Adam Rabinovitch, our executive director, has joined with a national grief advocacy group called Evermore. Adam has had some conversations with them as they develop a national platform for the needs of the bereaved. I had the pleasure of joining Adam on a call a few weeks ago with the founding director, Joyal Mulheron, and it made me think of what our lives, my needs and my families’ needs, were like after we lost Steven.
I was allowed five days for bereavement leave, but it took that long for my son’s body to be sent from California. All I remember doing was pacing and being on the phone…….I needed to become an expert in matters where I was clueless. I was later granted three weeks of time off, but my kids weren’t. Many of you weren’t. And when I came back, I was sitting in my office, a director and therapist, like nothing had happened. It was seen as a sign of my strength that I did that, but really, I was in too much shock to realize I was in no shape to help anyone. And I know I was lucky to have gotten what I did. I had permission to take time off, but I also had the expectation of completing all my work.
Within weeks, an autopsy report revealed that my son’s cause of death was more complicated than we realized and that led to a protracted legal fact finding mission. This eight year long journey meant swimming in an ocean of legalese and frequent trips to California. All my sick and vacation time was used for that, and even unpaid leave time. My kids were stunned and overwhelmed by their sorrow, and while one of the professionals whose negligence in my son’s care was entitled to free counseling to manage his trauma, my kids, under Crime Victims services, could not find someone who would accept that payment and we paid out of pocket. My daughter started a graduate program eight weeks after she lost her big brother and my younger son stayed with a job that just depressed him, maybe not having the energy to do more than just survive. And my former husband spent all his time fighting with the people who he felt were responsible for the tragic accident and advocating for other families just like ours. We were all grief-stricken; acting both strong and crazy in our own ways.
Bereavement is not just about feelings. It is about facts: the facts of how and why we lost our loved ones; how are our lives are upended, changed and brutalized by our loss; how we pay our bills; how we care for our vulnerable family members; and of course, how and where we can get help.
This is what we all need to talk about. Loss has many sharp and brutal angles, but making sure we get the best resources for bereaved families, ourselves and others like us, is something that we need to do.