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This is a Repost of an Earlier Article on Grief. It is important to grieve and fans grieve just like family. This is an extra long Post and I hope you print it out and refer back to it.


Bereavement Burns Like A Fire (286 hits)

This is what I learned from grief counseling:

Bereavment is like the fire that burns at the door to a room. Everyone must go through the bereavement process when somebody dies and it hurts any which way you look at it. You can stay in one corner/place of the room and like the fire, it will totally engulf you.

Or, you can take the painful steps to walk out of the door and get burned. Meanwhile, as you move to a new life/free space, the fires snuffs out behind you. Either way involves work and pain.

What is the difference between grieving and bereavement?

Grieving is to cause the emotion of sorrow and is triggered by the sudden loss of somebody (or thing).

Bereavement is the loss of a loved one leaving one feeling alone.

The two go hand-in-hand as a process with no definite time period when someone has died.

Thus, the saying, "During your hour of bereavement," means during the time you feel "lonely."

This is when traditionally, friends and family come together to be "near" the person who has lost a loved one and this is the time when friends and family need to be around while the "bereaved" person adjusts to life without their loved one.

Can you help somebody snuff out the fire of breavement?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness at www.nami.org
The Center for Loss at www.centerforless.com
The American Association of Pastoral Counseling at www.aapc.org

Is on the other side of the fire...

Agnes B. Levine
Author of: "Cooling Well Water: A Collection of Work By An African-American Bipolar Woman" ISBN 0975461206 Winter 2008 Release Pending


HONORING THE GRIEF PROCESS: Part 1 of 3 (350 hits)

(Rerun Article With Amendments)

At the top of the previous week, I was persistently nagged by the muse. I absolutely adore the muse and she and I are best friends. However, sometimes it is hard to understand her whispers. So last week was an anxious week for me and I could not quite put my finger on it. I tossed and I turned a few nights. I had dreams three of those nights where the muse presented herself in the background.

As far as my anxiety went, I tried to arrest it by journaling, but that did not work. I continued to feel annoyed and bothered by something I could not touch, or feel, or otherwise identify. By the end of the week, while having a conversation with a friend about breast cancer and my anxiety, it hit me over the head like a sledge. It was the anniversary of my father’s death. He died from colon cancer (seven) years ago. I had to catch my breath and step back to allow myself to feel, to grieve. It was frustrating to me for a second that I did not immediately remember the significance of the week. Then I realized that, no, it was frustrating to me that I tried to AVOID the significance of the week, but could not. There was a distinct difference. As soon as I realized that, the muse comforted me.

During the time that I allowed myself to grieve after my father’s transition, I reflected on what grief meant to me. It was the fear that my family was broken up. We had always supported each other in some fashion or another and daddy was the head gluing it all together. It is the sorrow, deep sorrow of having to suddenly live without a person in your life that makes you grieve. Sorrow can be felt with separations/break-ups, divorces, or moving to new places, but it is more typically associated with the death of a loved one. We can be very frustrating and annoying as we become adjusted to the major life change. Some people retreat within one's self and don’t want to be bothered with socializing and especially, answering questions about how they feel. It is a natural time to process the reality of losing that special loved one. It is a time to be naturally angry about the loss.

For me, when my father first transitioned, I was immensely terrified. I worried that without him, could we still be a family? My father was my rock through very difficult situations I had to experience in order to be who I am. He was my pillar of strength on earth that kept the fire ignited under me to "not give up!” I began feeling very lonely after his transition. It was during this time that I renewed my relationship with church---not God, but church. This spiritual socializing allowed me to find the strength to accept God’s will better than I thought I already had. It also gave me the courage to talk about my relationship with my father and what his death meant to me. That was an important step in healing for me because I talked to people who did not know my history and could offer me sincere spiritual comfort without any biases. Even though I have a mental illness, I grieved like my other family members. Too often, mentally ill persons are over-looked as not being in touch with reality enough to grieve. People can be insensitive without meaning to be, too. My family walked around me whispering about arrangements and details like I was "stupid" because they feared I would "go off." Well, another "sane" family member went off instead, sooo....??? I used my coping skills to help that member. Smile.

