by Erin Spalding
In one of the groups that I was facilitating recently, a topic came up that provided me with new insight into my own grief journey. I want to thank that group (you know who you are) and hope the conversation was healing to them as well.
All of us who have lost someone significant in our lives know that the experience changes us. It not only changes pieces of our world, it also transforms who we are as individuals. Our hope is that we will grow through these struggles, but regardless we cannot go through them without becoming new people. Often the focus in grief work is about how to manage the changes affecting your current relationships. What do you do when your friends, family and co-workers do not know how to relate to your grief? This is one reason we are so committed to peer support at The Christi Center – we connect you with people who get grief.
However, what about the new people who you meet after your loss. Do you tell them your dad died when you were nine and your mom had a stroke when you were 17 and if so, when? We all know the uncomfortable stares and the quick changes of subject that often follow such a declaration. Though, if you don’t share that part of yourself, these new people in your life are not able to know the whole you. You are the “before and after” you not one or the other. What happens when you finally open yourself up, expecting it to bring you closer to that person, and they just don’t get it? Or, you share something about your loss with a friend or partner and realize that relationship did not merit that trust?
I had many childhood friends who knew my mom before her stroke and tried to support me in the early years of her being in a nursing home. Very few understood how much this loss had changed me. When in my late teens and early twenties, I made many new friends that did not know that piece of my story. This left me with many “before” and “after” friends. I still have some of these friends, but the close friends in my life now are those that I have allowed to see both sides of myself and are open to understanding the journey that made me who I am today.
About the Author
Erin Spalding, LCSW, has been the Program Director of The Christi Center since 2008. She graduated from the University of Texas with her Bachelors in Psychology and Masters of Social Work. Her passion for grief work stems from her own grief journey. She lost her dad to a heart attack when she was nine years old. She then lost the mom that she knew when she was 17 when her mother had stroke and remained disabled in a nursing home for the next 16 years. These life challenges and the strength she has discovered because of them is why she has dedicated herself to working with grieving children, teens and adults who are faced with life-altering loss. She feels joy every day that she can offer hope and healing to those in grief.