There was a time when asking for help felt like the hardest thing in the world. I didn’t want to admit I needed help. I put on such a facade of confidence and well-being. Everyone always thought I had it all together.
But then I lost my sixteen-year-old son… and it changed everything.
There’s nothing that prepares you for the strength you need to recover and rebuild a life that has shattered into pieces of sorrow. You simply cannot do it alone.
I had three living children who suffered the shock, too, and yet I couldn’t give up on their young lives to check into my own deep, debilitating fog of grief. They deserved a childhood unfettered by the devastating loss of their brother. But how do you do that?
How do you dissolve the magnitude of losing a child into something manageable?
I was stunned to see how people appeared at my front door to help. They brought food, organized my son’s service, helped with my kids, and sat with me even when I couldn’t talk. They just showed up.
And that’s what people should do for each other. Just show up.
For the first several days, my internal cries for emotional help were silent. I didn’t want to show how much I was suffering. I tried to appear strong and capable of surviving and holding my family together. That’s how people knew me. That’s what they expected.
The crisis deepened when I found myself waking up in the middle of the night to go to my children’s rooms and watch them breathe.
My son had died in the middle of the night. I should have been there, watching him breathe, but I trusted the doctor. “Give him Tylenol and lots of fluids,” he said, “he’ll be fine in 48 hours.”
But he never woke up. He didn’t have the flu at all. It was a deadly form of bacterial meningitis.
My friends kept asking what they could do to help. I was afraid of what might lie beneath the surface, and the thought of losing control hovered between each breath I took.
My unyielding pride whispered, I should be able to do this on my own.
But I couldn’t, and I grew weaker by the day. After the first week, I’d lost 12 pounds. I fainted, and someone grabbed me and guided me to the couch.
I lie there with my eyes closed even though I was awake. I wanted to shut out the noise of so many people in my home, grieving our loss. I felt someone touching my forehead, whispering to me, “You’re going to get through this. I promise.” Her hand felt so gentle and so safe as she stroked my head.
I wasn’t enough… I needed help.
I opened my eyes and there they were, my friends gathered in my home… ready to step in even deeper into this devastating life event.
In nature, when a female elephant is sick or wounded, the other females form a circle around her. They protect her, nurture her, and watch over her until she is strong enough to stand on her own.
That’s how my circle is.
Over the years, my friends held my deepest sorrow in their hands. They lifted me up, supported my dreams, and encouraged my goals. Even during the toughest times in my life, I felt safe knowing they had my back.
When I felt weak and exhausted from loss, they helped me be the mom I needed to be. When I thought I wouldn’t survive, my friends surrounded me and said, “yes you can, and we’re going to help you.”
And they did.
They stepped in to pick up my kids from school, take me to coffee, get the dry cleaning, make sure my cupboards were stocked, and most of all… they listened. They were not afraid of my tears and urged me to tell stories of my son until I didn’t need to tell the same stories over and over again.
They called each other every day to organize my life and soothe my broken heart.
Now, it’s years down the road, and I can look back and say I didn’t make it on my own. I had a team, my dream team, and I’m a part of theirs, too. They were there, and they still are…
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. — Albert Schweitzer
Have you ever thought about who’s on your Dream Team? I know you have a circle of people who care. You may feel like you have just one friend or family member but look around you.
I would never have thought the publisher of my first book would have been such a resource of strength, but it turned out she had lost a daughter just a year before. She was the one stroking my forehead after I fainted, whispering… you’ll get through this, I promise.”
She was right. I survived.
If life throws an unexpected event your way, and you wonder… Will I survive?
Yes, you will. You’ve got a Dream Team to back you up. Cultivate that, and you’ll be stronger than you ever imagined.