November 29, 2015 marked the fourth anniversary of my mother Sandy’s passing. Sandy was a wise, wonderful woman and a devoted mother. She was also a gifted marriage and family therapist. Before her own untimely death, she had counseled hundreds of people on how to handle loss and transition. One of her favorite expressions was:
“Death ends the person, but it doesn’t end the relationship.”
My own bereavement process has been a long and winding road filled with both despair and gratitude for the gifts my mother gave me.
I’ve come to understand that no two people grieve the same way… even children who have lost the same biological parent. Everyone has his or her unique healing journey.
I’ve grown, too, to understand that grief occurs in all forms. Even the very definition of so- called “normal grief” highlights the variability of the process by defining it as “a grief response that falls under an extremely broad umbrella of predictability.”
As I worked through my own grief, I also sought to understand Complicated Grief which refers to grief reactions and feelings of loss that are debilitating, long lasting and/or impair one’s ability to engage in daily activities.
In seeking resources to help me understand what I was going through, I was aided enormously by the book The Four Things That Matter Most, by author and palliative care physician, Dr. Ira Byock.
In it, Dr. Byock shares four simple phrases that carry enormous power:
“Please forgive me”
“I forgive you,”
“I love you.”
Through his book, I learned that if we have the chance to say these words to someone who is dying and have them say them back to us, we can move closer to what he calls “relationship completion.”
I’ve found too, that by applying those phrases in the rest of life, we can experience a sense of wholeness even in the wake of family strife, personal tragedy and divorce.
As described in The Four Things That Matter Most, Dr. Byock wrote that conversations that include these phrases increase our emotional healing. It’s my belief and experience, that this is true.
I’m so grateful I had a chance to have this “relationship completion” with my mother while she was alive. Whether you’re grieving a loss or just want to deepen your relationships, I encourage you to give yourself and your loved ones the gift of saying the four phrases mentioned above.
Doing so will hopefully gift you with the opportunity to honor and experience what really matters most in life.
By: Amy Sky