Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for...


Well, it’s for a lot of things, actually.  There were three reasons I ventured into an exploration of death and much to my surprise and AMAZEMENT, they all start with the letter A.

It was an ACCIDENT.

I was in my first semester of graduate school at Goucher College trying to figure out my thesis topic.  I was sitting at home waiting for my mentor, Diana Hume George, to call my house.  As the tock clicked past our meeting time, I became anxious and called her number instead. (I’m not known for my patience.)

A funeral home answered.  I hung up.  I checked the number. I called again.  The same funeral home answered.  And the rest is history.


Maybe it’s because I suffered through most of my life with ridiculous social anxiety that death and its natural aftermath, grief, seemed particularly scary. In the past, if your mother died, I would run from you.  Not because I didn’t like or care for you, but because I didn’t know what to say or how to act and it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable.  I learned that I’m not alone.  Death is scary, but next to birth, it’s the most natural part of life.


At the beginning of this project, I was approaching 40, and I’d only lost a grandmother when I was a kid.  I feared that the latter part of my life was going to be filled with death and sadness.  Yes, both wait for me, but now I feel much better for facing my fear instead of pretending that the proverbial pink elephant doesn’t exist.

And it all lead to a BLOG and a BOOK, but more about that later…

35 comments:

  1. You never told me about the phone call. That was totally a sign!
    Anticipatory grief: I had a lot of that after Zane's diagnosis, so I can completely relate.
    Great post, Pam!

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  2. I cannot wait to see the book on the shelves. Am so impressed with what I've gotten to hear from it so far.

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  3. @Susan-It was the day David Foster Wallace died and I didn't know it was a sign at the time. I just thought it was weird that my mentor's number went to a funeral home when she was on the phone. I've tried to repeat the experiment with her to find the funeral home and it didn't work.

    Aw, Jenny. Thanks for the kind words. And you know how I feel about your writing. Plus, you're really good at giving feedback.

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  4. Great fiery A. I also worry about people dying and suffer from anxiety.

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  5. An intriguing post that leaves much to consider. Thanks!

    Stopping by on my tour of A-Z blogs...

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  6. Social anxiety is a bizarre point. I think that a larger proportion of folks do suffer from it and yet no one ever seems to talk about it. I wonder why this is?

    Interesting point to ponder and I love the honesty in this post.

    /Wes

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  7. I think a lot of people suffer from anxiety and death happens to be one of those things that really brings it on.
    CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy worked wonders for me. I had to do a ton of crazy stuff in therapy, from reading aloud in a Starbucks for no apparent reason to approaching a group of men at a bar to read them three pages from my book. I never got the catastrophic reaction I thought I would.

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  8. You know when I read your bio my initial response was "hmmmmm interesting" but having read this I'm really interested. Death is similar to long term illnesses - people just don't know what to say or how to deal. So they don't . They ignore the situation or they ignore you - I had the same when my mother was battling CaNcer. But that's another story.

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  9. People need to talk about death with people. It's an important conversation. Besides, those closest to you should know your end of life wishes.

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  10. Ooh! I got chills when I read about how you called the number and ended up with the funeral home.

    This is a great starting post for the A to Z Challenge. Good luck with the rest of the 25 letters. :)

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  11. Funny how both of our posts deal with anxiety. Social anxiety is so secretly debilitating. There are days I have to force myself out so that I don't allow it to keep me too afraid to do anything.

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  12. "CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy worked wonders for me."

    I've heard nothing but praise for CBT, it's actually really cool to hear of someone putting it to use in real life.

    "I never got the catastrophic reaction I thought I would."

    It's funny. As people we always pre-decide on what outcomes will be derived from a situation but never factor in the kindness of strangers and their inability to avoid causing offence.

    I'm tempted to try this just to see what the outcome would be :)

    /Wes

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  13. Excellent A post. Death can be such a scary thing. I was once like you were - I'd avoid it. I accept it now as part of life. I can't wait to hear more about the book. I'll be in line for a copy for sure!

