Suffering with Long-Term Grief

Allison Rebecca “Becka” Castaldi

Allison Rebecca “Becka” Castaldi

Rianna Castaldi, Reporter

People often suffer in grief because they have lost loved ones closest to them, no matter if they are blood relatives or even just friends. But there are many other ways that people have lost their loved ones.

On April 16, 2009, Allison Rebecca “Becka” Castaldi was murdered by her fiance. Allison’s parents, Gayla High and Mike Castaldi, were at the stream in Nowata County where Allison’s death took place. High remembers a lot, but she does not want to talk about it, along with Castaldi, a retired Navy veteran.

“She is at peace, happy and safe in God’s loving embrace,” High says.

Since their daughter’s death, High and Castaldi have left her room as a memory of when she was little. They keep pictures of their daughter, some with her grandfather (a retired Navy veteran who died two years later), along with her stuffed animals, her vanity, some little souvenirs she had from when she traveled, and especially her artwork since one of many of her talents was creating art and writing poetry.

“Her grandfather liked to see if he could trip her on a challenging word,” High says.

Joanna Majka

Joanna Majka, a counselor at the Grief Center in Tulsa, helps her clients with their long-term grief. When clients first come to see her, Majka helps to educate them by letting them know that grieving is common. She tries to have her clients take ownership of the process.

Majka tries to make these connections with her clients with a process she calls “survival mode” to take her clients step by step through the grieving process. Majka is careful not to ask about certain details with her clients about their long-term loss, but her clients sometimes give her information about the specific person that they have grieved about, but some of her other clients don’t like to talk about the specific person that they are grieving about.

Majka has visited with clients of all ages, with the youngest being 3. There can be some hard steps in the grieving process for Majka’s clients, but she does not want them to be afraid of the grief they have in their lives that they are still processing. Some people with long-term grief have grieved a loved one. Some people with long-term grief never stop grieving; this is called complicated grief  due to the nature of how the loved one died.

Majka has seen clients, like High and Castaldi, keeping their child’s room as a memory with pictures, stuffed animals, souvenirs and artwork. Majka has seen clients who grieve over objects given to them by the deceased person. She suggests that her clients to keep those objects or items with them because it is good to do so. Majka encourages clients who have too much grief and want to alleviate the pain; she advises them to be intentional about any kind of feeling or expression as a way to heal pain or grief.

“Grief is not negative; it’s a natural healing process,” Majka says. “It’s OK if it goes on for years.”

Gayla High and Mike Castaldi at their daughter’s grave.

As for High and Castaldi, they cherish the memories of their daughter years after her death and they never forget her.

“She always followed her heart, not necessarily her very intelligent brain,” High says.


Rest in Peace, Aunt Becka