The Grief Breakfast Club’s December Meeting

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It was December and the last monthly meeting of the “Grief Breakfast Club” for the year. No one could quite remember exactly when it started, but it had been Old Widow’s idea. She wasn’t necessarily “old,” but she had been living without her husband for a number of years which made her “Old Widow” compared to “New Widow” who lost her husband only a few months ago.

Not everyone knew what it was like to lose someone so important and so many people didn’t know what to say or said things like “he wouldn’t want you to be sad” or “well, at least he’s not still suffering.” Old Widow sometimes agreed in her heart with these sentiments but thought they weren’t for someone else to say. She wanted to be with people who had a clue and who weren’t afraid of sad stories and laughing about the dead. And she liked having someone cook her breakfast, so it became a monthly kind of thing.

This morning, it began with Old Widow and New Widow along with coffee and hot tea, respectively. New Widow looked rough, like there hadn’t been a lot of sleep lately, and she had a faraway look in her eyes much of the time as she held her tea cup with both hands. Bereaved Couple was there, too, he with his short stack of pancakes, eggs and bacon and she with her bagel and cream cheese. They had brought a photo album to share with pictures from their baby’s first, and only, Christmas two years ago.

That first Christmas with the baby had been a dream come true with decorations, tree, food and family all-around. The next Christmas without the baby had been a nightmare with no decorations, no celebrations and just a brief time with the relatives. Mostly it was quiet and sad. Bereaved Couple hadn’t looked at those Christmas pictures in a long time but they felt like sharing them this morning, and they planned to put up a few decorations this year just to see how it felt. Old and New Widow oohed and aahed at the pictures. He had been such a beautiful baby.

Adult Orphan arrived just as the waitress was taking food orders. He always had the same thing, so he gave his order for biscuits and gravy, sausage on the side, as he sat down. His mom used to make biscuits and gravy as part of a “big breakfast” on Saturday mornings and special occasions. He had said goodbye to his mom over the summer on hospice only three years after his father died –a heart attack on the back porch after he had finished mowing the lawn. It felt strange to have no parents in the world, even at middle age.

He missed feeling like someone’s child—having someone to ask about his life, job and family who also remembered his earliest days. With no parents alive in the world, he felt vulnerable with no more generation between him and mortality. It was an artificial protection, of course, and no one knew that better than his fellow breakfast eaters. They knew that life is fragile at any age. It was good to be with people who got that.

Last to join was Lonely Sibling. She was not a breakfast person as food in the morning had no appeal. She was faithful to come, nevertheless, have a glass of orange juice and take in the nourishment of the company. Her sister’s breast cancer finally overcame her last year and Lonely Sibling had gone from sister to only child. They had not been twins, although they favored, and many thought they were. No one else knew the stories they shared, things that their parents didn’t know and only they remembered. It was a huge loss for Lonely Sibling and one that often didn’t get a lot of attention in the strange place called grief world. She quickly felt comfortable, however, with the breakfast club. They talked of their own brothers and sisters and how hard it would be to live without them. They respected the depth of her loss and she loved them for it.

“Where’s Old Widower?” Lonely Sibling asked.

“Oh, he’s out helping Left-Behind Dad get some firewood,” said Old Widow. “He does like his breakfast, but in the end, he’s more of a doer than a talker, and Left-Behind Dad has his hands full with those kids. They hope to catch us in January.”

Old Widow had been wanting to run something by the group for a while now. She was thinking of taking off her wedding ring and maybe dating. It felt like the right time but that ring also felt like part of her body. She was torn. She had had such a good marriage and it felt like her life ended when it did. As time had gone by since, she realized that she was not wired to be solitary and she missed having a special someone. No one could replace her husband and she was not after a replacement—that would be silly. Still, her husband had taught her how rich life could be with someone to share it and at least part of her was finally ready to open that door, at least a little.

After the baby’s first Christmas photo album had gone around and everyone shared what they would, or definitely would not, be doing for the holidays, Old Widow looked around the table and said, “If you all have time, let’s get a refill on our drinks as I’d like your thoughts about something I’ve been thinking about for this next year.”

 

Greg Adams

More Articles Written by Greg

Greg Adams is a social worker at Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) where he coordinates the Center for Good Mourning, a grief support and outreach program, and works with bereavement support for staff who are exposed to suffering and loss. His past experience at ACH includes ten years in pediatric oncology and 9 years in pediatric palliative care. He has written for and edited The Mourning News, an electronic grief/loss newsletter, since its beginning in 2004. Greg is also an adjunct professor in the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Graduate School of Social Work where he teaches a grief/loss elective and students are told that while the class is elective, grief and loss are not. In 1985, Greg graduated from Baylor University majoring in social work and religion, and he earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Missouri in 1986. One answer to the question of how he got into the work of grief and death education is that his father was an educator and his mother grew up in the residence part of a funeral home where her father was a funeral director. After growing up in a couple small towns in Missouri south of St. Louis, Greg has lived in Little Rock since 1987. He married a Little Rock native in 1986 and his wife is an early childhood special educator and consultant. Together they have two young adult children—a son in college and a daughter working in-between college and graduate school. Along with his experience in the hospital with death and dying and with working with grieving people of all ages, personal experiences with death and loss have been very impacting and influential. In 1988, Greg’s father-in-law died of an unexpected suicide. In 1996, Greg and his wife lost a child in mid-pregnancy to anencephaly (no brain developed). Greg’s mother died on hospice with cancer in 2008 and his father died after the family decided to stop the ventilator after a devastating episode of sepsis and pneumonia in 2015. Greg has a variety of interests and activities—including slow running, reading, sports, public education, religion, politics, and diversity issues—and is active in his church and community. He is honored to have the opportunity to be a contributor for Open to Hope.

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