QUESTION: My mom died three years ago. She wasn’t just my mom, we were best friends and she supported me in everything I did. My question is how long should a person grieve over the loss of a loved one? My mom’s passing is just as fresh in my mind [today] as it was the day she died. I can’t think of her without being overwhelmed by feelings of grief. I do go to a grief group and the people there are kind and patient with me, but it seems many of them are way ahead of me in getting their lives back to normal.
Your thoughts are appreciated.
~ Grieving Daughter
Dear Grieving Daughter,
I am sorry for your loss. My mother raised me and my four brothers by herself, and her sudden death earlier this year left us feeling adrift and alone. What I have come to learn about grief, through experience and observation, is that it is a unique reality for each of us. We travel across its landscape by a separate path, even though its fields have hosted all who have ever borne sorrows.
Your lament is familiar to the psalmists: “How long, O Lord?” I never want to rush people through their grief. Sharing it in community, in prayer and in self-reflection is helpful.
My faith tradition reminds me that Jesus entered into the grief and suffering of humanity – to be with us while we heal. I find great comfort in knowing that God does not reject me for my grief. Pain and heartache do not separate us from God – in fact it may draw us closer together.
My own grief journey has had alternating times of absence and presence; absence when I long to tell my mother about my successes and frustrations, about my kids’ birthday parties and sports victories, and presence when I hear her advice coming across my lips, her smile on my daughter’s face and memories of her in a song or story. I think this dichotomy of her loss will remain with me for the rest of my life.
I would suspect you have had similar experiences with your grief. And I would suspect that you are grateful for those moments of presence. How do you express that gratitude? In what ways do you continue to invite your mother’s memory into your life – not only in the grief of loss, but also the celebration of remembrance? Do you think doing so could help you weather those moments when the loss feels overwhelming?
My prayer is that your grief would hone your memory of your mother, making it a richly tangible presence of goodness for you.
Though you walk this path on your own, it is well-worn.
Pastor Kyle Sears
Dear Grieving Daughter,
I’m sorry to learn of your loss. I can only imagine the myriad of emotions you have felt and continue to explore. Job put it this way: “My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow.” (Job 17:7) Grief is a very misunderstood experience since most of us are inadequately prepared for the conflicting feelings with which we are faced. Judith Viorst wrote: “Teach me how to know death and go on with life. Teach me how to love life and not fear death.”
Let me share with you that we each respond to death and loss differently, which might contribute to your thoughts about others being “ahead” of you. Your process is unlike any other, and your journey will take its course.
Groups are an excellent place to gain support and coping skills because some of the pitfalls are common. However, you will recover in your own way and in your own time. Please know that there is nothing wrong with you. Healing your heart takes intentionality and courage but, over time, you will regain the ability to manage your grief and find happiness again.
We know that loss is unavoidable and to address the radical changes that follow death appropriately we begin to develop new awareness to unlearn the defaults and learn to new skills. Jeremiah framed it this way: “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there!” (Jeremiah 6:14) I encourage you to actively participate in your recovery by being gentle with yourself, but also by taking charge of the process. This means choosing to direct your energy into examining the conflicting group of emotions to identify automatic or familiar responses. This awareness will lead to finding solutions.
The fact of the matter is that losing a loved one feels incomplete. By addressing the emotions and making conscious choices, you become empowered to have agency over your recovery. This doesn’t mean that you forget the wonderful memories of your mom. Rather, you reflect on your lives together with authenticity and sincerity, even with significant emotional statements or declarations and even when you don’t feel like going through the process. This may manifest as attending to unfinished emotional business or writing a letter to your mom to express your feelings of gratitude and of loss. Saying good-bye, although difficult, is necessary. One person commented, “I did not know how hard it would be to say good-bye. Yet it was harder still when I refused to say it.”
I encourage you to continue to attend the group and to look at your loss as a relational completion. Some resources that I recommend are: “Good Grief” by Granger E. Westberg, “Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love”
by Raymond R. Mitsch and “The Grief Recovery Handbook” by John W. James and Russell Friedman. See grief.com for additional resources.
I wish you peace in your process and pray that the Lord’s love will surround you.
QUESTION: I have an employee who is excellent at her job. The only trouble is, she’s late every morning, anywhere
from a half hour to 40 minutes. I have to say she always gets her work done and often has lunch at
her desk and keeps on working. I’m just remembering the days when I worked for someone else and
punctuality was a given or else.
I’ve talked to her but I’m not getting through to her. Any suggestions?
~ Frustrated Employer
Dear Frustrated Employer,
Clearly you are a pretty seasoned employer. I read recently that only 19% of new hires work out successfully. So when you have an employee who is “excellent at her job” but is always late, and even if the employment law is clearly on your side, you are in the right to fire that person. It is natural to think twice about whether it is worth it to terminate an “excellent” work employee and face going through the time, expense, risk and hassle of finding an acceptable replacement. Since your employee does tend to make up the time using personal time from her lunch hour, there doesn’t appear to be any intentional or real “time theft” on her part. So I appreciate the quandary you feel you are in.
I have a young lady who works for me that is always 15 to 30 minutes late. Does it drive me crazy? Yes. Do I feel at times disrespected because of her tardiness? Yes. But perhaps similar to your situation, she is fantastic, smart, a hard worker and on top of things in a way I wish everyone who ever worked for me had been. The first time she was late, I called her and told her not to bother to come in. She did come and was so crushed, broken, devastated and remorseful, I felt so bad I never did that again. She still continues being late.
What do I do? I put up with her and I make money.
Two things help keep me sane over this. First of all, without going into detail, I recognize she has a lot on her plate in her life outside of work. Sometimes, as employers, we must be business Ninjas; flexible, attuned to, adjust to and able to go with the reality of any situation that may pop up in our business lives especially if that ultimately serves our goal – which is to make money. An employee who makes you money is gold.
If you are not making money that is the time to act and cut your losses.
It would be lovely if life and business were a simple matter of black and white, with everything in its place, and everybody knowing their place, doing perfectly and timely what is expected of them. The reality is we are primarily dealing with the gray and how successful we are in both life and business is often more determined by how well we deal with the gray, no matter how bothersome or irksome the gray can be.
The second thing that keeps me balanced is the uncomfortable truth that “the one who is upset is the one with the problem.” Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind, once said that to change anything outside of us begins first with changing what is inside of us – with our own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions. Ernest also believed in the power of prayer and affirmations to bring about consciously chosen and constructive change in our lives. Here is a little affirmation you may find helpful for that. Repeat it often, especially when you feel challenged by this situation: “My business is a well oiled money-making machine that blesses, sustains and maintains everyone connected to it with prosperity and abundance. Everyone in my business works harmoniously and efficiently, in perfect and respectful cooperation with one another, free of any stress, anxiety or conflict. Their work here is meaningful and fulfilling for them and for me, and they are grateful and appreciative, as am I. And so it is.”
Anthony Kelson, RScP
Dear Frustrated Employer,
I’m always late. I work hard, I show up, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty but I have to work very hard at being on time. Ask the editor of this column, I often need a nudge to get my humble opinion written and submitted.
Your employee may have a tad ADHD as I myself do. When we focus we focus like crazy, but time management can often be a struggle. Perhaps you could offer your employee the choice to come in later and stay later. Other than that, if she is good at what she does, works hard, shows up and follows through perhaps you’d be willing to navigate some flexibility for your employee’s quirky time management issues.