There’s a tear in my beer

The loss of beer hero Michael Jackson has brought outpourings of condolences, memories and words of appreciation for his contributions to beerdom.

Beer lovers around the world are experiencing varying levels of grief, based on how close they may have been to this icon. A few among our fold have lost a close, personal friend. At a time like this, it might make sense to take a look at the grieving process, to ensure we are taking care of each other and ourselves, for this loss and for the ones that will come down the road.

I consider this for the beer community, as Hank Williams’ “Tear in My Beer” seems a little unhealthy, as does George Thorogood’s “I Drink Alone.” I decided this for myself back in high school, when a friend of mine was killed in a car accident. Another friend and I picked up some beer the next Friday night, as we were wont to do, and hung out to contemplate it all. We were both still a little shocked over the accident, and a couple of beers just weren’t as enjoyable as they usually were. We weren’t having any fun. So we talked a little more, and called it an evening.

Since that night, I’ve never understood how people can drown their sorrows in a pool of alcohol.

Not everyone grieves in the same way, and not everyone grieves in a healthy way. In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlined five stages of grief in On Death and Dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. These are not rigid, tidy boxes in which we must take turns standing in a formal way. These steps are general phases through which many grievers pass, sometimes lingering in one stage or another, sometimes advancing quite quickly over them all. More recently, experts have outlined three stages: Shock, Suffering and Recovery.

Call the stages what you want, solitude and alcohol aren’t among the best ways of navigating grief. Allowing the support of friends and family can smooth the rocky road. Some find a faith community, support groups or therapists additionally helpful. Alcohol can put a strain on the process, as it dehydrates and numbs people both physically and emotionally. Heavy drinking will only draw out (or put off) the process, and can have a detrimental effect on one’s health.

Taking care of oneself, physically, emotionally and spiritually, will help a griever to invest in his or her own future. According to Hospice of Central Iowa, a balanced diet, exercise and plenty of sleep are key to moving on successfully: “The grief process will change you. In what ways you change is a decision you can make. While hurt will seem to be unbearable, it can at some point, if you let it, soften the spirit, broaden the mind, increase the understanding and inspire for a lifetime.”

While “giving it time,” is an oft-heard piece of advice, grieving is made more successful when it’s engaged in an active process. The University of Washington Counseling Center recommends a to-do list including the following: 1) accept the finality of the loss; 2) acknowledge and express one’s full range of feelings; 3) adjust to life with the absence; and 4) say good-bye in some way.

Many strategies can ease the burden: writing in a journal, taking yoga classes, prayer, warm baths, spending time in nature. In the end, a concerted effort to care for oneself, plan for the stressors and emotions of holidays and milestones and accepting the help of others can make for healthy growth, and new beginnings previously never considered.

The beer community has responded to Michael Jackson’s passing in a very positive way. Kind words rang out immediately. A National Toast has been planned for September 30. While drinking heavily or alone are less than healthy choices, hoisting a pint to Michael Jackson couldn’t be more appropriate. It is a celebration of his life, and that’s good grieving.

May the tears in our beers be tears of joy. To MJ!

_____

To learn about the details of the National Toast, click here.

For info on healthy grieving, check out these links:

www.helpguide.org/mental/grief_loss.htm

www.helpguide.org/mental/helping_grieving.htm

http://depts.washington.edu/counsels/resources/4students/grieving/grieving.html

www.hospiceofcentraliowa.org

www.hospicefoundation.org/griefAndLoss/ 

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