Warning: Grief Anniversary Ahead
This time it wasn’t Facebook Memories that reminded me. It was my friend, Ken.
A year ago, the world was experiencing a devastating and profound change. Our way of life was about to be altered in ways no one could have predicted. A year ago today, I arrived in New York City for the beginning of a four-week East Coast trip. I had book signings scheduled in several cities. I had an advocacy conference to attend in Washington. I had lunch and dinner dates set with friends, along with book-related meetings to discuss future events.
When I left Chicago, I told my husband I wasn’t sure when I would be back. It depended on how serious all of this turned out to be. My trip lasted only six days. And though I ate indoors in NYC several times, when I got back I refused to eat inside a restaurant. In fact, I’ve only done that once in the past year. The anxiety I felt in that almost deserted restaurant wasn’t worth it.
When Friend Grief Hits Home
Betsy Ebeling was a suburban Chicago woman whose death was noted because of who her best friend was: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Though the obituary made clear that she was loved and admired by everyone who met her, the friendship that began in 6th grade was the one that defined her in the public eye.
A few hours after this story broke, while I was making dinner, my phone chimed with an incoming text message. It was from one of my oldest and dearest friends. The text was about his health and was not good news.
The details are not...
My mother died in March, but I’m not alone in experiencing that kind of grief this year.
There was Peter’s father and Sandra’s mother. John’s mother and Sarah’s mother. Jackie’s father and Fred’s mother. Kathy’s cousin and mother both died within two weeks time.
My husband is...
You Can't Hurry Grief
I remember mama said, "you can't hurry love
No, you'll just have to wait"
She said, "love don't come easy
But it's a game of give and take"
You can't hurry love
No, you'll just have to wait
Just trust in a good time
No matter how long it takes.
It felt pretty obvious that the same thing applies to grief.
We grieve over many things: the death of someone we loved, the loss of a job or a home, the end of a wonderful experience, the breakup of a relationship. We grieve for the obvious reason that we loved that person or that time in our life....
Is Everyone Grieving or Is It Just Me?
Friends on Facebook posted news of the death of a parent or a sibling or a friend. And while I didn’t usually know the person who died, I found myself affected.
“Another one?” I’d find myself thinking when I logged online. This was much more than the stereotypical ‘death comes in threes’ that we can debate another time. This was every week. I stopped counting how many friends lost a parent last year, something that spilled over into this year. Since my own mother died in March, there have been more, including one this week.
You might say, “Well, we’re at that age.” And you wouldn’t be wrong. Statistically, people my age...
Remembering the Dead, One Name at a Time
I moved on to a newspaper interview with a woman who helped make her son’s panel. She remarked that every panel, every name, represented not just someone who died from AIDS, but all the people who loved them. That’s true of other memorials.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also in Washington, was controversial when the design was first unveiled. A 21 year old woman, Maya Lin, daughter of...
The Disadvantage of Writing About Grief
“Well, you write about grief, so this is…”
The woman at my mother’s wake didn’t finish her sentence. It just kind of faded with her shrug. She didn’t quite know how to get out of the hole she’d dug for herself. But I’m pretty sure the ending she was looking for was “easier for you”. I have to admit I didn’t offer her any help.
Many people who write about grief are trained, certified professionals. They’re psychologists, therapists, chaplains, counselors. For some of them, grief was what inspired their careers. The rest of us are not professionally trained. But we all have one thing in common: we experience grief....
"For They Shall Be Comforted"
When Ron Howard filmed Backdraft in Chicago in 1991, a call went out for extras. The funeral procession at the end of the movie required a couple hundred firefighters in dress uniforms to march down Michigan Avenue. It’s a powerful scene made more powerful by the inclusion of firefighters from around the area who offered their services. In fact, 5,000 volunteered.
So it was no surprise that when Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer was killed last week, his wake and funeral were full of men and women in uniform. The six-hour visitation, at Nativity of Our Lord Church, required a three-hour wait in line for those who came to pay their respects. Most of those people...
When Your Friend's Death is in the Headlines
I didn’t listen to the radio in the car as I drove back to Chicago from St. Louis yesterday, so it wasn’t until I turned on the TV that I saw the breaking news. A Chicago police commander had been shot to death downtown, in the state office building. There was something about a suspicious person, a robbery attempt, but no name given.
My husband was preparing for his organization’s annual meeting that evening when he texted, asking if I was home. When I replied that I was, he called to tell me that the officer was the commander he’s worked with for years, Paul Bauer. What had not been the best of days became...
How Long Should You Grieve Your Friend?
Grief, Loss and The Hallmark Channel
I watched a Hallmark Channel movie. Actually, I watched a lot of them because there are actually two Hallmark Channels (one is Movies and Mysteries).
There was a certain comfort in the predictability: no violence to speak of. Dead bodies were remarkably intact, no blood or missing limbs. The plots of what were mostly mysteries were easily solved in...
The Year of Grieving
“I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine, and when my life is over, remember when we were together, we were alone and I was singing this song to you.” - Leon Russell (1942-2016)
It's been a hell of a year: Prince. Bowie. Natalie Cole. Alan Rickman. Pat Conroy. Leonard Cohen. Brian Bedford. Tammy Grimes. George Martin. Joe Garagiola. Patty Duke. Muhammad Ali. Gwen Ifill. Elie Wiesel. Gene Wilder. Edward Albee. Arnold Palmer. Robert Vaughn. And that's a partial list. I feel like I've been in mourning since New Year's Day, when Jo Stewart, the leader of my first writing group, died. And I guess that's true. The people on that list weren't friends. I have a letter from one who I dared to...
Why Are We So Hard on Grievers?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I watched both the speech given by Khizr Khan at the Democratic National Convention last week and the reaction from around the country. Perhaps the only thing more impressive was his wife, Ghazala.
I listened to his words, but I watched her. The grief she experienced was obvious in her body language: tense, fragile, struggling for control. She’s...
Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes
As I've said before, when I started this journey I believed that men would be difficult interviews. I worried that most of those I interviewed would have to be women. I was wrong on both counts. Tomorrow, June 1, is publication day for Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes.
I wanted to share an excerpt from the book here, but I was conflicted. Should I share the story of the friendship between two Chicago Tribune sports reporters? The three actors? Should I share a little from the chapter I’m most proud of, the one comparing military veterans and long-term survivors in the AIDS community?
In the end, I decided to share the dedication...
Publication Day for Friend Grief
Friend Grief in the Workplace: More Than an Empty Cubicle is about the impact of friendships we make at work.
As I’ve said before, it’s a very broad definition of workplace. I listed some of them here. But I’d like to share one of the stories, this one about the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team (in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a lifelong fan – but that’s not why they’re in the book). Here’s how some members of the team chose to pay tribute to their friends and teammates:
When Jason Heyward made the opening day roster for the Atlanta Braves, he was asked to...
Friend Grief in the Workplace
The one thing I knew when I started researching and interviewing was that I would use a very broad definition of “workplace”. The majority of people you will meet in my book don't work in an office, much less a cubicle: A Trappist monk and the nun who lived down a winding Kentucky road, united by their vision of a better world. The...