Heaven

As a boy I thought of Heaven as a glorious golden city, with nobody in it but angels, and they were all strangers to me. When my little brother died, then I thought of Heaven as that great city, full of angels, with just one little fellow in it. Then my acquaintances began to die, and the number of my friends in Heaven grew larger. But, it was not until one of my own little ones was taken that I began to feel a personal interest in Heaven. Now so many friends and loved ones have gone there, that it seems I know more in Heaven than on earth. Now, when my thoughts turn to Heaven, it is not the gold walls I think of — but the loved ones there. It is not the place so much as the company that makes Heaven seem beautiful.

Author unknown

from Forever Remembered Compiled by Dan Zadra and Marcia Woodard, © 1997 by Compendium, Inc.

Once in a while, I cannot help but long for my heavenly home where Jason, our baby, my parents and grandparents, Alina and so many other friends and family have gone on before. I, too, no longer think of heaven in terms of its promised physical beauty, but in terms of the beautiful loved ones who are waiting there. I look forward to a day when our tears will be wiped away once and for all, where death and sorrow will be no more.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

We Remember Them

At the rising of the sun and its going down,

We remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We remember them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,

We remember them.

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

We remember them.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live.

They are a part of us,

We remember them.

~from Gates of Prayer, Judiasm Prayerbook

Jason David Carney

July 29, 1982 – March 3, 2002

My precious boy, I will never forget you. I love you.

~Mom

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Sit with me and be my friend

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of why my loved one had died, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly. He said things I knew were true. I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away. He finally did.

Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask me leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour or more, listening when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

~Joe Bayly

from Forever Remembered Compiled by Dan Zadra and Marcia Woodard, © 1997 by Compendium, Inc.

No longer the same

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I look at this picture of me with my precious boy, and I see a woman so happy she can barely contain her joy. Happy, open. I know that it’s me, but it’s the “before” me. The “after” me no longer looks like this. I smile, I laugh, but not like I used to. And I no longer look like this. I don’t even know who she is any more, that “before” person. The journey I have been on shows on my face and in my eyes. I no longer beam when I smile. My eyes reflect a sadness that runs deep and never goes away.

I miss you, my precious boy, today and every day.

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Book Review: the truth about grief by Ruth Davis Konigsberg

I am in the process of researching and writing a series of blog articles. In my research, I read the truth about grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss by Ruth Davis Konigsberg.

Since my current research is on the five stages posited by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying and the continued impact the “stages” theory has on grievers, I have tried to approach all readings with an open mind. I feel like I did so with this book, too.

Early on my reading, I found myself questioning the negative and sarcastic (sometimes even snarky) attitude demonstrated through the entire book. She slams counselors and others in the “death industry” as money-grabbers trying to make a buck off of people who have lost someone they loved. After giving a list of books, periodicals, grief centers, grief counselors, funeral homes and others who she seems to deem profiting off a focus on death, she writes:

Even if the movement has enriched a few individuals, it is driven more by ideology than money. Grief counselors are, by and large, not a sinister bunch out to make a buck off of other people’s misery, but they do, in the interest of self-preservation, have a stake in convincing us the grief is long, hard, and requires their help (p. 39).

In her chapter entitled “The Grief Counseling Industry,” the author starts with an absurd illustration of grief counselors debating what to do about tissues, whether handing a tissue to to a client who starts to cry will “interrupt their emotions (p. 105).”

“I’ve seen instances where when you hand people a tissue and they’re really in the flow of something that it just stops them…If you’re offering them tissues, then you’re telling them to stop crying that it’s too messy”…Finally, a solution was reached: Don’t move the tissue box next to the client but keep it visible and within their grasp at all times.

What wasn’t being debated, but probably should have been, is whether counseling people through their grief actually works (p. 106).

She goes on later in the chapter to discredit counselors and authors in the field of grief counseling, including Alan Wofelt, Therese Rando, Ann Finkbeiner and others, as if experiencing loss should preempt one from wanting to help others, writing a book on grief or becoming a grief counselor.

