As both a HOPE Connection Therapist and an alumna of HOPE’s support groups, Evelyn has a unique and insightful perspective on grieving, healing and the upcoming holidays, which she shares here.

Grief and loneliness brings a feeling of a “hole in my heart’” that cannot easily be bandaged.

The connection of loneliness to grief is strong and indeed a profound feeling.

It’s personal to me. That profound feeling I felt was a disconnect from myself.

Who am I? The loneliness and the loss were overwhelming.

What to do? I couldn’t sit still, nor concentrate. I didn’t want to go out.

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Withdrawing seemed okay for a brief time, the depression came like waves. Some friends call and don’t know what to say and neither do I. I’m told it’s okay to “reach out.” I don’t reach out, thinking it won’t help. Invitations come — go here, go there — and I’m too ambivalent and confused to go or not go.

Then, one day, I do reach out. I especially reach out to people that I was surprised had not called. I told them I missed them, and I was afraid I was losing them too. They truly cared and said so, they thought I needed time and they weren’t sure what to say or do. They felt the loss too. He was important to them too, and they loved him and missed him. We healed together, and created traditions that we still honor. Being together in a connecting way helped to strengthen us, to provide a “container” for us to grieve.

I became more connected to myself.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal”.

       — From a headstone in Ireland

I learned that I could overcome the loneliness, and even though life is different, there is joy in life.

I had always found the holidays to be a time of joy, celebration and connectedness. Then with the grief, it was also a time of stress and loneliness. The holidays for so many, especially for those of us who have grieved, and are grieving, are often a reminder of who is missing, and they’re filled with sadness and grief, including disconnection, and anxiety about a changed world.

I found that healing my heart meant that that big hole became somewhat soothed, and the big spotlight constantly shining on that hole became smaller. Besides family and friends, I found ways to make new friends, although not so easy. I found that the grief group was a place to share my memories and keep them alive. I did learn to do more, and to reach out during the holidays. As I did so, I came to recognize that my loneliness changed to connectedness. Together, in the group, the loneliness was transforming and healing.

I’ve shared part of my story, and I continue to write my story every day of my new normal of life. Life was, and will continue to be a narrative of my journey, filled with laughter, joy and tears.

May you all continue to write your story and share new memories.

Memory can only tell us what we were,

in the company of those we loved;

it cannot help us find what each of us, alone, must now become.

Yet no person is really alone;

those who live no more echo still within our thoughts and words,

and what they did has become woven into what we are.

— Jewish prayer