Nat had her say a while ago, and now here’s my 2 cents. You might want to grab a Snickers. This could take a while.
As you all know, Pixie and I lost our moms within days of each other. My mom died after 2 1/2 years of fighting cancer, and Nat’s Momski died unexpectedly. Nat and I had been online pals for a while when the opportunity came up for me to review for her site. Once I agreed, I gave her a head’s up about my mom, because at the time we figured we’d only have a few more months with her, and my daily commitment to my mom took precedence over everything. Nat COMPLETELY understood and she and the other Magnolias supported me 100%. Whatever I needed that they could provide, they were willing to give. Anything. Any time.
When I gave her the full story, Nat and I had a discussion about what it was like and what I was going through. She had a very similar relationship with her mom that I did with mine. In fact, we later decided The Moms were twins separated at birth. LOL. I remember Nat telling me that what I was doing, watching my mom die by inches, was her idea of hell. She knew it would be a special form of torture, and she didn’t think she was strong enough to handle that sort of thing. I remember telling her that I was so incredibly grateful I’d had every moment I did. In the beginning mom’s diagnosis was mere weeks, so 2 1/2 years was AMAZING. What’s funny is our moms each died in the way that was easier for their daughters. They looked out for us until their very last moments.
She’s lucky to have you, and I’m seriously thinking we were brought together for a reason!
Oh, how right Nat was. Didn’t know she was psychic, didya?
I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news that Nat’s Momski had died. I thought it was some weird non-funny form of comfort she was trying to offer. At that point I had been sleeping in catnaps for weeks and barely even showering in case mom died that instant. I had been living moment to moment, literally breath to breath for 2 weeks, and now that mom died I was numb and barely functioning. I was beyond comprehending what Nat was telling me.
By the time it sunk in, a few hours had passed. Nat and I immediately started texting. I have to be honest. When I first started “working” for her, we were pals. By the time the end came for my mom we were friends. Now? Now we’re sisters. Nothing can break the bond we share through our mutual grief. Going through something like this together is an unbelievable comfort, even while it’s COMPLETELY bizarre. The funerals for The Moms were on the same day, we were literally doing things at the exact same time a continent apart. Choosing clothes? Check. Arranging Flowers? Check. Sobbing uncontrollably while laughing hysterically when you find tissues stuffed up all the sleeves of all the jackets she owned? CHECK! (Seriously. Both Moms did this. LOL).
We found ourselves texting each other night and day while this was going on. We finally had someone who KNEW what each of us was going through. We knew what the sudden silence in the house was like. We knew what it felt like to call the family and have to force the words “She’s gone” past the lump in our throats and nausea in our stomachs. We knew what a comfort it was to crawl onto our moms’ beds and cry and sleep and cry some more. We had someone who understood in a way no one else, not even our closest loved ones, could.
Since then Nat and I have been very different in the ways we’ve coped. She’s done amazing things and made amazing changes, and I’ve been resting. I was with mom for every step of those 2 1/2 years, and frankly I’m exhausted. In this way, I envy Nat. I wish I could be as proactive in dealing with my grief as she has been, but since the end of July there has been Major Drama within the Guppy family, and I’m just too emotionally exhausted to deal with anything right now. That’s okay, though. I know Nat will be there for me and she knows I’m there for her. No matter what. Always. Eventually I’ll get back on my feet and continue living the way Mom wanted me to. It’ll just take some time. In the meantime, I’ll sit back and watch Nat grow in leaps and bounds with a strength I’m not sure she knew she possessed.
Through all of this, though, we’ve both learned a few things about grief and how to deal with it.
1. If you’re grieving, don’t be afraid to laugh. It’s really okay. Your loved one probably loved to hear you laugh, so why should that stop just because they’re gone? Things can still be funny. And friends? Family? It’s okay to make us laugh! I think I broke something when at mom’s burial and I’m having a private moment sobbing over her casket and my dad cracked a joke and in a split second I started laughing hysterically. I’ll treasure that moment forever.
2. If you know someone grieving, for the love of all things holy, DO NOT SAY that crappy line about God closing a whatever and opening the other thing. Also don’t say “they’re in a better place.” Not only does it not comfort us, it actually makes us want to punch you in the face. A lot. Don’t do it. EVER. (On second thought, maybe the punching WOULD bring a strange sort of comfort. Hmm. Carry on.)
3. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know what to say” or “I don’t know what to do to help you.” Really, there’s nothing you CAN say. It sucks. It ALWAYS sucks when someone dies. It SHOULD suck. Nothing you say is going to make it not suck. Chances are there’s also nothing you can do. Maybe pick up some brochures or double-check with the florist, but unless you’re as close as family, there’s probably not anything you can do. We appreciate the offer, though, more than you can know.
4. Keep in touch. Everyone calls and writes and sends flowers and for the first week or two those of us left behind are inundated and overwhelmed with people and calls and visits and cards and whatever. But after the funeral, and after a week or so has passed everyone disappears and those of us grieving are left alone without our loved ones and usually with a huge amount of work left. CALL us. Write us. You want to help? NOW is when we need your help. We need help cleaning the closets and going through the garage and sorting the kitchen equipment. NOW is when we need people to come and be slave labor, even if it is just for one day. Cleaning up is really, really hard, and can be emotionally overwhelming and physically exhausting. Even if we’re just emptying out a desk and you can’t actually help, we’d appreciate the company while we do This Very Hard Thing.
5. Get us out of the house. Feed us. TALK to us. After everything has died down, call us and take us out for coffee, a movie, lunch. Something. Just give us an opportunity to get out of the house and out of our heads. Let us talk and tell stories. Tell US stories, too! Maybe you know something we didn’t or have a different perspective on a story we’ve heard all our lives. If we won’t leave the house? Have fun stormin’ the castle! Seriously. Show up with dinner or groceries or our favorite caffeinated beverage and a stack of DVDs. Give us a break from wallowing or brooding. Believe it or not, it helps.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask us 2 weeks…6 months…a year down the road how we’re doing. If you let us know you REALLY want to know we’ll tell you. Our grief is not some dark little secret. It colors everything we’re doing and saying and thinking at the moment. Eventually it’ll be less, as that’s the way things like this go, but grief is a strange and funny thing, and one day, 2 years down the road, you may come across us sobbing hysterically for what appears to be no good reason at all. Best thing to do? Hugs us tight, hand us copious amounts of tissues, and let us cry it out. We’ll remember that kindness and will be forever grateful you loved us enough to not make us try to explain.
7. Share pictures. I decided to do both my own program for Mom’s funeral as well as a DVD slideshow for the reception after. It was a great talking point with everyone at the reception, a fantastic way to say “Oh, that was when…” or “Remember the time that…” In working on the projects, I sent out an e-mail to everyone I could think of asking for pictures. A lot of them I already had, but there were a few I’d never seen before. In fact, there was one of my parents that I’ve sent out for framing. It’s from when they were engaged and they look like movie stars. If I hadn’t asked and if her friends hadn’t taken the time to scan these, I never would have even known they existed. And I’d never have one of my favorite pictures EVER of my parents. See?
8. Here’s the most important. TALK ABOUT THE HARD STUFF. Everyone in your family healthy? Happy? A-OK? FANTASTIC! Now go write that will. Form that trust. Buy that burial plot/funeral package you’ve been putting off. Make it easier for those left behind by TALKING to your loved ones about what you want and how you want it. Write it down! Are you an organ donor? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you want to make sure Cousin Allison gets that ring with the Scorpio symbol on it because she’s the only other Scorpio in the family? MAKE A WILL. FORM A TRUST. CREATE AN ADVANCED HEALTHCARE DIRECTIVE. I cannot tell you what a comfort it was to know we had these things. We knew what mom wanted and how she wanted it. When she was failing and having a hard time comprehending things with her doctor, I knew her wishes and because of the AHCD I was able to authorize things she needed medically without her having to struggle to comprehend and to have to make the decision herself. We knew what she wanted for her funeral, what she wanted on her gravestone, and just about everything was prepaid for. I didn’t have to put it all on my credit card to pay off later.
Remember to enjoy every moment you have with your loved ones. You’d be amazed at how much crap in our lives you realize is Just. Not. Important. when someone you love is dying. It frees you up in ways you absolutely cannot comprehend until it happens to you.
I hope it never happens to you.
Of course it will happen to you.
Lynda the Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks
aka A Still-Grieving Guppy