Delaware County mother’s grief leads to helping others through their own loss

Pandemic Postcards

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic can be dizzying, with the number of deaths being the most heartbreaking.

Around the world, 2.6 million people have died; more than 500,000 million in the U.S., more than 18,000 in Ohio, and in Delaware County, more than 60.

One Delaware County woman knows what loss feels like and is trying to turn grief into hope.

“Today, we’re going to talk about gifts of time,” Hope Reger said to those joining her on a Zoom gathering online. “That’s our first in a series.”

Time stood still for Reger four years ago when a police officer came to her door and gave her a phone number to call about her 19-year-old son Justin in Xenia.

“Unfortunately, the person who answered the phone answered as Green County Coroner,” she said.

Justin and his roommate had been in an argument.

“He pulled a gun out and Justin shot Justin in the chest and instantly he was killed,” Reger said of that day four years ago.

She’s been grieving ever since.

“I knew there had to be a purpose for all the pain,” Reger said.

“Losing my mother during the pandemic, it feels like yesterday, but at the same time, it feels like years,” said one of the participants in her Zoom gathering.

That Zoom gathering was a meeting of Grief2Hope, a virtual support group Reger started.

“I’d lost him, but I didn’t want to lose myself,” Reger said about breaking through her grief. “So, I wanted to give back in a way that meant something.”

Every Thursday, people gathered virtually as part of a seven-week course on how to deal with loss during a pandemic without hospital visits, hurting without hugs, funerals without closure.

“Isn’t it about time you move on?” another virtual participant was told by a friend of his grieving. “But you just can’t put a clock on this.”

“They don’t know when people ask, ‘How can I help?’ I don’t know,” Reger said about the complications of grief. “I don’t even know what I’m wearing today, let alone how you can help.”

It isn’t her full-time job, but neither is grieving. The dog tag around her neck carries the script from the last birthday card she received from her son, which says simply, “Love ya, Justin.”

“It helps me heal,” Reger said. “It helps me heal to help others heal.”

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