Saturday, January 16, 2016

Grieving the Loss of a Coach, a Mentor, a Friend

Grief affects everyone differently.

Over the years, I have suffered the loss of a number of family members and friends.
I have worked as a counselor in a variety of settings, including a women's shelter and a family counseling agency. I have had the opportunity to work with and observe many individuals and families as they dealt with significant loss in their lives.

Grief is not easy.

The loss of someone dear to us to a devastating illness is difficult to integrate into the reality of our lives. Grief is the process by which we allow ourselves (body, mind, and spirit) to incorporate our new reality. A new reality of life without the one we love.

Recently my daughter and her gymnastics team mates suffered the loss of an exceptionally devoted and caring dance coach. Lenore Schwartz had been coaching gymnasts in dance for 20 plus years. To many of the girls at the gym, Lenore was more then just a dance coach. As a dance teacher, she was interested in a broader scope of their gymnastics achievement. "Be in the moment" was an often heard expression from her. And to my daughter repeatedly, "Express yourself".

As a woman, she considered the entirety of their lives, she talked to them about her hopes for their futures, and about choices they would make outside of the gym and the consequences to their lives of those choices.

As a mother, she brought her love, commitment and deep understanding of the value of  personal achievement balanced with close personal relationships to her coaching. She brought encouragement for the value based setting of priorities to the girls. She brought a life time of insights into the gym and shared them graciously. She brought her whole self into our lives in every interaction.

My daughter was one of the fortunate recipients of Lenore's understanding, concern and wisdom.
The gym has undergone a myriad of changes in just a few short months. Change may be for good or for bad but either way it always takes a toll as adjustments are made. Adjustments take time. Loss requires healing. And it all demands compassion from and for each other.

Grief is inconvenient. It demands our attention and never waits until we are ready to address it.

Lenore's memorial service is scheduled on a day of regular practice for the team with the practice schedule altered by only an hour to accommodate attendance, barely allowing time to change, eat and travel to the event. As Adah's mother, I am going to play my parent card. My child's emotional well being and the decisions I make right now to protect her emotional health will be choices that I will have to live with for our life times.

The girls deserve the recognition of their loss and an adequate amount of time to adjust, to process, to prepare and to mourn. They deserve at least a day to integrate their new reality, a world without their beloved dance coach, Lenore, into their consciousness. They deserve the day off of practice to prepare to attend the memorial service.

Adah will not be attending practice today. We will instead be preparing in practical ways; an un-rushed healthy meal, appropriate clothing for attending the memorial service, etc., and in emotional ways; talking, tears, hugs and taking a pause to acknowledge our new reality.