I shared a blog yesterday that I wrote one year ago and in it, I mention that I had just driven home from Saskatchewan. To be more specific, I was driving home from Outlook, Saskatchewan. My home away from home. My little piece of heaven. One of my favorite places to go to seek refuge. It was a place I have always loved to go long before Nick’s death and even he was growing fond of it as well. I know this to be true because he didn’t have an issue making the seven to eight-hour drive to get there.
I know I will get Scott there in due time and the story is much different when you have to factor in two little girls as well. I know they are going to love it there and I can’t wait to take them.
I was just there this past weekend.
So why Outlook? Well, family of course. My cousin Melissa and her beautiful family live there, and every year my Aunt throws an amazing birthday party for my sweet little cousin Izzy. My Aunt throws a party for all the kids, but Izzy’s is the one I never miss. There is something about that little girl that fuels my soul and her and I have fond memories, some that weren’t easy.
So many people have said to me, “I can’t believe you drive that far multiple times a year,” my response is this, “my family lives there, it’s a no-brainer and well worth the drive.”
This year while Melissa and I were preparing for the icing for the cupcakes, (and when I say Melissa and I, what I mean is Melissa), anyway, while we were preparing the icing, Melissa was happy that she thought she had found a recipe that her Mother used to use. She was happy and then within moments, she was sad.
I have a point to make in this entry today, and it’s one that I find myself reminding people of often. Melissa became sad because she missed her Mom. I asked Melissa for permission to write about this because it is something very important for people to understand.
Melissa’s Mom (my Aunt), died four and a half years ago and she is STILL sad. Now come on Melissa, you must be over it by now.
NO NO NO NO NO.
My cousin lost her Mother far too soon to cancer, and none of us were prepared for it; even though we tried so hard to be “prepared.” Cleaning out the closet with Melissa was one of the worst things I have ever had to do. I remember leaving the hospital after she died and when Melissa and I got in the car she looked at me and said, “I don’t have a Mom anymore.”
In the midst of my cousin feeling sad and telling me she missed her Mom, she then stopped herself from feeling the grief and said, “but it could be so much worse,” “so much worse like you.”
Melissa went on to talk about how blessed she is to have her family and seemed to think that she had to stop her sadness because, “it could be so much worse.”
Here’s the thing. Death is not a competition.
I miss Melissa’s Mom like crazy too. I cry while thinking of her often and even more so since Nick died. I miss her at the parties, family get-togethers, Craven, and just on normal days when we would all just “be” together. It is complete and utter bull shit that she died so young and for the record, I could not imagine losing my Mom, and I have always admired Melissa’s strength and resilience.
When Melissa tried to put away her sadness, I said to her, “I miss your Mom too, and it’s okay to be sad.” Of course, she should be sad and if I would have responded, “it could be so much worse” (which I am not sure it could), I would be stealing away her opportunity to grieve. Her moment of honoring the love she had and has for her Mother and the opportunity she had to acknowledge her grief.
Grief never goes away, and by the way, there are people who actually respond with statements like that in moments like this. I know deep down they mean well, but sometimes it’s just so hard to find the words.
I forgive you.
Before I went to Outlook, I had dinner with Stacey and Julie. Stacey talked about her dog Hector who she had to put down a few weeks ago. Stacey said, “I can’t imagine what you went through because this is so hard.” Stacey, I know you mean well, and you think that is what you are “supposed” to say but guess what?
I BAWLED MY FACE OFF when I found out you had to put Hector down. I was so incredibly sad for you, and I can’t even imagine how horrible it’s going to be when one of my dogs have to cross that Rainbow Bridge. I don’t care how hard it was to lose Nick, losing one of my girls is going to suck.
I have always said the words, “embrace the suck,” I said this before Nick died and I remember saying this when I was about to undergo a Goruck challenge. I have said these words often to myself and others through this never ending endo pain, and I want to reiterate how important it is now to allow people to embrace “their” suck.
I was listening to an interview between Sheryl Sandberg (who is one of my absolute favorite people) and Oprah (also one of my favorites), and Sheryl mentioned: “leaning into the suck.” She wrote a book called Leaning In but had no idea what leaning in really meant until she lost her husband suddenly two years ago. When she said this, I thought, FINALLY, someone who gets’s what I am saying.
While I listened to her interview with Oprah, I was reminded over and over why I love her so much. She truly preaches all the same things I do, and one of those things is to allow grief to come and go but DO NOT put it away because you think you have to. Do not hide within your grief. Do not suppress it because you think someone else has it worse.
Sure maybe someone else has it worse. Who define’s what’s worse anyway? Right now this isn’t about someone else, this is about YOU.
I am learning so much about active (direct) coping, and palliative coping, and I am so grateful that I have been able to face my grief head on. I had so many people around me who allowed me, and still allow me, to just be me in those moments of pure ugliness, so I didn’t get stuck in the dark holes that I often visited and still visit to this day.
If you find yourself in a situation where someone is opening up to you and sharing something that is causing them grief, please don’t steal it away from them by downplaying the significance of it. Okay sure we all have that friend or person we know who is consistently negative (I honestly don’t think I do at this point in my life), but try to allow even them to have that moment because that moment might be all that they need.
A big part of the reason I journal is that these moments come up often and the best way to heal is to let it all out. On paper, in person, in music, or whatever way feels right for you.
DO NOT suppress your grief. It won’t go away, and it won’t get better. Find someone who will bear witness and go ahead and cry your face off.
If you don’t know what to say to someone in this kind of situation just look at them and say this:
“I have no words, but you have every right to feel what you are feeling, and I am here for you. You are not alone”.
It’s truly that simple.
Melissa and Stacey, I love you both, and in a matter of 48 hours, you both reminded why I am doing what I am doing. You both have every right to be sad and Stacey for the record, Hector was not “just” a dog. He was your dog, and you loved him so much. We all did. Be sad for as long as you need to be sad and if someone tries to put a time limit on that sadness, ignore them and embrace the suck.
Melissa, you know how I felt about your Mom. I expect to be missing her and crying over her still when we are little old women. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I hope we can always remember her the same way we do now. You have every right to be sad for as long as you need and if anyone tries to put a time limit on that sadness, ignore them and embrace the suck.
If we all hid from our grief, we would miss so many beautifully authentic moments. When Melissa and I were in the middle of talking about her Mom and Nick, I looked at the stove clock, and it was 11:11. We smiled, and we went on with the day.
“When life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.” -Sheryl Sandberg
Ps. If you have a chance to watch Sheryl Sandberg’s interview with Oprah, it is well worth it. She is brilliant and spot on about grief and life after loss.