Having loss in one’s background could certainly be an asset to a grief counselor, but it also inevitably colors one’s interpretations and recommendations. Not only have many grief counselors experienced traumatic loss but so has almost every prominent grief expert out there…Almost every person who has written a book on grief has experienced the sudden, unexpected, and often violent death of a loved one, so that extraordinarily difficult circumstances have formed the filter through which we have come to understand loss in general…The lack of neutrality among grief professionals wouldn’t necessarily be an insurmountable problem if it were routinely acknowledged and specifically warned against…(p. 120-122).

As I have stated previously, I have found people who have actually walked the walk of this grief journey usually have more insight and helpful things to say than those who don’t. There is only so much insight one can have viewing from the outside.

In her chapter, “The Grief Disease and Resilience,” the author (a strong proponent of George Bonanno’s resilience theory and Holly Prigerson’s efforts in changing “acceptable” length of bereavement in the DSM from two months to two weeks) then takes on the topic of complicated grief.

As practitioners began to speculate about the causes of complicated grief, they focused on the specific details surrounding the death itself…This approach gave rise to several stereotypes. For example, you have probably heard that the death of a child is the hardest loss that one can experience…This certainly sounds true and makes intuitive sense, in that no parent expects to see his or her offspring, for whom their love is almost limitless, die before they do…But [psychology professor] Stanley Murrell…pointed out that as painful as losing a child is, one at least has a spouse to lean on (p. 132-135).

The last statement of this quote, in particular, shows just how little the author truly understands about how the death of a child affects the bereaved parents. As I stated in my article entitled “Marriage following the death of a child,” it is nearly impossible for spouses to comfort and support each other when they are both experiencing an equal grief.

I cannot recommend this book under any circumstances. Although it contains some legitimate history and criticisms of the “stages” model of grieving, there is not enough good information in this book to make it worthwhile reading.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss by Ruth Davis Konigsberg. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011. 258 pp.

From the publisher: Ruth Davis Konigsberg first heard about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages in a high school psychology class. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she began a career in magazine journalism and worked as an editor for New York and Glamour. She has written for numerous publications, often about psychology. Konigsberg lives in Pelham, New York, with her husband and their two children.

For another review on this book (I read this review after formulating my own), please read: Balk DE. Ruth Konigsberg’s Demythologizing Project. Death Studies. 2011;35(7):673-678. doi:10.1080/07481187.2011.579509.

 

 

God’s plans

My sister is retiring at the end of this month after 35 years with the same company. It was not necessarily a planned retirement on her part. The company needed to tighten its budget and offered a retirement incentive package to a bunch of employees who were over the age of 55. If not enough people took the company up on its offer, there would then be mandatory layoffs with a less-beneficial financial farewell. So, she took them up on their offer.

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As she was cleaning some things out of her office this week, she ran across the gift bag she had stored at work. She took it as a sign from God and posted this on Facebook: “I was cleaning out my credenza drawer this week and came across this gift bag. I nearly fell over! This verse has come up in so many unusual ways this past couple months. I do believe that God is saying something powerful and personal to me.”

The whole verse in full reads:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I see this verse come up once in a while on Facebook and different places, usually posted or quoted when someone is facing a change or uncertainty. It gives them hope in uncertain times. My reaction now is always a bit different than that.

You see, I “gifted” this verse to Jason when he was in high school. I bought a nice picture frame. I typed and printed this verse – typed with a fancy font and printed on fancy paper – and put it in the special frame I had purchased. I gave this gift to Jason as a reminder that his future was in God’s hands and that we believed – as we had from the minute he was born – that God had a special plan for his life. Jason put it on the table right beside his bed, and it was still sitting there the night he died.

So, whenever I see this verse, my quandary since the night Jason died has been: Why didn’t God hear my prayers for Jason’s future, for his protection? My hope, my expectations for Jason and his future are gone. I believed this verse from the bottom of my heart – that God had big plans for Jason, that He would prosper Jason, that God would keep him from harm, that God had future plans for Jason, big plans. We were excited to see what Jason’s future held.

