I am once again perched on a table at my mum and dad’s place, drinking tea, and reflecting on what I have learned over this last couple of weeks.
For those that did not read my last newsletter article, I spoke about the passing of my father and all of the wonderful lessons he taught me over my life. Thank you for joining me, and getting to know my father a little along the way.
Today I wanted to continue with my observations of the experience we are all faced with at some point in our lives.
The passing of a family member or someone near and dear to us.
My first observation is there is definitely no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to how we handle someone’s passing.
It really highlights the true uniqueness and differences in our life experience, compared to even our closest flesh and blood.
We all have different, and sometimes very different, lenses of perception.
We have different beliefs.
Different ways of expressing and processing our emotions.
Different past experiences (which shape how we view something new, but related).
On of the most important things we can bring to the grieving process, is a very clear acknowledgement that how I (as an individual) process my own experience, is likely to be VERY different from how someone else will deal with it.
Celebrating the similarities and honouring the differences
I realised as I joined my mum and siblings, there were so many things we commonly shared, in our appreciation and love of our father and husband.
We celebrated stories about dad, our common love, and our gratitude for the man he was.
It really was a beautiful and heart-warming experience.
This celebration of, and with, the heart, brings us together and helps harmonize the plethora of mixed and perhaps discordant emotions we might each be feeling.
Within this experience, we also sought to honour the differences of the relationship we each had with my father.
I don’t think any one persons relationship – due to the complexity of the human experience – is the (exact) same as any others.
So it was extremely important to truly honour (and respect) the differences in our individual relationships with dad.
These differences meant we would see, experience and respond to different things in different ways.
This was one of the greatest lessons for me.
Honour, respect and have compassion for the fact that everyone had a different relationship, therefore they would experience this in different ways.
Ways that might not be how you would do things.
A part of consciously moving through this experience was allowing people to be, and to express their differences, without judgement.
What this looked like, practically
One thing I really appreciated in my family was a very early acceptance of our differences, and an agreement to honour (to the best of our own abilities) that everyone will experience things differently.
This meant being compassionate if someone does or says something differently than how you would do or say things.
A very practical example is what each person in the family considers a ‘sacred’ possession of my dad.
One of us would see something as just a ‘thing’ (maybe one of dad’s favourite set of pliers that he had for 50 years), and another person would see a story related to that thing (e.g. a set of pliers) that made it special, and a keepsake worthy of retrieving and joyfully using.
A shirt for someone might be just a shirt, but for another it might represent a special event they were a part of.
My point is that in this period, it is so important to stay compassionate, open-minded, open-hearted and non-assuming as to what meant what, for whom.
It was essential not to assume what someone was feeling about anything.
To agree to honour each persons experience.
Give them space to express, to grieve, and process in their own way.
We also agreed that it was important to ‘speak up’, if something was off.
Regardless of how minor or major or nonsensical it seemed.
I think this is a really hard part.
To stay open.
The reason is that all of these things take energy, and energy can be low at these times, as our nervous system is likely to have a bias for ‘survival’ emotional states.
Funerals and Big Celebrations
I spoke about this in my last article.
I suggested that not having a funeral can be a positive as it means less stress for the grieving family, in organising the event. So people have more space and time to do their internal processing.
Again there may be some people who benefit from a gathering, and others that don’t, so it is again honouring everyone’s personal choices when it comes to this.
I have a colleague who shared the story of her parents passing, and how they celebrated them. For their mother, they did a funeral, early after her passing, and it was quite stressful. So when her father passed, they had a gathering a few months after, when everyone was less raw and exposed emotionally and had done their own healing.
Again, no one size fits all, so be willing to make a choice that feels right for you – not what anyone else thinks you ‘should’ do.
My main point, observation and share
None of us have the SAME relationship with another human being.
Our relationships are too complex, nuanced and based around our individual beliefs, values, virtues, life experience, life interpretation, behaviours, learned habits, and with the genetic element being a minimal part of the equation.
When it comes to grieving someone’s passing, it is important for us to truly honour, accept and respect (to the best of our abilities…noting that none of us are ‘prefect’) everyone else’s similarities and differences, in order to create a harmonizing and healing experience.
My Parting words
Dad always encouraged my curiosity and perspective when it came to observing life and our relationships with it, plus the people in it.
And then sharing my observations.
My wish is that anyone in a similar experience, is aware of the importance of honouring each others differences, and not making any assumptions based on your worldview.
This is a beautiful time to openly converse.
Heart to heart.
For those who have similarly lost loved ones, I send you my love and warmest wishes.
And to dad thanks for the fairy dust you left in your wake.
Have a heartfelt day and an open-minded and open-hearted kinda week.
See you next week.