Funerals & Grief & Dealing

A friend of mine recently lost her husband, very suddenly, very young (40s), very tragically (it’s tragic to lose your spouse at any age, but 40s just seems far too young).

I found out via Facebook (isn’t that where we discover practically all our news these days?). I opened the app minutes after she’d posted, announcing her loss and the funeral arrangements, so it was the first one to pop up at the top of my feed. I thought, “This must be a joke.”

Which was the same reaction I had twenty months ago when I was driving home from work and my daughter called and said, “Mom, hurry home! Brady just tried to kill himself!” I yelled at her, “That’s not funny. That’s not remotely funny. Don’t ever joke like that again!” Turns out, she wasn’t joking, and now I carry an extra layer of guilt for shouting at her like that.

The next day, my friend’s tragedy was all we could talk about at the day job, as we discussed when we should go to the viewing and whether we should attend the funeral as well. (No funeral for me—I try my damndest to avoid them at all costs now a-days.) I pulled up her Facebook page to look at the viewing and funeral information, and I had to scroll through picture after picture, post after post, all saying, “I’m sorry” and “Remember when…”

Exactly what happened twenty months ago. I couldn’t even look at my own Facebook page back then, because I didn’t want to see all those pictures, didn’t want to think about the good times, how cute he was, how smart he was, because now he’s gone and all I’ll ever have are those memories, and frankly, that’s not enough.

I went to the viewing with a group of co-workers—current and past. So many people showed up to give their support to their friend, the bereaved; some the widow probably hadn’t seen in years.

Just like at my son’s viewing. I remember getting momentarily excited every time another person walked in who I hadn’t seen in forever … until we recalled why we were finally coming together again.

My friend looked exhausted, and infinitely sad. Greeting people and hugging people and accepting condolences for hours on end when all you really want to do is curl up into a ball and cry until the tears run dry will do that to a person. I know I looked exactly the same way. During tragic times, you cry so much that when you look in the mirror, those puffy, no-makeup eyes actually look normal.

She had someone checking in on her every few minutes—“You okay?” “Need anything?” “Hungry?” “Can I get you another bottle of water?”

I had the same friend. Well, not literally the same person, but that friend, that person who spent the entire viewing tending to my needs, the grieving mother. I’ll probably never be able to thank her enough for that.

And the video. Dear God, the video. Nothing makes people tear up more instantaneously than the video at a viewing. That walk down Memory Lane. Hundreds of pictures of the good times. The person’s life captured in a five-minute, heart-wrenching slideshow. Young, old, in between, the video takes no prisons and leaves no dry eyes.

When all the hoopla was over and everyone else returned to their nice, normal lives, the funeral director gave us a bag of “goodies:” the thumb drive of pictures, the actual photo we’d used for the announcement in the paper and the sign at the funeral home, a stack of thank you cards, the death certificate (so many mementos I never wanted…), and the video, captured forever on CD.

Many bereaved, I’m sure, watch that video, possibly regularly. Maybe on the anniversary or birthday. Maybe every week or every day. Maybe it brings them peace or offers a glimpse into prior happiness that helps buoy their hearts, their lives.

Me, I think I threw it away. Not sure, to be honest. It may be tucked into a drawer somewhere or tossed onto a shelf in the basement. One thing I do know: It’s not something I have any remote interest in watching. Those memories are in my head, and I can barely stand that as it is, let alone actually watching them, recalling all those good times that weren’t enough to eclipse the demons who ultimately took him from me.

All said, I do hope my friend can find some comfort wherever she can in the coming days, weeks, years. Whether it’s the video or the friends and family who rally ’round her, I hope she finds some peace … and happiness. Because as we all know, the living must go on … living.


Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund sometimes writes reflective, depressing blogs, but the books she writes are anything but. You should sign up for her newsletter, so you get first dibs on the cool new stuff she puts out:

When I Miss Him Most…

When I miss him most…

When I can’t figure out something on my phone. Or my laptop. Or any computer or other electronic device.

When I see a group of teenage boys walking down the street, especially when they are laughing and appear happy with life.

When I see a good-looking blond man. Would he have turned out so handsome?

When I stalk his Instagram account (which I left open partially because I couldn’t figure out how to shut it down and partially because it seems to be therapeutic for his friends to go there and post comments). When I see all the comments from people whose lives he touched, in a positive way. When they talk about how much he made them laugh. When I see comments from his girlfriend, and realize how much she still misses him. Would they still be together, if he was still here?

When we get together with the family. Everybody had an even-numbered core family, two kids each; and we’ve now thrown off the numbers.

