Last Kiss: Some widows heal from grief by healing others
Amy Florian was 25 and living in Iowa when her husband, John, was killed in a car crash on an icy road.
Devastated, she began keeping a journal of her grief and reading everything she could to learn how to cope.
Three decades later, she lives in Hoffman Estates and runs Corgenius, a consulting company that helps businesses deal with work-related grief issues.
She's nationally recognized as an expert on loss; a founder of a metro area support group for widows and widowers; an instructor at Camp Widow, a weekend event that brings together widowed people from around the world; and an author of several books on grief, including "A Friend Indeed: Help Those You Love When They Grieve," a 2017 International Book Award winner.
"John's death," she writes on corgenius.com, "began my lifelong mission of helping people heal from life's crushing losses."
For some, coping with the death of a spouse evolves into a second life dedicated to helping others heal from the same grief.
Scott Bauer, a market trader from Long Grove, founded the Lauri S. Bauer Foundation for Sudden Loss in 2011 after his wife died unexpectedly at age 43 from an undiagnosed heart arrhythmia.
Among the organization's achievements -- opening Barr-Harris Children's Grief Centers in Deerfield and Evanston; creating a school outreach program to provide in-school therapy for grief-related issues; co-sponsoring Hand in Hand, a grief support group in Northbrook for spouses age 55 and younger; and creating a private Facebook page, Widowed & Healing.
He's developed such expertise and influence on the topic that he is a member of the executive board of the National Alliance for Grieving Children.
"I learned that I'm in the 1 percent category, with an incredible amount of support," Bauer says. "Ninety-nine percent of the people who go through this don't have the support, emotionally or financially."
Susan Anderson-Khleif, a retired Wellesley College professor and Motorola executive, began a blog called longtermgrief.tumblr.com after her husband of 44 years died six years ago.
"I realized that there is a type of grief that doesn't go away," the Sleepy Hollow resident says.
Anderson-Khleif's blog opens like this:
"There is a story many know about Queen Victoria of England -- who mourned her dear husband Albert by leaving his room, his clothes in the closet and all his things exactly as he left them the day he died. And here, people always thought that was quite strange. Here, we are expected to 'get over it' or 'get past it.' Especially as the years move on. But that's not how it works. How it works is a little thing I call 'long term grief.'"
Emily Monroe, a retired teacher in Arlington Heights, joined the Begin Again grief support group at Northwest Community Hospital after her husband, John, died.
"It gave me hope," she says, "because I could see that people who were widowed a month or two longer that I was were coping better than I was. I could see that grief is a process."
She ended up becoming a support group leader for almost 20 years so she could help others the way the group had helped her.
"Everybody feels that their future is gone," Florian says. "That's actually not true. Your future's not gone. It's just going to be a completely different future than you had planned.
"Joy is possible. Healing is possible. We can get there. The greatest memorial you can ever build to someone you love is to live your life now as fully as possible enriched by their memory."
THE LAST KISS SERIES
■ Patty & Corey: The Heartbreak.
■ Diana & Joe: A widow's advice: Embrace bereavement, don't avoid it A Straight From the Source story.
■ Janice & Joe A story of someday A Straight From the Source story
■ Janice & Joe Five lessons I've learned so far A Straight From the Source story
■ Patty & Corey: The Love Story.
■ Patricia & Tim: A widow cherishes the memories of her warrior A Straight From the Source story
■ Bill & Marian: A love that lives in dreams A Straight From the Source story
■ Dennis & Maggie: I reread her letters, I played her favorite songs A Straight From the Source story
■ Dennis & Maggie: Just Let Me Talk A Straight From the Source story
■ Patty & Corey: A widow wishes she had asked for one more kiss.
■ Patty & Corey: A widow's mission to sustain her husband's barbershop.
■ Donald & Helen: A widower's essay becomes his daughter's short film A Straight From the Source story
■ Susan & Guy: A widow's guide to dealing with the loss of a spouse A Straight From the Source story
■ Ted & Donna A widower's plan to count his blessing at times of deepest grief A Straight From the Source story
■ Fred & Beverly: Unique and Devastating Loss (by Wifeless) A Straight From the Source story
■ Last Kiss Epilogue: Some widows heal from grief by healing others
■ Ken & Michele: A widower's story of a loving couple's life A Straight From the Source story
For more on the series, please click here.