So, does a mentally ill person grieve or not? Yes. Now, what to do with that person?

The same things you would do to help a non-mentally ill person, but maybe lovingly remind him/her to take his/her medications and strive to keep his/her same mental wellness plan during the mourning/grieving stages.

Embrace that individual and recognize any changes in his/her behavior.

Inform the mental healthcare providers immediately of any such changes and in certain cases, notify his/her mental healthcare provider of the loss of a family member for preventive measures to prevent triggering the mental illness symptoms.

Definitely involve your church community for help and support with a family member with a mental illness during this time.

Hug them!

During my seven-month mourning/grieving time, I also had my meltdown. It was the best thing I could have ever experience while feeling alone in my life. It hurt like you would not believe (if you never lost a close, loved one). On this particular day, I returned home from a busy day at work. As I entered my apartment, I thought I would change clothes and run over to my parents' like I often did before daddy died. Suddenly, it hit me that I would never, ever hear my father’s voice again. I would never see his face, smell his stinking Old Spice cologne, or breathe in that rotten-egg odor of his Blue Magic shaving crème ever again. I realized I was going to miss the way daddy tended to warm everything up in one pot, drench it with ketchup, and then feast with a look of content.

Those memories contrasted sharply with the reality of losing my parent too soon and made my chest form into a tight, painful knot. I grabbed at my chest and fell over onto the floor. I truly thought I was having a heart attack because it just hurt so bad. Grieving hurts physically and many people will "shut down" as soon as it starts to hurt. It could be out of fear of dying themselves. For me, however, the feeling of relief and liberation from pain was over-whelming by the time I stopped throwing myself all over the floor (oops, I went "off"). I felt as if the blinds and the patio door opened and fresh air poured in. I gradually felt better. I had just grieved my heart out because I was human and then it felt good. The healing power of letting go and allowing yourself permission to grieve naturally brings you to a certain level of peace. The fond memories of the deceased individual over-shadows the loss over time. This does not mean, however, that from time to time thinking about a deceased loved one will not cause you pain or to cry because it is natural to miss somebody. It just gets easier to cope and live. Could this be why folks say, "She died of a broken heart after her husband of 50 years passed away?" Is this why my grandfather unexpectantly died exactly six months after my grandmother?

What happens when indiviudals do not honor the grieving process?

When individuals do not honor the natural grieving process, they set themselves up for a host of mental health issues beginning with "situational depression" which can lead to a more serious problem. What comes to mind is a local politician whose husband committed suicide. Their teenage son also committed suicide two years later. What was quoted in the local newspaper was: "John (not real name) never got over his father's death." That "getting over" part is the inability to get pass the grieving stage. That is an example of how situational depression can lead to more serious mental health issues. Situational depression is the extended period of deep sadness. It is triggered by a situation occurring in your life at that time and will usually go away within a two-week time period. During this time, you will feel many of the classic symptoms of depression so you should be aware of what those symptoms are. In my book, "Cooling Well Water: A Collection of work by an African-American Bipolar Woman," I share with reader all the classic symptoms of major mental illnesses. It zaps your energy and makes you unable to focus. We all experience this type of depression at times in our lives.

Everybody grieves differently in his/her own way. We must respect each other's grief process and remain a support mechanism regardless of his/her manner of grieving (see Part 3).

Now, some people go from mourning to grieving right away and others may take longer to get from the first stage to the next. The important thing is to get through those stages and there is help for those who cannot find their way.

This weekend is a sorrowful time for all of us who love Jennifer Hudson. Is it possible to grieve for, or with, a celebrity? Yes.

We may have periods of sadness and may even feel irritated without recognizing that it is tied to Ms. Hudson's tragic loss because we love Ms. Hudson. I have learned that it is reality that "fans" actually do grieve for celebrity deaths as well. With the tragedy involving a disc jockey in my locale, the radio show allowed fans of the DJ to call in all day and express themselves. There was a Psychologist who spoke to fans as well to encourage them to grieve for the DJ (Kaye Swift) and she explained how it was necessary and healing to do so even though the fans were not family. We grow to love celebrities through their art and it is natural to feel a sense of loss along with them. It is also possible to hurt for them. We imagine ourselves in that situation and our emotions surface naturally.

