Carolyn Hax: Finding strength when grieving

Carolyn Hax
Columnist March 27, 2012

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On growing stronger through grief:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I was a young mom and really felt like I needed my mother more than ever. She gave me a great gift when she told me that she knew that I would be okay, and that it’s normal to outlive your parents. It doesn’t sound that profound, but I thought of it often — still do, in fact. I know that if she believed that I was strong enough, then I could be.

Still Miss My Mom

More than 30 years ago, my wife and I lost a baby just two weeks before his due date. We’re still married, had other children, and life does go on. But I still stop by our baby’s grave occasionally, by myself, and cry for him and for our loss. I am forever changed. I don’t hear some stupid song on the radio and pull off the road to cry anymore (I did in the first few months), but I do read the news with more understanding, and, yes, occasionally cry over the pain others feel. Losing the tough-guy “That’s just the way life is” exterior many of us men grow up with was hard, but I really don’t want it back now.

Been There


On teaching as a Plan B for work in competitive fields:

There is nothing “wrong” with being a teacher — unless you would rather be doing something else. Teaching is a vocation, in music as much as math. Teaching music requires insight, patience, and a tolerance for the tortured sounds a classroom of novices produces. A performing musician might be able to tutor a talented student one on one, but a band director needs to have all the tools of any classroom teacher; the motivational skills of any team coach; the ability to demonstrate expertise on every instrument . . . and fix it as needed, sometimes with only duct tape and rubber bands at hand; conduct concerts several times a year; administer a program with costs in the thousands; and to take attendance and turn in grades on time! Teach because you are passionate about spreading the joy of your field, not because you need a paycheck.

A Band Parent

On sharing something with the “don’t tell anyone” caveat:

I can’t even tell you how many sentences start out with, “I am going to tell you something, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else.” After a series of these conversations, one of which included a mother telling me her minor child had confessed to sexually assaulting a much younger, handicapped child (it had already been reported to police), I had had it. The next time someone said to me, “I have something to tell you,” my response was, “If you can’t keep your own secret, it’s really unfair to burden me with it.”

Those passing on “secret” information should remember that knowledge is power. Only your lawyer, doctor, therapist and clergyman are obligated to keep your confidence. And although I do pride myself in my ability to hold the confidence of my friends and family, there is a point to which the added stress is just too much!

Secrets

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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