** I’ve been writing this post for about a month now. It’s a sensitive topic, but something that I feel is worth saying. After getting the news today that another friend of mine had died, it was time to finish this up. **
The holiday season is upon us and while many are celebrating, others are struggling with loss. Loss comes in many forms but the death of a loved one – a child, a parent, or a spouse, for example – can be one of the toughest losses to take around the holiday season.
Holidays have always been known as a time for family, and for those without families, or those who are missing part of their family, it can be a very difficult time. The empty seat at dinner… traditions that seem to be missing something… the void is amplified. I am no stranger to this type of loss but this year I find myself thinking about a particular friend of mine. She lost her daughter in April of this year. It was very sudden and unexpected and I cannot even imagine the pain she experienced. She was the same age as my own daughter and my emotions ran the gamut – sadness for my friend, heartache for the loss of such a young, talented, kind individual, and panic at the thought of how easily I could lose my own child. We just never know how much time we have, do we?
This was a chilling reminder of how fleeting life can be. I’ve thought of this off and on all year, and there have been other losses, some of them close to home, but it was when I turned to my agenda at the beginning of November that I noticed something I had written shortly after this loss.
Nov 4th – I made a note in my planner that read “Erika’s birthday. Comfort Angie.” Seeing those words written in my own handwriting there in my planner just a few months prior brought tears to my eyes. I truly had no idea how things would turn in short time.
Our community rallied around my friend during this tragic time. We did the best we could to comfort her. I told everyone that the best thing they could do was remember her after the dust settles.
When you lose a child, everyone is there to express their sadness and shock. Everyone wants to do something. They want to ease their own discomfort by taking action. They want to feel useful. It’s a good thing, but it can be overwhelming in those early days and weeks when you’re still in shock.
Well-meaning people will even ask you what you need or how they can help. It’s hard to have any idea how to answer that when you are deep in the throes of grief. It’s hard to know what you need when you can’t even see how you will go on.
But the people who care about you do their best.
They will come over so you don’t have to be alone. They may bring you meals or come over and cook you meals. They’ll call you to check on you, and answer your late-night grief-ridden texts when you can’t sleep because it all hurts too much.
As the days and weeks pass, however, and especially as those weeks turn into months, they forget.
They move on.
They go back to their hectic, busy days, your loss no longer at the forefront of their minds.
But your pain never leaves. That hole in your heart is still there. The emptiness amplified on special days – holidays, birthdays, or when you see something you really want to share with that person… but now they are gone.
This is when you need to be there for someone suffering loss. After the dust has settled and life goes on… except one didn’t. If you know someone who is suffering a loss like this, don’t forget about them when the time passes. Their grief doesn’t just end.
I knew this reality, deep in my core, and I wanted to be there for Angie. She was everybody’s rock and I wanted to be strong for her when she would need it the most.
When it’s quiet and no one else is around and the tears finally flow because it isn’t fair! Why was she taken so soon?
When you think of all the things they will never get to do or see or experience, and mourn not only for them but for what could have been. Grief has a funny way of coming to you in waves. When you think you have a handle on it, something will remind you of that person you’ve lost. It might be their favorite song on the radio, or the scent of a perfume they always wore… all those little things. All those little things you probably took for granted when they were still living but now they bring you instantly to tears. Or when you forget for a minute that you can’t just pick up the phone and call her like you always did…
I know this kind of pain and I knew it was going to hit my dear friend, too.
Fall was going to be hard because Erika would have been starting college. Then the first holiday season without someone you love is always very difficult. I wanted to remember her birthday was November 4th so I could do something special for Angie. I wanted to honor her and comfort my dear friend who had always been there for me by keeping her daughter’s memory alive.
I wanted to offer my strength and my loving support.
But I never had the chance.
By the time those dates came, Angie was gone. Angie would not live to Erika’s next birthday, or to the winter holiday season. Her daughter died in April and she died in June. She never even made it to her birthday on July 4th.
This month will make 6 months since I lost my friend.
That little reminder in my planner now sits as a reminder of two losses. I took Angie’s death much harder than expected, likely because it, like Erika’s, came so sudden. For so many years, we had all known her as this tough cookie – determined, intelligent, and never letting anything stop her. She was like a big sister to me. She’d been there for me through so many things – babies being born, an abusive relationship, homelessness, and my rebound when life finally started to flourish again. She was always a voice of comfort and reason, no matter what I was going through. I knew she was sick, but some part of me always thought she’d pull through. She was a fighter – this illness wasn’t going to take her!
And then it did.
Angie isn’t here but I still honored her daughter’s birthday. I know she would have liked that. And we will continue to remember them both, on holidays and every day. If you’ve lost someone, do something to remember them this holiday season. Whether it’s been 6 months or 16 years, you can keep their spirit alive with your memories. <3
Happy holidays to all,