In December, The Enterprise printed a column in which Beverley Radford shared her methods of coping with grief during the holidays. This month, we are following up with Beverley to get an update on her story of living with loss.
“When my husband of 32 years, Michael, died 3 1/2 years ago, I felt life had little to offer,” said Beverley Radford. “My stepdaughter said I needed help, but I fought the idea. It finally dawned on me that he was not coming back to me. But months later, I was desperate. I realized I was not getting any better sitting by myself.”
There is no formula or one way to cope with the death of a loved one. Sometimes moving forward comes naturally, sometimes family and friends offer the support we need and sometimes we make changes that help us move forward. Beverley started by altering how she celebrated holidays to help her cope with her husband’s absence, and, when she was ready, she reached out for help.
“It wasn’t easy walking into a strange group of people, but it was worth it,” Beverley said. “Yolo Hospice’s grief support group helped me realize that I wasn’t as bad off as I thought, nor was I alone in my pain and grief. The group was so supportive and reassuring that I began counting the hours till I could go again.”
In Yolo Hospice’s grief support groups, facilitators don’t give you answers. They provide understanding, comforting (or reassuring) information about the grief process, tools to help you express your grief and the opportunity to give and receive support.
“I had the idea that after a year it would be better,” Beverley said. “It was easier, but not better. One of the best things I did was coming to Yolo Hospice. I began to move forward when I realized I couldn’t continue to wake up every morning in such pain. I needed to make changes in my life.”
Beverley is not alone in her initial belief that her grief would be better at the one-year point. Friends, co-workers, even family, can expect a grieving person to be back to normal or “moving on” at that point. Yolo Hospice staff say it is something they hear from many attending their grief groups.
“Grief is different for everyone, including the length and expression of grief,” said Denise Rose, manager of Yolo Hospice’s bereavement department. “Grief is not something we ‘get over.’ Coping with grief is a process where the acuteness and the feeling of being overwhelmed become more manageable over time. You heal enough that the grief and the absence of the person you love is something that gradually becomes integrated into your life.”
Beverley describes her husband as a kind, outgoing man. She is finding her way forward through some of the gifts he gave her in life, particularly the satisfaction in participating in community and the ability to make friends. Michael and Beverley had many animals in their lives, but they didn’t have one at the time of Michael’s death. Beverley went to the SPCA about three years ago and took a chance by bringing home a “very pathetic doxie (miniature dachshund)-beagle.” She credits her dog for turning her life around. Because of her dog, Misty, Beverley now has a new group of friends from the dog park. They socialize on a regular basis.
“My husband I and were very involved in community activities and volunteering,” Beverley said. “I returned to some of those things, like returning to volunteering at the Woodland Senior Center. I was very touched by the welcoming I received on my return.” Beverley travels, is on the board for her co-op, participates in a book club and is in the local Red Hat Club.
Beverley has used her energy and connection to others to build a life without her husband. It is one way people start to move forward in life, but it is not the only way. Yet, the core of it, re-establishing interest in something, is a sound start to moving forward.
“When I first came to Yolo Hospice, I thought I would never get better,” Beverley said. “I still have Michael’s ashes; I haven’t been able to part with them. But, I have learned that happiness is an ‘inside job.’ My days are filled with many activities and a lot of laughter. It is said that laughter is the best medicine; and, I find, the more I have, the happier I am.”
Yolo Hospice has no-cost grief support groups available on a drop-in basis as well as groups devoted to specific issues such as “Moving Forward: Reinvesting in Life After Loss,” which is held twice annually. Call the Yolo Hospice bereavement department, 530-601-5756, for more information or visit www.yolohospice.org.
— Mary Odbert is Yolo Hospice’s public relations representative. Her column is published monthly.