Grief. Grief can be lonely. Six years ago today was when my husband had his accident at work. One moment he was walking outside simply going about his day. He had no idea that his life was about to change forever in an instant. The next moment he was lying paralyzed from the chest down after hitting his neck on a railroad tie outside. One moment his life was what he thought it was going to continue to be. The next moment he was in excruciating pain and could not move. All day, I have reflected on this day. Thinking of how he was that morning… how “normal” our life seemed that 10th day of August in 2011. Who would have known when he left for work that morning that the next time I would see him would be in a trauma unit… in excruciating pain… he could not move his arms or his legs. I still shudder at how our lives were all changed in that instant. Who would have known that 4 days later that his life on this earth would be over? Certainly not me. Certainly not our three children. Certainly not him.
Tonight I sit at my computer… Alone. Reflective. Sad. Hurting. Grieving. Missing my guys. The waves of grief are rolling mighty and strong today. Every time I was talking to someone whether in person or on the phone then I would think, do you remember what happened today in my life six years ago?
Tonight my girls are having a blast- they went to a rodeo and a country music concert. I am amazed that I now have two country music loving girls. LOL. Whenever I think of them, then I smile and am so thankful. I am so thankful on this day that was so awful in our family that my two incredible daughters are together and celebrating life and having joy in the moments that they are living. Kylee girl is wearing her cowboy boots… she had said to me while she was buying them how much her dad would have loved them. Her daddy loved his cowboy boots. I am thankful that the girls feel free to talk about their daddy and their brother with me whenever they want. This is important in grief. I am ever grateful for these two incredible daughters of mine.
As I went through my day, most of the people that I was around had no idea what happened in my life six years ago today. I really don’t even know who remembered in my family or my circle of friends how life changed on this day. Most people are busy with their own lives and their own thoughts. Some people in my life want to grieve alone and not talk about any of this. Some people are just busy. Some people just have no idea. I talked about it briefly with one of my friends whose husband died this past year. I briefly shared about it with a few other friends that were in contact with me today. Mostly today I just felt alone in my grief. Unfortunately, many people feel alone and lonely in their grief.
As I am going through the motions on this day that was so traumatic in our family’s history, I am continually reminded that this day changed our lives forever. I have been surrounded with people that have no idea what happened on this day. My heart aches as I think back on my husband’s pain… here was this strong man in my life laying there helpless in the trauma unit, paralyzed, and in excruciating pain. Flashes of him roll through my mind…
A lady messaged me today in messenger on Facebook. She said a lot of sweet, nice things to me. I believe she cares about the girls and I. She knows our story. Her ending words were so symbolic of how people think they are “helping”. She said to me, “I know it’s hard but just try to think of all the good times and maybe not so much on the losses…” Such interesting words. So common in our culture today. I know she meant well, but sigh… She ended it by saying that she would be here if I ever needed to talk. I think one of the things that so many people don’t understand is that phrases like that shut grieving people down. If you want a grieving person or a person in pain to feel free to talk to you then try to just say that you know they are hurting and that you are here for them. Please don’t tell them what they should think about or what they shouldn’t think about.
I am not quite sure why she was telling me not to think so much on my losses… do my posts cause her to think that I am thinking too much on my losses? Does my blog make her think that? Maybe because I have been sharing my video that was just made for us this past weekend promoting the blog is upsetting to her? I am not sure. What I do know is that I heard her message to me. She thinks that I am thinking too much on my losses.
I am sharing this because I think so often people make these comments and do not realize the impact that their words can have on a person in pain. I so wish that our culture was more accepting of people in pain and did not feel like we have to be rushed along.
I think back along my day today… I went to work the full day and was productive. I tried to be helpful and positive to all I encountered. I celebrated that my girls are having a wonderful night together filled with lots of laughter and joy. And yet… my grief is here. My losses are in my heart. My losses are my husband after 18 years of marriage who on this very day became paralyzed from the chest down and was in excruciating pain and died 4 days later. His death left me a widow with three children ages 16, 14, and 11 who were suddenly fatherless. 22 months later my only son at the age of 18 is dead instantly in a car accident. How do I not think of my losses? My husband and my only son…
What is it in our culture that makes people think that we should not think about our losses. My husband and son became a part of my heart many years ago. I am not going to forget about them. I am not going to wake up one day and not love them.
“Where there is great grief there is/was great love.” Author Unknown
My grief is an expression of my love. To the sweet lady who sent me that message, please know I am not upset with you. I am simply using the words that you said to me tonight as an example of what is said so often to people who are grieving. I know that you love the girls and I. I know that you meant well and were trying to be helpful. Please know that no one will ever know who you are. Please know that I love you and that all is well with us. I just need to share with others how these words cause someone in pain to feel. I am ok. I have had all sorts of things said to me through these last years.
