I have written this blog post several times. I have deleted it several times as well. I have started over. I have edited. I have pieced together several different attempts. It always seems to be lighter or funnier in my head as I toss it around. It tends to be sad and angry as I type it out. Since one of the stages of grief is anger, I am just going to go with the words I wrote and embrace that this is what I am moving through, because it is real. Today has been a particularly hard day for several reasons….so here it is. Grief: In Your Face the Mrs Loco edition with random pictures that make me happy.
My whole world has crumbled. My life will NEVER be the same. I lost my husband, my best friend. I am grieving that loss. I will ALWAYS be grieving that loss. It will always be there. I am grieving the loss of my husband. I am grieving the loss of my best friend and my confidant. I am grieving being a two parent family. I am grieving my daughter losing an amazing father. I am grieving how he loved his little girl and how excited he was to watch her grow. I am grieving us watching her grow together. I am grieving all of our hopes and dreams, all of the things we talked about accomplishing, and our strong team. I am grieving us growing old together. I am grieving the years that we should have had together, the decades. I am grieving how he held my hand, his easy laugh and how when he looked at me, his eyes filled with love and you could see it, you could feel it from that one look. I am grieving the amazing person he was. I am grieving the couple we were. I am grieving the family that we were and the family we would have become. I am grieving all of these things and so much more. I am no longer the same person. I am forever changed.
This grief will hit me in waves. Sometimes I will know when to expect it and other times it will hit out of the blue. Know that the tears are always there. Bringing a meal or giving me a card or saying chatting with me did not make me cry. The tears were there and need to come out. Grief can hit at weird times. Sometimes I can swallow it down until I have a little privacy, other times, I am sure it is written all over my face. Sunglasses are my friend. I have mentioned before that being alone with Baby Loco in the car is tough. It is very quiet and there is time to think. Every song reminds me of Mr Loco. I drive by the exit for his workplace on the way to mine. The same thing happens on walks or runs. My mind has time to ponder the what ifs, the brutal reality, the epic sadness. It is hard to see a retired couple ride their bikes down the local path. It is hard to ride the carousel at the park that I rode with Mr Loco such a short time ago. It is hard to hear people yell “Daddy!” It is hard to see dads play with their kids. It is hard to go places and do things that Mr Loco loved to do. It is hard to hear people bitch about what I perceive as small problems in their life. Those are all things I will forever have to deal with. Some days it will be easier than others.
When you go through any major life crisis people want to support and comfort you. This is an awesome thing and I must say I know awesome people. Mr Loco had some great friends. I have felt so much love and support. There have been so many kind words, so much support via the memorial fund and food train, and such an outpouring of love for Baby Loco and myself. It is remarkable how people pull together to help in such circumstances. I have needed the help and support. It is greatly appreciated.
There are always two sides to everything. There have been the words that sting and awkward situations. I came up with a few tricks to get myself through some sticky situations and am working on tactfully coming up with more. I find it helps if I have a canned response for certain situations, for example if someone is asking questions that I don’t feel like answering, how do I move the conversation along in another direction? I don’t want to be rude but I don’t always feel like sharing tons of details and sometimes I just can’t talk about it. So, here is my attempt at providing ideas of how you can be helpful if a situation pops up in your life. I hope you never need to support someone through such a loss.
First of all EVERYONE should read the article that talks about The Ring Theory of Kvetching. The first rule is comfort in, dump out. It is an excellent reminder of how to not say the wrong thing. You put the person in the center of the trauma in the center circle. Friends and family fall into various rings around the center circle in order of their closeness to the trauma/person in the center. You always send comfort into the inner rings and if you need to dump or vent you do it out towards a bigger ring. You never dump in towards the trauma. Read the article. It is worth the read.
Mr Loco is still an important part of our family. Just because he died doesn’t mean he is no longer part of our little clan. Baby Loco will hear about her amazing dad. Our house is full of things that remind me of him: photos, artwork, things he loved. Those things will remain. I joked with friends that my house is a mini shrine to Mr Loco but it is comforting to me. Honestly, that is all that matters. I know that I will never be the same person I was before. I think of how life goes on whether you are participating or not. I see everyone through Facebook and in person: their lives continue, their loved ones are around them while we try are over here trying to put the pieces together of our crumbled life. There are no words I can come up with to describe that feeling. It sucks. It sucks hard. I am surrounded by amazing support yet I am all alone as I grieve. I am all alone.
My advice when supporting someone going through loss:
Be Supportive: You should not be more of a basket case than the person in the center circle. If you can’t pull it together to be supportive, excuse yourself. Push that out to an outer circle. There is no shame in that. The person in the center should not be comforting you, however. They do not have the energy to comfort you. (Burned into my brain: comforting someone who had NEVER MET MR LOCO at the memorial because she was crying. so much….um yeah…..NOT HELPFUL)
Think BEFORE You Speak: Think about what message your “comforting” words actually send. Saying “This was God’s plan. Someday you will understand.” is actually comforting TO NO ONE EVER. The bad things tend to burn into the grieving person’s memory. These are the things that tend to rattle your cage, throw you for a loop and cause the person in the center to feel uneasy and alone. How do you balance that out? Send a card or email with kind words or memories. This way you have time to think about what you want to say and you can make sure it is supportive. I must say that the cards and emails are comforting. There are several that really hit home. You know when someone selected a really special card just for you or took the time to share are heartfelt email. Opening an email that talks about Mr Loco is actually very comforting. Those thoughtful words mean a lot. Those words have come from so many people. I appreciate the time, the effort and the sentiment. It does not go unappreciated.
