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Heartfelt losses don’t heal on measured days or years

Jen’s Jots: It’s been two years since I lost my Pops; I’m learning to smile with his memory.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

June 6, 2024

2 Min Read
Jennifer Kiel, her mother and Joe Mesh sit in baseball stadium stands
REMEMBERING POPS: Remembering Pops, aka Joe Mesh and Papa Bear, with a smile is getting easier as we approach two years since his passing. This is a fond memory when I surprised Pops, a major Tigers fan, and my mother with a road trip to a Tigers game in Detroit a few years back. Courtesy of the Mesh Family

For anyone grieving, the goal should be to smile when someone mentions their loved one's name, when you see their likeness and mannerisms in their children and grandchildren, and when you recall an embedded memory.

Our lost loved ones want that most — for us to smile at the life they lived and its impact on others.

For some, it’s hard right now. Really hard. But keep that goal in mind and work toward that objective on your own time, your own pace. No, I’m not a therapist, but I fail to find the downside of encouraging a smile and happiness for those left behind.

I started out writing about this as I’m helping a very dear friend who is going through the abrupt loss of her son, also a young father and husband. Losing a child must be the most heart-wrenching experience. No one can truly empathize unless you’ve experienced it.

Grief is a process, but it’s not defined. I don’t necessarily agree with the stages experts have identified. I will say it’s likely to include, in part and in no order, sadness, shock, pain, anger, guilt and maybe even relief for some, which leads to more guilt. There is no prescription to fix or speed the process.

I’m two years into this journey, and I cannot always smile when I think of Pops, but at least I don’t tear up. I’m getting there. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss his signature, three-beat thunderous chuckle, or his consistent “be careful” plea every time I left the house, or how his eyes got smaller as he got older and seemed to vanish while cracking a smile.

My loss and grief will not bring him back. I know that. My brain finds many reasons to be incredibly happy with my life, yet my heart has suffered a blow that doesn’t heal on measured days or years.

So, I keep that goal — and I wish this for anyone grieving — to smile in remembrance. To bury the grief, but never the memories.

To my mother’s chagrin, Pops had “I did it my way” etched on his side of their tombstone. Yes, he did, and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, Pops!

Smiling doesn’t mean that I love him or miss him any less. It means I’m healing.

RIP Joe Mesh, “Pops.” He died on June 24, 2022. He would have been 86.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

Jennifer was hired as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, and in 2015, she began serving a dual role as editor of Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer. Both those publications are now online only, while the print version is American Agriculturist, which covers Michigan, Ohio, the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic. She is the co-editor with Chris Torres.

Prior to joining Farm Progress, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan, and as director of communications with the Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her resume.

She has been a member of American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 2003. She has won numerous writing and photography awards through that organization, which named her a Master Writer in 2006 and Writer of Merit in 2017.

She is a board member for the Michigan 4-H Foundation, Clinton County Conservation District and Barn Believers.

Jennifer and her husband, Chris, live in St. Johns, Mich., and collectively have five grown children and four grandchildren.

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