With the sudden tragedy in Jennifer Hudson's family and the (untimely) death of other celebrities such as the Levert brothers, there is the same degree of "grief" even though fans are not "family." It is ok to cry and grieve with a celebrity in honor of the grieving process. In my spiritual journey, I have come to understand why fans will pile stuffed animals and flowers, etc. at celebrity's home, etc. They must do something to express their emotions of sorrow and need to support somebody they hold in high esteem. It is therapy/healing.

But should you grieve for people who live on the wrong side of the law? Guess what happens in this situation?

(See Part 2 of 3 -because of the length of this original article I wrote, I split it up:).

Posted Sunday, October 26th 2008 at 9:02AM by: Agnes Levine


HONORING THE GRIEF PROCESS (Part 2 of 3) (331 hits)

(Rerun Article With Amendments)

Everyone grieves differently. Men and women do not grieve the same. Women will talk more readily and easily to anybody about their hurts. They reach out and are emotional, but men will process feelings of grief more internally. Men will not typically ask for help coping with death or communicate that they are feeling sad. They consciously opt for isolation. I have seen other people who do not honor the grief process after losing someone to slip into a deep, deep depression. I have seen others resort to alcohol, drugs, or even promiscuity. Have you seen this?

Women will often choose the intimacy route while they grieve while men will usually choose the social route (i.e., activities with male friends). Neither reaction to death is necessarily wrong. However, if actions become extreme such as anger transformed into physical violence (anger is a normal emotion), there is definitely cause for alarm. If an individual becomes immobilized due to depression, there is cause for alarm. It is very true that when people are hurting, they will hurt others. Thus, it may be wise to keep a safe distance from someone going through his/her anger stage to stay mentally well yourself. At the minimum, recognize that it is normal anger and do not take it personally. Of course, stay out of the way of persons being physically aggressive and seek mental healthcare for that person as well.

Communication and knowledge are two key factors to coping successfully with grief. If a woman allows her mate to know that she is there if he is ready to talk, the man will be assured and comforted that somebody really cares about him. If, and when, he is ready he knows who to turn to. Of course, if he isolates himself or chooses to surround himself with friends, that should be respected. Likewise, a man may need to be extra patient when the woman in his life needs to talk it out as she deals with her grief. She may need to be cuddled more frequently as she works through the grief process. Understanding, of course, that people sense when folks are acting out of the norm and they should be prepared to help those folks find positive coping skills.

Did you know that according to statistics, the holidays are an especially difficult time for anyone who has ever lost a loved one? Therefore, it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and so it may be wise to ease up on the spiked holiday pies (smile) during the season. This may be very true if this is your first holiday without your loved one and you normally partake in alcohol. Instead, reach out to friends and family honestly over the next coming weeks. When asked how you are doing, respond honestly by saying something along the lines of, “It is a hard day for me. I thought about John ready to hunt for a tree. Etc., etc., etc." On the flip side, take an extra moment to ask a friend or relative about his or her day. However, be respectful if he or she does not want to talk about his or her loss. Another idea is to suggest doing something for the person or with the person. For example, "You and John always shopped for a tree after Thanksgiving. Would you like to join Pete and me this year?” Never assume that a person who is grieving will not want to keep family traditions on holidays. There are many ways we can operate within the family to help each other and usually when we help someone, we all feel good.

If your family is like many other families, sometimes there is some drama going on around holiday time. It is stressful enough getting through the holidays without your loved one. Considering that Jesus is the reason for the season, a good suggestion is to resolve issues peacefully before the holiday. If this cannot be done, perhaps all parties involved in the matter can agree to put the matter aside until after the holidays and then revisit it. You will be surprised how true reflection on the season can bring harmony to many families!

We live in a society that knows tragedy too well. In light of the shocking news of the death of Michael Jackson, we are paying attention to situation depressions. While we are very much feeling some pain and sorrow for Mr. Jackson and his family and must pray for his children for the journey ahead, we must remember also the average family that experiences similar deaths that do not gain media attention. We must remember even those grieving the loss of someone who lived on the wrong side of the law (gang members, drug dealers, etc.).

