At some point in the first few months following Norah’s death, we were given some words of reassurance. At the time, I wasn’t really ready to hear them, as it almost felt dismissive of our own particular pain. But now I think there was some truth to the statement. “People who have coping skills and mechanisms in place before a trauma generally come through it ok.” Meaning that someone with a support system and personal habits that can relieve some of their stress, anxiety, and depression are able to eventually come to live alongside their grief. As we approach a grim anniversary, we are in a time when we are experiencing our trauma again, but also feeling it in new and terrible ways. As we come to the one year mark since our most intense days of personal suffering, we are looking around and realizing we had what many people in this current crisis lack. We will be grateful for the ways we have been allowed to mourn.

Now we are watching trauma unfold before us on a global scale, and we are acutely aware of the painful reality that we will all be grieving. Everyone will know the sick, the dead, the financially ruined, if not be among their ranks. Everyone will be grieving. But many people are entering their time of grief without any means to cope, forced to deal with trauma in a setting stripped of the rituals we have constructed as a society. What will it take to meet the needs of a nation, of a people without the ability to mourn?

When Norah got sick, she spent zero time in a hospital waiting room. She was triaged as urgent, admitted in hours and, when her condition worsened the following day, she was flown to a hospital with a world class pediatric ICU. Once there, she received quick, aggressive treatment in an attempt to save her life. She had an intensive care nurse and an ECMO technician solely devoted to her care for their entire 12-hour shifts. Yes, two nurses for one patient. There were entire teams of specialists caring for her, and even physicians at different hospitals who were consulted. We, as parents, were assured that absolutely everything possible was being done to save her. And that matters. We relied on enormous, multifaceted, well synced structures of medicine. We also spent 3 weeks by her side, housed and sustained by the generosity of strangers, friends, and family. We were physically there to hold Norah’s hand and kiss her forehead. We discussed her condition with the doctors every day during rounds, and asked questions as they patiently informed us of the treatment options. There was a reassuring sense that things were being done by a code and according to best practices. Don’t get me wrong, none of this erased the feeling that what was happening was completely out of our control and profoundly NOT the way things should be. But I hate to think of the damage to our psyche had we not had the chance to be at Norah’s side when she died.

Once the unthinkable happened, we once again relied on the structures in place to help us take the next steps. Our moment of panic and crushing grief was met with networks of people who helped us put together a memorial service, brought us meals, mowed our lawn, and picked up the work that we couldn’t complete. Our entire lives went on hold while we reeled.

Now there is a sense that the entire nation is reeling. By now we have all had that moment/day/month when we felt the panic of confronting this thing that is terrifying and completely out of our control. You have probably thought, “This changes EVERYTHING”! My challenge, to you and to myself, is this. Don’t forget that feeling. I don’t think you’ll be able to. Be intentional about how things change. Stay open, and when you see someone else in that moment of panic, give them some grace. We will all need to be a little more sensitive, a little better at “checking in”, and we will all need to work hard to build back those structures that have been destroyed. There is no overestimating the scope of change required to address the needs of each individual. We need to scale up the empathy at every level of our lives, from friendships to federal government.

At my most vulnerable moment, when I was completely broken, I wrote some words that were meaningful to some. 
Hug a healthcare worker
Give blood
Fill your home with laughter and music
Tell your friends and family you love them
freely and often

For these times, I would like to add an addendum from Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky 
“Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place.”
“Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern.”
“Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.”

We were given an abundance. We have a stable and loving support system, a safe home, good physical health, and time to reflect. We have entire communities, both local and virtual, who filled a church for a memorial service, who filled our mailbox for months with cards and gifts, who filled in the gaps when we weren’t ourselves. And it’s still damn hard. There is no such thing as “resolved trauma”. But we are surviving, we are finding some things that bring us joy, we are finding ways to make peace with our grief. 

50 Replies to “Coping”

  1. Vickie Glinski says:

    Thank you Eric. I needed to hear this today. God bless you and your family and you continue to grieve the loss of your precious Norah and now this pandemic. Reaching out to others is most crucial. God bless us all.

  2. Nancy Morgan says:

    Words of wisdom, survival, and love. ❤️🌞

  3. Phil Kniss says:

    Eric and Peggy, these are some of the most profound and honest and important words I have read lately. And to have come from persons right now living through an agonizing “anniversary” of your own suffering — this is a gift from God to the rest of us. Thank you. Thank you. Our loving prayers are still with you.

  4. Nancy says:

    The timing of your words could not have been perfect. A young woman who I have known for years, called this morning completely broken. Her dear friend and Sunday School assistant died yesterday of this viscous illness. As she cried, I felt a sense of helplessness and panic to hear her words, not knowing what to say. I just listened. A Rabbi once told me “that when we listen, we give the other a voice.”
    I appreciate your suggestions, and thank you for allowing us to walk with you on this tragic journey having lost Norah. I have learned so much, and pray that I am more prepared to experience loss and to help others in their time of mourning. We are all connected.
    Every time I think about Red Wings Music Festival, I whisper a thank you to Norah.

