I adopted through foster care. We try to maintain a relationship with the biological family. Do to various circumstances beyond our control, we don't tell our kids when we're going to see the biological family because it's never certain until we're really close. Long story short, you can set your clocks to the kids behavior. The closer we get to the time to have visits, the more their behavior reverts. After the visit, everything is normal again.
I can't explain it other than the kids have developed a need and they naturally revert to behaviors they had before those needs were met? The brain is a powerful thing.
I'm not sure that, beyond my own thoughts, I give more or less attention to these as opposed to living person's birthdays, but I deeply honor it as my way of acknowledging and more importantly, not forgetting that this [un-birthday] changed my life.
* until they reach nirvana anyway
I do remember her, all the time. But everyone has their own way to grieve, to deal with loss of a loved person. Some order 2 beers at a bar and only drink one. Some do family meetings every year, pull up videos and pictures of great times had. Some like to just remember them at random occasions, reminisce about great times had together. To me, randomly remembering a person means much more than an a deathday.
To me, a fixed date makes it seem like this is the only occasion when you're supposed to grieve about that person.
The aspect of a community coming together to memorializing the deceased and supporting mourners is a core tenant of practice. The week following a death, family and friends come to the aid of a mourner by helping them around their house, providing food and visiting with them to ease their grief. Communal prayer that requires a minimum quorum of people is another way a community supports a mourner. Though many people may process grief in different ways, there is little chance a mourner will lack human interaction throughout their grieving process.
Donating to charities in memory of the deceased is also a common practice. My friend's grandmother passed from Alzheimer's disease and I made a contribution to the Alzheimer's association. I recently heard a story of a Holocaust survivor who's father had passed from asphyxiation in a cattle car filled with people en route to a concentration camp. In memory of her father, she would support other's ability to breath by making donations to supply oxygen tanks to a volunteer ambulance service.
It never gets better. It never hurts any less. You just get better at dealing with the hurt.
Side benefit of it, is that it makes you a little more existential, and a lot more cognizant of the time you have left, and really appreciate people you care about in your life.
And it made me a better tipper.
Without a doubt, focusing on the here-and-now and being grateful for the support and encouragement I received (and continue to receive) from family, friends, and even strangers over the years has helped me get to a place of peace and acceptance in my life.
Like the article mentioned, the unexpected kindnesses of acquaintances and strangers absolutely helped me through this process.
If you're ever in doubt about reaching out and letting someone in need know that you're thinking about them, just do it. It is helpful.
This is really important and touching for all types of situations. I have been fortunate to be the recipient of messages like that, as well as the deliverer. The warmth I felt in both occasions was overwhelming. It seems so small, but those moments can really help people in massive ways --ways that can be hard to verbalize.
Example: I had a friend tell me years afterwards about their emotional struggles and how my note helped them through a difficult and dark time in their life.
Similarly, I had some very difficult days where it was hard to cope with my grief (not a loss of life in my situation). A friend had sent me a card telling me how much I meant to so many people. On my hard days I would read the card over and over. Something small, helped me in a massive way.
I still celebrate my brother's birthday with a ritual. He'd have been 21 had he lived another 2 weeks, so I buy a nice scotch to share with friends and family from his birthday in Nov. to Christmastime. Ritual helps me grieve, remember, and celebrate.
This is not advice, btw. I hate advice. Just sharing, like you.
I got a kidney from a deceased donor whose identity I will never know. Hence I will have no way of thanking the family of the donor and expressing what this means to me.
Please know that even though I got my transplant 4.5 years ago not a day goes by when I don't think about the family of my donor and feel deeply grateful. I also feel obliged to treat this gift of life with respect – ensuring that I take every step to keep healthy.
I live in Norway, but I have many friends from the US whom I have met through a huge Facebook group for people who are on dialysis, have received a transplant or have a loved one with kidney disease. Through this forum I've learned a lot about the challenges of having kidney disease in the US. About the long waiting lists, about how many never make it, and about the challenges of those who have received a transplant but now have to fight to keep their kidney due to haphazard health coverage.
