Surviving Grief

When I decided to share my recipes and secret places, I decided to share some deeply personal experiences as well. A huge part of who I am was shaped by grief, and the death of my sister. This is also the huge part of myself that I usually keep bottled up because it still is so painful and hard to talk about. I was 26, she was 23. She was my best friend and only sibling. Losing her left a big hole in my heart that I could actually physically feel. My hope is that in sharing my stories, it can help others who feel a profound loss know that they can survive it. It may not be easy, and they probably will not “get over it,” but they can most certainly live a good life.

When I lost my sister, I desperately wanted someone to tell me what I needed to do to survive. How and why do you keep going? I really thought I wanted to die; I couldn’t imagine ever feeling “normal” again. Most everything else in my world became unimportant. Everyone else’s problems seemed minor and insignificant. I tried seeing a therapist, but she did not have any answers for me. We stared at each other for a few sessions and I gave up.

Then I found a bereavement group led by two nuns at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. I am not a religious person, so I was very skeptical. Each week we had homework of some kind, and then returned the next week to discuss and share. Our assignments included keeping a journal, writing letters to our loved one who passed and to friends who did not know, making photo collages, and listing things that used to give us joy. It helped to hear others express their pain, hear about their loss, and learn about their loved ones. And it made me understand that my experience, no matter how horrific and painful, was not necessarily unique.

I know my sample size for this conclusion is only 1 for each treatment option, but for me, the bereavement group helped much more than the therapist. Of course, it didn’t cure or fix me, but it moved me closer to survival, so I would recommend a group as a starting point.