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Grief: The Long Goodbye

Author: Wonmin Kim, CIT

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to. – Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

This past week on Facebook a friend posted this picture:

As I looked at this picture, I wondered how many of us actively think about grief. I recently attended an online conference and one speaker defined grief as, “At its core, grief is the series of emotions we feel when we lose someone we love. Intense sadness, anger and frustration, disbelief, and yes, anxiety, are among the predominant feelings.” Every human of all ages will contend with grief because grief is the mental or emotional suffering or distress caused by loss. Grief is used to refer to the feeling of sorrow from the death of a loved one but we constantly experience loss. Loss is the fact or process of losing something or someone.

On January 8th, 2004, my son Joel passed away. It was completely unexpected. I was blindsided. I felt out of tune with time. I couldn’t sleep, my whole body ached, there were so many visitors, I felt like I was in a slow motion movie. I kept replaying all the scenarios that happened, could have happened, might have happened. I kept reviewing all the “if only‘s”. I cried over having nothing to wear to my baby’s funeral. I felt responsible to comfort all the people who could not stop crying as I thanked them for being there for our family. I didn’t know how to get a death certificate…I didn’t know how to schedule a funeral…we didn’t have any money to pay for a funeral. We had just moved, we were still getting use to our home. My friends and family were far away, gifts and flowers came and flowers began to die. I wanted to write thank you notes, I just couldn’t do it. Everyone around me kept crying. I was overwhelmed, sometimes I felt numb. Someone would make me laugh…something inside me told me I shouldn’t be smiling…something inside me told me I needed to…I wondered if I was losing my mind. Where was my 2 year old? Did I forget to tell someone that would be very hurt if they didn’t know? I need to get back to work, was it rude not to return…so many calls…I should be grateful for those calls…I am grateful for those calls…I couldn’t return any calls, I knew some people would be very sad that I did not return their call…

I don’t know how long that lasted. I was overwhelmed with grief and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Then it went silent. My grief became invisible. Most of the people in my life do not know about my son named Joel.

Today, I couldn’t remember Joel’s birthday. I am pretty sure it’s January 8th. I couldn’t find his baby book. I looked all over and I presently do not know where it is. I think this would have been the year he graduated from high school. Maybe he would be working? Maybe he would be driving the other kids back and forth to work? Maybe …….

Grief lasts forever and we grow around our grief in hard and beautiful ways.

There is a 6 week grief group from July 14th to August 18th at Chesterfield Counseling Associates.

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