Tag Archives: grief

Tete-a-tete: Grandpa had a ‘Wonderful Life’

As Christmas approaches, our thoughts tend to turn toward those who are no longer with us. Losses loom particularly large when we face our first Christmas without a beloved family member, especially when they’ve been a regular part of our celebration.

For the first time in 20 years, Grandpa will not be spending the holiday with us. He passed away in August at the age of 92.

We’ve never had a Christmas in New Hampshire without him. Every December since we moved to the great Granite State, Grandpa and Grandma would travel from their home in Seneca Falls, NY to spend the holidays with us, leaving just after New Year’s. After Grandma passed away in 2013, Mom would drive to New York and bring Grandpa back for his holiday visit.

Before Grandma and Grandpa would make their visit, they would participate in another holiday tradition: the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival. Seneca Falls is widely thought to be the inspiration for the town of Bedford Falls, NY, the setting of Frank Capra’s classic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and Seneca Falls has held the festival every December since 1996 to celebrate the town’s connections to the film.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” tells the story of George Bailey, who has sacrificed his own dreams for the sake of helping others and is on the brink of committing suicide due to a devastating turn of events. Clarence, George’s guardian angel, is dispatched to intervene and shows him what life in Bedford Falls would be like if he had never been born.

Each year, the festival presents the George Bailey Award to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of George Bailey – someone who is a fixture of the community, who is generous with their time and resources and tirelessly puts others first. This year, the award will be presented to Grandpa posthumously.

I know this would’ve meant a lot to Grandpa, and it certainly means a lot to our family. It’s especially significant given that Grandpa’s similarity to George Bailey goes beyond a love of community and a desire to help others.

Like George, Grandpa wasn’t interested in taking over the family business – a farm in this case, not a building and loan association – and was eager to leave small town life behind and see the world. During their senior year of high school in 1943, Grandpa and his twin brother enlisted in the military to serve their country in World War II.

At this time, they were largely responsible for running the family farm. Their grandfather, who had previously run the farm, was injured in an accident and soon passed away, and their mother and father both worked at other jobs. Their request to enlist was denied, with the chairman of the local draft board telling them they were “drafted on the farm” because someone needed to be working the fields to provide rations for the soldiers.

Grandpa’s twin was given the opportunity to take college classes and soon left the farm for a career in sales. Grandpa, unfortunately, was not eligible for that opportunity because he was married and owned a home.

Like George, Grandpa married a charming and determined young lady who could keep up with his Charleston. Unlike George and Mary, Grandpa and Grandma actually won the Charleston contest in which they participated and did not fall into the swimming pool under the floor of the high school gym. They were high school sweethearts who went to every school dance together and continued to be dance partners until Grandma’s passing.

Their first home was an old structure that was being used for grain storage right up until the newlyweds shoveled it out. Much like Mary with the drafty old house, Grandma used her artistic sensibilities and flair for interior design to transform the former silo into a warm and welcoming home. Eventually, they were able to move into the main farmhouse, which Grandma decorated with the same artistry and skill.

Grandpa and Grandma remained on the farm for nearly 60 years and raised three children, setting aside their own dreams for the sake of the greater good. As with George and Mary, all the money they made went back into the family business to keep things going and continue taking care of people. They were never wealthy, but they were rich in the things that mattered.

As Clarence said in the film, “No man is a failure who has friends.” There was a place for everyone at the farm, with various family members and friends finding a job, a place to stay or simply a place at the table whenever they needed it.

Grandpa’s good character, friendly manner and persistence in doing what needed to be done were evident to all who knew him, and he and his twin brother were a memorable presence at the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival. Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu and famously said, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings,” met Grandpa at the festival on numerous occasions over the years. She took the time to send a lovely message of condolence to our family, assuring us that Grandpa undoubtedly has his wings.

From left to right: Grandpa’s twin, actress Karolyn Grimes (who played Zuzu) and Grandpa posed for a photo together at the 2016 “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival in Seneca Falls, NY.

From left to right: Grandpa’s twin, actress Karolyn Grimes (who played Zuzu) and Grandpa posed for a photo together at the 2016 “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival in Seneca Falls, NY.

To quote Clarence once more, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

It’s only natural to experience some heaviness of heart during the holidays when you’re missing a loved one. We can celebrate their life even while we are missing their presence in ours.

No matter the hardships and disappointments we may experience, George Bailey and Grandpa remind us that when all is said and done, it’s a wonderful life.

– Teresa Santoski

Originally published Dec. 7, 2017


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Tete-a-tete: Grieving entertainment losses with a few simple steps

Thanks to the lightning-fast capabilities of social media, news travels quickly these days and becomes outdated even more quickly. Our minds and hearts, however, haven’t kept pace with the digital revolution. The human psyche is still pretty analog, and we need time to process and grieve distressing and confusing events.

I’m talking, of course, about Zayn’s departure from One Direction.

Unless you happen to be a teenage girl (or the parent of one), a boy band member’s decision to leave his globally-known group at the peak of its fame may not seem all that devastating – that is, until you put it in perspective. Many of us have found ourselves grieving in comparable situations.

