Time to Pull up My Big Girl Panties: Reflecting on Grief and Strength

“Time to Pull Up My Big Girl Panties”

 Yep—that’s what she said.  That’s exactly what she said. 

Who said it?

Dr. Kari O’Grady—a well respected pastoral counselor and scholar in the discipline of trauma and religious coping. 

What is she referring to?

She was quoting a former student and colleague in the Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care (PCSC) Department at Loyola University Maryland.

This is where Dr. O’Grady’s turn of phrase becomes meaningful—almost beyond words. 

Dr. O’Grady was quoting the Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, an affiliate PCSC professor and graduate of Loyola during a eulogy. Only days before, Mary-Marguerite was in the church office with the administrative assistant of her parish when a participant in their ministry to the homeless fatally shot both women.  He fled the scene and killed himself.

Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn

In the moment that Dr. O’Grady repeated the proclamation that it was “time to pull up her big girl panties” she was making a double entendre.  In the context of Rev. Kohn’s funeral, Dr. O’Grady was honoring the life spirit of a former student and colleague who chose hope over despair and who chose courage and compassion in the midst of fear and loss.

She was quoting Mary-Marguerite’s conviction to begin a new path upon receiving her doctorate only three years before.  It was one of those miraculous moments the heart stumbles on at a funeral…when a sense of being embraced by the spirit of life and love of the newly departed envelops the bereaved in the midst of their shock and sense of loss.

It could easily be a reminder of all that the PCSC Department at Loyola has experienced recently.  Almost unbearably, Mary-Marguerite is the third PCSC faculty member at Loyola to die three years—and the third to die an untimely and tragic death.

First, Dr. Kelly Murray and her 7 year old daughter were killed by a falling tree while idling at an intersection in their family vehicle during a storm in 2009; and then, a little over a year later, the department chair, Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi died from multiple myeloma. 

All three of these folks lived lives filled with meaning and compassion which touched the hearts and lives of many, many people.  (Their obituaries are linked below.)  And all three were colleagues and friends of Dr. O’Grady and the members of the PCSC department.  Until Rev. Kohn’s death, I did not know the upheaval that the department had already experienced.

In that moment I learned the words in the Loyola online catalog describing the Pastoral Counseling program as holistic and integrated are not just there to describe positive sounding academic endeavors in the abstract.  They are accurate descriptors of the program.  They describe not only the courses but also the clinical education, the professors’ interweaving clinical work with quality teaching, the structure of individual courses, and the meaningful faculty and staff relationships with students.

We PCSC students are being challenged to learn, grow and transform our lives in the same way that we hope to accompany others on a path of meaning making and healing. 

This is precisely what Dr. O’Grady was doing for those of us in the congregation at Mary-Marguerite Kohn’s funeral…encouraging us to “pull up our big girl panties” and receive our own sadness, loss, fears, and wounds.  Because…as she well knows… the only way through hurt to healing, is through the hurt with compassion for self and others.  And the encouragement she gave to us to gird our hearts and move forward, just as she was doing for herself, was the most profound teaching moment and modeling of lifelong learning healing I have experienced as I continue to seek to understand the call to be a “pastoral counselor.”

Grace and Peace be with you—and everyone whose lives you touched…

Dr. Kelly Murray:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2009-06-29/news/0906280083_1_loyola-college-murray-psychology-professor

Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi:
Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-10-31/news/bs-md-ob-joseph-ciarrocchi-20101031_1_catholic-priest-psychology-educator

Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-05-08/news/bs-md-ho-kohn-funeral-20120508_1_memorial-service-mix-tapes-doctorate

4 thoughts on “Time to Pull up My Big Girl Panties: Reflecting on Grief and Strength

  1. Interestingly, this is the second time this week I have heard this phrase “time to pull up your big girl panties.” The first was on my Facebook page a few days ago. I hadn’t heard it in years and years, and now here I am hearing it two times back-to-back. God does indeed send messages. I am reminded that when we engage with the world, we will inevitably suffer some kind of loss. To avoid loss is to avoid living.

  2. Dear Barbara, Thanks for sharing the above meaningful thoughts on the fullness of life–the co-mingling of gift and loss; sorrow and joy.

    May that fullness enfold you and empower your heart and life with peace, grace, light and much meaning.

    Janie

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