Difficult discussions

ImageThis afternoon a colleague at work who is having a difficult time right now came in. Her father is dying. I went to give her a hug and reminded her just how strong she is but that it’s alright to be upset. Normally when she is in the building, it rings with the sounds of her laughter. Not so today. She went about her work and so did I. As I was leaving this afternoon she called me over and asked me one of the most difficult things I think I have ever had to answer. “How do you go about planning a funeral”? She continued that she knew I had been heavily involved in the planning of the funeral for my baby brother and wondered how I did it. I gave her a few general answers and told her that I would help her in any way that I could.

Now that I am home, I have thought about a few things that I could have said but I will jot them down and share them with her later. Provided she is there tomorrow. That’s entirely dependent on how much longer her father is with us.

When I came home I went looking for the Order of Services from the funerals of my grandmother and baby brother so I can show them to her tomorrow. She wants to make things as personal as she can for her father’s farewell and is interested to see what I put together for the funerals of my loved ones. I couldn’t find my hard copies (they must be in a box somewhere safely stored away) so I searched my external hard drive for the digital files to email to myself at work. Whilst I was searching I found copies of eulogies I have delivered and also the closing remarks I gave at Peter’s funeral. I’ll share those thoughts with you toward the end.

My whole point of this post is to wonder how we deal with difficult discussions in our life (such as the one I had this afternoon). Do we tend to gloss over things for fear of hurting the other person or do we stick strictly to the facts? Do we tell them what we think they might want to hear or do bludgeon them with the truth. Of course I had to be truthful with some aspects e.g. the high costs involved but I side-stepped other issues because I was uncomfortable and I knew that I shouldn’t be. I am honoured that she asked me but scared of saying the wrong thing. Tell me, how do you handle difficult discussions? I truly would like to know.

In closing I would like to share some of my closing remarks from my brother’s funeral. When I consider that I spoke them three ago, I am floored because my thoughts are no different today than they were then.

“As I was lying in bed this morning with a thousand thoughts running through my head, I thought of this quote that I have read hundreds of times:

‘Life is too short for drama and petty things, so kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly, and forgive quickly.’

This week has taught me that it is the little things in life that count.  I remember a conversation that Peter had with (the Tween) one afternoon when she came home and said that she hated someone at school.   He spoke to her about what a horrible word ‘hate’ was. He explained that nothing or nobody in life is that bad that we should hate them. We can dislike them certainly but hate is a strong word. Hate has caused wars and countless, senseless acts. The last conversation I had with Peter was whilst he was in hospital, and we both told each other how much we loved each other. That is one of my treasured memories. So, I have made a conscious decision to not waste my time on the petty things in life. Life is too short. I think we’ve seen just how short it can be. And how quickly things can change our world. Life is for telling the people we love just how much they mean to us. It is for enjoying the sunshine and the breeze on our face. It is for seeing the beauty in the ordinary. It is for making each day count. It is for laughing and taking joy in the everyday moments. So if there is one thing we can take from our experiences with Peter, it is that he was not afraid of living and he enjoyed every moment of it. I have one final quote that I found yesterday. It is called ‘When I am Gone’.

When I am gone

When I am gone, release me – let me go. I have so many things to see and do. You must not tie yourself to me with tears. Be happy that we had so many years. I gave you love. You can only guess how much you gave me in happiness. I thank you for the love each have shown but now it is time that I travelled alone. So grieve awhile for me if grieve you must, then let your grief be comforted by trust. It is only for a while that we must part, so bless those memories within your heart. I will not be far away, for life goes on. So if you need me, call and I will come. Though you cannot see or touch me, I will be near. And if you listen with your heart, you will hear. All of my love around you,  soft and clear. Then when you must come this way alone, I will greet you with a smile and ‘Welcome Home’.

Have a blessed day 🙂

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33 thoughts on “Difficult discussions

  1. Thanks so much for sharing Sue. “When I am gone” is so poignant and lovely.
    I agree – “Life is for telling the people we love just how much they mean to us. It is for enjoying the sunshine and the breeze on our face. It is for seeing the beauty in the ordinary. It is for making each day count. It is for laughing and taking joy in the everyday moments.”
    Your brother sounds like a very special person.
    Regrading the difficult conversation – Your colleague is lucky to have someone with such empathy and compassion, as well as practical help at this difficult time. Speaking from the heart and offering support can be difficult for many of us …. but its just what is needed. It also takes courage to face the reality of death and acknowledge the cycle of life.
    Quite a day eh?…. hugs to you.

