Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July Brings Grief Advice

Yesterday, I took a Maas Aero single out to Lake Union to row. It's a stable boat - perfect for the choppy water we had for such a sunny Fourth of July.

I rowed past the familiar houseboats. Lady Liberty's balloon head bobbled on top of the Gas Works Park hill. There was an enormous barge secured in the middle of the lake, preparing for the evening's fireworks event. And the American flag flew from the spire of the Space Needle, replacing the rainbow flag that honored Gay Pride only the week before. Seattle is a great place to live!

But as I rowed, I realized I had forgotten my own advice about grieving. I'd often tell patients:

"Be prepared for holidays or other special days when you are grieving. Grief can blindside you - particularly on the first of every "special day" you encounter after the death of a loved one."

And it's true. Each holiday, each birthday, each anniversary for that first year can be especially agonizing.

So there I was, rowing alone on the Fourth of July - my first Fourth of July without Steve. Only four years earlier, we had a great family photo taken of Steve, Brita, and me - on a friend's Lake Union houseboat on Independence Day. Before the fireworks began - and before Steve fell into the hell of kidney failure.

Now, "my" lake was reminding me of all those memories of an earlier, more innocent time.

Steve, Brita, and Linda on July 4, 2006

What would Steve and I have done on this glorious day, had he lived? In our lives, there would have been medications and dialysis, of course - but undoubtedly, there would have been a movie via Access Bus, a barbecue, or a party with friends.

This holiday turned out to be okay: a little lonely, but okay. I turned my attention to writing. I found the new Elliott Bay Bookstore on Capitol hill and bought "The Happiness Project."

And I waited in line to buy a single scoop of salted caramel ice cream at Molly Moon's just around the corner from the bookstore.

Our own advice is generally good - as long as we remember to take it!

Take care,
Linda Gromko, MD