The Death of a Parent

The Death of a Parent

The loss of a parent is a loss like no other…

It doesn’t seem to matter what age our parents leave this world, we’re seldom ready for that final farewell.

Our father passed away in December 2001.  He was a young man but had experienced poor health for many years leading up to his death but that knowledge didn’t help to lessen the loss for us.

At that stage, our mother was still alive, and we felt incredibly fortunate to have her in our lives for a further 18 years.  However, even though we had those additional years with her, we were still heartbroken when the time finally came to let her go.

In the same way that we always remain our parent’s children – our parents are always our parents – regardless of their age.

The impact of a parent’s death

As adults, we’re generally able to understand that we’re likely to outlive our parents.  Logically we know that the time will come when we’ll need to say goodbye to them. 

On some level, we’re aware that we’re all stardust and that releasing our parents is part of the circle of life.

However, in my experience, we must not underestimate the devastating impact this loss can have on us as adults.  It may also be helpful to consider how it’s likely to be experienced by our inner child. 

This brings me to another interesting point – did you know that a significant number of adults are unaware of their inner child?

True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one’s inner child.  For most adults, this never happens.  Instead, their inner child has been denied, neglected, disparaged, abandoned, or rejected.  We are told by society to “grow up”, putting childish things aside.  To become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child – representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity, and playfulness, must be stifled, quarantined, or even killed.  The inner child comprises and potentiates these positive qualities.  But it also holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas, fears, and anger.  “Grown-ups” are convinced they have successfully outgrown, jettisoned, and left this child, and its emotional baggage – long behind.  But this is far from the truth.”  Dr. Stephen Diamond (Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: The Inner Child).

Regardless of what age we are, or how worldly and mature we may be, there is still an inner child in every one of us – seen or not.  And, that inner child needs to be treated compassionately and sensitively when their parent dies.  The inner child is that aspect of us who still sees their parents through the eyes of the child within.

How might we include and nurture our inner child when a parent dies?

First and foremost – acknowledge the existence of the child within you.

If you’ve lost contact with that little person over the years, start building an emotional bridge and making an effort to connect with them.  Reassure them that the adult in you is more than capable of taking care of them and that you welcome their ability to help you to reconnect with all their wonderful child-like qualities.  Give your inner child the right to be devastated at the loss of their beloved parent.  Be gentle with them around this loss and encourage them to allow their tears to fall, whilst gently reassuring them that you will take good enough care of them.

Recovering from the death of a parent will depend on many variables.  What’s central to the process is our ability to love, respect, accept, and nurture all aspects of ourselves.

Rev Caroline Lennon

Certified Civil Celebrant and Interfaith Minister based in Ireland.

As a non-denominational Minister, there are no limitations to the personal ceremony that can be created exactly as you wish.

The Death of a Parent

Regardless of what age we are, or how worldly and mature we may be, there is still an inner child in every one of us – seen or not. And, that inner child needs to be treated compassionately and sensitively when their parent dies. The inner child is that aspect of us who still sees their parents through the eyes of the child within.

Witnesses of a life that’s been lived

Those of us who attend funerals are witnesses of the life that’s been lived.

Deprived of the Right to Grieve

Deprived of the right to grieve: Disenfranchised grief can be a difficult and lonely experience, and those grieving may not recieve the help they require.

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Creating Your Wedding Vows

Creating Your Wedding Vows

Wedding vows could be described as the heart of marriage

One of the most precious aspects of your wedding ceremony is the creation of your wedding vows.  This is your opportunity to make space for your heart and mind to articulate your commitment to your beloved.  Wedding vows could be described as the heart of marriage.

Grounded and well-considered wedding vows can provide an anchor for your life together going forward.  These are the words that you will speak intimately and honestly to one another in front of your friends and family.  Therefore, it’s important to give them adequate time and consideration.

Ideally, your vows need to be created months in advance of your wedding.  Although I encourage couples to write their own wedding vows, there’s no need for anxiety because inspiration can be taken from the numerous sample vows that are available.  If I’m the celebrant or minister marrying you, I’d see it as my job to help you to create wedding vows that will truly reflect the people that you are and that will mirror the uniqueness of your relationship with one another.

A couple’s commitment to one another is nourished by personalised and heartfelt vows. When you reflect on your history together as a couple, you’ll realise that you most likely began creating your vows, in intimate moments together, many moons ago.