Don’t Assume: If you don’t know the person in the center well enough to know their beliefs, don’t assume your religious beliefs are the same as theirs. Don’t assume the concepts that you find comfort in are going to be comforting to the person grieving. This is a BIG one for me. I have swallowed down lots of well-meaning wishes that do not apply to what our family believes. I have been exercising extreme politeness, knowing that people have good intentions or at least hoping that they do. With a little forethought, comforting words could be shared. There is no need to get defensive or to push your beliefs on someone else. Insisting someone SHOULD be comforted by your words or telling them that you “I will pray for you anyway because it can’t hurt” is simply condescending. See: THINK Before You Speak. If you are at a loss for words, let me give you a few things that can be said to anyone.
“I’m so sorry.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“I remember….” Share a nice memory of their loved one.
“What was _____ like?” Allow the grieving person to talk about their loved one.
“How have you been doing?” This allows the grieving person to take the conversation in a few directions. They can talk about their grief or their daily life.
“How can I help?” If you ask this, follow it up with a few options- bringing a meal, spending time with them, making phone calls for them.
Don’t Be A Selfish Ass: I don’t know how to better phrase this one. If someone you know is going through a major loss, don’t whine when you are not getting enough attention. Seriously. This happened. If it happens to be your birthday or going away party DO NOT whine when people share their concern for a person going through trauma. I sort of hope the person that did this READS this post and feels like the selfish ass that they are. (see what I mean about anger….yeah- there it is- popping up in the middle of this post) If you are unable to put your pettiness aside, you need to step away from the person grieving as she may punch you in the throat. I have learned that you actually learn a lot about people during a crisis. The words “I know how you/she feels” when YOU HAVEN’T walked in my shoes is not a helpful thing to say. You don’t actually know what I am going through. Don’t compare anything you have been through to death. It cannot compare. Those words make you look like a selfish ass. Whew! I feel a little better. This experience has shown me that there are beautiful and helpful people in the world. It has also shown me the true colors of a handful of people. I find it interesting from an anthropological standpoint. It hurts my heart from a personal standpoint. I admit that my tolerance for bullshit is quite low at this point. There are much more important things in life. Deep breath. Deep breath. Moving on.
Listen: To be honest, you can’t make anything better in this situation but you can listen. Listen to what people on the inner circle are saying to figure out what they need and don’t need. Support that. If you are unsure, ask clarifying questions so you do understand. Don’t say “Call me if you need anything” and actually expect that person to call you. They will not call. They are overwhelmed. They don’t know what they need. Listen for little details and figure out what will be helpful and go from there.
Don’t Be Nosy: Let me preface this one by saying if we are friends, I have no problem talking about what my next step is or what my plan is. It is sometimes helpful to talk it out. The problem is with people I don’t know. Those questions become very invasive. So, don’t ask “What REALLY happened?” and don’t ask a bunch of personal questions about finances, medical history or anything else for that matter if you are not close to the grieving person and not trying to be helpful. I am amazed at the number of very personal questions people who DON’T KNOW YOU are willing to ask. This goes back to Be Supportive, THINK Before You Speak and really Don’t Be A Selfish Ass…..
Let me clarify the above crankiness, people come out of the woodwork over death. Some people are amazingly supportive. MOST people are amazingly supportive. I have been blown away with the kindness, love and support that has flooded our way these last few weeks. It is that kindness, love and support that has kept us going. There is no way I will ever be able to put into words how grateful I am for every text, phone call, email, facebook message, facebook comment, meal, or time spent together.
-Some of you have been through similar traumas and have offered support and time to talk. To those people: I hope you know who you are- THANK YOU for the phone calls. Thank you for the text messages checking in on me. Thank you! You are each wonderful. You really stand out in my mind as far as people I need to thank for their thoughtful support. Your willingness to share your stories and what was helpful to you has given me strength and allowed me to feel connected with someone who “gets it”. Thank you so very much.
-I work at an amazing place. AMAZING! The families I work with have been nothing short of supportive and wonderful. Families that are going through their own major changes with the addition of a baby….they are taking the time to help us. I have no words to express my gratitude. Baby Loco and I have had wonderful meals each night. We are being well taken care of and this allows us the chance to grieve and find a new normal for our family. I work with a team of women (and Steven!) who are nothing short of amazing. A few in particular have been my rock. Thank you to those who have stuck by my side while taking time away from your families and your business. Thank you for every text message checking in on me. Thank you for getting me out of the house. I cannot say thank you enough to all of the mamas and coworkers who have been nothing short of amazing.
