Sorrow's Profiles: Death, Grief, and Crisis in the Family

Views: 1228
Ratings: (0)

'Dr Richard Alapack, sensitively and with deep understanding, orchestrates a survivor's journey through the complex country of sorrow. Alapack challenges and transcends the received scientific view of grief over loss as a well-ordered progression. He appeals to the power of the imagination, broadening our understanding and breaking new ground that exposes both the life-giving and potentially destructive aspects of intense sorrow. This rich, original contribution to the grief literature must be read.'- Freda Woodrow Ph.D., University of Pretoria, South AfricaIn this beautifully tender, sensitively reflective, and provocative book, the author leads a journey through the depths of authentic sorrow, longing, and despair. Daring us to face death unflinchingly, Alapack rouses in us the courage to spin in the vortex of personal and collective grief. In doing so, we emerge transformed and forever changed. No other book on human loss is so sane yet simultaneously subverts the status quo.- Ron Cornelissen, Argosy University, San Bernardino, California

List price: $28.99

Your Price: $23.19

You Save: 20%

 

23 Slices

Format Buy Remix

Chapter One: Grief: The algebra of loss

ePub

Death has paid a visit. Devastating deprivation assaults my entire existence. I am in agony. Grief is swallowing me up. Since time immemorial, humankind knows it is sorrow’s season, the time to mourn. Our haste to forget, documented in the academic debate about continuing bonds, merely reflects ignorance about the a-temporal and indestructible dimensions of experience. It shows a poverty of wisdom about the human predicament. We ordinary humans must learn how to live with loss and with the persistent presence of our deceased beloved in memory and in our actions (Lingis, 2007) The deceased is not gone like a piece of equipment or any ready-to-hand item. I will remain with her continually, in a mode of respectful solicitude (Heidegger, 1927/1962).

Grief is the natural spontaneous psychological response to the loss of the loss. What do I mean? If I do not know that I have lost my wallet, I have no emotions to express about the pickpocket who, at this very moment and at my expense, is eating a salmon fillet with rice, green beans, and a bottle of French white wine in the city’s most chic restaurant. As soon as I realize it is missing, look for it where I think I probably placed it, search frantically because it is not there, realize that my driver’s license, my credit cards, my passport are in it, and remember that foolishly I was carrying with me too much cash … then comes the reaction to the loss. When the loss is more serious than my measly wallet with a few thousand dollars in it, it transforms my world. The loss or death of a loved one, which leaves a gaping hole in my world, is of that ilk. Part of my self is missing, whatever meaning that dead person took with her. A truly significant loss carves a Hole in the Whole.

 

Chapter Two: Phase II: Over-binding: Memories and the voluptuaries of grief

ePub

Mainstream literature calls the second “moment” the Intermediate Phase. It starts after the leave-taking ceremonies have ended and day-to-day activities have resumed, lasting roughly three weeks to one year. For Freud, the task of this first year is hyper-investing, excessively harping on the bond, over-doing it.

The Jewish tradition fine tunes the time. Shiva, from the Hebrew word for “seven,” refers to the period from the burial until seven days have lapsed. It is a socially sanctioned time for intense grief, the time for rending your garments at any time the urge should strike. Jewish tradition encourages the mourner to stay at home. Friends make visits to share your pain, to offer comfort and support. Such comportment is played out with the limits of being human, so almost never are the visits perfect, and rarely does anything earth-shaking happen. But structure encircles the mourner.

Grief is as natural a part of life as joy. Here comes the echo: grief also kills. Voodoo death demonstrates that falling out with the community leads to an early, premature and—from a Western perspective— wanton demise. Colin Parkes (1996) demonstrates that a widow, who lives past the anniversary of her man’s death, goes back into the normal distribution for life-expectancy—if graciously you would grant that there is a normal distribution of anything existential. The statistics for widows dying within that first year—if graciously you would grant that statistics ever are psychologically relevant—are staggeringly high. Whatever the death certificate reads—and be assured that it will not read “died of a broken heart”—nevertheless the widow (or the tribe member, who the Songoma had banished from the group for some transgression), do die heartbroken. One loses the key figure of his life: he falls out with the community permanently; she or he loses heart. This second phase, therefore, is so important that negotiating it poorly might be … lethal. The grief literature names three styles of excessive comportment that characterize the first year of mourning. They mesh nicely with Freud’s ideas.

