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  • Yvonne Berenguer

Loss, Grief and Renewal

The following is an excerpt from a book in process, “The Garden I Grow,” inspired by my dad, Adolph Berenguer, and his work with the inmates at the Correctional Medical Facility, Vacaville, CA

“How do you do it?” Gerald queried, “How do you just get over what you’ve lost?”


“Over???” Brother Al replied back, his curiosity peaked about where the conversation was going now.


“Losing it all, man… losing every damn thang that you ever cared about! It’s like what the fuck?!?!”he exclaimed.


Gerald looks for reassurance from Brother Al, who simply nods and confirms that he is listening and ready to hear more.


“I don’t fucking get it! Why them and why me? And just how in the hell am I supposed to just keep on living when I don’t have anything else worth living for?”


Brother Al gently nods again. His facial expression compassionate and caring, without saying a word he reassures Gerald to continue.


“How do you keep on going, Brother Al, when everything that you’ve ever worked for is gone for good? How do you get over that - THAT kind of loss? That’s what I’m talking about.” Gerald sighs to take a deep breath in now.


The two continue their walk in silence now, Brother AL gathering his thoughts and Gerald patiently awaiting some counsel from his endearing friend. Another ten minutes and Brother Al scouts a vacant bench with which to sit on. He motions to Gerald with typical Filipino pursed lips and a tilt of the head to indicate the direction of the bench. Once seated, Brother Al begins to speak.


“Oh… I think loss is something we can always anticipate,” he begins, “given that everything in life is temporary or impermanent. Pain, therefore, is predictable - it too can be anticipated. But what is often unaccounted for is grief – its depth are often unknown.” He pauses to allow his words linger in the space between them and then continues.


“Sometimes the expression of grief is not reflective of a single isolated loss, but instead is the accumulation of many losses over time… finding expression in that single moment. Like a tornado that has picked up all sorts of trees and debris as it barrels down its path. It becomes more dangerous because the debris being carried is now able to inflict more damage with the energy of the tornado. This is truly more harmful than the tornado alone.”


Gerald is lost in thought now, trying to absorb Brother Al’s perspective.


“Gerald,” Brother Al continues, “It is not loss that destroys us…it is what we do with our grief.”


“Even in the aftermath of a tornado, there is a rebuilding that occurs in nature – a renewal of life. Nature doesn’t lament the loss the old oak tree that once stood there for tens of years. Instead, the space where the tree once stood is regenerated with new vegetation. Perhaps not another oak tree, but with plants and flowers that will fill the vast hole that was left from the tree’s uprooting. All of them know they cannot take the place of the old oak tree, but they can honor what once stood there by making sure that the vast space is not abandoned, left naked or barren.”


“Likewise, no one or any one thing can replace the loss of our loved ones or the cherished life we once had. But we can find ways to live again. Granted, it won’t be the same – it can’t be the same, but it can be a life that still honors their memory and honors ourselves.”


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Thoughts? I realize you have no back story and I've just plopped you smack in the middle of the story! But if you found the narrative enticing - the kind that you'd want to read more of, let me know! Your feedback helps my writing, and in turn, helps me to write a better story. Many thanks!




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