Sarah Stultz: Encountering new stages along grief journey

Published 10:00 pm Monday, May 20, 2019

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.

Last week I received a phone call from a parent of one of the fifth graders at Lakeview Elementary School.

Her son had been a classmate of my daughter, Sophie, and she asked it would be OK if they recognized her at the upcoming fifth-grade graduation.

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Touched by the gesture, I told her that would be a great idea, asked her when the graduation would be and thanked her.

I hung up the phone planning to attend the graduation only to be met seconds later with sweeping emotions.

I knew it was going to be difficult to see all of her classmates graduate — heck, those emotions sometimes come flooding in when I just see one of her classmates out and about, and I start thinking about what Sophie would be like if she were still here with us today.

Would she still like her same hobbies, or would she be trying out new things?

How tall would she be?

It’s crazy for me to think she would be starting middle school next year and turning 12 in February.

For a day or two after that phone call, I told myself it was going to be too hard to go to the graduation. I struggled internally with whether to go or whether to sit it out.

Everyone would understand if I didn’t go, I told myself. Plus, I didn’t want to become a blubbering mess in front of everyone at the school, and I didn’t want to take away from the nice event planned for her classmates.

On the other hand, it was such a nice gesture, and I would always wonder what might have been if I didn’t go. And if I happened to cry, everyone would understand that, too.

As I write this, it is Monday morning, and as of now I am planning to go to the ceremony tonight.

I know this is an example of one of the many milestones we’ll face in our grief journey in the coming years. So far, there have been birthdays, anniversaries and holidays without Sophie, but I hadn’t yet encountered events like elementary school graduation or dare I say prom or high school graduation in a few more years.

These types of events will in no doubt pull at the heart strings, but they’re also going to bring back beautiful memories.

Thanks to all who continue to remember Sophie and our family even now, almost three years after she died.

I’ll cross my fingers that everything goes well tonight and will rely on an extra prayer to get me through.