It is known to be a common sorrow amongst widowed people that so many of our friends from our "before" lives disappear after the death of our partners. Nearly four years later, I have a deeper understanding of this. Initially, this additional pain is so hurtful that we bear ill will, and I will say, rightly so. If everyone knew what it felt like to lose a partner or loved one, if people were educated on grief and how to behave, this wouldn't, and shouldn't, happen. But...I know now, people do not know how to behave, and this is no fault of theirs. We are not taught this, in our western culture. They only know that they have their own lives. They have children to raise, dinners to cook, bills to pay, and their own troubles to bear. Sometimes, being part of our sorrow can be too much, on top of it all. And today, I forgive. Today, I understand. But it has taken these many years.
There are, however, those who do stay. Those few friends who continue to call, continue to check in, continue to offer help. What I have realized this week is that those people - not all, but most - quite often do so because they have been through it themselves. They have suffered in their own way, and lost loved ones. They have been through disease and death. They have suffered grief, and know its nooks and crannies.
Mom and I got home to Virginia from our scouting trip in South Carolina this week to a pile of mail. Lots of holiday cards. Most of them were impersonal...xeroxed copies of letters bragging of the wonderful year for their family. Let me tell you...every time mom and I heard Christmas music or saw holiday lights on display during our trip, we both turned away in sadness. I have not had a happy holiday since that wonderful last year with Mike in 2012. And this year is doubly hard with what dad is suffering with his horrific dementia, not just for me, but for mom too. I will stay here with her, and we will try to avoid it all, but it is hard. Really hard.
There were a few particularly outstanding notes though, in that pile. A couple of people, people who have been through loss and grief and this type of suffering, recognized that the "normal" holiday card would not cut it this year for mom. For this I am immensely grateful. They sent special notes of concern and love, and it touched us both. One friend of my mom's who had lost a son to a car accident years ago just sent a small note which said essentially, I know it is hard to get "happy holiday greetings" in times like this so I'm not sending one, just a note to say I love you and am thinking of you in your difficult time. Another friend of mine from school whose dad is also suffering dementia sent a beautiful, handwritten sentiment of understanding to my mom that will never be forgotten. And yet another school friend of mine took my mom out to lunch when I was back in Kona last month, to talk, because she had cared for her mom who suffered dementia, and knew how it was. And there were calls and messages from other friends leaving warm thoughts and well wishes for mom.
Seriously, that meant just everything. To have someone, even just one person, who gets it, means everything. When they reach out, it creates a path where the love flows, if you know what I mean. It makes a huge difference not to feel so alone in the abyss.
This is NOT a chastise against friends who don't think of these things. Because God bless them...they haven't been through it yet, and don't get it. And I hate to say this, but, they will. The long, two to three page copied letters neither mom or I could bear to read went right into the trash this year. And this is not because we don't love them or are not happy they had a great year. We are. We just had a crappy one. A really, really, crappy one. And it's not over yet.
I can tell you this. Nearly four years later, I am exhausted by my grief. I try to be there for my friends going through yet more disease and deaths, but it is really, really hard. I don't have the energy to be there the way I would like to because of my own grief. So that alone makes me think I need to be more willing to forgive the people who didn't stay, because maybe I just don't know everything that is going on with them. I choose to forgive, and instead be thankful, for what, and who, I am left with, during tough times, and wish everyone well.