Grieving: Sharing and Some Resources, By Judith, edited by robert

From emails, phone calls, cards we know we are not grieving alone.

We, and probably a lot of you, are new to this sort of loss. We are finding our halting way. We have now attended two bereavement groups; I (finally) have a shrink. We’re finding help in others and books and want to share some of what we think helps.

Right after Kirby died, I said, “Oh, God,” a lot. It was shorthand for “how the !@#$%^&* can this be?” It was a howl to an uncaring universe.

I also sighed. Turns out this is actually one of the recognized “symptoms” of grief…as if I didn’t know. But it gives me permission to sigh. Previously an expression I found annoying.

I cried then and still cry. A lot.

I have found for the last seven months that having a hankie in the pocket is helpful. Don’t wanna be caught with only hospital sandpaper tissues to hand or, even worse, nothing but a sleeve.

People have talked about and shared pictures. I, too, find that helpful. I have some from her illness, I think because it is the most recent, but also lots of her smiling, laughing, in New York, Scotland, college, as a little kid. I think forgetting is one of my fears.

Cleaning still. Making compulsive order in tiny bits of my life: drawers, closets.

A lovely caring member of Temple Micah sent us this book:
How To Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies. Therese A. Rando, Ph.D.

Both Robert and I are reading it and find it helpful/comforting.
If your preferred style is to read, we think you will find this book helpful.

Hoping for healing.

The following was written by a British woman who lost her daughter, Sarah:
(given to us by a dear friend who lost her sister more than 20 years ago and still grieves…)

Robert says, “Is it just misery loves company?” but I find comfort knowing there is such a range of behaviors, the time it takes/may take,

What did I want people to know?
o Grief isn’t one constant feeling. It comes in huge waves that wash over one.
o The waves decrease in frequency over time but can still be as overwhelming as at first.
o There is a heavy black physical pain that accompanies grief. For me this was like a rock in my chest.
o It is still possible to have moments where one can smile, feel hungry, do “normal” things even early on.

Other aspects
o Grief is exhausting.
o It slows ones cognitive functions (I would never have believed how much this was so)
o I went from being unable to sleep (lurching awake with horror) to sleeping all the time (putting my head on the desk at work to nap)
o An immediate bond with other bereaved parents (it crosses all barriers)

Helpful and unhelpful responses
• Let us talk and let us cry. This is the greatest gift early on.
• If you know the deceased, tell an anecdote (“I remember when…”)
• Don’t say “I couldn’t live with it.” We HAVE to live with it—there is no choice.
• Don’t say, “Have you achieved closure?”
• If you can’t speak, a gentle touch may suffice to show your compassion.

How did we get through?
• Family members had different ways of coping.
• I needed the gym. The mindless exercise helped me.
• Mick stopped exercising for months.
• I did not want to work ever again.
• Mick went back the next day.
• I cooked—it was easy and mindless. Mick stopped cooking.

Coping strategies
• We all cried frequently (and did for years—less now)
• We held each other.
• In the early days my cat changed his behavior.

Changes over the first year
• It took me five months before I could see a patient and years before this was easy.
• The academic work was easier. I could do it at my own speed and cry when I felt like it.
• It took me a year before I could do a full day at work.
• I worried less about unimportant things. Our priorities changed.

Reactions of others
• Most people were good—some didn’t cope
• Some people one didn’t expect much from came up trumps.
• “your address book will change.”
• Good and bad things in the early days are remembered with heightened awareness.
• Giving permission to take things slowly helped.
• Letting us come to terms in our own way and at our own speed is important.

At least…
• Every I have talked to has an “at least”
• “At least she didn’t die in agony”
• “At least he died at home.”
• “At least he saw his brother’s wedding.”
• “At least we had a body to bury.” (post 9-11)
• Not having a body is NOT the worst thing for us.
• Not having sarah is the worst thing.
• And, in any case one has to deal with the hand that has been dealt.

We thought our hearts were broken when we lost our first born child. Our hearts have healed or at least the open wound has become a scar.
–Sarah’s Mom


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Olya
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 22:07:26

    Judith and Robert, every one of your postings reminds me yet again of the foundation of Kirby’s awesomeness… How amazing that you can think of how other people are feeling now, and having thought of it, reach out to share and help… and how very Kirby of you!

