Grief Doesn't Have a Timeline.

“I know now what I must do. Find you within me, you who have died and left me, and face you and your leaving, and hold you with me long enough this time, to say my own goodbye to you in my own way, taking as long as I need to talk.” Alla Bozarth-Campbell Author of “Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello”


Our June meeting was one of low attendance. This is not unusual for a summer meeting. I often think that when we have fewer people (there were 11 of us there) it offers the opportunity for more intense dialogue. The people present represented a nice span when it comes to the loss: some of us were WAY down-the-road in our grief while others were more middle-of-the-road, and a very few were either brand new or just a few months beyond the death.



The quote that I opened this column with reminded me of that meeting. I think that we continue to say good-bye to our loved one in many ways, and I also think that there is no such thing as a “final” goodbye. We carry our loved ones with us at all times as we remember the wonderful times we spent together.


We carry them, as they carried us, genetically. I look like my mom. I have her mannerism. People who haven’t seen me for a long time (and who knew mom) often comment on how much I look like her. I never get tired of hearing this. I carry with me the morals and values she taught, the many good times we had, the laughter we shared, and some of her sayings. Buying an item with lots of attachments, I can hear mom’s voice saying, “Just one more thing to go wrong.” That’s why we could never have the cool refrigerator that dispensed water and ice! …” you who have died and left me...”


Yes, physically, they have left us. As we advance in our grief process, we realize that they are with us on a new level. They are ALWAYS with us.


Years ago, I heard Mary Kargle say in our meeting introductions, “…our son, Mark, chose to leave us...” and I think that that’s a lovely turn of a phrase. At other times she will say “He is still with us. He will ALWAYS be with us.” See the thinking? Physically, Mark chose to leave but spiritually (or whatever you want to call it) he is always with Mary and Mike. …” and face you and your leaving…” Now this is a chunk to swallow. To “face you and your leaving” means to not only learn to live without their physical presence, but it also means to face the “how” of their death.


Suicide speaks volumes. They “chose” to end their own lives. They “chose” to leave us. Over and over again, we all have to remind ourselves that their choice wasn’t about “us” but rather about them and their pain. But it is “us” that then bears their pain as we try to move forward and live a new life without them there. “…taking as long as I need to take…”


No, we’ll never be “over it” as so many want us to be. We eventually accept it and continue to move forward in a world that reminds us that each and every day life isn’t fair.


Grief doesn’t have a timeline.


We have invisible band aids over our hearts and thus it shall ever be. As we rid ourselves, over the years, of their “things and stuff”, it is another time to reflect, grieve, and then to say, “You are not in your stuff. I love you. I’ll never forget you. You are in my heart.


At the end of this column is a piece entitled, “Ashes and Wind.” My parents were cremated, so it is especially appropriate for me to end my column using this piece. Emotionally, they never leave us. Physically, well, that’s another matter. The power of the group works. The coming together the third Monday of each month is what can help us heal…


Ashes and Wind by Deborah J. Hanford:


Where do the ashes go of those we have loved?

Do they fly down below or float up above?

Do they skip and tumble through a forest of trees?

Or do they succumb to the deep blue sea?

Wherever they go and however they scatter

Each single ash is important and matters

Does the wind rear its head and cry out in pain

While it waits for the twist of the whip lashing rain?

Or does it whistle softly to the big blue moon

To halo the stars that will be out soon?

Ashes and Wind go hand and hand

Whenever they reach they travel our land

We may not hear, touch them, or see

But they are embraced through memories

Ashes and Wind are like threads of silk

Sometimes smooth like honey and milk

Other times they rumble, tumble, and churn

Not seeking direction or taking a turn

They go hand in hand to a place of their own

A place that is private, alone, and unknown


-From Stephanie.