It’s such an emotional day for me reflecting back to what happened on this day six years ago. One of my true friends said to me one day last year, “Kristi, you focus too much on dates. Why don’t you try not to think of dates so much?” He, just like the lady on messenger, meant well. He truly loves me as my friend. He saw my pain and hurt and thought, “Aha! I know a way to fix her pain and hurt.” He thought we will just quit having her think about dates. He proceeded to tell me how he didn’t think about dates. I sat and listened to him. I didn’t say much back. I thought, “Well both of your children are still alive and so is your wife. You might remember the dates that they died or had trauma on if you had experienced these things.”
In situations like this, I am not quick to respond. I did not say anything back to the lady on Facebook and I didn’t respond much to him. Notice that I shared with you what I thought, but I did not say those words out loud. It would have been fine to. I just chose not to.
When I get in this situation, I try to step back and first think about what I know about the person. Do they care about the girls and I? In both of these situations, the answer is yes. Next, I try to reflect on what was their intention. In both of these situations, I can say that I believe that in their own way they both thought they were helping me. (If either of you are reading this, then I must share that doesn’t help me. I love you both but neither of the “fixes” that you offered helped.) You can’t fix my pain by trying to make me forget about it. My grief is a part of me because this was my husband and my only son.
Pain and grief don’t go away because someone tries to distract you. If you are a person in my life that never brings up my son or husband because you hope that I don’t remember so that I won’t hurt, then please know that grief doesn’t work like that. If you make sure to never mention my husband or my son, then please know that all you have shown me is that you are uncomfortable with my grief. I won’t be upset with you. It is your choice. I will just know that you are not a person that I can be open and honest with in my pain.
This blog is intended to be honest. Sometimes you will read about our joy and gratefulness. Often, you will read about our pain and what is hard. I am sharing these things in this blog because so often people do not understand how their words make someone who is grieving feel. I am also sharing this because so often the very ones who are saying those words that cause a person who is in pain or grieving difficulty do not intend to have this effect. So often those people truly want to help the person who is in pain. Please remember that you do not have words that “fix” someone’s pain or grief. You do however possess great gifts that you can give to them. You can tell them that you know that they are hurting and in pain. You can tell them you are there. You can learn to be comfortable when someone is crying, and to just put your arm around them and let them cry. You can learn to be comfortable with silence and know that sometimes there are no words. You can learn to be comfortable just listening without feeling the need to say anything that you think that will fix it. You can give the person who is grieving the gift of letting them be real… when they want to laugh let them laugh, when they want to talk about the news or other things just go with it, when they want to cry then let them cry. If you allow someone to be real with you then you have given them a priceless gift.
For those of you who may think I talk about my losses too much then I just want to prepare you that I am not going to stop. As I have been dealing with the losses of my husband and son these past 4-6 years, then I have continued to learn every day about grief and pain. I am not only learning about grief and pain from my own experiences but also from those that I am meeting who are on their own grief journey. I am learning from them and all that they are feeling and experiencing as well.
I want to continue to reach out to those who are in pain due to grief or other hurts. I also want to try to help others who are friends and family of those who are grieving. My heart and purpose in this blog is to share all of those things. My book tells our story of our losses and of how the girls and I are coping. You will get to hear happy and joyful moments that we experience and all that we strive to be thankful for. You will hear my desire to be purposeful in my pain. You will also hear about hard times, sad times, and lonely times. That is the whole point. I want to be real so that others feel the freedom to be real as well. My desire is that we learn from one another.
For the dear lady on facebook, I love you. I will not forget my losses. They will not leave my heart. I will continue to share because there is a purpose to my sharing. I am hoping to reach out to others in pain and am hoping to maybe help a few others who are in their lives who feel lost and confused on how to help them.
For my dear friend who wanted me to forget about dates. I love you. These dates are etched in my heart forever. There is no distraction from the devastation of these dates. I am not trying to be consumed by my pain even though sometimes it may feel that way. I am trying to learn to keep swimming with purpose and thankfulness in spite of these big waves that crash over me.
Today’s date brought and still brings much pain. I watched my husband who was the strongest man in my life physically and in so many other ways, lay there and not be able to move. He looked into my eyes with fear and uncertainty. He could not understand why he was laying there paralyzed and in excruciating pain. I will never forget. Those moments did not define the man that he was, the marriage that we had, or the father that he was. But those moments are etched in my heart forever as this was the man that I had been married to for 18 years and had promised my forever to. This was the man who was supposed to raise our children together with me. We will not forget.
Grief does not go away because time has passed… I am simply trying to live with the pain. I am trying to be a good mother to my daughters. I am trying to celebrate every moment that I can. I am trying to be thankful for each gift and moment in my life. I am trying to honor those we have lost. I am trying to be purposeful in my pain. I am not perfect. Some days are not good days. I still hurt. I still feel alone. Tonight as I remember this day, I feel weak and sad. But guess what? That’s ok. It is a very sad day. That’s ok. No one needs to or can fix it. Just love us through it. Just be here. Don’t rush us. Let us remember our losses for both of these guys were in our immediate family. We love them. We miss them. We are trying our best each day.