One of the first work meetings I attended after my dad died (he died while I was on maternity leave with Lauren) involved a major interoffice brainstorm for a national greeting card company.
We were brainstorming ways grandparents could show their love for their grandkids (via cards and gifts, naturally).
Needless to say, it was a VERY painful day. I spent most of the time hiding out in the bathroom, crying, desperately missing my dad. Because his death happened while I was out of the office, not many people knew about it – and certainly not my colleagues from another office.
I felt bad about not participating, so after it was over, I approached one of the brainstorm leaders. She worked out of another office, and I didn’t know her really well.
I explained, through my tears, why I was absent for the majority of the session (and why I was still crying).
She started tearing up also. She lost her dad about 10 years before, while she was in college. I will never forget what she said to me next.
“This might sound weird, but I honestly believe,” she said, “that I lost my dad while I was so young so that I could help my friends who would lose their parents in the future. It was completely devastating when it happened, but I’ve been able to help others who’ve lost their mom or dad because I’ve been there. It sucks, but I’ve been there.”
Her words really resonated with me.
I remember after Mike’s funeral, on the long drive back home, telling my mom that of all my friends at the funeral, I was probably the only one who could deal with the death of a spouse at this point in our lives. That maybe losing Mike was a way to prepare me for something more, something greater.
I believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t know why so much has been thrust on me and my family over the last few years, but I know that it’s made me a stronger person in some regards. I pray that I don’t have to help anyone through the loss of her/his significant other any time soon, but I’ve learned a lot in the last 10 months. And someday, I’m hope I can use my experience to help others.
I’m thankful for that colleague and her wise words. I think about her words often and I recently shared with her how much her comments meant to me.
I hope too that you don’t have to help someone deal with a loss right now. That experience would be full of triggers for you wouldn’t it? However, IF you do then I think you’ll be just fine. Because you would be one of those in that person’s life that truly understands what its like, how it feels, how it makes you think, etc. God only gives us what we can handle, right? You’ll be ok. But let’s hope we don’t have to test that strength any time soon.
Losing my grandpa this summer was like losing my dad too (much more heartbreaking than losing my real dad, actually) and it was only natural for me to think about friends who had also went through similar pain. You were one of them, along with two different friends who lost their moms. It helped, knowing what little I did about your pain and the pain of my other friends, because it reminded me that everyone faces this at some point. We’re not alone. My grandpa used to tell me that death is a part of life. I don’t know why he needed to be a Debbie Downer all the time like that, but maybe that was just his way for preparing me for the inevitable.
Very true, Liz: death is part of life.
I can really relate, having lost my father and husband in a short period of time…dealing with multiple hardships. It’s not a fact I dwell on much, for fear of having it swallow me up. I just try to accept it. My mom also believes things happen for a reason. I used to believe it…but waver a lot in my beliefs now. However there are 2 things from my losses that I can’t deny. My husband spent time with my dad before he died, and saw how bold my dad was in accepting his fate. I know witnessing this helped him when he was facing his own death. Also…my dad’s death knocked me off my feet. My husband’s death did too – completely. But Because of my dad, I guess I already had a little bit of “familiarity with the territory”. I know it helped. Maybe these things happened for a reason, or not. But at least it is a positive way to look at things. It’s hopeful…as was your acknowledgment and acceptance of help from your colleague, and sharing it in your post. (Sorry for my self-revolving comment, I guess I am trying to say that you are already helping others!)
Thanks, bedraggledandkicking. I’m sorry you, too, experienced to HUGE losses in a short period of time. One is enough for anyone – two is devastating.
I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer and I felt her loss as much for my kids, who lost an amazing grandmother, as I did for myself. In less than a decade I lost more than half of my immediate family. I was very close to my grandparents and little did I know that less than 3 years after my mom gave her mother’s eulogy that I would be doing the same thing. Although each death seemed to “prepare” me for the next, nothing prepared me for the loss of my mom. But now I can say that I am able to help others because of what I’ve been through. I’m sorry you lost both your dad and husband in such a short period of time. I wish you peace.