Chapters of Grief

August 18: Birthday rituals

Your birthday is next week. I do not know how I am going to get through it. The grief counselor had some suggestions.

I called Margot and discussed it with her. We will light candles in each of our homes at eight o’clock on Thursday evening. Your father and Margot, Earle and I, Jeff and Amanda, Lauren, Seth, your stepsiblings, your grandmother, your uncles, cousins and friends from Connecticut to New York to Maryland to Georgia to Arizona and down to Florida.


I hope you feel the energy we will be sending you.

Prepare yourself for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays–they can be difficult occasions for you. Try to do something positive–float balloons into the air, fly a kite or invite relatives and friends to light candles at the same time. It is okay to break from tradition if that makes life easier. A walk on the beach for Mother’s Day instead of the usual brunch might be the best way to get through a painful time. Think outside the box and inside your heart to come up with new traditions.


August 19: Out in the world

Last night, Earle and I decided to go to the clubhouse for dinner–just the two of us. It was the first time we have done this since your death.

I was nervous about walking into the room, about the sympathetic hugs and knowing looks. I had put it off for as long as I could and finally decided to face the music. You would have been proud of me.

People are often uneasy around the newly bereaved, and I am equally on edge about what they might say to upset me. I do not want to choke up in public. If someone comes over to our table and gives me a hug, I might easily become unglued.

I did not plan it, but I found myself “working the room.” Before we sat down to our table, I visited everyone I knew. I smiled, I chatted and was as upbeat as I could be. They all got the message, “You do not have to be afraid of me. I am not going to become hysterical here.” Everyone understood.

The minute we got home I had myself a full-blown hysterical cry, but I am still alive and I am still writing to you. I got through another hurdle.

Many people do not know what to say to you. Some ask how you feel but do not really want an honest answer. Others ignore you because they are so ill at ease. Take control. Lead the conversation in the direction that will make you comfortable. If you do not want to discuss your grief, try this: “I have good days and bad, but thank you for asking” and then change the subject.


August 20: Everyone is different

Everyone grieves in his own way. At a Hospice support group last week, a woman was deciding whether or not to go to a wedding. That would be a no-brainer for me. I would not be capable of participating in festivities at this time of my life. 

Another woman weighed in with an entirely different view. She had been to a wedding where she sang, danced, and lost herself in the happiness of the event. I marveled at her ability to take part in such a joyful activity at this painful time in her life.

Another life lesson. Everyone is different.


Click the photo to learn more about Elaine Schaller.