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December 04, 2013

Hold it in. Let it out.

The night I learned of Jinil's death, I spoke with my uncle who I hadn't spoken to in a long time. As he heard me sobbing, he said to me repeatedly, 울지마 (ool ji mah), which is Korean for "don't cry." Ironically, as my uncle said to me 울지마, 울지마, 울지마 ... I felt close to him because I knew that's what he was going to say as my uncle who is still more Korean than American. "Try to forget" is another sentence that I've been hearing. But it's a sentence that doesn't make me feel close to anyone. It's a sentence that makes me mad. Me. The girl who was born in Korea and moved with her two older brothers and parents to America. A family whose landscape changed from Seoul to Bakersfield.

Today during my session with Therapist, toward the end, I said "OK, I'm ready for the answers." To which Therapist said,

"What's the question?"
"The question is, 'Now what?'"
"Now what, what?"
"Why are you answering my question with a question?"
"Because your question is too general. So what's the question?"
"Now what do I do?"
"Well, what you do now, is what you have been doing and are doing now, which is grieving, crying, talking, remembering, and letting out the sorrow."

If I were to paint the answer to "Now what do I do" from the Korean culture next to the answer from the American culture, they would be as opposite as opposite can be.

Up. Down.
Black. White.
North Pole. South Pole.
Don't cry. Let it out.
Try to forget. Remember.

Jenny DohWhen cultures were more homogenius, I suppose a little girl could have grown up to live a life into adulthood and into her final days believing that the absolute right thing to do when a family member dies is to not cry and to try and forget. And vice versa. But sometimes little girls with big brothers change cultures and assimilate into new ones.

I used to think that immigration and assimilation are boring topics that have been talked about ad nauseum but now these are the things on my mind a lot. Just how that process of moving and assimilating affects a human being and that human being's relationship with family and friends. And how that person decides whether the right way is up or down, north or south, to hold it in, or to let it out.

Jinil Doh(photo by Jinil Doh)


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Hi Jenny. I have never commented here before, but I have followed your blog for a while now and I love it! I wanted to say how heartbroken I am for you for the loss of your dear brother. My younger brother died very unexpectedly seven years ago when he was just 31 years old and I can feel your pain. Always remember!! I miss my brother terribly and I still cry at times when I think of him, but I also smile and laugh a lot now when I remember things about him and things we did together. I don't think you ever stop grieving for a loss like this, I think your grief just changes as the years go by. So don't ever hold back the tears or your feelings because you need to let all that emotion out so you can slowly heal. Your brother will always be present in your heart. Thank you for sharing and you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Hi Jenny, I just wanted to tell you I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother. I have never lost a sibling, the pain must be so deep. I lost my mother at the young age of eleven, and I will say that I believe holding your tears and feelings in is a universal thing. I deal with that loss still. But I try to remember the wonderful times I had with her and the love I felt in return, I hope your pain lessens soon. Xo


I just remember how much fun Jinil was. When he was working for Northwest Airlines, we would talk "shop" when he came to FCC. He once told me he wanted to be the the CEO of the airline. I have such wonderful memories of you three kids playing handbells and your musical instraments. I had a special connection with Jinil because we both played violin.
Take as much time as you need to grieve. I still get choked up when I talk about my dad, and he's been gone for 40 years. There isn't any normal grieving pattern. Just know that the people of FCC are thinking of you, Jim, and your mom and dad.



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