008 Now. That's a relief.
Welcome or welcome back!
Time changes are disruptive. In the US, this week has been a week of recovering from time change. We need relief.
In my research into what people grieving a loss want, I’ve learned that validation and orientation matter.
As I’ve written in earlier issues, some of us want acknowledgement of our experience and some direction for next steps. Both of these bring a sense of relief. Not that everything is better or fixed, but a sense that not everything is uncertain.
In this issue of “Finding Words in Hard Times” I want to offer some words around the idea of relief.
“I feel relief. Is that okay?”
The three of us walked out of the room. Two daughters had said goodbye to their dad’s remains. We stopped for a moment and the one daughter said, “There’s a little relief mixed with the grief.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “You’ve been worrying about him on his own, wondering when he’d fall or something.”
She nodded, and her eyes filled.
Deaths are always accompanied by a swirl of emotions. Sometimes, that mix includes relief. There have been months of uncertainty, weeks of interrupted sleep, years of wondering when the phone call would come. And now, with the loss, is an awareness that the uncertainty is done and there is a little feeling of relief, of not having to worry all the time.
But some of us then feel guilty for that sense of relief. As if it means we wanted them gone. As if we can’t feel sadness and gratitude and relief and weariness and joy (for them) all at the same time. As if we aren’t human.
Our daughter had Trisomy 18. It was remarkable that she was even born. And the five weeks she was with us were sleepless and uncertain. She died in our arms early one morning.
In those hours after she died, a colleague said, “It’s okay to feel relieved.” It was one of the lifelines our hearts needed.
I’m offering you that lifeline, too.
(There’s a research project here, I think, inviting people to tell their stories of a death being a relief. I’m not ready to start officially, but if you have a story about that sense of relief, I’d be grateful to hear it. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use this contact form.)
“I don’t know what to do with this pile of yarn.”
Most crafters are in the middle of something. Most people aren’t crafters. So when a crafter dies, family members wonder what to do with the unfinished project.
That’s where we need ”Loose Ends” (looseendsproject.org). It’s a network of knitters and more who can finish the sweater for the great-grandchild (or whatever the project was).
For people who say, “I can’t do anything, I’m a knitter,” this is a powerful way to offer relief.
“When I know that the next shift arrives, I can breathe.”
My chaplain colleagues and I are pager-driven. Regardless of what we plan to do, when the pager buzzes, we respond. It may be a death, a trauma coming to the ER, or a request for a visit. Often, all three within a few minutes.
Built into our schedule, between some shifts, is a bit of overlap. During that time, we still have work to do, most often charting all those pages and interactions. But when someone else takes the pager, the relief is remarkable.
When someone can take the pager for you, or you can take it for someone else, there is a gift of relief we can give.
“Even saints are glad for relief.”
Saint Paul wrote one last letter to his apprentice Timothy. He was pretty honest about how hard things felt. He included this word about the value of relief:
“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.”
“When I know that I’m not alone in these questions.”
“Finding Words in Hard Times” is a newsletter with stories and tools to help you be more comfortable as you help others in hard times. We now have over 200 subscribers to this newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed, we’d love you to join us.
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Thanks for reading.
See you next week.