Notes on Grieving: First Timers

One of the hardest things for anyone grieving for a loved one is to face the “first timers”:  the first birthday, anniversary, holiday, family gathering, or annual event without your loved one. In Reflections on a Happy Birthday I shared my experience with Bernices first birthday since her passing. I have just experienced my first Thanksgiving without her. For other people many holiday “first timers” are around the corner. These are tough times and I have no advice for anyone facing them.

I would like to share something that has helped me, and that is to focus on other people who are also going through the greiving process. This Thanksgiving was the first time in years that Bernice and I had not spent this holiday with her daughter and grandson. I was invited to her daughter’s new home and would have attended if I hadn’t committed to Thanksgiving Day in New York with my daughter Brett and her BFF’s family. But even amidst the bustle of food, kids, drinks and football, I found myself wondering how all Bernices family-daughters, sisters and grandchildren were coping with her absence on this day. It didn’t make me miss her any less, but I think it helped me get out of myself and try to enjoy the day.

I have also been able to focus on other families. The headline in the Sports Page of the Arizona Republic this morning (12/4) read Sunday Showcase: Sally Meyerhoff Remembered. Sally, pegged for greatness as a marathoner and a tirathelete, died on March 8, 2011 after her bike collided with a pick-up truck. Of course I and the entire Arizona running communty were shocked at the news. But shock has a way of wearing off. When I read the tribute today I was drawn to the reactions of her family, especially her parents. As I read thier quotes and statements I found myself thinking between the lines, what it must be like to lose a child so young with so much potential for inspiring others. And also thinking about how many “first-timers” they will face.

Much like the parents of Arizona football great Pat Tillman, Sally’s  parents have created the Sally Meyerhoff Foundation to honor Sally and to give back to the community through helping athelets in need. Having already committed myself to raise funds for the Tillman Foundation, I’m thinking perhaps the best way to support the Meyerhoff Foundation is to do the first Sally Meyerhoff 5K Run this coming Saturday (12/10).

Whether it is experiencing the apprehension of “first timers” or just the day to day pain of loss, I believe it is mportant not to feel alone.  Perhaps getting beyond our feelings by honoring our loved ones and supporting others who are doing the same can alleviate this anxiety and sense of aloneness.

RFYL would like to hear your thoughts.