When loss sneaks in and makes a home in your heart

I want to make sweeping statements like, “the first time you lose someone you love, it teaches you how to lose everyone else” or “the first time you lose someone you love, you learn what to do and not do the next time.” But I don’t necessarily mean “everyone” – because everyone deals with things in different ways. What I face, you might hide from. What I consider heavy, you might not consider picking up at all. So what I really mean is, specifically, losing people in the past has taught me what kind of person I want to be when faced with losing people in the future.

Death – well, any kind of crisis, actually, because I’ve seen this happen around weddings and big moves/job changes as well – brings out the best and the worst in people. As if… wherever they’re already headed, wherever their spirit is pointed, it suddenly gets laser-focused and directed a thousand percent tighter and harder. Busy people get busier. Bossy people get bossier. People prone to depression get more depressed. People who deflect and sublimate behave as if nothing is wrong. Helpers help even more. People who already make everything about them are annoyingly amplified, and people who prefer to stay in the background and help become both more valuable but also less seen.

Are any of these things better than the other? Well, of course. I mean, who wants even more bossy, self-centered people sucking the energy out of a room when they’re not really the person going through it?! But we all deal with different things in different ways, and to me it seems like one of life’s many repeating lessons to learn is how to deal with how people deal with things.

Losing my dad, and losing Bill, taught me a lot (most of the posts I’ve written about those particular journeys can be found in the Souvenirs category, where I write the hard stuff). Losing my grandparents taught me some as well, but honestly, I was so young that the first few lessons didn’t stick as well as they should. So, thanks, I guess, life, for the repeats?

What did I learn?

I learned I wanted to be the person who showed up. Lots of people say “oh, that’s terrible, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” and then they disappear, waiting for the person in crisis to reach out. Pro tip: what is more helpful than “let me know what I can do” is being specific. People in the midst of crisis, if you ask them what needs to be done, are going to think “everything. Everything needs to be done.” When in crisis, it’s too hard to delegate. There’s just too much. Offer specific help. Offer to pick up groceries, to bring cooked/frozen food over, to walk dogs, to clean cat boxes, to take dry-cleaning or do laundry. Offer to do yard work, or clean, or take kids to a movie or the park, or take the car in for repairs. Whatever your specialty is, whatever you’re good at doing, offer that. Specifics are better than general offers of help.

So. Loss, stress, and crisis have revealed to me that I want to be the person who shows up. I want to be the person who doesn’t have any regrets about things unsaid. I want to be the person who waded hip deep into the river of love and not just stuck her toes in the shallows. I want to be the person who makes whatever it is – the loss, the grief, the transition, the hard time – easier for the people involved to carry it all.

But is it really a want? Do I “want” to be that way? Because sometimes it feels more as if … I can’t NOT be that way. This is the way I am, I know my true nature, I can’t go against it without hurting myself, and I have no desire to put myself through the pain of trying to be someone I’m not.

So I help. I support. I do dishes and I put laundry in the dryer and I take the trash and recycling out. I bring groceries and I cook food and I run errands. I’m here if people want to talk and I’m here if they’re not ready to. I watch, and pay attention to what people need and try to give them that. I listen. I hear. I see. I love. I show up.

6 Comments

  1. Meghan Dunmore

    This was profound. Thank you.
    It has been so hard for me to admit that I no longer want to show up. And that I wasted 20 years showing up, only to have depression sooth me from the world.

    • You are so welcome, lovey! There is a huge difference between showing up out of obligation, and knowing that you can’t show up because it’s not healthy. One of those is true to your self, and true to our selves is the best us we can be, no matter what. Depression, however, lies to you. All the time. Nothing depression ever whispers to you in the dark corners of your heart are ever true.

  2. Mary Morelly

    The greatest loss (other than a child which I don’t have) is that of a life partner. Because that person is ingrained and part of you. You get used to hearing them in the house, you get used to nightly hugs and kisses. Now it’s emptiness in my heart and my home. Sure I have friends helping me in all those ways doing things for me but now I know what it feels to be completely alone in a sea of people or group of well-meaning friends. Widowhood is the one club no one wants to join. And widows in general are shunned as though someone else can ‘catch’ it or that I might steal someone’s husband. I want MY husband back not take someone else’s. Every day is like Groundhog Day. You go through the motions and you’re just simply ‘existing’. Those plans the two of dreamed about? Poof, gone. Now I have to find myself and find out what I want to do which is hard because life is generally simpler with a partner. Loss sucks but fuck widowhood.

  3. Lloyd

    Lore;
    Someone one said that most of life is just “showing up”.
    In my case I’ve found that sometimes it’s better to not even ask, just DO.
    Most people don’t want, whether they realize it or not the sadness to rub off on others they care for so when you ask they say.. “oh no”…
    There is of course fine line between just ‘doing’ and being a takeover pushy nutball, but you know that.
    Know this, I have said for years that ‘no matter what you have been thru, no matter who you are, you aren’t really fully adult till most of your people are gone’… I seemed to help when I realized that. Explained some things.
    Go help, it’s who you are and the world is better for it.
    Lloyd

  4. Quinn Jones

    I think you were the first person I truly, deep down, wanted to help. And the weird thing is, I know that in most instances, I am not a caregiver. But there are times and people where there’s simply no other way of living. You’re either helping or you’re betraying yourself.

    Your galaxy size heart is what I love about you. You show all of us how to be better each day simply by living your truth.

    Thank you.

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