Following are thoughts from Suzy Yehl Marta about the recent death of Elizabeth Edwards.

Why do you think people around the country are so moved by her death? Most likely, it is because of the drama and trauma she has endured with her husband’s affair and baby.  When this happens to anyone it is humiliating when only family and friends know.  For Elizabeth she endured public embarrassment and  deep emotional pain.

Furthermore, Elizabeth was a role model on how to be  heroic through this experience.  She was quiet for a long while and when she finally did interviews and in her  book, too she never ever was disparaging of John as the father of  their children.

Her life was filled with loss and embarrassment – her childhood, her son dying, her cancer, the medical treatment,  the affair and then the baby. She was never a victim but lead on the high role.  She allowed up to open our hearts to her and respect her as a friend.

What does Edwards’ death tell us about public grief? This death does not strike me as “public grief” such as Princess Diana or now in Chicago with Ron Santo.  It seems more that we are all sad that she lost her battle at such an early age and in the midst of her cancer battle, her family was torn apart.

What do you think the impact will be on her children, especially the younger ones, who are 12 and 10? These two young ones and the older daughter have suffered immensely on so many fronts.  Their dad fell from the pedestal that dads are placed on by their children, the media was a circus around the family’s drama and tragedy.  Immediately followed by lies, cover ups, a new half-sister, and the terminal diagnosis of their Mom’s cancer.  It seemed their family was ripped apart at every turn.   Divorce is a death of a family unit and extraordinarily painful for the children of that marriage.  I doubt they event were able to come to grips with that loss, before their Mom became so sick.

The older daughter has lost her brother and now mother to death.  Being  an adult does not make this any easier.  Undoubtedly, she will step in as the mother figure for her siblings.  This is another loss for her too.

What do you think will be the impact on John Edwards? I imagine he is guilt ridden.  And one wonders if there were other affairs during the 36 years, not that it matters now but his life’s choices brought  incredibly deep pain to his wife and children.  Unless he is amoral, he is  suffering deeply too.

John and Elizabeth were married for 36 years. They had four children, one of whom died at age 16 in an accident. Is there something here about the impact of child-loss and/or about the grief felt by estranged spouses? Research has shown that there is a high percentage of divorces after the death of a child. Men and women often grieve differently. One is not better or worse but rather just different.  If  the couple is unable to talk through their feelings with one another, or go to counseling, or accept their grief journeys are on different paths, they all too often they pull apart and the marriage crumbles.

Did you experience the death of an ex-wife or ex-husband? Yes, my husband died after being divorced 26 years. Our children were grown and some had children themselves.  It was extremely difficult to watch my children’s pain and quite a shock that so few friends understood that I was grieving too. I heard comments like,  “After all, you were divorced from him, why are you sad?” or other phrases of similar ignorance.  People seemed to not understand that he and I shared a loved at one time, our parented and worried about our children together, and welcomed grandchildren into our family.

Suzy Yehl Marta

Suzy Yehl Marta

Suzy Yehl Marta

Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three sons, gave up the security of her three jobs to do something she knew in her heart had to be done for our youth who were grieving a life-changing loss. She established Rainbows, now the world’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated solely to helping families cope with loss. While growing up, Suzy dreamed of being a good wife and mother. She never considered the possibility of divorce and was devastated when her marriage ended. She was relieved when family and friends told her there was no need to worry about her kids. “They’re resilient. They’ll bounce back,” she was told. But soon Suzy realized her sons were hurting as much as she was. She searched for the type of support that she was receiving as an adult. There was no place accessible for them to talk about what they were feeling. Certainly, there was therapy available, which she tried. At the end of the counseling session, she was advised not to return. The therapist said they were just fine adjusting to their loss. But he never told them how to do it. What Suzy learned later was that they were all grieving the death of their nuclear family. In addition, her sons needed to be with other children their age going through the same experiences so they could understand their feelings. Working with other concerned single parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for children in single-parent and step-family homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. After hearing their stories, Suzy was compelled to do more. She began working on a formal curriculum- the foundation of Rainbows. Rainbows has served nearly 2 million youth throughout the U.S. and 16 countries. Now the nation’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated solely to helping families cope with loss.

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