Just because you see it coming, doesn’t mean you’re ready for it.
I am absolutely terrified of flying. I just do not understand how something so big and heavy can just float through the air. Before I got on an airplane for my trip to Ireland, I had one of my favorite priests bless me. This priest just so happens to also be a pilot, so I figured I had double the protection. Well, I brought up my fear and how an airplane flying just doesn’t make sense and he pulled out a piece of paper and started to explain the physics of how an airplane flies. So I understand the physics behind it. And guess what? I’m still afraid.
I went to school at the New England Institute at Mount Ida College. It’s a really fancy name for a really small school located right outside of Boston, MA. It had a really great Funeral Service program. I could go into the city of Boston anytime I wanted, however, I couldn’t really come home to Buffalo, NY anytime I wanted. You see, it’s kind of a seven hour car ride. I just so happened to go to school when gas prices were even higher than they are right now, so anytime I was able to come home I flew because it was cheaper.
Now let me invite you a little bit further into the mind of Lauren. I’ll give you a visual before I explain it. Have you ever seen Bridesmaids? You know that scene when they’re all flying to Vegas and that girl is freaking out saying she had a dream that the plane went down? Yeah, that’s basically me. Now, when something is coming up I have a horrible case of anxiety. All I can do is just think about what I’m going to have to do, if that makes sense. So, about a week before I would fly home that’s all I would be thinking about. I would hardly get any sleep and would be a Pessimistic Patty. It’s not like my attitude really mattered, because if the plane was going down there would be nothing I could do to stop it. I also have this habit of sitting next to males when I fly alone. This wouldn’t normally bother me besides for the fact that when I get on an airplane I start to cry and pray. Not very loudly, but enough to make the gentleman sitting next to me uncomfortable. It’s really always the same. I buckle my seat belt, turn off my phone after texting my boyfriend, “Just in case I don’t make it home, remember I love you” and the tears come. Silently, of course, but if someone near you is crying you know. My lips then start to move silently as well because I pray the rosary every flight. Again, I figure if I’m going down with this plane, it can’t hurt to have had my last words aimed at the Big Guy. Forty-five minutes to an hour later I’m back on the ground, kissing the earth. It takes me longer to get to work every morning (both ways) if you think about it. So what did all the anticipating really do for me? Nothing. It makes me a horrible person to sit next to on an airplane. Sorry future flight passengers.
So what’s the point of sharing my fear of flying with all of you, you may be asking yourself. Well, I was thinking about how I anticipate certain events in my life and then my mind got to thinking and before I knew what was happening I was thinking about anticipatory grief. Yes, that just happened.
Anticipatory grief is the feeling of loss before a death or a dreaded event. I think this is an awesome subject, because everyone has gone through it sometime or another in their life. For me, it would be the situation of flying on an airplane. Even little kids have gone through it. The first couple of times I watched my little cousin, he would get so worked up over his mother leaving. She wouldn’t even be out the door yet, but he sensed her leaving and would start to cry even before she was gone. He was anticipating the moment when she would leave. For others, it really does have to do with the fact of anticipating a death. If someone you know and love is going into Hospice care, the doctors are basically telling you to get ready. You know what’s coming next even if you don’t fully acknowledged it. You could be anticipating a huge test, or a doctor’s appointment, anything really. Now, does this really do us any good?
I’ve already given you my answer as it pertains to flying. Now, I personally haven’t had anticipatory grief when it comes to a loved one. I mean, my grandmother is eighty-one but if I started to anticipate her death right now not only would it be morbid it would also take away from the very precious and valuable time we have left together. So I’m grateful to say that is one life event I have yet to know. I have, however, had my fair share of observing anticipatory grief. So based on my observations, I will tell you what I think. Here is an example. I had a family come into the funeral home once. Their mother was dying and in Hospice care. The dying mother, fully aware of her state, found great comfort in picking out her clothes and casket that she would be viewed in. By having such an active role in her funeral, her children were able to also find great comfort in making arrangements before hand. They would sit with me and Charles, laugh about how “only their mother’ would care so much about how she’d look when she was dead (she even picked out her nail polish), but also, they’d cry together, knowing very well that they only had a short amount of time left with their mom. I viewed this whole process as very positive. Because they were able to anticipate the death of their mother, they were able to begin their grief journey. Now, I’m not saying that it was any easier when mom passed away. I actually highly doubt that it was, because no matter how much you see it coming and no matter how much you can prepare, it’s still mom.
I really enjoy reading. If I have any free time that’s my absolute favorite thing to do. I read this book not so long ago called The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Randy was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. And this is a true story. He took the little time he had left, to get everything in order and to give one final lecture about following your childhood dreams. I read it in a day and I bawled my eyes out. If you do one thing today, please go to your nearest bookstore and buy this book. You will love it, I promise. Anyways, Randy was able to anticipate his death and do something amazing with it. I can’t even properly tell you because his story is just so inspiring that I wouldn’t do it justice. I guess I can say this much, I believe that anticipatory grief can be positive if you allow it to be. Randy allowed it to be. You have to open yourself up to the realization that something will happen and that you may have no control over the outcome. Getting over denial is the biggest issue, really. Because even if you see something coming, if you don’t have the will or the desire to do something about it, the forewarning is useless. But I guess that it can pertain to anything in life. Some of us are really fortunate to have signs for the future. Actually, a lot of the time we all have signs. It’s really just being open to identify them. I hope you’ll be open to the signs in your life. I hope you never have a fear like my fear of flying. Most importantly, I really hope you get off your computer and go buy The Last Lecture. No actually, most importantly, I hope you realize that there will be situations that you can’t control, and even though you don’t like that I hope you’ll still keep going.
p.s. If you want to actually watch the lecture that the book is written around, you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo