Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Shakespeare Observes and Advises on Life and Loss


William Shakespeare

English poet, playwright and actor, the "Bard of Avon" was by far one of the most astute observers of humanity. His works, though written six centuries ago (1589-1613) continue to be performed and studied around the world.

Observing Humanity

Daily life is full of surprises--the avenues to observation. The Condolence Coach believes that these moments expose us to great learning opportunities. Poignant, uncomfortable, sometimes tragic, observing humanity is an important tool to write a memorable condolence note.

Shakespeare's penned style is known as poetic free verse; its rhythmic flow of iambic pentameter (ten syllables to a line) masterfully captured wit and wisdom, passion and pathos. Let's explore some Shakespearean verse...

On Compassion: The Tempest

O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer.
(The Tempest. Act 1. Scene 2. Miranda speaking.)

Compassion is the ultimate wellspring for our notes. Yes, it requires you to leave the beach and go out to deeper waters. Read more about a compassionate response in  Compassion and Condolence: Finding the words to walk together

On Reserving Judgement:  Hamlet, King Lear

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
(Hamlet. Act 1. Scene 3. Polonius speaking.)
Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest.
(King Lear. Act 1. Scene 4. Fool speaking.)

Everybody has opinions:  that is what greases the wheels of social media! But opinions and advice do not belong in a condolence note...or a conversation with a grieving person. Unfortunately, grieving people are regularly bombarded with these. You may think you are cleverly phrasing a judgement as "helpful" but I guarantee you:  it will likely hurt. Read more about this problem:
Unusual Comforts in Grief: keep your opinions to yourself  and  The Myths About Grief and Getting Over It


On Sharing Good Memories: The Tempest, Hamlet

He that dies pays all debts.
(The Tempest. Act 3. Scene 2. Stephano speaking.)
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.
(Hamlet. Act 5. Scene 1. Hamlet speaking.)

Stephano's reference to "paying all debts" advises us to drop the grudges and let go of bad memories. All scores (debts) drop to zero. At best, realize that the end of life takes a person "out of the game" and it is unfair to keep hashing over and bashing on your complaint. Instead, this is the time to step into Hamlet's shoes and gaze at your good memories. Sit with a piece of paper and make note of stellar moments, admirable qualities--big and small, interactions that helped or inspired you. The results are wonderful elements for use in your condolence note.

Keeping It Kind:  Love's Labours Lost

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register’d upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.
(Love’s Labours Lost. Act 1. Scene 1. King Ferdinand speaking.)

While this goes hand in hand with the previous topic, I must highlight its importance:  condolence notes are acts of kindness. Period. Speak well of the dead. Speak well of those who helped their end of life journey. Speak well of those who survive. Read more about kindness in condolence:  No Addiction Required: 12 Step Wisdom for Condolence and The 5-Step Good Life: Making Condolence Notes a Habit

On Loss of a Relationship:  King John

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form:
Then have I reason to be fond of grief?
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do...
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!
My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure!
(King John, Act III Constance speaking)

This soliloquy by Constance evokes the terrible pain of losing a child. In fact, she tells us that her son, Arthur, had been her "widow-comfort"-- that after losing a husband, the relationship with her son had alleviated sorrow and loneliness. The Condolence Coach acknowledges that we are powerless to change the circumstances of a loss, but we can comfort with our gift of words:  the memories, the appreciation. We can comfort by listening over a cup of coffee, with an invitation to take a walk or a scenic drive. Constance speaks of losing her son, but the relationship could be spouse, parent, sibling, grandchild. Read more about loss of relationships:
SPOUSE: Joy's Warrior Dragon: Courage Befriends a Widow
GRANDCHILD: When Grandparents Grieve
CHILD:  Missing Children: Sharing Hope While Sharing a Nightmare
SIBLING: Missing In Action! A Soldier's Sister Keeps Vigil

Thank you for caring!

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