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I don’t want to write this column this week, much like I didn’t want to write the column I wrote a year ago. It’s been one year since my oldest son, Ethan, died in a car accident. He was 25. Typing those words still seems surreal. The first anniversary of his death has been more difficult to navigate than I anticipated.
First, I just miss him, the way you would miss an arm or a leg or one of your five senses. I miss his laughter, and his annoyingly logical arguments, and his propensity for knowing the answer to the most random questions imaginable. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to get titanium or surgical steel piercings. I miss the way he interacted with his dad and his siblings and his niece and nephews. I miss his hugs and that mischievous twinkle in his eyes. He never did teach me how to light a fire with two sticks and I never got quite brave enough to go backpack camping with him or climb Mt. Sopris or go rafting. I thought we had more time. Isn’t that always the way with death?
Second, I hurt for my family. That’s been almost harder to bear than dealing with my own loss. We’ve all tried to be gentle with each other and allow one another to grieve and mourn in our own ways. Grief isn’t something you can fix for someone else, and as a parent and a wife, fixing things for your family is the natural tendency. We’re all quick to hug each other and tell each other “I love you” these days. That’s not a bad thing.
Third, I’m so thankful for this community. I don’t think I would have made it through this year without all of you who have checked in on us, offered hugs and kind words and friendship and wisdom. Your support and love has kept me afloat when I felt certain I would sink. Additionally, the “club no one wants to join” is full of the kindest, most compassionate, most precious souls who share a terrible, awful, instant bond. I hate that we share this loss, but I’m so very glad to know you all. You’ve been a light at the end of the tunnel on days I can’t figure out which end is up, and those days have been many.
I’ve reluctantly learned a lot this year. One of the most important lessons for me? Let people who are grieving talk about their loss and trauma. It’s more uncomfortable when people are afraid to ask, or try to avoid the topic, or just look away when we start talking about the one who’s gone. I understand there’s a real fear that the grieving person might break down and cry, or we won’t know what to say, but for the grieving, our loved ones are still very real, even though we know they’re gone from this realm. Talking about them is as natural to us as talking about those who are still here. Sometimes you just want someone to sit with you and go through pictures and videos, and asking a family member to do so is like asking them to scald themselves on purpose.
Another lesson? Be brave enough to ask for help. There are people who have gone around the grief block before you and they have wisdom you need. Seek them out. I will be forever grateful to my dear friend Terri Reed, who took on my entire clan (family and close friends) to walk us through the Grief Recovery Method. We needed those tools to navigate the early days, and the weeks and months that have followed.
By the way, thank you, readers for allowing me this space. Several fellow editors have asked me if using this column off and on throughout the year to talk about my grief has helped. It has. It’s an outlet I’ve needed, and I appreciate that our readers haven’t abandoned us because of it. Well, maybe some have… at least they haven’t said so.
This weekend is the HopeWest Gala. It’s HopeWest’s biggest fundraiser of the year for their local services. While we didn’t reach out to them in our time of grief, they’ve done incredible work for many in our community. It’s a worthy cause to put your hard-earned dollars toward. At some point, you or someone you know will experience grief and loss. Having resources available is a valuable part of our community, one we should support.
We do have some exciting, happy news this week. We’re in the process of “taking the Herald home.” When James Lyttle came to Meeker to start the paper, he built a building on what is now the corner of Fourth and Main to house the Meeker Herald. When it was time to expand, the Cooks built a new building on the same site, and the paper stayed there until the 1990s. That building—currently owned by the Moodys—is for sale, and it seems right and good that the Herald would return to its former home. I’ll miss the elevator, and my beautiful second story windows in the Hugus Building, but it’s the right thing to do, for the newspaper and for our family. Once everything is in place, we’ll be hosting some sort of event or events, and you’re all invited!
By Niki Turner | firstname.lastname@example.org