In February, after Jackie received the news that her tumor had stopped responding to treatments, a million different thoughts and feelings rushed through me. At night when I would lay awake, I kept coming back to my pain for her parents. One night at who-knows-what hour, I woke Mike up because I was just so overcome with horror for what her parents were about to go through. “Can you imagine what this must feel like for them?” I asked him, stupidly. “Yes, I think I can,” he said with (to his credit) no sarcasm, “I’m always surprised by how you seem to forget what we’ve been through when you’re thinking about other people.”
I’m not retelling that so you’ll be like, “oh, Heather is so selfless in her worrying about others!” I am super selfish. But for me to be able to function, I have to put the pain of the last three and a half years into a back corner of my mind and then basically ignore it. Otherwise, I’d just be a giant mess, 24/7. And sometimes I ignore it so well that I say stupid stuff like that to Mike.
So anyway, I felt really dumb after I said that to Mike. And then it all rushed over me, just truly how HORRIBLE things were about to be for her parents. Not imaginary. REAL. And I started to dread seeing her parents. Just a stomach-dropping terror at the idea that I would look into her mom’s eyes and see my own pain reflected back at me. Because how could I ever put my pain back into my mind corner if I had to look at it and acknowledge it?
When I saw Jackie’s mom three weeks ago, it was, truthfully, as gut wrenching as I’d feared. I wanted to have some sort of magical words of wisdom to take away her pain, to tell her how to get through. But all I could think about was how it was going to be in a few weeks…after she was gone, and everyone had gone back to their lives, and she and Jackie’s dad were left alone in their house. How their days, which had been so completely consumed with worry and doctor visits and caring for their daughter were suddenly going to be…empty. How they were going to just sit there shell-shocked and think, “What just happened? Where did my baby go?”
I said something practical like, “Take it moment to moment,” or “Do what you have to do,” but it wasn’t comforting. Here I am, three and a half years after Maddie’s death, and I nothing to offer to make her feel better. I can’t even make myself feel better.
Sweetheart, there are no words to make anyone feel better in that situation. It’s horrible, tragic, unfair, just plain wrong. My heart goes out to you. xo
OOhh Sweetie….NEVER Under-Estimate the power of YOUR words!! I wouldn’t be surprised if Robin didn’t cling to every word you spoke since you had been through the worst possible hurt to go through. Lucky for her you had so much courage to do there when it hurt so much!!! I don’t know Jackie’s family well but what I do know of them is they are all very GRATEFUL people so, I would hazzard a guess to say they were extremely grateful to hear any piece of personal advice you offered. I think we would all feel so thankful to you.
I know what it’s like to feel helpless during that awful time, b/c I felt the same way toward you and Mike when I would offer any advice or support to you after Maddie passed. I so desperately wanted to make things better….even just a little better for you and Mike but I knew I would fail miserably b/c your sorrow was so profound – your hurt so deep!! So often I would cry out of frustration and sadness b/c I knew my friends were hurting and there was NOTHING I could do to help.
HOWEVER, to my surprised you thanked me for my words one day and you told us how much everyone words and support meant to you both and how they WERE helping and making you and Mike feel less alone. I’m sure Robin feel that same way….not only that day and I’m sure many other times as well.
You truly are AMAZING Heather – you’re just forgetting how much you are! No worries though….I’ll be here to support and remind you just how valuable you are….especially when you forget. I will also continue to hope, wish and pray you are able to find some peace and even hopefully one day soon, even your smile and laughter again too. One day at a time…one day at a time. xoxo
Thinking of you
Stephanie Moore says:
Just being there was comfort for Jackie’s parents. As you know there are no words anyone can say that will take away the pain. Being there for them in the next weeks, months, years is what will mean the most and make a difference to all of you. ((hugs)) to you.
After burying 2 sons I often feel like I should have some sort of advanced degree in the death of a child. It turns out I don’t. There is so much advice you can give to other parents about their children but advice to the bereaved parent is harder to come by.
I started writing in search of those “magical words of wisdom” to offer others. So, far I have not found them but if I do I promise to send them to you right away. Sending hugs to you, Mike and Jackie’s family. xo
I don’t know how many times I wrote something here and erased it….but I just want to say I read this and I’m thinking of you.
