Learning from Loss and Tragedy

Have you ever suffered a loss? Of course, who hasn’t? Even if this loss was a “Tragedy,” was there some benefit from the lesson you had to learn?

Every human has suffered from a loss? The loss of a job. The loss of a relationship. The loss of money or property. The loss of your innocence. The loss of a loved one, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a close family member, or a child can be a difficult, if not devastating, challenge. The most difficult group I ever had to speak with was a support group for parents who had lost their child. Many in this group were suffering. Some even after many, many years after the death. A parent’s grief is especially difficult.

My reason in writing this blog comes from my own experience with loss and grief. I seemed to manage with the death of my father when I was 35 years old. My mother passed when I was almost 51. I thought I knew something about loss and grief. The greatest lesson was when my life partner, wife, and friend, Barbara, passed away from Ovarian Cancer when I was 61. I thought that I was prepared because we had 8.5 years after receiving her “terminal” diagnosis. My naivety protected me right up until the reality of the “void” set in… It took me one year before I could even began to look at the trauma this health challenge and loss of my wife had manifested within me. Some people get angry, bitter, sad, or anxious. For me, the loss of my partner of nearly 30 years was a vacuum that could not be filled.

Today, 4.5 years later, I realize the amazing blessing I have received from this valuable lesson. The blessing comes from learning much about myself, grief, and the empathy I developed from this painful personal lesson. With surprise, I have grown from the experience of this “misfortune” as I realize the new perspective on life and even the “joy” that came from the ashes of a loss.

Sheryl Sandberg speaks about her appreciation and the lessons of gratitude she learned from losing her husband, suddenly, to an unexpected cardiac incident. Her speech at the 2016 UC Berkeley Commencement was removed from youtube however, know that I was moved to tears as I listened to her story.

“When life gives you lemons, learn to make lemonade,” the old saying goes. But finding your strength and resilience from a difficult loss can provide you with one of life’s greatest challenges and benefits. Learn, accept, and share the lessons. (Remember, you learn best by sharing your story AND you can be of service as you help to create awareness in those who you offer your experience.) When you “KNOW” the value of surviving your loss, you can move on to other lessons in this life.

Life is precious. Joy and Gratitude can be derived from unexpected appreciations of even the darkest moments. Learn from your challenges and reach around to assist other pilgrims as we move along the pathway of our lives.

Blessings.

Share this blog, if appropriate. More support for your spiritual development can be found at the Masters of the Journey website: www.mastersofthejourney.com or at the Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/mastersofthejourney

By the way, if you want to explore more information regarding death and dying, consider reading the many books written regarding Near Death Experiences (NDE’s) which can shed light on the situation your departed person experiences but offers little for your personal grief created by the void generated from the loss of your “Loved” one. In doing this research, it allows me to gain spiritual insight which helps me to live more easily in a state of grace.

Please take good care of yourself!

Spring: Rebirth and Death in the Light

It is April, 2016 and in the Northwest, Bellingham, Washington, we are feeling the warmth of sunshine and Spring! Life is blooming in every sense of the word. Life is exploding because that is what life is supposed to do at this time of year, in fact, at any time of year. Flowers are springing. Birds are doing what birds do. Joy, light, and even, Love, fill the air. We in the NW are basking in the beauty and the return of the longer, warmer days…

So two nights ago we had a small gathering at my house and a friend speaks up regarding the sudden and painful news about a childhood friend who, for his own unexplained reasons, had taken his own life! This has happened before and will happen again but the angst in the midst of re-birth weighs heavily upon the mind, emotions, and the soul of my friend (and others in this situation.) What can you say? What can you do to console a friend in this unexplainable situation and his grief? There is a lesson here for those who are left to ask, WHY??? There is a life challenge and lesson about death that we who are left behind must endure.

