Recovering from Childhood Grief, Part IV, Guest blog


DC-3 and Elayne

This is the conclusion of Dr. Elayne Savage’s story, There is to be No Grieving, from The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Death by Elizabeth Wagele, published by the International Enneagram Association in July of 2012. Parts I-III are on this blog site.


Out of the Ashes — A Community of Survivors

Truth be told, each time I’ve told my story, I’ve fantasized someone will recognize the circumstances of the crash and contact me: “I knew someone who survived that crash” or “I know a family who lost someone on that plane.”


And then it happened. The editor of the Mason City Globe Gazette interviewed Lee and me. One by one, members of the Swaledale community stepped forward to share their stories and to describe how deeply affected they are by memories of the day the DC-3 crashed in the cornfield. How neighbors volunteered for search and rescue to save the injured and protect the dead. How their farm tractors pulled ambulances through muddy fields. How they pulled down barn doors to use as stretchers.


I was stunned to learn how this community has been dealing with their own unresolved grief all these years. Just like us! Even the newspaper editor wrote, “Thank you for the opportunity to tell your story and to open another door in my life.” He reflected how our reminiscences are a reminder that people heal at different speeds.


Passing Down Fears

For some of us it is a struggle to move on. And some of us pass our unresolved grief along to our children. I had developed massive fears that loved ones might die and I’d be left alone. And I was passing these fears along to my daughter.


One Mother’s Day brunch when Jocelyn was about twenty-one, we were recalling how she would sob uncontrollably whenever her dad or I were late picking her up from after-school care. She remembers how she agonized that we had died in an accident.


Jocelyn and I made an amazing discovery that day. She remembers outgrowing her fears about death when she was around nine years old. I‘d been working on my own abandonment fears in therapy for two years! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that once my anxiety abated, her fears lessened as well.


My fear of abandonment affected my daughter in another way: I sometimes held back from showing my love for her. I guess I felt if I showed too much love I might lose her, just as I had lost my mother and grandmother.

Overcoming Fears

3 girl photo

Three girl photo

Now I’m the grandmother, Jocelyn is the mother and Cora is the child.

I’ve been working hard to create in my life what I lost in that Iowa cornfield. I’ve been trying to do for my family what my father could not do for his—searching for ways to address our fears and overcome them together.


Because we live so many miles apart, we have created the ritual of “The Three-Girl-Photos.” Ever since Cora was born I insist on taking a photo of the three of us when we are together. After all, we are the surviving women of the family now! The photos are a reminder that each of us has an inherited potential that is unimpeded by the tragedies and limitations of the past.


We can fly—even soar. And carry our dreams into the world.

Dr. Elayne Savage is a practicing psychotherapist, workplace and relationship coach and author of Don’t Take It Personally! The Art of Dealing with Rejection and Breathing Room-Creating Space to Be a Couple.



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