Because I have been so vocal about my experience in losing my husband and the father of my children to cancer nearly 3 years ago, I have become the local resource for others who have lost loved ones. I get calls and emails nearly every week telling me about a friend, a relative or a member of my community who lost someone and could use help with figuring out what to do. I am always willing to help any way I can. I usually keep things pretty standard and provide a list of resources, books, camps, local programs, etc. I do this because I remember all too well how alone I felt and how much I would have welcomed this information from someone like me when I needed it the most.
Recently however, I had the opportunity to actually sit down and meet a woman who had recently lost her husband and the father of their 4 children. Mutual friends connected us and we arranged to meet for coffee. I honestly had no idea what to expect. She was just 2 months out from losing her husband. Her loss was so new that I was concerned. After all, I lost my husband nearly 3 years ago, have just 2 kids and have found love again and re-married. I didn’t know what to expect and wanted to be sensitive to the “freshness” of her loss, so naturally I came prepared with literature and a notebook full of resources to help her start the process of living with grief. In other words, I came prepared with the standard stuff.
What happened though was truly remarkable. We were 2 strangers who met for coffee at 9:00am and 3 hours later, left as friends. And even more remarkable for me was that I realized that I needed to meet her just as much as she needed to meet me. I realized that day that although I am the “go-to person” in my community, I still need to connect on a personal level with others who have experienced loss.
Connecting with others who have suffered loss is a truly special experience. It’s like walking into a room full of people, not knowing a soul, then spotting your best friend smiling at you among the strangers. What a sense of relief! Someone who knows you, someone who gets you and someone who accepts you for everything you are and everything you have gone through.
The day we met for coffee, we laughed, cried, and had some serious real-life discussions. We shared stories about our kids, our spouses and how in the world we were ever able to get though all of it. We laughed and told stories about the ridiculous things that people will say to you, the even more ridiculous ways we respond and the way we put on our “game faces” when we need to just get through the day. We talked about ways to help our children to grieve in a healthy way and our hopes and dreams for them. We talked about how it feels when the world keeps on going and all you want to do it make it stop and we talked about our new futures and how we can teach and show our children that there is a lot of life still to be lived.
I can only imagine that is how our children felt when they went to Camp Erin. They had the opportunity to connect with other kids who suffered a loss just as I had the opportunity to meet a new friend over coffee. The connection is remarkable, no doubt!
Thank you to The Moyer Foundation for giving our children the opportunity to grieve in such a healthy way. I honestly don’t know where my children would be without such a fantastic program!