-Some of my best friends are scattered across the country. They are seriously made of awesome. Thank you for flying and driving in to support me. Spending time with friends has been very helpful. Thanks for your continued visits, Skypes and texts and the little gifts. I love you all so very much. A girl could not ask for better girl friends. I send love to GR, LA, Ohio and NC. I only wish we were all together in one city like we were in years past.
-I know so many people of action. You have been there to help take care of me and Baby Loco. You check in on us. You see how I am REALLY doing. You organize support. You are simply there. YOU ARE ALL MADE OF AWESOME. My neighborhood is full of amazing people. Amazing people are going to help carry us through this. People of action remind me of Mr Loco as he was a person of action. He was never one to stand by and say “I wish I could do something to help” or “I wonder what I can do?”, he simply stepped in to help. He shared that with me. I am definitely someone who takes more action to make the world a better place now. I carry this with me and will share this with Baby Loco. There should really be more people like Mr Loco in the world. I hope some people read this blog and take a little bit of Mr Loco’s story and carry on making the world better in all sorts of small ways and big ways.
-Some people don’t know me but know Mr Loco and are an amazing connection. They can share stories. They can make me laugh as they talk about Mr Loco. They can tell me about the happiness they saw in Mr Loco. They see Mr Loco from a different perspective and those willing to share that perspective have been amazing.
-Sometimes you only know people via the interwebz. I have a group of those women in my life. We chat online. We know what is happening in each others lives. We have never met in real life. They have stepped up in such an amazing way. Members message me to see how I am doing, others send the most thoughtful gifts. Women I have never met…..supporting me through the hardest and worst time in my life. Feeling their love and support is a remarkable gift. Beautifully addressed cards with heartfelt words balance out a mailbox full of medical bills. The perfect necklace with a Firefly quote makes a sucky day just a little less sucky. Comforting gifts for Ruby simply mean the world to me. These women love and support me even though they have not physically met me. I would love nothing more than to scoop them all up in a mega hug. I talked to Mr Loco about these ladies a lot. They were my social circle when I first moved to a new state and was not working. He would come home from work and I would ask about his day and he would ask about my online ladies. He seriously paid attention and knew who a chunk of them were. These ladies have been supportive of me, protective of me and generally awesome to me. Thank you TWSS.
The flip side to all of this awesome includes the following:
-The Rubberneckers. These people just want to look at the wreckage of your life. They are not actually helpful. They may sneak in under the barrage of friend requests you receive on social media. They may think they are closer to you than they really are. They may not be in a close enough circle to satisfy their morbid curiosity. They are the ones that want to know “what really happened?” and they are the ones that ask very personal questions even though they are not close enough to you to ask such questions. They are gathering information so they can get together with their real friends and gossip about how sad your life is. Rather than help, they talk. It makes me sad and more irritated to think about these people at all.
-People you thought were better friends are nowhere to be found. POOF. Gone.
-People can be so tied up in their own drama that they don’t realize they are being insensitive or an ass or simply, not present.
-People may be uncomfortable with your situation so they don’t look at you. They may be uncomfortable with your beliefs, not know what to say, or simply want to stay in denial. Not looking or speaking to you is their way of dealing with the situation. It is not pleasant but it is what it is.
I have been trying my best to chalk everything up to people grieving and to people just trying to be helpful. I can guarantee I have said some stupid things in my life. I learn as I go and try not to make those same mistakes twice. I know through this experience I have the lesson of listening and thinking before I speak burned into my mind. I hope some people read this (If you have hung in there and continued reading my cranky rant…..you should really give yourself a cookie)…anyway, I hope some people read this and learn and do better and others read this and give themselves a huge pat on the back for being so amazing- because you have been so amazing.
So, what kinds of stupid things do people say in an effort to be comforting? I won’t list them but there have been some doozies…..some whoppers. Things I can’t believe people would choose to say to someone experiencing loss. Mind boggling things. I try to focus on the MANY MANY people that got it exactly right. How about we focus on what you can do to help someone? Take Action! Be a person of action.
1. Provide a meal
2. Send a note or card
3. Use Mr Loco’s name. I like to hear it. I will talk about him. Some days it will be harder than others. I may tear up or cry when talking about him and other days I may laugh as I tell you a story. Talking is going to help me.
4. I may turn down invitations a lot, invite me places any way. I may eventually change my mind and accept. So keep the invitations coming.
5. Send a card on special occasions his birthday, our anniversary, the anniversary of his death. These days are very important to us.
6. Don’t disappear. Remember I am grieving and be patient with me.
I started out this post cranky. It was a hard day. I cried more times than I can count. (which is most days….but I digress) I ended this post by inserting some pictures of myself with Mr Loco. Now these pictures have me remembering the lead up to our wedding. We were giddy. Maybe that will be my next post. A happy wedding post. Weddings make people happy.
Thanks again for all of the love and support while I work my way through my grief.