Readers share what they learned about finding strength, wisdom, and peace in times of sorrow.
For 15 years, I worked as a social worker at a small local hospice program. I assisted patients through the dying process and worked with their families to help them deal with their loss. I was privileged to help patients and families see this "leaving time" as a chance to repair damaged relationships, grow beyond the old hurts, and move closer to what they understood as God. In my work, I've come to learn that when someone is nearing the end of life, we need to provide support without bringing our own "stuff" to the table. I have used this philosophy to help myself through personal times of grief. It comforts me to know that I gave my departed family and friends all the love I was capable of giving to help them finish their life's journey.
--Glenda Hawley, m.s.w., Ph.D., Moscow, Idaho
The Write Path
I've always been a writer, ever since I gripped my first crayon. But when my mother suffered a massive brain tumor at the age of 53 (I was 22), I wanted to quit. What was the point of writing, if my loudest and loveliest cheerleader had vanished? With time, I understood why: I have to continue, because I promised my mother I would. Stepping out of one's comfort zone, especially after a traumatic experience, tests your limits and helps you find out exactly what you're meant to be. I'm currently finishing up the third part of a novel. In her life and her passing, my mother pushed me to face my fears and solidified my ambition.
--Kathryn Hegarty, Plainfield, Vermont
Recently, I've come to accept the things that are no more and simply cherish them as great memories. I'm at last allowing myself to enjoy what I have now. My partner and I used to take walks on the beach and travel up and down the Oregon coast, but because she has become physically challenged, she can no longer join me in these types of activities. So we embrace the small steps she can take and the many things we still share. Now, when I want to take a walk or even travel, I go alone or invite a friend. I notice my own increasing limitations and see them not as disability but changing ability. Instead of mourning what was, we celebrate what is.
--Linda Werner, Rockaway Beach, Oregon
My parents never hid death from me when I was a child but presented it to me as a part of life. When we lost family members, friends, and pets growing up, they made sure that I shared in the experience. Later, I appreciated having learned to embrace loss, because it kept me from feeling paralyzed when I grieved the passing of my grandfather and a dear friend as a young adult. My husband's family, on the other hand, shielded him from death as a child -- and losing his father when we were in our mid-twenties was a very difficult experience. I encourage everyone to look at the losses we incur throughout our lives as a part of an evolutionary process, one that reminds us of our own temporary status on this earth and the importance of life.
--Heather Buzzell, Dallas, Texas
Sorrow to Strength
Like all rehabilitation periods, grief is a time of patience and discovery. It provides reflection on the past, acceptance of the moment, and creative thought for the future. It allows family, friends, laughter, memories, and tears to bring us back to strength and steadiness, and it gives us time off from being perfect. At the same time, grief catapults change, forcing us to face pain at its source and find a way to move forward. We will never be the same as before, but we just may be stronger.
--Margie Rushlow, R.N., Monroe, Michigan