May 2014

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22 BRAVA MAGAZINE | MAY 2014 THRIVE DELVE IN THE EXERCISE SEEMED SIMPLE: Put what you're thinking on paper. But Michelle Page-Alswager didn't re- alize the kind of impact her son's writing assignment—his last—would have on her INTHELONGRUNnŀETEˬCHERGˬVE+ESSEmS project back to me after his funeral. He'd written, 'My mom is courageous.' It be- came clear to me what I needed to do. I couldn't save him. But I might be able to help someone else who has a child with diabetes," says Page-Alswager. ŀEIDEˬOFHELPINGSTˬRTEDFOR1ˬGE Alswager back in 2000 when she learned her son, who was 3 at the time, had Type DIˬBETESŀEDIˬGNOSISPUSHEDHERTO BECOMEˬNˬDVOCˬTEˬNDˬCTIVISTFOR+ESSE and his disease. "It's really my way of dealing. I just throw myself fully into something," says Page-Alswager. But his death, and her grief following it, paralyzed her. "I wasn't sure of my place in the world without him," she says. THE DICTIONARY DEFINES grief as a deep sadness and sorrow. But Tara Potter adds confusion, isolation and helplessness to THEDESCRIPTIONŀE.ˬDISONMOTHEROF two lost her husband 10 years ago. He was 31, their boys just 5 and 8. "I thought no one could understand and respond in a helpful way. So I tried to ignore my feelings and put all of my focus on my sons," says Potter. It also meant becoming the breadwin- ner. Her part-time job had to turn full TIMEˬNDSHEWOULDǠLLTHEPERSONˬLVOID in unhealthy ways, many days just trying to survive. nŀEWHOLEEXPERIENCEWˬSSONEGˬTIVE *ǠNˬLLYREˬLIZEDSOCIETYISUNCOMFORTˬBLE WITHGRIEFŀEONLYWˬYTOGETTHROUGHIT ISTOGOTHROUGHITˬNDǠNDˬNEWNORMˬL whatever that could be," says Potter. #UTHOWDOYOUǠNDTHˬTNEWNORMˬL Working through a loss can be an ar- duous process and everything, including the timeline, is different for everyone. Grief experts suggest journaling your thoughts and feelings, participating in support groups, and spending time with long-standing friends. ŀERˬPIST.OLLY5OMONYBELIEVESITmS IMPERˬTIVETOǠNDˬWˬYTOSHˬREYOUR loss, and says it can be especially impor- tant for children. nŀEYNEEDTOFEELSˬFESECUREˬNDLOVED following an event which has rocked their world," says Tomony, who works with the Rainbow Project, which serves fami- lies experiencing stress in Dane County. Tomony's technique includes art ther- apy, focused on self-care, but she says, "Find a way, your own way to work through the feeling of loss, how to ex- press it, and how to cope with it." Counselor Doug Smith considers death a life-changing event for survivors. "When you lose a loved one, you're never THESˬMEoSˬYS4MITHnŀEBESTTHˬTCˬN happen is to experience some healing. A qualitative, subjective change toward the better in the midst of your pain and suf- fering." Smith, who is also an instructor for UW-Madison's Continuing Studies new GRIEFSUPPORT CERTIǠCˬTE THE NˬTIONmS ǠRSTˬTˬMˬJORUNIVERSITYLEˬRNEDTHE PROCESSǠRSTHˬNDˬFTERTHEDEˬTHSOFTWO daughters. Yet, he believes any therapeu- tic steps can be greatly enhanced by using the pain to help others. "When I share my story, I feel it sup- ports what others are going through, while also magnifying the special gifts I received from my own loved ones," says Smith. Continued on p. 24 THE POSITIVE POWER OF GRIEF USING THE PAIN TO HELP OTHERS BY TERI BARR

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