Unfortunately, there are a lot of deaths of young people in black communities today due to shootings, gang violence, drugs, etc.. That translates into a lot of grieving by our youth especially. It is difficult for youths to experience death. Their hurt is real, but we adults often look away because we focus on the "crime." Perhaps much of the gang violence, etc. happening around us today is directly linked or associated to the uncontrollable anger spawned by grief. What do you think about that possibility?

IWe should focus on the positive contributions Mr. Michael Jackson made to music. He is and was a legendary gifted musician and extraordiaanry dancer genius marking history for generations to come and the world will never see another.

We can support each other as fans just like we are family. Ww can do better at helping each other get through the grieving process and doing so will have an impact on mental illnesses in our black communities. (See Part 3).

Agnes B. Levine
Author of: "Cooling Well Water: A Collection of Work By An African-American Bipolar Woman" ISBN 0975461206 Winter 2008 Release Pending
www.myspace.com/coolingwellwater (Subscribe Now)

Posted Sunday, October 26th 2008 at 10:23AM by: Agnes Levine

HONORING THE GRIEF PROCESS (Part 3 of 3) (287 hits)

(Rerun Article With Amendments)

Help has arrived...

When we ignore the need to take care of our mental health under extreme circumstances such as the death of a loved one, we are destined for continued failure to defeat the high proportion of blacks suffering from an untreated mental illness.

Considering that the black community does not address this element affecting our youth especially, there will be visible harm in the future. This can mean physical abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression, and a host of other issues as a consequence of those bad choices such AIDS/HIV. Therefore, it is necessary for the black community to accept ways to heal the family by focusing more on the mental well-being of grieving family members to help people get through any death.

Often, we rush to a loved one's home when a tragedy occurs and we walk away after the funeral. That is fine for immediate support, but we need to follow up when we say, “I’m there for you.” We need to take initiative more and be there for someone two months down the road or six months down the road. We often take for granted that people adjust and move on when in fact they do not or cannot, but they hide under the surface and put on a public face. If killings have increased in a community, then so has grief. What is being done constructively about healing grief in your family, community?

Did you know that many, if not most, funeral homes offer some type of grief counseling? Did you know that many organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness offer some type of grief counseling or support groups in your area?

Did you know that you can contact many hospice organizations and connect with some form of grief counseling?

Did you know that the Department of Social Services can refer you to grief counseling for youths and victims and family members who lost a loved one due to violence?

Have you confided in your doctor that you are struggling with depression since a loved one died?

Have you spoken with your pastor about grieving and spirituality? The emotion of anger is normal and God understands because He designed us to grieve.

There are so, so many ways to grieve and each person has his/her own time frame for grieving. It is normal to be afraid of honoring the grieving process and it is alright to reach out to others to help you process grief. Let's hug ourselves for Mr. Michael Jackson and everybody who has lost family members. Let's call that family member today that we kind of let slip by after the funeral to just say, "Hi. How are you today?"

Lastly, do not be ashamed to participate in grief counseling. My family did it to help my mother and it changed our world in terms of coping and living without daddy. It pulled our family together closer than we were before. It allowed all of us to reach a level of peace where we can talk about daddy and laugh about his ways and what-nots and grieve with each other and alone in a healthy way. So can you...

Tip: Just as we set personal goals for other areas of our lives, we can honor the grieving process doing the same thing such as (in my case), “in three months I will have all the basic tools (hammer, screwdriver, car jack) I need and fix things around my house myself.—after all, I’ve seen daddy do it a million times.”

Also, network with other grieving families or individuals through your mental healthcare support base.

"I will never leave you--
Even though I grieve you--
I will always keep you--
Right here in my heart..."

Gail Rosen, Gilcrest Hospice, www.hospiceofbaltimore.org;


March Funeral Homes,




Posted Sunday, October 26th 2008 at 11:04AM by: Agnes Levine

Agnes B. Levine
Levine-Oliver Publisher
Posted By: agnes levine
Thursday, June 25th 2009 at 7:44PM
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