grief & community - the Bernstein family

The Importance of Friendship and Socialization

On June 21, we experience the Summer Solstice: the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. It is a great time to focus on the final “S” in the power of five formula. Sex/Socialization represents the need and benefits of having connections with family and friends in our lives.

In early May 2023, my mother-in-law, Nana Pat died in her 98th year of life. A very determined woman who stood the test of time, she outlived all of her friends and family members from her generation. Her death provided me time to reflect as well as inspiration.

Grief & Community

Regardless of your religious beliefs, culture or tribe, during periods of grief, most of us find solace in having others around us offering comfort and support. Customs have developed in most communities where people come together to provide consolation for those who grieve.  They bring food and surround those grieving with love and sympathy.

In the Jewish religion, there are strict rituals that are observed during the first week, first month, and the first year of grief. As I have reflected upon these customs, they are very sensible and universal. Other faiths and religions share similar customs.

The Jewish custom includes saying prayers including Kaddish but requires a minyan of ten individuals to be present. The idea behind this is to be surrounded by a comforting community and not grieving alone.  As I practiced medicine and geriatrics, I encouraged my patients to process grief in the healthiest way possible and include others in order to have a normal grief process. An abnormal grief process can be painful, enduring and avoidable.

Gather Together

As my wife Melissa experienced her grief, children and friends in our community gathered at our home and recited a few prayers. We shared in conversation and reminisced with refreshments to reduce the loneliness that is associated with grief. We received emails and cards offering condolences and phone calls to do much of the same from many in our community of friends and acquaintances. Losing a loved one is painful, leaving one with a hollow feeling; but when one’s community comes together, it lessens the distress.

Rituals and costumes which exhibit love and support are yet another way in which we can experience connection. These activities and relationships enable those grieving and those providing support to reach a state of bonding. This releases neurochemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin which lessen the inflammation that I address in my Power of 5 Formula.

Connection & Grief

Grief is a painful and emotional process most of us experience; it is part of the circle of life. Having customs and rituals, friends, and support systems lessen the loneliness and distress and hasten the recovery process. When we connect with friends and family during their period of grief, we help them through the process and reduce their loneliness. Our secondary gain is our own feeling of connection and experiencing the final S in the Power of 5 formula.

Here is a thought: the next time you learn that a friend, colleague or family member experienced a loss, connect with that person. Express your shared feelings of sadness and empathy. I know they will appreciate you and I suspect you will feel better about yourself. Why? Because you will experience a chemical anti-inflammatory reaction which will enhance your own feelings of wellbeing.

To a long and healthy life,

David Bernstein, MD

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