Over twenty years ago! I can’t believe that this month May 2017 marks the 24th anniversary of the deaths of my 37-year-old wife Cindy and my two-year-old adopted daughter Katie. Twenty four years! That’s 11 years longer than the 13 years Cindy and I were married before her death. They have both been gone from my life much longer than they were in my life.
I cannot believe that 24 years have passed. And I cannot believe still that they actually died. Along the way the time often has seemed like an eternity. At other times during the grief journey it has felt to me like the losses had just taken place. That is the strange, warped time perception that exists in grief.
Have I progressed? Have I healed? Am I where I’m supposed to be in my grief journey? I don’t know. Grief has been a part of my life for so long it is almost hard to imagine what it was like before that day – May 15, 1993 – when a multi-car accident in Arlington Texas changed my life and my family so drastically. Sometimes I wonder if grief hasn’t become too familiar to me.
Things continue to change drastically in my life and for my family but at a much slower pace now. My children, Christian and Sarah, are mature adults living lives successfully on their own. That’s as it should be. I am proud of them and what they have become. I am now a grief counselor and minister, two professions that I probably never would’ve chosen had the accident and the deaths not occurred. Well-wishers and encouragers have told me that I am so blessed that God has made it possible for me to have a ministry to those struggling in grief. I am blessed, and I thank God for my blessings every day. But deep in my heart I know that I would gladly trade this ministry to have my wife Cindy and my daughter Katie back with me physically.
Just like every other mourner I have to learn to accept the reality of the deaths and my losses that my soul and my heart continually cry out in denial and protest over…even after 24 years. I have accepted my new reality, but I still don’t have to like it. Does that make me pathological in my grief? Does that mean I am abnormal and suffering with complications that need professional help? I don’t think so, but sometimes when I’m very tired and had enough of the grief, I wonder.
Grief is the overwhelming love for a person no longer physically present. Mourning in healthy ways after the deaths of loved ones honors their valuable lives. I never want to stop remembering, honoring and loving my wife Cindy and my daughter Katie. Therefore the overwhelming love in my heart for them even in their absence must be expressed. That overwhelming love comes out in my continuing grief.
24 years. This anniversary is a milestone I would much rather forget. But it is a milestone that helps to remind me of how far my family and I have come. This twenty-fourth anniversary is also a milestone that helps me to remember, to honor and to mourn the loss of two valuable people. Please believe me that as much as I hate my grief journey, I know that my grief and my life well lived are the best monuments I can build to my wife and daughter.
I pray that God will continue to bless me and my family as long as the grief journey continues.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” available online at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Never-LPC-S-Larry-Barber/dp/1613796005 ), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-never-dies-lpc-s-ct-larry-m-barber-ct-larry-m/1104364890?ean=9781613796016).
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa”
Both English and Spanish versions are available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.