The journey through grief and loss can be a minefield. After my father’s unexpected suicide in 2003, I felt like my world collapsed. And in a way, it did — I felt scared, confused, angry. My mom was going through the same thing. Not only did she lose her husband, but she lost her mom (my grandmother) just one year before. That kind of loss — the kind that comes back to back — is enough to make anyone want to bury their head in the sand. Or at least go into seclusion and never come out. But on the other side of that was something incredibly beautiful: What my mom taught me about healing.
Neither of us knew what to do or where to turn. But little did I know that a huge source of strength and solace would come from watching my mother. She’s a middle school teacher and began a Rainbows chapter at her school. The group, for students who have experienced loss, meets every week to do activities, talk and grieve together. Some lost parents while others lost grandparents, but there was one common thread that bound them all together: They were all trying to make sense of what happened. Throughout the year, she’d come home and tell me about the lesson she taught that week. Sometimes they watched a video, sometimes they read a book and sometimes they just talked about all the emotions they had been feeling that week. What struck me the most? How much her students seemed to be helping her too.
My mom knew what they were going through and was able to help them on their journey. Seeing her plan lessons and share a piece of herself taught me so much about grief and loss. Here she was, a widow at just 47, and she was taking the most painful experience of her life and channeling that into something to help others heal. She came out of herself at a time when all she wanted to do was retreat and shut out the world. She showed me that helping others through their grief helps you grieve too. When we take our heartbreak and help others, we ultimately help ourselves in the process. In the end, we heal ourselves too.
So, as we get closer to Mother’s Day, thank you, Ms. Bear, for teaching me about healing when I needed it the most. You’ll never know just how much I appreciate it — and just how much I admire you! xoxo