A different kind of conversation that can ease ‘a great lonely grief’

Political controversy swells out of Washington. Check.

The state approves a new law. A local government considers a housing development. A popular singer is coming to town. The stock market surges or wanes. A serious accident leads to injury or death. Check. Check. Check. Check. And check.

But every once in a while, we need stories that remind us that these — sometimes exuberantly, sometimes tragically, sometimes innocuously — familiar events have real human consequences, real flesh and blood.

We often strive to put a human face on news events. It’s not as often that we can put them in the deeper context of family, of community and of shared experience as we have done with our “Last Kiss” series, built around Editor John Lampinen’s vivid narrative about a fatal motorcycle accident and extending to reflections from across the suburbs about dealing with the loss of a life partner. But it’s important that, from time to time, we do.

A September 2016 crash claimed the life of Corey Hindes. It also forever changed the life of his widow Patty and their children. It changed the outlook, and in a small but important way, the nature of the business to which he had devoted his life. And, in an even larger sense, it reflected a trauma that most adults could one day confront themselves.

“I’m at the age now where friends are suffering the loss of their spouses,” Lampinen told me when I asked him what drove his passion for this story. “As I began to interview Patty Hindes with the idea of doing a life story of sorts about her husband, it became clear that the overriding story was one of grief, a grief whose depth and expanse generally are not acknowledged by friends and society and to some degree, even by other family members.”

Helping people navigate through that grief was a chief objective for Lampinen and for the many other editors who contributed in various ways to the project.

“The survivors suffer this loss largely in solitude. It is such a great lonely grief,” Lampinen reflected.

We hope our work so far and the work still to come has helped to shatter some of that loneliness. We hope the first-person remembrances and advice we’ve published and will publish provide an outlet for people who have had widowhood thrust upon them. We hope these elements are acknowledgment for others that they are entitled to their grief and that, though their suffering is unique to them and their relationship, they are not alone in it.

An enduring aim of newspapers is to foster meaningful conversations about the political and social issues that shape our world. But these are not the only discussions worthy of attention. As this project has shown, personal — even intimate — conversations also have their place. Through them, the mirror a newspaper holds up to our communities shows who we are not just as a society but as people.

Jim Slusher, [email protected], is deputy managing editor for Opinion at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jim.slusher1 and on Twitter at @JimSlusher.

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