Saturday, February 20, 2016

Birth and Death

Today was an interesting day. One of my friends had a baby who was much anticipated and eagerly awaited and one friend said goodbye to her twins that were born and died too soon. I empathize strongly with people so there was excited glee and running to tell Austin when I read about the birth and an embarrassing amount of crying at the memorial service in the afternoon.

On the way home, I got to thinking about how we as outsiders behave in both situations. When a birth or death is posted about on facebook, we like and comment. We bring food and offer help in those first few weeks where everything is so upside down. The offers taper off, though, and we leave the new parents/newly bereaved to adjust to their new world, expecting them to have it all figured out by the time the first monthly anniversary of the event has passed.

The thing is, they don't always have it figured out.

I've had both experiences in my life: birthing three children and losing my dad. And all the experiences were different.

After Dad died, we had a ton of offers from people we hadn't seen or heard from in years, people we typically see at baby and wedding showers and at weddings and funerals. I remember one man who I hadn't seen in I can't remember how long standing in Mom's kitchen with a bag of sausage McMuffins and just being almost overwhelmed to tears that he brought us breakfast. NO ONE thinks about breakfast. They always think about dinners and maybe some snacks. We got plants and donations to Dad's favorite charitable organizations. We got emails and cards and letters and text messages for weeks. We were allowed to grieve in our own time and in our own way.

Once I got home to Carrollton, though, I felt very alone. I've never been great at meeting and making friends and it was very apparent to me that I hadn't done that in Carrollton, even though we'd been living there for about 6 or 7 months by then. We'd been going to church in Arlington and I honestly don't remember a single person from there offering help or condolences once I got home. They did come to the service and sent things to my mom, don't think they're terrible people, but I felt alone and adrift once I was home and supposed to be "better" or something. I wasn't. It took a long time to be better.

With each of my babies, I was so disappointed by the lack of help my "community" offered us. We had a few people from our church and close friends bring food the first time. Two families brought food the second time and one person took Asher for an afternoon. And when Eden was born, the insanity of her diagnoses kind of changed what people might have done. One person outside of my family brought us something, a woman I met in MOPS and she was awesome and brought us dinner every week for three weeks.

Normally, people want to come and ooh and aah over the baby, they bring presents if there wasn't a shower for the baby, they want to help, they want to be there for the new mom, if there's an older sibling they want to give them some attention so they don't feel completely left out. But then after about two weeks or so, people look confused when mom is still at home adjusting.

Grief is exhausting. Not as much as a newborn, but still. Both situations leave you tired and raw and emotional and fumbling through a new reality. It's even harder when you feel like you have no support.

I'm so glad to read about my mommy friends who have a new baby and are just SHOWERED with help immediately after: so much food they can't even store it all, people loving on their older kids so they won't feel left out, an offer to sit with the baby so mom can shower or pee alone.

I'm relieved to hear that my friend who is grieving is being loved on by her friends and family. I can't imagine what she's going through and I hope I never have to experience it myself. But I'm so thankful she has such a strong community to surround her and lift her up.

Life is hard enough, y'all. We shouldn't have to go through the really tough times alone. We need to extend grace to each other in these situations and give each other time to adjust. We're here to take care of each other. That's the meaning of life.

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