Oklahomans talk about finding the courage to grieve

Grieving the loss of a loved one is a personal experience, including on Memorial Day. Oklahomans talk about finding the courage to grieve.

by Bryan Painter Modified: May 29, 2010 at 12:50 am •  Published: May 29, 2010

u could see the pain in his eyes and how fresh it was to him. Then he heard it'd been 10 years since Tyler was killed and he got this look.

"He wanted to know when the pain ends and he looked at me like he was going to get this profound answer, and I don't have one. Ten years later the pain is still there.

"You don't have to scratch very far to find it and that's what a cemetery does for me. I know for some, spending time planting flowers is healing and that's very good. It's not that way for me. ”

Pat and Vicki both say the only way they've survivedthe days following Tyler's death is through their faith.

I asked Vicki what helps her the most.

"Knowing I'll see him again,” she said. "This weekend probably hurts me in a sense that I ache for other people, too. I ache for the families of those we've lost in wars. I ache for those we've lost so many ways. I'm not alone in my pain and I hope they know they are not alone in theirs.

"I stop and pray to God for each and every family who has lost someone that they have peace.”

Holding one another
Through her involvement with The Compassionate Friends, LeBeau has tenderly embraced many fellow grieving parents. It's not because she's been through it and moved on. She's traveling with them.

"It never goes away,” LeBeau said. "What it does do is change in intensity. It softens only to come raging back at certain times.”

She cries almost daily for Matthew. And her husband drives by the cemetery every day going back and forth to work.

"You never get over the longing and missing of our loved ones,” she said. "I think that is why grief is forever. We adapt, we accept, but we never get over it. Love is deep and lasts through the ages.”

LeBeau's advice is to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to grieve openly. Don't go it alone.

She'll visit the cemetery probably this Saturday or Sunday, but not on Memorial Day.

"For our family we spend the time quietly together, no big plans,” she said, "just togetherness holding one another tightly with gratitude for those who are still walking beside us.”

Grieving can vary
Lankard said many find visiting the cemetery comforting.

"I am one of those who does not,” she said. "I don't find it uncomfortable, but I do not associate my husband or parents or friends with that place. I go occasionally, but not often and that is OK for me. It is a very individual thing.”

When she visits her husband's grave site, she doesn't cry. But hearing a favorite song of his, watching a theater play that they saw together, or relating to another person a special memory of Fred can bring the tears.

"Again, no two people grieve the same, and there is no wrong way to grieve,” she said. "If someone does it differently than you, it doesn't mean they loved their person more or less.”

One thing that has changed for Lankard over time is that her focus went from what she had lost "to gratitude for the time we had.”

When someone significant to you dies, you will always miss them and wish you could have attended their graduation or helped them buy their first car, she said. You never forget.

"What happens is you gradually adjust to that person not being part of your everyday life,” she said, "but there is no expiration date on your grief.”

Know it: Death, Dying, and Grief

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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