I hate March. I hate April. I hate the whole lead up to April 7th. I’m feeling very angry this year and I don’t know if that’s going to subside before the seventh…and I don’t think I care if it doesn’t. Apathy and anger are some of the hardest emotions to work thorough in the grieving life; at least, they are for me. And they always seem to come back. I hate this time of year.
No matter which grieving process I’m working through, I can always recognize how much support we have. So many of you, “strangers” who have never met us, will reach out to acknowledge that we have a painful day on the horizon. I am always gobsmacked by the emails we get every year. Some are just a few lines while others are many paragraphs long. I can’t imagine what this would be like without the enormous network we have. I am simultaneously so grateful and so apologetic that we have such an amazing group surrounding us when so many don’t.
I still live in fear that one year, everyone will forget. One year, no one will sign up to march for Maddie, no one will remember what a horrible day the seventh is, no one will remember her at all. And that fear transports me back to another time…a far worse time. In the months after Madeline died, I rarely left our condo. If I did, it was either to go to the doctor, or to check our PO Box. My friends had set it up so people could send cards, and wow did they. We received some of the most amazing cards, letters, and packages. I was simultaneously comforted and overwhelmed. I put many envelopes aside, comforted by their mere existence. It’s hard to explain, but often holding the literal proof that people cared was all I needed. I did eventually open everything, and there were many times when I’m glad I waited because the contents was very emotional.
I knew that, despite all the promises to the contrary, people would eventually stop sending cards, emails, and texts. I didn’t blame anyone for it, of course, but I absolutely dreaded the day that I’d show up to the PO Box to discover there was nothing inside. I was honestly terrified of what would happen. I hoped that it wouldn’t arrive until I was more emotionally solid, and I was very lucky that’s what happened. But even still, the day the mailbox was empty practically knocked me to my knees. It didn’t mean that people had stopped caring, but it was still so, so hard.
I’m often asked what someone can do to help a grieving friend or family member, and this is a big one: Go out of your way to tell that person you remember and miss their loved one. Set reminders on your calendar, then send cards, emails, and texts. I had a friend who literally texted me at 4pm every day for a year with a simple “Love you.” I had someone who sent me cards twice a week, another who sent one on the seventh of every month. These were often my daily and weekly goals, like, “I just have to make it until I receive C’s text,” or “R’s card will be arriving tomorrow.” They helped me make it through the hardest days. It was so easy for them. It will be easy for you, too.
Taking a few moments out of your day to tell someone who’s grieving that you remember their loved one can literally change their entire day. I can’t stress it enough. Please, for Maddie: tell someone that you remember. Don’t stop sending the cards.