In addition to one-on-one grief counseling, I joined a support group.…
This was a monthly grief and recovery group for people under the age of 35 who’d experienced loss. “The Man” agreed to go with me to my first meeting… for support.
We met in a dimly lit space at a bereavement center; it was decorated like a living room. There were about six of us in that first meeting, Mike was the only man. We had pizza and soda and before long Diana, the group leader, opened the meeting.
She asked us all to go around the room and introduce ourselves by talking about our loss. One woman was grieving her mother, another her brother, another her sister and another her sister and mother who died separately and within one year of each other. Three had lost loved ones to cancer, two experienced sudden death, and one of those saw the dead body immediately after death - a sister who died suddenly on a basketball court at a routine practice. It was a sad room and there were many tears and tissue boxes and stories about how “I suppressed the pain until I had a breakdown; that’s when I knew I needed support and to talk about it…”
There was solidarity and shared pain in the room.
When it was my turn to talk, I told my story: the love, the shock of finding that love dead, the drama of being detained by the police, the experience of disenfranchised grief… There were audible gasps as I spoke.
Did I still have the worst story in the room?
I later decided it wasn’t “the worst story” (we’re advised not to compare grief or the ways that people grieve) but the story is unique. I wished there was a support group just for women under 35 who found their men dead and were then detained by the police for seven hours; we’d have lots to talk about.
I didn’t think The Man would have much to say. But when the time came for him to speak, he put his pizza down and began rattling off the names of everyone who had ever died in our family. And in our extended family. And in our church. He went on. And on. And on. Soon I didn’t know if he was there to support me or me him. I hadn’t realized that all this time he’d had no one to talk to; and that night in group, he talked the longest. He said it felt so good to get this all off of his chest. It made me wonder about cultural norms and expectations for men and how they may limit opportunities for therapy and healing from trauma. Mike was the only man in the room; but there are millions of men who grieve.
In group we talked about visitations and symbols in nature that reminded us of our loved one. When we see these signs it makes our loved one feel near. One woman talked about how her mother loved yellow finches, she would sometimes see them outside of her bedroom window and know that her mother was close. I told the group about the yellow flowers that I was seeing everywhere, and about the Hawks.
“I’m like a Hawk,” Kesner told me one afternoon at his house. We were talking about his pursuit of me. “A hawk will fly into a group of birds with his eye on one bird and nobody knows which bird it is until the hawk swoops in.” In other words, hawks stalk their prey.
And now not only was I seeing yellow flowers everywhere but I was seeing Hawks as well. Kesner was definitely around…
We ended the two hour group with an alpha poem. To create an alpha poem, you take the letters of a word and think of different words that come to mind that begin with each letter. The words we used that night were “yellow finch” but I later did one for Kesner as a homework assignment:
K- kind, kinetic, kiss
E- energetic, eternally etched
S- sincere, sad, sick, solid
N- new, new love, nice
E- elevate, evolve
Read together the poem sounds like this: KESNER- kind, kinetic, kiss, energetic, eternally etched, sincere, sad, solid, new, new love, nice, elevate, evolve, rest. Meaning can be found for the person who selects the words.
We were also given handouts with news about other grief recovery activities: painting classes and quilting, making things out of our loved ones old belongings. ‘Maybe I’ll make a pillow out of Kesner’s tee shirt and shorts that I have,’ I thought.
I would put the heart inside.
My friend Marcella had given me a stone in the shape of a heart when I saw her at the Links convention. She told me to wear it close and think about Kesner; I hadn’t figured it out yet, but that meant wear it in my bra and close to my own heart – when I needed too. She also gave me a beautiful cross and a large pair of gold hoop earrings with small rhinestones on them.
The earrings would come in handy shortly…
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