What I Let Go Of

After my husband died, I had to decide what to let go of and what to hold onto.

I let go of John’s companionship. John and I enjoyed each other, were honest with each other, and most importantly, listened to each other. After conversing with him for years about a wide range of topics—everything from saving whales, to changes in  political parties, to child Advance Review Copy Uncorrected Proof 144 Winning development—I didn’t have anyone to talk to. The apartment was silent. I remembered past conversations and yearned to have new conversations with him.

I let go of family history carriers. Everyone in the Hodgson family was a storyteller. One of the most interesting stories my father-in-law told was about a young family member who was left to homestead on some Minnesota land during the winter. The young man developed scurvy because food was limited. A traveler gave the relative an onion, and it contained enough vitamin C to stop the scurvy from getting worse. Family stories were history, and the generation that told them so eloquently was gone.

I let go of guilt. Guilt was a corrosive emotion, like acid eating the soul. Though guilt could lead to good things, I considered it my enemy. More than that, guilt was a waste of energy. Instead of wasting time on guilt, I identified the positives in my life, and they were building blocks for the future. I had the basics: safe water, enough food, seasonal clothing, and shelter. I still had my education and life experience.

What I Held Onto

I held on to happy memories. Some of my best memories were of Christmas dinners at our house and relatives’ houses. We had a live Christmas tree and decorated it with gift ornaments I received from nursery school students. The ornaments were charming: a tiny handmade sled, a photo of one of my students, and glittering stars. Each ornament made the tree unique. No other family in town had a tree like ours.

I held on to family traditions. Before we ate Thanksgiving dinner, my father-in-law started a tradition of holding hands and saying, “God bless us everyone.” After my father-in-law died, my brother-in-law continued this tradition. I want this custom to continue in the future, and time will tell if it will.

In the meantime, I hold on to my spirituality and faith. Dr. Katherine Piderman, Coordinator of Spirituality Research at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, defined spirituality in a way I understood: “Spirituality is an opportunity to experience life at the deepest level. It gives you a way to approach each day with wonder and gratitude, grace and generosity, meaning and purpose.”

Piderman uses this definition with patients who participate in the “Hear My Voice” program, a storytelling, remembrance, and thoughtful program for hospice patients. This program helps participants answer I-wish-I-knew and I-wish-I’d-told thoughts. In my confused state, I wondered if church members would respond to my daughter’s death and John’s death.

Friends Rallied

Church members didn’t just respond, they rallied. One couple gave us a book they read after their son had died. “It helped us and may help you,” my friend said. The Caring Committee sent me cards for years after John died. Support from my church congregation kept me going.

I held on to love. Not many couples were as close as we were. John’s death didn’t quell my love for him; I loved him more than ever. I often dreamed about John. In my dreams, we were on a trip and having fun together. Several times I dreamed we were lost and woke up suddenly.

My wish-fulfillment dreams were signs that I wished John were still alive.

Excerpted from Winning: A Story of Grief and Renewal: Hodgson MA, Harriet: 9781608082919: Amazon.com: Books.

Visit Harriet’s website: www.harriethodgson.net.

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Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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