To begin the process it may be helpful to think about your time together and to take into consideration…

 

  • Heartfelt conversations you’ve had with one another
  • Vulnerabilities you’ve shared with one another
  • That moment when you realised that you trusted and respected one another
  • The first time you both said the words “I love you”
  • Your hopes, aspirations, and values
  • When you saw your unborn children in your beloved’s eyes
  • The challenges that you’ve overcome together
  • Your shared vision for a life together.

 

You can write your vows together, but you may also find it easier to write them separately.  It’s advisable for couples to share their vows with one another before speaking them aloud on their wedding day.  It’s understandable that some people may want the element of “surprise” however, I’m not convinced that’s a worthy enough reason.   The problem with a surprise is that it can be received positively or negatively – better safe than sorry!

When you share your vows with your partner in advance of the wedding, they then have a chance to absorb what you intend to say to them during the wedding ceremony.  If you wish you can practice speaking the vows aloud.  If there’s anything in the vows that’s not acceptable to either person, there will still be time to make changes before your wedding day.  This aspect of your wedding holds amazing potential.  I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to immerse yourself in creating your vows, and to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

Rev Caroline Lennon

Certified Civil Celebrant and Interfaith Minister based in Ireland. As a non-denominational Minister, there are no limitations to the personal ceremony that can be created exactly as you wish.

Spiritual Counselling and Holy Encounters

Spiritual Counselling and Holy Encounters

Holy Encounters

Spiritual Counselling and Holy Encounters: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always found it easy to befriend strangers.  I’m not sure why it takes such little effort for me to make friends so easily.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a person who likes people and enjoys getting to know them.  I love to hear about other people’s life experiences and to sit with them for a while. 

Spiritual Counselling and Holy EncountersIn February 2006, whilst visiting New York for a long weekend, I decided to go for a walk during my second day there.  As I didn’t know my way around the city, I ended up walking for hours, and eventually strayed into an area that didn’t look too friendly.  Then, on a street that was almost deserted, a man approached me looking for “money” or a “cell phone”.  

At that moment I felt afraid because I thought that this man was going to attack me or steal from me.  However, my gut instinct was to open up my purse and invite him to take whatever he needed, and that’s exactly what I did.  I remained calm and said to him:

 

“I’m not sure what you need, so please, help yourself”. 

 

The man looked at me in disbelief or as though I was mentally unbalanced.  He then cautiously picked out some coins from my purse.  I showed him my phone and offered it to him in case he needed to make a phone call.  I explained that I was just visiting from Ireland.  I had a picture of my son on my phone, and as it happened, this man also had a son about the same age.  We then struck up a conversation that lasted several hours.  It seemed as if this man’s entire life was in the small bag which he was carrying on his back.  He opened up his bag and amongst other things, it contained numerous photos of his son.  

 

As we chatted, he told me with a real sense of sadness that his son had been in foster care for most of his life.  He had several newspaper articles in his bag that featured his son, and he seemed delighted to show them to me.  This man’s son was a successful basketball player and his father was incredibly proud of him. 

It’s amazing to see what happens when we take time to look beyond the superficial

His face was scarred and it was obvious from my conversation with him that he’d had a difficult life.   He was no stranger to substance abuse and rough living.  His head was bandaged, and his body was frail and undernourished.  His clothes were dirty, and he looked disheveled. 

 

It was obvious he found it most peculiar that I was interested in talking to him.  He told me that people driving by would be wondering what the “white woman” was doing talking to him.  Shortly after meeting him, he was referring to me as his “Irish angel”, whereas I believe that he was my “New York angel”.   It was such an excellent example of why it’s important to see the light in others and to treat them as if that is all we see.

 

This chance meeting with James on a street in New York was truly a ‘holy’ encounter for both of us.  It was a point in time when the light in me connected to the light in him; consequently, all obstacles to communication were removed. 

Rev Caroline Lennon

Certified Civil Celebrant and Interfaith Minister based in Ireland. As a non-denominational Minister, there are no limitations to the personal ceremony that can be created exactly as you wish.

Witnesses of a life that’s been lived

Witnesses of a life that’s been lived

Witnesses of a life that’s been lived?

 

Perhaps it’s one of the downsides of getting older, but over the last couple of years, I’ve attended too many funerals of family members.

There has been a uniqueness about each one of those funerals but there has also been a number of similarities.  Death is never boring.  It takes each of us in its own way.

And that’s what strikes me most –

Even when people have lived long lives – when they look out from their own eyes, they often feel like there’s still time; maybe not plenty of it, but at least some…

When it’s sudden death, those of us left behind can think “what if” but that’s really just the ego playing a game with us.  Things are exactly the way they’re meant to be.  If things were meant to be different, they would have been.

