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Common Bonds | Wendy Johnsonhorizontal rule

photo of wendy johnson

A year ago, Wendy Johnson's father committed suicide after finding out he had a terminal illness. Wendy has been very angry and upset about her father's death. Even though she is a trained hospice volunteer and a practicing Buddhist, she felt that her training was of little help in her grief. She also wondered how to explain her father's death to her children.

On Her Father
Dad had a really rare neurological disease that was taking him down, sometimes I think of a raptor grabbing you by the throat and just dragging you down. That's what I feel happened to my dad: a person who loved life. He was a therapist and a really effective person. Funny and witty, and he lost his ability to speak from pseudo-bulbar palsy. He went to the Mayo Clinic and they said to him, basically, make yourself comfortable. And then he lost his ability to speak.

On Grief and Loss
I remember waking up at night and feeling I was being eaten by some kind of a hungry beast. It was really scary; there were a lot of images and dreams. I remember calling my brother and my sister and they'd answer and I wouldn't be able to say anything and my heart would just be pounding. I felt unfit for human companionship. I'd go to the grocery store and I'd see something that Dad used to cook and I'd be down, sobbing in the grocery store, and I'd put stuff over my head and just run out. And, in fact, after a while I just didn't care. I'd just walk out.

On Friends and Family
I know when my dad died I really did feel I was in a bubble. I was protected by a lot of people around me, and protected by my family. Only a few people were really there with us. They were incredible. I really felt that I was losing my grip. It's been more than a year but I can more than remember, it's part of me now, that feeling. I remember looking at my little girl and she was pretty strong and clear. She was right in the middle. I remember thinking is she going to feel this way when I die? She was ten, asking questions, right there, and it was not pretty. But, I think at least we were open and present.

On the Path to Healing
When death or illness comes, you're a pioneer. I certainty felt that in our situation. There wasn't any map that worked for us. I couldn't get where I needed to go with anybody else's map. I didn't want support groups; I only wanted to be with my family. It was amazing just being with my family, my husband and our children. The children helped me a lot.

Next: Joan August


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