Kris Fulkerson of Heartlinks Grief Center at Family Hospice reflects on grief and the beginning of the center founded by Diana Cuddeback.
What is Grief? - Our founder and the spirit of Heartlinks, my best friend and work wife, Diana, often tells a beautiful story about how Heartlinks evolved. In 1997, Heartlinks began as a lending library with grief books for children, but Diana quickly realized that grieving people needed human connection more than books. So, she began doing home visits. It was on one of these visits, after Diana had gone fishing with a young man who had lost his grandfather, that I believe our version of Heartlinks first began. As Diana was packing up to leave, talking about going to see another young boy who was grieving, the young man in front of her asked, "What does he look like?" In her ever present wisdom, Diana answered "Like you." And from this one moment, Heartlinks grief groups emerged; first one or two and now the multitude of support that encompasses a whole community of grievers.
This young man could not have known what his question would encourage Diana to create, yet when he asked it, he asked not just for himself but for all of us. Who in their grief has not wondered if anyone else out there in the world understands the reality of a broken heart? The power of looking across a group and realizing that in this room right now I am not alone cannot be described; it can only be lived. Grief is oftentimes beyond words and too complex to even understand let alone explain. I describe grief as a sad mad bad feeling...what a pathetically inadequate description of a gut wrenching, soul shattering, heart splitting experience. Yet even those words don't capture it fully. How can we all know and understand what grief is and not know or understand it at the same time?
Much like death, grief defies understanding and eludes my brain's ability to talk about it. Instead of making it less real, I think the lack of understanding makes it too real. Diana told the young grieving man that the next kid she was going to see looked like him. "Like you," she told him. And so when I think about grief and loss, when I think about Heartlinks, when I think about all of you connected to us, I think that you are like me. And so I believe that we are all of us a jumbled collection of understanding and disbelief; of love and hate; of longing and anger; of compassion and judgment. I think that together we can answer the question of what is grief and that apart the question is too big for any one of us. I have no answers, but it seems that maybe I'm not supposed to have the answers...maybe I am just supposed to be like you. Together, we are never alone. ~ Kris