Grief and loss are things we all experience and process through individually and uniquely.

Grief and loss are things we all experience and process through individually and uniquely.

This is why I love what I do.

Thank you to each client who ever extended their trust, and thank you for the insights we have discovered together.
 And a very special thank you to the client who agreed to let me share this story with you.
  ~Heather

This past Sunday (yes, Super Bowl Sunday), while most of you were preparing for the big game and the big parties, I went to a memorial service at the home of a client. And you know what? I had a lovely time. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.

That’s right. I laughed. I laughed a lot.

This memorial service was a bit on the unconventional side. There were no hymns sung, no pews, no flowers. Instead a small group gathered in a small dining room to support a friend whose mother had died two weeks ago. Mom was there too – her cremains set alongside a beautiful portrait and a bottle of Dijon mustard (a comic nod to the fact that the last conversation mother and daughter shared was an argument about buying the “wrong” mustard that morning). Cats and dogs (Mom was an animal lover) wandered amongst our ankles as we nibbled on enough food to feed an army. Stories were shared about Mom’s generosity and hospitality, about the times she was a pain in the ass, about the times she was bawdy and brazen and irreverent and so very funny (and yes, there were incriminating photos to illustrate!). Glasses were filled and raised and drained… and filled and raised again.

dijonOur friend read some passages from the journal and letters her mother left her, and we were moved to tears to hear a mother write that her child had been the love of her life, that she had experienced such love and happiness as she could never have known otherwise. That she was so sorry to be leaving her. Mom was also very clear that she wanted her daughter to laugh, to let herself be loved… and this is why we were gathered together. Drinking and laughing and telling stories. Having a party where Mom was the guest of honor. That’s what she wanted, and that’s what she got. Our friend kept observing that this gathering was the perfect match for her mom and for herself, and we couldn’t agree more.

It’s been said that funerals are as much for the living as they are for the dead. I believe that. I also believe that grief is an incredibly personal and intimate experience, and that there is no “right” way to do it. Except, perhaps, to do it authentically. The memorial service I attended might not be the right fit for some of you reading this. My client, rest assured, is NOT denying the overwhelming sorrow she feels. There have been plenty of tears, and anger, and shock, and fear… and there will be much more of that in the years to come. But for this mother and daughter, laughter and irreverent humor filled their relationship. It continues to do so now.

Heather Kramer Almquist, MA, CT, NCP,  is the founder of Sanctuary Counseling. A Certified Thanatologist, Heather is especially adept at guiding people through the processes of grief, loss, and mourning through grief and loss counseling. As a Berks County Psychotherapist, Heather serves the community through individual, group, and family counseling for grief and loss as well as many other areas of concern, such as anxiety, depression, life transitions, LGBTQ concerns, relationship issues, and more. You can learn more about Heather here.