Another friend finds the following article about death, http://spiritlibrary.com/uriel-heals/death-dying-grace-and-peace and we read and possibly learn something from the thoughts and experience of another pilgrim. Perhaps you have been in this situation or know someone else who is? Perhaps this blog or the linked article can be of service? Perhaps you can contribute additional thoughts, articles, or videos to our library for referral to others who struggle and ask WHY?.

No matter how you contribute, thank you for your time and consideration. Meditate and send a prayer to my friend Glen or anyone else you know who may need some unconditional love and support. AND, do not miss the opportunity to hug your family and friends and tell them you love them!!!

Blessings, light, and love to you. May you bask in the warmth of sunlight and unconditional love… Appreciate Life and be Present! Find the way YOU can serve and share Love!

Share this article, if appropriate, and respond if you feel that you can add a positive contribution. We are ALL in this together and what has an effect upon one of us, challenges all of us…

Be well. Find your Bliss and celebrate life, even if you feel the struggle…

Coping with Grief and Loss – a Process

We all suffer from loss in our lives. Sometimes the loss relates to transitions through life that are normal and expected states of growth and development such as moving from childhood, through the teenage years, and then into the adult responsibilities that confront most people. Though this is a difficult transition, we must all face this if we live past our 18th birthday. There are more serious or traumatic losses that many of us encounter such as the death of close family member or friend, the loss of health due to accident or illness, the loss of an important relationship, or possibly the loss experienced with a career change or loss of a job. These are difficult times and hard lessons to experience in the course of life. These losses, though potentially painful, can be times of learning and personal growth. Many of these transitions can be less distracting and with a greater potential for learning if you have a positive support network. Here is the dilemma. Most people do not have a network of healthy, positive supporters to allow for movement through difficult transitions with grace and healing perspectives.

We can learn from our painful transitions and losses. We can wade through these changes more gracefully, and possibly with less discomfort, if we have the best team of support surrounding us. Some people look for professional counselors or coaches, or perhaps clergy to help with difficult transitions. Some of us have personal mentors who can be trusted and who have the necessary communication skills to assist in times of need. Some of us have healthy relationships, friends or family who can help without too much of their own “baggage.” Many people do not have enough access to the positive supporters who can help us through the grief that life throws at us.

There are many books and potential sources of information which help us to understand the process of dealing with loss and grief but for most people reading about the grief process is not enough. We need to be supported by a personalized experience that we can gather around us as we muddle our way through our emotional and spiritual pains of loss. We need to be “touched” by the proper support in many ways. We need to be allowed our grief and yet “called on it” when we have gone past the limit and start the “wallowing process.” We need to find the exact, personalized process to assist in managing the stress, anxiety, pain, confusion, and the “emptiness” of replacing the part of ourselves which has been lost with the more experienced and empowered person who has survived a major change/loss/growth…

Each of us need to find the best way to learn our lesson and then to move on into our new, restructured life. We need to learn the best way to take care of ourselves, benefit from the lessons, and then discover the most appropriate directions to move our new life. To do this, we need to find people we can trust and invest the resources into the process of self-care and self-development so we can move down the path that leads to our goals. This is easier said than done, but if you realize that you would survive this transition more easily and possibly more quickly with positive assistance then you must do the work and find the correct support you require.

In the future, we will be expanding and releasing information regarding a new program which can assist most people in developing an individualized transition plan. We are beginning to build a process for creating a positive support network which will enable participants to discover their strengths, accept their weakness or flaws, and to free up energy to invest for moving toward positive goals and enhanced lifestyles. The working title for this process is “Finding Your Tone.”

Please comment or send questions to the Stress Education Center at wellness@dstress.com or visit the website at www.dstress.com.

Caregivers and Stress

There are no easy answers. You love or care for another person and there is no way that you can “fix” the person. They may be sick or hurt or in some sort of difficult situation and no matter what you do, you can not make the “challenge” go away. You are, by some definition, a “victim.” You have “no control” over what happens or how your person of concern is going to respond to their situation. Sometimes you have to “just sit on your hands” while the situation “plays out.” I do not like being in this situation. I want to be actively doing something to help, or at least running around trying to get the healing energies flowing, but this does not always prove useful or may not have any degree of success in changing the situation.

