My daughter loved Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving was special because she was born on this day. Christmas gave her a chance to give to others, even though she had little money. In her younger years, when she didn’t have twins to care for and her job as an engineer, family members often received homemade gifts.
These are happy memories for me, yet the prospect of a new year, can be melancholy. Life isn’t the same without my daughter and the other family members who died in 2007: my father-in-law, brother, and former son-in-law. I loved them and counted on their support and now they are gone.
Grieving the loss of four family members has been daunting. Sometimes it has been confusing. It takes me a few hours or days to figure out which family member I am grieving for and identify my feelings. Still, I haven’t shirked my grief work and have kept at it. Doing this work has made immensely.
More than three years have passed since my family members died. Though grief isn’t as acute as it used to be, it remains an undercurrent in my life. As the years pass, however, I find that giving helps me most.
Giving to others helps me heal.
A few years ago, if you had told me I was going to write five books about grief, I would have said you were delusional. But that is exactly what happened. I wrote about my deceased loved ones and the challenges of coping with multiple losses. Writing forced me to think deeply, face my pain, and stick up for myself. I refused to be crushed by tragedy.
Others have reached the same conclusion. I asked an editor who is familiar with grief to write a back cover review for one of my books. She wrote a beautiful review and added added a comment about giving reviews away for authors to use as the wish. Grief books are the current focus of my resume.
I’ve been giving the books away. So far, I’ve given books to friends who are grieving, two churches, a local hospice, and AA. My daughter was an AA member and I think she would be pleased with my actions. According to an AA contact, one of my books is a perfect fit for the women’s group.
When I give books away, in a sense, I’m giving myself away. You may find comfort by giving yourself away. Are you willing to listen to other bereaved parents? Can your expertise help a struggling organization to survive? Will telling your grief story help others who are grieving?
When we give ourselves away, we are saying yes to life. We are also saying, “I’m healing and ready to trust again.” Giving is an act of self-trust, trusting that you have things to give, trusting that you can handle emotional pain. Worrying about the future is a waste of energy and we can invest it in giving instead.
Copyright 2010 by Harriet Hodgson