On saying goodbye…

Grief is a difficult and unpredictable beast.

There is no “right way” to grieve, but there is much to learn from the traditions of  others. I think  Christians  have missed out on some wonderful and useful traditions when it comes to dealing with grief. We tend to quickly pull together a funeral or memorial service, but after that? Nothing. Grief is a longer process than just a memorial service or a funeral.

Carmi has written so poignantly about life and death and saying goodbye to his father. He has shared about the Jewish customs after death (e.g., Sitting Shivah, Unveiling).  The more I learn about the Jewish customs that relate to death and the grieving process, the more I wish they were universal, because they provide a form — a frame — a ritual — within which to understand and acknowledge the emotional journey we undergo when a loved one dies.

One of the most moving homilies I’ve ever heard was at my step-father’s memorial service when the minister spoke about how we need to say goodbye. With my step-father, there was no chance to say goodbye in person. He took a sudden turn for the worse and died within hours; I was living far away.  I had to find a different way to say goodbye after his death.

Now, my mother is undergoing a long process of saying goodbye.   She continues to weaken as she loses weight, and she has lost a lot of weight.  There is noticeable difference between her now-fragile frame and her distended abdomen;  there is a growing mass in her abdomen — growing despite chemotherapy — a mass that wasn’t there 2 months ago during surgery. Hospice can’t be that far off (although she does not acknowledge this, I know it to be true). She doesn’t want to talk about “the end” being in her immediate future; she is still trying to believe that this new chemo will stem the tide and hold off the inevitable. I, however, am facing reality. I’m sifting through the layers of my heart, mind, and soul, searching for the things that need to be said and discarding those things that don’t really matter anymore.  It’s a cleansing sort of internal decluttering.

I suppose the ultimate goal is one that Cricket writes about in his moving post The Long Goodbye.  (Thanks to Hilary  for bringing this beauty to my attention as a Post of the Week.) Go ahead and read it.  I’ll still be here when you are done.

A long, drawn-out ending is painful but it does give us multiple opportunities to say goodbye; a sudden and unexpectedly early death can leave us with words unsaid.

These are the things on my mind lately.  Your thoughts?

21 responses to “On saying goodbye…

  1. Gud lines on grief and way of saying gudbye there. Happy or painful moment, acceptance is the first and last reality.

  2. I just wanted to stop by to leave love and *hugs*. ❤

  3. Saying goodbye is hard. It’s never over, even after the leaving.
    In the old days in Europe there were similar rituals to the Jewish ones after death; it’s only now that we race through the process of grieving and mourning.

    Rituals at this time – and at any other time – are important, they didn’t arise for no reason, but because they help people in major life transitions.

    So go ahead, take your time, don’t feel that you need to hurry ; this is not a time to be matter-of-fact and impatient. If you can, spend time with your mother and really speak to her.

  4. I actually might post my own blog on this topic. I have so often thought about pros and cons of slow death vs. sudden death. It takes a very strong family no deal with the slow slide toward the end. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  5. What a moving post and thank you for all the links to other writers. I’ve lost three family members and never really had an opportunity to say goodbye because none of them wanted to approach their end that way. We did say a lot of I love yous and that provides a lot of peace.

    Again, you and your mom are in my thoughts. I think of her when I’m near Crossoads.

  6. Lovely. The link and your own words. I know she will be loved until the final moment.

  7. My mother had three weeks and I have thought that was an optimum time–we got to say goodbye, but she didn’t have to suffer long.

    I wish more people would realize that hospice is not just there to help you die, but to live while you’re dying–they are so amazing.

    I’m sorry you and your mother are having to say goodbye this way–I know how hard it is.

  8. No matter how calm and understanding you are about death and dying this part ain’t easy. You are saying goodbye to someone who gave you life. That’s big.

    So I wish you peace in the coming days. When we lost our father to a brain tumour we said at the time that the gift that cancer gives you is the chance to say goodbye. It does not take away from the sadness but perhaps it will give you an opportunity to devise your own ritual/s within your family.

    Love to you.

  9. My prayers are still with you, your mom, and everyone who loves your mother.

  10. Big hugs to you, K. Goodbye is never easy.

  11. I wish there was a happy medium…and I use the term happy loosely. Not too drawn out, not too short, just enough time. Just enough. hugs 🙂

    Also, thanks for sharing those posts of Cricket’s and Hilary…I’d never read either one of them and they’re great!

  12. I so wish I had words that could fix this, that could give you a pathway through the next chapter. Just know I’m thinking of you – and that I know deep in my heart that you already know how you’re going to navigate this.

    And that we’ll be here, in words and in spirit, whenever you need us.

  13. I wish that you didn’t have to go through this, but I know that you are strong enough to handle it. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  14. Too many people wait too long to call hospice! They can help make the final months much smoother – I hope your mother allows you to enlist their help soon.

  15. I’m so very sorry to hear this.

    My MIL died of cancer and she put all her affairs in order and managed to say good-bye to everyone in her own way, which meant she died very content and accepting. It was hard on the family, but not as hard, perhaps, as a sudden death.

    Hugs to you and yours.

  16. To be able to spend time with your Mom and say a loving goodbye is a gift to you.

  17. grieving is one of those things that has a life of it’s own. we can not guess what it will feel like or how long it will last. for me it often comes in waves and retreats for a while and then returns.

    death is another subject that is not talked about in our culture. I actually enjoy the subject but find it makes many people uncomfortable. I find that exploring it gives insight to living life fully.

    I send you light as your choices and feelings rise and fall. wishing you the best.

  18. In spite of knowing that death is as much a part of life as living is, the knowledge that the end is near for someone we love can be difficult, to say the least.

    My thoughts are with you, my friend.

  19. I’m sorry to hear about your mom my dear sweet friend and your FIL. May he rest in peace. With Joey I went through the agonizing long drawn out death. I tried with all my might to make it as happy and fulfilling as I could. Yes the hard questions were dealt with and I hated that part. I’ve also had family that died quickly. I didn’t even get to say goodbye and it hurt. But was it better? Hell no. Maybe for the person that died it was easier I dunno. No easy answer to this but at least quickly you don’t have to endure the pain they go through. That might sound selfish but all one ever wants is the best for loved ones. I remember reading Cami’s piece. It was beautiful. Life does go on and we will always question the answer to this. All my aloha to you and your family as you all make her last days as happy as possible. Oh and one more thing. Hospice is the bomb! Those caring people help the family so much.

  20. My thoughts are with you.
    Hospice is wonderful.

  21. My prayers continue.
    Hugs and love,