I discovered during my recent surgery and continued recovery that grief is not something I could go alone. I had some misgivings preoperatively as to how I would ever get through surgery without my husband, Fred and my son, Chris. I was feeling very alone. How could I be strong with no one really special there for me. Now I admit, family is not always the support we think, but we like to believe they will be. But, times of stress are when I miss Fred and Chris the most.
I prayed for them to be with me. To watch over me, to protect me, to give me strength and courage and to guide my doctors and nurses. And they came through for me. The surgery went well. I was able to stay in the hospital. I had the most wonderful nurses and the surgeons did an excellent job. Still, I did have pangs of emptiness where I missed Chris and Fred. I just wanted them to be there in the flesh for me. Something, I am sure, you can relate to.... not having a special person there.
How to fill the void? I remember very early on in my loss, (Fred and Chris died within six weeks of each other) I was determined that I wouldn't be an angry bitter person who pushed away the very people who could support me. Having to walk my dear little dog, Amber, got me up and dressed each day so that was a start. From there, even though I had to put on a brave face, I went to see friends and family. I went out with whoever offered to take me anywhere. Nothing big with large numbers of people. Just lunch and dinners and very small gatherings. Many times I felt like Mary Lincoln. As if everyone was staring at me and waiting for me to completely lose it. But, I had made the decision not to let these losses destroy me. It was hard, but people admire courage and rally round. Every part of my being screamed isolation, but I fought it.
Anyway, this strategy came through for me in my recent troubles. I could compensate because I have a wonderful network of good friends and neighbors and some extended family. One friend stayed with me the day of surgery and another when I first got home. Others visited me, drove me and shopped and cooked for me. They are all truly blessings in my life.
Today, I am grateful I didn't let my relationships die with my son and husband's deaths. I was fortunate I had a few people I felt I could talk to. Friends who did not judge, who did not sermonize, and who didn't put me on a timetable to be over my grief. They didn't give up on me so I didn't give up on myself. I fought staying forever in my son's room, my bedroom and my house. I learned it's peoples' hearts and intentions that matter more than what they might say.
Grief is a time for needing people more than ever. A time to grab onto a hand when one is extended.