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Remembering A Life Blog

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Self-Care in Grief: More Than A Buzzword

If there is ever a time to remember the importance of self-care, it’s during your grief journey. As a therapist specializing in grief and a person who has experienced loss, I firmly believe that it is crucial to care for ourselves as we heal from the death of a loved one. Learning how to lean into the practices that carry me through my own grief has provided a vital source for healing – something we all have a right to. Self-care, however, can feel like a nebulous buzzword and even if we believe that it’s beneficial to engage in, it can be confusing to know where to begin.

A legacy project is a simple way to enter our children’s creative worlds and minds and give them an outlet to memorialize their person on the other side. Anything can become a legacy project, writing a book of memories together, creating a scrapbook of their favourite pictures or representing their memories and their love for their person through drawing and painting.

Lita was the love of Jerome’s life. When Lita died of cancer after 27 years of marriage, Jerome was sure he would never remarry. Then he met Barbara. Barbara had been married to the love of her life, Carl, for almost 30 years. She, too, was sure she would never remarry after his death. And then she met Jerome.  From the beginning of their lives together, Jerome and Barbara consciously chose to continue strong bonds with their loved ones: in the long hallway of their new home they hung a picture gallery that included favorite photos of their first spouses. Carl’s and Lita’s birthdays were always acknowledged with cake and story-telling and their favorite special-occasion dishes served at holiday meals.

The Ultimate Gift

I never imagined on that day in January when I felt lethargic and had a purplish hue to my feet that the emergency room doctor would utter the most terrifying words, “You have congestive heart failure.” There was no way that could be true. I had always been healthy – non-smoker, moderate alcohol consumption, physical fitness nut, proper diet. But there I was, at age 53, taking my first ambulance ride and it was to a heart hospital.

Conversations That Matter

During the last summer that A and I ever spent together, his final summer, we talked about everything. In that space, he and I were able to share the deepest and most vulnerable moments we ever had. We talked about everything. We talked about the future we had envisioned that would now never materialize. We talked about all of our dreams for our life together. He told me about how he wanted me to go on after his death. He told me his hopes and dreams for me once he would no longer be here.  Having had so many of these deep conversations during his sleepless nights, I truly thought I knew all there was to know. And yet, after A passed, as I sat in the living room of the palliative care home where we had spent the last week of his life, his family asked me about his wishes for the funeral and I was stunned.  I had no idea what he wanted.

How we remember a loved one is both a reflection and part of the grieving process. At a funeral or life celebration, our spoken remembrances are often shaped by social etiquette which dictates that only funny or touching or positive memories be shared. For those closest to the deceased, these remembrances can sometimes feel at odds with recent memories of the suffering our loved one experienced at the end of life, a suffering we may have vicariously experienced with them.

Contained within the storehouse of the memories of your loved one is a legacy of values. That legacy is expressed in the things you say, do and believe today due to the impact your relationship with your loved has had on your life. Writing about your loved one in the context of a legacy of values offers you a way to speak from the heart and share with others the life lessons, values, blessings, hopes and dreams bequeathed to you by your loved one.

Storytelling gives us the power to transform the written word into lasting memories that can be enjoyed for generations to come. In part one of our storytelling series, Elizabeth Lewis establishes a framework for successful storytelling.

Finding similarities between your own grief experience and the experiences of others can help connect you in understanding to both the universality of loss, and uniqueness of your own grief journey. Sharing your story can help both you and others heal.