Yesterday, I was supposed to meet one of my good friends for brunch. We ended up agreeing to take a raincheck on brunch because life happened. Only, I ended up having a conversation with a random lady who purchased some home décor from me via our neighborhood garage sale page.
This sweet lady kept apologizing profusely about how she had been comforting her best friend who had just lost her husband from Covid. By the end of our conversation we were both in tears. It’s amazing how sometimes you get messages when you least expect. I knew when I went to bed last night, I was waking up today and writing this blog post.
On behalf of someone who is currently 3 years into the roller coaster of grief, I thought I would share some tips for those wanting to be there for their spouse, partner or friend with grief. From the outside looking in, it may be hard to determine what you can do to help. However, the things listed below helped me get through some of my darkest days after losing mom to a long battle with cancer.
- Listen. Listen, for some reason, talking through my moms last days helped me to process it. I know that talking about the end of life can be a little awkward, but it was something that I needed to talk myself through and Josh and my friends being there to listen to me was what I needed. Hospice was an experience that I could not put into words as we were going through it but in order for me to fully process it I had to put it in words later. Plus, having a laugh about me looking my worst and mom waking up after we thought that she wouldn’t, telling me that I needed to “put on some makeup and lipstick” because I was looking hella rough still makes me laugh till this day.
- Food. After a week of going through the motions of mom passing and having to plan her service. Knowing I was the detail oriented child who she trusted to execute her fully planned funeral all the way down to her suit coordinating with the ribbon on her floral arrangement, I was exhausted. Josh had to get back to work and my kids were home for the summer. My friends all pooled together and gave me gift cards for meals even after I refused a meal train. They fed my family when I mentally could not. I could get through breakfast and lunch but supper was hard and I was exhausted on so many levels. We lived on food delivery for weeks.
- Show up. Just show up. I had friends who drove over 5 hours to be at my moms funeral. I cannot tell you how many times I would attempt to crawl into my house and my friends would bust through my door and tell me to get dressed because we were going to lunch or that they were staying and we were having a happy hour. We were going to laugh, or cry… but if I cried they were making me laugh right after.
- Losing a parent is a tough club to be in, but I can attest that we have comraderies. Its a club that nobody wants to be in but we always show up. We write cards, drop off small gifts on anniversaries to let you know that we remember and are thinking of you.
I can tell you that I don’t remember much about the year I lost my mom. That was the one thing that I remember my father in law telling me after he lost his mom. I didn’t believe it until I lived it. I know I was in survival mode and as much as I tried to be present for my family, I was also on auto pilot. I was grieving, and helping my kids grieve. But I can tell you one thing, the 4 things mentioned above are the things that I remember about that year. I remember those who showed up when I didn’t want them to. I remember my husband getting home from work and helping me cook and clean because I was too exhausted to do it. I remember the check ins, the surprises on my door step, the barge ins because I needed the tough love, and laughs. I know nobody wants to talk about death and grief, but the fact is, its a part of life and life doesn’t get back to “normal” after loss. We have a new normal, we have to mourn and go through holidays and milestones with empty seats. We have to get used to not being able to pick up the phone to talk to our loved one. And most importantly, we have to learn to look for our heavenly signs. My mom said she would send me butterflies and let me tell you, she does. I always tell her “hi” and so do my kids. I embrace the collective “hey mama” and “hey mee mee” when we see our butterflies. I could talk forever on our “signs from heaven” but that is a blog post for another day.