There are times when you don’t need to be in regular contact with a friend to see that someone in their family is reaching the end of their life. There is an air of “grief prep” when these things happen.
I watched online as a friend of mine kept posting pictures of her mother with regularity. I found this odd as she was one to post pictures of her trips and the odd social gathering; rarely would she post family. She wasn’t a frequent poster to begin with, but to see her mother becoming a regular theme for a period of time started to make me question whether she was in a pre-grief mode as a loved one declines.
Weeks later, I would get my answer as I would see several postings from friends, offering condolences on the loss of her mother. I joined in these condolences and noted that this was the fourth year in a row where one of my circle (including myself) would lose a parent. I was the second one of my group to go through this and, I was getting well versed in what to expect when you lose someone close to you.
I simply offered to lend an ear should she need it. I told her I had “been there, done that, and now give tours”. I said so thinking that she would be surrounded by family and other friends and, that I’d never hear from her. If she should come forward to me, my offer of an ear would be valid and not some empty platitude.
A few short weeks would pass when I would see an email from her. It was one simple sentence:
When does it stop hurting so much???
Such a valid question! I knew that I couldn’t spin the pain one feels with the loss of a parent into something that would “kiss and make it all better”. That would be a disservice to my friend who asked an honest question. It is a question that all of us ask in the middle of grief.
So, having “been there, done that” complete with t-shirt and tour guide pass, I composed my response:
Do you want an honest answer? Never. Yes it fades but it will come back and visit again and again. Years will pass and you will still find the odd moment where tears come for seemingly no reason.
The first year is the hardest. All the firsts happen; first missed birthday; first Christmas; first anniversary. Once you make it to that, it gets easier. And the pain is more a loving remembrance. Which you will discover is a good thing.
You will miss her every day for the rest of your life. You will think of her every day. You will talk of her often. Let it happen. Don’t let people tell you to get over it. Never let anyone take that away from you. She was your mom, after all. Remember her.
I didn’t want to dress this up for you. I would be doing you a disservice. But the pain eventually gives way to an eternal love. I promise you.
If you ever need to talk, I will listen.
My friend appreciated the honesty and, also, the fact that I didn’t try to “fix” her. I simply gave it to her as it is; a wound that never fully heals.
I would cross paths with my friend a few days later as I walked around a park at lunch. She was walking her dog and you could see it was an escape for her and a chance to decompress. I walked up to her and said hi. She was happy to see me. I gave her a hug and said it was nice to see her again. What we had exchanged via email was left unsaid as we simply nodded in a moment of mutual understanding. I didn’t need to say sorry as I could see she already knew and preferred me not to mention recent events in a public place.
After a few moments of weather talk, I departed from her to allow her to continue on the path, both figuratively and literally. If she needed me, I knew we would cross again. I had hoped for her that, someday, it would stop hurting so much.