What I Didn’t Expect

I’ve not had much to say for quite sometime. I know that. This little old blog has been mostly abandoned. I wasn’t sure if anyone still cared to read. Life kept moving and my thoughts and insights didn’t seem to. I have been stuck, feeling like I had nothing new or profound to say.

Then, as I scrubbed my kitchen counters and loaded the dishwasher this morning after getting six kids off to school (baby A is in preschool and I’m only freaking out a little bit), I had a flood of thoughts. I’ve been having a flood of thoughts for a few weeks. I simply decided to do something besides talk my husband’s ear off late at night this time.

Disclaimer: This is not a blog post about everyone in every circumstance. It doesn’t even apply to everyone, every friend in my own life. If you don’t identify with this in anyway, good for you. If this doesn’t resemble your experience, yay! If even a little bit of it rings true, think on it and let’s all do better.

Nearly five years in on this path and it still baffles me how I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t expect it. I know I was given a few warnings from those more wise about the aftermath of death that shirks the natural order of life than myself. I have been pondering it all more lately. The isolation and loss of friends, that is.

It’s a recurring theme I’ve run into as I’ve met and talked with dozens of grieving parents, siblings, and spouses. No matter the circumstances surrounding the death, everyone I’ve spoken to who experiences death out of the natural order, experiences a subsequent loss of friends on some level. Not all, not even most in the majority of cases, but some. Since my last speaking engagement at the University of Iowa in the Death and Dying class, I’ve been pondering that more and more.

I didn’t realize that the loss of my son’s life would create the loss of friendship it has. I didn’t realize that his death would be taken so hard by others that they couldn’t be around me anymore. That I would come to serve as a physical reminder that children die, there isn’t a set order to life and death, and people are changed by that occurrence. That how his death would change me is something some couldn’t be there for.

Mostly, I didn’t realize that something being for my own good following his death would be used as the excuse for others pulling away because of their own discomfort.

“I didn’t think you’d feel up to coming.”

“I thought it might be too hard for you.”

“I figured it’d be too much of a reminder.”

“I didn’t want to bother you.”

While all well meaning, good-intentioned phrases, I can’t help but feel they are placating sentences to excuse societies own discomfort with death and anything/one that reminds us of death. When we remove the free agency to socialize from those who have experienced tremendous loss through death, we isolate the grieving. We leave them with a proverbial “G” emblazoned on their chests.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Grief stemming from the death of a child does not end in this life. Grief for many people no matter the death does not end. We figure out a new normal and keep living. Keep going. Keep taking deep breaths and figuring life out. We wake up each morning and figure out how to tackle the tasks in front of us.

Here’s the kicker.

It’s. The. Same. Thing. Everyone. Does.

Extend the invite, make the call, stop by, send the card, be there. If someone doesn’t feel up to it, they can decide. This is especially important through the holidays. We, as a society, need to stop making excuses to essentially abandon the grieving and assuage our own guilt in doing so.



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