Updated: Apr 23, 2020
A year, it baffles me to think it has been a whole year. It is true what people say when you lose someone that it will seem like forever and yesterday at the same time. I am not ready, nor could I really describe what this year has been like, how it feels, the depth of pain, what we have learned, how we are doing. I can say that there is no way that we could do this alone. We are blessed to have so many stand beside us in our grief. Dr. Cacciatore, with the Selah Care Center that we visited in June, has created a course through the Wisdom Experience, and it teaches about the journey of grief. One thing she instructs people to do is to surround yourself with people who treat you with compassion. People that will allow you to grieve with no expectations.
We are grateful for those that have once again circled around us and supported us. It has been said, you may not remember who you laugh with, but you will never forget who you cry with. These words are so powerfully true, friends have upheld us with shared tears, visited her spot at the cemetery, and even offered to care for it when we are away. The texts, messages, cards that acknowledge our pain on holidays, birthdays, Mother's Day, and Father's Day have been soothing. When others acknowledge our pain and treat us with compassion, and actively engage in our journey, it helps us to trust our emotions and behavior.
How one grieves is dependent on social and cultural context. If one is surrounded, for example, by people who refuse to acknowledge someone's loss, it will be a more traumatic experience than being in a culture that recognizes the loss. Studies show that people who are not supported well and are expected to get over their grief and choose happiness will often internalize their pain and feel more shame and guilt. This often causes them to avoid their emotions and checkout, sometimes a person will turn to something to numb the pain and prevent feeling.
There is healing in remembrance. That is why we are drawn to monuments and sacred rituals for the most devastating events such as the Holocaust and 9/11. One of my favorite places is Washington D.C. and it is mostly about remembering inspirational people and sacred events. Standing at The Vietnam War Memorial is both humbling and lamenting, each of the names etched in stone represent both bravery and despair. Christians partake in communion to remember the suffering and sacrifice of Christ. Ann Voskamp writes in her book, The Way of Abundance, "there is a cupping to grace-how remembering becomes a healing. We welcome remembering, we hold remembering, we let remembering wrap around us and carry us like a dance that need not end" (Voskamp 39).
I try to understand why some people are more comfortable with social memorials and the feelings it invokes than supporting the people in the smaller familiar circle, perhaps it is to protect themselves from uncomfortable feelings. “When loss is fresh, there is a school of thought that resurrecting memories is too painful. But the opposite is actually true,” said Allison Gilbert, author most recently of Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. It is in this time of need that other people so often remain quiet because they simply don’t know what to say. Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and author of Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, states that after her husband Dave died, “People were so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they hardly said anything at all.” Sandberg's book is as much about helping others find a way through grief as it is about how to be a support to others who are experiencing that loss. “I think a lot of people wanted to reach out to her, but they didn’t know how,” says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “You know, there’s this whole question of, Are you reopening a wound or something? And of course, what she would say is ‘You’re not reopening the wound. I mean, it’s, like, open and gaping.’” [Time]
When people remember Madi and reach out to us, it speaks to us that Madi matters and so does our pain. It shouts to us in our grief that Madi is not forgotten and even though lives and work and the world around us goes on, we are not forgotten, she is not forgotten. When times have been at what seems like the darkest and someone reaches out in kindness, it helps us to keep moving. It cannot take away the pain, but it does bring a softness to the sting. Friday, some friends arranged a surprise for me at work, and the staff wore Madi's color. All-day, I was surrounded by her color, and I not only felt loved, but it also brought Madi so near to me. Saturday we received phone calls and texts from friends, they shared how Madi still inspires them and that they are thinking of us. Matt's response to the text from our pastor encompasses what I am trying to relay, Eric Lapata texted, "I can't believe its been a year today. It's gone so fast and so slow, all at the same time. Praying for you both today. We miss her at our house today." Matt responded, "Thank you for reaching out. It means a lot when these days are remembered by others. Madi always wanted to be cherished and you and Paula made her feel cherished. Thank you."
So to those that have supported us, thank you, we know it is not always easy, but we are grateful that you take the time to reach out in any way that you can.