Posts Tagged happiness

To mourn with those who mourn

I’ve had a few experiences with people mourning lately, as well as a discussion on how someone believes that part of mourning is coming to agree with their views. This can be a very delicate topic, as mourning involves already being in some sort of inner pain. This is not anything about how to mourn or how to come out of mourning. This is also not for those who are in deep depression, who may need professional help to come back out into the world they inhabited before. This is about the scriptural instruction to “mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:9)

You see, we seem to have some odd ideas as to what it means to mourn with someone. Some try platitudes. A platitude is anything that is given as a truism designed to “make it all better”, putting forth very little effort in hopes that the person will just stop mourning.

“It wasn’t meant to be.”
“They’re in a better place now”
“At least it was quick”
“It’ll be over soon”
“At least you won’t have to deal with any more (or in the foreseeable future)”

With the LDS view of the afterlife (having families be together forever and marriage eternal), we’ve added our own uniquely painful and ineffective versions to the list.

“You’ll have a chance in the next life”
“They’ve just gone ahead to prepare for you”
“Now they can run and play”
“You’ll get them back in the next life”
“Just keep praying”

Do NOT, under any circumstances, no matter how well intentioned, let these phrases or anything like unto it pass your lips to someone who is mourning. Work to have these never even come to mind. They are not helpful to someone who is mourning and can even make it deeper, driving them away from you instead of drawing you closer together.

It makes no difference on your believing it is true or if they believe it is true, these are still just empty platitudes. A father who has lost his child may know of a surety that his child is whole and alive with God, but that does not negate his need for mourning. A woman may feel she is passed the age where she would have a chance to have a husband and children, know that the Plan of God includes her marrying and having children, but still mourn for her loss. A person who has been living with sin can know the love and forgiveness of Christ and still mourn what they had lost from that sin. A platitude may help you feel better around someone else’s mourning, but they are empty, stinging words to that person’s soul.

Actions to try and bring someone out of their mourning can be just as problematic, but in a different way. (I’ll note again that deep depression should be handled professionally). While those who “mourn . . . shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4), this does not mean that you need to “just cheer them up” or “get them out” or “put a smile on their face”. While these may help once mourning is abated for a time, no scripture says “cheer up those who mourn”.

We mourn not when we’re in a brief down or when we’re feeling just a bit low; we mourn when we are feeling pain deep down to our souls. These are deep wounds, the kind that if they were physical would be cuts through and into the bone. These kind of wounds do not need little bandages or mild pain killers, but need stitching or holding together until time can make it closer to whole. There is no “just walk it off” for mourning, no “it’s not that bad” for wounds so deep, no “just look up” for damage so deep. There will be scars, pain, and no immediate fix.

Mourning takes time to heal, and will never heal completely. The best, The Best help to someone who is mourning is to mourn with them. Simply be with them. Be there when they reach out to you, but more importantly be there before they feel they need to. Quiet which may or may not be broken by expressions of that pain are not the enemy; they are part of the healing process. Let yourself feel some of the pain they are feeling, even if it triggers your own mourning. Let them take comfort in your presence. Nothing more is needed. You may get something out of the experience, like appreciation for a pain you may never have experienced, but you may get nothing at all. You are not there to “fix” or to “cheer”. You are there to mourn with those who mourn.

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On depression and suicide

A little over a year ago now, I was seriously thinking of suicide. It was well beyond any bout of depression or panic attack I’d ever felt before. There was no perceived misdeed or responsibility I was trying to escape. I was working with my doctor to change medications, as depression medicines tend to lose effectiveness the longer you are on them. I ended up deep, deep in a panic state, barely able to move and shaking uncontrollably, my mind unable to focus on anything but how I could make that panic feeling stop. I also knew, amidst all this, that I had to be sure whatever I did would actually kill me. No cutting, no car wrecks. Pills were too hit and miss. It’s partially due to that need for surety that I managed to get through it at all.

That and my wife.

No, I don’t mean that thoughts of my family and what would happen to them had saved me. As I said, I couldn’t make myself even think about anything but the pain and panic, praying that it would just end. I mean that even though she was struggling to care for three small children and has always had as one of her major fears that I would die, she made sure I was not alone. She did her best to help get what aid we could get, helping me through it, even though an end didn’t seem in sight. Through a combination of support, counseling, and medication, we made it through.

