I was at a reception when an acquaintance asked, "Where is Elliott's (my son) dad?"
"He died," I responded.
The "asker", looked down, turned and walked away.
I thought maybe she didn't hear me? Many people don't know how to respond to death, tragedy, and grief. When death comes up in conversation we may get and give the standard "I am so sorry" or "At least his suffering is over" platitudes, but those niceties are white noise to the heart of the griever. In fact, this person simply owning that they didn't know what to say and exiting our encounter was better than a lot of things I heard following the unexpected mixed toxicity overdose death of my fiancé' and father of my child.
Grief is a natural response to death and everyone's grief experience will be different. I fumbled through the first year trying to "be okay" when obviously I really wasn't. I would have crying outbursts, struggled with guilt, and felt physically ill at the sight of ambulances to name a few responses. I am a tough independent woman, but this sucked! My family and friends that care about me the most- wanted to help but didn't know what I needed. I didn't know what I needed.
When we found Tamarack Grief Resource Center (TGRC) and Women's Rendezvous, a 24 hr retreat for women that have lost someone close to them it was a breath of fresh air. Actually. Nestled on Flathead Lake among the pine trees it was a time to create space for that grief that had entered my life without an invitation. It was time to share about the person in my life that died without the hearer walking away. I felt accepted and supported. Women's Rendezvous wasn't only sadness and tears, it was laughter over memories shared, anger about the unfair reality of it all, and most importantly freedom for all of these emotions and more without expectations or judgement.
I know how crucial grief support can be. My fiancé died 9 months after his brother's suicide. During his grief it was difficult to find support. In our lives, we will have loss and we will grieve. We don't have to do it alone. My son, Elliott who is now 11, attends Tamarack Grief Resource Center programs to create space to talk about his dad that died, to be around peers that have experienced significant loss, and to learn safe outlets for emotions. TGRC offers grief support through camps and retreats for children, women, and men. From one on one counseling to community workshops- the folks at TGRC are committed to meeting the bereaved right where they are.
TGRC also offers grief education by going into schools and the community to talk about death and grief before and after it occurs.
Please support my Giving Tuesday fundraiser for Tamarack Grief Resource Center. When someone dies there are secondary losses; loss of income, a need to move or change schools, or a parent who was able to stay home may need to enter the workforce. Life is disrupted. The ability to receive support without more financial stress is so comforting to a person who is grieving. Your donations ensure that people, like me, will be able to attend programs to gain strength and support when they need it most, regardless of ability to pay. Thank you for reading a little bit of my story and thank you for your support.
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go” ~ Jamie Anderson