Today I am talking to a mother whose son has passed. It’s been two years, so she’s further along than I am, on this road no one wants to be on. Whenever I talk to a bereaved parent (again, there’s no single word for us- there should be) I compare where they are on their journey to where I am. If they’re not as far along- maybe a few months or even weeks, I recall what that felt like. If they’re farther down the road, I wonder if I’ll be where they are when I get to that point in time. A few days ago I was speaking with a woman whose daughter died over 30 years ago. That’s helpful because she seemed to be doing OK. I’ve spoken with people 10 years passed and they are no better than they were the day it happened. That’s not helpful.
This mother though is not doing OK. It’s been two years and she tells me it’s just as bad as it was the day it happened. The thoughts rush in. I get this feeling of despair. Her despair becomes my despair. I can feel myself starting to lose heart, to lose hope. “What if that’s me? What if things never get better?” Then I remember some wisdom I heard many years ago. If I’m going to do this work, if I’m going to keep talking to these people, I have to not jump into the quicksand with them. When I talk to people who are not struggling, I can throw them a line, but I have to stay on solid ground. Getting into the quicksand with them does neither of us any good. I tell myself this won’t necessarily be me in two years. And, if I keep doing the right things, it won’t be. And I stay on dry ground.
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