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Understanding the relationship between change and grief

Grief can take its toll on you. Here’s when to seek help.

The loss of a loved one can take a physical and emotional toll on you. Grief can produce stress in your body. The process can be different for everyone, and people may even experience “complicated grief." Learn more here.
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The loss of a loved one can take a physical and emotional toll on you. Grief can produce stress in your body. The process can be different for everyone, and people may even experience “complicated grief." Learn more here.

In my work with Koch Funeral Home, we choose monthly themes, and then I write blog posts corresponding with that theme. Last year when we chose the themes for 2019, I didn’t realize how pertinent our August theme — “Change is Loss” — would be for me and others at Koch. Several of us are currently experiencing significant changes in our lives.

Change means loss, and loss means grief. The people with Koch understand change, loss and grief — we see it every day. We have the honor of serving people who’ve died and their loved ones who want to honor them. This type of loss has its own word, bereavement, and is one of the most challenging. Other changes aren’t of the same magnitude, but are changes nonetheless, with different kinds of loss and grief.

One of these significant changes does have a very happy side. Katie DeCapria, one of the Koch Funeral Home funeral directors, is getting married to David Monsell. These are two big-hearted, caring, genuine people who are looking forward to their married life together. Although they and their families are very happy about this change, if we look at one aspect of the parents’ perspective there is loss and bittersweet feelings as the parents realize their relationship with their children is forever changed. After recently attending my nephew’s wedding in Kansas, I can personally attest to this joy/loss conundrum.

Another change among the Koch staff involves Marie Bartley, the office manager. Her daughter Olivia will soon be going to kindergarten! I’m impressed with how Marie is navigating this change — she acknowledges the loss, expresses her grief and moves on. These feelings are balanced with her excitement for Olivia’s new adventures and learning; grief and gratitude are two sides of the same coin. Marie knows that Miss Olivia is an old soul who will find her way.

We can see how transitions for children are also transitions for parents. I read that having kids means that you forever have a piece of your heart living and walking outside of you — isn’t that the truth!

Then there’s me. We moved our youngest child, James, into his first year of Wagner College and football camp on Staten Island at the end of July. Having moved our daughter, Jessica, into a dorm at the University of Central Florida a few years ago, this territory was familiar, but that didn’t make it any easier. Here again, the grief and gratitude. My husband, John, and I are thrilled about this opportunity for James and excited for all that this next chapter can bring for him. This is what we want for him. But we also recognize that the season of his bright and energetic physical presence being in our home on a daily basis has ended.

Unlike Marie who is navigating this change well, John and I have had our moments. Just a few minutes after saying goodbye to James and driving off campus our navigation app told us to take an exit we were not expecting. I verbally reinforced what the app said, so John made a quick right turn. Unfortunately, the quickness of the turn drove us through a pothole. One tire light immediately came on, and then a second. John drove to a safe place and pulled off the highway. We got out to inspect and both tires on the right had chunks missing and were totally flat. Our quick exit “knocked the wind” out of our tires. We called our insurance company, who contacted a towing company, who contacted us saying they couldn’t pick us up because we were on a limited access highway within city limits and that we needed to call 911. Which we did. As we sat alongside the highway waiting, the sky grew dark, rain began to fall and thunder and lightning rolled in. Eventually a tow truck with a flatbed pulled in front of us, a very nice man got out, got our vehicle on his truck and amid the building traffic drove us to a tire store and waited until he was sure we could get service. Thankfully, with just two tires our size left in stock, the store fixed us up right away. Four hours after leaving our son we were finally set to go for our drive home – just in time for peak New York City afternoon traffic. Still, we were very fortunate, it could have been a lot worse!

I told John that saying goodbye to James “knocked the wind” out of us and we manifested that in our tires. I don’t recommend it, but the experience did mark this transition for us and had all the elements of change, loss and grief. Gratefully, since then we’ve been transitioning more gently and smoothly.

We encourage you to be gentle with yourself with all of the changes in your life. We also invite you to these upcoming events:

  • Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheon - “What Gives You Strength?” Monday, Sept. 9 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College

  • Thankful, Thoughtful Tuesdays, Tuesdays, Sept. 10 through Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Centre Region Active Adult Center in the Nittany Mall, 2901 E. College Ave., No. 990, State College

  • Death Café, Monday, Sept. 16 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Webster’s Bookstore Café, 133 E. Beaver Avenue, State College with Complimentary Desserts Provided by Webster’s

For more information, please visit the Koch Funeral Home website at www.kochfuneralhome.com.

Jackie Hook is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula who coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program with Koch Funeral Home and a member of the Learning to Live: What’s Your Story? initiative. This column is coordinated by www.ltlwys.org whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.
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