In grief, we miss those that we lost so much. Sometimes, during those painful times, we have the blessing of being able to connect with someone else who is going through similar pain. I want to share two examples of two women, Delores and Stephanie, who have become dear friends of mine through our shared pain. These are not the only two women where I have had the blessing to develop a deep friendship through shared pain in our grief. These two women are both friends that I truly treasure. I want to share just a little of our journeys together.
Delores and I got to know each other after her sister Jennifer gave her a nudge my way. My only son was killed in a car accident at the age of 18 in June 2013. Prior to my son’s death, I was not on any social media. My three children were all on it. I had thoughts about joining the social media world but did not until the fall of 2013 as I struggled to learn to live with the pain of missing my boy. I began using Facebook for a memorial page in honor of my son to share some glimpses into my journey, and also to share pictures of my son and quotes that were inspiring me. I was also using this memorial page to share all of the loving things that his teams, friends, and our community were doing to honor my son.
Delores learned in June of 2015 that her precious 9 year old Brenten was diagnosed with DIPG. This type of tumor is located in the middle of the brain stem. Because these tumors grow in the midst of the nerves then they cannot be surgically removed. A child diagnosed today with DIPG is generally given approximately 9 months to live. Delores and her family had been given this diagnosis for Brenten. They prayed, prayed, prayed, and they did everything that they possibly could to give Brenten the best next months that they were able to just as they had his whole life. In the fall of 2015 is when Jennifer mentioned me to Delores. Delores later shared with me that she begin “facebook stalking me”. That term surely made me laugh but absolutely nothing was funny about the battle that Brenten and his family were fighting in. They were fighting for Brenten’s life through prayer and their faith and through any treatment that the children’s hospital said that they could do for Brenten.
Delores and I begin to share a bond that is difficult to put into words. I gave Delores my word that I would be here for her in any way that I was able to. We begin a journey that put us together in a club that we would never want to be in. We became mothers who had to live through burying their sons and then learn how to live without them present in our lives. We are both still learning how to live with the pain and how to do our best for our families in every way that we can. Delores and I may go for some time without seeing each other, but when we do see each other the bond and closeness that we feel is strong and is always there. Delores and I have an open and honest relationship where we can talk about all of the aspects of losing our sons. She can text me a comment that someone may say to her, and we can both immediately understand why it was hard to receive. We can talk honestly about the why question of our sons’ deaths with no judgement but just pure love for one another. We can understand why feelings are ever evolving as we both try our best to live with the pain of our missing sons. We both strive to be the best moms that we are able to for the two children that we both have left. We both desire to live as women of faith and to continue to hold hope in our hearts for the days to come. We are both in desperate need for peace that passes understanding which is something that I seek daily. The hugs that we share when we do see each other are some of the best that I receive, and I so love hugs.
I prayed for Delores to receive her miracle for Brenten. I wanted her to see God’s healing power in her son’s life. Instead, God chose to bring him home. I do not try to give her answers. I do not have them. I am just committed to standing with her through it all… the tremendous pain of burying her son and learning to live with the pain of not having him in her life. One of my most treasured times with Delores was this past February when she brought her family to my home one Tuesday evening. Delores and her family shared about Brenten and everything that they would want others to know about him. I had the privilege of writing about Brenten in a blog about this incredible warrior that was published the beginning of March 2018. I will never forget that night. I treasured every moment of learning more about Brenten. I saw the pain in each of their eyes and heard the pain in their voices. I also was a witness to all that they each try to do to honor Brenten and his life and how they try to give their best in their own lives in order to honor him. After they left, I cried, but the bond that I felt with Delores was only strengthened, and I was so thankful to have created some new bonds with her precious children Brianna and Braden and her husband Freddie. I love my sweet friend tremendously. The bond that we share runs so deep. I so wished that she had her miracle and that we were not bonded in this way. I am truly thankful for her friendship probably more than she will ever imagine.
Stephanie lost her husband in a car accident on Halloween in 2016. My husband died from a work related accident in August 2011. At the time of his death, my three children were the ages of 16, 14, and 11. When Stephanie’s husband was instantly killed,then her two sons were almost the exact same age that my two daughters were when their daddy was killed. I remember going to her husband’s visitation.
