fullest was what Kris had hoped I would do, and I don’t find it merely coincidental that I’m now living in her home town. Thankfully I have many wonderful friends who care and have been instrumental in making my transition possible. I am grateful for these little drops of mercy that continue to appear in my life in so many unexpected ways.

How About Leaving Some Surprises? October 13, 2012

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As of Thursday the 11th,  it’s been 1 full year since K passed away. It’s difficult enough to understand she is gone and not returning, no less comprehend what a year means. So much has transpired in between, yet a year seems just impossible.

Over this period I’ve been observing some interesting things about the grieving process; one of those things is the interplay between memory and feeling. Sometimes a feeling will inspire the memories and sometimes the memories will inspire the feelings. The feeling seems to be the key component though. I can at times actually go back to the same feeling I had as when she was in bed and I was caregiving. Once I get to the feeling, the floodgates of memories open up. Everything from that time becomes accessible.

Quite often this year I’d find myself in search of the feeling. This would play out for me by cleaning house and going through all sorts of items such as clothing, files, books, boxes and whatever else may contain some trace of K’s life. Every now and then I would uncover some surprise; something unexpected. Invariably, whatever I found would bring me back to the feeling where I would whole heartedly indulge in the experience. There, I could spend hours sploshing around in the emotion and the memories.

A few months ago I was cleaning out my office closet and came across several discs. On these discs were about 30 short videos that my then business partner and I and created. The videos were part of a training simulator we developed for sales people. In producing the videos we used K and another friend of ours to play the role of executives in a fictitious company. I had forgotten about this disc and now, almost ten years later, there it was. And what a fantastic surprise! (more…)

No Exemption From Grief April 22, 2012

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I doubt we can ever really be prepared for grief, but we can certainly be informed and aware that it may be coming. We can also be aware that it can impact our life in a big way. To assume we’d be exempt from grief would be a painful mistake, which is something I learned the hard way.

Because of my experiences and attitude towards life I never took grief seriously. In my mind, death is as natural a part of existence as birth. I can’t remember being born, but it seemed to work out okay and I have no idea where I was prior to that time. Death to me is just the other part of the cycle; inevitable, inescapable and probably just as kind as birth. Yes, there are a lot of religious viewpoints regarding death and the hereafter, but in reality we only know what we see and experience. With that in mind I have maintained an attitude that it is probably beneficial to keep a tempered attachment to friends, family and loved ones because ultimately, and assuredly, they will go – unless I go before them.

Also, I happen to enjoy existence; just sheer, unadorned, and unenhanced existence. I know K felt the same way. Even during her final couple of months we continued to begin the day happy to know we were still alive and could spend more time together. Her increasing frailness didn’t stop us from doing a little morning dance around the kitchen before breakfast as an expression of the joy we were feeling. It may sound a little silly but it made us laugh a lot. It was a genuine expression, sweet and a lot of fun, especially when we did the Snoopy dance. The dance celebrated our belief in the miracle of the present. This is a wonderful memory for me. (more…)