A few weeks after Lindsey died, Rick and I had tickets to a Carrie Underwood concert. They had been a Christmas gift from one of the girls and I remember how excited I was to get them. She was rising to stardom and I loved her music as well as her personality. We planned to get dinner and then see the concert. These tickets of course were sold long before the concert date. Now we had lost our daughter, how could we possibly do something like this? It seemed trivial and unimportant, but what was important was how much that gift had meant to our daughter. We decided to go anyway and managed to get ready and make it there on time, even grabbing a bite to eat.
We entered the Coliseum with the sell out crowd, the excitement was palpable. People were everywhere buying drinks, getting t shirts looking for the closest bathroom. We made our way to our seats and settled in, not much conversation. I glanced around at the thousands of people and remember thinking “I have never felt so lonely”. Here I was in the middle of a crowd this size and felt alone. It was a terrifying feeling that night and one I will never forget. It would be years before I shared that with anyone.
My first trip to a store after Lindsey died, culminated much the same way. I remember I was so anxious that night and when I reached the check out, I saw the face of a teenage boy. He quickly rang up my items and handed me my plastic bag with the words “Have a nice day”. This sent my emotions reeling like nothing I had ever experienced. I bolted from the store, tears streaming down my cheeks, hardly able to catch my breath. I nervously opened my car door and slid in collapsing onto the steering wheel. “Have a nice day…are you kidding me? My child just died, I’ll never have another nice day. “
It was then I realized I didn’t know this young man’s story. I didn’t know if he had a family or food on his table. I didn’t know if he had clothes, been abused, had any traumas in his life. I didn’t even know if he had a place to lay his head that night. I sat up, dried my eyes and realized at that moment that we can be in a crowd or sitting next to someone on a bus and we don’t know anyone else’s story, just like they don’t know ours. That young man didn’t intend to hurt me with his simple greeting, he just wished me a nice day. That was it, simple and kind.
Grief can be lonely. It is a very unique journey and depends on the type of loss, the relationship with the person you lost, the details of the loss itself. All of these play a major role in not only your grief, but in your everyday life going forward. I have a major support system. On a scale of 1 to 10, my support system is probably 100. My family has been blessed with people who come from everywhere to lend support. It has been in every aspect of our life that these people have reached out and touched our hearts.
One of the greatest gifts you can give a grieving person is your time. It can be a call, text, card, gifts, flowers, social media, whatever you can do in the time you have to do it. Maybe it’s a quick shoulder squeeze as someone passes you at work. It may be someone just showing up and sitting beside you, saying very little, but being present. I have had people enter my door, put away groceries, answer the phone, scrub the floor, walk the dog and even wash my clothes, never asking how or what, just pitching in to take the pressure off of me. I can’t begin to understand how someone who doesn’t have this support manages to survive. I am so blessed and I don’t think I could ever thank these people enough. When that text pops up or the phone rings and it’s a “thinking of you” it helps with the loneliness grief brings.
There have been a lot of tragedies this week, people who left home never to return. These people were doing everyday things and were caught in horrendous situations. See you never know minute to minute what’s around the corner. Be kind to each other, open doors, say a kind word, give a compliment, take a minute to have a conversation with a stranger, help others, go the extra mile over and over again. I promise it will pay off in the end. Rick was a people person. He never met a stranger. While an endearing quality, it sometimes made a quick trip turn into something else. I think that’s why the line at the funeral home was so long, because he always took the time to get to know people and to help when he could. He was special like that. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all took a moment each day to reach out to someone?
That young girl who checked your groceries was feeling hopeless and thinking no one cared about her. It caused her to be slower than usual and you were in a bit of a hurry. You stop for a moment and look in her eyes. You don’t know her story, so you say “you look pretty today” or ”thank you for being so kind”. You may not be able to change her narrative,, but you might change this moment and that could change the ending. Who knows, it’s worth a try right?
The maze is a lonely place sometimes. It is full of twists and turns, sometimes going forward and sometimes hitting what seems like a dead end. My challenge is to keep searching for the way out, no matter what it takes. Maybe I’ll reach out to someone during those lonely times and ask for help finding my way.