Priscilla Gilman on Growing Through Multiple Losses of Her Father

Grow Through It: Loss & Grief

Former English literature professor Priscilla Gilman, author of The Critic’s Daughter, tells of losing her father multiple times in her life. First, when she was 10, her parents split up and she lost him in her daily life. She lost him as a stable, reliable parent figure when he had financial issues and struggled with depression. When she was in her early 20s, he had a heart attack and five years later he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He died in 2006 when she was 36.

These multiple losses were heart wrenching for her. Literature and her sister (and best friend) helped her get through it. Also, writing about her father and attempting to find him through writing helped her get through it.

Priscilla Gilman learned that people are complicated. There are always people in our lives that we look up to and put on a pedestal—like parents, teachers, mentors—and then we discover things about them, see them struggling. She stresses the importance of attempting to recover a sense of the person—even with their flaws—with a deeper love.

Gilman’s advice to anyone going through something similar is:

  • Try to remember and hold onto the person when they were their truest, most essential self.
  • Incorporate the person in your life (play their song, make their favorite dish, share stories about them with people in your life, and more).
  • Allow yourself to feel the full extent of the sadness in your loss. If you postpone grief, it is still there. See a therapist, talk to loved ones who knew the person, write about it, meditate, whatever will give you care and support.

Eilene Zimmerman on Losing Her Ex-Husband to a Secret Drug Addiction

Grow Through It: Family Secrets and Loss & Grief

Eilene Zimmerman, author of the memoir Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy tells the story of losing her ex-husband to complications of a secret IV drug addiction. Peter hadn’t seemed right for some time before he died — he behaved oddly, lost weight and hair, looked unhealthy, and kept losing and forgetting things. Since he was a hard working partner in a prestigious law firm, the last thing Eilene suspected was drugs. (more…)

Carolyn DeFord on Growing Through Her Mother’s Disappearance

Grow Through It: Loss & Grief

Carolyn DeFord’s mother Leona Kinsey disappeared in 1999. She went to the store to meet a man and never returned. At the time of her disappearance, she was in active addiction. Law enforcement did not investigate immediately, as her mother was over 18 and had the right to go somewhere else if she so chose. A member of the Puyallup Tribe, DeFord learned about the cycle of life from her mother. She tapped into missing persons support groups online and shared her story with others. She discovered the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) movement. DeFord learned about responding to trauma, about the system, the risk factors for hurt and harm, and to forgive her mom. She suggests being persistent and not giving up if someone you love disappears. Deford recommends honoring your feelings and walking the healing journey with others.

Anjum Coffland on Growing Through the Trauma of Losing Her Daughters

Grow Through It: Loss & Grief

Anjum Coffland describes going through a divorce and her husband killing her two teenage daughters Tiffany and Brittany before shooting her in the legs and then killing himself. After the murders, Anjum went into survival mode and gets through it day by day. She pushes herself in hopes that she will be with her girls again one day. She advocates for changing gun laws so that it is not as easy for someone to get a gun when they are going through a divorce and in an upset state of mind. She believes that one phone call could have saved her family. She acknowledges that it takes time to heal and encourages anyone going through something similar to keep going, keep pushing. “Don’t give up on yourself,” she says.

Joelle Wright-Terry on Surviving COVID and Becoming a COVID Widow

Grow Through It: Health Issues & Illness and Loss & Grief

Joelle Wright-Terry, retired Detroit police officer and hospice chaplain, tells her story of surviving COVID and becoming a COVID widow. She grew through it by the grace of God. She learned how to trust in God, survive, and take over her husband’s business. She encourages everyone to take everyday as it comes and tell your loved ones you love them.

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