It has been very difficult for me to return to the funeral home where I saw my only son laying there dead for the first time and where we had my son’s and husband’s visitations. It is a battle to not return in my mind to those images when I am in there. I am not always emotionally in a place where I can go to visitations and funerals. My daughter MiKayla has not attended a funeral since the funerals of her daddy and brother. I watched her struggle emotionally this week as one of her coach’s dad had died. MiKayla wanted to be there for her at the funeral, but she did not know emotionally if she could. I encouraged her to make the decision that she thought was best. She chose not to go but did try to explain to her coach that she wanted to be there for her. It is very painful to return to those places and times where our own pain was so raw and new.
When I went to Stephanie’s husband’s visitation, I saw her youngest son first as I was waiting in line. I remember hugging him and saying a few words to him. Oh how my heart hurt for him. He was at such a young age to lose his dad and to try to process all of what was occurring in his family and in his heart and mind. I remember seeing Stephanie’s oldest son who was just in the early teenage years. He was at such a formative age and now had so much to process through in his feelings and thoughts. My heart went out to both of these boys, and my mind continually went back through the last five years that I had experienced with my own children after they lost their daddy. As a widow, one is dealing with the pain of losing your husband. As a new widow with children that you are still raising, then it is extremely painful to help them to navigate through their pain and to reach a place of healing. I remember standing in line as it slowly crawled up to the front of the room where Stephanie stood. Stephanie was a lady that I would see in the community but did not know personally. When I would see Stephanie in the community then my impression of her was that she was a lady that always seemed to be full of joy and was always out supporting her boys.
As I reached Stephanie as she stood there next to her husband’s casket, the hug that we shared was long and meaningful. She said to me, “You understand. You have been here.” From that moment on, Stephanie and I formed a friendship out of our shared losses of our husbands while we were still what we considered to be young. We were both now widows and instantly became single parents. I remember going over to Stephanie’s home to spend some time with her. My goal was to just listen and to hear whatever she wanted to share. Her honesty meant the world to me. Stephanie was real and raw. Her grief was deep. Her concern for her two sons and for their pain was beyond apparent. We now shared a bond of our similar experiences in becoming widows and instant single moms.
Stephanie is another dear friend that even though we don’t see each other often when we do the bond is always just as strong and a part of who we are. We are both trying to do our best in raising our children as single moms. We both desire for our children to know how much they were loved by their dads. We both hope with all of our hearts that even though we know our children live in such pain from the loss of their dads that we continue to pray for and encourage them to do their best. We hope and pray that our children are all able to lead full, happy, and productive lives in the midst of their pain. Stephanie has been a true encourager to me in this blog and continues to share it and tries to help it to grow and to reach more people. Stephanie continues to bring much joy to others despite her pain. Her personality is one that makes me laugh and brings joy to so many. I am ever thankful for the friendship that we have developed and for her presence in my life.
Both of these two women hold strong, special places in my heart. The friendships that we share were born out of mutual pain and experiences; however, it is a true gift from God that we can be there for one another, to hear each other, and to absolutely pray and hope for the best for one another and for our families. I have other special friendships that were started in similar ways. My sweet friend Utanah who lost her husband Dave after many years of marriage and love is a wonderful lady who I adore. My new precious friend Janice who recently lost her husband to a bike accident after many years of marriage is a vibrant, joyful lady who is doing her best to grieve. She is the friend that I mentioned before who shared newly into her grief… “I don’t just want to survive. I want to thrive.” From having the opportunity of spending some time with her, then I have no doubt that thrive she will. There are others who have joined with my daughters and I on our journey. I am thankful for each one of you. If I did not mention you then please know that does not diminish your value in my life. I truly praise God for each one of you and the absolute blessing that you are in my life.
Often grief writing focuses on the friends that we lose in our grief journeys. Writers often share how they have felt abandoned by their friends and alone on their grief journey. I am very thankful for the opportunity to share today how very thankful I am for each new treasured friend that I have had the blessing to know on my grief journey and for their priceless presence in my life.
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phillippians 1:3