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Zags and grief

This most wonderful photo taken by Dan Pelle, just after GU's heartbreaking loss Saturday, reminded me once again how grieving the loss of sports games is a preparation for deeper griefs in life.

Especially this reality: When it's over, it's over.

In hospitals, after someone has died, and the family has had its time to cry and reflect and make phone calls, the room clears. Within hours, after the deceased person has been removed, the room is flled with another patient.

Life is for the living.

And so the Big Dance goes on without the Zags.

Like a funeral, there will likely be warm welcoming and memory sharing on the GU campus this week, I hope.

And then, back to business as usual.

This happens in death, too. The person dies. The family grieves. Services are held and then, it's back to daily living.

What Pelle's photo catches is the first shock of realizing it's over. All that work, all that struggle, all that hope.

The eyes in this photo — coaches and players — are sad. But they encircle their arms around one another. And they go on, because that's what you do.

(S-R photo by Dan Pelle)

What Can I Pray?

It is the end of a terrible day, with 20 children dead along with 7 adults.  It is beyond my comprehension how this can happen.

What can I pray?  I ask for peace and comfort, as much as it can be felt by broken-hearted families.  I ask for kindness to each other, being gentle, being there.  I ask for some understanding to make sense.

My faith does hold some comfort to me, knowing that each child and each adult who died are instantly in the hands of God.

God be with all who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy.

Humbly yours,  Jeanie

Invisible grief

Today's EndNotes column addresses the issue of infertility and the grief it brings to those who long to become parents. So many people want to have children and seek avenues to get to parenthood. Take a moment to learn what you may do to support those you love who live with this sadness.

Also in today's column, learn about obituaries and why they are written with the details - or lack of details - that they are. 

(S-R archives photo)

Carly Crooks: A daughter’s wise grief

Carly Crooks, 11, recently wrote a book report for her class that her father, Gary Crooks, associate editor on the newspaper's editorial board, first heard during conferences. Father and teacher were both in tears afterward.

Gary's wife, Laura, died suddenly five years ago. She was a journalist here, too. And just 37 when she died. Carly was only 6 years old.

From Carly's book report (about a girl waiting for her mother to come home), Carly's understanding of grief is profound and moving. Here are two excerpts, but please, treat yourself today and read the whole thing here.

When my mother was dying in the hospital, I had to wait with my brother at our neighbor’s house. Wait, for what I was worried my dad would say. That she isn’t coming home. I still wish I had said “I love you” to her before it happened.

It is clear that since people die every day, we are lucky that our loved ones come home. Even if they never do, it’s important we keep them forever in our hearts, because they are always at home there.

(S-R archives photo)

“Get over it!”

There's a saying that if you hear something — a phrase or a story — three times in a short time, it means the universe is trying to get your attention. Well, I'm listening.

In the past week, I've heard or read three different stories from people in grief who were told to "get over it" because some time had passed since the death of a loved one. The advice is never helpful.

In Thursday's Voice section, reader Debbie Palaniuk wrote about her 16-year-old daughter, Kaylene, who died Dec. 4, 2009.

She wrote:

For you that have used the phrase “Get over it!” there is no getting over it. We lost the most important thing a parent can lose – a child. I know people mean well when they say we need to move on or get on with our lives, or “I wish you could be your old self.” However, we will never be who we were before the loss of Kaylene. I know I am a kinder, more considerate person. I do not laugh as quickly as I used to. The drop of Kaylene’s name brings me to tears, sometimes happy and sometimes sad, although friends can make all the difference.

 Thank you, Debbie, for your important message. And your daughter was beautiful!

(Photo of Debbie and Kaylene courtesy of Debbie Palaniuk)

Hospice House featured in national teleconference

I spent much of today at the Hospice Foundation of America's annual bereavement teleconference.

The theme: "Living with grief: spirituality and end-of-life care." It was a great conference and I'll be blogging about it all week.

The conference, shown nationally today to groups gathered throughout the country, featured a handful of hospice programs.

Within the first few minutes, a segment featured Hospice House in Spokane. Claps and oohs erupted in the Lincoln Center where Spokane folks were watching the national program.

The segment showed Sheryll Shepard, a Hospice of Spokane chaplain, and former intern, Erin Raska, (now a Presbyterian minister) visiting a dying woman named Freddie.

They spoke with her about spirituality. Mostly, they listened. And everyone had a laugh when Freddie said she was OK with God but maybe not for long because he didn't seem to be on her same timetable in terms of death. I interpreted it to mean she was ready but maybe God had other plans.

(Spokesman-Review Archive photo)

A grief released

My young friend, Laura, tells me of her burden of grief in the after years of her mom's death. Working through the pain, Laura was encouraged to write a message to her mom - on a balloon. She did - and released it into the wind.

 She says they help…the little steps that she must take to move into her future without her mother's guiding love…a grief released.

"Put it in your blog because maybe writing a letter on a balloon could help a child."

Going home

Traveling this week and on the airplane sat next to a woman from the West Indies. She moved to Portland 13 years ago for her husband's work, but she told me she hasn't been to her homeland in 13 years. Generations of immigrants — 100 years ago and now — often talk about this phenomenon. They live so far from the home of their birth. And then they never get back, due to money or distance.
That's got to be a forever grief, in its way.