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    1. Yes it was Val. Coupled with the fact that I seem to be making a lot of mistakes at work and my head space isn’t so great, it was a big thing to be asked.
      My brother was special but he was also a first class pain in the butt. And he knew it! 🙂
      Thanks for the hugs.

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  2. Beautiful words and quote.

    I wish I knew how to have difficult discussions. In the last few years, avoidance has been my crutch. When I’m not thinking of myself and my loss (which is so selfish), something kicks in and I know what to say, or do.

    It’s kind of like an emotional detachment. Kind of like the day my mom and I discovered my brother’s body. The grown up in me had to take over, because the little one in me was falling to pieces. It was up to me to choose his casket, let everybody know the date and time, pay for it.

    He had a military funeral, so it was short, and nobody was allowed to speak. They did a gun salute. I had to say all the right things to all the right people. It was something I did, something I didn’t think about.

    I believe we tend to over-think at times. The best words are the ones that come from the heart.

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    1. I think it is normal to detach in moments of extreme stress. I’ve been where you are where you are having to put one foot in front of the other and wear the outward mask whilst you are mush on the inside.
      Kinda sucks being a grown up doesn’t it April?

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      1. Yes. Add to that the mask of hidden depression so that nobody knows you aren’t “normal”. No, I don’t want to grow up, but I’m glad I have progressed a little. I hope your co-worker finds peace and strength during her time of struggle.

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        1. April, you are ‘normal’. You always were and still are. You are normal with a mental illness – no different than normal with a sprained ankle really. They both come with their challenges.

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  3. If you don’t mind I’m going to share the “When I am Gone” portion of this with a fellow blogger who needs it right now.

    As for you question, I believe that the answer is different for each person. But, I’ll share my experience. When my step father was in the hospital, we all knew that he was dying. We knew that nothing the doctors did would change the inevitable. With that said, as much as the truth hurt, it was necessary and greatly appreciated. Of course, the truth should be presented lovingly. It is an extremely tough conversation. I vividly remember the moment the doctor was flat out honest with us. Even though it felt like we were hit with a load of bricks, we knew the truth before he ever said it. We were prepared.

    I honestly don’t know if this comment is still focused on your question or if it has turned into more of an emotional release for me. My wound is still very fresh… and I must stop writing now. I know you will make the right choice, whatever it may be.

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    1. I don’t know how doctor’s do it sometimes. We had the same conversations with Peter’s doctors.
      I’m sorry that your wound is still fresh. It will heal and the scarring will form. The pain lessens but never goes away.
      Blessings to you my friend.

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  4. Oh Suz – you know this you are just saying now – saying sorry for your losses is just not enough really is it. Your beautiful words just say so much.
    To answer the question you posed:
    I don’t think you actually have much to worry about to be fair – you are the perfect sort of person that one would want to have around when dealing with such a difficult situation.
    I think the words and the actions will just come naturally and the best thing anyone can do is be gentle and be themselves I think. (I think you are referring to ALL difficult discussions – but I am sure it is the same for all such things?)

    The organising side of funerals must be so hard – And I think id=f there is someone not so emotionally connected that can assist in all the ADMIN side 😉 then it takes a huge weight off.

    It opens up the individuals to feel and know how best they wish to remember their loved one. They can focus more on the ‘sentimental side’ the words – the atmosphere – the person departed.

    I was so grateful to my sister when our mum passed away. She had just buried her mum in law due to cancer and a2 weeks later she was burying her own mother. I lived about 8 hours away at the time. They had in mind for a family friend to do eulogy and they declined due to them a=having anxiety problems. My sister was a bit stressed – so I offered to do it— it just kind of rolled off my tongue!! And I ALMOST regretted it – and wished I could have swallowed the offer as I thought ‘Oh – that means standing up and actually speaking infront all those folks….but that is what happens – if you are yourself you just do what comes to your heart and it is pretty much normally the right thing to do.

