Navigating the Grieving Process: Death Can Trigger Unexpected Emotions
In the past week, two people have passed with whom I am familiar. One of them is well-known in the pulmonary fibrosis community; the other is a close family friend. Pulmonary Fibrosis News columnist Kim Fredrickson was a wonderful person and a passionate advocate. I read her columns and kept up to date with her health condition as she waited for a lung transplant.
BioNews Services has suffered a great loss with the passing of Kim. Unfortunately, death in our community is all too common. Most people are oblivious to the tens of thousands of deaths attributed to pulmonary fibrosis globally each year. I was one of those people who had never heard of the disease until I was diagnosed with it.
The grieving process affects everyone differently. I worry about another of my fellow columnists Charlene Marshall, who considered Kim to be a friend. I know she has been affected by her death. I think about how Uncle Rudy’s two sons will miss their father’s calming voice and how his wife will be deprived of his companionship.
The last thing I want to hear is about people dying from this disease. While I haven’t been close to anyone who has passed from pulmonary fibrosis, I fear how the grief would affect my mental health if I did.
I met Uncle Rudy about 10 years ago when he was visiting his nephew — and my friend. I took an instant liking to Rudy, and we talked for a couple of hours. About 20 minutes into our conversation, I told him I was going to call him “Uncle Rudy.” He replied, “OK, nephew!” Uncle Rudy’s popularity was evident at his funeral: The church was packed and the funeral procession was a half-mile long. Uncle Rudy was of Irish descent, and during his wake, the beer and whiskey flowed along with the stories about him.
Uncle Rudy was happiest when surrounded by his family. He organized clambakes and enjoyed a good fire with a couple of beverages. His joy for life was apparent in his gleaming smile. Uncle Rudy had a positive outlook; he didn’t have a negative word to say about anyone. He had a calm demeanor that put people at ease.
When I became ill with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, I would receive regular phone calls from Rudy. He would begin our chat with “Hello, nephew.” He called me weekly following my lung transplant.
I last saw Uncle Rudy in March. Each year for the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament, I cook about 20 pounds of corned beef. Friends pop in during the day to watch the games. Uncle Rudy and his son Macklin stopped by. My wife had a long conversation with Uncle Rudy and feels fortunate to have spent time with him. I also feel privileged to have had that precious time with him.
Grieving for those we have lost is overwhelming, especially in the beginning. Our grief can trigger unexpected thoughts and emotions. Everyone’s grieving process is different. Our loved ones will always hold a place in our hearts and we will cherish our memories of them. We know that Kim and Uncle Rudy would want us to continue to enjoy life to its fullest, with love and laughter, while continuing to pursue our dreams and make an impact in our world.
Rest in peace, Uncle Rudy and Kim Fredrickson.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.