Parents feel this way about their children as they put their kids out into the world to live and to learn the lessons of life. People feel this way when their aging parents begin to fail. Spouses will often feel this kind of helplessness when their partner has been impacted by a severe health or financial challenge. Indeed, most of us who have made it into adolescence have experienced relationships that can evoke this feeling of concern without the power or control to save, or at least help, our friend, family member, schoolmate, or co-worker. People are “caring creatures” much of the time. Our need to nurture and care are “higher functioning” activities that often set us apart from other creatures on our planet. But, though we are often born with this desire to nurture, we are not taught how to deal with stress or anxiety of caring for another person (or pet) when we can not really fix the situation.

Caring without having control can cause anxiety and can lead to depression. In my own life, as a caregiver for my wife, I have experienced the closeness that caring can bring to a relationship and yet the stress and depression that can come from a situation that does not come to a positive resolution, is very difficult to live with. As I have advised others, I practice stress and anxiety management. I get regular exercise. I try to eat in a “healthy” way. I maintain friendships that are positive and therapeutic. I keep busy and productive. BUT, I have those moments when I lie awake, with a mind that will not stop its endless chatter, filling me with worry and concern for my beloved partner. There is not much else I can do but worry, but worry is not helpful.

There are times when my consciousness will drift into a place of spiritual insight and feel the power of these lessons. Though my heart is heavy and my mind races with anxious thoughts, deep inside I touch the source of some unclear wisdom regarding the “point” and the lesson that I am struggling to learn. My only thought for you, if you find yourself in this predicament, is to calm yourself as much as possible (not an easy request) and then go deep within to bask in the light of unconditional love. Find and celebrate the lesson. In this case remember that you can not “push the river.” Sometimes we must just find the feeling and the wisdom of acceptance.

And, do not forget your need for self-care to help sustain you through this difficult lesson. Also, celebrate every moment. Try not to live in the past or in the future. As is said, “Be Here Now!”

Please take GOOD care of yourself!

Dilemma of the Caregiver

What are you supposed to do? When you are a caregiver for a person with a terminal illness and you want to provide assistance no matter what the patient wants. At some point, a choice will be made to end treatment and begin “end of life” hospice support. If you are family to a terminally ill person, you may not want them to die but you may have to support the decision to prepare for the “end.” This can be the definition of ambivalence. And, to what extremes do you decide to participate??? 100% 50% or what??? How can you LIVE with yourself and the extent of your participation? Do you want to feel like you did everything possible for your loved one, or, for yourself? “Yourself” may have different requirements of 100% participation… A true conflict….

It is hard to know what is expected and to what degree you will feel OK in participation. When my father lay dying from a CVA (stroke), I sat by his bed and told him not to be afraid, to let go, and to embrace the dying experience. He needed this comforting because he was afraid to let go. As a son, I felt horrible about losing my father and yet I was the only person available to support him in “letting go.” (At least, that is how I felt.) My personal loss and pain was “trumped” by the need to serve and support my father.

Almost everyone, who lives long enough, will lose a family member or friend. It is an experience in life that we are often poorly prepared for. Everyone is unique and every situation of personal loss is different. For me, I find myself on a roller coaster with many dimensions. As I write this blog, my wife has been living with a terminal illness for 7 years. The doctors gave her a maximum life expectancy of 5 years at the first diagnosis. We have lived with the nightmare of losing a precious life well before she is prepared to go. She has done everything she could afford (mental, emotionally, spiritually, financially) to do to maintain her life. We are beginning to lose this battle. Her cancer is beginning to wear us down and to win. I have very little control and I do not want to lose my bride and my life partner. I want to do my part of supporting her as well as I can. The dilemma for me is what am I supposed to do? Do I tell her to fight or, do I assist her to “let go”? How will I be able to live with myself, no matter which way I go??? So far, I have tried to follow her lead and to help her to do what she has done in the first 7 years which is to fight the cancer, but there are emotional and spiritual changes beginning. She is not avoiding the discussion regarding the “end of life” choices that we may need to make. Though, intellectually I knew that this time would come, it is very difficult for me to transition to fully, 100%, support her process of letting go.

