Sometime after her father died, Maria Kliavkoff and her mother Susan were out shopping when they came across “this big, beautiful bin of green beans.”
The beans sparked Susan’s memory, and she told Maria how, back when they were newlyweds, her late husband had taught her to cook the beans the way his family enjoyed them.
“That afternoon we cooked my father’s green beans, telling stories,” Maria said. “It was such a beautiful opportunity of healing for both of us.”
Sharing stories, reenacting precious memories of green beans simmering on the stovetop and letting tears fall as they may are a few ways to allow grief to come out and turn into mourning, Maria said.
“The whole process of grief is asking us to sit with our thoughts, sit with our feelings, allow them expression, allow the tears, allow the laughter, allow the stories,” she said. “As we allow ourselves to stay present to the grief journey and what the grief journey is asking for us at this moment, so can we express it and mourn it and move on. It really is the easiest way through it.”
After losing both of her parents and mourning her losses, Maria is launching a book to share what she learned along the way and through her experiences as the founder and former executive director for the Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley.
Her new offering, Healthy Mourning, Happy Loving, is a guidebook through grief that offers 52 ways for the bereaved to let their sadness and their grief “come up and out.”
“I wrote this book as an homage to my mother,” she said. “This book is about honouring the past and celebrating those connections so that you can move forward and live your life joyfully.”
There’s no right way to mourn a loss, she said, adding that her book offers suggestions for readers to take or leave or customize as they please.
“What a griever needs is someone who reminds them to listen to their own inner voice and to listen to their stories,” she said. “It’s okay to be as public with their grief as they were with their love for that person.”
Those who have experienced a profound loss may try to fight against their grief, but she said that strategy doesn’t work. Feelings, after all, just want to be felt.
“Our life becomes really dimmed down. Our life spark diminishes,” she said. “Life becomes really bleak (if we try to bury our grief) … The story and the love gets buried in the sadness and the loss.”
While navigating grief is a monumental task, she said mourning is crucial for allowing the bereaved to move forward.
Healthy mourning is about “reconciling with the loss of the physical person and the reclaiming of the relationship – that love piece – that never goes away,” she said. “That’s a relationship that has survived the death.”
Maria will launch her book in Invermere on Friday, November 29th at 5 p.m. at Pynelogs Art Gallery and Cultural Central and in Radium on Saturday, December 7th at 2 p.m. at the Radium Hot Springs Centre.