Our daughter died on July 19, 2005. The shock of her suicide and my own gut-wrenching grief that day is painful to remember. No one in our family knew what to do or how to react. It was like falling out of a boat in the dark at high tide. We couldn’t “swim”. We couldn’t help each other. We could only survive. Everyone seemed to be in a daze. We found no help from priests, doctors, Cyndi’s husband or the investigators of Cyndi’s death.
At the time, I didn’t know about Compassionate Friends. When someone mentioned it to me, I was afraid to go to a meeting because I might break down and cry. Instead, after her funeral, my husband and I went to Lake Tahoe on a previously planned vacation to spend a few weeks with our son and his family. We had our own cabin, which gave us the privacy we needed to weep or rest.
The change of scene helped me. Not being in my home with all the reminders of my daughter helped. Not having to explain anything to anyone helped. The beauty of Tahoe helped ease my stress, but the cold water woke me up to the reality of Cyndi’s death. I knew I needed help.
When we came home, I went to my first Compassionate Friends meeting. It was a great move for me. The leader’s name was Cindy, just like our daughter’s name. “A sign,” I thought. Just being with people who really knew how I felt was amazing! The compassion and wisdom displayed by the people who came to those meetings helped me than words can say. It became my safe harbor for seven years.
Inspired by one of the members, I found a grief counselor. I worked with her for two years. My husband didn’t participate in either resource, but he felt relieved not to be the only person I talked with about our daughter. The Compassionate Friends taught me that couples often use different tools to heal. It seems women need to talk. I certainly did. I also needed to write.
I began transpersonal journaling with my daughter. Receiving explanations and comfort from Cyndi helped me learn to forgive everyone involved. Forgiveness opened the door to new ways of seeing the world and the challenges we all face. Slowly I moved from barely surviving to accepting Cyndi’s death to reaching out to help others who were grieving.
At the age of sixty, I wrote my first book about my grief journey. This led to giving talks, workshops and retreats on the transpersonal journaling I used to heal my grief. I called it Celestial Conversations. It has become Cyndi’s legacy.
In 2014, I co-founded The International Grief Council with two other women who have suffered deep losses and wrote books about their experiences of loss. Uma Girish was born in India, and Daniela Norris was born in Israel. We all speak the same language of grief, despite our cultural and religious differences. We also feel the need to reach out to others who were grieving. We have given programs in the New York, New Jersey, and in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2018 we will travel to Great Britain to offer a retreat based upon our healing experiences.
If this is your first summer of grief, be good to yourself. Float on the waters of life. Don’t try to swim. Ask for help. Consider going to Compassionate Friends, and/or a grief counselor. Know you will need many tools. They are available. You are in a huge community of people who have survived and thrived, despite their losses. They will offer their hands and light up your way, just as others did for th