The last weeks have been hard. We’ve all lost someone, either in immediate relationship or by at most a few degrees of separation, in the tragedies of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We as a nation are dealing with a loss of innocence (“It can’t happen here”) and a sense of our own vulnerability. The financial services industry has been particularly hard hit. We’ve done our best at the magazine over the past few issues to help you cope with crisis in your business, but we haven’t gotten too far into the emotional toll of these tragedies.
We thought that now might be a good time to look at books that deal with grieving and memorial services. Those who have lost friends, coworkers, and family are dealing not only with crisis management in their businesses but also the added strain of carrying their grief.
While grief can’t be easily set aside, neither can it be walled up forever. Sooner or later it must be dealt with, and while the many memorial services, candlelight vigils, and concerts to benefit the families of the September 11 victims have helped, there’s a time when the vigil is over, the service ends, the concert’s last notes die away, and everyone must face their mourning alone.
There are ways to deal with grief that can help you get through it to the other side, when life seems worth living again and events, while touched with sadness, no longer seem like exercises in futility.
Remembering Well: Rituals for Celebrating Life and Mourning Death, by Sarah York (Jossey-Bass, 2000), a Unitarian Universalist minister, offers some very practical and caring advice on how to construct meaningful memorials and ceremonies that can accommodate not only the pain of loss but the anger at the cause, the fear of the future, and the other feelings that accompany grief and pain. York’s sensitive advice and examples of rituals she has conducted suggest departure points for constructing rituals of your own to remember those you have lost or simply to deal with the pain of seeing the deaths of so many, so quickly. Particularly for those who have lost business friends, who may not have been able to attend memorial services, or who may have felt keenly the lack of a conventional funeral with remains and a casket, there are some truly inspired suggestions here for acknowledging the pain and remembering the dead.
The book includes resources to further help readers who wish to construct such a ceremony: books for readings, places to turn for information on scattering ashes, and even a workshop on life, loss, and healing.
When a Lifemate Dies: Stories of Love, Loss, & Healing, edited by Susan Heinlein, Grace Brumett, and Jane-Ellen Tibbals (Fairview Press, 1997), offers first-person accounts, poetry, and other writings by those who have lost the person closest to them. Sharing the pain of a death, of a loss, can be particularly helpful, and one of the particular values of this book is its descriptions, in the various essays and offerings, of all the stages and emotions of grief. For a person who is grieving, it can be reassuring and even comforting to know that a range of feelings–not just anger or sadness–is a normal part of the process. Of particular help might be the second chapter of the book, “Interrupted Conversations.” These particularly poignant writings deal with sudden death by murder, accident, and other traumas.
Life Is Goodbye; Life Is Hello: Grieving Well Through All Kinds of Loss, by Alla Renee Bozarth, Ph.D. (Hazelden, 1986), is a guide to mourning, whether the cause is death or some other loss. Bozarth explains the stages of grief and the ways that it can manifest itself, and offers guidance in how to get through it without losing oneself in the pain. Moving poems and a list of resources in the back add to the book’s helpfulness.
Last but not least is the classic by Elisabeth K
bler-Ross, On Death and Dying (Scribner, 1997). While not strictly about grieving, this groundbreaking book looks at attitudes toward death, including that of the person himself who is dying or of the dying person’s loved ones. It, too, offers comfort in understanding the attitudes of those faced with death, and can be invaluable in helping to deal with the mourning process sxthat follows.
Whatever your loss on September 11, we wish to offer what comfort we can. And we leave you with this anonymous poem quoted in Remembering Well:
I Am Not There
Do not stand at my grave
I am not there.
I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds
I am the diamond glints
I am the sunlight
on ripened grain.
I am the gentle
When you awaken
in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds
in circled flight.
I am the soft stars
that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave
I am not there; I did not die.