The theme on the suicide prevention line over the past couple of Sundays has been grief over the loss of a parent. I keep the Kübler-Ross model in mind, as I convey that everyone grieves differently, and with time, each loss becomes easier to bear. One woman I spoke to was despondent over the tragic loss of her Dad, whom she thought was mistreated at a veteran’s hospital. She had spent all 39 years of her life living with him, and was having a hard time moving through her pain.
I spoke to her from a personal perspective. I too never expected to lose my Dad so suddenly. He was supposed to be there to share in my next milestone, the marriage to my beloved. However, in time I moved beyond the anger and hurt, and became thankful that Augie got to know and love my husband before he passed on.
Losing my mother was a slower, more difficult process, as I watched and cared for Ellie during her final months and days with cancer. We had become quite close as we switched roles; I struggled with her loss for a long time. After the breakup of her marriage and 20 years as a nurse, Mom had gone back to school to pursue a career in counseling. She transformed many lives with her light, first as a mentor for young gang members with Youth at Risk, and then as a sexual assault advocate for numerous women being treated for rape.
My mother exemplified compassion. And I have lit numerous candles in her memory – like today, on what would have been her 82nd birthday. But what has helped me cope most, is to endeavor to bring my mother’s light into the world…and my Dad’s smile, a big-hearted soul who filled a room with his presence. When I received my master’s degree last year, a photo of me fist bumping the air was taken at the very moment I was celebrating them; “This is for you Mom and Dad…this is me honoring your memory.” And I try to evoke my mother every day in my work, helping people in crisis. My parents brought me into this world and it’s on their wings that I continue to sail.
As our conversation progressed, I asked the woman on the crisis line how she might honor her Dad. She began to tell me how she had just been approved for a school loan and she was looking forward to getting her Bachelors in Nursing, and then a Masters degree. As we talked, I could hear her grief evolve, as she realized how proud her father would be. Her sadness began to turn into what I eventually heard as a smile in her voice. She was moving through the stages of grief and ready to shine her light in her Dad’s honor.
Authors Note: Top photo: Celebrating my Associates Degree from Norwalk Community with Mom and Dad, Middle: A happy Mom at Seaside Park, Bottom photo: Bachelors Degree celebration with Dad at Penfield Pavillion.