When one of the grandparents says, “My six, er, five grandkids.”

When my daughter tells funny stories about her brother. Because that’s how she copes.

When I catch a glimpse of the closed door at the end of the hall. I haven’t stepped foot into his bedroom in so long at this point, I almost can’t remember what it looks like. Almost.

When I think about his birthday, which is in October. How will I feel on that day? What will we do? Will we acknowledge it? Will I go into work? Will I be able to handle it?

When I think about Thanksgiving. What exactly am I supposed to be thankful for this year?

When I think about Christmas. Will we change our traditions this year, in an attempt to make it easier on ourselves? I loved the traditions we had established, but I can’t imagine doing them with our new, smaller family, yet at the same time, I hate to give them up.

When I think about school starting again. My daughter will be in middle school. Thankfully, at a different school, but still, in that world, that horrible time in a person’s life when you don’t feel like a kid or an adult. That time in his life during which my son decided to end his own life.

When I think about my daughter hitting those teen angst years. Let’s face it, there’s only a slim chance she won’t be a moody, grumpy, unhappy teenager, at least for a few years. How the hell am I supposed to go through that without fearing every moment of every day that she will choose the same path her brother did?

When certain songs come on the radio. There’s a list of songs I have always loved, yet now cannot bear to listen to, which I hate, because I love these songs. Every Rose Has It’s Thorn by Poison. Something To Believe In by Poison. (Although to be fair, can anyone listen to that song without crying?) Don’t Close Your Eyes by Kix. Crow and Butterfly by Shinedown. November Rain by Guns and Roses. The Dance by Garth Brooks.

True confession: I’m not sure I’d choose to do this dance again if I knew this would be the outcome. Actually, I’m really quite sure, and the answer is a resounding no. Same goes for loving and losing instead of never loving at all. Give me never loving at all. It hurts far less. Maybe, someday, that attitude will change, but right now, that’s how I feel. I hate it, every minute of every day, this pain, this emptiness, the helplessness I feel when, for a brief moment, I almost forget he’s gone and think I’m about to arrive home and see him again. And then I realize I won’t.

He’s never coming back. He’s never getting older. He’s never graduating, never going to college, never getting married, never giving me grandbabies. Never having a first drink with me. Never sitting around the campfire again, not as a kid or an adult, joking and laughing and teasing with the rest of the family. Never becoming an expert at euchre. Never discovering what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Never growing any taller—would he have hit six feet? Would he have surpassed it?

My daughter’s future kids (the ones she currently claims she doesn’t want) will never meet their Uncle Brady. They may not ever even utter the words, “Uncle Brady.” No kids will call her Aunt Reagan. (Okay, that’s not entirely true. In my family, close friends are aunts and uncles, so she’ll have that, at least.)

When do I miss him most? All the damn time.



The Guilt of Grieving

My new, smaller family is on vacation this week. We’re visiting old friends, some family, carving out new memories, enjoying ourselves.

And I feel guilty as hell about it.

I know it’s silly, I know it. He’s gone, we’re still living, it wasn’t our fault what happened happened. We have to keep on living, and part of living is finding joy. Preferably a large part. Otherwise, well, we won’t go down that path. Ever.

Yet, I can’t help the guilt. I mean, this is my first time dealing with grief at this level. My parents are still with us, as are my husband’s. And our siblings. Our parents dealt with the details of burying our grandparents, all of whom passed many years ago.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. I’m a little afraid people will criticize the “way” I’m dealing or not. Crazy or stupid, perhaps, but that’s me.

What I want to feel is happy. What I want is for the hole in my heart to heal. Okay, what I really want is my son back, but I’ve mostly come to accept that isn’t going to happen. Despite that, I still want to enjoy life. I want to wake up and look forward to the day. I want to laugh. And oh God, I want to stop crying. I’ve shed enough tears for a lifetime in the last three weeks, and while I know they won’t end entirely, it would be nice to take a break from them for at least a few days at a time.

Being on vacation has helped. We’ve deliberately chosen activities my daughter would like, and we’ve thoroughly reveled in her joy. I’ve taken a bunch of pictures and have posted some on Facebook, including one of myself and my husband, smiling. I was weirdly worried people would condemn me for smiling, but instead, my friends are glad for us. Which I suppose I should have expected. These people love me, after all, and despite our recent horrendous loss–or maybe because of it–they want us to find peace, to be happy again.

So we are. One day at a time. I’m sure there will be other posts full of sadness and despair and wishing for what I cannot have. But for right now, we are enjoying our vacation. And smiling.

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