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The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dealing with death

The Boston Globe has a good article about dealing with the death of a loved one. According to freelance writer Judy Foreman, "the emerging view among mental health experts is that grieving for a lost loved one is really a disorderly, highly idiosyncratic process." This means, Foreman writes, "that there are no set stages to go through and no 'normal' or 'right' ways to do it."

Having lost my grandmother in November (she was 85), I am dealing with my own grieving process. It's hard when someone who was so much a part of your life is suddenly, irreplaceably gone. While this country emphasizes stoicism, different people cope with death in different ways. A friend of mine said that it takes up to a year to reconcile yourself to the death of someone close to you. I wonder if she meant the "acceptance" part of the five-stage process described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

The Globe article is at its best when Foreman makes practical suggestions for grieving. She quotes Lynn Osborn, a 48-year-old woman from Belmont who lost her husband to Lou Gehrig's disease four years ago. Osborn suggests "record(ing) your loved one's voice" and, as Foreman paraphrases, "to treasure the time you do -- and did -- have with the person you love."

My suggestions? When facing the loss of an older family member, don't just spend more time with him or her. Ask questions about their life. Family histories -- especially immigrant family histories -- disappear when the older generation dies, and the younger generation doesn't show enough interest. Identify people in old photos and compile albums. It's important to pass family heritage on to children so they know where they come from.


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