Author: Sheri Denkensohn-Trott
September marks two years since my sister passed away from liver cancer. Part of it is hard to believe, while on the other hand, I expect her to knock on my door and see if I want to go out for coffee. Grief is evolution. And that is what happened over these two years. I know it is different for everyone, but maybe some of my perspective and introspection can help others.
When she first passed away, although it was expected because of her cancer, and declining condition, it still was a shock. But you immediately go into overdrive. Our family split up the duties of notifying others, taking care of last-minute details for the funeral and afterwards, and then visiting with so many wonderful family and friends at the time. What I didn’t realize is that you go into a type of high when you are feeling all the love. And then I crashed. Big time. I couldn’t do anything. The thought of a project Iike writing thank yous or finishing something that I had left to do with a deadline seemed impossible. I was paralyzed, no pun intended. Luckily, I had friends that knew me well enough to just step in and take over. I needed help, but I couldn’t even figure out what to ask for. Those are special people that you treasure. They know what you need and just do it.
Nothing felt normal. I couldn’t believe that my best friend, confidant, and sister was gone. The outpouring of affection was helpful, but it still didn’t replace my unique relationship with the person I deeply loved. I was overwhelmed with sadness, anger, and questioning. Nothing surprising about that. After a couple of weeks of wanting to be able to move, not necessarily forward, but just move, I reached out to see where to get help. I was recommended to a grief counseling center called the Wendt Center for Grief and Healing. They had the availability of a three-session virtual counseling with a social worker specializing in grief. It was fantastic and just what I needed. We spoke about how normal my feelings were, some tools to use, and recommended books. All of what I got in those three sessions helped me tremendously. I was able to start to resume a somewhat normal life, even though grief was high on the scale in the background.
Luckily, I have a close family and conversations with my sister’s son, only 15 years younger than me, were very helpful. We were both struggling and even though we had difficulties in different ways, it helped to talk.
I also joined a virtual grief group that met virtually once a month. That was the perfect amount for me. Individuals in the group were experiencing all types of grief, but everyone had lost someone to cancer. The stories were heartbreaking and although it sounds strange, it felt good to hear that others were going through many of the same emotions. Talking about how you can never replace the person you lost. Discussing how to move forward when there is a huge gap in your life. And just cementing the fact that there will always be a hole where that person filled you up.
One of the most helpful concepts that I learned is that grief is a companion. It is always there. Some days more than others. Hurt and pain do fade. Often, my companion now brings back a positive memory. But there are times, out of the blue, when I start to cry. Something just triggers a thought that brings sadness. That is the nature of grief.
There is no one-size-fits-all, and every loss is different. But if I have any advice, it would be don’t be afraid to ask friends for help, figure out what you need, don’t let others tell you what works for them will automatically help you, and know that you will find your path. No matter what, your loved one will always be with you.