As 2017 comes to a close, I acknowledge it has been a challenging time, a difficult time. As I detail a few of my own experiences of loss and grief — and of those I’ve come to consider a part of my extended family and of some human beings I’ll never know on a personal level, I’d encourage you to consider your own life:
• Death sneaked up and took two faculty friends, Anne Vaccaro and Kathy Clifton, and a World War II Prisoner of War friend, Les Edsall. And every time I see a beloved professor in the halls of the college where I teach, I see the depths of his sadness over the death of his young son in 2016.
• The natural disasters of the hurricanes threatened my family and friends, took so many lives, destroyed homes, and shattered hope.
• The battles I thought had been won for an America where others, i.e., minorities, women, non-heterosexuals, and non-Christians, were included and treated with respect are out there to be fought again.
• The ever-widening reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment have discouraged me and left me feeling powerless.
• Violence in America and mass murderers seem to be unstoppable. Wars In the Middle East send families running for a place that will accept them as our own military men and women risk their lives to try to bring about peace.
• Our military veterans continue to kill themselves at the rate of 22 a day.
• Many officials in D.C. lie and have disregard for such a large part of the U.S. population that they were elected to serve.
In these trying times, I want to quote a friend who sent me this message in 2016: ”I just decided to view Grief as a sad friend that had decided to accompany me on my path. So I told Grief that we were going to get up and move now. Interestingly enough, it got up and moved with me. It took time to get used to my new traveling companion, and there were times that I would feel like sitting down beside my path and just cry. So I did. And Grief would let me wallow in self-pity. But I learned that the sitting down and crying didn’t really serve me on the path, so the times got fewer and farther in between. I learned to pick myself up sooner and hold my head up. Sometimes still mentally, I picture Grief walking with me, but it is a friend that helps me see the lovely things in life.“
To help me remember these positives, starting today — and every day after — I am placing a statement of something for which I am grateful in a white ceramic jar. At times I know I will reach in that jar to see the dates on statements I have deposited earlier so that I can always remember the ways in which I am blessed.
Those statements don’t need to be earth-shattering declarations. Something as simple as, “Cohl, age 1, ate a banana today and had it smeared all over his face. 11/20/2017,” will be fine.
A big empty pickle jar, a lovely piece of pottery, a big jar that you and your family decorate with flowers, pictures, and drawings will work fine.
Maybe this simple strategy will bring you a measure of peace – or even happiness.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.