    Thank you so much…. I’m thinking about you, and Kirbs, every day…



  2. Cindy Capen
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 22:56:31

    Dear Judith and Robert,
    I just write with one assurance…you will not forget and those that knew and loved Kirby will not forget. My last 25 years have been spent in the care of children and their families with cystic fibrosis. I meet them as babies, see them all through their lives and have parted with far too many…I am just their nurse but I remember every single one of them because all are dear to me. All are “mine” in a sense. I remember the first who died all the way to the last, just 2 weeks ago. I remember all their names; sweet, funny, infuriating things about them through their too-short lives. I remember what mattered to them; what worried them towards the end; the joys they gave; the pranks they played; their legacies. Be assured, the mark Kirby made on all the people she touched, will remain. She touched a great many people!
    Cousin Cindy


  3. Ilona Klein
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 02:42:58

    Judith, Robert and Owen,

    Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you and Kirby. I have discovered a new advantage of living alone … I can talk to Kirby whenever I want to and I can cry whenever I want to.

    I believe in a spiritual life and know that the “essence” of Kirby lives in all of us. During Kirby’s illness I was fortunate to meet so many of her incredible friends and hear their Kirby stories. Judith, dear, no one … absolutely no one … who knew and loved Kirby will ever forget her. Kirby wisdom and Kirby spirit are forever with us, to draw upon throughout life’s journey.

    With love,


  4. Jane Angarola
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 15:33:43

    The list you shared captured my experience so well. My husband died very suddenly at 50 years of age, when our children were 3 and 7 years old. You go on because you have to, and you never get over it (it’s been 16 years), but you do get used to it, for the most part. Even though our families are more in the acquaintance than close friend category, I think of all of you every day – remembering my brief encounters with Kirby, and holding all of you in my heart. I remember how difficult it was in those first days and months to put one foot in front of the other, literally. Your steps will get lighter.


  5. Morgan
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 17:17:10

    I lost my partner 8 years ago and I never thought I would make it through. I wanted to lie down and give up. I hated it when people would tell me ‘it’s part of God’s plan’…to me, that was supremely callous and a terrible thing to say – an unfortunate consequence to losing someone is having to develop a thick skin. The wounds of loss are deep and bleed and break easily. Do what you need to do to mourn your loss and try to let your hearts repair themselves…as cliched and cheesy as it is, time helps the pain of loss go from unbearable to a dull throb. But that takes a lot of time and unfortunately there is no way to expedite it. It is great you are going to support groups and seeking therapy – those are very helpful ways to cope and good outlets for the turmoil that you must be feeling. It is good to express your hurt and pain, and not hold onto it…because it isn’t easy, and it isn’t fair. I really feel for you and what you are going through…I send strength and love to you.



  6. Marjorie ZAPRUDER
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 01:06:28

    Dear Judith and Robert,

    In my experience, it takes A LOT of time. Be easy on yourselves and just let it happen. In my experience, nothing will change the tragedy of loss, but you will eventually be able to think and function again… and that will happen when it happens. For me it took a long time – it’s been over six years. But at least I remember to pay my bills now.

    My heart aches for you and for your loss and for Kirby too,

    Love, Marjorie


  7. Janice Meer
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 20:19:45

    My parents lost their only son when I was four. Afterward, they never spoke of him. Silence and depression came to live with in our home and stayed forever. At age 96, my mother still won’t speak of her lost child.
    Thank you for showing us how to reach out, how to grieve, how to live.


  8. drrobinhalprin
    May 05, 2012 @ 15:14:17

    How very true, all of it. I am a clinical psychologist who has worked with PLWHIV/AIDS and their significant others since 1983. I have seen what you say countless times, and am living it myself.

    I lost my “son” (God, how I hate to put that in quotation marks) Niko, my “cuman” (cat + human), on 5/02/08, of renal lymphosarcoma, after an extraordinary 16-month fight. Niko was born into my hands and died in my arms; necropsy showed no sign of cancer; his little, 5.5 year old body just wore out.

    It has been 4 years. I have not been “right” since: momentary happiness is occasional, but joy is inconceivable. I know that’s not what Niko wants for me; but I can recover only so much, and only so fast. Sometimes I miss him so much that I can’t breathe; this happens less and less often, but it is no less intense and devouring when it does.

    I thank God every day for my wonderful spouse, and I have other furkids whom I love dearly — including Niko’s birth mother Mina (like me, a breast cancer survivor) who graciously allowed me to co-parent. But there is only one NikNik, who — chubby, cocky, and whole — waits for me at the Rainbow Bridge. I have to believe that.

    I in no way wish to diminish the gargantuan loss of your child that you have suffered by comparing it to my losing Nikokyris, the lord of the manor, my man of the house; but I loved him more than life itself — I still do — and I appreciate this opportunity for my grief not to be disenfranchised.


  9. Lynn Cartwright-Punnett
    Apr 25, 2017 @ 17:37:53

    It’s been 4+ years and I still think of Kirby often, but her memory brings more smiles than tears now.

    I find myself here again because a friend is grieving for the first time and doesn’t know how to cope, what to do, what’s normal. Judith & Robert: I send her your words, passing along generations of wisdom.


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