I’m starting to realize just how much I’ve forgotten from the week of and immediately following the accident. As I start to reach out to people, I’m realizing I’ve missed entire conversations and chunks of time. Occasionally I’ll have a moment when I text someone and realize our last e-conversation was in June when Noah was in the hospital. Those are painful—the well wishes for a speedy recovery that didn’t happen. I’m starting to ask questions like, “how did you find out?” Because, we don’t have any idea how so many people miraculously appeared to support us on the day of Noah’s service—still so humbling. Cards have appeared in our mailbox from the far reaches of the Marine Corps, from across the country, from people we barely know. We keep wondering how people who don’t even know us can be so kind.
This past weekend, I cleaned out my office, which has been the catchall for opened sympathy cards, gifts, bills that hadn’t been paid, and all forms of Noah administrative torture like insurance information, medical bills, the police report, death certificates, DMV notices, college recruitment fliers, etc. I filed what needed to be filed, tossed what needed to be tossed, and made a giant “deal with this” pile—that was my Monday task. At least that’s done. In some ways, going through the paperwork was my way of reconnecting some of the missing dots—and my way of ensuring our alarm system wasn’t shut off. The shock we experienced after such a catastrophic loss is just now becoming evident. It’s like we were shrouded in this bubble of disbelief that protected us from feeling, thinking, or experiencing that real life has churned on without us.
Some days, I feel very alone as the haze wears off. It’s not any one factor that makes me feel that way. Instead, it’s a culmination of many and a blog for another day. Contrary to popular belief, I am very much an introvert. It’s why I love working from home. It’s why I am a homebody. I recharge my batteries when I am alone. Being left to grieve and reach out when I am ready, is actually a good thing for me. It’s what *I* need and how I handle things. That isn’t to be confused with not asking for help or with feeling unsupported. If there is anything this experience has taught me is that people genuinely want to help and support us, and that it is truly okay to ask. And I have, y’all. I promise. And we do feel your support with every opened envelope, text message, Facebook or CarineBridge note, and every voicemail we haven’t returned.
I’m also realizing that as hard as it is for me to reach out, people are uncomfortable reaching out to us as well, because grief is ugly. It’s hard and scary. I’ve been told by my closest friends and acquaintances alike that they feel like they don’t know what to say and are hesitant to talk to us. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me they hadn’t called or reached out because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. Newsflash, you’re probably going to say the wrong thing. Because you’re human. I say the wrong thing all the time. I have no filter. Well, maybe a tiny one, but for the most part, not so much. But here’s the thing about saying the wrong thing: it doesn’t matter. We all do it. And honestly, there isn’t anything you could possibly say to us that could be worse than what we have experienced in the past two months. I mean, seriously, we get that talking to us must feel a bit like walking on glass, barefoot at first. Our son is gone. We are living with that reality. But we also know that many of you who subscribe here are grieving too, even if you didn’t know Noah that well. Talking about it, and about other things, is helpful. Connecting is helpful.
So, if you’re nervous about reaching out, here are some non-helpful things to avoid. If you haven’t said these, you are ahead of the game! 😉
- “What happened?” Noah was in a car accident on his way to band camp. He was in the hospital for six days and passed away on Father’s Day. I read a quote the other day that said, “if you could read my thoughts, you’d be in tears.” So, that’s all that needs to be said.
- “Everything happens for a reason.” Nope. Not helpful. There will never be a justifiable reason in my mind for losing a child–ever. Faithful or not.
- “God had a plan or needed another angel.” We don’t really care if God had a plan or not. We’d rather he had another plan.
- “God only gives you what you can handle.” My personal favorite. Thank you very much for rewarding us for being strong. Let’s have a do over and we’ll be weak instead.
- “It’s okay to feel X.” We know. Because this is our journey. We are dealing with it the best we can. We are going to feel whatever feeling hits us, every hour, every day. And who knows what that looks like. It’s surprises us every day.
- “I can’t imagine how horrible that must feel.” Try. Instead of reminding us of how awful the situation is, try to imagine it and then think about what might be helpful to say instead.
- “Yes, when Frank (the dog) died…” Please do not compare the death of a pet to the death of our 17 year old. Not the same thing. And yes, that actually happened. *sigh*
Some things people have said to us that are particularly helpful:
- “We are praying for you.” It makes us feel like we are covered in prayer, even when we aren’t strong enough to turn to God ourselves.
- “We are here for you or I’m thinking of you today.”
- “What did you do today?” followed by a conversation that may have absolutely nothing to do with Noah.
- “Let’s have lunch,” followed by going to lunch.
- “I was at the store today and thought of Noah because X.”
- “I remembered this funny story about the boys today.”
- Telling us about what YOU did today.
We get it. Grief is hard and ugly. Here’s a wierd twist of fate. In the four days leading up to Noah’s accident, I was in your shoes, wondering how I would find the words to talk to Tiff and Charles about the loss of their kids when I saw them a few days later at the Celebration of Life. As you may recall, they lost two of thier kids the week before we lost Noah. I’ve been where you are. I remember feeling helpless, wanting to be there for my friend, but not knowing how. I remember trying to think about what words would be helpful and what wouldn’t. I remember wondering how I was going to keep *myself* together when I saw them in person. What I’m realizing now is that we are all just trying to put on foot in front of the other. But part of that is just living life and connecting with the people around us–one awkward conversation and grocery store trip at a time. Trust me when I say it’s getting easier. Our hope is that reaching out becomes easier for you, too. We hope you have a wonderful Saturday!