Jason’s future is no more. It ended on March 3rd, 2002 when he was 19 years old. Why didn’t God protect him? Why did Jason’s “plans” end on that night?

I don’t have an answer to these question, even after all this time. I still struggle with my faith. I wish I didn’t, but I do. So many questions. More questions than answers. I wish I believed as strongly and firmly and blindly as I used to. I wish I still strongly believed that God had plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and future. I’m glad people find hope for the future in verses like this. I wish I still did. But my faith was sorely tested by Jason’s death, and sometimes I just don’t know what to do about that, how to “fix” it. I’m trying, but I’m not there yet.

I miss you, Jason, and love you with my whole heart.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Struggling

One would think I would be used to some of this grieving stuff by now, but there are times when something raises its head and I have to deal with it all over again. Just when I think I’ve got at least a partial handle on the reality of the way things are now, something comes up and pierces my heart.

This time it’s grandkids.

Two of my boss’s grown children have recently surprised him and his wife with announcements of additional grandchildren arriving in the near future. He is so excited to show this kind of thing to me. He’s so proud of the way his children announced the news to them. Fun, cute announcements. So excited for more grandchildren arriving soon. Can’t wait to play with them, be grandpa.

I’m happy for them, but I’m also really struggling with it right now.

While it’s true we have three grandchildren, it’s also true that it has not been the Norman Rockwell-esque scenario we were looking forward to – not by a long, long shot. From the beginning of their relationship, our (now) daughter-in-law has done everything in her power – I’m not sure whether consciously or subconsciously, although maybe some of each – to cause division and problems between our son and us, and to make sure Joe and I know of how little value and importance she feels we are to their family. She has also done a more-than-adequate job of communicating this sentiment over and over again in many different ways to our son and grandkids. I will refrain from saying any more, although there is much more I could say. It has been a difficult pill to swallow. Since we live all the way across the country, it’s also a very difficult sentiment to counteract.

It breaks my heart. We have done everything we can, absent moving back to Seattle, to show them how much we love them and how much they mean to us. I don’t know how much good it’s done or if it’s even registered. It’s hard to tell. Even if we moved back now, it would be too little, too late. At ages 20, 13 and 9, the patterns have already been set, opportunities missed never to return.

Joe is and has always been a great dad. I could not have asked for a better man to be the father of our kids. When the kids were little, he would come home from work and play with them, read to them, play board games, take them swimming – all after a long day’s work. He’d make up games or change up the rules to games to make them more fun or different. He’d read books backwards, just to make the kids laugh. When the kids’ friends would come over, they would beg Joe to play “swamp monster” with them, to which he would happily oblige. As they got older, he always had time for them. He even helped our daughter and her friend dye their hair. He really was looking forward to doing the same with grandkids. He told me once that he could just imagine grandkids running around our house and it made him so happy.

I had my own vision of grandkid fun – baking, crafts, exploring, drawing, painting. Before we moved from Seattle, I tried to take our grandson places and plan fun activities as much as I was “allowed” to do so. Once we moved, those opportunities were gone.

Our daughter doesn’t want kids at all. She has said that exact same thing since she first took a babysitting class at the age of 12. We have come to the realization that she meant exactly what she said. It’s certainly her choice and we respect her wishes.

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Jason and our grandson Michael – Summer 2001

Jason was my hope – my hope for a daughter-in-law that would be glad to be a part of our family, for grandkids that we could love and spoil, who would be happy to see us and love us in return. The whole Norman Rockwell thing. I was looking forward to being that kind of grandparent, as was Joe – REALLY looking forward to it. Some days the realization of what we have missed because of Jason’s death hits us square in the face, right in the heart. And it hurts.

I’m happy for friends I know whose children have gotten married, had grandchildren, bought houses, etc. I see their photos and announcements on Facebook or wherever, and I’m truly happy for them. But my heart hurts that this part of our future died with Jason. He would have been a great husband, a great father. He was so fun, loving and kind. He loved kids. He loved us. I know he was looking to all of those adventures. We were, too.

And it makes me sad. Just being honest – I’m really struggling with this today.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney