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Amy Florian: ‘Walk with people all the way to their resurrection’

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Accompanying grieving people all the way to resurrection was suggested by bereavement consultant Amy Florian during her Feb. 22 workshop at the Religious Education Congress.“The message we want to give is that God is faithful, that we have a God of life, not death and we all go through trials, with resurrection on the other side. Walk with people all the way to their resurrection,” said Florian, an adjunct professor at Loyola University of Chicago, Dominican University and St. Xavier University.“We are here to talk about things no one wants to talk about,” she noted as she opened her presentation “The Trouble with Transitions,” at the Hilton Hotel, adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center.As an expert in thanatology, or the study of death and grief, she observed that people often make negative comments about what she does. “We don’t like these topics because we live in a death-denying society,” she said.Assisted by the audience, she offered a list of popular sayings to make her point: “dead-drunk; dead-broke; don’t knock him dead; dead-tired.”“We use the word all the time, until the person dies,” she noted, “and then we can’t even say the word, and we use other words such as expire, lost, gone, passed, pass away.” The audience again offered examples, from poetic (“crossing the river; circling the drain”) to humorous (“took a dirt nap; came to room temperature”).Then came the reality check. “We need to name the reality to not be unconsciously ignorant,” Florian asserted. She was a young mother and wife when her husband died in a car accident at the age of 25, and for many years she was not able to grieve appropriately, she admitted.“All transitions trigger grief,” she continued, “which happens whenever there’s a break in an attachment. The stronger the attachment, the stronger the grief.”She said learning how to wisely accompany those who are grieving can become an effective tool of evangelization. But many times people in church “don’t know how to do it,” and it has an opposite effect.Florian named a number of “grief triggers,” including relationship and material loss, [body] function loss or change, role loss at the job or in any relationship, loss of a dream (such as a teenager who cannot enter a chosen college, or a person who can’t have children), and the loss of belief in an entire system (political, business or even the Church).Adding that grief is involved even in positive transitions, Florian said the best way to help grieving people is inviting them to “tell the story,” letting them express how they feel about it and tell what would they wish other people knew about it.She stressed that society has mis-defined the word “strength,” sending a message that “tears are weak, they’re bad, and that we can’t admit what we’re going through.”She also warned the audience to “be careful about explaining a loss by using God,” to “always take people’s losses seriously,” to “allow the uniqueness of the experience,” and to use humor on occasions, “using humor could be a wonderful thing,” she said.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0301/congflorian/{/gallery}

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