To My Friend Who is Grieving
I’ll preface this by saying it has been a long, hard fall. Four deaths in two months. Four deaths that rocked us. Four families forever changed. My heart has never been in this place before, perhaps yours has. So I know you get me. While I write this letter with two different mamas grieving the loss of their amazing sons in mind, it’s really for all of you. All of you friends out there who are supporting and loving someone through profound sorrow.
To my dear friend who is grieving,
A thousand times. At least.
A thousand times I have wondered how your heart can carry a burden and a sorrow so heavy. I have sat in my living room, at a stoplight, in the grocery store checkout lane, nursing my baby and a million places in between and your sorrow has landed squarely on my heart. Sometimes, it is so profound, I find myself crying in the dairy aisle. Near the ice cream. Who does that?
But, this isn’t about my sorrow, or even how much I miss your sweet child – that is all very, very real.
This is how I want you to know one very important thing.
I have not forgotten.
I have not forgotten the look of complete and total brokenness I saw when we embraced. I have not forgotten your strength when those around you were falling apart. I have not forgotten your amazingly generous heart. I have not forgotten your honesty. Your big, beautiful heart that continues to show us how to love.
I can’t forget those moments. They have changed me. Rocked me. Deepened my faith in the mercy of a good and gracious God. The sorrow I see in you brings me to my knees, both in pain and in prayer. I realize the answers I am looking for may not come in this life.
But they will come. That I am sure.
As the hours turn to days, then to months and finally years, the world tick-tocks on. We get frustrated with the red lights, the lost homework, the spilled milk. And we start to wonder, should I even ask how she’s doing? Should I attend that event for fear that my presence may cause more pain? Should I reach out for a hug? Should I walk away, in silence? Dare I mention a memory for fear that it will bring pain, not peace?
This is such an unimaginable place to be. The not knowing. It is a tenuous balance on the tightrope of grief. Forgive me if I linger too long, say the wrong thing or tear up when I should be smiling. I’m learning how to go into the deep with you. You see, as much as my heart has cracked open with sorrow upon your loss, I cannot stand idly by and let you go it all alone. It’s not possible.
For I have only two choices: to walk away from our friendship, forever, or to grab your hand, holding it tightly, and walk into a place that’s sure to bring both pain and peace. Sorrow and understanding. Fear and mercy. But I believe it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Going into the deep is something we’ll all do in life, we just don’t know when.
My heart knows there are some things, some pieces of the cross you carry, that can only be done by you, and no one else. But the times when it feels suffocating, when you wonder if it will break you, just look around. I may need a pedicure, but girl, I am totally there to help carry the load.
I’m learning how to love you in the way you need to be loved. I’m counting on a God that will guide my ears, my words, my hands and my heart to listen, share, do and love in whatever way He desires.
All that boils down to this: I’m a lifer. You’ve got me for as long as you need me. And, you’ll always have a buddy in the ice cream aisle.
I love these words. Your friends are so lucky to have you in their lives. And that you share this with your internet community is also a tremendous gift.
Not a dry eye in the house…. you write so beautifully. XX
Beautifully written, Kathryn. Thank you for writing down the words that I know so many of us feel. Your ice cream aisle is my mantle with stockings right now. We are honored to lift up those families in our prayers and we very much remember those two sweet boys. Those families inspire us, just as you and Scott do. Thank you for being an amazing friend to us all!
Oh, Kathryn! So beautifully said. The pain will never completely go away, but having a friend like you has got to help, if just a little!
You are such a blessing!
I don’t think I have read anything so profoundly moving in a long long time.
This was a gift. To me. To your friends. To anyone who stirs with these same emotions. Simply beautiful. Simply gut-wrenchingly beautiful.
How very kind…I wrote it from a deep place that I don’t share often.
What a beautiful thing to say. Thank you, Alissa.
First of all: I am bookmarking this. SO many times I want to have been able to communicate that and failed. Thank you for giving my fear/sorrow/love words.
Secondly: the picture at the top. Is that Christ crucified by way of music? Where did you get that?!
Thank you. That picture is Christ crucified by way of music. It was a gift from a dear friend!
Thought I knew the pain of death BUT I was clueless compared to the hurt, depression, long lonely hours, despair and pure hell I am experiencing since losing my darling 10 weeks ago – seems like at least 10 years!
Prayers for you, Connie.
We love you and your family, Connie.
I wish I could light a candle right here.
The pain never goes away. It will be 17 years tomorrow that I lost my dad and my grandma still tears up when she’s reminded of her son’s absence. It’s a different perspective for me, but holding my hand, laughing and crying with me, even making the wrong move at times has proven to be much more help than an embarrassed/shocked/quiet “I’m sorry”. Friends didn’t need to feel sorry for me, they needed to help me carry the grief and find a new normal.
The two of you must have a very special bond. Thank you for your very kind words.
As a mama who lost a son this year, please please please, always say something. Tell me you miss my child. Tear up for my baby, let me see it. If you “make” me cry, don’t worry about it – you didn’t make me. And invite me out. I may decline 9 times out of 10, but keep asking because I need to get out, but have to find the strength to do so.
And in the absence of having anything to say’ just hold my hand, or give a hug.
Beautiful advice, and I’ll be adding you to my prayers Jenny. What was your son’s name?
