solitude in grief
“How can I have fun when my son is dead,” wondered Sheree Capulli, a mother known for her fun-loving spirit and humor. “I felt I had no business laughing.” Devastated after her teenage son Chris died in an icy night accident in Chicago, she felt a vast need to grieve privately. She hibernated inside her home for almost a year. She put his pictures up on the living room mantle, and after taking her other four children to school, she returned home, lit candles, shut the blinds, and grieved. “I didn’t go to the kids hockey games, avoided the grocery store, and any parties. I knew people stared at me as the mother whose son was killed.”
The second half of that first year seemed even harder than the first, especially as she came up to the anniversary of his death. She also found herself talking to him. A devout Christian, she said, “I just considered him to be living on a different plane. I felt his encouragement to ‘be the best we can be.’ It’s what he would want from all of us.”
After a few months, she finally agreed to go to a neighborhood bunko party. But a near-stranger asked her too many questions and it felt intrusive. What did give her solace was spending time with Dawn Feller, a close friend since high school. A talented artist and seamstress, Dawn came over and taught her how to quilt. Using all of Chris’s t-shirts from sports, they’d reminisce about his adventures and life as they set a goal to finish by the anniversary date.
A breakthrough came after a year. While in the grocery store, a friend saw her and said, “Oh Sheree, I miss seeing you. I’m afraid we’ll never have Sheree back…our funny Sheree.” This began her re-engagement with others as her need for solitude eased. “I recognized that my love meant something to others and that my former joy in life was valued.” Now actively engaged in the community and workforce again, she created a tradition of taking the family to her son’s favorite Greek restaurant on his birthday each year. “We can still tell stories of Chris, laugh together, and enjoy the family we have.”
What Sheree and others find, moments of laughter offer glimpses of healing sunshine amidst the daily shadow of sorrow. We’re born with the gift of laughter, and it’s a contagious emotion, and a natural medicine. The medical community, especially integrative medical centers that emphasize the mind-body connection such as the Cancer Treatment Centers in America, even offer Humor and Laughter Therapy as part of coping with chronic illness.
In our home, we find that our floppy Golden Retriever Alli (short for Allegria, the Spanish word for joy) provides enough playful antics to always make us laugh. In the spirit of how animal antics bring laughter to our hearts, please click on this delightful video of baby pandas playing on a slide. They’re magical!
A special thanks to Dr. Bill Peterson who introduced me to the panda video on his interesting daily blog www. Still Faith-Full