It was 3am on January 3. A light snow was falling as three rabbits ate grass in my back yard. They looked cold. I rarely have sleep problems now but I know not to fight them. I make herbal tea, grab a book or sit in the dark. I don't dare turn on my computer, iPad, Android phone or iPod. None of these will help me get back to sleep.

I had driven to the nearby town of Dodgeville that day for a computer repair passing the cemetery where my husband Bill is buried. To distract myself from the sadness I always feel when I drive that road, I flipped on public radio. On this day I was feeling relieved that the holidays since Bill's death were finally over. One of my favorite programs had just started: On Point with Tom Ashbrook.  I learned this was his first day back following the death of his beloved wife, thereby ending the distraction I sought. Most anything of value on the subject of grief draws my attention. I am a therapist and bereavement counselor and I am also on my own grief journey. Certainly not like I was early on, but grief is forever and as many people who have walked this journey know, five years, though it seems  like forever, also feels like yesterday. One learns to live with grief and search for anything that will ease the pain. I have spent 40 years working with those who hurt, many of them grieving...most I might say since grief is about many kinds of loss. How I wish all that experience had helped just a bit after Bill's death but nothing could ease that gut wrenching pain; pain that sits more quietly now, but still rears its head unexpectedly in spite of all the grief work I have done.
As I listened to Tom and his guest, author/bereavement counselor Rabbi Earl Grollman, (someone I deeply respect) I could feel Tom's pain as he shared openly and as callers and guests attempted to describe and discuss grief. "If only everyone could hear and absorb this program," I thought. They all spoke so honestly about how deep the pain is; how society tends as a whole not to understand or want to deal with grief or death or pain. One caller  said how lonely the path is especially as others quickly go on with their lives. She spoke truth. After only a short time or even five years rarely do people ask someone who has experienced a huge loss how they are doing in regards to that loss. Education is so needed in our death phobic society and it is happening...finally, but all valuable change is slow. I sat in the parking lot while my computer was being worked on. I had to hear this program and listened with tears rolling down my face. An unexpected wave of grief, a trigger, had grabbed me...again.
There are no words that can heal. But listening to a bereaved person helps as do warm hugs. Just sitting and being with that person is comforting. No one can fix it. With a significant loss (loss of a child or spouse being among the most painful/traumatic) the bottom suddenly drops out of life; what was normal disappears; nothing is the same including the bereaved. I have assisted hundreds of people in grief and though grief is unique to each one, similarities abound...gut wrenching pain being a common denominator and feeling alone being another. 

People tend to become timid about reaching out to the bereaved. Do not give in to that. Just reach out, mention the deceased person, and honor the response you get....whatever it is.
It will be appreciated.

Published in Voice of the River Valley (February 2015 issue)

 


Comments

Anne Gorman
02/01/2015 3:13pm

I am in awe at the depth of your spirituality and openness to share your journey. Thank you, Mary. I love you as a friend and soul sister who has lost the most significant love of our lives ~ our husbands.
I am always willing to sit with you in your grief as you have sat with me.
Anne

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/02/2015 9:34am

My dear Anne, thank you for your kind words. Yes, Jim and Bill's deaths, the most painful thing in our lives, has brought us together as we feel so torn apart inside. Peace to your heart, Mary

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02/02/2015 8:16am

Dear Mary,
How beautifully you find the words to match the journey of grief! Thank you for holding up the candle of your own grief to help those of us who are newer to grieving to find our way. Acknowledging that this grief is now a part of my identity, and not a passing moment of sadness, has been a learning and growing experience, one that you, by your example, have made easier to bear. Thank you.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/02/2015 9:36am

Thank you so much. I so agree...this is a life journey, one that has changed us forever and one that will and has made us more compassionate to others who walk along side us. You also have found the words that match the journey of grief. Peace and love, Mary

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Helene Domi
02/02/2015 9:15am

Your words grasp the feeling I have when a trigger hits. Gut-wrenching pain. I haven't lost a husband or a child, but the bottom sure dropped out of my life when my mother died. My mom was my best friend. She moved into the mother in law suite beside our house in 2001 and became part of our household.
The last 9 months of her life, I stayed with her in that mother in law suite and cared for her as congestive heart failure ripped her from me. I don't think I've recovered from that difficult time. Death is not like on TV for some in the real world.
2 years and 10 months since she left. Forever, but yesterday.
Reading your feelings has helped me to see that I'm not just sitting here feeling sad and sorry for myself. It's a process. Time.

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/02/2015 9:41am

Dear Helene,
Loss is unique to each of us and losing you mom, someone you cherished and who shared every day of your life with you, is (I need not tell you) a huge loss creating a deep hole in your life and days. How wonderful that you could be there for and with her and how difficult were those days. You are definitely NOT "just sitting here feeling sad and sorry" for youself. You are grieving and will always grief the loss of your mother...it eases in time but is still rather new at this point. You might consider taking a look at www.griefhealingdiscussiongroups.com an online group moderated by a professional and warm bereavement counselor. There you will find others to support you in your grief. Peace, Mary

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Kay Oxford
02/02/2015 9:43am

Such an apt description of any ordinary day in the life of a griever. I was touched by the picture accompanying your blog and am wondering if it is a work you created...it beautifully conveys comfort given someone hurting.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/02/2015 9:52am

Yes, Kay, I like your words..."any ordinary day in the life of a griever". Days when anything can toss us into the waves of grief. The picture I found in the archives associated with my web host. It grabbed my attention also. I wish I could create something like that....maybe someday. :) Thank you for sharing, Peace, Mary

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Jan Crowther
02/03/2015 2:09pm

Dearest Mary, it's the night of the full moon and I'm sitting alone apart from the dog with a glass of wine. I read your words and then I read aloud a poem I wrote about the way Pete and I always celebrated the full moon and now I do alone
Full Moon
Each full moon kiss
That we two shared
Was time stacked up and
Love for me
Alone to find
As in a bank
Of love
From you
My darling Pete

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/03/2015 5:33pm

Jan, what a lovely poem....just lovely. I can picture you sitting beneath that moon thinking of your Pete.
Peace,
Mary

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02/04/2015 9:51pm

Thank you, Mary. It's so lovely to hear your heartfelt words. It helps me to hear the stories of others who grief. I love the ancient stories from mythology, too. The grief lament goes on across time and space. Grief touches all of us and brings us together in our precarious humanness. Also grateful for others who have left comments here. I'm traveling right now and remembering how very different it felt to move through life with a loving companion.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt-Hunt
02/05/2015 8:38am

Dear Elaine,
I agree, hearing/reading some stories of others who are on this grief trek comforts...I think we feel less alone and when we know those folks it is even more helpful. I surely understand how traveling reminds you of how it was to travel with your beloved. It just is so different now. I hope this trip is healing for you. Peace and love, Mary

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