 

Chapter Three: Phase III: Recovery—The power or failure of the imagination

ePub

According to mainstream literature, the conscious decision that dwelling in the past is fruitless inaugurates the third stage. Life must flow forward into a new future. If you are smiling at this vain hope—that the rational brain plus self-aggrandized willpower can put a stop to the grinding grief-machine—I share your dubiousness. Freud’s language puts teeth into that marshmallow description, one vague enough to mean almost anything. He also demonstrates that the detached brain has precious little to do with it. The key is that the bereaved is able to imagine a new future approaching like a snow storm.

For Freud, recovery means that the overwhelmed individual, who had psycho-spiritually beaten himself half to death, finally has severed the link and is capable of re-investing in life, and even of forming new ties. In a nutshell, the individual regains the capacities—Freud’s hallmarks of maturity—to love and work.

Of all the ambiguities generated by our de-ritualized culture, top-shelf is the acceptable time to cease grieving … publicly. When can we say, “It’s finished. Get ready world! I’m back.” If I desire to date again, for example, or to initiate another intimate partnership, when can I go back into circulation without tongues wagging? Especially if I’m a … woman! Since I’m back in “circulation,” I must be “on the prowl” right? Our culture has no acknowledged time of mourning. In traditional cultures, the period is as rigid and as simple as taking off the black dress of mourning that you had been wearing for a year. In Vietnam, traditionally the widow and her children are prohibited from marrying until three years after the death. Don’t hold your breath. In the West it will never be that simple again; a throwback is not even desirable. But a peek at some tradition-bound ways will give us a frame of reference, some realistic para meters, and help to put the matter into a historical and cross-cultural perspective.

 

Chapter Four: Gone crazy

ePub

The previous three chapters focus on the general pattern and typical processes of grieving. The “moment” of mourning elicits extraordinary happenings too, reactions to loss that truly are “once only” and often “one-in-a-row”. Life hands the mourner a baton and says, “Go ahead, orchestrate.” The individual gets caught up in events seemingly totally out of character. Such episodes are part of Life’s run-of-the-mill-madness: indiscretions tinged with vague despair.

One goes on a binge. At the end of the spree, you wake up in a strange place on a strange bed with a strange face on the adjacent pillow. Turns out, fortunately, that you’re not pregnant, and you didn’t contact any sexually transmitted disease. While under the influence, luckily you made her no false promises. After the week’s bender, now you’re wearing an orchid tattoo in a place that, thank goodness, your dead beloved will never see. So what? You’ll replace the money that got pilfered. Small potatoes, eh! You’ll never cross the border into Tijuana again. No more will you engage in unprotected sex. Another drop of tequila might never pass your lips. “I was beside myself,” you tell yourself and to anybody who will listen. “What came over me?”

 

Chapter Five: Study #1: Vigilance for life on a deathwatch: One mother’s dying and death

ePub

“The heart’s testimony is better than a thousand witnesses.”

—Turkish Proverb

How do the roots of my raising pertain to the themes of this book? Prior to any philosophical “choices,” upon which existential platform have I stood to see—in the way that I behold—sorrow’s profiles? Here comes a snippet about where I came from to help you assess my approach.

I was born and raised in the hard coal or anthracite region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, specifically in Wyoming Valley. The region was a magnet for peoples all over Eastern and Western Europe. They came in droves to work the coal mines. The valley was a melting pot during my formative years. My mother was Polish; my father Croatian. After a drunken driver killed him—when I was three and a half years old, to the day—my grandmother moved her family to Binghamton, New York. But I grew up in the valley, in daily contact with Russian, Ukrainian, Irish, German, Slovak, Scottish, Welsh, English, and Lithuanian … with Bohunks, Pollocks, Krauts, Litvaks, Croats, Wasps, Limeys, Spics, and Shamrocks … with friends and neighbours.

