Grieving changes when you have a child

We had to say goodbye in February.

My husband lost his grandmother (my son Robert’s great-grandmother). She passed away in the early morning hours Feb. 6.

She was a strong woman, independent, kind and sometimes stubborn. She was in her 80s and suffered a heart attack in December. Her health progressively got worse, but luckily, she was in fairly good health for most of her life.

We told Robert the news later that February morning about “Nam Hirko”; it was a Wednesday, and we found out hours later how sadness can affect us in different ways.

Robert convinced us he still felt well enough to go to school. He’s a sixth-grader in West York. But his sadness overwhelmed him later that day and the school counselor ended up calling me at work around noon.

Robert wanted to come home, he told me when he got on the phone. He wasn’t processing the news of Nam Hirko’s death well enough to make it through the day. I picked him up at school and he held back the tears until we got to our car. My heart broke for him.

Your child changes the way you grieve. You can’t just think of yourself and your feelings. You feel sad but you also want to comfort those who you love.

We went home and George and I talked about Nam with Robert. We talked of the good memories and how lucky we were to have her in our lives.

Nam Hirko’s home was a couple of hours away. She lived alone, had a small apartment in Hazleton that was always filled with the smells of meatballs and pierogies when we came to visit.

Nam’s life wasn’t without some immense pain. She lost her husband when she was in her 30s. She lost her only son when he was in his 40s.

She also was lucky to have a daughter who doted over her. Whenever we visited Nam, Aunt Geri was never far away, tending to us and her mother.

Nam always cherished visits from her only grandson and great-grandson.

We are fortunate that Robert was able to know his great-grandparents. When he was born, three of his great- grandparents were still alive. He lost his “Pop” a few years ago, and we are still fortunate to have his Nam Krause to love and spend time with.

And with the online connections, Nam Krause will email us and Facebook us. She also still sends us the occasional letter in the mail sharing her thoughts on a recent visit or convincing us we need to visit more often.

It reminds us how important family is.

We attended Nam Hirko’s funeral on Feb. 9. We remembered who she was, visited with family that we hadn’t seen in years and met new people who cared about Nam as much as we did.

And we said our goodbyes.

We will miss you Nam.

Cathy Hirko is the business editor and Weekly Record editor. She can be reached at 717-771-2027 or

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