30 Days of MD: Time Is a Valuable Teacher in Grief

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by BNS Staff |

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Photo courtesy of Kristina Kelly

Day 7 of 30

This is Kristina Kelly’s (@littleenginesm) story:

In 2009, I was offered a role as a healthcare coordinator at the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). It’s likely that I got the job based on my history working in neurology offices and my degree in human development and community services. I knew how to work with scrambling doctors. I understood the delicate hand needed to communicate with concerned patients. Humbly speaking, I felt pretty dang prepared for the position.

I was clueless.

One major responsibility was attending MDA Clinic each week. It was my privilege to meet with patients and their families to see if the MDA could offer support. That support could be loaner equipment or information on summer camp. Things I was prepared to handle. What required on-the-job training was grief, but not my grief. I’m referring to interacting and supporting someone like:

  • A parent moments after being told their child has a form of MD
  • A wife staring blankly during what may be the last appointment for her husband with ALS
  • A withdrawn teen as they battled to find a confident place among their peers
  • A grandparent trying to stand strong at their grandchild’s funeral.

Grief is a private club — no admittance without grief tattooed upon your heart. It took nearly three years at the MDA to learn a valuable lesson in grief: time does not heal all wounds. I saw fresh grief, seasoned grief, and everything in between.

The common thread between them, the gift these families taught me, was that time doesn’t heal … it teaches. It teaches you to move hour by hour. It teaches you to replace dark doubts with happy moments and memories. It teaches you to lean into faith. It teaches you that it’s OK to take one step forward and three steps back.

Time teaches you that grief is an exclusive lesson in empathy for yourself and others. And empathy is a powerful weapon — one yielded to create positive change. I witnessed warrior moms offer time and resources to parents of newly diagnosed kids. I watched those kids go on to lead panels at international MD conferences. I witnessed memorial events raise thousands in research dollars.

Time is a teacher. You just have to be a willing student.

Muscular Dystrophy News’ 30 Days of MD campaign will publish one story per day for MD Awareness Month in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofMD, or read the full series.