I know that I will do what is necessary, but the ambivalence is confusing me and this roller coaster ride is not the kind of fun that I would easily recommend. The learning from this process is intense and I know that I am not the first person to move through the caregivers’ dilemma. I am not the first man to be in the process of losing his wife, but this is the first time I have ever lost a partner of all these years. A lesson to be learned, and relearned, is to appreciate everyday and live every moment as if it might be the last….

Hug your family and friends… Tell them that you love them.

This blog was written in 2010 about 15 months before my wife passed. The dilemma for others who find themselves in the role of a caregiver to a friend or family member is not unique to my situation. Please take good care of yourself and enjoy every minute you can share…

More information and articles at www.dstress.com

Fear of Dying: A Major Stressor

Fear of Death: It is an “unknown”

Are you afraid of death and dying? Are you so afraid of death that you are afraid to live? Because we are anxious about the “Unknown,” we fear death and dying even though we all must face this ultimate transition as a resolution to our lives. Death has also become the “enemy” of our youth oriented society. Aging is not accepted or tolerated by our media and by the high technology that drives our world. (But that is a topic for another article.)

Many people fear doing new or unfamiliar things because they fear, at a deeper level, the ultimate anxiety that failure to do something new “successfully” will bring on death. Strange to think or feel this way, but look around and you will see a world filled with people who are “Stuck” in their lives because they fear attempting some new direction or activity. Have you ever heard the statement, “It is not worth doing unless you can do it well?” How can you do it well unless you try something and fail, maybe many times, until you can begin to figure it out and then master it. Very few of us ever learned to ride a bicycle or to swim without making mistakes that lead to success. But people fear new relationships or career paths or travel or searching their deepest thoughts because they fear the unknown. It may be easier to take the path most traveled but it removes adventure and learning through making mistakes from our lives. The safe path is not always the “right” path. We paint ourselves into corners by fearing the alternatives.

So this dilemma leads us to an important lesson in life. How can we choose to live fully without exploring the experience of death and dying? How can we be familiar and release our fear of dying, without really dying? A question for the ages… No easy answer here, but consider doing some research. I read the book “Life After Life” by Moody and Ken Ring’s research in his books “Life at Death” and “Heading Toward Omega” where these authors explored the death and dying experience by interview survivors of a near-death experience. The accounts by these survivors were profound. By reading this research, I began to release the fears of uncertainty regarding the experience of the dying process. It may not be so scary! In fact, many people who were resuscitated, and brought back to life, claimed a feeling of disappointment when they had to return to their bodies and had to continue living. They felt that death embraced them in a sense of “unconditional love and acceptance” that they did not know in their lives. These survivors consistently repeated that this experience had “Changed their lives” by removing the fear of dying. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was another scientist who sat with many people who were facing the ultimate transition. She wrote about having a different attitude toward death in many of her books including, “On Death and Dying.”

We must all face the experience of dying, when “our time comes.” Why not know something about this transition? Why fear the unknown and have this fear get in the way of living? I am not sure that our religions have good answers for us because often there are political or financial factors that play into the answers that our religions provide for us, but these may be a place to begin our quests. For me, many important experiences, and perhaps some answers, came from the practice of mediation and also, the group processes of sharing information with other seekers on the path.

Good luck in your search. Please take good care of yourself. Find your passion and do not fear get in the way of pursuing it.

Contact the Stress Education Center at www.dstress.com for information and support. Consider a train-the-trainer program to give you tools to others control their fear and anxiety of death and dying.

