Yesterday I woke early, and decided to luxuriate in bed for a while to scroll through my Facebook feed before beginning the day. The first post I saw was a picture of 2 hands holding on to each other that began with “Today I lost my best friend…..” I immediately glanced at the name of the poster and began to panic. I read the post and saw my fear was correct. My good friend’s father had passed away. My heart sank, and I found myself crying for my friend’s surely broken heart.
My friend, I’ll call her Sue, is a single mom of 4 I’ve known for many years. We live close to each other and often chip in to help each other out. We pet sit for each other, borrow sugar or flour, jump cars, and mow lawns for each other. We know we can count on each other in a pinch, and there is never any judgment about our often messy houses, chaos, or asking for a favor. We both lost our moms and we understand how deep that loss goes. We get each other. It is a simple and easy friendship that I treasure deeply.
Sue’s dad has been her rock. He was often swinging by to help fix things, or take care of something she needed help with. I never met him, which seems strange to me now, because he was such a prominent figure in her life. When times got tough for her, he would give her money to help out. He kept her afloat when she thought she might drown and she simply adored him. She was always grateful for him and told me on many occasion that “I don’t know what I’d do without him”. She spoke of him glowingly and acknowledged how lucky she was to have him.
Last week, my husband and I went by to help her when her Christmas tree fell over, not once, but twice. She mentioned she was going to visit her dad to check on him because he had felt out of sorts. It didn’t even occur to me that he would end up passing away a few days later.
Once I read her post, I sat wondering how I could help. I WANT to help. I want to do something, anything to ease her pain, but I’m so unsure of where to begin. Death, especially death of a parent, is so very difficult. I’ve often posted about how deeply the death of my mother and friend have impacted me. That being said, when I asked myself “what did I want or need when my mom passed away?” I came up sort of empty handed. I remember feeling utterly alone. My dad was 300 miles away, the rest of my family 3000 miles away. I had my husband, and he tried his damnedest to get me through it all, but I still felt alone. I realize now I’m not sure if I alienated myself a bit. I had so much overwhelming grief I didn’t want to burden others with it. I didn’t want to have to console other people. I just wanted to get through the grief on my own terms. The problem was, I was newly married with an infant, so there was no time to grieve properly, not in my eyes anyway. I just got on with things the best I could and let the grief seep out when I could….5 minutes here, 10 minutes there…
My husband suggested cooking a meal. Meals are good. I know this. The problem is, I’m not a super cook, and she has some dietary restrictions (her son is also a very picky eater). In the end, I saw her best friend was with her and I messaged the friend that Sue could call in an order to any place and I’d fly and buy, or I’d pay for whatever meal she wanted. Also, if she needed to talk, to vent, I’d be here, day and night, any time she needed.
It’s a fine line of offering, being there, but not imposing. I wish I could say or do the perfect thing to ease her pain, but I know I can’t. I can just be here if she needs a friend.
Death before the holidays seems particularly painful. People are rushing around, cheery game faces on. This is the time of year we tend to focus on love and family. How do you console someone who has had such a huge loss?