 

Chapter Six: Study #2: The first talk to one’s child about death

ePub

“When Nana died” (Alapack, 2001b; 2005b; 2006a) is an intimate study. It is a triple first: my first conversation about death … with my first child … whom death was visiting for the first time. Nicole, my beloved daughter, was four years two months old at the time of this first “appointment”. Ruth, her Nana, her mother’s mother, died of cancer. Since this death also mattered fiercely to me, the universe scheduled me an appointment. About this “imperative moment,” I feign no neutrality or disinterest. I am a living witness. Coiled within the spiral of events, I never pretend to stand outside them. The data itself is the story. My narrative hides nothing. Its warmth and transparency showcase Aristotle’s affirmation: one is wise to seek no proof about what is self-evidently true. Like “Vigilance,” this story is existential, but not a myth or an interpretative story. I wear no mask of an “implicated alien,” not by a long shot! Here comes an unvarnished account of a fragile father, flying by the seat of his pants, reflectively highlighting its sense and drawing from it general psychological insights.

 

Chapter Seven: Study #3: When home shatters: The death of a brother or sister

ePub

The tale of sibling grief implicates you and me. If you are blessed with a brother or sister, you are vulnerable to loss. Unless he and I die together, by fluke—or in a nuclear holocaust—Nick (whom you already know from my “Vigilance” myth) will survive my death, or vice versa. But my brother is still alive and my only sibling. Therefore, unlike my downright raw presentations of my mother’s dying and my talk with Nicole at her Nana’s death, this chapter is based upon my experiences once removed from being a participant. However, I gained knowledge and absorbed sensitivity as advisor to Freda Woodrow’s (2006) doctoral dissertation at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Like unto the above mentioned portraits, nonetheless, my narrative communicates the experience with my hearthead. I tell the whole tale in a nutshell, using ordinary speech. Everyday language captures its emotional resonance. It also spits out, as it were, all the ambiguities that plague sibling grief. The story reads fresh. It’s full of noise. If you have experienced the death of your sibling, I will only judge the story adequate if it should draw you into your own grief episode such that you lose your place in my text … to find your place within your own. If it provokes memories, may it also evoke emotions, even trigger tears. Although Woodrow shares the credit for this earnest and engaged chapter, she deserves none of its blame.

 

Chapter Eight: Foundation and framework

ePub

Nobody has to agree with Jacques Lacan in order to agree with him … that Sigmund Freud is a “luminary” irreducible to a medical positivist. Agree with him, too, that we must read Freud on his own terms and remove from his texts both medico-biological glosses and ideological prejudices. It behooves us to see the luminary in the correct light. Lacan puts it simply: Read Freud and get him right (1966a/1977).

One bone of contention between Lacan, the International Psychoanalytic, and Freudians in general—is the status of the todestrieb. Was Freud falling victim to an avalanche of grief when he turned from hysteria to depression? Was he especially sorrowful when he wrote Beyond the Pleasure Principle? In 1920, his beloved daughter, Sophie, his “Sunday’s child” dies after a four-day illness at the age of twenty-six. Something in him permanently died, he says. He writes to Ludwig Binswanger that he had never gotten over “the monstrous fact of children dying before their parents” (Derrida, 1987, p. 331). In a few short years Sophie’s second son, Heinerle dies at age four and a half. He is Freud’s favourite, his preferred grandson, “the preferred son of the preferred daughter … the most intelligent child he had ever encountered … Heinerle dies. On 19 June 1923; Freud is seen to cry. For the only time” (Derrida, 1987, pp. 333–334).