Thank you for putting in to words what I have been feeling for the last 101 days since our daughter and 3 of our grandchildren died in a horrific car accident
Mary, I have no words. May our prayers bring you a small bit of piece as you navigate these waters of grief. What a tremendous cross to carry. If you don’t mind sharing the name of your daughter and granddaughters, it would be my honor to pray for them by name. Or, you’re welcome to email me at email@example.com.
Our daughter’s name was Stephanie
The children were
Taylor 18 yrs -girl
PJ 14 years -boy
Jesse 11 years – boy
The accident was 6/28/15
163 days ago…
(I made a typo yesterday) it was a bad day
For a while now, well, since December 4th when I first read it, I have been trying to write this response to your post. I was really moved and thankful for your post and really wanted to write a wonderful letter back. The problem has been getting my feelings transformed to words and then getting them from my heart and mind onto paper. I am finally at a place where I can begin to do that so here goes….
The burden of this sorrow is very heavy and runs very deep – still. It is impossible to carry on my own. Thankfully I don’t have to do that. I have God, and through His goodness and mercy, I have people in my life to help ease the pain of this burden. God gifted me with an amazing husband chosen specifically for me without whom I could surely not go through this. I have a smart, beautiful and surprisingly resilient daughter who brings me joy and keeps me going every day. I am blessed to have my loving and supportive parents and mother in law who are always there for anything I may need. And there are many other family members who love and support us every day. But the thing is, we are all still really new to this grieving process and while we are walking this journey together, we sometimes need to find support outside of our still heartbroken family. It is at those times that friendships, like yours, are so very important.
It helps to know that you share in the sorrow. That if I run into you in the dairy isle at the grocery store, we might both be in tears. My tears too come at unexpected and inconvenient times and sometimes it seems they will never stop. I have learned how to let them come and trust that God will spare me from a really ugly cry when I am in front of a lot of people (like at school). It means a lot to me that when I talk about Matt to other people, quiet pauses, knowing head nods and deep breaths are shared. I know in these times emotions are being calmed and prayers are being said.
Thank you for not forgetting. I have wondered at times how long people will look at me/us and think of how sad those days in August were for us. I don’t really want people to think of those days. I don’t like to think of those days – that is where the pain is. But I do want people to look at me/us and remember Matt. I want to be around your kids and see things in them that remind me of Matt. So many times at school, at mass, at rosary and anywhere there are kids, I see glimpses of Matt or am reminded of a memory of him. I can find joy there, in the memories. I want his faith, his heart, his smile to be remembered. I want to share him and his stories with the world because one of my greatest fears is that he will be forgotten. That would truly destroy my already broken heart. So, to you and all of our friends wondering what to do and say, please keep being there, asking how things are going, sharing memories. It might bring some tears but it will also help mend hearts.
One other thing that I think people are afraid of or wondering is whether or not to share their owns joys and/or struggles as parents. Thinking that they shouldn’t complain about “the little things” in front of grieving parents. First of all, in this business of parenting, we cannot judge what is little or not in the eyes of others. We all have our crosses and they are not meant to be compared. Also, as far as I am concerned, friendships go both ways, and as much as I am lifted up by your prayers and support, I need to be able to give that back. Being there for others is very healing. So, please share your stories too. As I think about this, I am reminded of the hymn “We Are Many Parts”. Specifically the verse that says “so my pain is pain for you, in your joy is my joy too; all is brought together in the Lord”. I truly believe that in sharing it all, we find the strength and peace we need to carry our burdens.
Thank you Kathryn for your post. Thank you for being a catalyst for my own writing. Thank you for your honesty. And most importantly, thank you for your friendship.
Each time I read our words, Lisa, I see something new. I feel something different. They are beautiful and I know they come from such a tender, faithful place. I’m honored you shared them with me and my readers. My goodness, Matt was a blessed boy to call you mama.
Oh Kathryn, your Facebook post led me here tonight…on what started as a normal morning, and moved into my sobs during morning Mass. I would have been 37 weeks pregnant with our 6th child at this point. Except there was a miscarriage in July. Plus there was other turmoil. And I have been struggling. If a girl has to endure the loss of a child, she deserves the kind of support I received. I have an online support connection, a few real life support connections, but still feel very alone sometimes. While I don’t have the same magnitude of loss your friends have experienced, this is a new journey for me. Even my own mother’s death was not so deeply piercing to my whole being. I came home this morning and posted about my grief swallowing me, and asking for someone to pull me out of the cold, dark water because I can’t joke my way out of it right now. Lord, guide and aid me, as I come around to what would have been my due date, and then later circle to the one year mark of that loss. My life is forever segmented in the before and after. And I hate that the simplest of things are now triggers for the sadness and tears. Loss just plain sucks.
Loss is loss. And you are not alone. I am so very sorry you are carrying the heavy cross of suffering and loss. I think it’s normal to feel alone when you’re suffering because no one fully understands the profound sadness you carry, except you and God. Sometimes you just need to sit with it in His presence. A miscarriage brings about so many anniversaries of the life you dreamed you would have with your child. For me, September sucks eggs. I’ve learned to just embrace the suck, lean on awesome friends and double up on the Dr Pepper. Loss does stink, but I pray that these 40 days allow you the time you need to begin to heal and see joy again. God bless you!
I’ll share that Dr Pepper with you…mine is likely to be spiked if it’s been one of those REALLLY hefty character building kind of days.
[…] bricks. And with each funeral, each person lost in my life, I started taking down those bricks. Last fall, the final swing came in, and God knocked them all […]