I walk through the crunchy leaves that blanket the ground while others float down landing on me. I hesitate to brush them off. They are, after all, part of the beauty that is fall.

That same breeze that makes the leaves dance swirls my hair around my face. I gently push it back as I continue my walk. I marvel at how quickly the trees are undressed. Just days ago they were covered. I think about how quickly our own lives change often catching us by surprise. How certain life events can make us feel naked and exposed. The dread we can feel, the cold barren emptiness.

It is often like that when we experience the death of a loved one. Suddenly, we feel vulnerable and afraid as though someone undressed us and left us and our feelings bare for all to see. There seems to be no place to hide from the noisiness of the world and life going on around us or the intrusiveness of those who think they have all the answers. We often long for just one person who would truly understand.

Those people are out there. They just may not live in our circle of friends and family. As Dr.Alan Wolfelt says: “Grief rewrites your address book.” We will need to be open to support from places and people we’d least expect or never met before. It’s not so important who or what as long as it is helpful to you.

Two years ago, October 6th, my step-daughter went into cardiac and respiratory arrest following a routine procedure. She was resuscitated but was left with severe brain damage. She lingered for three months, unable to do anything. She died without ever speaking to any of us again, without hugging any of us again.

Standing by her bed day after day hoping for a miracle, some small sign that she was still in there; we told her we loved her at least a million times, hugged her, kissed her, brought in her dog, her 17 month old grandson she adored, but there was never a response.

It was heartbreaking to see her this way. She had been so full of life. We couldn’t imagine life without her and we didn’t want to. Eventually her organs began failing and we knew it was only a matter of time. She died Dec.28th 2009. With broken hearts, we knew she would not want to stay and we had to let her go.

Ironically it was in the letting go that we were able to embrace her once more as she was, full of life, laughter, and smiles. Just as the trees must let go of their leaves and endure winter to feel summer again. It is still hard. But today I can enjoy walking though crunchy leaves, I can chuckle when I think about some silly thing that she did. I can be thankful for change, that sadness doesn’t last forever, that our lives don’t have to end.

Not caring if anyone heard, I looked up and yelled “Kelly I love you,” and I swear I saw her smile.

Deb Kosmer 2011


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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