She died when she was 46 and I was 18.
Mid-morning on the 31st, I texted Tim and Margaret reminding them that this was the day my mom died. They sent back short texts of sympathy, and I appreciated it. I also wrote on the family wall calendar "Mom 31 years." These two actions gave Tim and Margaret the greatest chance of reaching out and acknowledging my mom's death. Instead of waiting for them to show up for me (OR NOT) as I've done many years in the past, I chose to help them help me.
That's often how it is with grief. The griever is the one who much educate others how best to help. Give me space. Don't give me space. Say his name. Be silent. Talk. Listen. Go on a walk with me. Celebrate a holiday with me. Ignore this stupid holiday with me. My mom died and I want you to mention it.
Is this fair to ask of an already depleted person?
Absolutely not. But if you are grieving, you've likely learned that not much is fair anyway. However, the alternative is for even more pain to be piled on top of pain as we feel unacknowledged, forgotten, or misunderstood.
Shortly after Jack died, my friend Mary seemed absent. I am not saying she wasn't there at our house or for the funeral, but it felt like she was silently disappearing. I knew she loved Jack, and I knew she loved me. I spent an enormous amount of time and energy wondering what Mary was thinking and why she wasn't reaching out. I worried that her own grief for Jack was overwhelming.
Over text we decided to go out to lunch. After talk of mundane topics such as church news and how her son was doing in Algebra died down, I told her I missed her and broached how she seemed unwilling or unable to grieve Jack with me. To talk about it. To acknowledge the shock. To voice how f*ing unbelievable and devastating it was that Jack had died. Really died.
It was awkward.
We both cried. She explained that she'd been giving me the space and privacy she thought she'd want if one of her children died. My snarky side wanted to say that I'd been documenting my grief for thousands of people and she surely could have found clues on my blog, but I didn't.
For a lesser friend, I would not have brought up my disappointment and needs at all, but I cared enough about Mary to want to help her help me. Then, she could decide what to do with the information.
That's why I texted Tim and Margaret about my mom last week. Life is disappointing enough. People are disappointing. I know because I disappoint people regularly and fall short all. of. the. darn. time.
Honestly stating our needs can feel risky and vulnerable, but it gives someone a greater chance to be there for us in the ways we need. My friendship with Mary was never the same, but I am glad I said what I did.
If there is a specific way a friend or family member could better support you, consider showing them how, even if you might be
Posting on Facebook on Jack's birthday, the anniversary of his death, or other important dates, and giving people the opportunity to comment, is a huge comfort to me, and it doesn't require anyone else to remember the dates. This is one of the ways I help others help me.
Maybe you can remind your friends that Mother's or Father's Day is tough, or that this was the month your baby was due.
Help someone help you.