I am too.
You can never truly tell how much your words mean to another person. I would guess that you are helping Jackie!’s family more than you realize.
My thoughts are with you all.
In the depths of grief sometimes all it takes is just a hug. After a few days words might come and it doesn’t matter what words they are. Keep in touch with Jackie’s parents. As you know they will need it deeply. And again it just doesn’t matter what you say, just that you are there. I often wonder why the bad people aren’t the ones who have to suffer. You know – the criminals, the bad ones, the ones who do not live for anyone but themselves. But I have figured out that life is not fair, good people are the ones that others mourn.
Blessings from Minnesota
I know what you mean, it has been nearly 5 years since we lost our daughter and I feel like I should have some expert advice for newly grieving moms but I don’t. And I don’t want to tell them that 5 years later it is still so hard so I end up saying something short and probably not as meaningful as I want it to be. Sending so many hugs your way.
I bet those simple words went further than you know. Keeping Jackie!’s family and you in my heart and in my thoughts.
Sometimes all you can do is keep from making it worse. And that makes it better.
I think just knowing you understand what they’re going through and being able to listen to them — and truly hear — what they have to share about how they feel will be of comfort to them. Thinking of you all.
You know, after all I’ve read on your blog and of Jackie’s! journey….I’m sure her mom was just as worried for you. Bless both your hearts.
Sometimes there are truly not words. Because words cannot cover up the reality of a situation. You have been through the worst that life has to offer and I am honored to keep reading your words as you continue to try and make sense of it and live it. Grief knows no bounds (just as happiness can send us soaring). Just be and do and keep on going. My heart aches for all of you.
Love to you. Wish there was something I could say or do.
I think it’s just so horrible, there are no good words. I’m sure they really appreciate you being there for them! Don’t feel guilty about not having anything profound to say; being there matters a lot and is enough.
Amy Collen says:
You know, by reading your posts I can tell that right now you really need them and I bet you they need you too. You are connected with them with Jackie, Madeline and the fact that you all have faced the death of a child. You have a very good idea of what they are going through right now. I don’t know if you are e-mailing them or not but maybe it is time to start. I have done this with several of my friends whose children have passed away. An e-mail to check in with them to see how they are doing. I would start doing it every day, once a day. I think one of the scariest things we grieving parents worry about is that people will somehow forget our child was here and what a shining light they are (LOL! I know, I know, you already know this. Why am I telling you this? :). It is true, people go on with their lives and the world goes on. Meanwhile, here we are still grieving and still needed our friends and family more than ever. E-mail them if you haven’t already. Maybe go up and visit once a month or so if you can. I think it will be good for all of you :). They love you, Heather (and you too, Mike!). It’s okay for all of you to lean on each other right now.
Amy Collen says:
One more thing…telling them exactly what to expect is so important too. As you well know you go through a whole range of emotions and to have someone kind of “mentoring” (I know that sounds a like a strange weird here) you through it and telling you what you feel is normal helps a lot, especially when the anger stage hits.
I have no words that will take away the pain, that will comfort or console you but I hope you will always know that love and light surround you and all those you hold closest to your heart! You are an amazing woman filled with such heart, compassion and beauty that is so rare and so treasured by every life you touched with your words.
Not sure if you’ve seen or heard the song but “I Was Here” by Beyonce made me think of your amazing girls….Madeline & Jackie!
Thank you for telling us all about Jackie. And Madeline. My life is better even in some small way for having known about them.
I get what you mean about needing to push grief away most of the time in order to function. I’m trying to come to terms with that in my life–how after years I’ve now developed this pattern of making sure I am always maddeningly busy, but even that pattern makes me sad. I don’t judge myself for doing this–I just know that I’m at the stage in my grief process when I have to make time to *not* be too busy to feel painful things. I think there’s a time for the opposite, too.
While we have an endless choice of words, there never seem to be the right ones to say to comfort another. And even if we have the words, I personally would only hear “blah blah blah” in such a tragic & sad situation like a child’s funeral. Maybe writing on your blog and keeping her in our hearts and thoughts will be the best way to honor Jackie and her family. It is so hard. There are truly no words that will bring someone back. I get all tongue tied and tend to not speak. Maybe not the right way to handle things on my end, there is no right way…..
