Bereavement: Individual Journeys

Memoirs, journals, self-published pieces and more describing their individual experiences with loss and grief. Imagine the countless ways we can suffer from loss. Only a fraction of these have been touched upon by personal accounts in writing. Loss is not unique; however, the emotional struggle of grief from that loss is unique to each person. At times, we can find comfort and a sense of normalcy in others’ experiences. These books prove that you are not alone in your struggles. Perhaps your personal grief can help another?

                                          Fractured Not Broken: a Memoir by [Weidenbenner, Michelle, Schaefer,Kelly]                           

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When A Death Takes Over A Life

Understanding the physiological and emotional impact death has on someone can’t be defined in exact terms. Death happens each and every day and people who experience the loss from a death can struggle with a range of responses. To say that there is a “normal” way to grief would do an injustice to the nature of humankind. It’s no different than staking claim to a “normal” way to express love or stipulating a “normal” way to feel anger. People response differently to emotions based on their own set of experiences and interpretations. Grief, sorrow, or bereavement are no different.

How do we know when to call something “abnormal” if we can’t define what is normal? The short answer is to acquire a sample and evaluate the extremes. For instance, if 100 people who recently experienced loss from death are given a survey and followed up with over the course of a year and 75 of them stated that after a period of one year they no longer struggle with the loss but periodically have feelings of sadness then this sample can be defined as “normal”. Then the other 25 would be the ones that might be considered “abnormal”. This is a very obscure definition of how to define abnormal versus normal. More detail and criteria are examined, so this gives a crude example of scientific justification for normalizing reactions.

That being said, complicated grief can be defined as abnormal grief. The burden of grief is emotionally taxing. Living with grief is a struggle. Those who are unable to process and cope with grief can develop complicated grief. They might find themselves suffering from nightmares and struggle with day to day life. Symptoms of complicated grief might mimic the symptoms of depression. The purpose of identifying complicated grief is to help the individual process their emotions so they can live a more fulfilling life (i.e. shower, participate in social events, eat healthy, find pleasure in day to day activities, etc.).

Working with a therapist, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can be beneficial and each individual has the right to decide which professional would best suit their needs. If you are curious about complicated grief, I suggest the following resources (note: the PESI text is the first one I encountered on the topic of complicated grief and I still refer to it today):

        

 

All My Friends Are Dead

Some books have the the word “death” or “dead” in them and when you read the dust jacket or summary, you find that you are holding a fiction piece. While I enjoy a good fiction piece from time to time, my mind truly reaches out for nonfiction books – particularly books on death, dying and bereavement.

A book I found recently, titled All My Friends Are Dead is what can be considered humor and inspiration. Read it. Read it slower. Read it again one more time and absorb the pages. If this little book doesn’t make you think about your mortality, then I’m not sure what will.

All my Friends are Dead Book

Death & Spirituality

How many religions are there in the world? Would you believe that there are over 80 documented religions in the world still practiced today? This doesn’t even include all the religions that have been lost over time. Interested in learning more about these religions and their practices? National Geographic published a book that is amazing which covers most past and current religions in illustrated time-line format. If that one doesn’t make you giddy, try Penguin’s book on living religions (i.e. religions which are still active as of 2010).

Death is a unique experience and religion often helps its followers battle through their grief and helps them understand the loss. Each religion has its own set of practices which surround death.

The smoking remnants of a. Photo by trezy humanoiz/Flickr.

The smoking remnants of a Balinese cremation. Photo by trezy humanoiz/CC BY.

Knowing so many religions exist doesn’t mean we understand all the practices and beliefs surrounding them. Death is a unique experience and religion often helps its followers battle through their grief and helps them understand the loss. Each religion has its own set of practices which surround death. How are the dying treated/cared for? What happens to the body after death? How should family/friends behave before, during and after death? What is considered an appropriate display of grief? Some of the resources are limited in their information, but can provide a brief insight into the practices of death, dying and mourning.

Everplan has a small section on a few American religious-based burial practices including Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Quaker. While not the most abundant of information, it can be used a stepping stone for additional research.

Beliefnet has another small section on unique religions and their practices for death and dying. Baha’i, Mormon and Pagan Presbyterian included. Their information is to the point, no fluff, and offers some additional links for further exploration.

Five major religious beliefs and practices on death are discussed on Refinery29. In fact, the author of this post doesn’t merely provide details. She interviewed individuals who practice that religion and present their personal accounts. Great first hand narratives.

Some palliative and hospice companies provide cultural relevant materials. A 17 page informative document on various religious practices is provided by LMRPCC. As with all resources, be sure to fact check the information and use the references provided as a bread trail to acquire more details.

TED includes death and dying in their educational posts, videos and talks occasionally. An article presented in 2013 discloses some interesting funeral traditions from around the globe.

Newspapers cover event which include death nearly everyday. It isn’t common to see a newspaper article on death practices and burial customs. The Wichita Eagle published an article on burial customs of a few major religions.

