A Month From Now, On a Tuesday

Nobody escapes grief. We have all experienced loss, disappointment, unexplained or unexpected situations that rob our heart of feeling whole. We ask why? And turn to friends, family, loved ones, books, the internet for support, meaning, answers. A psychiatrist attempted to wrap the emotion up in a pretty little box with a bow by providing an "outline" for the "stages of grief". But as I learned when we had Aiden, grief strays drastically from that chart. It proved more stressful when I realized my grief was not a straight line or a bullet point. It was a wave of back and forth. Good days and bad. But once I embraced the ebb and flow and let go of expectations that attempted to label our feelings, I healed. 

I always tell people that despite the first two years of Aiden's life being the most difficult from a medical standpoint - with numerous appointments, surgeries, therapies, challenges - I was at my best. I wore many hats. Mom, nurse, teacher, student, supporter. And those hats plugged the holes in my heart like a band-aid. Over time however, and well after Aiden turned 2, the band-aids gave way and grief bled through rapidly. When things settled down and I didn't have to focus so much on Aiden's care, the reality and stress of it all finally took its toll. That next year was the hardest. But with help from friends (the ones that stuck around) and with the love of my family, we made it through. Together.

When my friends lost their little boy to cancer last year, I had no idea how to support them. I had never experienced loss like this. How could I possibly know what to say or how to help? I think some tend to be so intimidated by the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing that they run the other direction and never look back. I didn't want to do that. I couldn't do it. Because even though I could never fathom the hurt they held in their hearts, I too hurt right alongside them. I too grieved. I reached out to a person at my church who gave me some books on how to help friends through loss. I researched online. And finally, I just followed my heart and prayed that God would show me what to do. 

My husband and I flew to be by their side as they said their final goodbyes. When we returned, I sent my friend a text every so often. Whether it was just to say I was thinking of her, or to tell her something that made me think of her little boy. Often times my boys would say they missed him or let go of a balloon and say they were sending it to him in heaven. I shared those special moments with her as I knew it would make her smile. I gave her space, always letting her know I was here to talk, but never wanting to impose. 

Not too long ago, I was packing up some clothes that Nolan had outgrown and I came across a pair of PJs. They were faded and stretched having been hand-me-downs worn by both of my friends older boys, then my two younger ones. She had given them to me before her little boy had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, and she probably never gave them a second thought. But when I sorted through the piles, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of them. I eventually decided to mail them back to my friend in Texas with a little note. Shortly after, she called and even though she's not much of a phone-talker, she opened up to me about how things have been. It was so refreshing to have her share with me. I cherish that conversation.

This weekend, I found out that my college roommate, Anna, lost her husband in a tragic accident. She and I and another friend shared more than just space in our 2 off-campus rental houses. We would take walks and talk about our hopes and dreams for the future. They pegged me as the one who would get married and have a bunch of kids (they knew me well!) and Anna was going to be the career-minded one who would eventually be swept off her feet by her tall dark and handsome prince. 8.5 years ago, we celebrated her fairy tale coming true as she wed her soul-mate on a beautiful day in May. The 3 of us stayed in touch over the years despite spreading out to various parts of the country. 

When I was on hospital bed rest last fall, pregnant with baby #4 and scared I would lose him, they both came to visit. We chatted and caught up, and even though we hadn't seen each other in months, it was reminiscent of our college chats. Anna shared with us that she and her husband had been trying for quite a while to have a baby of their own. Some time later, after many challenges and years of trying, she called to tell me they were finally going to parents. Joy! Such joy! Prayers answered! So when I got a phone call from a mutual friend this past weekend, letting me know that Anna's husband had tragically lost his life in a hiking accident, my head spun. But the baby! How can this happen? This is not fair!

I wanted to get in my car and drive the 2 hours to be with her, but with 4 kids at home that's not always the easiest thing to do. I sent her a text. So cliche. So impersonal. But I wanted to let her know that I had heard the news and was praying. A little while later, one of Anna's best friends called me to talk. We cried. We shared our broken hearts. We talked about ways we could help her through this. 

"I refuse to say if you need anything, let me know", I told her. "I find that so annoying. Nobody who is grieving ever wants to ask something of anyone. So as Anna's closest friend, you tell me what to do. Just say the word. Go here, pick this up, send this, whatever it is, tell me and I'll do it." 

Her friend agreed and then she said something like this: She's going to have a lot of support over the next few days and weeks. She's going to have meals and visitors and be surrounded by lots of love. But a month from now, on a Tuesday, when family is no longer in town and she's gone back to work and comes home to an empty house each night, that's when she's going to need her friends the most.

That right there friends, is the truth. I was so thankful for that honest reminder. 

I plan on visiting my friend this week. But I also plan to remember her after the storm dies down. Her grief is going to ebb and flow after all, so my support will ride the waves along with it. Not just now, as she deals with the shock. Not just this week as she plans his memorial. Not just next month when she's made it through another calendar page. But always. 

A month from now, on a Tuesday. And every month after that.

1 comment :

  1. Such beautiful and heartfelt advice, Taryn. Useful, indeed.