Manataka™ American Indian Council

HEALTH WATCH

Choices about Death, Dying, Grief, and Loss By Dr. Cheryl Dusty, Manataka Member

I recently lost my grandmother and mother within 5 days of each other shortly before Christmas. Granny was just short of 99 years old and mom was 86. Granny was very ready to cross over and mom was a surprise, although she had Alzheimer’s.

Even though I have done hospice volunteer work and am very aware of the stages of dying as well as the grief process, there's nothing like a firsthand reminder of the how it affects us all.

5 years ago, when I was diagnosed with AML (leukemia) and given a 20% chance at survival, I had plenty of personal time to get to the acceptance phase of believing that I would die. It was a strange process for me because I've heard my Angels speak to me since about the age of 5 or 6, and the confusion came because the age of transition wasn't holding true, after all the other information had. So I had to move into an acceptance phase that each soul has the option of changing the contracts that we created before we came to be human beings. Then came the remembrance that, given free will, I was the one who held the key to the future, in whatever form I chose.

During a near death experience in this time period, I was given a choice of going home or continuing the work I had begun. I chose the more difficult path and made the decision to continue here. Does that make me wiser, different, or special? No! Some days, it makes me question that decision and wonder what in the world I was thinking. LOL

For me, my path is about the empowerment of others. And empowerment gives you choices. So the question arises: what choice to I have about the death of 2 of the most important women in my life?

On one side of the coin, I have absolutely no choice about their deaths. That is a choice that each one of us is given and a decision that ultimately we make alone.

The flip side of the coin is my reaction to those deaths. Please understand, I have absolutely no fear of the death process or what happens after we pass over. I've had my own near death experience and "seen" where we go and what it feels like (it is good, trust me!). No, the flip side of the coin is about how we live after the loss.

Grief over the loss of a loved one is part of the healing process, preparing you to move into the next phase of your life. We short change ourselves when we believe that "keeping busy" or "getting back to our daily work life" will keep us focused and out of pain. Oh it will indeed keep us focused at the cost of stuffing away the feelings of loss and abandonment. And feelings don't stay hidden. They lie hidden, in wait, until a trigger event unleashes the pain and devastation and we produce a reaction to that event that seems out of proportion to the event itself.

So I want to give you permission, right now, to feel and experience the pain and grief that you may have hidden to an experience of loss in your life. Cry, be sad, talk about it, eat chocolate, get angry, jog until you can't run anymore, whatever it takes to experience and work through the pain and loss. Just don't do it and make those around you suffer the consequences like breaking a dish or vase while the innocent victims of your tirade wonder what they did to contribute to your feelings. It may take you a day or a week. You may need to get in your car and be alone, check into a motel, or take a cruise and stare at the water. You may need to walk for hours, or sit under a tree in the mountains. You may need to ask a best friend for a block of their time where they'll just listen to you and not offer advice. Whatever it is, you have my permission. It is ok. And you'll allow yourself to begin the healing process.

Grief comes in waves. It comes and goes. Unless you have been struggling with this issue for some time, one of these exercises may not be enough. That's ok too! If it becomes overwhelming, threatens your or someone else’s safety, keeps you from functioning in your day to day life, then please seek the help of a local mental health practitioner or a minister who's also been trained in the mental health field who can help you through the grief process. If you're loved one was under hospice care at the time of their transition, hospice professionals will also work with the family to process this change in their lives.

I know. I am a mental health professional who is also going through the process that connects us all.

Dr. Cheryl Dusty, Manataka Member

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