If you'd like to see what this selfless act has done for other people feel free to join https://www.facebook.com/groups/kidneytransplantdonorsandrec...
Also know that the profound sadness you might be feeling is necessary. I find that an intense/deep sense of gratitude and a profound sadness can often be different sides of the same coin.
Try to channel the gratitude rather than the sadness, but know that it's difficult and also know that time is on your side. Over time, hopefully it is the gratitude that wins out. It will, because it always does.
It took a couple of these kind of situations before I was able to reconcile the above (Grandpa passing away, other close family passing away too young, etc)
Good luck, stranger. I don't know you, but I'm human so I get it.
I wish for all the strengths to you to overcome this. Maybe thinking about good life moments of that person could provide some much needed positivity.
I couldn't agree more.
People die less, and without the threat of random deaths, life itself ends up valued less overall.
Humans seem less inherently empathetic toward emotions they haven't ever experienced close to themselves, loss being one of millions of negative human emotions that when experienced less, is less able to be empathized with at a macro level.
Perhaps this partly explains the current political climate and recent spike in authoritarianism among the average citizen in the US. Maybe we've hit a point where the life necessities and healthcare needs historically only enjoyed by the powerful are available to almost everyone and as a result, life expectancy has goes up (meaning statistically less people are dying in any given time frame). People start feeling subconsciously both slighted (economically) and invincible (biologically), and assume everyone else should be invincible too and there is no room for softness (empathy).
Perhaps this is even how humanity self-regulates. What if "dark ages" where reversals in progress are experienced are caused by this ebb and flow of the spirit of cooperation and empathy?
The article makes a few points. First, child mortality in Greco-Roman times was very high, maybe 30%. Second, art from that time has many references to the terrible emotional pain of losing a child -- grief seems to have been common. Third, handing over child-raising duties to another party (wet nurses, or even entire foster families) was also far more prevalent than it is today. Fourth, the death of a child was often mourned in a communal, ritualistic way, but it was also not uncommon to simply bury a child in the home with little fanfare.
These things are all hard to square, but the rough conclusion I got was: even when mortality was high, losing a child was keenly painful if that child was loved in the first place, which was less of a given at that time. However, even in that case, mourning and grieving -- by being both diffuse (by community) and following predefined rituals -- seem to have been more self-contained. In other words, the pain came, and then it (mostly) went. Child mortality being such a common experience, there were established societal ways to deal with it (plus your friends and family knew what it was like), and this made it genuinely easier. Your post makes some similar points.
My own take is that today is the worst time in human history to lose a child. Communities are more fractured, there are far fewer people who understand the experience, and parents have every reason to expect to never see any of their children die (and are consequently less prepared for it). Plus, in ancient times there were at most a few ways you or anybody around you would know how to raise a child, so a death that came from that process was in some sense excusable, or somehow just a stroke of fact. Contrast that with today, where we have maybe more freedom and choice than ever, and for every decision made we can find an argument against it -- there's just less certainty of having "done everything right". It's an ugly price for agency.
I know a friend whose husband died of pancreatic cancer at 38, after being ill for 2 years, leaving her with 2 kids under 5. He had been the one with the income and she hasn’t worked in 12 years. As for me, nobody will be writing about how much I’m missed because my illness stripped me of my loved ones and relationships on the way here.
Congrats to him on having a 20 year marriage that didn’t end in divorce. Many people would have had say, their wife cheat on them and he’d be burning their love letters now instead of reminiscing wistfully.
It felt to me that the song embedded in the middle of the article perfectly encapsulates the mood of the writer. Definitely worth listening to and reading Tony's words.
However... This Alex sounds like she was Super-Human. It comes across that there was nothing she couldn't do, or hasn't done. As much as people like to think the best of those departed, I am sure that everyone has parts of them that are.. just not any good.
When I die, I want people to be honest about who I was. Most of the time I am an opinionated grumpy shit, and hope that my eulogy shows me as I truly was, warts and all.