For example, depending on your age and your entertainment preferences, how did you feel when the Beatles broke up? How about when Diane left the TV sitcom “Cheers” or when “M*A*S*H” or “Seinfeld” aired their final episodes? Did the deaths of individuals like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Jerry Garcia or Whitney Houston shake up your world?

Entertainment has a significant impact on our lives, and it’s not hard to see why. The right song, the right movie or TV show can show us we’re not alone in our experiences and how we see the world. Likewise, entertainment can also serve as a form of escapism, a way to take a break from reality when life gets difficult. Who hasn’t blasted something like the Ramones’ “The Job That Ate My Brain” after a rough day at the office or sobbed their way through “Pretty in Pink” or “Sleepless in Seattle” after a romantic disappointment?

But what do you do when your escape succumbs to the inevitability of change due to performers or characters dying or otherwise departing? How do you not only cope, but heal and move on?

When I wrote “Prayers for Oppa,” my devotional prayer book for performers and their fans, I never imagined I’d become an expert on what I’ve since dubbed “fan crisis management.” But that’s pretty much what has happened.

My personal area of interest is East Asian entertainment, particularly Korean pop music, or K-pop. 2014 was a year of near-constant crisis for the K-pop industry, including a car crash that killed two members of the girl group Ladies’ Code and injured the other three, a number of performers suing their agencies for abuse and mistreatment, and numerous groups losing members or disbanding entirely. Factor in the Sewol Ferry tragedy – in which nearly 300 people drowned, including more than 200 students on a high school trip – and 2014 was an extremely difficult year for South Korea and those who appreciate the country’s pop culture.

As a result of having dealt with and guided others through so many entertainment-related tragedies in such a small span of time, I’ve come up with the following list of tried and true steps for fan recovery.

Recognize that you have a reason to feel upset.

It’s not “just a band” or “only a TV show.” These are more than performers or characters – they’re role models, friends, even family. They say what’s on your mind better than you ever could, or cheer you up when you’re feeling down. It’s a difficult loss, and it’s OK to acknowledge that.

Express your grief in healthy ways.

Talk to other fans or a trusted friend or relative about what you’re feeling. Listen to that band’s songs or re-watch that TV series and have a good cry. A glass of wine or an ice cream sundae can be a nice pick-me-up, but be careful not to self-medicate with food, alcohol or drugs. Give yourself some time to process and gain perspective before you post on social media.


Ephesians 6:18 tells us to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” In my book (quite literally, as this is the foundational verse of “Prayers for Oppa”), that includes everything from boy band breakups to the end of “Friends.”

Talk to God about what you’re feeling. Express your anger, your disappointment, your sadness – He can handle it. Then, pray for the performers who are involved in the event that has upset you. If someone has left, pray for the person who has left and for those who remain, for their health and well being and for God to guide them as they move forward in their careers. If someone has died, pray for the people he or she has left behind, that God would comfort and heal them.

I really can’t overemphasize the importance of prayer in this process. It brings us comfort and a sense of security and control in the midst of uncertain circumstances, for it reminds us that God is ultimately in charge of the situation and that He will take care of us and the performers in accordance with His will and purposes.

Focus on the positive.

If it’s currently too painful, feel free to take a break from the TV series, music, etc. Otherwise, continue to enjoy it, as well as to treasure the memories you have because of it. Maybe you and your mother bonded over a shared love of “Cheers.” Perhaps one of the happiest outings you’ve had with your father was when he took you to a Nirvana concert. Though band lineups and TV series casts are subject to change, the memories we have as a result of them are lasting.

You can find more sound advice on performer-related topics, along with applicable prayers and Bible verses, in my “Prayers for Oppa” book. For more information, visit my website, www.teresasantoski.com.

I hope these steps will help you to grieve your entertainment-related tragedies in a healthy way, whether it’s a fresh wound like Zayn’s departure from One Direction or an older injury that still aches from time to time, like the Day the Music Died. Though entertainment news and our hearts break at about the same speed, our hearts require more time to heal and move on.

– Teresa Santoski

Originally published April 30, 2015



Here’s an ideal conversation between a distraught One Direction fan and a caring parent:

Fan: (sobbing) “Zayn left One Direction! The world is over!”

Parent: “I’m so sorry, honey. I remember how upset I was when Diane left ‘Cheers.’ Do you want to talk about it? We can go get some ice cream and reminisce about how much fun it was when we went to their concert together. And then we can say a little prayer for Zayn and the rest of the members. God will take good care of them.”

Fan: (sniffling) “OK. Can we listen to ‘Story of My Life’ in the car?”

Parent: “We’ll blast it.”

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A special prayer for healing and hope

The past year has been particularly rough for my community. More than a dozen people of all ages have passed away, many of them due to car accidents and unexpected medical events. There are about five thousand people in my small New Hampshire town, so everyone has been touched in some way by these deaths. If you didn’t know someone who died, you knew someone who was close to them.

Last Saturday, the community church held a special service for healing and reflection. I was asked to write and read a prayer focused on hope and healing, and I wanted to share it here for anyone else who is in need of comfort and the reassurance of God’s love and presence. Continue reading

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