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: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

What’s The Right Answer?

“How many kids do you have?”

This is the latest dilemma my husband and I have had to figure out. What’s the right answer?

“One here, one in heaven.”

“Two.”

“One.”

What the hell do we say?

That first choice up there would obviously spur a litany of questions none of us wants to deal with—not me, not my husband, not the complete stranger who was just being polite and will probably never see us again. The second choice could cause some awkwardness, too. Take, for example, the recent situation my husband encountered.

You see, he likes to play golf. We live down the street from an easy, inexpensive, nine-hole course. So come springtime, after work, he tries to grab nine holes, at least once or twice a week.

Last week, on a particularly lovely Thursday evening, he took off to play, alone. There were three guys in front of him, reasonable golfers, but there were three of them and they were enjoying themselves, so no matter how poorly he played any particular hole, my husband kept catching up to them. And the single guy behind him kept catching up to him.

While waiting for the group in front, my husband watched the guy behind him make a poor shot. He could tell exactly what was wrong, so he told the guy. Fast-forward to the next hole, and the guy’s shot improved. While they were yet again waiting for the threesome in front of them, my husband said, “My son and I used to take lessons, every other week. My son was doing the same thing you were, and the coach corrected him, told him what I suggested to you.”

“Oh,” said the other golfer. “How old is your son?”

“He was thirteen.”

The guy nodded, totally missed the past tense verb (because who’s expecting that??), and said, “How come he isn’t playing with you tonight?”

My husband paused, couldn’t think of anything else to say, so said, “He passed away, back in March.”

And then they both felt uncomfortable. Because no one wants to hear that, no one wants to say that, and no one has a clue how to recover from such a conversation.

And yet, saying, “I have one kid and one kid only” doesn’t really work either. Because we had two. For the last ten (almost eleven) years, we had two. In fact, it’s still automatic to want to say, “Two.” I don’t know when—if ever—that instinct will go away. And as people constantly remind us, we still do have two. It’s just that one is in heaven now.

It feels uncomfortable leaving him out of conversations, because that feels like leaving him out of our lives. And as much as it hurts either way, he was very much a part of our lives, at least for thirteen years.

So what’s the right answer? I don’t know. I suppose it will depend on the conversation, although, like the conversation my husband had with a fellow golfer, it’s still bound to get awkward. Because let’s face it: being the parent of a dead child spurs a plethora of emotions and feelings, very much including…awkward.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and writer of blog posts that are somehow helping her cope with the grief of losing a child. When she isn’t blogging about–and dealing with–real life, she likes to write happily ever afters, one book at a 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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