 

Chapter Nine: The depressive position

ePub

In this chapter, I present a myth of human growth in order to elaborate and demonstrate the significance of the cardinal notions of splitting in the ego (self), the depressive position, and forgiveness. Historically, myth and stories are mankind’s most common way to make knowledge-claims. The current preference for posi-tivistic natural science merely expresses modernity’s myth. That myth, unfortunately, shrinks the psyche and freezes the living heart. It narrows the human being to a one-dimensional creature by privileging non-involvement, the sur-face of humanity, and the superficiality of (cognitive) behaviour. This modern scientific myth, nonetheless, has become our sacred cow and our new religion. Currently, voices mount to challenge its hegemony as the standpoints of Nietzsche and Heidegger now gradually seep into our postmodern culture. However, the structures of Power and Money shelter it.

Herein, I present a more adequate myth for comprehending the two (psychical) and three-dimensional (spiritual) faces of sorrow. How do I compose it? The myth, “Felix culpa,” the happy fault, starts with a Kiergegaardian self-search or psychological autopsy. Such reflective work yields a preliminary understanding of my own personal experiences with my three children, three granddaughters, and with clients. The pivot of this work is this: I can verify what I say within my own experience. Then I seek other neutral input, weaving scholarly knowledge into the myth. Specifically, I integrate key anthropological facts, clinical data from psychoanalysis, and experimental psychological findings. In the most comprehensive sense, this myth provides the framework for including moral and spiritual issues within psychotherapeutic work. In particular, it clarifies both the power of forgiveness in the drama of grief, and helps us to comprehend the dynamics of regret, revenge, and suicide.

 

Chapter Ten: Re-visioning death: In Heidegger

ePub

Most of us do not know it, but unborn babies within their mothers’ wombs communicate with each other. As a matter of fact, where there are several pregnant women in a neighbourhood, the little embryos chatter daily about the news of their little world.

Now it happened that in one neighbourhood, there were several pregnant mothers and one was carrying twins. And all the other embryos were very proud that they had twins among them. The twins, too, were very glad to have each other.

But then, one of the twins was born premature, and the other twin was left alone in the womb. And when all the other little embryos in the neighbourhood heard of it, they quickly began to call the remaining twin, and all said: “We’re so sorry that your brother was born.”5

 

Sooner or later somebody in the Western world was bound to emerge to give death its due. Somebody had to comprehend it, not just as concocted in abstract arbitrary ideas, but in the way that we humans actually live it. Someone had to wrest it away from the philosophers and theologians who had framed it such to support Authority—to protect the Power and Money of governments and the Church. Somebody had to arrive who was sufficiently gifted to express an alternative Vision. Such a thinker never could have emerged from within the Club of committed professional rationalists. In fact, Martin Heidegger appears on the historical scene. He replaces the Occident’s substantive way of thinking with a relational one. He gives death … a life of its own.

 

Chapter Eleven: Towards an alternative approach to intervention

ePub

Intervention is the right word. At root, it means to enter into the midst of what is happening. Whenever that happening happens to be grief, it is truly splendid to have someone come in … intending to help and actually helping. The $64,000 dollar question is, “What precisely is the healing touch?”

In Chapter six, in the context of talking with Nicole about her Nana’s death, I offer my standpoint on authentic dialogue in the “moment” of grief. The theme of therapeutic intervention, however, requires this separate chapter. I now expand my discussion beyond talking with my precious daughter. In a nutshell, I forge past the limits of mainstream medico-behavioural psychology’s short-term, quick-fix approach, the drive to adjust and cope, the haste to forget, and the need to obliterate pain. The same standpoint that roots the entire substance and style of this book, both its research tactics and choices of writing-genre, inspires my viewpoint on care. Thinking and in-depth understanding must precede doing, so that therapeutic intervention would be sane and wholesome. I affirm that to approach grief without honouring psyche, seele, soul … is insane.

 

Chapter Twelve: Divorce

ePub

Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,

Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place

Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.

Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,

Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth

Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,

Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf

(Eliot, 1936d/1963, p. 196).

