Welcome to Podcast #8

Welcome to Mother’s Backyard Buzz, a podcast where we “break the silent struggle” around grief by unpacking my book: My Backyard Garden – A Memoir of How Love Conquers Grief.  I am the author and your host, Debra Hester.  Chapter by chapter, I’ll move us deeper into what I included and didn’t include in my book that speaks to this journey we all take – called grief.

Explaining Extensions

Loved ones, when I decided to create the title for this podcast, the word extensions came to mind. Culturally, I thought about hair extensions, and I chuckled to myself and wondered what would happen in my listeners’ minds when they saw this title.  I thought if my listeners would wonder, now how is this girl gonna tie in extensions with grief. Well, I’m going to leave the hair extension analogy to you. If you can find and make a connection, let me know.  But I’m talking about a different kind of extension. I’m talking about an emotional extension. Just like we look at most other extensions, as a positive think, whether we are adding to our hair or adding on to our house, this extension is positive too.  So let’s start with thinking about grief as this emotional extension. I’ll start with me, and you can think about how this applies to you. What happens to me when someone tells me of their loss? I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt at least two responses. These responses are not in any particular order and it may seem to change order depending on how close I am to the person or not.

Responses to Death and Grief

Recently I was told about two people who died. The first one was a distant cousin. I had not met this cousin. And when I heard of his tragic accident, I immediately started feeling for the cousins that I did know who knew him.  Then I began wondering how his immediate family might be feeling since the pictures that were shared online looked as if he was a rather young man.  My heart and prayers went out to them all.  I thought about how difficult it must be to lose someone so unexpectedly and in the prime of their life.  Then, I thought of the impact on the children and also how the rest of the cousins and family members reached out to them, including myself, with support and words of encouragement.  I felt good about the support and responses that were given. It reinforced my belief that I am blessed with a very compassionate family.

The second person I heard about recently was a person that I grew up with, and he was about my age.  Our families know each other.  We hadn’t stayed in touch over the years.  However, because we spent so much time together in our formative years, there was a lifelong connection.  We would see each other at events, say hello, do a brief catch up and move on until the next time.  He had told me that he had overcome a severe illness and so I thought that he was doing better.  When I heard that he had passed on, I was shocked, somewhat bewildered and felt sad and a little ill.  I had to talk myself through it and come to the realization that even though the last time I saw him that he looked well, that must have changed.  I felt for a moment how his mother, brother and sister must feel.  How his family might need support at this time? So I thought about what can I do now for his family, so I needed to reach out to them and let them know I was available. Since I know that grief is a journey, at the right time in the future, I will reach out and share my book and podcasts as a resource to them also.

My point about sharing these two stories is that we all have some type of response.  Buy my question for us to consider is why?  I’d also like us to think about how we feel, and where do our emotions and thoughts go when we hear about the death of a person?

I seem to have a personal moment of silence. Regardless if I’m looking at the person or not, there is this moment of pause. I can be with them or can be reading or hearing about them and there is the same response.  A moment of pause. There is a second of stillness.  Now, I was exposed to the death of a close loved one early in my life, so I’m not sure if this is the reason or not. In the grief journey that I’m sharing with you, we may be with each other, or you may be ahead of or behind me in reflection and understanding.  So I encourage you to share with me your responses to hearing the news that someone has passed on.  But a response to hearing about death, I believe, is universal.  It’s personal, and different in everyone but a response happens. 

Being able to be ready and prepared to show empathy to ourselves and others is part of what breaking the silent struggle with grief is all about.  I think considering our very own and human response to hearing about the death of a person is worthy of discussion and reflection.  I believe getting the conversation about death, not just dying out here and talking about it will help us value life more.

On our last podcast, we talk about the emotional stages of grief. We talked about how I experienced them emotions in a not so sequential, logic, or prescribed way.  This time I just shared my reactions to the news of two people who I know died recently.  I want us to realize just how empathy probably already works in most, if not all of us and that we are connected and are extensions in life and in death.

Empathizing With Death

Can you imagine the emotions a mother goest through when she hears that her son or daughter was shot and killed? I’ve spent a lot of time on my grief journey after the loss of my mother to old age.  But when death is tragic, sudden and unexpected, it takes the feelings to another level of grief.  When death is the cause of a senseless act like drunk driving, imagine the pain that the family feels.  My first father was killed on Mother’s Day by a drunk driver.  I talk about it in my book.

I was at the accident scene and when I pass that spot now, I can still see the accident scene decades later.  That is one kind of extension that Id like us to think of.  When we lose a loved one, we are forever attached to that moment. It becomes an extension of who we are, of our life.  I often wonder if the lady who was driving drunk then ran a stop sign, hit the side of the car where my father was a passenger, and killed him ever thinks about it and about us.  I wonder if on Mother’s Day, does she remember.  Death is and should be an extension because we are all connected anyway.  And when something tragic happens, it doesn’t disconnect us, it creates a shared incident and a moment of shared human emotions.

Why do I want us to think about death and grief as an extension and a connector, you might wonder?  Because I hope that it will make us realize that we share loss.  And we need to show more empathy because we all will grieve, so when it’s your turn to grieve, you have established a spirit of caring about others.  Understanding that it is human to grieve, before your humanity is tested. You don’t have to wait until it happens to you to learn what it’s like when it is happening to someone you know, work with, manage, or live with.  You don’t have to hesitate or feel uncomfortable because you don’t feel as if you know what to do.  The person who is grieving needs you to connect at some point and check on the connection periodically.

The Senseless Killing Connection

The other reason is for those who resort to gun violence and killing as a solution to anything.  If you’re listening, it won’t be the first time someone has told you what I’m about to say.  I’d really like you  to consider how your actions are impacting not only that person’s life but their family, loved ones and the community where you live.  As I said, if you’re listening, what I’d like you to think about that maybe you haven’t thought about is this:  We are all connected.  Because we are connected perhaps now, you will also realize that taking a life also affects you and your life.  Killing someone does not solve a problem, it creates a lifelong problem.  You are not just taking someone else’s life, you are connecting yourself to death forever.  

In your false attempt to get rid of a person, if you kill another human being, they will be connected to your life permanently. Because you have now made a permanent connection to a person, who you thought you were eliminating them by killing them.  They die yes; but, they are always connected to you. You may forget why you killed them, but you won’t forget that you killed them. That’s what people mean when they say they are being haunted.  It’s a different type of connection, yes, but they are still an extension of your life story.  That’s why I think they are called senseless death. They don’t make sense to the loved ones, of course, bu the victim is senselessly now connected to his killer or to her assailant and vice versa.

Death and grief are extensions. When you’re angry or hurt enough to think and act on hurting yourself or someone else, show empathy for yourself, and don’t do it.  Showing compassion for others is essential; but, since we are all extensions, don’t forget that empathy is working in many directions. Empathy over just sympathy is working for you and others.

Until Next Time

I want to thank you loved ones for listening to Mother’s Backyard Buzz.  This is Debra Hester, your host, where I pledge to continue to break the silent struggle with grief.  Remember: move forward from grief with love and more empathy, less sympathy.  If you found the #empathyforgrief podcast helpful, please subscribe to me on Spotify, iTunes or through most podcast providers.  Find out more about my mission, at: www.mothersbackyard.com.  Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  Look for “mothers backyard.”  If you have a question or comment, you can always email me at mdhester@mothersbackyard.com.  Join me next week when you’ll get to know a little more about me and my mission: #empathyforgrief. I’m hoping it will be insightful before we move from the Introduction to Chapter 1 of my book, My Backyard Garden – A Memoir of How Love Conquers Grief.  Peace & Blessings