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  14. PS - I noticed you sometimes reply to comments. I discovered recently that changing settings to embedded comments automatically adds the reply option below each comment. Just thought I'd let you know in case you were interested :)

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  15. @Wes, I did CBT through a social anxiety study at SMU. It may have been more rigorous than typical CBT, but I don't know that for a fact. It worked though.

    Thanks Martha! I'm totally technologically challenged, but I'll fiddle around with things before tomorrow's post.

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  16. Death is the one appointment we can't be late for! Great post, Roland

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  17. Great start to the challenge! I think "Anxiety" is the perfect description for death -- for me. It's intriguing yet scary all at the same time! Thanks for stopping my my blog, Whole Foods Living! http://wholefoodsliving.blogspot.com/ ~Angela

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  18. Trying to change what I eat gives me anxiety:)

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  19. I have never feared Death. And up until last November, I had never lost anyone. My grandmother passed away last November and certain things just make me cry because they remind me of her.

    Konstanz Silverbow
    nothoughts2small.blogspot.com
    A to Z Co-host
    www.a-to-zchallenge.com

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  20. Death Writer, I think I've found my newest best friend. My family thinks I'm strange because of my fascination with death. But, my goodness, isn't that something we all have to face one day? So why shouldn't I be fascinated by it?

    Looking forward to the rest of the alphabet. :)

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    1. Well, you are certainly in the right place! I hope you learn some new things from my posts. And yes, it is something we will all face, so why not get a wee bit acquainted with it before it happens.

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  21. Oooh, I love that flaming A.

    And much as I hate it, Anxiety and anticipatory grief are my regular companions.

    ---Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

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    1. I'm learning that a lot of people feel that way. I'm really not alone! Yay!!!

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  22. Love your writing style & am looking forward to reading your book!

    Side Note: The last three vacations that my husband has taken, he has lost a grandparent, & all four gone in the last two years. Hoping our anniversary vaca this May is death-free...


    Andi-Roo /// @theworld4realz
    http://www.theworld4realz.com/
    theworldforrealz@gmail.com

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  23. I remember reading a quote by Cher back right after Sonny Bono died in that ski accident... she said something like, "I'm not afraid of dying anymore... I know now that if Sonny can do it, so can I."

    I remember thinking that was such an odd thing to say - and I know she got a good amount of grief over the comment at the time. But then my brother Bryan died (in Jan 2000) and I remembered what she said, and I understood completely.

    Yeah, that was a rough month... I remember practically begging God to please not take anyone else close to me for a while, so I could try to recover from the unexpected blow. I thought, "If I get hit like that again any time soon, I'll die myself, of grief. I don't have the strength." While I certainly would hate to go through that again, I'm glad it's been a decade plus... I've since found my sea legs again.

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    1. Hi David! As of yet, I haven't lost anyone close to me other than pets. And that was gut wrenching.
      I know there is no way that I can prepare for the loss of someone I love. It might get less alien once I experience that first profound loss, but I know it will never get easy.
      Thanks for commenting!

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  24. very interesting post. it was very thought provoking thanks for writing and I will be following along.

    twitter: @icecoldpenguin & @fangirl_ND
    Fangirl Next Door

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  25. Interesting food for thought. I wonder if my anxiety, that can be nearly crippling at times, is what led me into funeral service and pathology... Yes, very interesting. I know you're going to give us a fascinating month!

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  26. This is a great blog! Thank you A-Z challenge for bringing me here, I feel like I could browse for days. Looking forward to reading the rest of your posts this month.

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  27. Hi there - visiting from the linky and also you helped me out with a query on Twitter.

    I find the topic of your blog fascinating and really empathise with this post. I definitely have the anxiety and anticipatory grief down to a tee. I do a bit stuck in my head around this topic. I work in an area where I try more to focus on getting the most out of life (as an Occupational Therapist).

    Thanks - I might be back for some more exposure therapy.

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!