Empathy is hard. I think it’s very difficult to actually put yourself in someone else’s shoes especially when you’re talking about the death of a child. I know I couldn’t really understand it until I was actually there. Even if people try to imagine what it would be like, going to the place is so dark that they don’t stay there long. So you’re left with all the lines that do not help: God needed her back, She’s in a better place. At least you had her for a little while. Everything happens for a reason. Well meaning, but not particularly helpful. If you’ve ever said these things to me, please know I understand. You didn’t know what else to say. It’s also hard for me to tell you what I need. Because most of the time I don’t know. Or I don’t want to ask. But I have a few suggestions.
Be patient with me. My world has changed. And it will be forever more difficult to navigate this life. I will always miss her. I will always feel her absence. Family gatherings. Prom season. Holidays. A random Saturday at the zoo. All of these things are different for me now and I don’t always know how to get through or explain why I’m upset at what seems like a random occasion. Just know that all of these things are a reminder of what I’m missing with Zoey. Don’t be surprised if I leave in tears. Or if I cancel. Or don’t show up. I really can’t stress this one enough. At times, the thought of even showing up is too much. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you or care about your event. But I had to learn self-preservation. I pushed myself to be “normal” when life was anything but normal. That never ends. And it can be exhausting.
I appreciate the calls, texts and cards that show up out of nowhere. You’d be surprised at how many times they show up right when I need them. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You’re not reminding me that my daughter died. I live with that reality every day. But reminding me that you think of her and that you love me is always welcome.
Let me talk if I start the conversation. I don’t have many live conversations with people about grieving. Most of it is here on this blog. And it really is healing, but occasionally I will need someone there to hand me a Kleenex. If I start talking, please don’t change the subject. I know that’s the easier choice. And I know you don’t know what to say. But trust me: you don’t need to say anything. Just be. And that might be the most important of all—just be there. I’ve said before how isolating this can feel. But I know you’re okay with just sitting next to me, just being present, I won’t feel so alone.