grief, Living Life, Parenting

Mourning Other People’s Loss

Some deaths are simply tragic.  Three in the past year have hurt me to the core.  though none were people who were close to me (or that I even knew,)

Rachel, mom of 3
Tal, age 3
Jennifer, mom of 3

Each loss hit a nerve and made me stop and assess my life, my abundance, my perspective; and I become all too aware of how quickly life can be taken.

Every mother’s greatest 2 fears in life are 1. losing a child and 2. dying and leaving our children motherless.

This week, a mom named Jennifer was killed while putting her small child in the back of her red Honda mini-van.  She was in front of her kids’ school, a few neighborhoods over from mine; close enough that I know many people who attend the school.  I never met Jennifer, but given how connected our community is, I could have.  She was doing what we moms have done hundreds, thousands of times over the years.  What should have been an innocuous moment became a tragic moment.

Of course, I immediately put myself in this situation and applied my own family to this tragedy — how would my boys cope, my husband, my friends?

Less than a year ago, friends lost their 3 year old child in a tragic drowning accident.  (A child I hadn’t met.)  One of my kids went to preschool with one of their older kids many years ago, and then I had the pleasure of working with them not long before Tal died.

It is so unfair that Tal  died, a little boy who was just playing and trying to have fun — taking normal kid risks no different than the kind my own boys have taken.  While Tal’s parents have been strong in the face of their loss, all of the parents in our community were left wondering how they could possibly handle it themselves, if something so tragic happened to their own child.

Every-day, simple living turns tragic in a moment.  Jennifer being a mom; Tal being a kid.  Even though we buckle seat belts, put helmets on heads, hold hands while crossing streets, we simply hold our breath and hope that nothing tragic will happen.

Not long before Tal died, our community lost Rachel. It has been many years since we’d seen each other.  But in the early years of having kids, we were at park play dates, and mom’s group events, and we babysat each others little ones in our babysitting co-op.  I had known that she was battling breast cancer, but wasn’t aware of how advanced it had become, when she died.

The loss was big.  Her three kids are my 3 kids age.  We babysat each others’ kids.  How could she be gone?  Regret that I didn’t know how sick she had become was overshadowed by an extreme sadness for her family.  Her wake was like a reunion of the moms from those early years — all of us just heartbroken for her children and husband.  All of us wondering how our families could handle it if had been us.

When tragedy happens around us, we are selfishly thankful that we are unscathed.  We are sad for those lost. We are sad for the families and close friends who we know grieve far worse than we do.

And we feel ridiculously lucky to NOT know that horrid empty feeling of loss, to have been spared tragedy.

Though, We DO IMAGINE what it feels like.

So we hug our kids and spouses harder;
we speak more gently;
we get perspective on how good things really are.

And as a community, we share our sadness for the passing of Rachel, Tal and Jennifer, and we grieve with their families.

My heart goes out to Jennifer’s family, and to Tal’s family, and to Rachel’s family.   I hope that they feel the support and love that flows from the community, and I hope they know that many of us hurt for their loss and are awed by their courage and strength in the face of tragedy.

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Living Life

Thankful

‘Tis the season to be thankful, and even if I don’t feel like it I’m going to do it.  What I mean is, sometimes the emotion of thankfulness is not what naturally comes to the surface — but I’m finding that it helps to force myself into the action of finding things to be thankful for.

In the lead up to Thanksgiving, I’ve found myself feeling a lot of sadness and longing for my dad.  Dad passed away this summer, after living it up for 87 years.  Many people try to comfort the loss by saying things like “he lived such a long life!” “let’s be grateful he didn’t suffer a long decline” or “we should all live so long.” I say it sucks to lose my dad and while sure, he could have suffered more and his dying could have been far more tragic, at the heart of it I am still mourning his death.  And because I spent so many Thanksgiving holidays (especially in my adult life) with my dad, I am finding this week to be especially emotional.

So as I find myself getting weepy as I drive pass Arlington National Cemetery on my way to work, I very consciously start to think about what I am thankful for…..

  • a beautiful drive along the Potomac River with views of the nation’s capital;
  • 3 awesome kids that challenge me, entertain me, and fill my heart to the point of bursting;
  • 1 world’s best husband who loves me for all my insanity;
  • my mom who is the best mommy mentor for patience and understanding;
  • my girlfriends who will take my kids with no notice when I need help; and who will give me their kids with no notice;
  • the girlfriends who I have coffee with too infrequently but who are a sounding board on everything;
  • my best friends from college who help me stay sane
  • my running partner who makes it hard to ignore the 5:30am alarm
  • my siblings who I see too little of but who come together when it counts

The act of being thankful is my meditation.  Reciting these things in my mind washes away the sadness, and allows me to include memories of my dad in my thankful list.  Like the Thanksgivings when dad and I played Trivial Pursuit against my husband and father-in-law, and we won!  (I should say my dad won, I don’t recall ever having a single correct answer!) And I’m thankful that my dad traveled so much to see me over the years, and that he got to meet all my kids.

In this season of being thankful, I encourage everyone to take a moment or more to ask yourself what you are thankful for.  You might just surprise yourself on how good it makes you feel!

Happy Thanksgiving!