I’m afraid to share what I have to say.
I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me.
I’m afraid you don’t want to hear it.
Just incase you don’t know my story already…in the last three years TWELVE people in my life have died. I have sat at the deathbeds of five. I watched Cancer (and yes, in my book it gets freaking capitalized because it’s a monster) eat four of them alive, slowly and painfully.
90% of them were under the age of 50. One was five.
If I averaged it out, I’ve been to a funeral every other month for three years.
Oh, and I’ve moved, I’ve moved a lot, running around trying to make a better life for our family in this recession…we have moved four times now. We had the American Dream, and lost it. Thank God, because let me tell you trying to hold onto that ridiculous image of perfection was only an American nightmare.
I have had to redefine my meaning of home, because it so often changes.
I once called myself a “City Widow” and I have also given myself another certification: self-made Grief Specialist.
But, not a lot of people know all this about me because well, I’m the Grim Reaper Girl. Maybe they think if they stand too close to me, they’ll get cooties, and death and pain will rub off on them, too.
In the Spring of 2010, after my latest slew of tragedies had taken my three year old daughter’s best friend, my husband’s job, our new life and new home, a friend of mine informed me, politely, that the general population of Facebook had deemed me…
Yup, it was official. I was singlehandedly bringing the entire cartoon-posting, music-streaming, “did you see the latest Lady Gaga video?” mood of Facebook down by keepin’ it real.
I was…the Grim Reaper Girl.
I’m keepin’ it light here, because, well, I did title this post “Grim Reaper Girl” and I’m a little worried I might scare ya off if I get too real, and then I might turn into a downer…but really, that whole Facebook thing was pretty tragic for me. It sent me, bags packin’, into a self-induced hermitville where I stayed for quite awhile, painfully afraid to tell the world what was really going on with me because I didn’t want to…bring anyone else down.
Then, my Grandpa died. Then, my Grandma died. Then, we had to move…again.
But, I didn’t post about any of it on Facebook, and I didn’t tell too many people…I was too scared.
It was just a couple months ago, right after my Grandma died, that I reached my darkest point of the last three years. I stayed in bed for days because it had reached a point where it hurt too much to be alive. Life had become synonymous with too much intense pain. And, I hated myself for not being able to pick myself up yet again…and be a good Mom, wife, lover, friend. I felt so…alone.
My husband called our parents and siblings and said, “What do I do?” He’d seen me down before, he’d seen me grieve A LOT. But, after all the losses, he’d never seen me like this.
I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to continue to live a LIFE OF LOSS either. I’d stopped being able to see the beauty outside the pain.
I’m blessed to have amazing family and a few friends in my life that always show up for me, but it really is rare to find someone, anyone, who can face death alongside you.
My Grandma had faced her own inner demons, and because of that, she had developed an unusual sense of compassion and an ability to honor and acknowledge all the little deaths in my life. She was one of the only people who called me up after every single loss, big or small, to sit with me in the pain and acknowledge it.
She never treated me like the Grim Reaper Girl.
I think it was because of this that her loss hit me harder then any of the rest. Plus, well, the whole slop of all the losses piled on top of each other like a cheap Carl’s Jr. hamburger kind of made me feel like the “meat” on the bottom of a dogpile.
Worse then the pain itself, though, was feeling like I had to hide it from the world, like no one could really understand or see the pain I was in.
Then, my husband’s Dad called me. This is a man who isn’t necessarily spiritual in my mind. He’s simply a good man.
And he said to me, “The amount of stuff you’ve been through the last few years…and all you’ve been doing is trying and trying and trying to find a way to make it all better and it just keeps getting worse…it must be getting really old. I’m so sorry sweetie.”
In an instant, my heart melted. The tower I had built around it came down brick by brick. I took the metaphysical gun away from my head and light came back into my world of darkness.
He was a simple and profound reminder that I am not alone. He looked at me and didn’t just say, “I’m sorry.” He said, “I see you…I see the pain, I see how hard you’ve been trying to survive all this loss, and I get it.” His words gave me the strength to pick myself up off the bottom of the dogpile and start seeing the beauty around the pain.
Oprah said on her final show, and you’ll hear me quote this line again and again because I have learned that this right here, folks, is really what it’s ALL about (not the hokey pokey!)…
“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common — they all wanted validation. They want to know, do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?”
My question to you is, do you see the person sitting next to you at work? Do you see the man at the gas station swiping your credit card? Do you care about them? Do you let them know that?
And what about Facebook? Its called a SOCIAL NETWORK. Every day, in 468 characters or less, or with one click of a “like” button, you have a chance to say, “I see you, I care,” to 499 of your closest friends and family. Do you use that power?
Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I wonder how we would treat each other if we all walked around with signs on our backs bearing the terms of our battles.
The night my two year old nephew died, I left the hospital for a few minutes to run a family member home to her kids. I hadn’t eaten in two days. I hadn’t slept. My entire world had just changed, as if a movie set had been broken down and another completely different backdrop had been put up in its place. I stopped at a gas station to get a snack and I looked around at the people in the gas station, just going about life as usual, and I thought, “Do they have any idea what I’m going through right now? How would they treat me if they knew what I’m about to have to do?”
A man cut me off on the road on the way home, and I thought, “Would he have done that if he knew???”
How would you treat every stranger if you looked at them like they were fighting the battle of their life?
If you’d run into me in that gas station and seen a sign on my back that read, “My 3 year old nephew died last night and I’m about to go hold him for the last time,” would you have stopped to shake my hand? Give me a hug? Hold my hand? Would you have taken the time to say, “I’m sorry” ???
I bet you would have.
The next time you’re out grocery shopping or filling up at the gas station, the next time you glance at a stranger and feel that urge to look down and just go about your business back on your little island in your little realm of the atmosphere, I want you to stop and look at them again. Look at them and ask yourself, “What battle are they fighting?”
It doesn’t take much. Just a smile, a word, a gracious opening of the door or a, “No, you go ahead.”
I can tell you right now…that ONE LITTLE THING…could save a life.
Sometimes, the most basic form of acknowledgement is the most profound gift you can give a person…especially if they’ve started to think the world doesn’t see them, doesn’t care.
A smile has saved my life a million times.
A few words have eased my pain more then 10,000 hours of therapy could.
A few brave friends…willing to stand beside the Grim Reaper Girl…have made my life worth living. In fact, they’ve made a life of loss turn into a life of beauty. I can honestly say, I’ve never been more at peace, more filled with joy then I am today. I’m not a wallowing mess of depression, I am a strong, courageous woman on a mission now…my mission? To tell everyone I meet, “I see you, I care.”
So, the question is, can a SOCIAL NETWORK be a SOCIAL SUPPORT GROUP? Can we be real or can we only go so far as Lady Gaga will let us go?
Take a risk, post something brave, something real. Maybe someone will tell you they see you. Maybe someone will CARE.
Remember what I always say…
Life’s greatest question is “Why are we here?”
I believe the answer is, “For each other.”
This post is dedicated to anyone who has ever looked at me and with their eyes, heart or words said, “I see you, I care.” You are the beauty in my life. You remind me of the beauty and joy that is always surrounding the pain. You’re bigger then the pain…you’re the best Band-Aid a Grim Reaper Girl could ever ask for. 🙂