When grief shakes you into gratitude

This week has been crazy.

Now, those of you close to me know that making a statement like that is akin to saying “the sky is blue”; my life has been some level of craziness for a couple of years now since I got the brilliant idea to buy a house and go back to school while raising an ASD kid on my own. Throw in fibro, a long-distance romance, work… you get the idea.

Spring semester started on Monday. But I missed my first three classes because Munchkin’s school was cancelled due to weather. I’ve just felt off-kilter ever since. I am my own slave driver sometimes (okay, most of the time), so I have been working all week at trying to tell myself to chill… but really I was walking a thin line between mindful awareness and just busy running, trying not to panic over feeling like I fell behind before the semester even started.

And then I opened Facebook.

Recently I haven’t been using social media nearly as much as usual. For the purposes of this post, the reasons aren’t important. But I just finished up replying to some professors and thought I’d scan the news. And that’s when I saw it.

Yesterday, a friend of mine lost her husband to cancer.

I met “Sadie” in high school. I always thought we sort of connected over our shared curly brown hair, and the fact that the two of us were some of the shortest girls in school. Sadie was actually slightly shorter than me, which is rare for me. Even though she was a year older, we had a couple of classes together. We reconnected on Facebook a couple years ago. I grinned when I saw her wedding pictures… “Jack” was a foot and a half taller than her! They were a totally adorable couple. I’ve watched with joy as they started a business together, built a house, and had a son.

I knew Jack was sick. I knew he was having a rough time with the chemo. I chatted with Sadie the other day to offer my help since they live nearby, and she sounded positive when she said she’d let me know.

And then…. this.

The details aren’t important. What’s important is that tonight, just down the road, someone I know – another mom who has been supportive to me, who is my age, who is raising a little boy – is now mourning the loss of her partner, her love, the father of her child. A little boy has lost his father. His father who is (was) the same age as my own partner, older by only a few days.

And now he’s gone.

My heart is aching for them. Though Sadie and I aren’t especially close, we’ve always had friends in common, and of course share the sisterhood of motherhood and the bond of a hometown. But having lost my own loved ones to cancer, to be a single mom of a little boy… I just can’t find words, can’t imagine such sorrow.

I don’t want to make this about me. The point I want to emphasize is this:

Sometimes, when you’re least expecting it, something happens to force you to reframe your perspective. That reminds us to be grateful. As I mentioned to my pilot the other day, “Sometimes we have to learn to find peace in the chaos.”

Gifts don’t always come to us in the way we expect. I would do anything to ease Sadie’s grief tonight, but – even though I in no way want to diminish the enormity of their loss – I am feeling humbled by the reminder to not get so bogged down in my own mess. That somewhere someone is hurting. That I should focus more on the blessings than my physical limitations. That maybe the best way to stop being wrapped up in self is to think first of others.

Tonight… be grateful. Reach out to someone in need of comfort. Hold your loved ones close.

And please… offer up a thought or prayer for Sadie and her son. Right now, and in the days to come, they are going to need “the village”.

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