Divorce is a man-made disaster. It is also a death experience from whoever’s perspective we view it. For one spouse, the end of the marriage is a living death. For the other partner, divorce terminates death by granting a new lease on life. If there are children of the union, another can of worms opens. What does the divorce mean to the child? Debates rage furiously concerning the positive or negative consequences on children, short and long term. Always there is a settling of the estate, the dividing of durable goods. Never is there a way to divide the non-durable goods. It borders on mouthing a cliché to say that the topic requires a book by itself, or a library shelf of them. One chapter cannot do the topic justice, but it would be ostrich-like to print a book on grief omitting it. How to address the matter?

 

Chapter Thirteen: Malignant currency

ePub

Natural and man-made disasters kill massively and randomly. Grief follows in their train. Daily, the media flashes words and agonizing images of natural disasters: floods in Bangladesh, India, and North Korea; tsunamis and typhoons in Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Southeast Asia; cyclones in Burma, Bangladesh, droughts-cum-famine in Dar-fur, Australia, and the former U.S.S.R.; hurricanes in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast, and New Orleans; earthquakes in China, Kashmir, Peru, San Francisco, Mallipo Beach in South Korea; fires in Greece and Southern California; Tornadoes in the Midwest, South, and Southwestern USA.

Man-made disasters also is riddle planet earth—oil haemorrhages from Valdez, Alaska, to Galicia, Spain, to the Guimares Strait in the Philippines, to the Shetland Islands off the north shore of Scotland, to Galveston Bay, Texas, to the San Francisco Bay, to the waters of South Korea. Miners trapped underground in China, West Virginia and Utah. Killings wrought by terrorism and counter-terrorism. The cycles of revenge and counter-revenge that spin ceaselessly worldwide. Plane crashes, trains de-railed, automobile accidents … Murder; torture; suicide.

 

Chapter Fourteen: On suicide

ePub

Albert Camus (1954/1956) boils philosophy down to its core. The time has come to practice truly wise loving and love of wisdom. Should we not put aside, as mere cognitive play, such abstract concerns as language games, the problem of the One and the Many, or doubting that we can make knowledge claims from descriptions of experience? Such preoccupations merely ape decadent scholasticism which debated how many angels—if there are angels—could sit on this pin in my hand, if indeed it is a pin … and if I really exist and actually have a hand in which to hold that pin. There are only two real philosophical problems: why not kill someone and why not take my own life? Camus is right. The rest of the wrangling and ratiocination are exercises—not of a hungry people—but of a stuffed, leisured people. Suicide and murder, the themes of this and the next chapter, may also be the root of psychological problems. They surely engender the keenest of sorrow.

Suicide means that the one who kills the self cancels the indefinite when and how of death. The individual exercises power over what is otherwise totally uncontrollable. “Stop the world and let me off” is the demand. And the individual does the halting. He takes life’s ultimate ambiguity into his hands and sets the clock.

 

Chapter Fifteen: On murder in Albert Camus

ePub

“The eyes do not shine, they speak … Everyone will readily agree that it is of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by morality”

(Levinas, 1961/1969, p. 21).

The partners in this chapter’s dialogue are composite figures (Alapack, 1988a; 1988b; 2006b). To create them, I draw upon my experiences with both murderers and health care professionals. In order to challenge you and myself concerning murder, I imagine the real (Lynch, 1960). It is ordinary to draw from a wealth of personal experiences to capture an essential meaning. Ken Kesey (1980) taps into his work as an aide in an Oregon psychiatric hospital to depict pathological dependency in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Daniel Panger (1979) uses his intensive and extensive work with cancer patients and their families to write The Dance of the Wild Mouse, a fictional portrayal of the alienating impact of technology on a man facing a death-threatening illness and his woman reeling in horror that she will lose her beloved man. Only narrow, rigid positivist ideology disrespectfully reduces such heartlines to mere fiction.

