Reflections on Grieving

I wasn’t sure where to place this post. My other blogs are  on cycling, corporate real estate and investments. So I figured Life Hacks comes the closest. So anyway, here are my reflections on grieving.

We prepare for the coming of a new born baby by reading up on infant care, buying baby clothes and accessories, going for classes, listening to well-meaning advise.

We prepare for a wedding by spending time shopping, selecting venue, preparing guest list, attending marriage preparation course, getting to know each other well, courting ( not necessarily in those order).

Yet when it come to death, we are so ill-prepared for it. We often dismiss this as a politically inappropriate topic for social discussion. While I would agree this is not something to talk about at casual functions, it seems that we don’t ever talk about it at all, we hardly prepare for it although we all know it is eventually waiting for each of us. It part of the natural cycle of life. : birth – growth – death.

At the time of writing this, my Mum passed away 19 years ago on 2 September 1995. She was 64 years old. She did not get to see me marry nor did she  get to play with 2 wonderful grandsons and see them grow up to awesome young gentlemen. My two boys did not get to enjoy her doting care, delicious dishes and hotel standard cakes.

My Dad passed on last year on 24 October 2013. He was 6 weeks to his 89th birthday. He lived a full life. His favorite passage was Psalm 23 which gave him solace, peace and comfort in his last years and especially in his last days. His funeral was a celebration of his life. We sang his favorite hymns “What a friend We Have in Jesus” as well as “How Great Thou Art”. I took comfort that while there are tears on earth, there are cheers in heaven as a saint comes marching home.

By definition, an orphan is one whose parents are dead. Recently, it hit me that I am now an orphan. While I have a wonderful husband and  2 lovely sons,  my siblings and I are now adult orphans. There is very little talk on this subject. A close friend  suggested 2 books on the orphaned adult, namely “Midlife Orphan: Facing Life’s Changes Now That Your Parents Are Gone” and “The Orphaned Adult: Understanding And Coping With Grief And Change After The Death Of Our Parents”

I am currently reading Zig Ziglar’s Confessions of a Grieving Christian. He writes about his grief during the passing of his eldest daughter, aged 42 years. Yes, the same Zig Ziglar who has written over a dozen motivational books. I have found this book to provide a wonderful tool in helping me process and better understand my grief. You can read an extract of the ebook version on the link is provided.

Mum had cancer, underwent chemo and radio therapy and was clear for a few years. Metastasis set in some years later and doctors could not do anything except provide pain relief medication. While she was in hospital, was saw a bright light that lighted up the whole room. She was convinced it was a visitation from God. After that day, her faith strengthened and she spent her last days listening to Christian praise and worship songs which gave her much comfort and peace. Going to heaven relieved her of various pains, so in some strange way, death is a positive and good thing to happen. Of course we miss her dearly at the same time. Bitter and sweet inter-mingled. In her last few months while she was wasting away, it was also the time my then boy friend and I were developing a relationship which later blossomed into marriage. Once again, another strange bitter-sweet intermingling of sorrow and love.

Mum suffered cancer once and then again some years later, she was hospitalised and then received palliative care at home in the remaining weeks. I personally believe these episodes were to signal and prepare the family to release their loved ones.

In a similar way, Dad was already advance in age, being in his eighties. He made arrangements to settle his worldly affairs, as he calls it, by selling off his home, writing up his will, signing an advance medical directive, arranging for his finances to be in joint names. These he did while he was very much lucid. For many years, however, he suffered nightmares of going to hell. He would scream at night during his sleep.  It was only in his final years that he began to be convinced and experienced God in an intimate and real way. His nightmares reduced and eventually never occurred again. Concurrently, he began to grow in his faith in God. He attended church twice a week and faithfully read his Bible everyday. His favorite passage was Psalm 23 which he memorised. Each verse was well expounded and meditated upon.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths     for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I believe his financial preparations years earlier, his gradual physical deterioration and  his hospital stay in his final days were also ways to signal to his children that his end time was coming soon. It helped us prepare our hearts to release and let go.

It is certainly great comfort to know that Daddy and Mummy are in heaven and eventually I will meet up with them. Eventually, we’ll spend eternity with all our loved ones. Still, while we are here on earth, grief is real. Grief is perfectly normal. Even Jesus grieved. It is recorded that when his best friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept. Although he later resurrected Lazarus, Jesus still wept. The Bible also says to grieve not the Holy Spirit. King David, whom God calls a man after His own heart, grieved when his son died.  Ps 56:8 say God collects our tears in a bottle.  The word tears appears in the Bible 40 times. Rev 21:4 “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  So we do not need to feel guilty about having periods of grief. Society may  want us to always put on a happy face and there is truth in being positive and optimistic. Grief is normal and a healthy part of life.  I think there is a healthy way to grieve as well as unhealthy ways to grieve. I personally wonder if grieving / missing someone dear goes on forever. Since we continue to love the memory of her, we continue to miss her, so I think grief in some form continues forever as well. I suppose until we meet in heaven, then there is truly no more tears.

I am certainly no expert on this topic. I am merely blogging my journey as a form of personal therapy as I work through my grief. It’s a bit strange being an adult orphan. An adult is suppose to have it all together, mature, be worldly-wise and sensible. While we may have those as an adult, yet grief is a fairly unfamiliar emotion and experience. In the tapestry of life, there will be threads of different colours – the bright as well as the dull. Just as in music, there are major and minor chords, tension and release. Without the valleys, the mountain top experiences wouldn’t be as awesome.

“If our departed ones could come back to us and tell us about their experiences with the Lord in heaven, I feel certain they would tell us three things. First, they would tell us to concentrate on the way they were when they were at their best in this life. Second, they would tell us to enjoy our lives to the fullest and choose to fill them with the best memories and experiences possible. Third, they would tell us to spend more time getting to know Christ better.”  Zig Ziglar, Confessions of a Grieving Christian.

I am happy to know that Dad and Mum are now united in heaven. Dad is playing his harmonica while Mum is singing in her beautiful voice the praises of Jesus who broke the sting of death and redeemed us for eternal life. I’m sure the heavenly feast includes her cooking and wonderfully baked cakes as well.

In a way, Dad and Mum taught me how to live as well as taught me how to die well.


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