We're talking about two soul mates. No one can possibly relate to Alex in the way the OP did. When you're with someone in that good of a relationship, for that long, you don't see that person the same way as anyone else possibly could. As I read the article, I could only think of my wife (thankfully still here with me), because that's my "Alex". My wife is not perfect, but I also don't see her as having truly negative qualities, more like strengths and weaknesses and I love the entire package. I guess what I'm doing a crappy job of saying is that eulogizing your SO isn't really possible to be understood as an "outsider". You can understand it in the context of your own relationships, but with regards to the person being remembered, thee whole picture is impossible for you to see and perhaps also those details are only meant for the closest relationships, in my humble opinion.
Yes, he has a laundry list of all of the things she did, because she was a rugged woman, but also talks about how much her pride affected her enjoyment of things.
Did we read the same thing?
Here's my opinion why. It's hard to turn on Stoicism in the moment, it's a perspective on life that requires repeated practice and diligence. Hopefully, by the time you reach a crisis like this, it comes naturally and gives you an outlet.
It's like if my house burnt down, and someone came along and said, "Brick is better than wood. It doesn't burn in the same way."
It's such a shot directly to everyone; you really need to put silly things behind you and love the ones that love you.
I actually do this every now and then. You know, you're having a slow day at work, you're browsing NH and read an article about someone losing their loved one and then your mind just goes places you wish it hadn't.
Once I'm in that dark place of imagining a life without my partner, my mind never goes to thinking that I should tell them how much I love and them and that I cherish our time together. The thought of doing this doesn't make my imagined pain of losing them any lesser.
If anything, thinking about how much I love them and value our time together makes me even more terrified about the inevitable time when they might not be there anymore. If I actually committed to this, the way my life would change is that I would probably be a lot more depressed.
I should note that I've never lost anyone important to me, so I still have this horrible reality in front of me. But when reading about people who have, it feels like they're from a completely different world.
I'm curious if these regrets people describe about not spending more time with the loved ones is just the way grief manifests in general, or if there's actual psychological value in being proactive about it. My cynical self suspects it's the former.
This is a beautifully written piece.
This article is incredible, and I am deeply grateful for the author to have shared this.
Sometimes (happened probably 3-5 times in the last 6 years) i imagine that and get very sad and my wife was always around anyway so i went to her and hugged her.
After that i tell her, that i wanna day before her.
But whatever happens, the time with her is still the best thing ever happend to me.
Often there are warnings, like arythmias which I guess can be signs the electrical functions aren't great. Those sorts of congenital defects are hard to detect, acknowledge and treat seriously as a condition.
aka "sudden death syndrome"
Some people have heart defects that leave them susceptible to instant surprise heart failure.
A notable case is a college basketball player a few years ago who literally just died running across the court.
My wife has this!
According to the ROC:
Approximately 356,461 people in the US experienced an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (347,922 adults, 7,037 children under age 18)
22,520 of those 356,461 were witnessed by bystanders
12.4% survived to hospital discharge
Of the EMS patients who experienced non-traumatic cardiac arrest outside a hospital, and did not have bystander intervention, 10.8% survived until hospital discharge
 - https://www.aedsuperstore.com/resources/sudden-cardiac-arres...
For example, http://www.sca-aware.org/sca-news/aha-releases-2015-heart-an... says that the incidence is 0.24 per 100k annually for high school athletes in Minnesota. Extrapolating that rate to the whole US population would give ~800 deaths per year. The observed 400k number includes quite a lot of people who suffer cardiac arrest after a history of heart disease.
The author specifically recommends NOT to throw the ball in the aggrieved person's court.
> If you’re close enough to the survivors (or if they don’t seem like they have a lot of support), spend time with them. Don’t put the ball in their court. It’s a very rational feeling for grieving folks to say, “No one REALLY wants to be around someone in my state of mind — so I’ll spare them that.” You have to be pushy, which feels a bit unnatural when you’re trying to be respectful.
The only motivation I can think of is she probably expected to be applauded for how "logical" thinks she is.