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Heart vs. Smart
dj okay
Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 6:42 PM
Joined: 11/29/2011
Posts: 1840

I receive a newsletter from the funeral home that handled Mom's services.  Last week there was an article that made me sit up and pay attention.  It was titled "Heart vs. Smart".  It talks about how grievers often try to intellectualize the grieving process.  They think if they can just get their heads around their loss, they will be okay.  But the grief process is not just about understanding our loss, it also encompasses the emotions as well.


From the article:


"It is, by far, the most stubborn belief to shake, that if I can just understand, I will be free, that I will be able to make new choices.  Yet understanding is only awareness, it is not completion.  Most of us were socialized to look for answers in our intellect, and for most problems, the intellect does contain the solutions.  Emotional imcompleteness is not resolved in the intellect.


When the physical aspect of a relationship ends through death, we are usually left with some unfinished business of an emotional nature.  In order to effectively complete and say goodbye to the physical, we must first identify and complete whatever is emotionally incomplete.  The net result is an acknowledgment of the reality that the physical relationship we had is over and that we now have a changed emotional relationship.  Our emotional relationship does not end with death, but it must be brought current as we move into the new reality of life without the person who died."



When my father passed away, I was completely blindsided by the depth of my grief.  I struggled along for 6 months.  Then on the 6-month anniversary of his passing, I wrote him a letter saying all the things I wish I had said before he died.  (I wasn't with him when he died and I had thought we had some months left.)  I took the letter outside, set it on fire and watched the smoke float up to the heavens.  I found the process very "complete".  I did much better afterwards in regards to my grief.


But the grief of losing my mother who I cared for the last 7 years of her life is so very different.  I have been working on several different things, one being a series of letters to her, which I think I've referred to before on this forum.  After reading the article I referred to above, I see more clearly that this is an emotional process, not an intellectual one.  These letters are my way of saying the many, many things I could not say to her due to her dementia.  There are years of emotional incompleteness in our relationship from way before she was diagnosed.  I'm beginning to understand that I must still work through this incompleteness to get to the other side of my grief.  Knowing that her approaching dementia was the cause of our being unable to resolve some of our relationship issues is only the first step toward recovery.  I guess I've been thinking that her death made some of those incomplete issues impossible to complete.  But I think now that I can work through them.


I feel like I'm beginning to ramble.  But I wanted to share some of these concepts with all of you here.  I'd be interested to hear if any of you are doing anything similar or if this concept of completing our incomplete emotions makes any sense to you.


Thanks for listening.


Mimi S.
Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 6:58 PM
Joined: 11/29/2011
Posts: 7027

Applause for that funeral home!  How thoughtful!
Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 7:07 PM
Joined: 10/27/2012
Posts: 362

I have always found writing your thoughts down helps to clarify them. Many times I have written letters to someone and never sent them just to get my thoughts and feelings ordered and clearly defined. In counseling, the "empty chair" is used as well. You talk to the empty chair where your person sits. You can even use a photo if you want to. The point is to talk to the person like they were there. Either option is good if it helps. 



Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 8:13 PM
Joined: 4/19/2012
Posts: 414

DJ, I have done a bit of what you wrote. When I sent my dad and mom bday cards to be placed on their graves, I did say things I only wanted them to know, if the graveside caretaker had read them, she probably wouldn't have placed them. I glued the pages together and had them laminated for my protection and the weather.


There are things we finally need to say. Not things that we would have said as they were dying, we do have empathy, but we/I do have issues.


I did/do have the belief that once they died they would finally see the whole picture ....I am not so sure of that now due to things I have heard or read and even dreamed. But do I need to "put it out there" yes I do, a bit at a time.


I loved my parents but.............I also had issues with them as well.


Hope this makes sense.



Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 1:14 PM
Joined: 2/21/2012
Posts: 44

dj okay


Emotional incompleteness, that is an interesting concept. I also wrote a letter to my step-father when he died because I did not get the chance to spend too much time with him while he was sick because I was to busy taking care of my mother.  He had his son who was staying with him for a while when he was sick and I would call him.  But as you say, there were so many things I would have liked to tell him and did not get the chance.  When I wrote the letter I put it inside his casket so that he could read it in heaven.  I did not have the same feeling about my mom because I spent so much time with her, I was able to tell her things - that I did not get the chance to tell my step-dad.  There are always things left unsaid - and we think about them when a loved one passes - but - we can tell them after they died, as you did in a letter, or you can talk to the person if you believe that they are in heaven or in a different place - it is very comforting for me to know that my mom is in heaven.  Sometimes, as caretakers, we are too tired to try to communicate complicated feelings or emotions to our loved one who may not even comprehend what we are trying to say.  We back off from the intensity, and bring a piece of Strawberry Shortcake - to lighten the mood, or, we bring flowers, or we bring a big tray of cookies - we try our best but we are not experts in the field of Alzheimer's Disease - we can only hold their hand until and end and pray for them when they depart.  I wrote my mom a letter also, I decided to keep it with some of her personal items.  She loved lipstick - so I put two in her casket - a red one and a pink one - I knew this would make her happy.  That is really all we can do - is to make our loved ones as happy as possible as we watch them deteriorate - then later we need to make ourselves happy - sometimes we need to learn how to be happy - because - being a caretaker has taken that away from us.  We can all heal from these difficult and painful events - in time - we will be ok again and learn to enjoy life once again.  Bless All of you for your sharing and caring.  

Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 1:50 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 2105

This sounds like a good idea.  There were issues with my parents, as well.  I loved them, but there was dysfunction and the last few weeks of my dad's life, was a blur of panic with a lot of things happening at the same time.


Those last couple of weeks, I feel very bad about and it's got me stuck in regret. 


I think writing a letter or at least getting all of those feelings and thoughts out that are so hard to say out loud sounds like a very good thing to do.


My mind latelys has been doing a lot of balances and checks lately, thoughts fly into my head.  I'm remembering the good and the bad and on the fringe of coming to terms with some things.  I basically feel pretty scattered, so writing it down, I can see it, think it, and maybe release it.

Thank you, dj, for sharing this.

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