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The (Burmese) Buddhist Approach To Loss


Guest Nicholas

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Guest Nicholas

Whenever I discuss my bereavement with my adopted Burmese brother and father, they both unfailingly respond in the same manner. This is a typical reply of theirs to the fact that it is the six month anniversary of my son's death next Wednesday:

"Don't attach too much emotions to things and events impermanent".

Though I converted to Buddhism many years ago, I doubt I could ever succeed in adopting this attitude. But wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to do so, to know that your departed loved one has been reborn and is on the next stage to Nirvana, to simply accept this as inevitable and to even celebrate it, cherishing the good times spent together. To not be sad but even possibly joyous. The funeral of an important Buddhist "Sayadaw" (Chief Monk) in Burma is always celebrated in this manner, with few tears and lots of parties and what are called "Pwe" or festivals.

To be able to do this, one must be truly blessed.

Nicholas

PS: I am also 99% certain that my son had the very same attitude, being brought up in the orthodox Thai Buddhist tradition. I recall him accepting as inevitable the death of both his sister and sister-in-law and there were definitely no continuous outpourings of grief and sadness as I have been experiencing over the past six months. If only ...

My brother recommends this:

http://www.dhamma.org/en/vipassana.shtml

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Nicholas,

I am pretty far from reaching that goal but there is a part of me that celebrates where Bill is right now and that he is not suffering from Alzheimer's disease any longer. I am truly relieved and happy for him but I tend to focus too often on why he even ever had to deal with AD and that he is not here. I, like you, would like to just be happy about it but alas...I am sad. I am not a Buddhist and not sure about reincarnation but I am sure of an afterlife and that Bill and I will celebrate it together someday.

You mentioned that your son lost his sister and sister-in-law. Was this sister also your daughter? If so, I am again so sad for all your losses.

Mary

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Guest Nicholas

Dear Mary,

No, I adopted Thanomsil, but his sister was his blood sister, and his sister-in-law married to his blood brother, all rather confusing. He was orphaned at quite an early age, you see. His sister was mentally handicapped and he was very fond of her and made sure she was looked after. I am not sure exactly what she died of, but they couldn't afford to send her to hospital. In Thailand, you have to pay and if you come from a poor rural family, it simply isn't possible. I recall with horror the story of his sister-in-law; she had cancer and his brother couldn't pay for her hospital treatment, so Thanomsil would send painkillers by mail for her. Can you imagine that, having to airmail prescription painkillers for someone who is dying of cancer? He would tell me how she cried in agony on the phone to him. Doesn't bear thinking about and I agonized about letting him go back to Thailand because, once there, his drinking would get out of control. In fact, he had been abstinent for about 7 months but when his sister died, he started drinking again, which precipitated his own death.

Nicholas

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I know others who feel the same way - about death being a joyous thing. A release from Earthly bonds. I don't think anyone knows for 100 percent what happens when we die. 99% of me believes we go on - in some form - rebirth - heaven - something. It is that 1% that creeps in every once in a while that makes the loss so much worse. I grew up Christian and for the most part that is where my beliefs go. I have seen things that can't be explained - and the only explanation there could be is that there is something else here with us causing things to happen - smells - doors opening on their own - sounds of someone walking in a room where there is no one - things moving from one place to another on their own - all of these things make me believe there has to be something else.

I try to tell myself everyday that Grandma isn't sitting in the chair in her living room - blind and deaf - being abused by my aunt. I tell myself I should be happy - she is with Grandpa - she is with Aunt Mary - she is with her parents and siblings - she can see - she can hear - she will never have to go without food ever again (she went without food many times in her life) - she will never have to worry again. I still can't find joy in it. The thought of her no longer existing on this planet is more than my mind can grasp.

Totally understand your feelings.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Dear Nicholas,

I am so sorry for your loss. It must be hard to have lost your dear daughter and then so soon afterwards, your son.

I also come from an Eastern faith which believes in the eternity of the soul, and that after death that eternal soul travels on to better places, better bodies, better worlds, etc. But when you lose someone, even if you have faith in the person's eternal soul....well, it's nice to know that *they* are okay, but meanwhile, we feel like we are being ripped apart inside. Yes, their bodies are not permanent, their soul is eternal, but their bodies are what we knew with our material senses, and we miss that. We miss the laughter, the hugging, the special relationship, all of that. It's only natural.

