Thursday, February 26, 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
They say the pain changes with time. It hasn't. But I have. My coping skills are stronger. I am stronger. I like to think I'm a better person with more compassion, more awareness of the world outside my own.
But the pain runs deep. So very, very deep. And the tears still fall, and I need to retreat from time to time to The Wailing Tent where I'm among sisters. I suppose I always will.
But most days the sun shines bright, and I am grateful. Today is not one of those days, though. I want to tell you happy birthday, but the words just won't come. I know I'm a few hours early anyway, so maybe the words will come tomorrow.
It feels like yesterday that I could hear your voice, smell your hair, and touch your skin. I wish it were yesterday.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Any griever will tell you that although we live in a highly advanced society, grief literacy in our country remains rooted in the dark ages. And Nationwide's Super Bowl ad, still fresh in our cross hairs, serves as a sad reminder of grief illiteracy on a national scale.
Following is a multiple choice Grief Literacy Test which reveals how much (or how little) one understands about grief. Why is this test critical? Because we all play a direct role in each griever's ability to survive the journey. The more support one receives, the better they faire. If a griever has little to no support, they may never recover from their devastating loss, resulting in millions of dollars in lost wages, loss of health, loss of family, and worse. Wondering how your family and friends would score? Pass this test on to them after taking it yourself.
For each question, choose one of the four choices that best describes how you would react in that situation. When finished, add the numbers representing your answers together to see your grief literacy IQ score.
1. Your coworker just lost a teenage daughter in a car accident. What do you say to him?
- Nothing. I avoid him altogether.
- I tell him to look at the bright side, they have other children and can always have more.
- I awkwardly admit that I have no idea how he feels.
- I just listen, offer lots of support, and hug frequently.
2. Your neighbor recently lost her young son to an illness. When should she return to normal?
- By the time she returns to work.
- Within 6 months.
- After the first year.
3. Your sister lost her husband last year, and still cries on occasion. How do you react?
- I avoid her altogether.
- I get impatient, and tell her its time to move on.
- I offer to set her up on a blind date or suggest she try on-line dating.
- I offer tissue and a warm hug.
4. Your neighbor recently lost her daughter to suicide, and her yard is overgrown. What should you do?
- Nothing. It's her yard and she should get out of bed to take care of it.
- The fresh air will be good for her, so I might hint that it's become an eyesore.
- I might offer to help her, but I won't do it for her.
- I gather up my garden gloves and tools and just get to work. She won't have the energy to tend to her yard for a very long time, and I like the exercise.
5. Your friend lost a son to homicide two years ago, and the son's birthday is next week. Will you acknowledge it?
- No. His birthday doesn't mean anything to me.
- No, because its been two years already.
- No. I think its more important to distract my friend from thinking about it.
- I'm aware that it is a painful time. I'll give my friend a small token of remembrance, and offer a hug every chance I get.
6. Your coworker's daughter just died of a drug overdose. Should you say something?
- No. It was a drug overdose, so it doesn't matter.
- No, because I'm too scared my daughter will do the same.
- Maybe. I feel bad, but don't know what to say so I will probably just mumble something about how tragic it is.
- Yes. I would tell her that I'm there for her, hug her frequently, and take personal time to research for possible resources that can help.
7. The holidays are coming up, and your widowed uncle is feeling sentimental. What are some ways you can help him?
- There are no ways, so I will just leave him alone. He is an old man anyway and will soon die too.
- I avoid mentioning his wife out of fear that I might remind him that she is gone.
- I don't mention his wife, but I do make him a batch of their favorite cookies.
- I mention his wife a lot, give him every opportunity to talk about her, and offer him frequent hugs.
8. Your brother lost his wife. You just lost your neighbor. Are they the same?
- I don't care that my brother lost his wife. My neighbor was my best friend, and my pain is the only thing that counts right now.
- My brother and his wife argued a lot, so I think my loss is worse.
- If my loss feels this painful, his loss must be terrible too.
- All losses should be respected and honored without judgement or comparison, for love and loss come in many forms.
9. Do you think the closed Facebook groups for grievers are helpful?
- No. Those groups are nothing more than one big pity party.
- I don't understand why those groups need to be closed, but I'm glad I don't have to listen to their sad stories.
- I don't understand their purpose, but if they help then that could only be a good thing.
- Those groups are wonderful because they offer a free, safe place for grievers to express their emotions, which is one of the first step towards healing.
10. How well do you understand the grief journey?
- I don't need to understand it. Grief is a part of life, so what's the big deal?
- I believe that it is a 5-stage journey, like they have taught for years.
- I believe that every loss is different, and that each griever may experience different stages as they move through their journey.
- I believe that every grief journey is as unique as one's fingerprint, no two are alike. I believe that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and that the journey sometimes feels like a never ending roller coaster on steroids.
11. Do you think the National Grief & Hope Convention is worthwhile?
- Absolutely not. It's nothing more than a pity party and huge downer.
- I don't know anything about it, but it must be pretty depressing.
- Maybe. I can't imagine that it would offer anything fun, but it it helps people, then that's good.
- I'm thankful all those speakers will share their journeys of loss and hope so openly. It will be a beautiful and pivotal moment in the history of grief, and its wonderful that the convention is open to anyone who wants to attend!
If you scored 44: You are grief literate, and make a wonderful role model for how to support grievers.
If you scored 30-43: You don't fully understand the significant effects a devastating loss can have, but your compassion and open mind are a wonderful start.
If you scored below 30: You are shamefully illiterate. But there is hope for you. Simply memorize the following three steps and apply to every griever you encounter.
STEP ONE: Listen.
STEP TWO: Hug.
STEP THREE: Repeat.
The idea behind this Grief Literacy Test is not to prove someone else's illiteracy. Rather, its an opportunity to examine where we can improve our own. Only then, can we as a society update the old myths and stigmas that keep today's grief in the dark ages. And that is the very first step towards bringing grief out of the dark and into the light now and for generations to come.
Monday, February 2, 2015
It's true that Nationwide committed a serious faux pas by depicting a dead child in their marketing ad, and then airing it during the Super Bowl. Although it justifiably elicited an outcry from grievers around the world, don't hate Nationwide. Unfortunately, they are just a sad victim of the grief illiterate society we live in.
Yes, with today's advanced technology backed by millions of dollars set aside for marketing campaigns, one would think the Nationwide team would have chosen a different strategy for getting their message across. So this morning I put on my professional Executive Director of the National Grief & Hope Convention voice and put in a call to VP & Chief Customer Advocate Jasmine Green.
First, I must share that Ms. Green is truly a lovely lady who sadly understands grief firsthand. Second, I didn't call to chide Nationwide for their poor choice in marketing campaigns. My phone call was purposeful and straight to the point: would Nationwide join us at the upcoming National Grief & Hope Convention to help raise grief literacy? If world leaders such as Bernice King feel moved to help educate the public by sharing grief journeys on our stage, my hope is that Nationwide would right a wrong by at least attending the convention to help improve its own corporate grief literacy.
In our phone conversation, Ms. Green clarified that their mission was to raise awareness about child safety and accident prevention, and thus they stand by their choice to air such a controversial ad. But in doing so, they touched on a very raw nerve by those grieving the loss of a child who couldn't be saved.
Whether Nationwide will join us at the convention remains to be seen (Ms. Green assured me that my invitation would cross the desk of the CMO). Whether they accept my offer or not, one unexpected benefit of such a gauche ad is that it unintentionally sheds light on just how delicate and complex the grief journey is. And that could very well be the beginning of improved grief literacy. Thanks Nationwide. I'm on your side.