One of the things about having lived through and with the loss of your partner or spouse for 9 years, is that it offers you a lot of perspective. You are able to finally be in a place mentally and emotionally where you can help someone else, or many others, and it really makes you feel like your loss has some meaning, and like life has meaning, and like you have accomplished something meaningful in this world.
Most of the time.
And then there are those times where you just feel absolutely useless, and helpless, and like there is absolutely nothing you can do or say that will make this any better or less horrific in this moment for this person going through it.
I have a very small handful of widowed people who have phone “sessions” with me, where I help them process through their grief over the phone or via Skype calls or whatever. I guess its a form of “grief counseling”, except I dont call it that because Im not a licensed counselor. Anyway, there are people out there who dont care about talking with a licensed counselor – they want to talk with another widowed person who understands what they are going through, and who has walked or crawled through this road. That is me. So last night, I was talking with one of these said widowed people, and while I wont get into her personal story in a public forum, let’s just say she is struggling pretty hard right now with the loss.
There were a few moments last night while I was talking with her, that my mind went right back to all of my many sessions with my own grief counselor, and how, especially in my first year of loss and my first couple of years with her (I saw her weekly for almost 3 years) – there would be lots of times where I would say something to her, probably for the millionth time, about “when is this pain going to stop? when will it get better? I dont much feel like being around in this life anymore”, and she would kind of just stare at me, as if she had absolutely no idea how to help me. Years later, I asked her if she would write the Foreword in my book, and she did. In it, she wrote: “At times, Kelley’s pain was so palpable, you could feel it throughout the room. There were many times I felt I didnt know how to help her, or if anything ever could.” This is how I felt last night speaking with my widowed friend, as she asked similiar questions of me through tears, longing for an answer that would let her know that this will not always be SO horrific.
I did what I could and said what I could to help her through those moments on the phone last night, but inside I knew that this was just one of those times where I dont think anything I said could have been helpful. I think she just needs to sit inside all of that pain, and then keep trying to talk and process through it, and keep letting me validate that her pain is real and important and that it is hell on earth to live through. Other than that, I basically just have to sit and stare at her blankly – even though we are on the phone – and let the grief have its say. Having been on both ends of this, I have so much empathy for both sides and can say with certainty that both sides are awful. Its terrible to be witness to someone’s pain that feels that raw and palpable, and its terrible to be the person inside that kind of pain. I can only hope that one day , she can look back on the days where the pain felt endless and like it would kill her, and then she can realize, that it didnt, and she is still here. Living. Trying. Breathing. Fighting. Loving.