The Riggs Blog

Unresolved Grief Can Affect All of Us in Different Ways.

By Kim Winnegge, L.C.S.W.

Kim Winnegge, L.C.S.W.A year ago, I was in a state of transition. I was packing my suitcases and leaving the humid and expansive city of Houston behind for the mountains and snowstorms of the Berkshires. I was preparing my goodbyes to colleagues at The Menninger Clinic, who had welcomed me as a post-graduate fellow a year prior and bid me adieu with Tex-Mex and silly stories in a staff meeting meant for such farewells.

On the way home to my apartment to bubble wrap more mementos and shed more tears and belongings, I received a call from my brother. I was turning left onto I-290, merging onto heavy traffic, as I heard my brother’s gravelly voice. I could tell you now clearly what he said, as vividly as I can describe my monotonous, “What. What. What.” as my turn signal wildly intoned a lime green - “Click. Click. Click.” -left blink and I stayed in the lane I would remain in for many miles.

My niece had just passed away, suddenly, after her fifth day at day care. She was six months old, and, given the timing of my fellowship and the timing of so many other things, I was never blessed to hold her. I have since seen videos of her cooing and talking to my sister, of her chocolate brown eyes, sparkling into the camera, of her cherubic cheeks reminding me of my own as a baby girl.

A year ago, on July 25, 2012, my life changed. My family’s lives changed. We became untethered, as many of us do when we begin to ask ourselves about the suddenness of loss. Why, such a little one, a healthy one, a beauty, an angel? We have these heartbreaking, heart-rending stories of losing our parents, friends, teachers, and people who come into our lives in photographic flashes and leave with the impressions left brightly behind our eyelids long after they have passed.

I’m still in a state of transition. Unresolved grief, or mourning, can affect us all in different ways. I find that I’m called to write about my love for my niece, who lives on in my heart, so tenderly, with her coos of delight and her beautiful smile. Others find they bury that grief, because it can be so palpable, it is like a third-degree burn and they cannot face the tragedy. It’s taken me a long time to write about this baby girl. In fact, this is the first entry I have written since her passing. Yet, I still cannot call it a death, and there is meaning in that. I am unresolved. I am mourning.

Today, July 25, 2013, I’ll be sending out a pink lantern in her memory. I’ll be wearing a pink shirt. I’ll be floating a pink balloon high in the sky. I’ll be lighting a pink candle at night until the candle burns out, and I’ll let the impression of that flame burn brightly behind eyelids just as her darling visage is forever there. I will shroud myself in pink, because she would have cooed with delight at her Auntie Kim’s pretty-in-pink attire, and at the floating balloons and lanterns. She would have been 1 ½ years old, and now she will be forever young, and I will forever honor her memory.

For all those who are grieving or who understand the significance of these tragic anniversaries, know that you are not alone. It is one of my biggest sources of comfort during this time.

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