AS WE NEAR CHRISTMAS, perhaps you aren’t feeling all that merry. These past 10 months of dealing with COVID-19 proved challenging, resulting in feelings of depression, anxiety, isolation and uncertainty. Even anger.
In many ways, we’re all grieving. We’ve lost our sense of normalcy, of life as we once lived it. Some of us have lost jobs. We’re separated from family and friends. And, for too many, that separation came via death from COVID-19 and the inability to mourn in traditional ways.
The year 2020 redefined the meaning of the words “loss” and “grief” in the context of a global pandemic. Yet, the core meanings remain, as universal, yet as individual as each person experiencing them.
WRITING ROOTED IN PERSONAL LOSS
My friend Erica Staab, director of HOPE Center in Faribault, addresses loss in her latest book, The First Christmas—Finding Your Way After Loss. In this slim 32-page volume, Erica writes from the heart, as a sister who experienced the tragic death of her brother, Mitchell, in 2007. The 27-year-old died of injuries sustained in a fall after stopping to assist a motorist involved in a single-vehicle accident. Any death can be difficult, but especially when the loved one is so young, the death unexpected.
It comes as no surprise to me that Erica takes her personal loss and her life’s work of helping survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault (and their families) to craft this insightful and encouraging book. She is one of those individuals who gives selflessly and with a heart full of compassion. Her words ring with authenticity rooted in experience.
GRIEF: “A WILD MESS OF THINGS”
She calls grief “a wild mess of things that can’t be anticipated.” That seems such a spot-on assessment as we all grieve in different and unexpected ways. Erica advises us to be gentle with ourselves, to allow grief in, to listen to what our hearts need.
I found this statement particularly profound: When grief is invited in…it is then that it loses its power over you, it is then that grief offers itself to share its gifts. It is then that there is space made for joy.
I appreciate that Erica embraces and acknowledges grief in all its pain and darkness. Yet, she writes with the light of hope, of joy-filled moments returning, of strength gained. When I emailed Erica to tell her that her writing touched me and caused me to cry as I thought of losses in my life, she responded, “…that was my prayer…that people would feel heard, understood, and not alone in their grief journey or their choices.”
PERMISSION TO EXPERIENCE LOSS IN YOUR UNIQUE WAY
Her book applies to many losses, not just loss through death. Loss of a relationship. Loss of a job. Loss of financial security. Loss of health and/or safety. And therein lies its even broader appeal, especially in 2020, a year of much loss. Erica wants her readers to realize they are not alone, that no one should try to erase their pain, that they need to experience it fully and in their own way and time.
And if that means you don’t feel like putting up a Christmas tree this year or mailing holiday cards, then don’t. That was me last year. Writes Erica: You have permission to simply make it through.
Her book also offers specific ways to ease loss, culled from her experiences and those of others. That’s helpful, too.
If you’re dealing with any type of loss, I suggest you buy The First Christmas—Finding Your Way After Loss. Purchase copies, too, for family and friends. Every funeral home and church should have copies to give away. The $10 book may be purchased at The Upper East Side, 213 Central Avenue North, Faribault, or online by clicking here. You can also reach out to Erica directly. I am so appreciative of Erica, her writing, her encouragement and her unique way of addressing difficult topics.
© Copyright 2020 by Audrey Kletscher Helbling