Grief brings you to your knees; shakes you to your core and rattles your senses.
In a blink of an eye, or over time, the end of a life leaves painful scars on the living. What ifs, whys and shoulds dapple the streaming light of life. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are grief’s unique gifts to us. These five stages of grief, however, are not meant as checkboxes to get through.
Grief is an individual process with no closure.
We are meant to hold grief, to sit with our love, loss and pain, to process our feelings in our own way and in our own time. Writing helps me process my emotions and transition through tough times, but it doesn’t get me over my grief. Writing helps me work through the grief of losing my uncle Ray, my dog Beck, and friends Karen, Tom and – most recently – Erin.
Getting through grief is individual, meandering and messy.
Erin was near and dear, plucked too soon, without warning. I met Erin through a mutual friend soon after she and her growing family moved into the neighborhood. Our first-born boys had January birthdays, nine days apart. Blake and James went to school, played and watched sports (mostly hockey) together. Erin and I attended Little League games, school events, classroom parties and field trips. We connected with our shared PR experiences, client drama but, most importantly, the joy of raising our sons.
Our boys shared a passion for different sports; hockey and soccer. Despite their differences, Blake and James had a mutual respect for each other’s choices. It’s a respect these boys were raised with by mothers who celebrate the similarities, differences and significant time commitment of youth sports, travel teams and putting up with other cranky parents.
As work and travel hockey swallowed more of Erin’s time, I saw her less. A random text, a street conversation, Facebook posts, an email, a drive-by wave kept us connected. Erin was always willing to lend advice or help make a connection with a new neighbor or a potential client. Whenever I reached out to her, whether it was for advice or to interview for my back to school story, she always made time for me, supported me wholeheartedly and made me feel special.
Erin was great at relating to people – a gift that her son Brady also has.
One day, while I was walking Stella, Brady stopped playing and ran over to pet her. With nine-year-old exuberance, he told me that his dad had found the perfect dog and they just had to convince “mom.”
Erin didn’t need too much persuasion. A couple of weeks later, I received an email from Erin that the family had “taken the plunge and brought a puppy into our house.” Charlie was an 8-month old rescue mutt who had an “awesome personality, but zero training, which is difficult as he’s already super, super strong.”
She asked for my dog “whisperer” and I immediately sent her the information for my dog trainer, Melissa Coccola from Positive K-9 who had helped us train all four of our boxers.
“Thank you!!! We are all a bit desperate to get something started,” replied Erin.
On June 3, Rob and I stood next to Erin, Connor and Brady at the middle school, chatting while waiting for Blake and James to return from their 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. Charlie had attended obedience training, but was still digging holes in the yard. Erin had just returned from a business trip to Germany. I was 60 days into my new job.
It was the last conversation I had with Erin.
Friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances – have all been brought together by a profound and public loss. As we cope with our own messy lives, we give our best to love and support Erin’s family by bringing a meal, stopping by to visit, offering a ride, sending a heart-felt note, or just giving a hug.
I feel Erin in the things she left behind: her family, the flowers blooming on her front porch, a watering can, a beautiful heart-shaped stone tribute with Erin’s initials “E. H.” made by Brady and her best friend Wendy.
Grief floats freely like loose petals blowing in the wind.
A memory, an image, or a single word can trigger my tears at the most unexpected of moments. My heart aches with the weight of my losses. I pause to breathe, close my eyes and soften into the pain so that I can live with my grief.
What do you think?
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I too was so shocked and saddened by Erin’s loss, especially at such a young age. Please know that you are not alone in your devastating thoughts and feelings as it relates to grief. When my dad died, the book “Don’t Take My Grief Away” was so helpful to my mom and sisters and I. Thank you for this essay.
Thanks, Angie. I will look for the book.