In Your Own Words, Chris
By Kimberly Nester
Chris is a 34 year old, single male. He rates himself in the upper middle socio-economic class. Chris has never been married. He is a college graduate majoring in Psychology. Currently he is middle management for major corporation. Chris is of Irish and English ancestory.
This interview was conducted via internet communication due to unavailability of personal interviewing time.
Most of the questions asked were from the guidelines given, however one additional question on grief resolution was asked. The following are direct answers given by Chris.
1) What kind of traditions and rituals do you have to commemorate a death?
A tradition in my family to handle death is for the whole family to gather and celebrate life. What I mean is that at the funeral, we mourn, we acknowledge the loss, purge our feelings of grief, but then, when we are together as a family, we concentrate on the meaning of the person we lost. How rich our lives were that that person touched them. We use the past to ease the pain so to speak. We talk about past experiences related to the person who has passed. That in turn brings up other things that life has touched us in, and other good feelings. Plus the togetherness that being together as a family makes the grief subside for a while, until we part ways to go to our outside lives, then the feelings of loss take over as we separate into smaller groups and re-enter our personal lives. But that time together helps bring our memories alive and keeps what we hold dear alive. That is what we believe makes us stronger as a family in times of grief.
2) What are some of the beliefs you hold that offer comfort in times of loss?
When confronting a death, of course I hold to the belief that the person has moved to another level of consciousness, being a believer in a spiritual being, I have the hope that the person is in God's Hands, moved on from this Earth, and all the pain and suffering has ceased. Of course, I am not clear of how this is done, so me say that you are not taken to Heaven till the coming of Christ, some say you go immediately to face your judgment. I take comfort that you are at ease wherever you go. When my Grandparents died, I was young, I didn't cry, I was so sad though. I missed the things we did together. What hurt me the most was I could not say good-bye, I could not apologize for what I felt I did wrong in their eyes. As you get older, you long for that acceptance that you are forgiven for past transgressions. I still visit their grave and talk to them, hoping in some way that they will hear me and stay active in my life. I am assuming this question is dealing with this type of loss. But if it deals with the loss of friendship, relationship, etc., then there are a lot of different circumstances, of course. You also wanted to know about how I feel while talking about this. I am sad, solemn in my thoughts when I think of friends and family members that have passed on. But I take comfort that God has a master plan for them in the big scheme of life, and maybe someday, we shall all be together again in Paradise.
3) What about beliefs that could add to the pain of loss?
Well, it goes back to a religious sense also. Hell. If someone you know led a good life, but wasn't saved, then are they in Hell? That is a painful image. Also, getting back to what I said in the previous question, not getting to say good-bye. Or not getting to ask for forgiveness. Or feeling like you didn't share enough of your time or yourself. That can add to pain. When a friend of mine died a few years ago, I was asked to be a pallbearer, but I didn't do it because of how I felt about his mother. She was so cold and cruel to him and his friends, and that moved over to my feelings. I held resentment towards her for that. Now I know that was wrong, in a way, I should have done this for my friend. I am sad that I acted this way. Not knowing or willing to express one's self can lead to pain as well. I try to be strong for my family, try to hold in my feelings. I don't think it is a man, macho thing, but I want to be there for those I love, so sometimes I sacrifice myself for those I care about in order to help ease the pain, which in tern can add to my pain. Oh, don't get me wrong, I cry, I am not afraid to cry. But the concern I have for those I love can outweigh it.
4) What are your beliefs about life after death?
I do believe we go to another place, another plain of consciousness when we die. I don't believe in reincarnation, or what other religions believe, I do believe in the way I was brought up. I grew up in a small, Southern, Bible Belt, Baptist town. I went church, and was taught that when we die, we will go before Jesus to be judged on what we did while we are alive. Our actions determine our fate. Will we walk into Paradise, or be cast into the Lake of Fire to burn forever? That is a image beyond anything Hollywood could ever digitally reproduce. It is a deep subject, yet, how can we not believe that we evolved from something other than this world. There must be a higher intelligence, a God that watches over us, it can't be all just something that was written long ago, and we as humans believe it because of that. You have to reach inside yourself and believe. Believe in something that you can't see, can't feel, can't touch, no existing proof, but is there, none-the-less. We need to bond with something as humans to actually see what it is all about, it takes a leap of faith to open up and be expressive that God and Heaven do exist, that is why sin is an everyday thing. And life is so complicated.
