When you go to Karla’s website, karlahelbert.com, you will see these words – ‘We all need a little help sometimes. You are not alone.’ You might look and think, “Karla, I need more than a little help. My child died. I am a mess.” However, Karla understands. Karla knows the mess because she lives the mess. Karla has lived with grief every day for almost 18 years when her son, Theo, died at 9 months from a brain tumor.
You may notice this interview is longer than most. I honestly think I could have talked to Karla for 3 hours and not even batted an eye. Her outlook is refreshingly honest, and talking to her just made me feel better about my grief and life. When talking to Karla about her journey, she openly says that for the first three years, she would find herself on the floor crying every single day. She said that she would think, “How is this not killing me?” And then, after no more tears would come, she would get up. “It’s amazing,” Karla says, “that somehow we do not die from the grief.”
I have to say I’ve never really thought of grief like that, but Karla is right. It is ‘amazing’ that it does not kill us. In those first days, months, and even years of grief, I often felt like the pain was too much to bear. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ Then, somehow, I would get through another day, then another month, and eventually, another year. It is amazing.
If you keep yourself open, even more amazing things can happen as well. After Theo died, Karla never would have guessed what she would become. Karla went back to her job counseling kids with autism at school, but small opportunities kept coming and ever so slowly her life changed to what it is today. Now, Karla is a therapist working almost exclusively with people who have experienced traumatic grief, has published multiple books, and even has a new virtual workshop for bereaved parents starting next week. Amazing.
Thank you, Karla, for all you do and for reminding me that a little help can make us feel less alone on this excruciating, messy, but nonetheless amazing, grief journey.