We were having a HORRIBLE time at bedtime. Every once in awhile it gets pretty bad, but once last week, I ended up running to my closet, falling to my knees, crying and yelling into my hands. I tried to close the closet door to muffle the sound so I didn’t scare the girls. Squirmy came in and said, “Mama, you can call Nana and ask her for help. She can help you.” After thinking how sweet that was for her to say, I then thought, “What is Nana going to do? Come over here and put you to bed a half hour from now while I’m crying in the closet?” I got up, gave both the girls big hugs and kisses, apologized for “freaking out” and we all went to sleep, exhausted from our drama.
A few nights later (damn daylight savings time change!), it was almost the same thing though not quite that bad. After the kids went to sleep, I took Squirmy’s advice and called Nana, my mom. We brainstormed ways to help the girls get to sleep and decided that even though they share a room, they need different bedtimes and they both need a little bit of one-on-one time with me before they go to sleep. So, I’ve started working on this with the girls and a few nights later, Squeaky is quiet and cuddled in bed within minutes! I have been able to lay in my bed, cuddling and reading books with Squirmy uninterrupted AND listen to HER read to ME! This makes me so, so, so happy!
Last Monday night was also my first group therapy session with other widowers. This was the one I missed last month. It was a big group. I walked in and saw only one box of tissues on the coffee table in the middle of the room. I thought of grabbing it and putting it on my lap immediately! But I sat down and waited until a few tears fell in my lap. Then, someone passed it over. We went around in a circle talking about our experiences with loss. I was by far the youngest one there. There were a lot of different feelings and thoughts shared. Not all applied to me but I took at least one thing that everyone said and could relate.
One thing that stuck in my mind was the feeling that after a month or so go by, people forget about what you’re going through. One of the women in the group said exactly, “At the funeral everyone says, ‘Let me know if you need anything. I’m here for you.’ But then a month later, they stop checking in or asking you how you are.”
I understood where she was coming from but the words that she used finally made it click for me. I completely understand that a widow (or anyone grieving) needs a lot of love and support and it can feel very lonely. But at some point, your friends and family do need you to let them know how they can help. Most people don’t know how they can help. To be quite honest, I wouldn’t necessarily know how to help a grieving friend, even though I’m going through it myself! And I’ve learned that, most of the time, it’s up to me (or my 5 year old!) to say it out loud. Because at this point, nobody really knows what we need but us.
I recently pulled a little quote from a magazine that asked the question, What’s the most important question you’ve ever asked yourself? One woman wrote, “I’ve always thought that asking for help was a sign of weakness, but when my mother died, I learned that it takes greater strength to lean on others than to stand alone. In order to heal, I asked myself, What help do I need in this moment?”
When Greg got sick last year and we heard the word cancer, my dad had JUST driven home from our house, seven hours away. After putting the girls to bed, Greg and I were struggling with the weight of it all coming down on us. In between tears, Greg said, “Can you ask your dad to come back? We need him.” I was thinking the same thing although I had been too scared/proud/??? to say it out loud. I called my dad immediately and he packed his bags and came right back. In the days and months that followed, when someone asked me what they could do to help, I told them. And in those three months, we were never alone. There was always someone living with us, running errands for us, fixing things in the house, helping with yard work, bringing us dinner, babysitting the girls or keeping Greg company. There was NO WAY that we could have done it alone.
Our case is pretty extreme, I guess. We needed lots of help. We still need lots of help. I know that everyone is going through different struggles and your friends and family do want to help. But if nobody knows what you need, it’s really hard to get that help. People aren’t cold. People aren’t heartless. People need to know.
So, how can I help you?