    I have actually just answered a question I needed to answer for myself regarding a choice \i have to make at the moment!! Funny stuff – I love it!! (Nothing serious or life changing but it was bugging me!) Follow your heart babe 😉 Your mind will work with you on these things. Grace will shine through – it is in your heart!!!! God Bless.

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    1. I bet you’ve never regretted doing the eulogy have you? I’ve delivered more eulogies than I wish that I had ever had to and I’ve regretted not one of them.
      I helped plan and then also officiated at my brother’s funeral because he didn’t want anyone else to do it. Part of me was so touched at that but the other part just fell apart. The rest of my family have all told me that they want me to do the same for them. I won’t repeat what I said when they told me 😉
      I hope that the words I wrote out for her this morning will help.

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      1. I absolutely do not regret it! It was about her – not me hey. I think that is the general atmosphere around these sorts of things: It is not about us 😉

        As for your families request – yes – I can imagine. Crap thought to carry around as well. Just imagine sitting around for tea and cake and what going through your head is pretty words to say at their funerals!? 😉 NEVER! That is cruel.

        I am glad you came to some words to help your friend Suz 😀

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        1. Not really. At the time it was like “Oh, placing a bit of responsibility on me aren’t you”? Then I felt flattered that they would trust me to conduct their funerals. After I felt the whole “why me” and let it go, I’ve just filed it away for future reference. Life is so busy that I don’t have time to worry about it. Besides, my brother might wish that he had NEVER asked me 😉

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  5. This is such a powerful post. Although death is part of life we often fear it or shy away from it. It’s part of our culture, I suppose. I love what followed When I am Gone.
    Sometimes holding hands and silence is what is needed in these difficult times.
    I like the photo you posted. There’s something about the flow of life in it.

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    1. Thank you Carol. Yes death is a part of life and culture however because it is such a painful thing for people to deal with, it makes it difficult to discuss. I agree sometimes just being there for someone is all that is needed.

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  6. Your eulogy is beautiful. I lost a close friend last year- we spoke openly about his impending death as we knew he would not recover from the cancer he had. We talked about his feelings about it, he wrote beautiful letters to his children to be given to them after he was gone. He and I tied up our own loose ends.We talked about how he would like to remembered, Everyone is different when it comes to dealing with death and how they can or cannot handle the discussion. Some people choose the path of avoidance, it is hard to face death. But it can be a relief for a person to unburden themselves by talking about their fears, finishing things before it is too late. I have attended funerals where the person’s life was “celebrated”- people were asked to share a short remembrance. There were photographs in the “visiting” area giving people a glimpse into the person’s life. Speaking from the heart can never be a wrong choice.

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    1. Thank you. Your words are important.
      I’m sorry for your loss but I’m pleased that you had a chance to speak with him and make peace with his death.
      I was so pleased that the last words I ever spoke to my brother were “I love you”.

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      1. it is a comfort to look back and know you were able to have had that moment with your brother.You just reminded me of a patient I used to visit who would tell,every person she spoke with on the phone “I love you” before she hung up.(I was there one time when this occurred) Then she would tell them “let me hear it” When she hung up she told me she didn’t want anyone to have regrets for not having said it if she didn’t make it. Sadly, she died shortly after (42 yrs old) but she gave the people in her life that she loved no regrets for not having told her they loved her.

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  7. Thanks for sharing your very personal thoughts here. You are right, it is very difficult to feel sure to say the right things in such a situation. I feel, that your intuition may help you here. It is not possible to stay objective, when it is about the death. We can’t change that anyway, but I do understand, that you wish to do all the right thing.
    I think, that I would use my intuition best possible and try to sense, where your friend needs the help and come in there with your support and knowledge.
    Irene

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  8. Beautiful post.

    I want an Irish-Viking funeral. Sobriety expressly forbidden, celebrate the life that was, put me in my longship set alight in glorious blaze, and cast me out upon the final waves.

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  9. Connecting with people on a deeper level like that is a gift. Even though the subject matter is difficult, to be asked that by someone shows what kind of a friend you are that she would even ask you. All we can do is be supportive and answer the best we know how. Sounds like you were there for her supporting her. Hugs!

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    1. Thank you Laura. To be honest, I wasn’t aware that she even knew how involved I was in everything at the time of my brother’s death. We have almost 50 staff in our workplace and although I know each and every one of them, sharing personal details with them all is not something that I do. If I can help her in some way I will.

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