As I sat in the church waiting for my uncle’s remains, and the other mourners to arrive – I had a deep awareness and understanding of the need for the ritual around funerals, and I connected to the real reason that I was sitting in the church.

Those of us who attend funerals are witnesses of the life that’s been lived.

We’re there because we have some level of history with the person who has departed, and we have insight into the numerous footprints that have been left behind.

I wouldn’t have seen much of my uncle in recent years, but I have some really fond memories of the role he played in my life when I was a child.  He was a real trickster and teased me whenever the opportunity arose.  As I was a sickly child, he nicknamed me the “puny human”; and yet, I always loved to see him arriving into my parent’s home for his morning tea break when he was working nearby.

I would also have been aware of the love that my father had for his younger brother.  There was nothing that he wouldn’t have done for him, and that was just one of the many reasons why it felt important for me to be there to say goodbye.  Although my father passed away many years ago, his love for his brother, my uncle, was visible through the presence of my brother and I being at my uncle’s funeral.

As I sat alone in the church, I also thought about my cousin – now a grown man but still my uncle’s only adult child.  It was he who found his father, and, unfortunately, as fate determined, there was no time for them to say goodbye.

I also thought about the goodness of people and how regardless of differences of opinion or perspectives on life – they generally show up for us when we really need them to be there. In the celebration of my uncle’s life on earth, we were privileged to be witnesses of the life that he’d lived.  

Less than a year later I received the sad news that my uncle’s only child, my cousin, only had a few days to live.  A week later, I found myself in the role of a grieving witness once again.  The trouble is, you think you have time.  

 

 

Rev Caroline Lennon

Certified Civil Celebrant and Interfaith Minister based in Ireland.

As a non-denominational Minister, there are no limitations to the personal ceremony that can be created exactly as you wish.

Spiritual Counselling, Spiritual Well-Being and Mental Health

Spiritual Counselling, Spiritual Well-Being and Mental Health

Spiritual Counselling, Spiritual Well-Being and Mental Health

 

In recent years there’s greater awareness of the positive impact that spiritual fitness or well-being has on our mental health.  

Major faith paths and organised religions can meet this need for people, however, there are a number of fundamental differences between religion and spirituality.  These are some of the differences that have been identified by Deepak Chopra, and which resonate with me:

  • There are no rules to spirituality
  • Spirituality is based on love and not on fear
  • Religion tells you the truth – Spirituality lets you discover it
  • Religion separates, spirituality unites
  • The difference between karma and punishment  
  • Walk your own path

“Religion is belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience.”

It’s interesting that 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon have for many decades now connected with the importance of spirituality and having a connection with a God of our own understanding.

People attending 12-step groups reach out for help, acknowledge their powerlessness, and surrender their unwellness, to something greater than themselves; which, in essence, is the first step of the 12-step programme.

Step-2 of the 12-step programme states: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” And, step-3 is: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Other people experiencing dis-ease in their life may opt to go down the route of formal counselling, psychotherapy or spiritual counselling.

What’s spiritual counselling?

The framework used for spiritual counselling isn’t unlike what’s used for counselling and psychotherapy; however, in my personal experience, the process is significantly different.  What’s ‘different’ and appealing about spiritual counselling is something that I initially only read about, but I’ve since been blessed to experience for myself. The ‘difference’ between counselling/psychotherapy is subtle and elusive and can sometimes be difficult to even put into words.  In the process of spiritual counselling, grace is placed before psychology. The intentionality of inviting the God of our understanding to guide and direct the spiritual counselling process is crucial in the process of spiritual counselling.

The impact of spiritual counselling can be instantaneous, although it may also be the case that there’s nothing particularly outstanding about the process and outcome of spiritual counselling either during or after a session – in fact, in my experience it can be days, weeks or even months after a spiritual counselling session before the truth really emerges or begins to make sense.  I’ve experienced it as the unravelling of old ideas, which in turn helped me to see the light. The truth of a situation comes to light in God’s time rather than in our time, when we’re eventually able to face that particular aspect of ourselves, and to integrate whatever learning that’s been made available to us through the spiritual counselling relationship.

Spiritual counselling can provide the opportunity to discover and explore our personal connection with the God of our understanding and to come to know that we are one.

Rev Caroline Lennon

Certified Civil Celebrant and Interfaith Minister based in Ireland. As a non-denominational Minister, there are no limitations to the personal ceremony that can be created exactly as you wish.

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