Monday, August 28, 2017

Voices of Experience: A Reflection on Grief and Mourning

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.  ~ Henry Van Dyke

As Senior Director of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network, Rabbi Joseph H. Krakoff has worked for many years with adults and children wrestling with death, grief and remembrance. While in Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, he developed a thought-provoking text to share with families, guiding them through honest conversations about the legacy and values that remain even as someone dearly loved has died.
Realizing that powerful imagery would enhance his text and heighten the healing process of reflection, Rabbi Krakoff collaborated with Dr. Michelle Y. Sider, whose years working as an artist, arts educator and psychologist influenced her approach to creating evocative images, demonstrating how art can help to unlock emotions and heal the heart. Together, they have crafted a truly beautiful, interactive keepsake book for families and friends, complete with pages to add personal reflections, thereby transforming the book into an individualized tribute to a loved one.

Here, Rabbi Krakoff and Dr. Sider describe how their book might be used as an active invitation for conversation, lifting up memories and preserving the legacy of a loved one’s life.

Grief is a powerful, multi-dimensional human reaction to a deep sense of loss. It is experienced in a unique way for every individual based on a whole host of different factors including the profundity of the relationship. Grief often leads the bereaved through an emotional roller coaster that may be triggered by any number of events.

There is truly no set time period for the experience of grief. It is a process that is specific to each person and to every loss. Too often impatience and judgment interfere as the linear, problem-solving part of our brains seeks to tell us that we “should be over this by now”. But emotions have a life of their own and are best dealt with by recognizing, honoring and dealing with them as they emerge. For every person is on their own pathway toward healing which is as unique and varied as is each individual.

In the realm of grief, it is essential that the bereaved individual gives themselves permission to embrace the time and space needed to grieve at their own pace and in their own way. So too, it is most helpful and appreciated if loved ones and friends refrain from trying to artificially push the bereaved individual quickly through the mourning experience. Grief catapults human beings into a ‘new normal’ that usually involves a journey of discovery, self- actualization and ultimately a place of healing and progressing forward.

Never Long Enough: Finding Comfort and Hope Amidst Grief and Loss is intentionally constructed, through thoughtful words, evocative images and purposeful cadence, to guide bereaved individuals (and those facing the end of life) on a personal pathway of healing, helping them to recognize and honor their grief while also cherishing and celebrating their precious memories. The meditative words and stunning illustrations work together to slow down the reader, encouraging them to linger for as long as they wish, and move at their own pace from grief to healing. Each page contains a separate and important concept in the process of grieving, remembering and life review.

As one reader recently stated: “This is a tender book which will penetrate your soul, bringing comfort and hope in a time of loss. If read only with your eyes, it will take but a few minutes to appreciate the gentle beauty of the words and art. This book is meant to be read by your heart, your bones, your memories, your eyes and ears…”

Currently Never Long Enough is being used by therapists, social workers, hospice workers, funeral home directors and individuals who have either experienced the loss of a loved one or are in the process of saying goodbye. This book makes a significant statement about the process of mourning and grief and is an invaluable resource for recognizing and expressing feelings of love and sympathy personally as well as for family members and friends.

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