Crazy or Therapeutic?

Talking to yourself out loud isn’t really crazy…right?  What about talking to people out loud who are no longer here?  Is that crazy or therapeutic? Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. I am the last remaining member of my generation or the one ahead of me. There were 6 significant people in my life who helped mold me, who helped make me a hypochondriac, helped make me insecure,  and who led me to a confidence I didn’t experience until later in life.   I know what I am good at now, I feel secure when I attempt certain things and I think those  6 people are responsible.

For a lot of years I was angry at all of them.  I was angry at my dad cause I never knew if he would be sober or under the influence.  So many holidays were ruined as he was an unkind drunk and usually my mom, brother and I were the targets.  I hesitated bringing friends home for fear of embarrassment.  My friends thought he was great cause he would always make jokes of which I was the brunt.  They thought it was funny while I was dying inside.  Mom worked the midnight to 8 shift at the local hospital so she slept most days. And my brother was 8 years older so he was out of those house and we had little in common til I graduated college.  Then there are my three aunts, Eleanor, Edna and Dot.  They were my safety cushions-unconditional love, always and anywhere. 
They are all gone now.  The anger has been replaced by confusion and then understanding.  As I experienced parenthood I realized not everything is simple, black and white.  I had my daughter’s bedroom door slammed in my face more times than I care to admit to.  I began to realize what a hard job it is to parent. I also realized I wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with either.  
My dad enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and served on Iwo Jima til his discharge in ‘45.  My brother, who knew him before the war said he was a different man when he came home.  I’m sure they had PTSD back then, probably called it shell shock. But the war obviously had an effect on him.  I couldn’t appreciate that cause I didn’t know him before, and he never talked about the war to us.  My anger lasted years after his death.
So what does all this have to do with talking out loud to dead people?  Every night I talk to all 6 of them out loud and in the dark.  The dog thinks I am talking to him!  But I finally know the questions I wanted to ask all of them. I finally  apologized for not appreciating the patience and guidance my mom gave to me. I told my brother how he guided me into a profession I was good at, and thanked my three aunts for their unwavering love of this skinny little kid.  And as a result of these one sided conversations I have a new understanding of how and why things happened and I began seeing some incredibly loving things my dad did for me- the corsages he made for all the girls at my party in 7th grade, the fight he had with my grade school principal when they wanted to retain me in 2nd grade.  My mom was a saint. She had to deal with me daily after working from midnight til 8 AM. I gained a new appreciation of my brother and an admiration for the kind of teacher he was.  i finally was able to verbalize to my aunts how much I appreciated their love and benefited from it.  I’ve asked all of them to give me a sign of some sort to let me know they are still watching over me and my kids.  i talk to them nightly. I love and miss all of them terribly.   Still haven’t heard back from any of them yet but I do believe they heard me and am open to any signs they can give!

Crazy or Therapeutic — Yes!

George raises some interesting questions for all of us.  Do we also speak to people or animals or even places/inanimate objects that were once an interactive part of our lives but are no longer so?

I do.  There are times when I’m alone and ask a question, put forth a gratitude, or declare a feeling to family members or friends who are no longer physically present in my life.  I don’t expect a response but often feel differently after I do.  It sounds therapeutic but, if I’m the only one (other than George) who does this in the world, perhaps it’s crazy.  So what is crazy?

When Wal, George, and I confer we recognize that we often have varying takes on the meaning of a word.  In order to establish that we’re talking about the same thing, Wal often refers us to Wikipedia.  Acting on that habit I found that one section of Wikipedia compares craziness to insanity and madness and describes it as “a spectrum of individual and group behaviors that are characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns.”  It goes on to say, however, that a more informal use can refer to someone who is considered “highly unique, passionate or extreme, including in a positive sense.”  Therefore, who is to say whether the behavior George describes is good or bad, helpful or not?  Aren’t they just labels that are meaningful only to the labeler?  (Or does that sound crazy?)

