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Coping with Grief

Written by Ray Matlock Smythe, 760-409-9572

My partner, Steve Oliver, died in February at Eisenhower Hospital. We had spent 49 years together; I cannot begin to express the heartbreak of losing my soulmate. Steve was a gifted Chiropractor, but came down with Lupus and had to retire in his early 50s.

We still had an active social life, but as the years went on Steve had more issues related to the Lupus and was in constant pain. His body weakened and he finally just stopped breathing at Eisenhower early one night.

After he died, I wrote a column for The Desert Sun titled, “After a loved one’s death, how to go on and welcome help.” Although I had been submitting columns to the local paper for over two decades, I received more comments and e-mails from that one column than all my other columns combined. So many people shared with me their stories of sorrow, tragedy and heartbreak. I was shocked at the tsunami of grief contained in our Coachella Valley.

The worst part of a loved one passing is going down the rabbit hole of shoulds. Should I have stayed longer at the hospital? Should I have said this or that? The list goes on and on.

Don’t go down that rabbit hole. One day an older doctor took me outside in the hall, put his arm on my shoulder and said, “Ray, I absolve you of all guilt. You did the best you could. Take care of yourself now.” It was such a compassionate thing to say. None of us are prepared for these tragedies.

I wrote my book Coping With Grief – My Journey of Learning to Overcome Sorrow to help myself and others. I used powerful quotes in my book to cope with grief. Betty White said it best, “Keep busy with your work and your life. You can’t become a professional mourner. It doesn’t help you or others. Replay the good times.

Be grateful for the years you had.” May the readers of this short article find some peace and healing from my thoughts.

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