My Thoughts on Death, Loss and Grieving.

death loss and grieving
Except for the weekly Monday Morning Memo, things have been rather quiet around the blog lately. Today's post, which was inspired by the recent loss of my grandmother, gives you a clue as to why. Thanks for hanging in there with me during this time.

Every day you hear news about somebody dying.

Fourteen civilians died in a terrorist attack abroad.

A young mother was killed in a car accident during yesterday's rush hour.

An elderly man passes away quietly after a long stay at a nursing home.

Yes, it seems like news of death is a commonplace occurrence that rarely causes one to bat an eye...that is, until, it hits your own household. Suddenly, your world has been rocked. Your heart has been broken. It's completely, irrevocably shattered. And, what's worst of all, only a few people seem to notice. The world doesn't cease to spin on its axis. In its rudeness, the sun keeps on shining on what feels like the darkest days of your existence. Even the friends and family members who offered words of condolence and a comforting presence eventually stop calling, texting, and visiting.

Make no mistake -- this post isn't meant to be an indictment of anyone or anything. I know that you can't expect everyone to halt their lives just because your world has stopped. However, the stillness of the last several weeks and the experience of grief has taught me a lot. It has taught me how to hold those I love just a little bit tighter and to not let the everyday annoyances of modern life get me down. It has also taught me a lot about how to live now to preserve memories for the future. So, here are just a few of my thoughts....

  • Stuff is just stuff. As my parents' pastor loves to say, "I never saw a U-Haul behind a hearse." And even though there is a catharsis that happens when you find yourself sorting through all of the personal items of the deceased, the process makes you realize how irrelevant a lot of the "stuff" you purchase ultimately is. You cannot take it with you may want to rethink if you even want to purchase it or not. (Somewhat counterintuitive thinking for a fashion blogger, I know....)

  • Put names, dates, and notes on everything. This one is pretty self-explanatory. From now on I am putting dates and little notes on everything - birthday cards, pictures, etc. It will give more meaning to these items when I find myself going through them later.

  • Your job title is not who you are. Beyond the names of family members, obituaries typically only have the vital statistics - date and place of birth, where you studied and worked, etc. While it can seem so important to you in the moment (or perhaps not important at all), your occupation and job title do not define who you are. They do not capture your character, personality, or other attributes.

  • Never ask someone "How are you?" Even though it's simply a knee-jerk reaction, never, ever, ever greet someone who you know is grieving with the question, "How are you?" Because, unless they are some sort of sadist, they are not doing well at all. They are sad and hurting. Perhaps they are angry. No matter what, they are definitely struggling. So, instead of asking "How are you?" simply say, "I'm so sorry" or better yet, "Please let me know how I can help."

  • Go get your joy. No one lives forever. And life is often filled with troubles and struggles. So, it is your job to squeeze every ounce of joy out of life that you can. Experience every good thing that life has to offer. Keep positive people around you who support you and add value to your life. You don't have to cut people off but realize the role that different people have in your life and govern yourself accordingly.

  • Keep your financial house in order. There is a reason you see so many GoFundMe funeral funds. Funerals are, really, expensive. And, of course, the timing is unpredictable. So, even though you and your loved ones might have insurance, it is absolutely critical to have liquid cash available. It can take weeks or even months to receive funds from an insurance claim...and that's even assuming you have easy access to the insurance policies, bank accounts, etc. So, keep that information available in a place where your loved ones can find it easily. (Books like When I'm Gone: Practical Notes for Those You Leave Behind are great tools to help families be prepared for incidents like this...and, make no mistake, death will come to visit us all at one point or another.)

  • Those are all of my thoughts for the moment. Definitely not the most articulate post, but something that I felt it was important to share. I welcome your thoughts on this very sensitive issue.

    Special thanks to Jenni of Comme Coco for her words of encouragement and support during this time of loss. You can read her reflections on the loss of her grandmother here. Also, sending extra special prayers to Arlett of Chasing Joy on the recent loss of her mother.

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    • Yolanda R. Arrington

      I’m so sorry. My prayers are with you and your family. Be well.