George talks about how the nighttime conversations with his six departed family members have helped him reach new levels of understanding and peace with his past.  As I think about some of the “chats” I’ve had with my people, I realize that speaking aloud to an intentional person (even though they are not physically there) has a more direct effect on how I feel afterwards than just thinking it – silently – to myself.  Is it the physical sound of my own voice offered up to the person/universe that makes the difference?  I wonder.  (I just thought, “I wonder” and typed it but then I said it out loud and it felt different, more intentional.  Interesting.)  Try it!

There is an article in Psychology Today by Arthur Dobrin D.S.W. entitled Conversing with the Dead. “This isn’t talking to ghosts but a continuing source of comfort.”  In it he describes this for some, as a helpful, healing practice.

George closes his piece with him patiently waiting for a sign from each of the family members he spoke to.  I love this part.  My sisters and I would often contact each other when we were certain our mom sent a sign for one of us.  Once it was a sudden gust of wind on a perfectly calm day when a ceremony was taking place and we were all there together.  Other times it was a bird coming closer to us than it should when we were talking about her or a tug on my ear from out of nowhere when I was doing something that I was sure she would disapprove.  I/we have no evidence that it’s her.  But somehow, maybe because we want it to be true, we’re convinced it was mom. 

Crazy?  Therapeutic? What do you think?

Good Grief!

What could be wrong about talking to those people we loved who have transitioned on from this life? I think this is a means of keeping a person’s memory current – it’s instrumental bereavement; it’s good grief!

The psychologists tell us that complex bereavement can go on for years. Sometimes we are left with sentiments that have not been fully expressed, so we keep the conversations going. Having nightly conversations, as George does, is a sort of a role playing experience which keeps those stories alive. It is a way of keeping a connection with the departed, while still moving on with your life. Psychologist J. W. Worden describes these connection activities as the last stage of grieving. Another psychologist, Kenneth Doka might group this activity under ‘rituals of continuity’, which establishes that the departed are still a part of your life. Personally, I like the idea (Carl Jung’s idea) that building myths and stories about the departed is a positive and healthy activity.

The ability to talk out loud to individuals who have left for parts unknown can be therapeutic. Actually speaking the thoughts makes them more intense… after all, you have invested the energy and resolve to make a statement – an observable event (although most of us do this privately — we hope!) Some have termed this ‘directed imagery’ and it is a powerful technique in the healing process

Myself, I enjoy talking to my core family – I don’t expect an answer, but it helps to work out problems and just to say “thanks” (belatedly) for the care and kindness that was exhibited by these folks. And also to apologize for not understanding then, what you have come to understand now. It sure sounds like that is the gist of what Geo and Hen do as well.

Of course, as Hen points out, “crazy” is defined by the culture – it is outlier behavior. In a general sense, speaking to the dead may be crazy if it is obsessive; if it disables a person’s ability to effectively function in the living world. However, there are shades of gray here. I know spouses who refuse to erase the voicemail messages and telephone greeting recorded by departed spouses… and others who name pets after loved ones who have left life behind. Crazy? I don’t think so, but probably not therapeutic either.

On the other hand, you can go further down this road: digital reconstruction. All it takes is a zettabyte (yes, this is a thing) of information and Artificial Intelligence applications will – within the next decade — be able to create a digital ‘departed loved one’ that can respond to your emails and texts. This entity will use all the data known about the loved one and fashion thoughts and responses based on their experiences and predilections. See https://qz.com/896207/death-technology-will-allow-grieving-people-to-bring-back-their-loved-ones-from-the-dead-digitally/.

Or perhaps those desirous of keeping in touch real time may opt for the solutions offered through Guiding Echoes courses, such as Connect with Deceased Friends and Family, an online course advertised to “teach you to connect with loved ones who have passed away whenever and wherever you want”. You can ‘hang out’ or converse with those who have transitioned, according to the course’s author. Quirky, crazy? I don’t know – maybe it works. I guess each of us has a scale on which we rank these inclinations from healthy to quirky, along some continuum or another.

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