Each of us have times in our lives when personal tragedy will try us and define us. My father died suddenly in 1984. He was not a young man and had had a good life and for this we were consoled. Little did my family know that my brother would travel to Siberia the following year and fall fatally ill. Trapped there alone, we were powerless to move him from the then eastern block country. Reports of his condition came via the American embassy in Moscow and were 24 or more hours old by the time we received them. His son flew to Washington, DC and appeared daily at the Russian embassy waiting for an emergency visa.
Granted literally one day too late my brother died alone in a Siberian hospital without any family to comfort him. We then waited almost three weeks for his body to come home. Two deaths, the loss of a father and a son less than one year apart, both with birthdays on December 26th. A sparse Christmas and holiday season it would be for my family.
My friends that cared the most for me were so wonderfully tolerant. They bolstered me up and did their level best to make me laugh, if only between the tears. They fed me physically and emotionally and, most importantly, reminded me to let them as if it was their job. And, actually it is.
We must remember to take care of ourselves during this terrible time of tragedy. I once wrote an article called ''The Rules.'' The rules were to be used to care for the physical body when one is dealing with illness.
Here are some rules to remember as we grieve:
Grief is grief; it comes to us all. It strews our dreams at our feet and makes us feel alone and isolated. With little to take refuge in, we can celebrate our humanness; it helps us know we're not alone.
Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Allow yourself the same room; feed your mind and your psyche the same loving thoughts you would a friend. Be accepting.
Keep things simple. Maybe now is not the time to move or to change jobs.
Don't try running away or burying your grief or sadness; you will only have to deal with it later. If you're sad, cry; if you're mad beat a pillow, talk it out or write about it. Your feelings are still your feelings.
Acceptance of a situation does not mean you're giving in. Entertain the idea that some day, not today or tomorrow, things will be brighter, better.
Ask for answers to your pain and grief and be specific. Asking questions creates answers; everything begins with an idea.
I would like to leave you with this one thought. For those of you who have not had the good fortune of reading The Diary of Anne Frank. now might be a good time. After months of isolation and fear of discovery, possibly knowing her fate, she writes, ''With all that has happened to me and the world, I still believe in the basic goodness of mankind.''
Grieving with you, Rebecca