Last night I dreamt someone let an elephant into our home. I couldn’t get him out of the house but I tricked him into the basement by opening the door and throwing some food down. But people kept leaving the door open and there he would be again staring me down. I kept getting frustrated then angry with their carelessness and with him for being so big and immoveable. I tried to make them see he was going to ruin everything in the house and our lives but no one would listen.

I was all alone with an elephant. I realized it was totally up to me to eliminate him or make him a manageable size that I could live with. When my family refused to listen, I had tried to talk with my friends about the elephant but not even one was interested, if anything they seemed apprehensive. I wondered, could it be they had their own elephants?

There are lots of elephants. One is grief. One is shame. One is guilt. One is hate.  One is depression. One is alcohol and drug addiction. There are many others. The thing about elephants is they don’t move or disappear just because we want them to. We have to work at it consistently, a little at a time.  We can’t let the comments or indifference of others deter us. The more we pretend our elephants do not exist, the bigger they become and harder to contain and the more they demand to be fed.

Just as there are different elephants, there are different methods of taking away their power to rule our lives. When grief is the elephant .it can help to connect with others who also have grief elephants. For many of us talking with those who understand what we are dealing with eases our feelings of being alone and misunderstood. Community, church, and on-line support groups all provide opportunities to receive validation and encouragement. Putting our feelings on paper or sharing them out loud can make them more manageable and lessen over time.

Though the elephant of grief can be a formidable opponent it need not win. Every time we say our loved ones’ names out loud, share a story about them, honor their memory by being kind to someone else, join a cause in their honor, participate in a ritual of remembrance, we are deflating the elephant and building hope in our future.

It is up to each of us to decide whether we win or the elephant wins. Some days the steps necessary to winning will be easier than others. The key is to never give up and just keep on going.

 

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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