After the Death of My Wife: 6 Months Into the Void

June, 2012 – Posted by L. John Mason –

It has been an interesting six months since my wife passed. Early on, besides the overwhelm, I thought I could get through this difficult transition fairly quickly due the knowledge that I had been preparing for this loss for 7 years. I am learning that this was an illusion. When my parents passed away, I handled this well and moved back into my life with relative ease, but losing my life partner of 28 years has proven to be more difficult than I had imagined. Life has a way of being surprising. And, expectations have a way of leading to disappointment.

I have no reason to whine. I have great friends and lots of healthy support. What has surprised me are the little things that then trigger the beautiful, bitter-sweet memories that float through my consciousness and cause the tears to flow down my cheek. These events are brief, and for the most part, cherished as friendly ghosts of a loving relationship. I have learned that a remembering which causes a smile and then a tear are beautiful and a celebration. Certain events that I would not have thought would trigger the flow of emotions surface like Mother’s Day. It was harder than I thought and I am not sure why. Preparing for the local Relay for Life and the beginning “Survivor’s Walk” was an event that Barbara and I participated in for 7 years and this year the anticipation was difficult.

We have all suffered loss and transitions, and we have our own unique way of getting through these times. Perhaps your loss was not the death of loved one but a relationship change, or a job change, or a move into a new environment. There are changes that are more difficult than others based on your individual life. There are times when you ruminate about your loss and seem to spiral down into despair. These are important lessons to learn from in your life, not easy or fun, but important to wade through. There are recommendations that can be made to allow you to move more gracefully through these possibly dark times. Consider the following: 1. Take Good Care of yourself… practice wellness, 2. Get the HEALTHY support from healthy friends or family, 3. Get Professional counseling support if needed, 4. Focus on positive potential plans or goals, 5. Do not be in hurry to control your expectations (easier said than done.)

Consider sharing your feelings and thoughts early and often. The more you share the story the more you can desensitize yourself to the trauma unless you are ruminating too deeply. Avoiding the healing, with its pain, by using substances like alcohol, drugs, and food can give some people momentary comfort but can slow down the process or even create more problems. For me, the best strategy has been to speak with my many healthy supportive friends. Though not everyone is as lucky as me in this way, you might be well warned that building these positive relationships can and should be done now for your future requirements. If all else fails, local hospice organizations have bereavement groups that can get you started. There are books on the subject. There are counselors, coaches, and clergy who are trained to help. Do not think that you are strong to hold these things in and to NOT BOTHER anyone else with your pain. In fact, by sharing your grief and challenges you are probably allowing others the great benefit of being able to give some support and nurturing to you (and this will allow your partner to feel good about their efforts in your support.) Listen to advice when given but move slowly and carefully on any additional transitions that may be suggested. In most cases you do NOT need to rush into anything.
We can not escape life without loss and transitions. The trick is to learn how get through these times as gracefully as possible and to learn the lessons as easily as possible (so you do not have these lessons have to be repeated…) Keep your eyes open and your heart prepared to give and to receive. No one knows how to do these things perfectly and most of the time these transitions will not be pretty. They will be tests and lessons to learn from.
When we lose a major source of love and support, you can not easily replace this relationship but you can find ways to be open to positive, healthy relationships, and new sources of love, to begin to fill the void. (Do not rush into this but allow yourself to consider the possibilities.)

Please take good care of yourself. Support your friends and family if they have had losses ’cause we can all learn from these times… Celebrate Peace…

We send comments, your thoughts, and your feedback the Stress Education Center at wellness@dstress.com or through the website at www.dstress.com

Anger and Death

At some point, most people who live past adolescence realize that they are not going to get out this life, alive. Death is a natural, and unavoidable, outcome of living. (As of 2014, this is a fact of life…) Some cultures and societies work at pretending that death is NOT inevitable and this denial is built into the structure of the culture. Americans seem to frown on death like it is weakness in life to give in to death. In this culture, youth is celebrated and old people should only participate in celebrations of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. There would be more television programs about older people if the culture were not in such denial. Now, I am not saying that we should have another “reality TV” show about older people’s last days amongst the living but it has been a long time since programs like the “Golden Girls.”

