What nobody tells you about grief…. #1 of infinity

Before I begin, I have updated the blog (I think, bless my heart, I am  not that savvy with the World Wide Web) to include two other pages. One is a blurb about what this blog is for. The other is a piece my mom wrote last year that gives more details about Molly’s story. If you don’t know my mom, then I feel sorry for you. She is the strongest, kindest, shortest, most wonderful person alive. I am certain that her purpose in life was to be a Mama, and I wish that she could give lessons on how to do it right. But, then again, you can’t teach empathy, love, commitment, and humor… I think this is the link: https://mollyrock1120.wordpress.com/mollys-story/

As the daughter of a funeral director and as a childhood cancer patient who lost too many friends, I was pretty sure I knew a lot about grief. I did, in my limited experience I knew what the “experts” said about grief, and I knew that it really sucked when your friends died. I even was able to reconcile my grandfather’s death when I was 12, because I knew that was the circle of life and we should all expect to bury our grandparents. So, whenever a friend lost a loved one, I was sure that I could be a great source of support for them. It was sort of like I was so sure that the tooth fairy smelled just like Daddy after he ate at the Golden River Chinese restaurant. (Again, bless my heart)

However, through my limited knowledge of grief pre-Molly’s death, and the skimming of hundreds of books and articles on grief, there are things that I’ve experienced that nobody warned me about! Well, maybe they did, after all I only skimmed. One of those things has been laying heavy on my heart the past few days. So… here it is….

NOBODY TELLS YOU THAT WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE EXPERIENCES TRAUMATIC LOSS THAT YOU WILL FEEL LIKE YOU’VE BEEN SUCKER-PUNCHED IN THE GUT BY A WRECKING BALL, AND WILL FEEL LIKE YOU ARE BACK TO DAY 1 OF DEALING WITH YOUR GRIEF!

Again, perhaps someone has told you that, and perhaps someone has told me that, but I forgot. You know that saying, “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy?” I remember uttering that phrase during the first few days after Molly died. I meant it, there was nobody in the world I disliked enough to experience the hell I was going through. I certainly never thought to say, “I also wouldn’t wish it on my dearest friends.”  My first experience of this “throwback phenomenon” (TP) as I will call happened almost 3 years after Molly died.

When I tell the story, I have to go back a little way (briefly) to illustrate how God has plans set in motion, long before we ever have an inkling that there is a purpose. {Sidebar: No, I don’t think God had this plan all along for this to be the way Molly died, but that’s another post in itself.} My senior year of high school, I got very sick in the spring and had to put my dreams of going to Vanderbilt or Rhodes on hold. At the last minute, I applied and was accepted to Auburn. I figured that I would go there to be close enough to my medical team, and would transfer the next year. I decided to go through rush, but was adamant that I was NOT going to be a Chi Omega. I guess I still had a little rebellious teen in me, and I didn’t want to follow in my mother’s footsteps. (Rebellious or stupid? See above description of my mom.) Through some divine intervention (signs from God, pointed out by my dear Ellen Wynn) and strong arming from my Dad, I put Chi O first on my bid list. What a weirdo I was on Bid Day, that I was a little devastated that I had received a bid from Chi O and the best sorority on campus wanted me. Bid Night was miserable, we had to spend the night in the chapter room and my only friend was a girl who went to high school in Germany. Everyone else it seemed was from Birmingham or Dothan. The next morning, I was invited to lunch with some of the older Chi Os and two other pledges. I had no idea then, that those two pledge sisters, Callie and Claire, would turn out to be two of my very best friends, and that we would experience so much LIFE together. (The German turned out to be one of those too. Shannon, I knew on Bid Night you spoke English! Claire didn’t know until sophomore year!) As you know, I never transferred because I found my home and family of friends on The Plains.

When Molly died, those precious friends I made that first weekend (and so many more) were some of the first people to be by my side. Claire was pregnant with her son James, and she left her family vacation as quickly as she could to be with me. She kept coming and kept coming and kept loving me when I didn’t even love myself.

Nearly three years later, in September, I was at a bachelorette party in South Carolina when Callie called me. It was a Saturday night, the night of the Auburn-LSU game, so I figured Callie was also in a celebratory mood and was calling to tell me a hilarious story of her day of tailgating. How wrong I was. I was on the trip with girls I didn’t know well (besides the bride, of course) and I think they could’ve heard me scream from the pontoon boat out on the lake. Callie told me that Billy, Claire’s brother, had died that night. Billy was the ultimate big brother. He treated all of us like he did Claire. He let us stay at his apartment in Birmingham when we were in college, let me hang out there every weekend after college, he would go out with us and make sure we were safe, he gave advice, and teased us. We all loved each other’s siblings as our own. I hung up with Callie, called Claire, called my parents, and melted into a pile of tears, snot, fear, and a broken heart. I simultaneously wanted to be with Claire immediately and wanted to curl up in a ball and never leave that house. I knew I had to get a little sleep so that I could leave as early as possible to get to Claire, but I couldn’t stop the feeling of impending doom for my best friend and her precious parents. I was at a fabulous lake house somewhere in South Carolina physically, but my emotions and my heart were back in that ICU room in Carrollton remembering every cut that my heart was taking. I couldn’t stand the pain of knowing my best friend was experiencing the same. Luckily somewhere between Anniston and Talladega, my fight instinct took over. I realized that I had just driven from somewhere in South Carolina (to this day, I have no memory of where we were) to Alabama, and I had no recollection of any of the drive. I am certain that I was not in charge of my car that morning. However, I decided that I had to buck up and take care of my friend. I did. We went to Birmingham, and then to Dothan, and I was able to be with Claire and tried to be strong for her family. On the way back to Nashville, I completely lost it and had to stay in Birmingham for the night. I wasn’t there for Claire at the beginning like she had been for me. It hurt too much to know how she hurt, and it made me feel like a failure.

I remember when we got home from the hospital the morning Molly died, a dear friend was waiting at the house on us. He had driven in from Atlanta. His son had died over 25 years ago. I remember Griffin saying, “I can’t look at Mo. You can see it in his eyes. We aren’t ever going to get over this.” It’s true. When you have to go be with someone who has experienced what you have, you can’t hide your pain. You can’t pretend like they’re going to be okay. But, that’s not what people need. People don’t need to be told that they will be okay, because that is a lie. They don’t need you to say anything. They just need you to be there, because your presence will remind them that they won’t necessarily be okay, but they will survive.

 

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