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I was reading the June issue of The Sun on a train when I turned to Tom Crider’s “Losing Gretchen” and gasped out loud. This was Gretchen, my college classmate. Her death during our junior year shocked the campus. Even though I was not a close friend of Gretchen’s, I knew her and saw her daily. I remember feeling numb as the other students grieved. Rumors raged around campus of how she’d died and under what circumstances. I ignored them and just thought about Gretchen as I knew her: happy, smiling, and confident.
Crider’s remembrance was amazing and moving. Finally, I read the truth about her death. I grieved anew, but this time, with her father’s help, I was able to face the tragedy more maturely.
I was deeply touched by Tom Crider’s “Losing Gretchen” [June 1996]. My wife and I experienced the heartrending tragedy of losing our daughter Mary, who committed suicide in 1994. It is still painful to look at photos of her, especially those taken when she was a young girl receiving her first Holy Communion, or playing with her brothers and sisters.
I related to all of Crider’s feelings and experiences, but, unlike him, I have come to grips with the dilemma of God’s will and have found comfort in the belief that Mary’s troubles and pain are now over. Mary’s funeral service was the beginning of a healing process that will continue until the day I die. Death itself is no longer the dreaded unknown that it once was. In a way, I look forward to the day when I will once again be in my daughter’s presence and will come to know the answers to the many questions that I have regarding the circumstances of her death.
Although I have reached this understanding myself, I would like to affirm that there is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of anyone, or anything. When people offer such condolences as “she had a wonderful life, even though it was cut short” and “it was her time” and “it’s OK to be happy,” I can only thank them and then continue grieving the way I have to in order to go on living.
In “Losing Gretchen,” Tom Crider described my journey since the death of my son Mark in 1974. I’ve found the same “sad rapport” that Crider found with other bereaved parents, but never before has anyone shown me so exactly where I have traveled and how I came to be where I am.
Words often fail to convey the depth of our suffering. In my hospice work, I have had some success finding words that comfort terminally ill patients and their care-givers, but the effort to share my own grief over losing my son often leaves me mute. Crider has indeed given this sorrow words.