Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 710 Dealing with Grief

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

I’ve entitled this podcast “Dealing with Grief.”

A listener to these podcasts wrote recently and ask that I address the issue of losing friends, both younger and older. Grief is not a topic to which I lay any claim to being and expert. But like most of us who are retired we have had to deal with it at various times in our life. It is never easy.

We are a story creating species. We create pictures, music and morality tales to satisfy this need to explain the inevitable end of life. Accepting the transition from life to death started early in my life when my pet rabbit (Pete) died. I  laid a bed of green grass inside a glass jar and laid Pete gently on the grass. I dug a hole and made a wooden cross to place on top of the grave. I then asked my mother if Pete would be in heaven waiting for me when I arrived. She said, “No. Heaven is just for people not other animals”. I cried and wailed of the injustice. Pete had done nothing wrong; he had not sinned. My mother changed her mind and agreed that Pete would certainly be there waiting for me.”

As I grew older I was exposed to a myriad of stories concerning what happens to us after death. There was as many stories as there were religions. They all seemed to ease the acceptance of death as a passage to another realm. This came be one of the major features of all religions. If you are of one of those faiths this alone helps grieving the loss of a loved one. Life continues one way or another.

My next major experience with death came at age 21 when my father, then 52, died of an unexpected heart attack. I was cast into darkness trying to understand this and my weakening religious beliefs. We lived in the heartland of America and relatives came from near and far. They filled the house and talk filled the space. Certainly sympathies were expressed and then I heard my older and respected uncles and aunts talking of the farm crops, of the cars they drove, of the activities of their children, of the political climate. And then they talked of lunch. And then dinner. And then bedtime. And repeated the same pattern the following day after coffee and breakfast. They drifted apart after the funeral day. We were left with our daily activities resuming. It seemed heartless to me at the time but I now realize that is the way it works.

Someone dies and we cry. We grieve. We withdraw. We persevere. We refuse to eat and time passes. We eat a little and then we eat with regularity. Our lives ever so slowly return to some semblance of normality. I don’t know how else to put it. I don’t know what else we can do. There is a hole in our life but we ever so slowly fill it in with something or someone else.

For some of us our religion fills this need. The story presented by our faith satisfies our need at our time of grieving. For those who live without this belief a different story must be created and accepted.

As we get older we become more accustomed to the death of those near and dear to us. It is all part of a continuing sage. We try to understand it but it is almost impossible. What we have to do is accept it. Yes, we know we have lost someone dear to us. Yes, we know that we also face the end of our conscious being. Only in knowing and accepting can we rise to face reality. It is our rock to bear. After that realization we “chop wood and carry water”.

I am not satisfied that I helped my podcast listener with these thoughts. But there they are for you to consider, reject, accept or embellish. We each must find our own path. What works for one might work for you. Then again - it might not.

This is Retirement Talk.

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