Categories
Grief and Comfort

Loving Yourself

Oddly, loving and caring for others is often easier for many of us than loving and caring for ourselves.

I have come to see and understand that this issue is often core to people overcoming their problems. Finding and strengthening love for ourselves is essential in finding our ways out of the deep holes of hurt we carry inside us that are frequently covered over with layers of fears, distrusts and angers. Love is one of the most powerful energies we can muster on our paths of recovery from our wounds.

The Greeks had words for love:

“agape”: selfless love of one person for another, unconditional love expecting nothing in return. A love that is spiritual in nature.

philia”: the love one holds for a friend. Aristotle gives examples of philia including: “young lovers, lifelong friends, cities with one another, political or business contacts, parents and children, fellow-voyagers and fellow-soldiers, members of the same religious society, or of the same tribe.

“erros”: a physical intimate love, sexual in nature.

What I am addressing here in this article is self-love. This is the unconditional acceptance of oneself, with all one’s faults, foibles and issues that invite forgiveness of oneself.

Releasing resentments, angers and fears one holds towards others is a major challenge in therapy. What is often more difficult, however, are these same feelings one holds about one’s own feelings and towards oneself.

The most common example is in grief over the loss of someone close. Grief includes mixtures of feelings of sadness, abandonment and emptiness; anger and resentment; and guilt. These feelings alternate and may cycle through many repetitions, in unpredictable order.

 

A woman lost her father when she was 15 years old. He had a single-vehicle accident late at night, hitting a tree on a curve while driving home on wet roads from the bar. At first, the woman felt all of these feelings in relationship with her father: anger that he had finally ended a life marked by many previous alcohol-related misbehaviors and mishaps; anger that he had, essentially, abandoned her; guilt over having angry feelings towards her now dead father; sadness and grief that he was no longer there, in his sober moments, for paternal support and guidance.

After several months of sorting through and releasing these feelings, the woman came to a place of needing to forgive herself: for things she had said and done that might have added to his stress levels and perhaps contributed to his drinking more, and guilt over not having done more to be supportive to him; sadness over not having told him she loved and appreciated him for the ways he had cared for her; and angers at herself for her own quick temper. These self-blame issues were harder for the woman to process and release than her feelings about her father’s behaviors.

In the end, the woman came to a place of acceptance of her father and of herself. A major help to the woman were repeated affirmations of love for herself, and a feeling that she was loved unconditionally by God, regardless of what she had done or not done, said or not said.

If you are working on problems of any sort, with approaches of any sort, you will find much benefit from adding affirmations of loving yourself and of being loved by others, including a sense of God’s love.

Above all, remember that you have the power of love to help yourself as well as to help others.

Chaplain Allen Tanner

Chaplain Allen Tanner

 

Categories
Grief and Comfort

We Need Each Other: 7 Lessons of Comfort

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because dawn has come.”

— Rabindranath Tagore

In my years as serving as a chaplain in the funeral industry, hospital, hospice, and law enforcement, I have learned several valuable lessons concerning love and death that I would like to share with you today.

The biggest lesson that I have learned is how we desperately need each other. When all is said and done, what we will be remembered for is the relationships that we have had with each other. Relationships where we can depend on others and they can depend on us. One of the reasons so many feel lonely is the lack of consistency in the relationships they have. A true and solid relationship is built on trust and consistency. Being there for each other not sometimes, not when it is convenient, but at all times.

Our relationships that we have or don’t have become vitally important in the process of dying and dealing with grief. I have seen the struggles that some have had because of the lack of relationships or broken relationships. These struggles show the importance of building strong healthy relationships and doing all that we can to repair and reconcile relationships that are not.

Grief has no timeline. We all experience loss in unique ways, and we cope differently when someone we love dies. While you may never feel completely healed, if it’s any consolation, the empty spot you feel is there for a reason. It’s the space in your heart that can be filled with love and memories of the person you lost.

If the years I have served as a chaplain has taught me anything, it’s that although death cannot be fixed, love is stronger than death will ever be. We can choose to love people while they are with us and long after they are gone, and we can choose to keep them in our lives.

Let me share with you seven comforting lessons I have learned about love and death:

  1. Unconditional love is stronger than death.

In the words of Anaïs Nin, “You alone cannot save people. You can only love them.” I have seen people in the process of dying exhibit what unconditional love is. Smiling at those around them despite their pain and fear. There have been many show me what unconditional love is, (expecting nothing in return,) and how love is all we ever truly need.

  1. Just a farewell for now, not a goodbye forever.

When someone you love dies, your relationship with the person will never change. Your relationship will never die. It lives on forever in your heart, in your actions, in your thoughts, in your values and in your memories.

Although death can end a life, death does not have the power to end a relationship.

Though those we have lost are not physically here with us, I am certain that, until we see them again, they are — always with us. In the words of Sirius Black, “The ones that love us never really leave us.”

  1. Death is not an ending.

Sometimes our time on earth is cut too short. Our time in this world is precious, and when it ends sooner than we expect, we must have faith that something beautiful still lies ahead. This is not the end; it is solely the end of one chapter of many.

My greatest peace and hope comes from my belief that the world has something more beautiful in store for those that pass on. They make their impact on this world, and the time comes for them to be somewhere else where they can do the same. They’re somewhere else where they can spread their love in another way.

  1. When someone we love dies, we have to keep living.

Many have taught me that even though they would not be physically here with us anymore, we have to keep living. I once heard someone say, “Don’t spend a lot of time mourning me. I had two beautiful, beautiful children, a great husband and a job I gave my all to. So please, be proud of me and not so sad.”

I heard another say, that “she wanted her children to do great things, to make their mark on this world. She wanted to leave knowing that they would still be happy, and that they would still continue to live.”

So when someone we love dies, when we feel like our whole world is falling apart, we can’t allow ourselves to die along with them. Our loved ones want us to continue to live our lives and make them proud. They want us to be happy, to be sad, but not sad forever.

This makes leaving the world a little bit easier for them, and it gives us hope that we still have a purpose here. So, keep trying to live life to the fullest, even when your heart is broken.

  1. Be grateful for your relationship.

You can’t stop people from dying, but you can love them while they are here. Death teaches us how love is the most sincere form of appreciation and gratitude in human existence.

When we love someone who is leaving us, we have to understand and appreciate how much of a gift it has been simply to love this person.

And even when the tears or numbness hit you, even when you realize you cannot stop the cancer, or keep the person’s heart beating longer, you must remember what a sincere privilege it has been to have this person in your life.

So, when someone you love with all of your heart is dying, just truly realize how grateful you are to have had this opportunity to love this person.

  1. Stay with them until the very end.

Stay with them as much as possible, hold their hand, and tell them how much you love them. Stay there with them until the end. Tell them goodbye, but only for now.

Even when they are inching further away, slowly more distant, you will still feel the deep understanding and love when you look directly into their eyes. And when you tell them you will love them forever and ever, and they squeeze your hand, you know the beauty of love.

  1. Death is temporary, but love is infinite.

You will never, ever, ever be alone. Love really is forever, and our hearts have special pockets solely for those we love. We carry them everywhere we go. And this is where love is so truly powerful. This is where love overpowers death every single time.

I hope one day you reach some sort of peace with the death of your loved one, and that you can look back on their life with pride and happiness, rather than grief and despair.

But until then, I hope you can find some comfort and peace in your heart with the realization that love will win the battle against death every single time.

Chaplain Allen Tanner
Chaplain Allen Tanner