People tell me daily, with heartfelt love and great gusto: “Tell me what you need ~ I will be here for you!”
“Thank you”, I say.
What I really feel is: “Oh, geesh, I don’t KNOW what I need, and I promise if I ever figure out what I really need at any one moment, I’ll call ya!”
In the 11 Mondays since our daughter died, one of the most unforeseen challenges I’ve faced has been to define WHAT I NEED, when, and how. I don’t know. I Don’t KNOW What I Need, sometimes even from one minute to the next.
A day in the life: Last Monday I awoke at the crack of 11:12am to the sounds of birds still chirping outside my open windows, only to feel the immediate, tear-filled, and overwhelming need to wrap myself under the cool sheets again, engulfing myself to the brim of my hairline in order to escape even my cutest-of-all-puppy’s eager-to-play glare.
By noon, I finally felt the urge to pee, and have coffee, and to get online to actually interact with the world on the book of faces. By 1:25pm I had been in tears four times, and took the leap to phone a friend in hopes they could go for a walk; nope. Mustering the courage to don my leggings and a hoodie in the 82 degree heat (only to cover the 40 pounds I’d gained in the six prior months, as I ate my pain away), I darted toward my neighborhood’s walkway, and in embarrassment for my red-faced cry-fest within only a mile and a half, I turned around to go home to shower and sob, solo.
I straightened my fro and put on my face, cooked dinner for my hubby who’d be home (after actually working) within a few minutes, and lit the candles for ambiance and conversation. We engaged in sparse and trite talking points, and the tv brought welcome relief to my fears of breaking down, yet again. I cried myself to sleep, once more…
The very next day: Spontaneously up at the crack of o’dawn; a 3-mile walk and shower and reading/responding to emails were complete by 7:30am. Messages sorted & replied; team on board for allocated duties for the day; bam, bam, Ba.aaam! Checked the list twice – DONE-ZO! “Dang, woman ~ you’ve got this!!”, I said to myself. Oh, and it’s only 10:05am and we’ve got a whole day that I can hike, write, dream, sort photos, reminisce, wine with friends, work, write, dream some more!
4:20pm rolls ‘round and argh, I’m once on the brink of tears, thanks to finding the thoughtful gift of the cute owl wine bottle cork she bought for me this spring… By 4:32 I’m back on track for our evening gathering with my hubby and other friends, and we play games, talk philosophy, and have ‘normal’ human interactive relationships like the ‘old me’ used to woulda coulda shoulda…
This emotional roller coaster I’m on is weighty! If I KNEW what I needed, one minute to the next, I promise I’d tell you. I just don’t know what I need yet! Have you ever felt this way?
My sweet cousin, Debbie, posted the following on SM today: “So many people I love are going through tough times. Health scares. Parents in failing health. Loved ones with mental health struggles. Recent deaths of loved ones. Sick fur babies. Empty nesting. Kids having struggles with figuring out who they are. Hell- adults having struggles with figuring out who they are.”
She continued: “Job losses and stress. Unknowns. It’s all part of life, but the pain and fear is real. How do I, do we, support our people? A smile, a hug, a text, a call, a little back rub, a random card in the mail, letting people know I’m here with a shoulder or an ear or even just silent company, even simply a “I’m thinking of you” goes a long, long way. What are the things you do to comfort others? What have folks done for you that provides you comfort and a sense you’re not alone?”
…Answers poured in:
- Random texts/calls/cards
- A hug and a listening ear
My reply? That my sweet cousin sent weekly cards WITH the knowledge that I could be completely guilt-free. She didn’t place the weighty pressure on me to reply to her in the midst of my outrageous grief. She knew I needed to feel her love and would reply when I could muster the strength, but that wasn’t quite yet, and she was okay with that….
The thing is, the more grief and life lessons I experience over my now 46 years, the more I realize it’s alright to feel whatever I feel and at any given moment. I may not anticipate how I am going to respond, and I realize that everyone else has their own way/s, too… I see in just our small group of family and friends:
- The compartmentalizer (THIS is time for work. Now this is the time for play. Bathing. Dining. Fun. Reminiscing. Hiking. Talking. Crying. Laughing. Building a barn. Dreaming. Etc…)
- The thief (You stole my future; I’m going to be angry and try to take time back!)
- The positive one (I choose to remember and focus on only the positive; I don’t want to see some parts of my loved one in pain or not herself.)
- The shadow helper (I choose to be in the background, bringing meals and cleaning and helping where I can, so you can have time together to do important things, or cry on my shoulder.)
- The smile enabler (I will send you cards and send you random texts, because I know you don’t know when a ‘good’ time to call may be…)
- The analyzer (I will tell you everything I know and it will work to cure you, I promise!)
- The denier (Nope. This ain’t happening! Or, I can’t deal with this; I’m outa here.)
What other ways can YOU think of that capture the emotion of the people in YOUR life who are trying to “Show Up” and help you? Are they meeting your needs? Expectations? Desires?? If not, how might you communicate differently with them to show them how YOU are hurting, and in what specific ways they CAN help you!? …EVEN IF that way is one thing this minute, and another thing the next minute????? Can you look them in the eye and say “I don’t know what I need right now ~ and as I figure it out, minute by minute, I thank you (in advance) for being there for me!?”
Hugs ’round you as you grieve, Lynn
— Lynn Sherwood-Humphries is an author, speaker and educator about End-of-Life Care Choices and communication. A serial entrepreneur, you might find her starting or revamping businesses for optimal success, competing in shooting sports, or hiking the hills surrounding her home in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She is the founder of My Croak File.
If you know someone who is newly diagnosed with lung cancer (or are the person who loves that person), download a copy of Lynn’s FREE book, “Lung Cancer 101” (her labor of love after her daughter was diagnosed in 2018), HERE.