What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? This question rattles around us as those supporting us in this grieving time try to figure out how best to be present and help us in whatever way the can. It is a reasonably simple question and yet the answers are not easily pulled out of me. The questioning can actually leave me feeling like a deer in the headlights. Blinded by the sudden question and absolutely frozen in place with no answers coming into my brain; then I am dashing away to somewhere, anywhere else because I don’t know how to answer the question.
I wish I could easily answer the question when folks ask me what they can do for me/us. It’s not that I don’t have lots of things that we just can’t stay on top of that would be great to have others do for us. The list is really never ending of the tasks that we just can’t quite keep up with each week. The thought of having dishes and laundry and basic cleaning always caught up is lovely. But honestly it feels weird having folks come into the house. The house has become such a cave space for us that we are cautious to invite others into it. And in many ways the kids and I are really okay with the chaotic clutter of our house. At least we are until we have no spoons or cups left or can’t find any socks. And then we just do a mass cleaning that keeps us set for another week or so.
So while the physical tasks of our lives are not really something we need/want help with (though are deeply grateful for when we get it), the ongoing emotional and mental support remains a critical thing that people can do. Imagine that for every time you think of and miss Russell, we have probably thought of him a good 10-20 times. It definitely doesn’t minimize your missing of him, it’s just that ours is magnified and an almost constant presence. In some ways I am finding my days getting harder as the full reality settles deeply into me. I have lots of flashback moments to the first day Russell was in the hospital, trying to wrap my brain around how we got from those first steps into the hospital to this time, this moment without him. I have daily things that pop up in which I have to speak out loud to myself that no I can’t tell Russell that when he gets home as he won’t be coming home. It makes for a very disassociated brain at times.
Here are some of the things that personally help me each and every time they happen. I think these are true for the kids too, though I try to speak and write of my experiences, my observations, my insights and not try to speak their story for them. I can, with confidence, say these would probably help them too. And probably help others you know who are grieving a loss in their lives.
*When you think of Russell text or email me the story that entered into your head. I LOVE hearing the 100s of ways that Russell is still impacting the world.
*When you think of me or the kids, text or call or email saying just that. I love the quick notes I get from folks stating simply “Thinking of you.” It’s very easy to feel alone right now and I actually find myself seeking to be reclusive much of the time. Knowing others are thinking of me and receiving quick messages saying that do much to brighten my day.
*Hugs just because are a wonderful thing for me. Usually for my kids too. Not everyone likes hugs but we do.
*Be as understanding as you can that it remains a great challenge most days to talk on the phone, follow through with things, seek to do something with others, have conversations that flow with ease, and many more seemingly easy tasks. I still find making a phone call to anyone, even folks I love to talk with, one of the hardest tasks. It’s just hard to push those numbers and reach out. Don’t exactly know why, I just know it is.
*Know that when we do get together my silence doesn’t usually mean I don’t want to be there or that I’m not having a good time. It is easier to listen to people than to talk right now. I do love sitting in a group of family or friends and simply listening to other people’s stories.
*Please don’t feel like you can’t talk with me about your life and the realness of all you are experiencing. I still very much want to be there for other people and find great pleasure in knowing I am still needed. I feel pretty useless many days and so those days that I am able to help someone else always makes me feel better.
*Don’t give up on me or us. This journey we are on is a long one. As with anyone who is walking a path of grieving and letting go, the way is windy and the way forward isn’t always clear. Having people serve as beacons of light and hope and love along the way makes the walking of the path a little less scary.
Know that I am grateful for all of the ways that I daily am supported by the web of people surrounding us. All these things I write of are things that I am receiving. Thank you all and keep it up! It helps more than I can ever express to keep me moving in the light.
Peace to you all.