Medium 9781574411621

Singing Mother Home

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What happens when an expert on grief is faced with the slow decline of her beloved mother? Like A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis, Singing Mother Home offers an inside look at the struggles of an "expert" in coping with loss. Donna S. Davenport was forced to rethink the traditional academic approach to the process, which implied that the goal of grief resolution was to end the attachment to the loved one. Instead, she embarked on a personal exploration of her own anticipatory grief. This intimate narrative forms the core of her book. It is emotionally wrenching, but it also provides hope for those going through similar experiences. Just as Davenport used her family's tradition of singing to comfort her mother, readers will be encouraged to find their own sources of comfort in family and legacy. The book concludes by describing psychological approaches to grief and recommending further reading. "This is a unique book by a professional who understands the field of loss and grief. . . . Poignantly heartbreaking."--Melba Vasquez, President, American Psychology Association's Division on Counseling Psychology

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Family Tree

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Staying Connected through the Loss

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Staying Connected through the Loss p

When I was in elementary school, we lived in a small Texas town without a Presbyterian church so we attended the Methodist. If I was exposed to any theology, I don’t remember it—except for recalling one Sunday School teacher who alluded to the dangers of backsliding. I must have expressed a lack of interest in the concept because my usually gentle teacher said with an edge to her voice, “Maybe you should think more about being saved, Donna Sue.”

“No,” I answered. “I don’t need to. Mother will die before I do and she will be in heaven. If they won’t let me in, she’ll talk to God about it. I’ll be okay.”

That early certainty of Mom’s ultimate destination, and my conviction that her love for me would keep me safe, did not diminish much for me over the years. I told her a few months before she died about this Sunday School exchange, only half-laughing at my younger self. She listened and smiled. She did not contradict me.

E

The family Christmas celebration in 1997 was at my house, and we have a videotape of Mother recounting early family history, recalling

 

photo gallery

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Anticipatory Grief

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A N TI C I PATO RY G RI E F

The heartbreak in King David’s cry when hearing of the death of his estranged son soars far above those sweet twinges we feel in relinquishing small lovely moments.

Grief is the name we give to that pain experienced when we are wrenched away from a closely held connection, especially from one loved over time. Freud used the term “cathexis” to explain human attachments, a term from the Greek word meaning “holding.” One becomes “cathected to love objects” when one invests emotional energy in them, when, in effect, one holds them close. Anytime we let someone or something mean something to us, we are cathected, and the loss of that love object may be agonizing. Those people and things that we bond to are what define us as individuals. So grief raises the question: Who are we when they are no longer in our life? How do we then define ourselves?

A new understanding of anticipatory grief

Grief, according to Freud (1917/1957), has a purpose: Mourners must learn to detach their feelings and attachments from the deceased, so that they can become free to reinvest in new relationships. The reality of the loss must be accepted as final and they must “decathect”; pathological grief is that which has reached no closure or resolution. As much as psychoanalysis has evolved since Freud, contemporary psychoanalytic thought is still consistent with this early conceptualization

 

Post-Bereavement Grief

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Post-Bereavement Grief p

And so, wherever I go and wherever you go, the ground between us will always be holy ground. quoted by Henri Nouwen

So what, after all, does death take away, and what do you get to keep? Clearly, when a loved one dies, we have to give up the physical presence, and all that entails, of the deceased. We have known this all along, of course, but the totality of the experience is still a shock when it happens—and it is not comprehended all at once, but is usually realized progressively over time. He or she will not be there for birthdays anymore, or to exchange thoughts and feelings and hugs with, or to check out memories with. We will not see their faces again, or hear their laughter, or prepare a holiday meal with them. The physical reality of the person, which up until now we had always associated with who they were, will be gone. Giving up this earthly connection is usually very painful for us; acclimating to the world without the physical presence of the loved one is both the cause and the function of grief.

 

Suggested Further Reading

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Suggested Further Reading

Grief—Overview

Coping with Loss—Nolen-Hoeksema, S. & Davis, C.G. (1999) Mahwah,

NJ: Erlbaum.

How To Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies—Therese Rando(1991)

NY: Doubleday.

I Can’t Stop Crying—John Martin & Frank Ferris (1992) CT: Firefly

Books.

Making Loss Matter—Rabbi David Wolpe (2000) NJ: Penguin Putnam.

Meaning Reconstruction and the Experience of Loss—Robert Neimeyer, ed. (2001) Washington D.C.: APA Press

Mending the Torn Fabric—Brabant, Sarah (1996) Amityville, NY:

Baywood.

No Time for Good-byes—Janice Lord (2000) CA: Pathfinder.

Parting Company—Cynthia Pearson and Margaret Stubbs (1999) WA:

Seal Press.

A Path Through Loss—Nancy Reeves(2001) Canada: Northstone.

Roses in December—Marilyn Heavlin (1998) OR: Harvest House.

Understanding Grief—Alan Wolfelt (1992) NY: Taylor & Francis.

Self-Help—Midilife Loss of Parent

African-American Daughters and Elderly Mothers—Sharon Smith(1998)

CT: Garland.

Coping When a Parent Dies—Janet Grosshandler-Smith (1995) NY:

Rosen.

Fading Away—Betty Davies, Joanne Reimer, Pamela Brown, & Nola

 

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