As a society, if we talk about suicide at all, we treat it as if it’s one monolithic thing. We don’t want to talk about it, we know it’s there, and so we don’t like to put any more thought into it than we have to. From my experience, suicide comes from one of two sources.

The first is like this episode I had, where there may not be particular reason, just an overriding need. This tends to need medication to help, with counseling to watch to make sure the medication is doing what it should without creating side effects it shouldn’t. Suicide here tends to leave more questions than answers, as people wonder what they could have done, what burden they could have helped lift, what they might have said without thinking. The problem is that there is very little they could have done. There is no “choose to think positive” or “just snap out of it” that would help. The person was sick, and needed medical help. They may have had shades of this illness before, or it may have been the first time, but it is still an illness. Unfortunately, it’s an illness we don’t like to think about (or sometimes even believe), so we’ve let go the resources we have for treatment. There is no support for getting a debilitating disease that requires weeks or months away from work and life to try and get in control.

The other is from a build up of problems where it feels like the world and everyone you care about would be better off without you there. This type needs more counseling than medication, working through the problems to help remove or mitigate the issues weighing life down. Unfortunately, support for this is just as poor. Some believe that you just need to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “not take the cowards way out” without even thinking about the reasons that might be involved.

I’m very grateful I had my wife and resources to help, including a job that had the flexibility to work with me during that time. I worry for those who do not have these resources and mourn with those who have been left behind through this. No amount of platitudes will help. It’s hard. It hurts. If it (or anything else) has triggered your own feelings of despair and thoughts of suicide, get help in any way you can. There is no right way in getting help for this. Grasp onto whatever slim reed you can manage, be it family, friend, coworker, or even a stranger on a help line. You don’t have to do this alone.

In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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The Iron Rod

In a prophetic dream by Lehi and Nephi in the Book of Mormon, there is a depiction of our journey through life returning to the presence of God. This includes a building full of jeering people, a river of sin, mists of darkness, and forbidden paths which try to take us out of the progression, the end represented by the Tree of Life.

To help everyone get from where they are to the Tree of Life, there is a “strait and narrow path”, bordered by an Iron Rod. In the dream, the Iron Rod was the means for anyone to reach the Tree of Life, but people had to choose to use it, ignore the words of the jeering people, and not let go and risk loss.

The tendency at this point is to see an absolutely straight path, with an absolutely straight rod, with no turns, making a bee line to the Tree of Life. We think that anyone who has deviated from the absolute course we think exists from point A to point B must be in apostacy, setting up the path we believe we are on as the best and absolute. This image of absolute rigidness and direction is what I believe is in error.

First, the word used is “strait”, not “straight”. It means “narrow” and “strict” – it is not an indication of direction. We are given nothing on how the path gets from one point to another, if it goes around hills or other landscape features (though none are given), only that it does lead to the Tree.

In the interpretation of the dream, the Iron Rod is interpreted as “. . . the word of God, which led . . . to the tree of life . . .”(1Ne.11:22) The “Word of God” is also another name given for Jesus The Christ (John 1:1). He was with God in the beginning, and by Him was all God commanded fulfilled.

So next time you sing the Hymn “The Iron Rod” or read about this in the Scriptures, or even feel like you’re not doing as well as you’d like, rather than thinking about an impersonal, solid rod, that couldn’t care if you used it or not, think of the Savior, hand outstretched, waiting for you to simply take His hand, so He can help you on your way to that distant, and seemingly impossibly hard to reach, Tree of Life at the end of our journey. It doesn’t matter where we are, seemingly far away from the main path, feeling like we’re only inches from the path, or even in the great and spacious building, He is there, mere inches away, hand outstretched, desperately hoping we will simply take His hand.

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Who will we be when we wake?

One of the best episodes of Start Trek: The Next Generation is entitled “The Light Within”. In it, Captain Picard finds himself thrust into a life completely foreign to what he had known. During this new life, he had the knowledge of where he had come from, but nothing else to connect him to his old life. There was no communication possible with the world left behind, nor knowledge in anyone in his new life that any other world even existed. In time, the new life had become his full reality, the past being only a vague memory. When he returned, it took some time for him to get used to the idea that 50 years had not really passed, but only a brief amount of time. To him, however, a full life of 50 years had passed, with a wife, children, and grandchildren. Those memories became a part of him, deeply effecting his life after.

