Lessons in Loss and Living – What would you do if you didn’t know better?

Oh yes, our old friend grief… again.

*sigh*

I typed “grief” into the search field of my blog and got this list. You can look if you want. I’ll wait.

(Cue peaceful muzak)

Yes, grief is a topic I know well. This time, it was brought on by the death of my former brother-in-law (my late ex-husband’s brother). We were all so young – once – and we two couples were very close. Every six months, we’d go back and forth. We got married, then six months later, they did. They had a baby, six months later, we did. Six months later, they did, then us, and back and forth. Four kids for them, three for us. This was the end result… oh, about thirty years ago.

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Divorce is a bitch for everyone involved… even the outliers. In-laws and out-laws… isn’t that the truth? Sometimes, you can stay friendly or even remain close. In my case, it was difficult, especially with my move so far away. My ex-husband was left to spread the word about his hurts… and boy, did he. I wasn’t there to pick up any pieces.

I was blessed to see his parents before they passed at my daughter’s wedding. His sister was there, too… and she and I have stayed in touch over Facebook. <— the best thing about the place, eh?

One by one, people died… his parents, my ex, the woman who dated his brother and introduced us (also an honorary aunt to my children), grandparents and other family members.

This latest death, his older brother, hit me particularly hard. I’ve been thinking about it… and it’s about the loss of my young adulthood and everything that surrounded that time. I very much want to reach out to his wife, who I haven’t spoken to in 20 years. I think I’ll send a card. I certainly don’t want to intrude. But I’m torn. I’m one of the only people left who was there back then… when we all began. I’ll see what my gut tells me down the road.

Now this book…

In Lessons in Loss and Living by Michele A. Reiss, Ph.D. we are not told anything new about grief or loss. In fact, most books touching on grief hit the same points.

This book is a little different in that its underlying point is one I’ve crowed from the rooftops for years:

Don’t let it take a serious diagnosis or death of a loved one for you to LIVE!

I can’t remember where I wrote about my mother’s cancer diagnosis and healing (20+ years ago – Go, Mom, with your bad self, knowing what you needed to heal!)  It’s all here somewhere (in this blog). She went the natural route, which was right for her (obviously!). Others go down a traditional path. My mom is anything-but traditional and I love it!

Here’s the thing that fits into this particular blog post: While Mom was healing, she only asked one thing from us…

Keep unnecessary negativity away.

Simple, right? Uh. No. Sometimes, I’d have to sit on my hands not to dial the phone and talk about something…

Something negative. Unnecessary.

(PS: This is a secondary lesson… do we EVER need to share unnecessary negativity? But I digress.)

Sometime afterward – years, in fact – it occurred to me that you shouldn’t have to be dying to step away from negativity.  Heck, not just step away but out loud say, “I will not accept ________________” (fill in the blank with whatever it is) and … AND…

DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE SICK OR DYING TO DO IT.

This is actually the kind of book my mother might have written, you know… had she written about the losses (and near losses) in her life.

I hope you’ll let me spend one more moment waxing poetic about this notion of not waiting

The good thing about being young is that you are not experienced enough to know you cannot possibly do the things you are doing. – Author unknown

What would you do if you didn’t know better?

Well, I might have tried harder to stay in touch with some of the people from my past. I was so ashamed and embarrassed about how my former family viewed me that I didn’t dare. That’s what I thought.

Which brings us back full circle.

This book is filled with personal and professional stories (Reiss is a psychotherapist), references and helpful websites,  quotes and poetry. Most of all, it is filled with heart. In the end, I felt like it was more a book about living than dying… and that’s what makes it different than the rest.

Personal note: Mark, I remember when you were a young, barefoot guy with long hair, working on your car in your parent’s driveway with David and your dad. Your wife and I would be in the kitchen with your mom, laughing and cooking. We were family. God’s speed and tender mercies upon you. May your wife and family be comforted through this devastating time. Say hi to David. Both of you are missed.

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