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KAYNE PYATT’S GRIEF

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Kayne Pyatt has given away most of her knickknacks and all of her plants - the odds and ends and the living things that a woman cannot take with her when she is starting over without a destination.

She has her car packed and in a few days she will be off. She plans to travel through Wyoming for a while, but after that she has no plans, although eventually, of course, she will have to find a job.After months of trying too hard to be in control, she is excited now about the uncertainty that lies ahead.

-DEC. 25, 1988: Christmas is doubly hard because it would have been Chris' 28th birthday. But Pyatt seems in control. She is enrolled in graduate school at Westminster College and works part time at Salt Lake Community College as an advocate for single parents and displaced homemakers.

Her strategy is to keep moving, to plug up the hours with so many appointments and tasks that sadness won't be able to find a way in. She feels a pressure to be done with her mourning.

But if Pyatt won't pay attention to her grief, it has other schemes: Backaches, exhaustion, memory lapses. She feels like something mechanical and wonders if she might be going crazy. At night she dreams that Chris is on fire.

-MARCH 14, 1989: Pyatt is surprised to discover that she is looking forward to tonight's grief group.

Other people, including her own children, who are still depressed over Chris' death, want to change the subject when she tries to talk about the accident. And she has noticed that in private counseling sessions each week she, too, has learned to deftly turn the conversation toward other topics. But here at the grief group there is no avoiding her feelings.

Braza looks around the room and gently pushes the women into a dialogue: "How did you all do this past week?"

"I've been digging in my garden," offers the woman whose daughter died. "It makes me realize that life goes on but . . . ."

"Breathe," Braza says.

The woman's chest moves up and down and then she continues: "But I think every season brings new hurts, at least the first year."

New seasons. Holidays. Anniversaries, Sundays, the future. All are reminders that the present is a dinner table with a chair that's always empty.

The hurts are so big that at first Braza's next suggestion seems to mock them. "Get one of those kitchen timers that has a bell," she advises. "And set it every day for 10 or 15 minutes of grief work."

The timer allows the grief to have a beginning and an end, she explains. It lets the grief leak out a little every single day. Otherwise, in an effort to keep the sadness from permeating every cell of their bodies, people try to keep it pushed down into a tiny place inside them. Eventually all that compressed grief explodes - into an illness, or alcoholism or abusive relationships. Often a death brings to the surface old osses, too.

The women talk about the reasons they feel angry. Pyatt's list is longer than most: "I'm angry at the mortician, who wouldn't let me see my son. I know he was burned beyond recognition, but I didn't care. And I'm angry at Chris because his death is the ultimate rejection.

"I'm angry with my children's father, even though we've been divorced for 19 years. I'm angry at my daughter-in-law, who found another boyfriend two weeks after Chris' death. I want to scream and yell at her, but I'm afraid to because I might lose my grandchildren."

Find a healthy way to get rid of your anger, says Braza. "Even hospitals don't really understand grief. They should have screaming rooms. Instead they send you to a chapel and you have to hold it all in. The chapel has its place, but it's not enough."

Pound some nails, she tells the women. Take an old phone book and start ripping out the pages. "And talk it out. Talk to the person who died. Tell them: `I'm so mad that you left."'

-APRIL 11, 1989: There is a lightness in the room tonight. It is the last night of the group and Braza has brought carnations for everyone. One woman, the one who looked so pale the first night, has come with rosy cheeks and a bowl of caramel corn. Pyatt has brought gifts for everyone.

But no one is pretending that the grief work is done. Braza knows that there still may be things they have been afraid to talk about; grief secrets, she calls them. "Things where you if-only yourself to death."

Pyatt knows what she means. Once, angry at the way Chris was treating his wife, she had wished that he would drive away and not come back. She still feels guilty about that. Chris had been a difficult child and a rebellious adult. But in some ways he was the most like her - an independent spirit who was more fragile than he let on.

When you're ready, says Braza, get rid of those secrets.

And one of these days, she tells them, you'll start to feel better and at first you'll feel guilty about that, too.

"But eventually you'll have the remembrance without the knife in the gut."

The women hug each other and promise to stay in touch. "I want to thank you," says Braza, "for having the courage to come here."