Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Narratives to Move through Loss

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Narratives to Move through Loss

Article excerpt

Last year my family experienced three major losses:

My mother gave up her home of over 40 years. A month later my son's partner died one month before her 30th birthday. Two weeks later another family friend died in a bicycle race at the age of 25.

The first thing I did was work with family and friends to cope with the situation at hand. After each situation quieted down, I wrote, initially for myself, and then to share with family-whatever came to mind.

Eve's Recipes for Life

After moving my mother and selling her home, I brought with me a few cartons filled mostly with my mother's papers. Mother had been a high school English teacher. She took notes-on everything. One carton contained all my mother's recipe books, which she had no use for at this stage of her life. Nor did anyone in the family. Over four cold, rainy days, I copied the family's favorite recipes, annotating them with stories, such as my father's recipe for French pancakes, which he made every New Year's day. Then I scanned into the computer line drawings from old recipe books, created a book format, brought the pages to Kinkos to bind, and gave copies of Eve's Recipes for Life to my mother and other family members on my first visit to my her new residence. After composing the narrative recipe book, I discarded all Mom's old recipe books. On the cover of the book I wrote, My mother's recipes are more valuable than anything one could pick up at an estate sale.

The Broken Plate

The second story I wrote was based on a china plate that I broke when packing. The plate became a symbol for my life falling apart and putting the pieces together in new ways. I use the story and the plate in workshop presentations as a way to illustrate how we can grieve loss and then reconstruct our lives. For example, just before moving my mother I had competed a monograph on Starting and Growing a Business in the New Economy, published by the National Career Development Association. After the succession of family losses, one directly after another, entrepreneurship took second place to my focus on learning about and sharing with others self-care and caregiving techniques (Gelardin, 2007). The broken plate story led to the creation of a Family Caregiver Wellness Model in which each piece of the broken plate represents an aspect of our lives (i.e., family, social, intellectual, bio-physical, spiritual, psychological, financial, work).

A Testimonial To a Young Woman Who Had a Noble Dream

Schlossberg (1981) said, "A transition can be said to occur if an event or non-event results in change in assumptions about oneself and the world and thus requires a corresponding change in one's behavior and relationships" (Evans et al., 1998, pg 111, in Winkler, 2002). When my son's partner died a month after I moved my mother, the loss triggered changes in the lives of several family members and friends. I wrote a testimonial to her dream, which was to provide beautiful, affordable living environments for home-bound individuals. (Gelardin, 2007).

A Tribute To My Mother

Four months later, one day before the next visit to my mother, I created another book to honor my mother. I collected photos from her high school yearbooks and newspaper clippings from her community service. The book became a tribute to my mother, a scholar who has generously shared her questioning mind throughout her life in both the classroom and the community (Gelardin, 2007). I feel it is better to honor her now while she can appreciate the book.

The Value of Writing Personal and Family Stories

Over the past year, I have written several reflective articles on loss and transition for the National Career Development Association's online newsletter, Career Convergence and for posting on several e-communities that I administer (Gelardin, 2007). In an article on The Seasonal Rhythm of Career and Caregiving Decision-Making, I listed the following narrative activities that I have carried out to manage loss:

* Wrote a poem to my mother at a good-by party thrown for her by her friends;

* Wrote an article for/edit a special issue of the Career Planning and Adult Development Journal on career and caregiving;

* Started an online community for active seniors, www. …

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