Sometimes in our lives
we all have pain
we all have sorrow.
But if we are wise
we know that there’s
Friendship. The world of a grieving parent is defined by the before and the after. The line between the before and after is THAT DAY. That awful day when everything changes and the world as you know it gets shaken to the core. So many things are different from that point on. And when the people involved become different, as we do, relationships change. I am not the same person I was. I know that. Truthfully it is not possible for me to be that person. That person was extremely optimistic, kind of Pollyanna like (some of you probably don’t know what that means). I did worry a lot about things like Gabe’s health, but it in general I almost always had a smile on my face and was just really positive.
When the worst thing that can happen DOES happen though it makes that kind of happy attitude change a bit. Some days I really can’t force myself to smile. There’s a man in Bridgewater who sits in the Dairy Queen parking lot EVERY school morning, rain or shine, and waves at cars and buses that pass. Before Gabe died I always smiled and waved back. Now when I pass him some days I smile. Other days I just can’t.
So I think it’s understandable if people back off. Not everyone is going to like this new me. I’m OK with that. When this tragedy happened though something else happened. There were people, some I knew mostly as acquaintances that turned into more. They stepped up and spent countless hours with me and with my family. There are a couple of friends who were there before and reached out and were there as much as we needed them. These people have all made this tragedy survivable. My friends have been there with hugs, coffee, meals out together, too many miles of walks to begin to guess, lazy time at the pool, pedicures, and even a wonderful day at the spa. They have continued to invite us to get togethers, girls nights (ok just me for that one), parties, and weddings, and they understand if we need to leave because we are sad. They have become a beautiful family to me and the boys. They love us in our happiness, but also in our sadness. That is not always an easy thing to do.
Through Gabe’s death there is also another category of friends that I have met. These people know the same pain as me. They have had to say goodbye to a child. There is a connection between us because we share a pain that is so deep it can’t be understood. We can talk about the horrible circumstances around our worst days and not have to be afraid of sharing too much. We don’t necessarily make the best friends because we are all dealing with grief, and forgetfulness, and lack of energy- but we all GET it! So expectation is low and we are very forgiving of each other. We form this club that no one wants to join- but we are all glad to have each other. There is power in looking at another Mom who lost a child so many years ago and seeing that life can still be OK, that it’s not how you wanted it to turn out but it can still be ok.
On Thursday of this week I will get the wonderful experience of meeting a new group of bereaved moms. These moms have all had children die due to heart defects. Some as babies, some older. We all come from very different backgrounds but we all share that one really big thing. We will be free to talk about our children, living and dead, and not have to worry about saying the wrong thing. This will be a different kind of retreat and I think I will like it.