Some Grief and Love

Some Grief and Love

written by Laura Brownstone

As a licensed therapist, I have worked with people who have dealt with many kinds of grief. Prolonged, complicated, frozen. In this role, I have had the honor of working with clients and bearing witness to clients who lost parents via Skype or by phone during the pandemic. I have also supported clients who found the idea of suicide a comfort, but they have chosen to continue to stay longer. It was a very terrible coincidence that I helped clients at the same time that I lost one person in my family every six months. It was almost a running joke.

Sometimes, grief feels very numb. I guess I am currently processing the long list of people in my own life who are not here anymore. Time has passed since experiencing something so unimaginable as the loss of my mother. Later, I also lost my mother-in-law and father-in-law, Jean and John, and my dad, Peter, in 2022. And my brother-in-law Rusty in Tulsa in 2023. As I move closer to sixty, I need to remind myself to turn around and hold on to the living and stay in the present a little longer.

Last year, I walked into my brother-in-law Rusty’s room at Hillcrest South Jenks Hospital. He saw a look on my face. He looked at my expression and asked me why I was looking that way. I told him that I didn’t have a “face.” I didn’t realize at the time that he would die at the end of the week from lung cancer. 

At Rusty’s memorial, his best friend said he was very angry at him for leaving. I had tried so hard to write something effective. I wanted to write something that would be relatable. I also focused on finding a dress for the memorial because I couldn’t let myself fully feel the loss of someone who felt like an older brother for much of my life. 

I guess that I find it a comfort for myself to know that we have everyone we have ever loved in our hearts, but sometimes, it doesn’t feel enough. Who do you still talk to who is no longer here? It is not crazy. Sometimes I pretend that I am a chauffeur to my dead relatives. I imagine them sitting in the back seat smoking Camel cigarettes. They tell me stories about heaven and laugh at me when I ask them questions.  

Recently a mentor told me a story about her friend who had coped with her cancer diagnosis. My consultant described that no matter what the woman went through she would say the mantra, “This.” She received good news and bad news. She said, “This.” She felt her body seize and felt pain. She continued to say “This” and was present for all of it. She didn’t fight it or pretend to be positive. She held the experience as a whole. I believe this was what my mother did while coping with terminal ALS. She held onto the experience of her life until she had to let go.