At my grandmother’s repast, someone with a camera snapped a picture of me that perfectly captured the face of grief. Over the years I have worn that visage many times.
Today is the one year anniversary of my mother’s death.
Today marks three months for my husband, too.
I miss them so very much!
Today I took my kids on a field trip to see Bodies…the Exhibition. They really enjoyed it and were quite intrigued by the wonderous complexity of the human body. My students (of course) were eager to see the sex organs!
I, on the otherhand, was very interested in viewing the heart gallery. But looking at the display of arteries strongly reminded me of my husband, so much in fact that I could not bear to look at the one aptly called the widow maker. I hate that terminology!
Today, it has been two months.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep..For none of us lives to himself…
As death is apart of the life cycle, it is bound to happen. This is the one fate we all have in common. I’m sure many of you have been in the seat of mourner. During my period of mourning I have had some great support. Death leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. Sometimes you don’t know what you can do to help the person through their period of sadness and loss. Here are a few things that I think are helpful to consider when helping those you are close to are grieving:
- Silence is for Lambs: Always acknowledge the loss of the mourner’s loved one. This can be done without words in the form of a simple hug, a greeting card, or a heartfelt smile. Pretending like nothing has occurred is rather callous. My own brother (Jazmine’s father) did not bother to attend the service or even acknowledge his death.
- Practical Makes Perfect: It was so helpful (and much appreciated) when friends, relatives, and coworkers provided me with meals! Cooking is the last thing on your mind. And of course, this is really a time that you need to nourish your body with good food. Nicholas, Jazmine, and I were often invited to breakfast and dinner by family and several coworkers bought my lunch everyday or prepared it themselves. If it wasn’t for these people, we would have starved! My cousin also volunteered tireless hours driving me around. She made the roundtrip so that I could talk to Evan about his dad, too. Another practical form of help is to assist in addressing thank you cards. This is something that I didn’t feel like doing but my good manners would not allow me not to. I even had several babysitting offers when I needed to take care of business.
- 21 Questions is a Game Not to Play: I say this because I have been asked some rather insensitive questions, such as was my husband overweight (no, he was not), did I cook healthy meals, (mostly) or was he ill (no again). Allow the mourner the opportunity to grieve first. They may or may not feel like divulging details of the death, and if they don’t, then that’s okay, too.
- Lipservice is Not Service: “If you need anything, let me know” is a common one. Now I know people mean well and hate to see a person that they love or care about hurting. But only offer services that you are truly capable of or are willing to lovingly provide. One day, someone just might take you up on your generous offer which could create an ackward situation for both parties. Also don’t offer simplistic platitudes such as “God needed him more.” Even if it is true, that’s not what a grieving spirit wants to hear.
- Rose-Colored Glasses Don’t Look Good On You: One of my coworkers who is a wonderful man, is determined that I will not be sad. He does everything to try and make me laugh. However, it’s annoying. I’m sad–sadder than sad and will be for quite some time. But I have every right to be. I don’t feel like laughing even when others think I should. It is totally alright for people to experience a wide range of emotions while mourning. Please give them this gift without the pressure of feeling that they need to “get over” their loss and be happy again. I will be okay again one day in my own timing.
- Disappearing Acts Are For Magicians: This is one of the most lonely and vulnerable times of grieving. I imagine one could really lose their minds without proper support in place. So don’t “go missing” after the service! Grief is not something that ends with the funeral.
- Use Your Ears for More Than Hanging Earrings: I am so thankful to my friend Stacy, whom I met through blogging. She listened to me cry and babble one night for over three hours! I am grateful that she cared enough about a perfect stranger to sacrifice her time to make me feel better. My friend Angela was wonderful as well. I can’t stress how important it is to be a listening ear.
- Jumping to Conclusions is Not an Olympic Sport: Don’t assume that a person grieving is “okay” because they may appear to be fine. I am a perfect example of this because I hide my emotions very well. Tears of a Clown is my theme song at the moment! Check often on the person via email, text, personal visits, cards, voicemail, or telephone calls to let the person know you are concerned about their wellbeing. Also, don’t forget to include the mourner in on activities that you normally would. It is eay to make the false assumption that “they won’t feel up doing anything.” This is hurtful and not always the case.
- Uh Huh…Okay…Shut-up: I have had several people tell me that I am “young and will marry again” or “you’ll be fine after a few years.” Sometimes the best words to say are none at all. Our society is so used to idle chatter that people are under the false impression that they have to say something when they don’t.
- Be Clueless: Feel free not to have a ready explanation as to why their loved one died. We don’t know the answers to God’s many mysteries of life. Just be there, your presence is enough.
- Don’t Tiptoe Through the Tulips: It is okay to talk about the deceased. I’ve had a few of my coworkers look in horror when my students discuss the many times they saw my husband and I out. He was alive once and it doesn’t bother me when people remember him. Our family talks about him all the time.
- Lace Up Your Nikes: Don’t ask IF the grieving person needs something because you know they do! Even if it is something as simple as a hug. If you notice they haven’t been eating, buy them lunch. Invite them to your home, baby-sit for a few hours, offer to run errands for them. Most people are too shy/proud to admit that they really need someone to lean on. Most mourners won’t interpret this as being intrusive. I view it as people wanting to do something to help ease my pain. The point is don’t wait for a vulnerable person to make a request because that may never happen–just do it!
- Orisons Are Awesome: This is the most beautiful and lasting form of support. I know many of you have sent up prayers for me and I am in awe. When I feel so low, which I often do, I can only wonder how much worse off I would be without the prayers of family, friends, fellow bloggers, perfect strangers, and coworkers to help keep me afloat. I am so very grateful for all of the comments and warm thoughts left on my postings! Thanks to all who have been grieving with me.
Mother’s Day will be different for me this year. It will be my first Mother’s Day as a motherless daughter. As of February 8, 2008, I have no mother to acknowledge and celebrate. Hallmark will not let me forget this fact either. I automatically dodge the card aisle upon entering any store. A short while ago I remember seeing the displays much to my surprise. I had forgotten that May was the month reserved for mothers. And it’s not that I place much stock in this commercialized, contrived holiday, because for me, every day was mother’s day. I always looked at this day as a brilliant marketing strategy on behalf of greeting card companies and floral shops worldwide. But nevertheless, it was nice to actually have a mother on this day.
Losing a mother makes one introspective and sensitive. So much in fact that it has propelled me to examine this day from all angles—from Eliza’s to Ethan and Evan’s.
A simple expression of Happy Mother’s Day from Ethan and Evan has always sufficed for me because while I am not their mother, I a mother. I never expected anything more than this, not even a card. But this was even hard for them to do. Last year on our first Mother’s Day together, my husband inquired if they had told me, and they admitted that they had not. They “forgot.” My feelings were hurt slightly but I quickly recovered. As always, our son Nicholas was there to celebrate me with his beautifully handcrafted AND store bought cards, poems, and frequent reminders throughout the day of what a great mom I was. One day while at Wal-Greens’s he had even selected the aforementioned card without my assistance and casually asked me to pay for it!
But this year…I think I understand how they were feeling. It too was their first Mother’s Day without Eliza. They probably just wanted to spend this day in the company of their own mom expressing the sentiment to her; just as I would like to do with my own. No ommy, substitute mommy, guest mom, or second mom will do. I want my mommy. As children I can only imagine how they feel; and Eliza, too.
So this year on Mother’s Day, I will be working on a scrapbook in memory of my mother. We have already started making some things for Eliza. While Ethan, Evan, or I can’t be with our moms in the physical sense, we can at least be with them in spirit. Happy Mother’s Day to all!