Few ask how I’m doing these days. Friends have resumed their lives and so have I. Today, I’m living a new, meaningful and happy life. Yet there are times when the pain of losing my daughter in 2007 hits without warning. Suddenly, I am transported back in time and see terrible images from the hospital emergency room.

Since these mental pictures drag me down, I consciously switch my thoughts to positive pictures, such as my twin grandchildren graduating from high school. I’m glad I learned how and when to do this.

Though we all go through grief, Americans tend to avoid the topic. But talking about loss and grief helps mourners to recover. Judy Tatelbaum makes this point in her book, The Courage to Grieve. “Talking about death in natural conversation can be freeing, enabling us to accept death more fully as a fact of life,” she writes.

Tatelbaum thinks sharing our grief is crucial to recovery. “It is an opportunity to examine your own beliefs, feelings and experiences.” Death has taught me many things and one is that I need to say my daughter’s name. The Compassionate Friends, a national organization for parents and families that have lost a child, is one of the few places I can do this.

Why do I need to say my daughter’s name?

Talking about Helen is a way to keep her alive in my memory. Four years into the grief journey, I can tell stories about her without breaking down. Many stories generate laughter. One of my favorite stories involves my grandchildren’s pet hamster. Somehow, the hamster caught his tail in the cage, and he lost the tip of his tail. My engineer daughter re-attached the tip with super glue and it worked!

Saying my daughter’s name is a way to honor her accomplishments. Though she made self-defeating decisions in high school, she recognized them, and turned her life around. She became a nursing assistant, earned a two-year business degree, became a composite engineer, earned her MBA, and six special certifications for industry. Clearly, she was an accomplished woman who died too soon.

Saying my daughter’s name keeps her memory alive for her children. My twin grandchildren moved in with us after their parents were killed in separate car crashes. They were 15 years old at the time, stunned by grief, and lost. The court appointed my husband and me as their legal guardians. Our pledge then and now: Helen, we will not fail you.

As the years passed, the twins were able to tell stories about their mother. In fact, they love telling stories and hearing them. Recently I met a man who had worked with my daughter before she earned all of her degrees. He described her as a hard worker. I shared this story with my grandchildren and my granddaughter replied, “Of course!”

Though few ask how I’m doing, I tell them anyway. I tell them about Helen, all she accomplished in life, and about her marvelous twins. Her values live in them. I am proud to speak my daughter’s name aloud and proud to be her mother.

Copyright 2011 by Harriet Hodgson


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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