  5. Suzann Davies says:

    Eric and Peggy,
    I was thinking about you just last week as I was remembering that the date of Norah’s passing was upon us.Thank you for sharing this beautifully written message of deep and heartfelt thoughts as we go through these unsure times. Your insight speaks to me and I am grateful for your words. May you continue to walk with strength and healing through all of this.

  6. Karen Moshier-Shenk says:

    I well remember waking on the Saturday morning between Good Friday and Easter, to the news that Nora was gone. And, then being part of the memorial service will always be in my heart. This post! I have been saying that we and the world will be forever changed having gone through this pandemic. I love what you said about all of that as well. I continue to think of you all often and send you love.

  7. Jacki Stranathan says:

    Sending love hugs and a grateful heart for those words we all need to hear.

  8. “We, as parents, were assured that absolutely everything possible was being done to save her. And that matters” It does. Sharon and I had literally gone in to Boston (great hospitals) to get a second opinion about her care. We were told that we couldn’t have been in better hands already and that if their daughter were suffering the same issues (epilepsy) and treatment plan, that she would have followed the same. To top it off, she said that if her daughter had the same prognosis, she would have brought her to our current doctor. Sharon passed 3 days later. That was such a gift.. As parents we need to know we’ve done all we possibly could for our children and after that, it is the Universe and her personal journey that would be in charge.. I ache for you and your family. You guys brought her so much joy and for that I am forever grateful. Year two can be particularly hard so put those support systems in place my friend. I’m her for you any time of day or night.

  9. Amy Painter says:

    I just thought of sweet Norah yesterday, and visited the tree we planted at school. Hugs to all as we remember her. ❤️

  10. Carree Taylor says:

    You know “they” say that everything happens for a reason. In the year since Nora’s death, I have told your story countless times. I have played “Grateful” for people who needed it in their moment of sorrow, and I have felt uniquely connected to otherwise virtual strangers. Thank you for sharing. Your grief has changed me and people that I know. Praying that God will help you find peace during this anniversary. ❤

  11. Jesse says:

    Beautiful of you to share your thoughts and feelings here, brother. Thank you for being transparent and a good witness. Bless you my friend.

  12. Jan Houser says:

    Wow, Eric. Another VERY powerful post. Thank you so much for expending the energy to enlighten your readers with your graceful thoughts. Your thoughts are truly inspired by a higher power, and your readers benefit from these words in ways that cannot be measured.
    We continue to hold your precious family in our thoughts and prayers.

  13. Thank you, Eric and Peggy, for these wise, courageous words. As Phil said, they are gifts to us all. You are loved and appreciated, especially in these critical times. Blessings to you all as you continue to mourn.
    Bruce & Neva

  14. Rachel says:

    Eric, your words are a gift today.

  15. Jenn Mann says:

    A beautiful & poetic snapshot of where you folks are today. Everyone who knows and loves you folks continues to hold the space for you. It’s still hard to make sense of it.

  16. Sue Shorb-Sterling says:

    You said it so beautifully. As I think of what we went through last year, it is magnified by the thousands this year. And family members can’t hold the hands of loved ones or have a friend’s shoulder to cry on. I, too, hope this pandemic makes our world gentler, kinder, more patient place to be.

  17. Carol says:

    Thank you for reaching out.
    I cannot say more, as others have so eloquently responded. I am deeply sorry for your loss, and so appreciative of your willingness to share your journey.
    Love and peace to you.

  18. Kim Johnson says:

    Peace and love and thx for sharing your words. My heart felt each one. Extra thoughts this week of Lydia…please give her the biggest hug.

  19. Karen says:

    I’m a retired clergy woman and have walked besides dozens of people in grief. I myself have experienced uncommon grief in my life. I am thankful for vulnerability in all forms. And I thank you for showing us yours through these beautiful words and in the artistry of your music. I have been touched by them.
    Much love, Rev. Karen Craig Appleby

  20. Christina White says:

    Thank you for your kind, wise words. Sending comfort and peace from Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church in Wisconsin. 💚

  21. Jessica Peachey & Family says:

    Grateful to hear your words today as they have so much to give. Our family is thinking and praying for you this weekend and are in our hearts always. We just lift you up to the greatest of healers and ask that you divinely feel the fullness of the love that exists all around you as well as the love that bridges us all to those beyond this life.

