Archives For March 2016

Often when you have had a painful loss, it doesn’t feel like the grief will ever end.  You might not even want it to end, fearful that if you begin to feel good again it might mean you don’t care anymore.  Then you may also have friends and family further removed who are urging you to “get better” more quickly.  Of course they are doing so because they care and don’t like seeing you hurt.  All of this adds extra pressure and confusion.  You must keep in mind that grief is a natural healing process.  When a person is physically ill, a doctor cannot give you an exact timetable until you are healed.  Grieving is the same.  There is no preset, exact timetable for healing.

I write this during NCAA Tournament time which reminds me of the month of March 2007.  It had been one year since my wife had been diagnosed with cancer and 2 1/2 months since she had passed away.  The tournament was starting, my favorite sporting event of the year.  My old friends were setting up their brackets and I joined them, but of course I couldn’t get excited about it this time.  I was still in a mode of withdrawal and just doing the daily activities of survival for me and my kids.  I filled out my bracket and entered it, but I didn’t really care.  Now, nine years later, I am excited about it again.  I filled out my bracket today with much joy and anticipation of coming out on top among my friends.  The change didn’t happen quickly, for me it took about four years before my joy was fully restored, gradually increasing each year.

Basketball players are restricted by a time clock to reach their goal but you are not.  Your goal is to stay in the game.  You do have this in common with a basketball player:  It is your goal to keep fighting.  Healing doesn’t occur without effort.  It helped me to have my kids, and my job.  There was a reason to get out of bed everyday.  I had to show my children how to keep living.  I enrolled us in a family grieving program.  I took them on family trips.  I interacted with friends and family even when it was hard.  I prayed with them even though I was angry at God.  I even tried to find something to make us laugh every day.  Those things did not always make us happy, and they certainly didn’t erase the pain of our loss, but they kept us in the game.  Don’t try to put your healing on a timeline.  Just do the things that make life worth living even when it still hurts.  Find a someone who can help you process and understand your feelings and pain, and heal.  In the amount of time that is right for you, a new beginning will begin to emerge.  You will find a new beginning and a renewed happiness.

Jessica and Kime at the Tournament(With my daughter Jessica at the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Little Rock, 2008)

 

Rosanne and Joanne Cash caption

When you lose someone you love, your grief must be expressed.  Attempting to suppress it will only result in your grief coming out in an unhealthy way.  Your personal health and happiness is affected by how you choose to express it.  Rosanne Cash is honoring the memory of her father in way that is not only healing for her family but also for the many fans across the world who loved Johnny Cash.  I had the opportunity to meet Rosanne and her aunt Joanne Cash at a fundraiser for the restoration and upkeep of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess, Arkansas.  Although she never lived there, Rosanne did visit the home with her father when she was 12 years old.  Johnny himself admitted that he had deep ties to his boyhood home and many of his songs were influenced by those memories, some painful.  Rosanne said he knew and loved every rock on that property.  His most painful memory was likely the loss of his brother, Jack, who at age 15 was in a tragic sawmill accident and died after several days of suffering.  It has been suggested that the soulful, brooding Johnny Cash was born that day.

Young J.R., as he was known then, soon learned that people grew weary of him talking about his lost brother and closest friend, so he quit.  It is well documented that Johnny dealt with his pain in ways that were unhealthy for years, later finding better ways to express it.  Rosanne and the rest of the family have found a healing way to remember J.R., by restoring the boyhood home he loved so much.  Purchased by Arkansas State University, the once dilapidated home is now almost exactly like it was in 1935.  Joanne Cash, his sister, has been meticulous in her research and remembrance of the home in which they grew up together.  She has overseen each detail of the home’s decoration, even down to their mother’s original piano and song books.  From their mother they learned that music can sooth a troubled soul and smooth the edges of a rugged existence.  The attraction not only portrays the history one of the most popular music artists of all time, but also serves as an example of the lives of impoverished delta farm families in the Dyess colony created by President Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Most of us don’t have a famous family member to whose home tens of thousands of fans would flock each year.  Even keeping the room of a lost loved one unchanged is, after time, unrealistic and unhelpful.  There are many ways to remember someone that promote growth and healing.  Like Johnny, you could express yourself in a song, or write a poem, or a book.  Some people plant a tree or a garden.  I have known of public gardens in which you can dedicate a section as a memorial with a sign.  There are many creative ways that you can have a positive effect on the people and world around you.  Yours should reflect both your own memories and creative interests.

Johnny Cash home

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Thomas R Machnitzki photographer.

You can learn more about the project at http://dyesscash.astate.edu/.