Making Sense of Loss

My husband’s been watching several documentaries on September 11 that he recorded last week. Some of these specials are absolutely mind boggling—stories of heroics and survivors, stories of the last recorded phone calls of those who perished in the attacks, and follow-up stories like the one Diane Sawyer hosted on 20/20 about mothers who were pregnant and gave birth to those children post 9/11. All incredibly poignant, touching pieces.

My husband has a vested interested in these documentaries. His cousin Kenny worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and lost his life on that day. His wife was one of the mothers who was pregnant with their second child when the events of September 11 happened. We were trying to explain to our children what unfolded and detail the horrific attacks that took place, as we do every year, but now they are getting older. It’s more challenging having to explain to them that level of hatred. I told them that Daddy lost his cousin in the Trade Center because the terrorists targeted those buildings.

“He was Daddy’s cousin,” I said.

My husband paused and looked at me. “He was their cousin, too,” he replied.

This is true—Kenny was their cousin, too. We wish they could have known him.

He was a son, a father, a husband, a friend, a colleague, a cousin, and so much more. It’s difficult to make sense of that loss and even more difficult to try to explain because children have questions. They want to know why.

As do we.

Yesterday, my neighborhood friends and I lost our friend, Heather, who passed away at the age of 42 of cancer, leaving behind a husband and two young daughters. She only learned she had cancer last week; the shock of her death has ricocheted through our neighborhood. Two weeks ago she was seemingly fine. Now, she is gone. We are all left shaking our heads, our hearts broken as we consider the devastation her loved ones must be feeling.

How does one make sense of loss?

***

I have a fear of lightning. It’s a pretty significant fear, actually.

When I was 15, I had the biggest crush on Paul Michael. We went to high school together and he played on the football team while I cheered. We flirted a lot, and while we were friends, it never went beyond that, though I always found him adorable.

One day, I came home from school, running as fast as I could home from the bus. There was a bad thunderstorm. No one was home, and I ran in the door and realized my parents’s garbage cans were out on the driveway getting soaked. I ran out to get them and brought them into the garage. As I ran to them, I saw a bolt of lightning come down in the distance. A few hours later I got a call from my friend Hope telling me that Paul had been struck and killed by lightning. He had run out, just as I did, to get his little brother’s bike in from the street.

At 15, it was difficult to process his death. You wonder. You ask why. You can’t believe that it’s true.

Ironically, it doesn’t get any easier when you’re 46.

Loss is loss. It’s hard, and there is nothing and no one—not all the self-help books or therapists in the world—that can instruct you on how to get over this type of loss unless you’ve borne a loss yourself. We all deal with it and cope with it in our own ways. These things can offer assistance, but we must go on, and only we know how.

***

I’m in the process of posting a three-part story about my life at the Orioles. Those of us who’ve worked together over the years have endured some tough losses of front office folks. Most recently, former pitcher and Orioles broadcaster Mike Flanagan took his own life, and for my friends who still work at the Orioles, my heart goes out to you, because that must have been a very tough one.

Prior to that, we lost some wonderful colleagues and friends.  Too many, in fact. The list is longer than it should be for people our age.

This post, therefore, is dedicated to those we have lost over the years.

We miss you…and we’ll never forget you.

Dedicated to:

Kenny Tarantino

Heather Zoller-Gritz

Paul Michael

Jerry Wachter

Jeff Nelson

Jamie Parker

Michael Fiorelli

Shannon Obaker

Vanessa Sandler

Elrod Hendricks

Gregg Moore

Andy Burke

Ann Lange

Mike Flanagan

and my grandparents: Eleanor and Angelo DeMarco & Vincent and Elizabeth Parrillo

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11 thoughts on “Making Sense of Loss

  1. Steph, this is truly one of your best!! Thanks for sharing :)
    PS: Like Anthony, I too DVR’d over ten 9/11 documentaries and Matt and I watched all of them…I had no idea you lost a cousin that day–so sorry for your loss…It’s funny, but as I sat trying to explain to Gavin, age 3, what happened that day (we were watching the memorial that Sunday am and he was very interested in the bagpipes :))…The only way I could really explain to him at this early age was to say that ‘many bad men hurt a lot of people…and a few buildings fell hurting a lot more people…I guess as they get older my explanation will certainly change, but for now, their innocence is unscathed…

  2. This is lovely – and Heather Zoller-Gritz is a member of Tri Sigma who we will be tributing on our Facebook page, hopefully this week. I am the Dir. of Marketing for Tri Sigma, and we would like to offer supportive messages to her friends and family. Are you okay with us posting the link to this blog on our Facebook wall?

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