It comes in waves, and there’s no pattern or warning. Sometimes it washes over you quickly. Other times it’s an unexpected, high tide that engulfs you. It leaves you gasping for air. When you grieve, it’s impossible to forecast the timing or intensity of the next emotional surge.
I have lost many people during various times of my life. Some left the planet peacefully. Others exited suddenly and tragically. No matter what the age or the circumstance, losing one you love hurts in ways that transcend words.
A few weeks ago, my friend Suzie passed away. The following words poured from my heart on February 8th—I wrote this to center myself just before visiting with her family. I was going to post it last Sunday. But I paused and shared this with an insightful friend. And after doing so, I realized it might have been too soon for many reasons. I wanted to be respectful and mindful of when to share.
A few days ago, our South Florida community experienced a shocking, horrific tragedy. I will not recount and rehash the disturbing, devastating details. I know you’ve read about it and watched the media coverage. Then a close friend of mine lost two of her loved ones this week. It’s been a tsunami of sadness for so many souls. I realized that today is when I should post this piece. I hope you find healing energy within the words.
Suzie fought fiercely yet somehow with a smile for 11 1/2 years. We met when our kids were in pre-school. Our lives continually intersected in meaningful, synchronous ways. And we had the type of unique friendship that didn’t require frequent interaction—whenever we met it was as if we hadn’t skipped a beat.
Suzie embodied strength, solidarity, and a positive yet realistic attitude toward life. She loved her sons, parents, family, and her friends with pure loyalty. And I will forever cherish every word of our many conversations over the past nearly two decades.
I didn’t realize how audible my sobs echoed, until my nearly 16-year-old son came downstairs and said, “Mom? Are you ok?” To be honest, I was trying to stifle my tears as I always do, especially in front of my kids.
During my entire childhood (and quite frankly my adulthood as well), I heard “it could be worse” and “so and so isn’t in pain anymore so it’s for the best.” Authentic expression of feelings wasn’t encouraged and often was dismissed, even when I tried to emote or ask for support.
My daughter was asleep. I was thankful because she has told me again and again how upsetting it is for her to see me cry. And she’s only witnessed me bawl a few times in her 13 years. So I quickly began wiping the tears away and took slow, calming breaths.
But then I felt my son’s presence. I shook quietly as I put the dogs in their beds. I turned around and the tears flooded my face. He said, “Mommy, let’s go upstairs so Zoe doesn’t hear you.” I said, “That’s a good idea. I don’t want to wake her and especially not like this.”
He held me in his rapidly growing, 5 foot 8 inch frame, and I wailed. I did not hold back. For one of the first times in my life, I let go and didn’t just choose to focus on the positive. Between sniffles and nose blows, I told him (and I suppose myself) that Suzie is now with her mom. Suzie and her mother had the close, unbreakable bond I have with my children.
Dampened by the deep sadness I felt on Wednesday, I awoke Thursday with a rainbow peeking through the clouds. I realized that I had showed my son that mommies can hurt, too. I thanked him in the morning for being there for me. And I hope those tender minutes we shared impacts his emotional development and how to live without apology. I’ve always said the words and embraced/supported my children, my husband, my friends. But I have an extremely tough time being vulnerable and letting others support me.
The tears kept flowing like a damn burst in a rapidly rushing river. I cried for Suzie’s boys, one of whom is Alec’s age. I cried for her father, who said goodbye to his wife and daughter within less than a year. I cried for a woman who lived her life with humor, integrity, and authenticity. Suzie will forever inspire me to live as she did.
And as I write, I continue to process that she is really gone. The word “process” is so fitting. That’s what grief is. It is a process. You don’t just “get over it,” which I am finally understanding. The past few years I am unlearning much of what I heard and learned. You ease into it. You ride each wave. Some waves are cleansing and cathartic. Others feel like you’re going to drown.
Suzie, I know you are now physically at peace. And I also know you believe as I do the soul never dies. Give your loving mother hugs from me and embrace all the others with whom you reunite. I know I will feel your spirit when you are ready. And I also sense you’ll still be present and impactful in the dimension you now reside. So I don’t say goodbye my friend. Until we meet again…