I’m not an expert on grief.
I’ve been very lucky. So far, other than my grandparents, parakeets, and dogs, up until last year I was blissfully unaware of how loss can affect you. But then we lost my mother-in-law and my father within a week of each other, which sent my normal life reeling out of control. Last month, I lost my beloved fur baby Bella, and it’s been so damn hard to function.
But this blog post isn’t about me feeling sorry for myself. It’s about my gradual awareness and growth regarding death.
Yeah, this isn’t a writing post, but as you all know, my blog is my safe space to talk about all types of subjects that affect us – and guess what? It all trickles into the writing anyway.
Have you ever wondered why you suddenly notice everyone around you experiencing the same stuff once you do? For instance, I never remember seeing many pregnant women, but when I got pregnant, they were everywhere! And when I was struggling with my father’s cancer, it seemed everyone around me was having the same issue with a loved one. Recently, when I lost Bella, many of my author friends and readers experienced having to say goodbye to their fur baby. The posts overtook my Facebook feed and made my heart hurt. I couldn’t believe how many people were going through the same exact thing that I was.
But I’ve realized, once your eyes are open, you see things differently. I was never interested in pregnant woman so I never saw them. I’d never experienced terminal cancer. My mother had been the one to say goodbye to all the family dogs, not me. Every time we experience a new reality, we are suddenly aware of the world around us, and the people who struggle alongside us.
I cannot express how it felt to receive flowers from my author friend on the loss of my dog. Or private messages sharing personal experiences to let me know it was okay to grieve and that I wasn’t alone. To get a card in the mail with a handwritten note put me in tears. Even the comments on my posts were lovingly read. When my Dad died, there was a particular author who’d I never corresponded with before who’d pop in and check on me with Facebook Messenger. A simple – “How are you doing today? I know you’re struggling.”
I couldn’t’ believe it. I barely knew her but she took the time to reach out and comfort. It soothed my wounded heart.
I’d never thought about that before. Yes, I’d read a post and feel bad, and make a comment, but I never thought to reach out with a personal message, or send a card, or flowers. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. I just felt as if I wanted to respect that person’s privacy in their grief. I figured they had plenty of people other than me looking out for them. I rationalized it wasn’t my place.
I was wrong. If you are human, it’s your place to support others, especially when they are experiencing a loss or struggle you’ve personally dealt with. My selfishness made me sad. I’d always thought I was a good person. And I am. But guess what?
I want to be better. I can be better. Instead of moaning about all my limited free time and consistently worried about my busy schedule, I can take a lousy fifteen minutes and reach out to another person. I can write a message or an email or a card. I can even send a text or phone call. I can do a two-minute check in to let someone know I’m thinking about them.
It doesn’t take much.
The conversations I had this week with some author friends who lost their dogs were important to me. I have some close friends struggling with various issues now too, and I care about every single one of them. But as days pass, and I don’t reach out, that’s on me. The world is bigger than pretty pictures on Instagram, or sharing trips on Facebook, or bragging about publishing deals or books getting finished. It’s about the fragility of life, and the ups and downs that come for all of us.
There are going to be so many more losses for me in the future – some probably so painful I’ll feel lost again. But knowing there’s a safety net out there makes all the difference.
I want to be one of those people.