Chris’ friends plow my long driveway after his death, fix the garbage disposal and replace the leaky faucet.
Baskets of ready-to-eat foods and snacks for both adults and kids brought to my home by a co-worker. Platters of lunch meats, cheese and brownies show up in my kitchen for the revolving door of visitors coming to my home.
The colorful wooden pull-cord train bought by another co-worker keeps my son Matt occupied while I receive guests at the funeral home.
My neighbor Sally’s offer to come home early from the visitation so that she can bring my two-year old home and put him to bed with his usual routine.
I see the way people are helping; I hear myself thanking them and know in my heart I would not be surviving this nightmare without them. But when my first Thanksgiving comes around, I ask, “What the hell am I supposed to be thankful for?”
Shock and disbelief form a protective cocoon around those grieving and as the membrane gets eaten away by reality, often anxiety and depression increase. All I see now is the pain, the suffering and all the life that is going on without the person I love, without the father of my child…
Although I hate clichés and would never think about saying this out loud to someone newly widowed, I now understand the phrase, “Time heals all wounds.”
It is a long time before I can reevaluate the early days of my loss and find the many blessings received. With the gift of time comes the understanding of the concrete ways my family and friends were holding me up, walking me through the pain and loss. The gift of time allows you to look back to clearly see the blessings that come your way, even in your darkest hour.
Here are some of my blessings, some of the things I am thankful for as I look back on my grief journey. Maybe you will be able to use some of these ideas to bring hope to your family members and friends when they are grieving?
- Friends who show up the day of my husband’s death and sit for hours listening to the details of that horrific day.
- Family members who stay with me overnight until I am ready to stay alone and who still love me when I am rude, angry and anything but myself.
- The letters and cards that seem to never end, especially the humorous ones sent by a friend. I will never forget how much I hate them and resent her for thinking that I can laugh. Little do I know that she provides me with the only 5-minutes of my day that aren’t spent grieving – I now see that as a blessing, the chance to take a pause from my grief.
- Spontaneous dinner invitations for me and my son when I stop by to visit neighbors, often on the way home from the cemetery.
- The countless offers of play dates and babysitting so that I can have some time alone.
- Friends and family’s ability to use Chris’ name and to share stories about how he was a part of their lives and how they will miss him.
- Accepting my tears and allowing theirs to flow as well.
- Invitations to go for a walk or go to the lake with our children.
- Flowers, hugs and prayers.
There is a quote from Mark Nepo in his book entitled, The Book of Awakening where he states, “When the path is blocked, back up and see more of the way.” It has been almost twenty-four years since my first husband died suddenly. Initially, the shock, disbelief and the paralyzing agony of grief blocked my path.
However, with the gift of time, I can now back up and see all the blessings that were present, existing simultaneously with my pain. This is what I am truly thankful for this holiday season. I am thankful for the resiliency of the human spirit and for the ability to heal after life’s losses.