Mourning customs are also unique to culture and religion. The Huffington Post has an article written by a 14 year old (at the time) on mourning customs around the globe. Amazing piece but a young scholar!

National Geographic provided photographs of various funerals from around the world. These photos are moving, curious, despairing and beautiful. Go slowly and view each one closely.

Image result for religious death practices victorian america

A widow in mourning found here.

Historically speaking, Victorian era individuals can be deemed the most elaborate of funeral traditions. Death was not merely an event which occurred, rather it was a daily endeavor and a romantic concept that was glorified in nearly every aspect of life (i.e. art, literature, architecture, clothing, etc.). Head over to Victorian Monsters for more details.

Also peruse the writings of Passion for the Past for 19th Century Mourning practice. Several interesting historical photos and references to continue your research.

 

 


References

Berg, Elizabeth & KidSpirit. 27 May 2012. Mourning around the world. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/kidspirit/mourning-around-the-world_b_1542935.html

Funeral Traditions of Different Religions. n.d. Retrieved from http://www.everplans.com/articles/funeral-traditions-of-different-religions

Gray, Helen T. 13 May 2011. How different religions bury their dead.  Retrieved from http://www.kansas.com/living/religion/article1063828.html

List of Religions & Belief Systems. 1 Feb 2017. ReligionFact.com. Retrieved from http://www.religionfacts.com/religions

Loddon Mallee Regional Palliative Care Consortium. Sep 2011. An outline of different cultural beliefs at the time of death.  Retrieved from http://lmrpcc.org.au/admin/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Customs-Beliefs-Death-Dying.pdf

MacMillen, Hayley. 25 Feb 2015. Five Different Religions & How They Deal With Their Dead.  Retrieved from http://www.refinery29.com/religious-death-beliefs

Torgovnick May, Kate.  1 Oct 2013. Death is not the end: Fascinating funeral traditions from around the globe. Retrieved from https://ideas.ted.com/11-fascinating-funeral-traditions-from-around-the-globe/

Victorian mourning and funerary practices. n.d. Retrieved from https://victorianmonsters.wordpress.com/victorian-funerary-practices/

Death & Dying | Resources in Digital Form

Have you seen the Issuu app or website? This site has been around for a few years and offers a place for businesses and professionals to submit magazines, books, academic journals, and other printed materials. These publications can be viewed online or through your digital device just as you would view the physical publication. When I first started flipping through Issuu, I only focused on counseling publications. I now have stacks (saved Issuu’s by topic) for many subjects, including death and dying.

Berkeley Death & Dying If you are not a current user of Issuu, you will need to create an account (don’t worry, it’s free to view). Some publications are only a sample of what you could read after purchasing the full publication. Some publications are free in their entirety and can also be downloaded; however, many publications deny user downloads. If you like an Issuu, simply save it to a stack in your profile (you can make them public or private). I have rarely seen an Issuu get removed, which means you can always return to it later if you can’t read it all in one sitting.

Death & Dying by Berkeley Scientific Journal was published in 2013. Unless you are familiar with academic journals, you probably don’t understand the importance of them. Scientific findings and research are conducted constantly and academic journals (also called scientific journals) publish findings, research, theses, and more. Typically, you will find a list of other resources to reference or review at the end of each article within the journal as well. It’s like a bread crumb trail of relevant resources.

Some academic journals are only available to subscribers and can be rather expensive. Online resources like Issuu can help you acquire some of them for free. Other locations that might have academic journals for you to research include: public libraries, universities (free to access on campus or with a student account) and Google Scholar.

Preparing for Death and Helping the Dying Buddhist PerspectivePreparing for Death & Helping the Dying: A Buddhist Perspective is a text first published in 1999. This digital version was published in 2003. Culturally relevant perspectives are a great addition to the death and dying subject.

Other online resources for cultural understanding can include TED Talks, Academic Journals, Religious websites (official main site for that culture), and Google Scholar.

[Some of the publications are self-published works that have had little to no editing. With these resources, I suggest reading them as an “opinion” piece rather than academic fact.]

One of the most amazing publications available on Issuu is the More to Death magazine. This publication is relevant to the UK, but can still be used for research and information regardless of location. If you like what you see on Issuu and want to receive their publications directly to your inbox, sign up here.

More to Death Magazine Issuu

 


Subscription Required

Other resources are available; however, you might need to check out your local public library or university for access (free in many cases through these locations).

OMEGA: Journal of Death and Dying

Listen & Learn

Sometimes, you just don’t have time to sit and read for hours, it’s understandable. Resources on death and dying are also available through audio and video formats. Check out NPR and YouTube contain several resources and typically come at no charge. Other paid for sites that have resources include Audible, Kobo, Google Play, Overdrive (some libraries offer free access) and Audio Editions is a great resource for purchasing audio-books.


Want to share your resources for topics on death and dying? Submit them in the comments.