As you taught me in some of your earlier posts after you lost Maddie, sometimes not saying much outloud and just being there for people says a million different things and shows how much you care.
I’m sure in that moment Jackie’s mom might not have heard you had you said something more because of the numbness. Now as you start to move forward and you call to check on her as the rest of the noise starts to fade is when it will really mean the most.
Sending lots of hugs your way Heather!!
Don’t shortchange yourself. There are no magic words when it comes to grief. Just the truth that it does take one day at a time, and you do have to feel what you feel when you feel it.
For all you know, just knowing that you’ve been there, and you understand exactly what she’s going through has got to be a comfort to her.
You know, in some ways, the post resonates with me on another level other than grieving for and with you and Jackie!’s family. I want so badly – *so badly* – to be able to say the right words here. To say something that will stick with you or make it even the teensiest bit better. But I don’t have those words. And even if they did, I don’t know if they would even suffice. So all I can offer to you are proverbial hugs from across the country, prayers and wishes for strength. And I so desparetely wish it was enough.
I’m so, so sorry for your loss. All of them.
XOXO from Ga.
Yae I totally get what you mean. you’ve been in their shoes. The most we can do is offer empathy, and sometimes that is enough… I think that is what you gave them..
my mom said once to her friend/mother who lost a teenage boy in a drunk driving accident – “it’s a mystery of faith”. Somehow it seemed fitting, because that is where it leaves us, those left behind, living in a mystery of faith, to keep believing…
So very sorry for your loss.
I think sometimes, just knowing that someone else has been through something similar is enough. They know, and certainly, you have been and will continue to be a comfort to them.
Your posts about Jackie are a testament to your inner strength and the amazing friendship that you have shared. I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry.
Thinking if you, Mike and Jacies! Family & friends!
No–you have no magic words, because if there were any, someone would have spoken them to you & you wouldn’t need that corner of your mind. But what you do have is what not too many other people will have: the understanding only a mother who lost a daughter far too soon can have. So, yes, you will see that pain reflected in one another’s eyes–but that’s the kind of pain that doesn’t need words, a tight hug, a hand squeeze, even just “daring” to look into her eyes (remember how people avoided looking at the pain in yours?). So, yes, you might not have that wished-for magic wand that takes the heart-piercing pain away, but you do understand that pain & sometimes that’s all that’s needed.
Thinking of & praying for you & Mike during this time~knowing you’re both grieving over Jackie & that this probably brings up to the forefront some of the deeper grief you’ve managed to “shove into that back corner of your minds” in regards to your sweet Maddie. Likewise, my thoughts & prayers are with Jackie’s family–siblings, nieces & nephews, but especially her parents.
I have to say that I have no idea how it feels to be you. I have no lost a child. I have never lost a friend. The closest thing to a loss that I’ve had is my grandmother, but losing your grandmother is what is supposed to happen in the progression of life. It’s painful, yes…but it’s the way life goes. It’s a natural progression. First your lost your great-grandparents, then your grandparents, then your parents….and that’s just LIFE. But to lose your child? To lose a sibliing or a best friend? That….well, THAT…is NOT what is supposed to happen. That is just so incredibly painful. When I see people like you going through such losses, I feel such incredible sadness for you. It must be so, so hard. I know you probably hate hearing how “you are so strong” when really you feel like you aren’t all that strong, but it’s more like you just keep on living…without them. For what it’s worth, I really admire you and all those other who keep on keeping on dispite their sadness, despite th grief. The fact that you don’t let your sadness and grief pull you under, that you are able to articulate it and not let it destroy you completely….well, that is seriously to be admired. It does take strength to fight that. Incredible strength.
I wish that each day going forward brings your heart a little less heavy with this grief, for both the loss of your sweet Maddie and your wonderful friend Jackie! ~ and don’t feel regret about anything that you said or didn’t say to Jackie!’s parents. They know. Just know that they know.
I just wanted to say my thoughts are with you. I’m sorry you feel this pain.
Yeah. Well. You gave her the gift of no bullshit. And you KNOW how important that is in the sea of sad clown faces.