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JoAnn became a "student" of grief back in 1982. Her brother Randy had been ice fishing on a lake that was unfamiliar to him. He drove onto a pressure ridge area of thin ice which was well known to the locals but tragically, not to him. His car went through the ice and even though he tried to save himself, he drowned. He was 27 years old. Three years later JoAnn’s mom drove her car onto a road that had been covered in areas of black ice. She hit one of these icy patches and her car spun out of control. She collided with an oncoming car and died at the scene. She was 56 years old. In 2004 JoAnn’s oldest brother, David, died of cancer. He was 53.
However, the most devastating of all of JoAnn’s losses occurred in 1995 when her precious son Craig died at age 10 years, 8 months and 4 days. In the summer of 1995, Craig became ill. He developed a fever and swollen nodes and began to experience weakness. It would be hard to describe the shock that JoAnn felt when his doctor announced to her that Craig had acute lymphocytic leukemia. He was diagnosed on July 7th. He was admitted to Children's Hospital in Minnesota and was treated with intense chemotherapy for several days. Craig was allowed to goback home for a few days, but his condition took a severe turn for the worse. He became very sick forcing a return to the hospital. He had developed a terrible blood infection. Because Craig’s white blood cells were destroyed with the chemotherapy, he had nothing to fight with. He went into septic shock and died on July 27th, just 20 days after his diagnosis.
Craig was JoAnn’s youngest son. He was one of the sweetest, most loving people she had ever had the joy of knowing. Hewas a wise old soul who had a deep knowing about how to live a life of unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness. No one ever taught him this. Craig just knew! He was a peacemaker and a lover of life. It was his greatest joy when he could bring a smile or laugh to someone else. JoAnn found a wonderful statement in a box of his school papers. It appears to have been written when he was in second or third grade. He wrote," I love to run and jump. My favorite thing in school is health. When I get older I want to be a clown." Even as he lay in his hospital bed, in the depths of his illness, he would crack out one liners that made everyone laugh!
Astoundingly at the age of 10, Craig set a beautiful example of a life well lived. The lessons he taught JoAnn continue to be insightful and penetrating inspirations every day of her journey. With each death experience, she found herself in a deep observation of what was (and was not) effective in helping her and others as they grieved.
The following is a brief overview of JoAnn’s discoveries and insights
This was her first experience with a very traumatizing death of someone she loved so very much. Her (then) husband, their children and JoAnn had been ice fishing while visiting at her parents’ home where they were staying for the weekend. They had been out and upon their return found JoAnn’s mother sobbing uncontrollably and could barely tell them what had happened. JoAnn remembered feeling as though she had no idea how to respond. JoAnn was so unprepared!
JoAnn did not remember hugging her mother nor her father when he came home. The whole experience was just surreal and nightmarish as she has no memory of how she interacted with her young children either. JoAnn did remember seeing her dad cry which she had not experienced prior to this tragedy. As a family, they were not at all prepared to deal with the heartbreaking emotions that had emerged in a devastating way.
Even though the family had all somehow muddled their way however ineffectively through their (continued) grief over Randy, here they were once again with little or no effective tools or knowledge as to how to help themselves or each other through their grief.
When Craig died, JoAnn knew immediately that she would have to find better ways to express her grief or she would not survive. Her heart was completely shattered. JoAnn’s world was blown apart at every level! Losing a child was and still is the most unimaginably devastating and painful experience that she has ever known.
When David passed in 2004, JoAnn had (thankfully) learned so much about grief. By this time she had gained a wealth of understanding about the most helpful things to say and do (and NOT say or do) and how to be proactive in the grief process. This enabled JoAnn to be of the most help and support to herself and others.
Begin your journey with the JoAnn's Story Insight Guide.