In grief, many words are bandied about: denial, acceptance, healing, closure, forget, move on, recover, acknowledge, anger, and guilt.

These words are thrown at us, sometimes in our face, by others. These others may mean well, but their effect is usually the opposite. These others are often just misinformed individuals, trying to help. They don’t realize that the only help we are interested in is the return of our loved one, an impossibility. At times, we may use these words ourselves, as we struggle to make sense and order out of the place we are now in.

When my son died, I was not even thinking about these words. The only thing I could think about was my son. He was part of and overshadowed every thought and action in my new reality. I had no interest in trying to come to terms with this new reality. I only wanted to go back to before that fateful night he walked out the door. The only energy I had was spent trying to wake up from the nightmare that had become my life.

Over time, I came to acknowledge his death. My son was no longer physically present on this earth. There came a point when I could no longer believe this tragedy would be made right. Many times, I screamed at God. Other times, I crawled into his arms and wept. In the beginning, I thought a mistake had been made. God must have fallen asleep that night. Mistakes could be rectified. I had to come to terms with the fact this one would not.

Having acknowledged his death and the irreversibility of it, I learned to tolerate it. Having it be tolerable meant I could learn to live with it. I still felt as though I was an alien in some foreign land. I was still learning the rules of my new life, a life I still didn’t wish for but was now beginning to accept.

For a very long time — years — I did not think I would ever get to the point of acceptance. I still don’t think I will ever truly accept my son’s death, but I have learned to accept the new reality that has become my life. In the years since my son’s death, many  good things have happened. I have made choices to do things to honor his memory and his life.  I have lived more fully for him. I also live more fully for myself.

Am I healed? Have I gotten over it? We get over a cold. We don’t get over people. I believe that any healing that has occurred has been in my emotional response to my son’s death. It no longer debilitates me. The love I will always have for him liberates me.

Deb Kosmer 2011

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Deb Kosmer

Deb Kosmer

Deb has worked at Affinity Visiting Nurses Hospice for ten years, the first two as a hospice social worker and the last eight as Bereavement Support Coordinator supporting families before and after the death of their loved ones. She provides supportive counseling, developed and facilitates a variety of grief support groups, including a well-attended group for men only as well as other educational events. Deb received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from UW-Oshkosh and her Master’s degree in Social Work from UW Milwaukee. She received her certification in Thanatology through ADEC. Her writing has appeared in New Leaf Magazine, We Need Not Walk Alone, Living with Loss, Grief Digest, numerous hospice publications and EAP publications. Some of her poetry on death and dying will be included in a college textbook for social workers in end of life soon. New Leaf has also used some of her poetry for a line of sympathy and anniversary of death cards. On a personal level, Deb's 14-year-old son died after being struck by a car. Her 31-year-old sister had died in a car accident eight months earlier, and her 56-year-old father died from a heart attack exactly three years before. These three unexpected deaths within three years started Deb on a journey she never wanted to be on and she learned first-hand the importance of having the help and support of others. In the years since, she has experienced other losses, the most recent being the unexpected death of her 44-year-old step-daughter who died from complications three months after routine surgery. Deb's passions are writing, reading, education, nature, and family. She is currently working on a book of her grief poetry. She recently moved with her husband to Waypost Camp, Hatley WI. Her husband accepted a job there as Property Manager and his position allows them to live on-site with acres of woods and a lake. She anticipates the quiet beauty to be a strong catalyst for writing.

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