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Camp Grief

Two of my girls attended a Grief Camp over the weekend. My youngest, Abby, age 9, and her sister Emily, age 16, enjoyed crafts and activites that memorialized their father, and shared time with other young people who had lost someone close to them. They stayed overnight and Katie and I attended the memorial service with them the next morning. Katie had intended on going as well, but when she saw the large crowd of young people inthe cramped cabin, her stomach lurched and she wanted to bolt.  I could have made a scene and forced her to stay, but I knew the feeling well, and understood.

The truth was, I was glad for her presence the rest of that day. I avoided going home for several hours, running some errands and doing some shopping in Cedar Rapids.  By the time we got home, it was 4:00 in the afternoon, and all my plans to write, meditate, cry, and pray had gone out the window. Katie left me alone downstairs, hoping to give me some of the privacy I had so desired. I turned on the radio and sat on the couch for awhile. I ended up on my knees, praying.

The heartfelt prayer encompassed a lot of questions. This is not an easy journey for any family, and I am never sure if I am doing the right thing for my children; What was I thinking, sending Abby somewhere overnight when she has been in my bed every night since David’ death? Why was I full of anxiety at the thought of sleeping alone in the bed I had shared with my husband? I thought I’d wanted it that way!  Would Emily have a terrible time with her sister hanging on her? Did she go just to help me? Was Katie going to be okay without the “grief work” her sisters were doing? What about my older children? Were they okay? Lord, help me, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

I survived my first night alone in the bed I had shared with my husband. My two girls at the camp slept well and enjoyed their time. Katie and I both needed the time alone together. I wrote a little, prepared for an upcoming conference, and prayed a lot.

The balloon release ceremony on Sunday was beautiful. As the balloons rose higher and higher in the sky, Abby asked, “Will they go all the way to heaven? I don’t think that could happen, could it, Mom?” The soft, wistful tone of her voice left me silent. I took her hand in mine as we watched them disappear in the glare of the sun.


Author, public speaker, and workshop presenter for community colleges, libraries, women's groups and for grief support groups, Hospice and retreats. Certified grief counselor and Senior Service librarian for the James Kennedy Public library. Popular public speaker and workshop presenter on the topics of writing, couponing, utilizing your creativity in everyday life, and finding hope in grief. "Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession" was published by Familius Publishing in 2014. "Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage" and "Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace" were released by Familius in 2014. "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink," co-written with Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City, was published in September 2015. Grief journal to be released in 2018.

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