 

Chapter Sixteen: On Racism: Who is my neighbour?

ePub

Who is my neighbour? (Alapack, 2007c) Kierkegaard answers that question with incredible ease: Everyone is my neighbour. “One’s neighbor,” he writes, “is the absolutely unrecognizable distinction between man and man” (Kierkegaard, 1847/1962, p. 79). Without exception, my neighbour is each and every single solitary human being. “In being a neighbor, we are all unconditionally like each other. Distinction is temporality’s confusing element which marks every man as different, but neighbour is eternity’s mark—on every man” (Kierkegaard, 1847/1962, p. 97). Differences in race, colour, or creed are accidental contingent, flukes. The real mark of humanness cuts deep.

This robust criterion prevails as the gold standard for humanity’s self-appraisal. Nowadays, we need such a clear-headed and warmhearted appraisal of our brothers and sisters across the globe. Only you know in your heart of hearts whether you are a racist, discriminating against anyone because of race, colour, or creed. In terms of sorrow’s profiles, xenophobia, racial hatred, and bigotry are major causes of man-made grief. I make no bones about it. Happily, Kierkegaard’s Vision inescapably erases from our vocabulary the ugliest words and phrases in any language: ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

 

Chapter Seventeen: Mercy and revenge

ePub

Check today’s media. You will find ample evidence that revenge creates grief. Pathetic to relate, Western nihilistic metaphysics normalizes and makes revenge inevitable. Thomas Hobbes’ Anglo-Saxon political ideology—fossilized in the dogma of homo homini lupus—justifies Establishment violence, imperialism, war, racism, and revenge.16

The cycles of revenge and counter-revenge that whirl across our planet are not naturally preordained. Revenge, like war and other forms of violence, have touchstones in human experience. Revenge starts with grief over loss. Afflicted with hurt, one howls to high heaven and then must go through a process of coming to terms with the loss. Suppose your loved one is not just snatched from life by sickness, or disease, or by an act of God—the hurricane, flood or tsunami. Suppose instead your beloved is murdered. A drunk-driver did her in; the tragedy is senseless; and you know where, on the other side of the tracks, the perpetrator lives. Suppose it was a normal April day in 2007 at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, turned crazy. Your daughter had morning classes. She is 1 of the 32 people killed in the shooting rampage. Rage-laced grief weighs heavy on your heart. You can’t get out of your noggin the yen for retribution. Although you have never talked face-to-face with a person of Korean descent, you’re not seeing red now, you’re seeing yellow. Justice must be served.

 

Chapter Eighteen: Regret

ePub

Within the economy of human melancholy, the phenomena of sorrow, grief, depression, and regret are kindred. Piggybacking on Freud and Kierkegaard, I have already qualitatively distinguished between normal grief and depression and between depression and sorrow. I also presented excessive and extreme grief reactions and crimes of passion that index temporary insanity. Regret hovers betwixt and between all these phenomena. I could have easily have translated into a regret-episode any of the situations under consideration. The obsessive review, one hallmark of the hyper-investment stage of grief-work, oozes with regret. The god-awful struggle to balance forgetting and remembering hallmarks both that stage and the “moment” of regretful sorrow. The “gone crazy” story of Baba in Kite Runner overflows with the emotion.

The next four chapters focus particularly on the place that regret holds within our psychological economy. My insight is that living in regret signifies unresolved grief, but likewise indicates that the sufferer has not lapsed into depression. As a still open wound, regret localizes one’s complaint about Life, even as it masks one’s dissatisfaction or disappointment with self. Regret keeps at bay the blanket of gloom that depression throws over the sufferer’s life-space. Put differently, regret twists my sorrow so that I do not stare straight and unflinchingly at that which causes me pain. Because of this in-between status, regret is a central phenomenon in the drama of human loss and lingering hurt. I put it through the ringer, so to speak, trying to squeeze out of it as much meaning as possible. I will be doubling back, re-visiting certain hurts, and hopefully deepening our understanding of sorrow’s profiles.

 

Load more


Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781780492186
Isbn
9781780492186
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata