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March 1996

Living with Loss

A wonderful woman and strong leader in the advancement of people with disabilities passed away on November 7th, 1995. Jane Strauss was the St. Louis representative for the Missouri Governor’s Council on Disability. Four words describe Jane’s work; "Unity in the community." She had a strong network within the Independent Living movement; Little People’s Association, Alliance for Inclusion in Education, Catholic Church, Recreation Council, President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and Victorious Missionaries, to name a few. Jane was dedicated, hard working, and had a great sense of humor. Because of her rheumatoid arthritis along with her being short in stature, she bumped and waddled her way through life. It never slowed her down.

In living, we are dying. It is part of nature’s chain of events. But knowing that doesn’t make the process any easier. As people living with spinal cord injuries, we have escaped "the end," but we are left with lots of loss. How do you feel about this? I recall my first thought, "Why me?" It’s OK to think that, because everyone does.

A lot has happened in the last six years that has helped me continue living with loss. Number one is the practice and acceptance of crying. There wasn’t time for tears in my early years. I was too busy. When you cry you are getting rid of the garbage and giving your mind, body and soul a way to unload. Anger can be a motivator, but it should not be a way to live.

A second step in dealing with the negative is in keeping a journal. I put on my writer pencil and write my feelings down. I’m not always consistent in my writings, but it gives me a map of the positives and negatives in my life that I reflect upon from time to time. Finally when I am ready, I share them with my therapist.

When we keep our losses locked inside ourselves, they can seem insurmountable. It is through writing and discussion that we realize that we can deal with, and overcome, our barriers and that we are not alone in our feelings and frustrations.

Again, in living we are dying. Now is the time to determine the road upon which you’ll embark. I offer these thoughts as possible options. In memory of that great woman, Jane Strauss, let’s each of us try to do and be the best we are able.

Katie Rodriguez Banister works with audiences to embrace diversity
through motivational speaking and disability education.

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