Some memories never fade!
It was May 16, 1955, early morning, and my dog, Chum, was barking, non-stop. As the family slept, my Pekinese Chum’s bedroom had always been in the kitchen by his food and water on a leash with the red hand loop around the doorknob of the kitchen-basement door. Chum’s non-stop barking was not the norm!!
From the North, upstairs bedroom, I sped quickly downstairs to discover that the kitchen light was on, and the closer I came to the kitchen door, awareness screamed that there was a problem. On the kitchen cupboard counter to the right of the refrigerator was a half full glass of milk, the refrigerator door was open, and Mom, in her nightgown, was lying on her right side on the floor in spilled milk with her head resting against the counter door and the bottom ledge of refrigerator door opening.
Immediately, I beckoned Dad, moved Mom to the middle of the kitchen, and began artificial respiration. Dad went immediately to the telephone and called an ambulance; and, as the two of us traded turns doing artificial respiration and checking Mom’s pulse, we knew it was too late. Dad’s wife, love and partner, and my mom had passed away, suffering a pulmonary embolism. She was 46.
Dad cancelled the ambulance and called the coroner; and when a hearse arrived, Mom was taken to Carlson Funeral Home. At the time, my brother, Dan, was 10, I was 15, and Dad was 46. Life would never be the same for the three of us. Reflecting on the transition after Mom’s death, it has always felt like there were too many things that needed to be done and grieving would come later; or, perhaps, we did not know how to grieve.
My grieving process would not begin for some 20 years later, 1975, at the Personal Arts Center, Golden, Colorado. Visits to the Personal Arts Center had been initiated during transition when my seven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage had come to live with my current wife and me. The topic for one evening was grief. To start the session, participants were seated in a circle and our facilitator requested that we each share an experience of grief. My sharing was of the death of Mom some 20 years ago; and the facilitator immediately detected the anger in my voice about Mom’s death. His request was for a volunteer female participant to play the role of my mom and for Mom and me to have a conversation. In front of the group Mom and I sat on a couch, and with the help of the facilitator, Mom and I began a conversation with her in the casket and while she was doing the Tuesday weekly, family ironing. Wow is all I can say! This conversation had waited for 20 years and was well overdue; and the grieving process concerning Mom’s death was underway; continues today; and the frequent conversations with her are therapeutic and offer a sense of peace and comfort. I miss her physical presence; however, it always feels like she is here with me. Today it feels like proper, timely grieving is essential for peace-of-mind.
In 1987 a work associate shared the SARA grief cycle at breakfast. The associate openly admitted that he was grieving because I had been selected for a position that he felt should have been his. Our conversation was quite moving as he shared that the “S” was shock, the “A” was anger, the “R” was rationalization, and the last “A” was for acceptance. As one grieves, we cycle, and recycle, through the four emotions, each in our own way and each in our own time, often moving from shock to acceptance or from rationalization to anger, and the other combinations of SARA. Awareness of the process and being with emotion experienced is critical for grieving, simply sit in the flames of the tortuous emotion being experienced.
Mindfulness and awareness of the personal nature of the “slinky-like,” SARA grieving process has been fruitful for Mom’s death and other lost ones. Whether it is shock, anger, rationalization, or acceptance, the objective is to be with the experience of the created emotion. Sit in the flames, face everything, fear nothing, and do it in your own way and in your own time. SARA works! Grieving is definitely individual, process, and essential.