A friend’s mother died. Not suddenly; she had been ill. But still, he was not “prepared.” Not exactly sure what “prepared” is. Even when the mind knows what is coming, the heart and the gut have a way of putting on the breaks. And upon hearing that a loved one has died, there is often a sense of disbelief. Frequently our bodies shake as if refusing to take in the information.
But he did take it in, mostly because he had to. His widowed father needed his support. He got himself on a plane, and somehow, showed up and stayed. They grieved together. They “made arrangements” and “received people” who said things he likely won’t remember. Or maybe he will—the story he had never heard from his mom’s childhood friend—or a memory of a fellow church congregant whom she helped. Whether or not he will remember the words, he was comforted by the presence of his parents’ friends and extended family.
As they approached the grave, something seemed odd, a bit off.
And then, two days after the burial, he and his father returned to the cemetery. They wanted private time at the gravesite. As they approached the grave, something seemed odd, a bit off. All of the beautiful flowers were gone. They were shocked by the bareness of the site. Someone decided it was time to remove the flowers. That someone was neither his friend nor his father.
When my friend shared this with me, I felt his anguish. On some visceral level he needed to see the grave the way they left it two days before. The flowers represented the beauty and the joy he associated with his mother. He and his dad expected to care for them, hold them, rearrange, and refresh them. They provided a connection to their wife and mother. Maybe there is a case to be made for removing them quickly. But I don’t think a case needs to be made. Regarding the absence of the flowers, my friend said: “Something so beautiful and still lively was again gone. For us, and especially for my dad, it added to the loss we were already experiencing and processing.”
Grieving is a process. We move through it one step at a time and the path is not linear. We go back and forth and sideways; it takes time. It helps when we feel as if we have some control in a situation where we have no control. My friend wanted to be the one to decide when to remove the flowers.
When we are with mourners it is helpful to be sensitive to their situation. We can try to understand what they are going through. Each of us experiences loss in our own way. Some of us are deeply fragile but we “appear” strong. What we think we are ready to do one day is not the case the next. One thing we do know is that anguish is universal, and we can help someone by being there and trying to respond in ways that will be helpful to them. And when it comes to tossing out the flowers (or clothes or other “things”) it is often best to consult with the mourners to decide their own timeframe.
I remember as a child, counting the days on the calendar until “Summer” officially began. But now, because many of us experience feeling overscheduled and overworked, the much-anticipated days of summer can easily blend into those of any other season. What to do? We can become more aware when we find ourselves running into summer at full velocity without slowing down. Sometimes, in part because we have been so “locked in” due to COVID, we over plan and “do” too much. If we are not careful, we risk entering the next season of fall without restoring ourselves.
There are numerous benefits to our bodies, minds and spirits in taking time for ourselves this summer. These are just a few:
Here are things from our summer that will help us feel restored in the fall:
Early morning is a special time of day; the air is still, and we might be able to hear birds singing. We begin a new day, regardless of where we are physically — city or country. The more we tune into the energy of the morning, the more it can help us set the tone for the kind of day we would like to experience.
We can incorporate an intentional breath awareness practice into our lives each morning. Start with a few breaths. Place a hand on the belly and relax the abdominal muscles. Slowly inhale through the nose and feel the air come into the nostrils. Pause for a moment, then exhale gently. Repeat for several cycles.
Including a regular breathing practice as part of our morning routine is an easy and effective way to improve our health and well-being.