There are times when I lose my smile. It is as if it jumps off my lips, and chases down the street chuckling that I can’t quite catch it. Other times, I am an easy laugh, grinning when I can to get through the day.
I would tell you of the careers I have had—consulting to executives, managing health programs—but these jobs matter not. In the end, life matters. I have lost two husbands. The last, and the love of my life, passed in May of 2011 from leukemia. I cared for a truly delightful mother battling Parkinson’s and dementia in my home. She was put on hospice a month before my husband died, and lasted another 18 tough months.
Perhaps I had not realized I had been a caregiver for most of 22 years between my husbands and my mother. It was an honor in so many ways, but once Bob and “Miss Elma” passed, I had to find a new purpose in life to pull me through the grief. Writing became my passion. Helping others experiencing grief was my hope.
I now speak at grief workshops and grief groups. I facilitate one of the country’s Death Cafés, a discussion group that tackles the necessary topics surrounding the many issues of death and dying. My writing is used by some hospice companies for staff training. I have published in the AARP Bulletin, the L.A. Times, the Fullerton Observer, and the Jessup Sentinel.
Facilitating writing classes appeals to my creative side, and allows me to help others. Yet, I also need fun, the type that plants a smile across my face. When I’m not speaking about grief or helping people improve their writing, I lead a Senior Flash Mob with dancers between 56 and 84 years of age. We show up in malls, on campuses, and even on television.
So, when my smile tries to jump off my face, I let it go. I take the time to feel my grief. I feel the loss. And I honor my loved ones. Afterwards, I get back to creative writing, helping writers, and supporting fellow grievers. Then I dance. Funny thing, once the music starts, that smile always comes back home.