“Don’t be surprised if you grieve more a friend than you did for a recently deceased relative. The old saying, ‘You pick your friends, relatives are thrust upon you,’ holds true here. Friends are special people in our eyes because we hold them to be. Friends fill time in our lives that will be vacant when they die.” – Helen Fitzgerald
To All of Austin’s Friends,
I hope you can feel this big, huge hug that I am giving all of you and know that, if I could, I would take away your pain and sadness. I think of you every day, hoping you are doing ok and able to grieve the way you need to, hoping you know how important you are to me, and hoping you know that the love and friendship you gave to Austin was such a special gift to him.
I laid awake last night with thoughts running through my mind. The one that was the strongest was “Love and hugs for Austin’s friends.” All of you have been on my heart this past week (and every week since June). It has been almost three months since we all lost Austin and this is when people think, you should just move on. But for those closest to Austin (and that is you, his closest and dearest friends) it is not that easy. Please know you are not alone.
When I came downstairs this morning, there on my kitchen counter was a package I had been waiting for. It was the book, Grieving the Death of a Friend, by Harold Ivan Smith. I immediately started reading it. The bits I have read are so very true and reinforce how important you, Austin’s friends, are.
“…In too many cases the death (of a friend) was unexpected. The friends themselves couldn’t believe that they left the party without saying good-bye. Their dying has left an ugly slash along the corridors of my heart…. I write as a ‘friend-griever’ whose heart aches when I hear Bette Midler sing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings,’ the theme song from the movie Beaches. ‘Did you ever know that you’re my hero?’
So what happens when a close friend dies? Clearly the more valued the friendship, the more likely that death precipitated a crisis for you, the surviving friend. To whom did you, the friend-griever turn? Was your particular grief recognized, discounted, challenged, or ignored?
Never forget: Your grief for your friend counts!”
As I read a poem, in Smith’s book, about someone grieving a friend killed suddenly in an accident it I felt as though one of Austin’s friends could have written it. I made a couple minor changes and share it below. (I removed a specific reference to this person’s accident and replaced Austin’s name for the original name referenced in the poem.)
Seemingly everyone else,
everyone in our social circle,
has gotten over his death,
and have gone back to business as usual
while I am bogged down
in thick mud-like grief.
It’s just too easy, having done
the etiquettely correct funeral things
to pretend that I am not diminished
by Austin’s death.
I am devastated!
All the platitudes we offered each other
during the initial days of shocked loss
have failed to lastingly comfort.
I sit in my living room
and stare into the darkness
looking for some sliver of meaning in his death.
One minute Austin was here
Two hours later, dead…
I don’t want Austin absent from my life
even if the pious are accurate
and he is, by their cliché,
“in a better world.”
‘Cause my world turned gray
and has remained gray
by his absence.
At first, it was like he was only vacationing
and I expected him to walk through
my back door, any day, announcing,
“I’m back. And I brought you something!”
At first my husband was supportive.
he held me while I sobbed
and snarled out my demands
for some sense to all of it.
But he told me the other night:
“You’ve got to get on with your life…
And then he rolled over, away from me,
and left me to wander the dark alone.
I don’t want Austin absent from my life!
I still need him.
He was my cheerleader.
Life will never be the same without Austin.
(One quick moment) tore my friend from me.
Want to know what I’m wondering
At four a.m.?
If these friends of ours,
If they could forget Austin so quickly,
won’t they forget me if…?
I know the answer to that and it’s not at all
comforting in the four a.m. darkness.
Please know, you are not forgotten! You are in my thoughts and prayers every day, just as Austin is with me every day. I grieve alongside you. You are not alone!
So many times when a new sibling arrives on the scene, the other siblings may be afraid they won’t be loved as much anymore, that their brother or sister will take some of their parents’ love away. When someone makes a new friend, the old friend may be concerned that they will be forgotten or not loved as much. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always more room to love!
I have always told my boys that the neatest thing about our hearts and love is that there is always room for more. Our hearts will continue tostretch and stretch and get fuller and fuller with all the love we have for others. I believe this with all my heart and saw it in Austin. The more people he met the bigger his heart got and the more his love shone through. All you had to do was meet him once and know he was full of love! (Among other things. J OK, I couldn’t resist that – I love you Austin!!!)
Even when someone we have loved is no longer with us they will continue to reside in our heart… we will always love them. No one can ever replace them, but, the loss can bring us more friends to enlarge and fill other parts of our hearts, to fill us with more love and to walk with us through this time we never imagined having to endure.
I thank Austin for the love he left me, for the huge part of my heart that he filled, and for the people he brought into my life to make my heart even larger and fuller. I thank Austin for you!
And as much as I’ve been given, I could never give enough
Don’t worry, it’s only love…
We’re gonna make it together, walking hand in hand
Falling down on our knees, that’s where we make our stand
You can never give it all away, you can never get enough
Don’t worry… It’s only love, only love.
When you’re lonely, cold and empty
There’s only one thing to fill you up.
(Lyrics by Danny Gokey, “It’s Only”)
Hugging and loving you!