5) How would you define healthy and unhealthy grief?
Define Healthy grief: This is a tough question. Is there such a thing? Grief is such powerful emotion that will strike us all time and time again, each time evoking different emotions to deal with it. Dealing with grief can be a dangerous thing. If you are experiencing so much in a short time, your emotions can be overwhelming that you lose rational thinking and are vulnerable to many unpleasant things. But to me, the best way I handle grief is to confront it with all my life’s experiences and deal with the situation at hand. But you must also consider the factors, is it your grief only or are you sharing the grief. I tend to deal with my grief on my owe, without outside influences at first, then I can determine how I will proceed. Talking with a friend may help, depending on the circumstances.
Unhealthy grief: Not knowing or wanting to deal with the grief is a common problem. Shutting out the pain, going on with life as nothing happened, that is unhealthy. That would start a very shake emotional roller coaster of things going on in your head. Not confronting the problem, not seeking an outside influence if you don't know how to deal with it. Suicidal thoughts, blaming yourself or others. Ignoring the grief as if it were only a minor setback
6) What is the relationship between your private grief and your public mourning?
Privately, I have to deal with grief depending on what the situation is, the closeness of the person I am grieving, the circumstances involved. I guess that is true for public grief. I tend to sit and think a lot when I am grieving. Or go for a long walk. Or call a close friend. Privately, I want to sort through my pain at a pace that will allow me to comprehend what has happened. Crying is one of the most common means. It is good to purge ones system this way before going through the thought process. It is an emotional release to cry, clears the body and mind to go to the next stage of grieving. Seems like after I cry, I can clearly focus on what I need to carry on. Publicly, I try to be there for those I care about, stand strong, offer love and comfort, be supportive, be conversational. Open up myself for what ever is needed. Offer my services and support to others before myself.
7) How useful do you think group support is in facilitating successful resolution of grief?
This is something that I can't really be a good advisor to. A support group such as friends I can, but to go to something like counciling, I have never done this or known anyone that has. I am sure both have their benefits depending on the personality of the people. I have a close net of friends that I share intimate details of my life with. My family and I have a good, open relationship as well. They all know that when I grieve, I tend to try and deal with it myself before opening up. But they are always there for me. I am not against a support group atmosphere. As long as it is done for the right reasons. Some tend to go to seek answers. What I mean is, they want someone to make the decisions they need for them. That is wrong. Outside influences can do just as much harm than good. If you go in and know what you are seeking, then it is a powerful benefit. But if you are so grief stricken when you go in, you could be manipulated in your thoughts. Sure, that is a rash thing to say, but when you are experiencing grief, you usually aren't thinking clearly, and you could be sent in the wrong direction, or used, or played for your emotions. Group needs to be done as a means of expression, not seeking answers only.
8) what do you think is successful resolution of grief:
I think a successful resolution is when you have made your peace inside, helped with those outside, never forget about what it was you cared out before the grief, and can continue to be a strong person, maybe even stronger from what you experienced. Not losing ones individuality, being able to express to those you love how you hurt, and accepting the same from them as well. Being able to keep your emotional level at a range you are comfortable with. Seeking help when help is needed or offered. Being able to keep inside those feelings that brought you happiness. Learning to also let go, to know you have experienced a loss, but know there is still more life to lead, and maybe leading it a little better from the experiences that you had. Maybe even bringing you closer to friends and family, knowing it shouldn't take a loss to get you all together. Everyone says they never see family together except when a funeral has come, then everyone brings a dish and talks about the good old days. Friends and family should mean more, and sometimes it is you that have to take that first step to better togetherness. A loss is something we all will face time and time again. Each time, we may not be prepared as we hoped we would, but faith, love, company, trust, compassion, openness, and the ability to move on without forgetting.