I know it may sound odd to many and unbelievable to most, but there can be gifts in grief. How can there be something good come from something so incredibly painful? It is really difficult to wrap your brain around this concept, but I am the recipient of these gifts and so is my family.
People are great at coming out for funerals and visitations to show their support. Flowers are delivered, meals are cooked, calls made and cards sent. These are all methods in which we give and receive support. We were fortunate enough to be the recipient of all of these. Thing is, these things eventually end and that is actually the norm.
At first, the cards fill the mailbox , sometimes spilling out as you open it. You sit with your grief and read each and every verse and personal note, often more than once. Then one day, there are no cards. You lean over and peer into the mailbox knowing it must be a mistake, you reach all the way to the back, but nothing is there. Your heart hurts because it means life goes on for everyone else, just as it should.
The phone rings nonstop and in today’s world, the texts keep coming, social media remains abuzz, and all forms of communication are used to let you know you are loved and cared about. Then one day, the phone is quiet, the texts are sparse, and social media is back to perfect lives and politics. You wonder what has happened, are they just busy, is everyone ok or did they forget you are hurting? Truth is, life is returning to normal, just as it should.
The timeline of grief is different for the griever and the world. It can be physically painful to watch the world go on as if nothing has happened. Doesn’t everyone know your pain will be there when the flowers are gone, leftover food is trashed and the quiet descends? Does no one care that your loved one is missing at holidays and vacations?
Welcome to my world. This is all part of the grievers experience and can make the journey even more difficult. In my experience though, I still get an occasional card, a “thinking of you” kind of card which makes me smile. I had someone apologize for the late timing of a card and truth is, it came when all others had stopped. It was perfect.
I get texts throughout the day and evening just checking in, letting me know Rick is not forgotten and neither am I. My phone rings often and it again is a “had you on my mind and heart” kind of call.
People are still feeding me and to be honest I’m enjoying that very much. Cooking and shopping just isn’t a priority right now, but time spent with friends is a gift. My girls often fix me dinner to eat with them or take home after work. It helps to not eat alone. My neighbors have cut my grass and taken out my trash cans. They sometimes show up to walk Lucy and that is a so helpful.
The biggest gift I’ve received is to know how much people loved Rick, but the coolest part of this is he got to know it too. Once we found out and shared what was going on, people started showing up. Some brought things, some called him, some sent good wishes and prayers and some came and sat at his bedside and shared his last hours. For Rick this was something special and all he could say was “wow”.
Through this experience, I have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in many, many years. Rick was astounded that elementary and high school friends cared enough to reach out. Old customers and employees of the restaurant checked in. Friends slept on my couch, swept my floor, cleaned my bathrooms, fed my dog, and kept be company. These are some of my gifts, those taking their time from their life to sit with us when things got tough.
When Lindsey died, I was exposed to some of the saddest people I had ever met and those people inspired me to survive this horrible tragedy and to find joy again in what remained. These are some of the most courageous people I have ever met and without my life taking this course, I would have never met them. They have made me a more compassionate person in every way and I treasure these friendships. Again, these are some of those gifts in grief.
I left the maze yesterday for a short while. It was a difficult decision and costs me hours of sleep, but I took the chance and stepped out into a very uncomfortable place. Two dear friends I have worked with most of my career took me sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, the one place I wasn’t sure I would ever return to. There was sharing, laughter and tears, but most of all some very simple healing. The memories that surfaced for me were so positive and so meaningful that my head was spinning with good thoughts. The missing took a back seat for a moment and let the “good stuff” take the helm. They let me share what I needed to and sat with me in the place I’m was in. What a gift it was and although I have to return to the maze for awhile, I hope to stick my head out once again and check out my new world. Maybe it won’t be so scary next time.