While grieving a loss, you learn a lot about what helps or hampers healing. That’s what happened to Laurie B. following the death of her beloved husband. Despite a wide circle of friends, she often felt alone and saw a need for sensitive support. She approached her pastor and suggested they start a shawl ministry, a support group where members would knit shawls for bereaved congregants. When she offered to coordinate it, her pastor was delighted. Today, she has a cadre of volunteers who not only knit for the bereaved, but for congregants who are ill and undergoing treatment. One member of her congregation shared that she wrapped herself in her shawl for every chemotherapy treatment and it brought needed comfort. Facing further treatment, she plans to take her shawl again.

Nancy Borowick, a photojournalist, took a unique approach in dealing with her loss. She started photographing her parents: first her mom when she had breast cancer, and then her dad when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Photography gave her a chance to be with her parents, and the camera enabled her to keep some distance. No one could have imagined the impact her photographs would have on her family – and the world. The photographs chronicle her parents through illness, treatment, and eventually their deaths. They are a stark prelude to a topic that makes everyone uncomfortable: How do individuals and families cope when a loved one is terminally ill? She shares her personal experience and photographs with groups, and her photographs and story have been published and exhibited all over the world. Nancy has sparked a conversation on terminal illness and death; hundreds of people from all over the world reach out to her each week, seeking to share their stories. She has touched so many lives and takes the time to answer her emails.

These remarkable women turned personal loss into an external  source of comfort. While it was not their intention, Laurie and Nancy feel that in helping others, you inherently help yourself. A concept that is worth trying.    

***

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available as e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Image via Nancy Borowick

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