I think people who are detached are, in a way, fortunate, because they are more attached to that which is eternal and spiritual. Therefore there is no loss for them. But for the rest of us, we remain engaged in the temporary, and we miss the person who has gone on. There is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps one day we can get to the stage of being detached from the material and attached to the spiritual; but that is a process. We can't jump through hoops, we have to go gradually. Please give yourself time to grieve, and do not worry about what others do or do not do.

Grieving is a very individual thing. People may not understand it, or you, and that seems to be a given part of it, too. Everyone faces loss in a different manner. But know that you have everyone on this site. We all are all like sisters and brothers in grief; a big, sad family, but at least we have each other. You are not alone. There are people who will relate to what you are saying on here, and there will be people whose different perspective will make you think. There are those you may disagree with, too, but that is okay. It is all individual, and it is all just...part of grieving.

I hope that you find people around you who are accepting and can relate to the grief you are feeling. Please try to seek out those who will listen, and people who will care for you in your grief. We need to be taken care of in grief, for we are fragile. And share with people - on here, and out there - it helps.

((((hugs)))),

take care,

Chai

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Guest Nicholas

Dear Chai,

Thank you for your posting. I didn't lose my daughter, as I never had one, I lost my son. God, if I had lost 2 children (as my poor aunt has), I don't know where I'd be now. Anyway, I start counselling on the 28th so hopefully that will help.

Thanks again.

Nicholas

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Hi Nicholas,

I'm sorry, I must have misread one of your posts. I hope that your counseling goes very well. Please tell us if it helps, and share whatever you feel you want to from your heart.

take care,

Chai

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Guest Nicholas

Dear Chai,

Well I finished my initial assessment, which took about one hour 10 minutes (and paid for by our NHS); the initial assessment is to see if you are at a suitable stage in your grief to commence counselling - whatever a suitable stage means/may be. I guess it would have to be a few months after the bereavement. They ask lots of questions about your past, how you are feeling and coping and what you expect from your sessions. I seemed to talk a lot about my past, childhood, premature death of my parents, upbringing, etc and less about my son. Anyway, he said I was a suitable candidate and would be advised when my weekly counselling sessions would begin, probably not for a few weeks yet, but at least I don't have to pay. It is also possible that the guy who did the assessment won't be my actual counsellor. I didn't feel at all weepy even when talking about the end of my son's life, maybe because I was with a stranger or maybe because we Brits are conditioned not to cry in public.

So I can't yet say if I recommend counselling - I shall report back after my sessions have begun.

Thanks & take care

Nicholas

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Dear Nicholas, good luck with counselling and I was the same in the assessment stage I didnt cry and for most of my sessions I didnt cry about the death but there were tears occassionally its weird I felt I was able to talk about it in a detached unemotional way sometimes as I do when explaining to other people

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Guest Nicholas

Thanks for that, I guess I'll probably react in the same way; I cannot see myself crying in front of a complete stranger. I still haven't heard when the sessions will begin, they said I have to wait 2 - 3 weeks to hear.

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Nicholas,

am glad the counseling is in the works. And perhaps once you connect with the counselor a bit, she or he won't feel like such a complete stranger making it easier for you to cry if you need to. It is sad that our cultures have such a taboo about tears. It is ok to laugh, to be angry, but not to be sad or cry. I think I have helped a few people here in our town to have an opportunities to get past some of that when I cry in public. :)

I saw my grief counselor yesterday and it felt good to bounce stuff around with a trained person. I am blessed with good friends but a trained counselor is a different story as she/he feeds stuff back to you that they hear you saying and helps get to the core and more. I wish you the best with this part of your journey. I know you won't regret it.

Peace,

Mary

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Guest Nicholas

Dear Mary,

Thank you for your kind message. I will let you know when it starts and how it goes. The counsellor asked if I had any preferences, ie male or female counsellor, and I said no in case I offended him, but I suspect I'd feel more comfortable with a female counsellor, I think women are more understanding than men, at least in the UK they seem to be.

Take care

Nicholas

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Nicholas,

I would call the clinic and tell them you had some time to think about it and prefer a female counselor. It is your choice. They asked. Please consider seriously honoring yourself and your needs and do that for yourself. Bill was an exceptionally warm and tender male psychologist (so rare) but I agree with you....I think there are more warm women than males. You could get lucky but I would minimize the chances by asking for a female. Mary

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