Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Next Friend Grief Books

Do you consider the people you work with to be friends?

Have you experienced the death of one of them?

I’m currently looking for people to interview for the next two books in the Friend Grief series.

Book #4 is Friend Grief and Community: Band of Friends. It focuses on active duty military and veterans – men and women, of any age - who have lost a battle buddy, either in combat or from suicide.

Book #5 is Friend Grief in the Workplace: More Than an Empty Cubicle. This book’s focus is obvious, and will have a broad definition of “workplace”. You don’t have to work in an office building. Maybe you are an actor, a paramedic, a teacher, a cashier, a nun.

As always, if I use your story, you have the option of being anonymous. I’ll be conducting interviews via email (questionnaire), phone or in person, depending on the location (through mid-January for book #4; late February for book #5).
If you are interested – or know someone who is – please email me at victorianoe@friendgrief.com.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November Death Café Schedule


The November 20 Death Café location has moved to St. Gertrude's Church. Same time, same registration process.

New address is 6214 N. Glenwood (about 5 blocks west of Metropolis). Enter through the Ministry Center and look for signs directing you to the choir room.

"Sometimes I think it’s easier to talk about this topic with complete strangers, which I think can help open the door to talk about it with family and friends.”

That was a comment from a participant in one of the Death Café events I’ve co-facilitated in Chicago. I love it, because it’s so true for many people.

We’re all going to die someday – though hopefully not anytime soon. Most people have no problem talking about food or politics or sex, but death? No, thanks: too depressing.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have issues. Sometimes we are struggling to bring up the topic with older parents. Sometimes we’ve been to one too many funerals in a short amount of time and start reflecting on our own lives and legacies. Sometimes we just have questions.

I remember my friend, Delle, saying that you learn what you really believe when faced with death. Do you believe in an afterlife? Are you ready for it?

Death Cafés are not grief support groups. There are many, great organizations and individuals who provide that service. A Death Café brings together a group of people to talk about death, and how to make the most of their finite lives.

And many who have come to our events have said the discussions – ranging from defining your legacy to what kind of funeral you want – have given them the courage to discuss these topics with family and friends. Talking about death doesn’t hasten your own death, but it can certainly ease your mind and focus you on your goals.

We have two Chicago Death Cafés coming up in November, both at Metropolis Coffee House, in Edgewater. They will be held on November 12 and November 20. Space is limited, so RSVP now to get your award-winning coffee or tea and decadent desserts.

Why do we call it an introduction? Because we hope that the conversations you have that night will be the beginning of a dialogue with your family and friends on how you want to make the most of your life.

So, join us this month for a conversation about death – and life. Don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of laughter.


For more on the international Death Café movement, click here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Help A Friend Who’s Dying

Since I saw Dallas Buyers Club (my review here) I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Although the main character, Ron Woodroof, is initially focused only on his own survival, eventually the people he helps – especially Rayon – become friends. He is literally helping them stay alive. And that got me thinking: what would I do?

Sometimes what we are called upon to do, what we are able to do, seems insignificant: running errands, chauffeuring to doctor’s appointments, cooking meals. All serve a dual purpose: taking the burden of the mundane off the shoulders of someone who needs to focus all their attention and energy on fighting their disease, and also to provide a tangible example of friendship.

Not everyone’s good at asking for help, and those who are dying may be less likely. They don’t want to see ‘the look’ that we often unwittingly wear on our faces: a mixture of sympathy and pain that they’d never seen before.

But those of us who are lucky, really lucky, are allowed in to what my friend Delle called “the cancer vortex”. It may not be cancer that is killing our friend, but you get the idea. Reality has changed for your friend and for you.

What, then, are you willing to do? I don’t mean “call me if you need anything”. You’ll grow old and grey before you get that call. I mean what are you willing to actually do for them? Depending on your proximity and available time, there are many things:

-          Set up a Caring Bridge page or Facebook group to keep other far-flung friends up-do-date on their progress.

-          Schedule regular trips to the grocery store. Take them with you if they’re able.

-          Make a date for lunch or brunch, depending on their energy and appetite.

-          Do something stupid together that will make you both laugh.

-          Ask old friends to contact them.

-          Make their favorite foods, especially if their appetite is waning.

-          Do their laundry, or clean for them.

-          Don’t whine. Do your best to keep their spirits up. This isn't about you.

-          Send cards, DVD’s, packages; burn a CD or Skype..

These are all tasks that most people are capable of accomplishing. But what if the situation is drastic? What if, like Ron Woodroof, their doctor gives then 30 days to live? What would you do then?

-          Would you go public for them?

-          Would you steal for them?

-          Would you break the law for them?

I’ve had this conversation with several friends in the past few years. So far, what we’ve pledged to do has been without concerns about legal ramifications (I mean, really: does it matter if the marijuana is officially medicinal?).

I hope one of the conversations that comes out of Dallas Buyers Club is just this: what would you do for a friend who’s dying? Would you let your own fears or prejudices or disapproval stop you from supporting them? Or would you do whatever you could (and hopefully get away with) to help prolong their life, improve the quality of their life, or help them die as peaceful a death as possible?

Because I guarantee if you don’t, you won’t just feel guilty.

You’ll wonder what your remaining friends would do for you.