But the point of this blog article is not about denial of death and dying. It is about the emotions people feel regarding the loss of family member or friend to the process of dying. In the past, people lived with or near their families and families cared for each other with process of “passing away” done at home surrounded by family. Families would embrace the transition and it was a “natural” process. It is often very different in present day families.

Image that you were a child of divorced, or unmarried parents. You have been estranged from your biological parent due to divorce, or substance abuse, or prison, or large geographical distances and you learn that your non-custodial biological parent is dying. You may already harbor anger and resentment toward this parent for not “being there” for you and now you cannot even “get even” emotionally for the neglect (real or imagined) because the object of you anger is now leaving you due to a terminal disease process. How do you deal with your anger and your ambivalence toward this parent? From professional experience, I know that people often turn this anger inward. Depression often manifests. Anxiety can surface. Adjustment disorders may become inflamed. It is natural to be depressed or anxious. Though this is a natural response it remains often elusive as to how to deal with these strong emotions in “positive” ways.

Some cultures and religions suggest that you experience the loss of a significant person to better learn “your” lessons of this life. The perspective of surviving this loss can make you stronger. Everyone deals with loss differently. Some people want to escape their pain and avoid this strong emotion by getting involved with substance abuse. Some people use other behaviors to avoid their pain like playing too many video games, engaging in unsafe sexual experiences, or possibly other dangerous, but distracting, behaviors. A healthier way of responding to this difficult experience might be to get professional support or support from “healthy” family or friends. This might involve discussing the anger or the sadness in appropriate ways. It might involve discussing the loss and the void left when the person passes. It might include discussing the unfinished business. It might include discussing life beyond and how to consider filling “the void.”

Children or poorly articulate adults have serious challenges communicating their pain, anger, frustration, upset, and loss. They require assistance in a safe, “non-judgemental” relationship. They need to be told that their feelings are not un-natural or bad. They need to be counseled on how to express this emotion in safe and appropriate ways. They often need to be supported with positive alternatives forms of expression and positive choices to move forward in their lives. Often they have been “cheated” from the experience of telling their estranged parent or significant person the anger or pain they feel about their disappointing relationship. Alternative forms of communicating their feelings should be explored such as painting, drawing, writing, photography, or forms of sculpture.

It is hard to deal with the loss of a loved one (or significant other.) It is difficult to communicate your pain and ambivalence. Some people, especially children, need more assistance and support, from healthy, non-judgemental adults. I am sorry for your trauma and your loss. I can feel your pain. I have experienced this pain, myself, and it is not easy. Please take good care of yourself.

Proof of Heaven

While travelling to California in March of 2013, my friend Dan gave me a new book to read. “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander, MD. Great reading for me as an update on the research I had done in the late 1980’s regarding interviews with people who had experience Near Death Experiences (NDE) in the writings of Ken Ring and Raymond Moody. In his recent book, Eben Alexander tells his personal story regarding his own near death experience. With the death of my wife in January of 2012, I have been reflecting on the life after death that is discussed in many philosophies and religions. Eben speaks about the feelings of “Unconditional Love” and the message he received from his “guide” that “you can do no wrong in heaven.” What freedom you must experience!

Personally, I have strong feelings that the Buddhist philosophy of life after death may be correct. How do you feel? This way of thinking can free you to live a better life because you have less fear of the unknown, and scary thoughts of what happens after this life has completed… My father feared change and he feared death. He lived in a quiet desperation where he feared making mistakes or taking risks because he feared a possible mortal outcome of any new change.

Since the death of my wife, I was asking (maybe pleading) for information regarding her status, hoping that she was “in a better place.” I had a feeling that she was not suffering any more from her struggle with cancer but I wanted to know that she was happy, surrounded by unconditional love, with access to the wisdom of higher consciousness. In my travels after exposure to Eben ALexander’s book, I had experiences that lead me to believe that I did NOT have to worry, for my wife, Barbara, WAS in a better place. It gives me some peace of mind and my heart feels better.

