By Anne Peterson
We all love clubs. Clubs enable us to belong to something bigger than ourselves.
When my sister Peggy Dianovsky was killed I became part of a club I never wanted to join; those who have lost a loved one to homicide.
Support is needed when going through difficult times. So I began looking for a grief group to attend. I found the people there very nice and warm but my situation was quite different. My sister had been missing for over twenty years so my grief was complicated. When I shared with the group that she had been killed I felt an invisible wall between me and the others around me. A couple of women had lost their husbands, while another member lost her father and was really struggling. Our losses were so different.
Then I heard about a homicide group that met once a month in Kane County Courthouse. I remember feeling uncomfortable as I was checked before I entered the courtroom. Laying my purse on the conveyor belt and removing my jacket became a regular thing each month. Deciding to attend those meetings was one of the wisest decisions I have ever made. That group was a life saver to me. In the 3 years I attended that group, I really cared about those in the group. Month after month we shared anniversary dates, apprehension we felt about upcoming birth dates of our loved ones, or our dread for the approaching holidays. I sat with people whose lives had been disrupted much like mine, losing a loved one to a violent death.
A different attorney was present at each meeting available to answer any legal general questions we might have. Many of our fears were assuaged as we gathered pertinent information. Those who had gone through the court experience were able to help those who would soon be experiencing it in coming months.
Dr. Brown, a Psychiatrist facilitated each meeting, encouraging us to talk about out loved ones. It was a safe place to do our hurting. A place we felt no judgment, or pressure to hurry up and get on with our lives. Also attending was the victim advocate for Kane County. You felt safe there. Like you could talk if you wanted to, or just sit there and quietly listen without pressure.
When a love one dies, one common fear is that he /she will be forgotten. Those meetings provided a place where we knew that wouldn’t happen.
I’m so thankful for that homicide group. Each town should have one. I did a lot of healing in that group. There was no pretense. I truly felt honored to sit and cry with other members in the group. Some would come in overcome with grief and did not know how to move on. Those of us who had been coming for a while encouraged those who were new. We were merely a handful of people trying to put one foot in front of the other.
One night we were told to bring pictures of our loved ones. One by one we talked about what our loved ones meant to us as they passed around our beloved pictures. It binded us even closer together.
If you are have lost someone to a violent crime, or your loved one is missing, find a group that can support you. And if you can’t find one, then start one. It really does lighten the load you are trying to carry.
Grieving is an interesting process. While attending a Hospice-sponsored grief seminar given by Tom Reardon, I learned that there are two types of grievers. There is an emotional griever who talks a lot of their grief out. There is also an instrumental griever. Instrumental grievers work out their grief by doing something. Reardon gave the illustration of a father who had lost his son. It was especially hard for the father because when he thought of Mike he remembered the project they didn’t get to work on. It was their dream to build a canoe and then take a canoe trip.
While Reardon talked with the father he asked if he was in a position to take a couple of months off of work. He shared he would be able to do that. Then the counselor encouraged him to do two things.
First, he was to make the canoe that he and his son had talked about. Secondly he was to take that canoe trip. At first, the father wasn’t certain he could even work on that project at all. But, with the encouragement of his counselor he began.
The father was surprised how working on the project gave him such peace. Once the canoe was finished he went on the trip without his son. His time was bittersweet. He enjoyed following through on their dream, thinking about his son every step of the way. This father truly was a perfect example of an instrumental healer.
After my sister Peggy’s trial we planned out a memorial. It was 2004 and she had disappeared in 1982. Still, we secured a church, planned a meal following the service unaware of how many would attend. We created a slide show with precious pictures that commemorated her life. Then we had a family member play “Fur Elise,” a song Peggy used to play on the piano. Afterwards her sons and the four of us each got up and shared what our sister meant to us. Afterwards we drove to the cemetery where our parents are also laid to rest. Standing on her empty grave we once again paused and reflected on Peggy.
Planning the memorial, working on the slideshow and making memorial handouts helped me grieve. While it has helped talking about her, I saw I needed to go further, doing something tangible. I got to do something that showed I loved her.
Grief is difficult. But if we think about it we can find people who can support us in our time of need. Find people you can talk to about your loved one, and if there’s something you can do to help you grieve, then do it.