Our life is similar. We came from a place of happiness, with loving parents, brothers, sisters of varying levels of closeness. We have been thrust into a body we have no idea how to make work, into a life completely foreign to the life we knew before, until our previous life fades to a vague memory that we soon forget. We live a full life, hopefully with a new family and friends, getting only impressions of where we were and where we are going after. When this life is over, we will return to the life we had before.

What will we find when we return? We know it will seem we were gone but a brief time. We will know the parents we left, the close brothers and sisters we left behind. We will remember every detail of both of the lives we have lived. Once again using our first life as a baseline, how will we see the new life we have lived? Joy? Horror? Tears? Outrage?

Who will we be when we wake?

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Happiness, Belief and Morality

I recently read a blog post from an atheist site that derided the surprise of someone that Atheists could find happiness without God. I found it particularly amusing that I agreed with the atheist writer. Why shouldn’t Atheists be happy? Yes, knowing God has help make my life happier, but that does not mean that I could not have found happiness if I did not find God.

This brought me to a thought that tends to go with the thought that Atheists cant be happy – that those who do not share the same beliefs you do must be amoral (or immoral, which is different).

This is one of those ideas that works to divide, rather than bring together and uplift. Our history is resplendent with it. Native tribes had to be “converted”, since their clothes and ways were different. Jews had to be purged since they had crucified Jesus. Catholics had to become Protestants to free them from being told what to believe by the Pope.

From this kind of thinking, rumour and gossip abound: “They treat women like cattle!”, “They kill babies!”, “They let men and women worship together!” – biased (and often baseless) accusations designed to make us feel better about persecuting them.

We have to remember that all of these people are also creations of God, our brothers and sisters, or at the least, fellow human beings. They are struggling just as much as you are to learn who they are and what they want to do with their lives. Your beliefs and traditions can be just as foreign to them as theirs are to you. These beliefs do not make them immoral any more than yours make you immoral. They are simply different.

If you truly wish to help – work to improve your life so that you live up to your beliefs. Then, invite and show others how your beliefs have improved your life and happiness. Let it be their own choice, if they have a desire to change. And, no matter what they choose, continue with them. Perhaps you will even learn something from them that will strengthen your own beliefs.

Everyone has morals. Each persons morals have been shaped over the years by many more things than their beliefs. Everyone can be happy, no matter what they believe.

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What you bring to it

I’ve known a number of people who have drifted from one church to the next, away from or toward a particular church or religion, simply based on how much they felt a connection with those they interact with. For the most part I believe that what makes a good church or a bad church is in what you bring to it.

Now granted, how much a congregation or group does do to make the people around them welcome does play a part, as do the beliefs of the group you are attempting to connect with, but both of these take a back seat to your own perceptions of the people involved.

I have seen people be given many opportunities to attend gatherings or participate in activities and encouraged to join in sharing part of their lives with others only to have them refuse at each step of the way, then complain because no one cares about them.

I have seen others call those at their local church “hypocrites” because of some perceived notion that those people did or did not help something to happen, then refuse to help others around them or even get to know their neighbors.

In both of these cases, life for these people would have been a great deal better if they had concentrated on why they believe what they believe and in working to do more to help strengthen their beliefs. It helps to also remember that the people in your church also believe many of the same things as you, and are struggling with many of the same things.

Your faith cannot be a “me vs them” proposition – no matter what you believe, you have to start thinking of everyone around you as part of “us”.

So – do you feel disconnected from your church? Maybe the people just haven’t gotten a chance to know you. What barriers have you put up to keep them from knowing you? It is possible that some will treat you different because you don’t meet their specific criteria, but those are always vastly outnumbered by those who don’t care about those things.

Ultimately, you will do the best to make your church or group a better place by being the kind of person you want to find there. No matter what the circumstances or how shut-out some people may try to make you feel, you are the only one who can determine how you will deal with it.

A congregation is good or bad because of what you bring to it.

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