Here’s an email I just sent to my son, Jeff. I ultimately addressed it to both Jeff and Mike, but once I had written it, I wanted to share it with any of the rest of you who might care to read it.
You said this, “I apologize for my lack of contact as I have been having a problem dealing with Mama’s death. This is something I will work through in my own time I am sure.”
It is precisely because you are (or I had thought you may be) having problems with your mother’s death that I wanted to make contact with you. That’s not the kind of thing you should (or should have to) work through by yourself. It is when you are dealing with such an emotional issue that you need to reach out to those you know love you and who share your sorrow and pain. I qualify on both counts.
Since I’m sitting here at the computer late at night and you’ve just written me, I’m guessing you are also sitting there at your computer late at night. I’d be happy to share a late night conversation with you by phone if you want to call me. But if you choose not to, then let’s talk tomorrow about a time when we can talk about what you are thinking and how you are feeling about your mother’s death.
One reason we share each other’s sorrows is to make our own burdens lighter. It isn’t just that I want to support you; it’s also that I believe if I can hold onto you to give you strength, it will give me strength too. I love you, but now I have to love you twice as much to compensate for your mother’s absence. Your supply of “knowing that you are loved” (didn’t even know you had a supply of that, did you?) is sort of like gas in a car. You need it refilled regularly and often, because if you go for long periods without stopping by a “filling station,” you could run out. When you know you are loved, you can endure more, you can accomplish more and you can relax more and quit doing things to get others to prove to you that they really do love you.
We’ve all been under considerable stress with your mom’s illness. We need to consciously acknowledge how that stress manifests itself in our lives. We must be aware that when we feel the need to have that extra drink in an evening or when the need to commit some sexual indiscretion shows up or when we can only see the faults in everyone around us because we are under stress, we can recognize that for what it is — our plea to be comforted and an expression of our need for stress relief!
Life is full of learning experiences. Carole’s death gives us a chance to learn to deal with loss. You’ll have several such opportunities during your lifetime; it’s just the nature of things that you will. Strive to get better each time you cross that bridge; it’s not a one-time event.
Some day you’ll get to deal with my death. There is no escaping that. Please resolve to learn from Carole’s death the lessons it has for you in how to deal with the loss of a loved one, and resolve to make sure that when you get to practice what you learned this time around the next time you have to go through this experience, you will use what you have learned to lessen the pain you experience and the pain you cause others because of how much you are hurting.
There is certainly no one right way to grieve. But grief is a part of every life. In many ways, it is also a beautiful thing, and though only God could possibly have the wisdom to understand this, a necessary thing. One would never choose to experience it, but there is an honesty in the pain you feel when someone you love is gone that is purer than almost any other emotion you’ll ever experience.
Remember, sometimes when you allow yourself to accept another’s attempt to help you, you are also helping that other person deal with his or her own feelings about the loss that both of you share.
Be honest about the pain you are experiencing and permit those who love you to try to help. You’ll be doing them a world of good. Suffering in silence only perpetuates the pain and causes pain to others because of your own unhappiness.
Damn! Aren’t you glad you were born to such a wise father? 😉
PS Because I need to say these same things to your brother, I’m going to copy him on this message. I’m sure you’ll understand. I love you both with all my heart!