by | Sep 18, 2019

How Do You Handle Grief?

On Friday, September 6, 2019, at 1:55 pm, I lost my uncle. The man was my hero—he saved my life over 19 years ago. Since my dad died in 2004, he has been more like a father than an uncle, calling me almost daily to make sure I was ok. Whether I needed guidance for an issue I was having or just wanted to chat, he was always there for me. And now he is not.

His name was Father Bill.

The Rev. William J. Hultberg, the “drunk monk,” and a “bad-ass priest.” Everyone who knew him, and even those who didn’t, had some spiritual revelation. He brought to God all those miscreants who the churches cast away and disposed of. He saved lives—hundreds of them—and changed thousands more. During his service, families shattered into fragments by the disease of addiction came into wholeness when they made amends at his altar.

I remember as a little girl running into his outstretched arms, as he lovingly said to me, “How’s my little Princess?” I also remember the holiday dinners, few and far between, and he would share the stories about his road to recovery. Later, when my addiction was apparent, he counseled my parents to go to Al-Anon. They would go out in the evening, and I would question where they were going, and they always replied, “To a meeting.”

After I accepted an offer from my dad to quit drinking, Father Bill would call me a “dry drunk.” I said, “No, I’m not.” He did this for 17 years, until June 5, 2000, when my mother called him in a panic. She told him I was drinking and drugging and needed help. He told my parents to drive me to Caron immediately; he had gotten me a bed in detox. It was the beginning of a new life for me—a life where Father Bill often told me how proud he was of me and the work I was doing.

And suddenly, I was lost—I felt like I fell into a bottomless pit of despair and hopelessness. The day after he passed, I sat in my garden to journal and mourn. Whether it was my intuition—the divinity within me—or Father Bill’s spirit guiding me, I somehow composed a music video. Having no idea what I was doing, I just allowed it to happen. I never heard the song before—one of over 25 I could have selected— Phil Collins’s “You’ll Be in My Heart.

The week before his services—a viewing on Thursday, the funeral on Friday, and a Memorial Service at The Caron Treatment Center on Saturday—was, for me, one of the toughest in my life. Knowing you have to go through the grieving process doesn’t make it more comfortable, and I knew Father Bill would not want me to mire in it. After many sobbing, and at times, wailing periods, I sat, reflected, prayed, and journaled.

And finally, my prayers were answered. Almost to the hour, eight days after making the video, after the memorial at Caron was over; I heard a young man begin to sing a song beautifully—”You’ll Be in My Heart, ” to close it out.

I sensed that Fr. Bill was telling me, “Your grieving is over. You have important work to do, now get to it!” The next week I enrolled a client into my coaching program who was paralyzed by 12 years of grief. Now how did that happen? Hmmm …

The circle of love is complete. 

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Debbie Gill - author and coach

Debbie gill

The heart and soul behind Go Within Spiritual Coaching.