My question, which has no answer, is who will greet me and guide me when my turn to pass comes??? In the writings of NDE’s and even in Eben Alexander’s book, “Proof of Heaven,” it is often stated that a guide (or guides) step forward to greet you and to show you around (for lack of a better phrase) and to assist you with the awkward transition into this new existence. Often, the guide will be someone familiar who you loved or knew who has passed on before you… So recently I pondered who this entity might be for me…??? My mom or dad, friends from the past, or family??? I realize that this is not the most important consideration I have to deal with in my present life, but the question came to mind. Who do you think will be there to greet you when your time to pass on occurs? In Eben’s story, he asked this question and did not receive the answer that he expected which was both surprising and, for me, a highlight of his book.

Most importantly to me as I write this blog is to ask you what awareness do you have regarding the process that happens at the end of life AND will this belief give you assistance in living your life more fully and with less fear. In my second book, “Stress Passages: Surviving Life’s Transitions Gracefully,” I tried to address the anxiety that people have as they face their mortality (death and dying) and I offered strategies for managing this anxiety so that life can be experienced with greater peace and less distraction from the fear of the unknown. I want to write more about this in the coming months.

Please live with grace and awareness.

If you have questions that you believe that I can assist you to better understand that death and dying are not as scary as our fear and anxiety creates of the unknown, contact me through the Stress Education Center at www.dstress.com. AND, please take good care of yourself. 

Dying at Home

I have firsthand experience with Home Hospice and the dignity provided a loved one by allowing them to die at home surrounded by their loved ones and the familiar world that they lived. If possible, most people who I know, would want their last days to be at home and not in the sterile environment of the hospital. My wife and I fought cancer for 8 years. She requested Hospice assistance 3 months before cancer took her from our family. I have to admit that even with all that time to prepare that I never gave the death with dignity at home much real thought. It sounded good and I knew it was the way she wanted to die. She did not want to die, at all, but this was not to be avoided. The last 4 days of her life was a blur for me. Even with the knowledge of having signed up for Hospice assistance, and having applied for the “right to die” medication prescription, I was in a fog about what was about to happen and how to deal with it.

The real reason I feel compelled to write this article is the lesson that I am, only now, becoming aware of an important lesson. When my wife came home from the hospital, for the last time, and Hospice had set up the pain management medicine, Lauren (my sister-in-law) and I were left in the house to care for my lovely wife. We worked together as a team and it was going pretty well. There was some fear involved with the responsibility but we had been through many difficult experiences in the 8 years including emergency room visits, major surgeries, chemo therapy, doctor’s visits, and endless medical procedures and testing. Our Home Hospice nurse came the next day to check up on all of us and she increased the amount of pain medication and things seemed OK. With blessings for all of us, my wife passed away the next morning. I was not really prepared. I do not know why other than the blur and the denial that I must have felt at the time. BUT, one year later, I finally a woke to the realization that my wife dying at home was much more traumatic for me (and my sister-in-law) than I had been aware of at the time.

Death with dignity at home is a good thing for the patient but I am not sure how many of the involved family and friends are really well prepared for this experience. I appreciate Home Hospice and what they do. I just never considered how difficult dealing with my ghosts related to watching my beautiful wife die in our home would be for me. A century ago, people dying at home, surrounded by their family, was more common in the United States. This is still common in other cultures around the world but death and dying has been hidden well within the culture of the US where youth and beauty are worshipped, and sickness and death are hidden in hospital and retirement homes. Dying is an inevitable part of life. We can not escape it. We can be better prepared for the death of our loved ones and our own end of life.

My main point of this blog is to report that watching a loved one pass away at home can be more significant than we might be able to imagine. Prepare yourself. Hug your loved ones and friends. Live your life with as much vigilance as possible. Honor your spiritual needs.

I KNOW that my wife is in a better place. She is in a “bigger and better place than you can imagine” I believe. My life will continue and will hopefully find ways to be of service as I live with my “ghosts.”