There was a time when asking for help felt like the hardest thing in the world. Then I lost my sixteen-year-old son… and it changed everything.
There’s nothing that prepares you for the strength you need to recover and rebuild a life that has shattered into bits and pieces of sorrow. You simply can’t do it alone.
I had three living children who suffered the shock, too, and yet I couldn’t give up on their young lives to bury myself into my deep, debilitating fog of grief. They deserved a happy childhood in spite of the devastating loss of their brother.
But how do you do that when, as a mother, all you can think about is the child who’s gone? The magnitude of that kind of loss and trying to blend your new everyday life is overwhelming.
But I was rescued.
Don’t think about it… just show up
From day one, I was stunned to see how many people appeared at my front door to help. They brought food, organized my son’s service, helped with my kids, and sat with me even when I couldn’t talk. They didn’t call to ask if I needed anything, they just showed up.
For the first several days, my tears were private. I didn’t want to show how much I was suffering, not even in front of my husband. We each suffered our private grieving for a while because our vulnerability was so fragile. Neither of us could bear to see each other cry. One of us always had to be strong… for our children, our three living children.
I tried to appear strong and capable. That’s how people knew me. That’s what they expected.
The crisis deepened when I found myself waking up in the night hours to go to my children’s rooms and watch them breathe.
My son had died in the middle of the night. I trusted the doctor. “He’s got the TypeA flu. Give him Tylenol and lots of fluids,” the doctor said, “he’ll be fine in 48 hours.”
He never woke up. He didn’t have the flu at all. It was a deadly form of bacterial meningitis. Maybe if I had watched him breathe… how often I went to that place of thinking I could have changed it if I had just watched him breathe through the night.
It’s what happens in the stages of grieving when your mind tries to go back and change it for a new magical result. But it tears you apart.
My friends kept asking what they could do to help. I was afraid of what might lie beneath the surface, and the thought of losing my conscious control hovered between each breath I took.
My unyielding pride whispered I should be able to do this on my own.
But I couldn’t, and I grew weaker by the day. After the first week, I’d lost 10 pounds. I fainted, and someone grabbed me and guided me to the couch.
I put my head on the pillow to lie down. I kept my eyes closed to shut out the noise. I felt someone touch my forehead, whispering to me, “You’re going to get through this, Sandy. I promise.” Her hand felt so gentle and so safe as she stroked my head.
I wasn’t enough… I needed help
I opened my eyes and there they were, our friends gathered in my home… ready to step forward to help us navigate this tragic, tragic loss, and the emotional war ahead to regain our life.
In nature, when a female elephant is sick or wounded, the other females form a circle around her. They protect her, nurture her, and watch over her until she’s strong enough to stand on her own.
That’s how my circle is.
Who’s got your back?
Over the years, my friends held my deepest sorrow in their hands. They lifted me up, supported my dreams, and encouraged my goals. Even during the toughest times in my life, I felt safe knowing they had my back.
When I felt weak and exhausted from loss, they helped me be the mom I needed to be. When I thought I wouldn’t survive, my friends surrounded me and said, “yes you can, and we’re going to help.”
And they did.
They stepped in to pick up my kids from school, take me to coffee, make sure my cupboards were stocked, and most of all… they listened. They were not afraid of my tears and urged me to tell stories of my son until I didn’t need to tell the same stories over and over again. They called each other every day to organize my life and soothe my broken heart.
Now, it’s years down the road, and I can look back and say I didn’t make it on my own. I had a team, my dream team. They were there, and they still are…
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. — Albert Schweitzer
You don’t have to do this life alone… you have people
Have you ever thought about who’s on your dream team? I know you have a circle of those who care. You may feel like you have just one friend or family member but look around you.
I would never have thought the publisher of my first book would have been such a resource of strength, but it turned out she had lost a daughter just a year before. She was the one stroking my forehead after I fainted, whispering… you’ll get through this, I promise.”
She was right. I survived.
If life throws an unexpected event your way, and you wonder… Will I survive?
Yes, you will. Look to your dream team to back you up. Cultivate that, and you’ll be stronger than you ever imagined.
**Previously published on Publishous/Medium**