  22. Gary Keiser says:

    Thank you, for answering the question I think of regularly but would never be able to ask if I were in your company: How are you and your family doing? I’m sure, particularly for any parent, it’s a hushed question beyond thought and imagination that we fear to ask of another over the death of a son or daughter. Your answer tells me that you ARE surviving the trauma that can never be resolved and this is a powerful powerful action that strengthens all of us well beyond your family. Thanks for your kindness, Eric

  23. Denise Bell says:

    Thank you , Eric, for this profound, sensitive, and personal insight into what is so hard to experience and to articulate. This is both an inspiration and comfort. Love to you and your family, Denise bell

  24. Sue Mulligan says:

    Such a hard loss yo bear. While the pain never goes away it gets easier to live with as the years go by. One day you will remember her with a smile before the tears. I didn’t lose a child but my husband much too soon 16 years ago. Peace and light ❣️

  25. Sue Mower says:

    God bless you and your family while you go through the days ahead remembering your sweet daughter. Prayers of peace and comfort.

  26. Diane Brooks says:

    Thank you Eric. You share your thoughts and explain something so profound. I needed to hear this today, thank you. Prayers for our nation and the world.

  27. Margie and David Koogler says:

    Thank you for your words of special meaning. You all are in our hearts. I hope to keep your message and read it often. I wish you and Peggy peace, love, and strength. Know that you are loved for we all need so much love in our hearts right now and your words find comfort and meaning. Bless you and all the family. We love you

  28. Joan Wingfield says:

    Thank you.

  29. Linda Hoffmaster Miller says:

    You words are perfect for our family right now. Your precious Norah will always be in your heart and your love for her will never go away.Blessings to your family.

  30. Linda Keuper Springer says:

    You are very kind thinking of others at this time.
    Grief certainly has different levels and triggers.
    Peace to you and your family.

  31. Anna says:

    Continued prayers for you all to find peace and comfort through our God. Death takes the body away, but we still have precious memories to share. God bless and strengthen you and your family as you all continue grieving. Your feelings of loss won’t get easier, but they will become tolerable.
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. 💜

  32. Lynn Stocks says:

    God bless you and your family. You are an inspiration to us all.

  33. Cara Kauffman says:

    This time of year, the spring, such beauty but yes, now I recall gorgeous days filled with sadness last year and now, when Peggy posted its been a year I felt it again. You all are brave and beautiful for taking your unimaginable grief and loss and using it to bring perspective to those of us who haven’t walked your walk. So Thank you and know that we continue to think of her and your family often, especially tomorrow.

  34. Jessica Seibert says:

    Thank you for being so willing to share your thoughts and feelings through the most difficult days of your life. Your strength and willingness to see good in life means a lot. We think of Norah still everyday and pray for your family every night. Her life still carries meaning in the world and that will never change. Sending love.

  35. Tim Kring says:

    I am humbled and am in awe of your words. I thank you for sharing your heart and soul.

  36. Ana says:

    Thank you ❤️

  37. Sarah Piper says:

    Thank you for your post. Yesterday the song, I will be grateful, came up in my playlist and I cried remembering. Sending love to each of you.

  38. Dotti and Joe Sullivan says:

    Thinking of you and your family at this time…God bless you and bring you peace

  39. Patressa Kearns says:

    Thank you, Eric and Peggy, for this post. I, too, have remembered that this is the one-year anniversay of Norah’s passing, as I remember where I was last year when I heard the news; I was still celebrating my birthday, which is today, April 18th. Please know that you all stay in my heart and prayers. Thank you for this message of hope and strength. God bless your sweet family, always.

  40. Sue Robbins says:

    Thank you for your integrity. Blessings from England.

  41. Keri Hutcheson says:

    Beautiful words and so helpful. Thinking and praying for you all at this time.

  42. Michael Beauchamp-Cohen says:

    Thanks for your words – they mean a lot, especially in this time. Sending you and yours love and a virtual hug from Michigan. Look forward to seeing you again before too long.

  43. Barbara Mason Van says:

    Just thought of Norah and you guys the other day. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Blessings and peace to your family.

  44. Joseph L Lapp says:

    Thank you. You have placed in words which I often wish for these days. Thank you for these expressed feelings which I will claim for myself. You and your family are loved.

  45. Jay Leaman says:

    Thank you Eric for sharing a bit of your journey with a very profound grief. Your words of courage and strength and caring for others is particularly poignant for me in losing my younger brother way too soon … just two weeks ago … Palm Sunday. Praying for you in this time of remembering. Blessings always!

  46. Lisa Schwan says:

    Thank you for your beautiful sharing. You and your family are so loved.

  47. Tamara Wamsley says:

    Eloquent and just what is needed–thanks for sharing your kindness and strength in such a heartfelt and open way. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you as your family continues on a healing journey.

  48. Les Helmuth says:

    These words represent a life well-connected to people and a system of support. You are truly blessed, as we are, to be encouraged by your experience and willingness to share the journey.
    May God’s presence comfort you.

  49. Angie Garcia-Johnson says:

    Thank you for your wisened words. May your year to come be filled with healing, love and memories to treasure. And thank you for your inspiration to power on.

  50. Sandy Martin says:

    Eric,Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts in this post. Please know that we have thought of you and your family many ,many times this past year and are hopeful for your continued quest for healing. From your Vermont family to your Virginia family,we love y’all.

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