Stories from Dr. Yukari, Story 29, Hug Hawaii

[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]

Guided by the hope of St. Nichiren, we continue to work towards a peaceful society. Honolulu Myohoji Mission collaborates with Psychologist Dr. Yukari Kunisue, a trained and experienced therapeutic life coach, to offer a safe online space: Stories from Dr. Yukari


When Yuki’s husband passed away from Leukemia at the age of 34, she became a single mother of two girls. Despite working as a nurse, her profession did not prepare her for the sudden death of her husband. After her husband passed, she also lost a family member who died of suicide. There were no words to describe the immense loss and pain she experienced during this time as a young mother in her early 30’s. 


Yuki explains, “It is not just about losing the person, but you feel as if you have lost everything about yourself with the loss of the person. The time, memories, social status, financial stability, companionship along with the future plans you made together.” Her friends tried to boost her spirits by telling her to “cheer up”, “move on”, or “it’s all in God’s will”. Despite their good intentions, these words were not serving her well. She slowly began to feel more and more isolated feeling as if no one understood the devastating pain she was experiencing. She even struggled to share her pain with her own family including her children. It was during this time when she was at the lowest of her emotional isolation. 


It was more than 10 years ago when Yuki met several women who all lost their spouses at a local church. They came together and formed a small peer support group called Hug Hawaii. Many of these women moved to Hawaii from Japan and did not have access to an emotional support group that may have been available to them in their native country. They set out to provide a space where people could talk freely about their loss. They created a space where people could come and cry without being judged or pushed to “recover”. 


The grieving experience is unique to each person. Also, some lost a loved one due to an illness like Yuki did, while others may have lost someone due to an accident, crime, suicide, or other unexpected causes. 


How to cope with grief depends on the individual. One may experience disbelief, incessant longing, anger, depression, and uncontrollable lament; a combination of emotions overwhelming to most of us. 


“No one understands the complex emotions one experiences with grief until he or she goes through it themselves.” Yuki adds, “there is no cure all method available for the grieving process.” We are sometimes caught off guard by a widower who appears to be completely unaffected by the loss, but there are people who mourn years after a person’s death. We should not judge someone by our expectation for them to grieve a certain way because we all have our own ways of dealing with loss. 


Sooner or later we must say good-bye to our loved ones including our grandparents, parents, pets, spouse, and dear friends. Yuki continues, “we are also blessed with the natural healing power known as resilience.”


Yuki has helped many people for over a decade and gives us valuable suggestions on how to support people going through the process of grieving in a compassionate way. Instead of asking “how are you?” she suggests that you ask “how is it today?” or “how are you spending your time?” Instead of asking them “are you OK?” it is better to try to offer your availability to them for when they need you. It is known that the best way to offer your support is simply being with the person instead of working to find solutions or consoling them. 


For over 10 years, Hug Hawaii has helped many people in and outside of Hawaii. The service is even expanding in various cities throughout Japan. Yuki has also returned to graduate school in order to become a licensed counselor to help more people.

Hug Hawaii stand for Help, Understanding for Grief

Note: Hug Hawaii will change its name to COPE (Circle of Peer Encouragement) Hawaii from September, 2021